I hurried home for an in-house vet call. I had a blown trailer tire, and couldn't get it changed quickly enough to meet their schedule, so they came to me.
Dr. Sam arrived, and, in his quiet inquisitive way, immediately starting watching Ransom, even as I walked him out of his pasture. His tech assistant, Bubba, took the lead rope from me. He walked Ransom up and down the side yard, and trotted him up and down the side yard. Bubba also lunged Ransom left and right, changing directions multiple times, maintaining a steady trot. He also performed flex tests on the left hind, where I have seen some of Ransom's stiffness. He hoof tested both front hooves.
And the verdict? It was almost gasping funny, folks. Dr. Sam's words were much like, "It's very obscure, it's very hard to see the lameness at all. He is shorter strided on the left hind, but not by much, and not all the time. He is a little sore on his right front frog today, and hoof-tested, it's either mild navicular pain, or just a tender spot today. I am having a hard time seeing what they are seeing, and it's frustrating." Dr. Sam prescribed a course of action for Ransom, and said he'd review the x-rays, and let me know if there's something obvious happening.
The vet diagnosis? Arthritis. The remedy? Mild pain management, and suggest a shoe change to my farrier for next week. Dr. Sam suggested I just go easy, work light, and short, and participate in this Saturday's show anyways.
I watched Dr. Sam and Bubba drive away, flabbergasted, and utterly confused. The judge 10-10, along with a few others, have mentioned him "lame, sore, too old to continue", and my vet whom I trust sees almost nothing. While I recognize dressage is a sport of perfection, and the test of the ultimate horse's movement, I'm starting to question the sport. These are schooling shows I haul to, guys and gals! NOT USDF rated competitions, and I'm sure not out there even trying to qualify for USDF competitions.
Furthermore, Ransom has never refused work. Now, he's been crabby some days, not wanting to collect, not wanting to stop lightly, and running through my little tender fingers, but he hasn't ever refused to go forward, nor has he ever run away with me. Ransom loves to work, he loves to show - seriously! This is one of the few horses, even watching other show participants, that doesn't fight his warmup, doesn't spook at the moon, doesn't act up when other horses cut him off or near run him over in the warmup ring. He doesn't pin his ears at me, or anyone else, for that matter. When Romeo gets the day of work, and Ransom doesn't work, it's a disaster. Ransom runs fence line, nickering, calling out, pivoting hard on front or rear feet, and works himself into a sweaty frothy mess. He panics, and even if Romeo stays in sight, just the visual of Romeo working, and Ransom not working, and Ransom needs more cooldown efforts than Romeo does. That to me displays a horse that loves to work, loves his job, and hates standing still. Ransom doesn't seem to me to be a horse that wants to retire.
So, yes, he isn't a bunch of 10's gracefully capturing the judge's hearts. He isn't a WEG-dressage potential. He isn't even a USDF rated competitor - I know that. I'm not trying to force him above Training Level!
All that being said, later in the evening, I tossed Ransom out at the end of the lunge line. I saw some improvements in his way of going after the vet's visit. Still, as the vet said, the "problems" are so very minor, it's also hard to see improvements.