Rocky diagnosis: ‘just’ arthritis in coffin joint

It’s not that I’m glad Rocky has arthritis in his coffin joint, especially at only 9 years old. It’s that I understand arthritis, I’ve been dealing with it for years in Jedi, and I feel confident in my ability to monitor and manage it for Rocky too. Navicular, ringbone (my biggest worry, given that ringbone is severe osteoarthritis, but he’s not got it, at least not yet), founder, and all those other scary horse conditions … not so familiar with those. He has it worse in the left front but a little bit in the right too. Comparing Monday’s x-rays to last year’s showed that he’s not growing spurs or losing bone or shifting the bones around. Whew!

Dr. White says it will help Rocky if I don’t ask him to do sudden stops, fast turns, or repetitious circles. “No longeing,” he said, which made me laugh, but I pointed to the Parelli Patterns posters on the wall and asked if the circles and weaves were okay. He said yes because they were mental exercise, not physical fitness. I said … but we do it at trot, and canter. But it’s not the same as 30 minutes of a 22-foot-circle of mindless longeing to “get the p and v out of them” as he put it. He did say if we must circle, “like if you’re at a show or something,” use the biggest radius possible. “Fifty feet is not too big.”

Also, lots  and lots and LOTS of walking, and especially lots of walking to warm up and cool down. I like walking and don’t get bored at that gait, and trail is my favorite dream (gotta find some trails and get us confident, first). So, we’re well-matched. And yes, this is how you manage ringbone, so I guess we might as well develop good habits now.

He also said Rocky was a sweet horse with nice manners, “willing,” and “very sensitive” which he saw as a bad thing because he felt Rocky was “resisting” putting his foot on the pad, so sensitive was he to being touched on his legs. I explained that Rocky thought we wanted him to hold it up for us and then to bow (which he kept attempting to do) and so I taught him real quick how to set it down, with some fast Friendly Game and Porcupine Game while Dr. White was looking at the first few x-rays in the truck. I was so proud of how fast Rocky caught on, and how well I was able to be clear about what I wanted him to do; when I’m clear, he’s happy to comply and feels successful. (Which is why I know I’m not being clear with our pedestal thing, but that’s another post.)

Trails, straight lines, obstacle courses are good, which is very cool as that’s our favorite. I’m okay with not barrel racing, cutting, show jumping, or reining. I do want to challenge us with some play days and games this summer even though I go right-brain just thinking about it. Also, I figured I could teach Rocky to Levade in the corners and he’d never have to turn with his front feet … but then he’d probably mess up his hind feet instead. So I guess I won’t. Heheh.

It does make me wonder, though. When I went to meet Rocky after falling in love with him on the Internet, I saw other horses being longed for long periods of time by a guy who didn’t look like he was having any fun at all, and who didn’t set a timer. I could tell that he was doing a longer time on the first direction, usually the left, than the second. Rocky longes to the left perfectly and it took a long time for him to learn that going in the round pen doesn’t mean he has to immediately walk to the rail and start cantering around. That and other — I won’t call it evidence, but factors — made Jenni and I suspect that his three years at that farm included a lot of longeing to the left as a fitness program.

I wonder if their other horses have similar conditions? And do they know? Seems to me like halter horses finish their halter careers around age 3 or 4 and get sold to people who want them to do things other than look pretty, so maybe the halter trainers don’t realize they might be causing permanent injury? I’m sure the people I got Rocky from would care about not laming their horses, if they knew they were doing it. If that’s even what happened.

Anyway. Doesn’t matter now, as we have a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Several photos of the x-ray process follow.

Rocky really likes to sniff things:

Dr. White put Play-Doh in the V of Rocky’s hooves, to fill in the concave places for the x-ray machine:

The mousepad gives the hoof a target and a squishy place to stay on the film:

Rocky makes sure we’re doing it right:


Injections in the coffin joint (hyaluronic acid, antibiotic) make it feel better for months. Plus, spiffy bandages!

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