What do you know about racing injuries and pin firing?

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What do you know about racing injuries and pin firing?

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    03-05-2012, 03:13 PM
What do you know about racing injuries and pin firing?

I recently bought a horse and learned the hard way to do a vet exam PRIOR to purchasing. I got a grade horse being sold as a sound trail horse. After getting him home and cleaned up, I found a racing brand, and found out he used to be a sulky racer and is a registered Standardbred. He was actually pretty good, and obtained a suspensory injury which ended his career. After riding him a few times he started to get a slight hitch to his back leg. When I took him to the vet to get an exam and vaccines, the vet noticed his stifle was swollen. He also pointed out that both back legs had been pin fired. After examining it closer he determined that the horse was partially lame in the back left stiffle and would only be sound for light riding. He prescribed an anti-inflammatory and said that if the swelling went down and he started using the leg more he might become more sound. The vet said not to be too hopeful though, because I was probably an old injury and there's probably not much to be done. Were getting it x-rayed after his meds are done to see how bad it is.

Now what I'm confused about is the horse has tons of get up and go. He loves to be ridden and goes strait into a canter if you just click your tongue. I don't let him do more then a walk, and only do short rides to work his leg per doctors orders, but he doesnt limp and doesn't seem to be in pain. Should I seek out a second opinion on his leg?

Oh, and the anti-inflammatory isn't working, the slight swelling doesn't look any different and he's been on them for 2 weeks. He's also been on joint supplements. He tosses his head and bucks around when you go to feed him in the morning too. I've never heard of a lame horse doing that
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    03-05-2012, 03:25 PM
One thing you need to keep in mind is that horses are prey animals - if they are injured, they will do their best to hide it, to avoid being a target for predators. I've also known many horses with plenty of "get up and go" whilst lame - I was hand walking one horse that was trying to jog on three legs (abscess in the hoof)!

If I was you, I would trust your vet. By all means, get a second opinion, but you may just get the same answer as what you did from the original vet.

Pin firing is just an old fashioned method of treating lameness by creating an irritation in the leg by burning/freezing/using chemicals, with the intention of speeding up healing. I'm pretty sure it's illegal here in the UK now, due to the painful nature of the method, and the fact most vets now think it's a load of baloney :P
    03-05-2012, 03:29 PM
The pin firing was done 10 years ago, so I would assume its not done these days. I was also told that race horses are bred to work, and most of the time they wont tell you they're hurting, they'll just go till they drop. It makes it so hard to read how he's feeling and I haven't had him that long.
    03-05-2012, 06:54 PM
So sorry to hear that but in all honesty doesnt sound to good.Doesnt hurt to get second opinion but my guess it wont be good. Even prepurchase exams are not a sure thing either but at least you know what problems a present. And can make a informed decision on if you want to buy or not.Iv been lucky that way iv bought all three of my horse with out a pre purchase exam they were all yearlings though.All three were sound and healthy.
    03-05-2012, 07:11 PM
Green Broke
Pin firing is a very outdated practice that used to be used more commonly to treat all manner of tendon and ligament injuries, particularly in racehorses. It really has very little therepeautic value (if any) and is a fairly barbaric practice.

It consists of injecting acidic or otherwise caustic agents into the tissue with the idea being that an acute inflammatory response will be initiated, thereby helping to 'heal' the injury by recruiting blood cells/leukocytes to the site of injury. It's a load of horse poop in my books but the sad fact is that many horses were subjected to this type of treatment (including my own mare). The 'recovery' that some horses made as a result of being pin fired was most likely due to the several months holiday they had to recover from the pin firing itself. I.e. They would have recovered just as well being spelled and not pin fired.

There *shouldn't* be ongoing inflammation as a result of pin firing, and if there is (as in your case), it may be difficult to decipher if the inflammation is a result of the pin firing, or the original injury. Only a vet will be able to tell you that.

I can tell you that my mare hasn't taken a bad step and has remained sound under a light to medium workload. I probably wouldn't choose to stress her greatly with a heavy workload or a lot of jumping. Many people won't touch a horse that has been pin fired, and with good reason as there is the potential for long term side effects. Not in every case but it is certainly a risk that you run in such a horse.

