Hock injections. Worth it?
So I just found out that my older Thoroughbred needs to start getting hock injections in order to be sound under saddle.
It all started with him getting really back sore. Had a chiro out, gave him time off, he seemed fine. Tried riding him and he was sore again near his flank/loin area. Started massaging him, he is getting better. But I still can't ride him.
Another horse in the barn turned up back sore in exactly the same spot, so the vet was called. Vet's diagnosis was that both horses need hock injections. He said that it isn't actually their back that is sore, but rather their hock isn't working properly and is making them carry themselves funny, causing other soreness.
Anyway, my horse is 23 years old. He is the youngest acting horse in the barn, and we have some young horses. He acts more high strung and hyper than the 3 year old Thoroughbred that we have. So he is very young at heart and loves to run. I am curious as to what you guys think. Would it be better to try the hock injections and continue using him as a riding horse? Or retire him? He is sound on his own without injections, just not under saddle.
If I do retire him, I still have to pay the $400+ a month to board him as I refuse to sell him.
Anyone have experience with hock injections? Opinions on them?
"Hock injections" is a broad term.
It really depends on how you want to continue using the horse. If you are expecting a lot of years yet out of him, then I would recommend something differently than if you didn't care how sound he is and are willing to retire him.
Generally speaking, most horses need an additional form of support to prevent and manage arthritis. Your guy at 23 has made it further than most unsupported horses without being unsound.
If you want to keep using the horse, then there are going to be associated vet bills. Were it my horse, I would get a set of x-rays on each hock to figure out what's going on. From there I'd figure out a plan of action. Generally injecting a hock with some corticosteroids to cut down on inflammation is not a big deal if there is only mild to moderate arthritis present in the lower joints of the hock. However, and this is my opinion, those injections are only a "kick start" or a "boost" to an already effective program. The horse should have access to turnout 24/7 and be encouraged to move move move. He should not be worked more than he is fit for. He should have a very regular (ie every day) work schedule with varied work (trail rides, jumping (only if he is sound enough for it), flat work, etc). And he should be kept at a 5 on the 10 point weight scale, absolutely no heavier. As well, he should be on a supportive regime of Adequan or Pentosan or generic glucosamine or something - to be decided by you and your vet.
With a good management program, depending on the prognosis of the x-rays, it is absolutely not unreasonable to expect to get a good number of years out of the horse. However careful management is key and I expect from this point out you will develop a good relationship with your vet.
Thanks (: I probably should have added what he is currently on lol.
I have owned him for 1 1/2 years and in that time he has been on (daily):
Glucosamine 5000 powder
A hoof supplement pellet
The joint supplements definitely help him, but just recently he has been struggling. It is odd because he has flared up like this twice in the last year and neither time was provoked. The first time he was being worked very lightly and this time I was just working him normally. He has been sound for the last at least 4 months with regular riding and then all of the sudden, not sound.
I plan to get a more thorough diagnosis from the vet during my individual appointment with him.
Also my guy is at a great weight and has a stall with a run so he is free to move around as much as he pleases. Which he makes good use of. He moves around so much that his run is the only one that has mud in it. Only because he has flattened out all of the gravel and sand that was in there by his movement. He is the one that can be caught trotting, cantering and even rearing in his run :P Silly old horse.
I will have to ask the vet about what exactly he would be getting injected as I am not 100% on that yet. Haven't really talked too in depth about it yet, it was just mentioned as an option.
Oral joint supplements do diddly squat. The MSM would be doing something, but the oral glucosamine is a waste of money. Injectables are the only thing that can put glucosamine molecules into the horses body.
Please have an in depth talk with your vet. Inflammation is cumulative, meaning that every day he is worked with arthritis and no support there is a little bit more and more inflammation until he is in so much pain he is lame.
As well I am unsure if a run is really enough room for him. Horses are meant to be in large areas, I wouldn't have him in less than a half acre.
