How to Proceed?

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How to Proceed?

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    11-17-2013, 07:37 PM
How to Proceed?

When I bought my horse, Casper, almost a year ago, he had DJD in his front right leg (and I don't remember exactly where but I THINK it was around the pasterns) and had gotten his very first injection. He jumped soundly, did flying lead changes, everything, and the vet check went fine, although he had flexions of 1 in his right front and hind hock. He's 12, and the vet said the hock wasn't abnormal for jumping horses. I bought him, and I probably shouldn't have.

Got him home and things went downhill from there. I always had an inkling that there was something going on, but my instructor just thought he was doing the whole "new owner, I'm going to test you" routine. Casper started getting sticky on his right lead and wouldn't pick it up, wouldn't do flying lead changes, bucked at the canter, and he cut corners, and he started ducking out of jumps - 99% of the time to the left. But my instructor didn't see any lameness in his workouts. He had jumped 3' 3" at least in his old home, although he was regularly schooled at 2' 6", and he would not jump 3 foot fences after a while at home.

Closer to the summer, I took Casper on a trail ride. It wasn't very rigorous, but there was some hill work. The next day, he came up stiff and sore. My instructor said it was his left stifle.

During the summer, it was hard to get Casper into a forward moving canter. He would almost do 4 beat unless you really got after him. He ducked out twice at a show and got me off both times.

This fall, we used Casper for some trail riding. He would constantly fuss on the trails, and this was my wake up call that something was up. He wanted to run up and down hills, he would balk randomly and then rear up when asked to go forward, and he wouldn't load in the trailer like normal.

Took him to the vet and he's got sore hocks. He was uncomfortable even when he was only moderately flexed and went off lame. Also, when I lunge him, he's short on that right front. The vet told me to Bute him 4 grams a day for 5 days and start working him on the 3rd and continue until 2 days after I stopped the Bute to see if the Bute worked for him. He also said Casper would need to have both hocks injected and his right front as well. His right front seemed to wear off awful fast, and it was only his first injection. The vet said that the hock injections would help and I could still show him. These are my questions for you:

1. How should I proceed in the vet work? I have not done the Bute thing yet basically because I can't ride consistently for 5 days in a row, and I don't have an indoor to ride in if the weather gets bad. Would it be beneficial to get x-rays of his hocks and right front? Any other suggestions?

2. Is it really ethical to keep on working him as a lower level hunter with these issues? He's only 12, and I don't know if I want to ask a horse with all these problems to do this work.

I feel really bad because I always listened to everyone around me who said that he was fine and just testing me. Should have followed my gut, but I trusted the guidance of my instructor, who by the way, does not train me any longer.
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    11-18-2013, 01:33 PM
Hi There, sorry to hear about Casper. It is always tough learning the lesson of "go with your gut" but I am happy to hear that you moved on from your previous trainer and are working to help your horse out. It is hard to say how to move forward because it essentially sounds like you are mid-way through getting a diagnosis, I.e. You just don't know what the problem is as of yet.

I am not exactly sure what the bute thing is going to do for Casper---even if it works, you can't keep a horse on bute forever as it can cause GI upset/ ulcers when used for long periods. If it does work, not sure what that tells you as it already seems clear that Casper hurts...maybe the vet wanted you to do this to confirm that his pain was indeed the cause of his misbehavior, not just him testing you?? I suppose that might make sense although evidence seems to point towards the idea that he is hurting. Do you know whether the vet considered any issues in his stifle and/or sacrum? With your horse not liking hills and jumping, he could be hurting there and this is often overlooked or not found by vets. Hocks are likely as well, but I would also want to rule out these other joints. You might consider getting a second opinion and/or having a chiropractor look at him---I have sometimes had chiropractors identify where the pain is better than vets (no diss on vets though, they are essential!). Also, do you know if your vet checked for sof tissue injury---strained tendon or ligament? I would definitely want to rule this out as well.

Until you know what the issue is, it's impossible to say whether it is ethical or not to use him as a hunter. Bottomline, if you can't maintain soundness and comfort with whatever level of care/ treatment you can give him, then sounds like he may need to be retired from jumping. That said, I have seen plenty of owners work through trial and error (sometimes trying multiple vets, chiropractors, farriers and/or treatment) until they found the right combination to keep their horse sound...sometimes nothing can help a horse but other times it just takes persistance and listening to that gut feeling if you find yourself thinking "I don't think that's the problem" or "There has got to be something more I could do"---always listen to that!
    11-19-2013, 12:43 AM
I have to agree with the above about the Bute. It doesn't really seem like a long term solution for me, and I've had a lot more success with "mystery" and odd lamenesses with chiropractic and therapy work than with traditional medicine. My chiro does an awesome job assessing the horse and determining what he needs, and adjusting him to make sure he is comfortable. I've seen it make a huge difference, and in some cases the horse only needs one adjustment. In others they need several (just like with people) until they are really better.

It's not a miracle cure, however, and needs support via proper stretching and exercise so that the muscles don't pull the bones right back to where they were. The other thing I do that has made a HUGE difference for my incredibly challenging 15yo OTTB is my Draper Therapies saddle pad, anti-sweat sheet, and leg wraps. They are a little expensive but I just switched from Back on Track because while I love BOT, they weren't dryer safe (and my horse is a slob and I need to wash the stuff!) and the Draper is much much lighter so I can use it in the summer as well as the winter and not have my horse overheating (he tends to sweat a lot). My horse was a chronic bucker with sticky leads and we just moved up to the 3' division in our jumper shows and it's made a tremendous difference - both chiro and the DT stuff. Good luck and I hope you are able to figure it out soon!
    11-19-2013, 11:07 AM
Thanks for the replies! To answer some questions:
The Bute was just recommended for a trial period to help see if injections would work later on. Definitely not meant as long term lol.

The vet did not check for stifle, sacrum, or soft tissue. Casper did have a sore stifle after a trail ride once though, so I would not be surprised there.

As for a second opinion, I'm thinking about taking him to the university vet because not many people around here specialize in horses. Would you agree with doing that?
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    11-19-2013, 02:25 PM
Yes, I think trying the university would be a great idea. If you have a chiropractor in the area, you might try that first, but if this isn't possible or you still aren't happy after the chiropractor, I think going to the university would be your best bet.
    11-19-2013, 10:47 PM
Yes to University Vet!
    11-20-2013, 12:12 AM
Great, because that was going to be my next course of action. I actually have another horse that I was planning on taking down to get x-rays anyway - freak accident caused him to shatter his tibia last year, vets said I would never ride him again because he would go lame, and he's been ridden quite frequently. No lameness, and it's been progressive riding.

So I'll take them together I guess and hope for the best. Good news is that I attend this university, so I believe there's a discount involved.

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