Two steps forward, two steps back

Well, last time I updated, Tristan had put a foot wrong during a lesson and came up a little off.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. We gave him about two weeks of time off, with stretchy 20 minute walks bareback every other day, and about 10 days into that I was sitting on him in the middle of the ring, watching another rider go, when I glanced down and noticed that the large muscle over his left shoulder was spasming.

Big, full-muscle twitches, sometimes such that he would shift his weight. Now, he shifts his weight a lot; he doesn’t like to plant his feet and stand still. Our agreement is that shifting is fine, actual steps are not. So that’s why it hadn’t registered to me before that there was something else going on.

Once I noticed that, I had the barn manager watch me walk him and she agreed with me: he was still a bit off and his shoulder muscle was twitching weirdly. By “a little bit off”: she described and I felt that it was like he was reluctant to fully extend that left front leg into a good forward walk stride. Better on straightaways, much more noticeable on turns, and much more noticeable left than right.

With some probing, she identified a large knot in his shoulder muscle, a few inches below the wither and back from the shoulder point. I checked in with the vet, and we worked out a plan.

For the next 10 days, Tristan got a regimen of bute + Robaxin (methcarbamol). The former to hopefully ease him over the pain and the latter to loosen his muscles overall. He got 20m walks every day, and I worked on him with a curry with a massage side (like this) and Sore No More liniment.

During that time, I was able to get a short video of the shoulder twitching; you can see it here.

I felt like he was getting slowly better over this time. He was more willing to walk out, and the twitching was less violent and fewer and further between. Last Wednesday was his last day tapering off the drugs, I gave him two days of rest, and then we pulled him back out on Friday to look at together…

…and he was as lame as ever. Whomp whomp. It did seem to get worse with more work, so that’s a useful data point.

He’s going to get one more week of lighter work (only a few rides), massages, and his new Back on Track mesh sheet, and then we will check again on Friday, and if there’s no improvement, we officially get the vet out, one month to the day after he came up lame.

For those wondering why I am playing it so conservatively, because the internet: he has been entirely comfortable, happy, and sound for turnout, and he is 26 years old. He is not a high performance horse that I want to get better next week. If we can let him rest and chill for a few weeks to resolve this, that’s fine by me. We are pretty darn confident that it’s a strain in that big shoulder muscle.

In the meantime, I’ve started riding other horses for lessons, and I’ll write about that in a little bit. Fingers crossed that we either see some improvement, or the vet comes out to do one of those “meh, just keep doing what you’re doing, it’s just time” visits.

11 thoughts on “Two steps forward, two steps back

  1. This is so weird, Dino had the EXACT SAME WEIRD SHOULDER THING. We did a lameness work up, found his right stifle was ouchy, injected it, and it fixed him. Within a few weeks the shoulder twitch was gone. We also did chiro, which helped a lot! I hope you figure out what’s wrong!


    1. Oh whoa. I remembered that he was off, I guess I didn’t remember that it was so similar to Tristan’s weirdness! I mentioned your comment to my barn manager and we watched Tristan go; it’s tough to say but he does seem to have a hitch in the walk when his LH comes forward. It’s so tough to tell where it originates. We have the lameness vet out a week from tomorrow. He also does chiro. I will mention the stifle possibility to him!


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