Third Time’s A Charm
Wendy Corr moved to southwestern Colorado in the spring and she looked forward to buying a horse that could keep up with her Mom’s
Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse, Coti, and would be reasonably safe on the mountain switchbacks and climbs. She wanted a mare that she
could breed some day and the mare would have to get along with Coti and with Coti’s yearling filly.
Wendy tried a pretty chestnut Paint mare named Marybelle who seemed to move along well enough and loved Coti and the filly, and only
stretched her horse budget a bit. At the urging of her mom, Wendy brought Marybelle in to our clinic.
I looked at Marybelle with my husband and partner, Dr. Jim Latham. She was a well built, pretty mare and she passed her general physical
exam—heart, lungs, eyes, and conformation. But when we circled Marybelle in the round pen, she had a short, stiff gait behind and at a
lope, she would swap her hind end leads. On her lameness exam, her hoof tester exam was normal, but she limped when Jim released her after
flexing her right hind.
At this point, we discussed with Wendy the limitations of her potential horse. This mare had a lameness in the hind end that would be
increasingly painful with the significant recreational mountain riding Wendy had in mind. Jim suggested that the problem might be in the
hocks and with treatment might allow the mare to perform adequately for a period of time, but that we’d need a diagnosis to make that decision.
Wendy talked to the current owner and okayed hock x-rays to get more insight into the degree of the mare’s problems. Neither the owner nor the
trainer who was boarding the mare had noted her limping.
Many times a horse will compensate for lameness by changing a gait, slowing down on hills, using back muscles to protect sore back legs.
Frequently, an owner will be unaware that his horse has a subtle lameness and will present a horse for sale as sound.
Certainly, a horse that has been out on pasture for some time after a prior career has the potential for arthritis that is not apparent until
the horse is returned to use.
We took and developed x-rays of both hocks. Unfortunately, they showed advanced arthritis. The chance of Marybelle being comfortable with
mountain riding was dim.
Wendy was very disappointed. She’d already given her heart to this mare.
A couple of weeks later, Wendy made an appointment to bring in her second candidate. She’d been out riding an 11 year old chocolate colored
Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse mare named Autry who didn’t really keep up with Coti and was definitely out of condition. Wendy thought she’d get better.
We took a look. Autry’s front fetlocks were somewhat dropped to give her pastern a broken back pastern angle and she seemed very sensitive to
palpation along both front suspensory ligaments. We considered Autry’s sudden return to use and her lack of condition, but on trotting her in
the round pen, she was lame on each foreleg, going in the opposite direction from the limb we were watching, and she was very lame on both forelegs
after fetlock flexion.
This time, foreleg lameness disqualified a very nice mare for mountain trail riding.
Finally, at the beginning of summer, Wendy brought in Jasmine, a 13 year old chestnut Missouri Fox Trotter after she took her for a test ride.
Jasmine looked great with the exception of needing a hoof trim, and some fly bite reactions in one ear. Heart, lungs, eyes, and teeth were normal,
and Jasmine had good vaccination and deworming records. She passed the musculoskeletal exams at all gaits with flying colors.
Luckily, Wendy was able to find a herd friendly mare with good trail sense and enough forward action to match her Mom’s vigorous young mount, and
we were pleased to write up a prepurchase exam that stated that the mare was physically fit for mountain trail riding. She was a pleasure to handle
and to ride. Wendy had a horse.
Over the years that followed, Wendy’s mom moved to the riding country of Tennessee, and one day Jasmine developed a colic that was not medically
treatable. Wendy had to say good by to her dependable trail horse. But she has moved on to train and ride a wonderful young mustang mare named
Junebug whom she rescued and subsequently trained. Talk about a great partnership for mountain riding…