One of the challenges senior horse owners and riders sometimes face is the physical baggage that often accompanies their aging charges--especially when those horses' histories are completely or partially unknown. I got a reminder of this recently when my veterinarian came out to evaluate my 16-year-old Thoroughbred's recently developed lameness.


I wonder if Dorado is keeping any other secrets from me?

Fortunately, because Dorado raced when he was younger, I managed to get a relatively good history through his race records. I know that he was born in Florida and started there. He raced 55 times over the course of his career, and he retired at the age of 6. He was still a stallion when he raced, so he was gelded at least after 6 years of age.

I also knew that he was donated to a farm I worked at when he was 13. From then to now, I know he's been sound as a bell and his now-fit frame is successfully standing the test of time.

What I didn't know was the reason (or reasons) he stopped racing, and what he did from the time he retired to when he found me.

When Dorado developed a subtle lameness a few days ago, I called my veterinarian to come have a look. Dorado didn't have any heat or much swelling in his leg, but the presence of a digital pulse made our vet suspect a hoof abscess. That idea dissipated quickly when Dorado had no hoof tester reaction.

After a few more steps, our veterinarian suggested a few radiographs to get a look at Dorado's coffin and fetlock joints--our prime suspects after the first few rounds of diagnostic procedures. This is where we found our answer.

Dorado's coffin and pastern joints look great for a horse his age, our vet said, especially given his extensive racing career. His fetlock joint, however, isn't in quite as good shape. In fact, we found an old, healed basilar sesamoid fracture (which possibly contributed to or necessitated his retirement from racing) that's likely a contributing factor to his joint inflammation. To add insult to injury, the old break is likely causing irritation on the nearby suspensory ligament. Without getting too far off topic, Dorado will be fine with treatment, and might even be able to keep going in his career as a lower-level eventer.

I had no idea that Dorado had sustained such an injury in his past. Some of the secrets aged horses can hold or physical baggage they carry can be surprising, even stunning. I'm thankful I finally know what's in Dorado's past, but it makes me wonder what other secrets he holds!

Have you had experience with a senior horse carrying physical baggage? When did you discover it, and what was the outcome? Share your experiences below!