Mo’s bilateral front leg lameness

So in recent months we have experienced a lot of interaction with Mo’s vet regarding her slight lameness in both forelegs. She only needs to wear shoes on her front feet (plus it is much cheaper than having all four.) Autumn of last year I had started to notice she was striding out fractionally less than usual in her natural over-track. Of course for any competitive discipline, the horse and rider need to feel on good form if they want any chance of getting in the ribbons! I like to address all aspect of weakness in our training in both myself and Mo, so was eager to find out what, if anything, was going on that may have caused this change.

Doing what we love most and feeling great doing it

Doing what we love most and feeling great doing it

We initially contacted her vets suspecting soft tissue in her front hooves (as she was throwing her shoes like slippers!) after advice from her farrier. She was assessed at the stables and showed to be 2/10 lame, and we were recommended admittance to the equine hospital for further analysis of her hooves. Although there were no imminent concerns, my vet is fantastically pro-active so we were quick to follow his advice.


She went over to Pool House Equine Vets on the evening of the 9th October 2016 to receive her examinations the following day. She underwent X-rays that confirmed our farrier’s suspicions of the soft tissue, as well as highlighting the presence of a slight downward rotation of the pedal bone (especially in the right fore.) This was very subtle and it was therefore difficult to make an accurate prognosis from this alone. Thus further, more in-depth analysis was required.

These X-rays also insured the absence of metal within the hoof walls after the front shoes were removed prior to her MRI scan (as iron is strongly magnetic and causes massive disruption to the MRI image.)  It was also necessary for Mo to be completely under sedation for this procedure, as she had to remain still throughout to ensure that it was conducted as safely and precisely as possible.

The report post-MRI was extensively detailed and I found it particularly fascinating to try and follow the analysis of the images by the specialists. A lot of this technical sciency analytical stuff is from Gil (Owner of the Pool House/ Senior Vet) and the MRI technicians, skills such as which I would love to mirror one day.


Prior to the scan the vets had administered a palmar digital nerve blocking agent in both of Mo’s forelegs. This agent desensitizes the medial and lateral palmar nerves found at the back of the pastern, and took effect on the areas that were being assessed; areas such as the distal region of the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT), the distal sesamoidean impar ligament (DSIL), the navicular apparatus, proximal and distal interphalangeal joints (PIP/DIP) and palmar aspects of the distal phalanx (as well as other anatomical features within the distal pastern region.)

Below I have listed a few findings from the report

Left Fore

IMG_4135 IMG_4136 IMG_4134

Right Fore



Findings (Summary)

  • The mild capsular rotation of the distal phalanx and mild modelling of the distal tip of the distal phalanx are suggestive of mild chronic laminitis, however there is no evidence that laminitis is active in either foot and this is an unlikely cause of her lameness.
  • Swelling and loss of definition of the DSIL in both feet would indicate desmitis, the changes of which are likely to be caused by wear and tear from her previous career, and were unlikely to have any clinical significance to her lameness.
  • Remodelling of the navicular bone and mild distension of the navicular bursa (with fluid and soft tissue) would suggest mild navicular burstitis in both feet. Although present in both feet it showed to be seemingly more advanced in her left fore due to thickened synovial plicae of the bursal wall. However these changes are consistent with osseous/bone modelling as a result of bone stress or wear and tear (Inflammation of the coffin bone and navicular bursa)
  • (And the best part) The changes affecting the navicular bone are consistent with osseous modelling as a result of wear and tear. The absence of an STIR signal intensity in the spongiosa in either foot suggest that there is no active degenerative disease at this time, thus other changes are likely to be clinically insignificant.

Overall I found the experience immensely enlightening, although I am thankful that no drastic correctional measures had to take place With age such conditions can commonly be seen in horses. Thus I will be instilling preventative measures, such as upkeep of remedial shoeing, in the hope that these conditions do not exacerbate into active forms in the future.

UPDATE: Mo is now moving more freely than ever thanks to the incredible farriery she has received. She seems to be enjoying flaunting her designer shoes much more than my bank balance does! Saying this, I really am overjoyed with the improvement and although unfortunately her current insurance plan does not cover remedial farriery, I won’t hesitate to fund this seeing how beneficial the treatment has been.

It looks like this might be our year after all!!


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