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Most show horses end up having their hocks injected as they go on in their careers. I've had it done on several horses, not all at once thank God, but it can really make a difference. It's expensive but it prolongs their rideability and comfort/soundness. I also like to have something like Legend done at the same time, I found that my horses did better, longer the hock injections were done along with IV Legend.
Only caution I have about joint injections is, make sure they also inject some kind of antibiotic at the same time, my vet uses Hyaluronic Acid, a corticosteroid, antibiotic and I think...maybe some kind of Novocaine for pain.
A person I know had their vet do hock injections and ended up having to do surgery because her vet did not use an antibiotic and the horse ended up with a joint infection. Her vet had told her that the antibiotic wasn't necessary. Errrr, I think anytime you're doing something THAT invasive, you're better to be covered.
Anyway, after he does the hocks, he injects the Legend, and we're good to go after a couple of days off. I've been lucky, following that protocol, we've only had to do the injections once a year. In the past, before Legend, I've had to do it up to 4X/year to keep a really good jumper sound.
So ask your vet how he feels about all that.
Anabel has given you some great information and recommendations.
I would like to add this - there's a big difference between injecting corticosteriods and injecting synthetic joint fluid or joint supplements. Find out which your vet is recommending, and at what schedule. An injection of steriods (directly into the hocks) to interrupt the cycle of inflammation and provide relief, followed by a supportive regimen like anabel referenced above is a reasonable, safe course of treatment, IMO.
Steriod joint injections are often abused in sport horse disciplines, used to make the horse feel and appear sound and mask the underlying problem. Injecting a horse with steriods to get it sound enough to compete or complete a season can be abusive or at the very least, ultimately shortening the horse's useful career.
So if you enounter someone who says "Ohhhhhh! Hock injections! I'd NEVER do that!" what they're referring to is the regular ongoing use of corticosteriod injections to mask unsoundness.
But that's not the case here. You're talking about making a older horse comfortable, and keeping him comfortable enough to work at a level that will keep the advancing arthritis a bay. If he were my horse, regardless of the board bill, I would be doing both the steriod injection and the routine injections of whatever your vet recommends to keep him happy and moving.
I do also second the recommendation for a large turnout area and 24/7 turnout.
Careful management is key to keeping an older horse working happily.
Thanks guys. I will definitely talk to the vet and see what it is that he had in mind. I will look into the inject-able glucosamine. I am surprised to hear that the powder doesn't do anything. I can definitely tell the difference in my boy when he is on the powder and when he isn't.
Unfortunately I can't exactly offer him more turnout. What he is currently in is what the boarding facility offers. In the summer/spring I will be able to move him out into a 60ft run so that will give him a little more area to move around in. His current run is 40ft.
Maura, what I meant by mentioning the board bill wasn't that it is too expensive to add injections on top of it. I mentioned simply that I would have to still pay the board bill even if I did go the route of retiring him. I am not sure if I was misunderstood? He is perfectly sound on his own without injections. He bucks, runs, plays, and has no lameness or back soreness. The only reason he would need the injections is if I want to keep riding him because that is when the lameness and back soreness start.
So my options were: 1) Retire him and not have to do hock injections because he wouldn't need them or 2) Do hock injections for the sole purpose of keeping him as a riding horse.
So if he were to be retired and not used as a riding horse he would be sound and able to move around just fine without extra support. Only when a rider is introduced does he need the support.
So if I understand what you're telling me, if you chose not to do the injections, his life will be his stall, a 60ft run and handwalking?
That's reason enough right there for me, as a horse owner, to do the injections.
Sounds like your old guy might really need the regular stimulation and exercise of being ridden.
I bought a 7 year old appendix gelding a year ago and was told by the previous owner and many other people at the barn, including the vet, that he would need monthly hock injections for the rest of his life to keep him sound and rideable. I bought him anyway, put him on MSM, and he has yet to come up lame on me. I would not put such a young horse on steroid injections, because they will overtime deteriorate the muscle and I view them as a temporary solution to pain. Not a permanent fix. An older horse is a different story, but with such a young horse I thought this was crazy. It almost seems like a new trend to get your horses hocks injected.
Could he still be sound enough for quiet hacking?
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