In regards to this:
Originally Posted by TrailxxRider    
He tosses his head and bucks around when you go to feed him in the morning too. I've never heard of a lame horse doing that
I have seen this all too often. I have seen horses that have severed tendons, ligaments and had horrific laceration type injuries behave in this exact manner. Don't be fooled by displays of high energy and moments where no lameness is evident, sadly a horse can, and will, ignore the pain response if they get excited or fearful.
    03-05-2012, 09:02 PM
My gelding tore his suspensory in the paddock, and even though he could not weight bare on that leg and was confined to a stable 24/7, he was canter pirouetting in his stable on 3 legs, and trying to trot around the stable. He would toss his head and neigh when he saw me coming each day. Seemed totally happy in himself. He ended up doing more damage to himself despite being in a cast, and tore a tendon in the same leg, hence being put to sleep.

So yes, they can certainly still run around and be stupid even if they are on 3 legs!

I would be very cautious about working your horse. My boy was a thoroughbred that had 32 starts under his belt. Before his did his suspensory, he also had a hock injury which was a result of his long stint on the track. He was never truely 'lame' on it, just a bit off, and would get quite grumpy under saddle and when being tacked up. People said he was just being a typical ottb, but I got him xrayed and sure enough, gut instincts were right - arthritic hock in the process of fusing, with a bone spur attached.
If someone had him, that didn't pick up on a subtle change of personality in him and in his attitude to work, I'm sure he would have been pushed through, probably beaten up a bit for being resistant etc. He never bucked or did anything 'naughty', he was just a bit grumpy and behind the leg.
    03-05-2012, 09:23 PM
Pin firing is cautery - either cryo or thermal - nothing caustic is injected. Although pin firing is not as prevalent as it once was, it is still used today. The pattern and location of the points (small round white dots) on your horse's legs will tell you why he was fired. Ie. Bucked shins, splints, bowed tendon, curb etc.
    03-06-2012, 10:53 AM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by Horse Poor    
Pin firing is cautery - either cryo or thermal - nothing caustic is injected.
In most cases, that is correct and my first post didn't reflect that fact, apologies. However sulphuric acid is also used, which is rather caustic by my calculations. Sad but true. Produces lesions of similar appearance to cryo or thermal treatments.

Taken from the British Association of Holistic and Natural Medicine:

Hot iron firing was the application of smoldering metal firing irons to the site of an injury to the limbs (as opposed to their use in cauterizing tissue). The theory was that the treatment produced ‘beneficial swelling and counter-irritation’ to the affected part. The other benefit was thought to be that the scar tissue so formed would be stronger than the original, and would act like a permanent bandage. This was of particular relevance to tendon injuries. The practice is no longer recommended by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Acid firing was based on the same principles as hot iron firing, and used for similar problems. This method, practiced for centuries by the Arabs, involved the application of strong sulphuric acid to the skin. It enjoyed a revival in the 1950s. Acid firing was generally thought to be preferable to hot-iron firing, as most practitioners felt it caused little pain and could therefore be used without anesthetic."
    03-06-2012, 12:26 PM
To the best of my knowledge…acid firing is the same as blistering - whatever "caustic agent" is not "injected" but is applied topically to the skin…pin firing actually goes through the skin to the tendon, etc. bar firing and acid firing are only skin deep - pin firing goes deeper than that.
    03-06-2012, 11:21 PM
Originally Posted by TrailxxRider    
The pin firing was done 10 years ago, so I would assume its not done these days. I was also told that race horses are bred to work, and most of the time they wont tell you they're hurting, they'll just go till they drop. It makes it so hard to read how he's feeling and I haven't had him that long.

That it about racehorses wont tell they are hurting is very untrue!
Everytime I get on a horse I judt don't flat out gallop it - we survey how they are (happy, grumpy and / or sour) and feel how there action is and report all back to a trainer.

Yes a horse can be sore but when things change (eg when I rode a really footsore filly the other day, the other filly dumped the rider and went for a gallop) how they can forget how sore they are. My footsore filly starting rearing, bucking and even tried bolting off.

Most horses at the track have issues and most trainers will work around these issues.

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