On Sunday I very carefully watched and heard Raven moving. When she fully articulates the right hock joint it clicks, but she is not articulating it as much as the left. As a result she is pushing herself up high on the left fetlock to accommodate the slightly straighter right leg. This might explain why she looks sore on both hinds. I previously thought that the hock injury had somehow precipitated further degradation of the suspensory ligaments, but now I wonder if it is simply mechanical exacerbation of that weakness. Based on these observations I have formulated a plan.
Pillar 1: Joint Maintenance
This needs to happen with support from Kerstin, but I would like to try nutritional supplementation with MSM or glucosamine before jumping straight to something like Adequan or Legend. Any recommendations on good supplements are welcome -- there are about a million to choose from.
Pillar 2: Consistent Work
Joints are supported by the muscles around them, so we need to work on building up her legs and her quarters. On days when the footing in the pasture is good I will probably lunge her (she was fine after Sunday's session) to encourage more flexing of the joint by working in a circle. On days when it's wet I will hand walk her through some of the uneven parts of the pasture to encourage use of the leg under more varied conditions than she gets in the paddock. We'll do something every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (when I am not in the office).
Pillar 3: Weight Loss
Thanks to everyone who commented on how good Raven looks. Because she came to me in such poor condition I take pride in keeping weight on her, but this isn't about my ego. Leaner is always better when it comes to joint injuries, and it wouldn't be unhealthy for Raven to lose 50lbs. I have started by dropping the high-fat pelleted feed from her diet, which accounts for about 1000 calories daily.
Pillar 4: Pain Management
No pain, no gain? More work might mean more pain for Raven, and I need to accept that using bute might be a short-term evil necessary for achieving our long term goal. Bute is dangerous because it can mask a real problem, but half a gram after a lunging session can also offer real relief.
Pillar 5: Attitude Adjustment
Mine, not Raven's. When I'm honest with myself I can admit that I have been pessismistic about Raven's recovery, which is unusual because I am hopelessly optimistic about most things. Am I just lazy? Or looking for a reason to feel sorry for myself? Or an excuse to avoid ever riding my crazy horse again because I'm skeered? Whatever. It ends here and now.