• Adele Shaw

Lemons & Lemonade

You know that saying... When life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Well, I don't like lemons, or lemonade.. so we are going to make margaritas, and a strawberry basil margarita sounds really good right about now. So hurry, go fix yourself a margarita (a virgin one if you're at work or underage) and meet me back here, because I have some news.

River is having surgery. More specifically, surgery on her knees. We will be hauling her to a specialist who will be performing a procedure on the first of August to help slow down the rate that damage is occurring in both her knees, but unfortunately there is nothing to be done to completely prevent future damage or to repair the damage already done. Even this procedure only has about a 40% chance of success of helping at all.... But let me start at the beginning.

It all started when River was about nine months old, in January 2017. River's knees started making a sharp "clicking" noise, the kind that some horse's joints make when they are arthritic and some other horse's joints make for seemingly no reason at all. I also started noticing some subtle conformation changes in her front legs. Her knees appeared larger than average and she was beginning to walk as if she was slightly base narrow. But, as we all know, babies go through a lot of awkward growth stages, and her legs still appeared pretty correct and straight, so I figured that was probably what was going on. Still, I had the vet out to check.

A thorough lameness exam showed what appeared to be a slight inflammatory response in the knees to a recent rapid growth spurt, but nothing too abnormal and something she should have recovered from quickly without negative lasting affects. It was also at this time I realized she had very slightly offset cannon bones, but nothing too dramatic. There was no reason to suspect anything more serious was going on.

Fast forward to now, River is fifteen months old and the clicking stopped long ago but her legs have continued changing. Even though the change has happened ever so slowly, and in reality it doesn't look that dramatic, I keep feeling like every time I go to the barn they look worse and worse. They had gone from perfectly straight to.... not so straight, especially when she walked. This conformation "flaw" was becoming more severe with age. From just minor offset cannon bones to her legs now appearing to be bowing.

With the distraction of having been at the last stages of pregnancy and now with a newborn, these past couple months I hadn't had the chance to get the vet out again to see her. Besides, even if I had what was the vet going to tell me? Yup, she has a conformation flaw. I was also convinced I was being overly worried, since I have a known to be that "paranoid owner" that has tendency to see lameness where vets say there isn't. (though, in my defense there is almost always something going on, it just takes forever to find it and sometimes it's just a horse's unique way of going)

I kept thinking "they'll start looking better any day now as she grows.... I'm just being over dramatic and seeing things, they aren't that bad. It's probably just just going to be the way she travels due to her conformation. No need to worry." However, after doing a bunch of research, I finally decided it wouldn't hurt a thing to get her looked at again. Even if they couldn't do anything, I at least wanted to know what I was looking at as far as performance limitations or any increased chances of injuries I should be aware of when dealing with this kind of conformation flaw (offset cannon bones or offset knees ), albeit minor. I wasn't prepared at all for what was to come.

Pictures below from left to right, top to bottom - offset cannon bones, lines to show how the cannon bone isn't centered on the knee, example of correct cannon bone placement. (photo source and more information)

When the vet arrived she was there to really check on Pumpkin (my other mare) who had done something to her back leg just before the weekend (of course); causing it to swell up. Thankfully it was minor and the swelling had completely disappeared by the time the vet arrived early that following week. However, I decided to keep the appointment so the vet could take a look at River for me as well as do some routine work on the other horses.

When I brought out River for the vet she immediately saw what I had been seeing; the offset cannon bones and the change in the straightness of her legs. She checked for inflammation and watched her walk before we decided to do a set of radiographs on both knees to see exactly how the knees and cannon bones were set up, and get a look at how the joint was doing. Turns out the joints are not doing well.

I'm going to glaze over the specifics, for fear of absolutely butchering the technical names and definitions, since I can't for the life of me s