After ruling out a number of causes, Freedom has been diagnosed with pain in his sacroiliac joint. If you’re not familiar with the joint, it attaches the pelvis to the
vertebral column and it transfers the stresses of the hind limbs as they push off the ground, through to the spine and body to support the weight of the horse’s torso (http://www.equestrianlife.com.au/horsecare/Understanding-the-sacroiliac-joint).
Sacroiliac problems in horses can be difficult to diagnose because they are often intermittent and don’t display as a “typical” lameness that can be seen at all gaits. Common signs are loss of performance, loss of propulsion, and difficulty with the canter.
That describes what’s been going on with Freedom to a “T”. When I thought about it, the days when he’s felt very sound are the ones were we did very little canter work.
In fact, with 20/20 hindsight, I suspect that this problem started last fall when he had the abscess from hell. He had issues with the canter then but I chalked them up to the huge abscess . . . then he got ridden lightly through the winter and spring (very little cantering) and he felt mostly fine.
The vet explained that it is not uncommon among former race horses as they have wear and tear on the joint from galloping — and Freedom is 18.
The next step is to have his SI joints injected (he is much sorer on the right side than the left). This will involve a trip to the clinic and the use of a very long needle (see the video below). The vet says they generally see a very good response to this type of injection so I”m optimistic that he’ll be feeling back to normal soon.