want to be sure I'm doing everything I can - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 11-21-2011, 10:09 PM Thread Starter
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want to be sure I'm doing everything I can

My boy Huey is a retired Grand-Prix level show-jumper. He's 17 and he's a big warmblood. His leg joints really took a beating in his previous career. The vet said when I had the vet check that he shouldn't be jumped > 1 foot unless I wanted to have to dose him with bute. I don't need to jump that bad, and I sure don't want to do something to him that is going to make him hurt. So now we're both learning dressage, and that seems to be going pretty well (better for him most days than for me!).

My trainer/barn owner mentioned last week that it was good to see his hind legs without "all that swelling". I didn't realize he usually had swelling. So I looked at it "without" to make a note of it, and then I looked today and yes, I could tell, his hind legs had some swelling in them (the joint above his hooves and up to the big joint that is like an ankle only 3 feet above the ground). I talked to my trainer and she said, yes, that's how they usually look, they just didn't look that way on Friday. She thinks it is maybe because I free-lunged him (I think that is the term) in the paddock before I brought him in to groom him up before riding.

Right now, he is in his stall at night, and he gets turned out in the morning, usually first-thing after everyone gets their grain and Round One of hay flakes. He totally trashes his bedding every night, so he's usually one of the first horses turned out. :) He's in a paddock with a buddy all day and then comes back in to the barn in the evening. Vet gave him a body-condition score of 6, and he's getting low-carb grain pellets and mostly hay. I also give him a senior joint supplement with glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and some other goodies (Senior Flex) and an omega-3 supplement because he doesn't get to eat much fresh grass. As long as the weather permits (it is not actively raining, the ring is not flooded, there is not a layer of ice on the ground) he gets worked 4 or 5 times per week.

My trainer said this is just what happens when a horse gets his legs pounded to bits by a high-jumping career, and she thinks I am doing everything I could or should about his hind-leg edema, but I wanted to throw it out there in case anyone can think of something else I ought to be doing. I know when my joints puff up it is kind of uncomfortable, and I want to take the best care of him that I can.
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post #2 of 8 Old 11-21-2011, 10:10 PM
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So his legs are stocked up even after he has been in turnout or been worked on the longe or under saddle?
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post #3 of 8 Old 11-21-2011, 10:15 PM Thread Starter
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stocked up = puffy?

I'm not sure...I didn't realize until just the other day that he was puffy, because I didn't have "not puffy" to compare it to. Once my attention was drawn to that, I found I could really see it.

The day we saw he was "not puffy" we'd just had a big weather change, the wind was up, and the horses all felt like God (and didn't want to cooperate with the halter) so I drove mine away from me and let him race it off in the paddock with his buddy, and another horse in the adjacent paddock, too, we got a 3-fer!

So he'd just been worked freely, with no rider or tack, for about 10 minutes before we noticed that his legs weren't swollen.

I didn't have to drive him around the paddock this morning, so he'd just had whatever exercise he gets from walking out to the turnout, eating breakfast, hanging out with his buddy, and his legs were noticeably puffy.

I did not notice whether he was still puffy this morning after I rode him, but he was definitely puffy before I rode him.
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post #4 of 8 Old 11-21-2011, 10:18 PM
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Try to notice whether it goes away after a ride or exercise. If it does, I wouldn't worry. If not, I might be concerned about a health problem.
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post #5 of 8 Old 11-21-2011, 10:19 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks - I'll be sure to check for that. Probably I can use my phone-cam to keep from getting confused. As it is, it feels like it does when I go to the optometrist for new glasses...is *this* better? or is *this*?...
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post #6 of 8 Old 11-21-2011, 10:53 PM
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There is a big difference between inflammation and soft swelling and edema. Edema can be easily determined by squeezing the swollen areas with your thumb and fingers. If you squeeze pretty hard, edema will 'pit' with pressure and may take several seconds to even minutes to have the pits fill back up.

Edema often dissipates with exercise. I will not have heat in it and will not be sore (lame when moved) unless it is extreme.

There are very different ways of managing edema as opposed to soft swelling from inflammation.

If he has edema, you need to watch his under-belly and sheath as they can also retain fluids there also. If he does that, I would ask your Vet to run a Blood Chemistry Panel on him. It can quickly diagnose liver or kidney problems that can cause or exacerbate edema in the lower legs
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post #7 of 8 Old 11-22-2011, 06:47 AM Thread Starter
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I got the vet to run a blood panel on him earlier this fall when I bought him - it all checked out OK.

Inflammation would be warm, right? His rear legs and feet are not warmer than his front ones. I hope I would have noticed, but I did make sure to check right away in case it had slipped my attention. He also doesn't limp, and he doesn't mind my handling his feet or legs (or anything other than new cuts and scratches), so I don't think it hurts.

Thanks for that tip on his sheath and under-belly. It's always helpful to know about early-warning signs.
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post #8 of 8 Old 11-22-2011, 10:44 AM
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Most joint supplements in feed are not proven to do anything, nor are they regulated. The best way to manage an arthritic horse, as recommended to me by various vets is as follows.
First of all it is important to get x rays done so you know what you are dealing with. For passive treatment it is important for these horses to have access to as much turnout as possible. If it is possible they should have 24/7 turnout in at least 1-2 acres, other horses are also good. Their body scores should be maintained at 5 and possibly 6 as any extra weight on the joints is just causing wear. Feeding MSM has been shown to help connection tissues along with a well balanced feeding regiment (the glucosamine and chondroitin are both basically sugar - neither are absorbed through the horses digestive system). The horse should be allowed a good 10-15 minutes of walk prior to any Lunging or riding (the walking can be done mounted), a good 10-15 minutes of walk after exercise and post exercise the legs should immediately be iced or cold hoses until cool. Riding without boots or with well ventilated boots will also help. Make sure you are also using the best farrier possible as a good farrier can adjust and keep pressure off the arthritis areas (he may also want to see the x rays or talk to your vet).
Active treatment of an arthritis horse can be as simple as a round of adequan and shot of legend twice to three times a year to using plasma therapy, tildren, etc... or adequan a few times a month, continuously and even joint injections with legend and a steroid. The decision on active vet treatment of arthritis is almost entirely dependent on x ray results. With how our treatment options are increasing it is possible to keep pretty much anything going, however it come at a high cost. A round of adequan (7 injections, 1 every 4 days) is around $800, one tildren treatment is around $1000 and newer technologies like plasma, etc go up from there.
Just remember that the better preventative maintenance means less money will be spent in the long run on heroic measures. Some adequan and cold hosing is well worth it to have a sound healthy partner for many years!

Good luck!

Ps most horses stalled and in work will get stocked up overnight. He was probably wrapped a lot in his career and from that has list some of his natural ability to dissipate fluid in the leg. X rays will show what is really going on but it is likely just cosmetic.
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