View Full Version : taking on a horse with knee chip?

Dec. 20, 2009, 07:42 PM
Okay, so one of my favorite fillies that I had groomed may soon be available as a giveaway. She's a nice filly, just not a good racehorse. She had had her knees screwed as a yearling (if that means anything now for the purpose of this post?) Anyway, she has a knee chip. Not sure if they will be removing it or not. If they DON'T remove it, what would her prognosis be for a riding horse? I wouldn't be able to afford the surgery on my own most likely, so would time off and a less strenuous career be ok for her if the chip was left in? What if the chip is removed?

This is my second favorite filly and I know I will probably never get ahold of my #1 filly since she was sold... so I guess I just want some opinions since I am still pretty new to the racing world. TIA!

Dec. 20, 2009, 07:56 PM
I have two 'knee chips'. One is my super gelding who is totally sound. I gave him almost a year off when I got him. He is my primary riding horse right now. You can't tell by looking or feeling which knee it was.
The other is my mare who is a super broodie, she has never been lame on it, maybe just a tad puffy.
I think it just really depends, I did nothing for either of these two except rest.

Dec. 20, 2009, 08:06 PM
I own 2 mares with chips, and have had another 2 in my barn with chips. Mare 1 was off for a while, I gave a year off then started riding her lightly. She's a broodie, so she doesn't do much, but we do some light w/t/c and trails without a problem. Mare 2 had screws put in @ 2, and by now, she's not sound enough to ride. Again, a broodmare, so as long as she's comfy. The other 2: the mare is rideable, but not for much more than w/t/c and trails. The stallion has a definite big knee, and while he's sometimes hacked around, isn't sound. He's a friends teaser stud, so he has a good gig anyway. Lol. So really, it depends on the chip, and the damage done to the joint. Sometimes it can be nothing, other times it can render the horse unrideable. Hard to say. My 24 year old has had a bone chip in her ankle, possibly congenital, and has never had an issue. At all. For other horses, the same thing has been career ending. Best bet it to talk to the vet that has been treating her and see what they say.

Dec. 20, 2009, 08:12 PM
I would get good digital xrays and get more than one opinion, definately including a reputable surgeon who routinely looks at chips and operates on them. I would definately NOT take a wait and see attitude, because if you wait and see and the chip is doing damage, it is irreversible and by the time the horse is lame, it is too late.

My personal experience w/chips in a young horse is that if you ever intend to sell the horse, take them out. Also that I am not the lucky type of person who has a horse w/a chip and it never bothers them. Are you lucky?

Dec. 20, 2009, 08:28 PM
Ask where the chip is. If it's in the lower capsule of the knee, it's going to more painful for the horse than the top capsule.

Dec. 21, 2009, 06:57 AM
If you can't afford the x-rays @ $60-$80 a view for digital and surgery is out of the question pass in favor of someone who can afford to do it for the horse.
A big arthritic painful knee is not fair to the animal or you.

If she is your second favorite horse perhaps you can find her a home where they can give her the surgery.

But a good surgeons opinion the belongs to you is the 1st thing to get before making a commitment.

ex-racer owner
Dec. 21, 2009, 08:17 AM
From my own personal experience, get the x-rays and have them forwarded to a surgeon for a consult. I didn't realize that my horse had anything wrong with his knee until my alternative medicine vet told me that my horse was reacting to the knee pressure point. I had my regular vet x-ray it and sure enough, there was a significant chip in there. She recommended that we have it removed and asked if I wanted her to forward the images to the arthroscopic surgeon at Ohio State University. I said sure and later talked with surgeon and set up appointment to have it removed. The surgeon called me before and after the procedure and she found that there was more damage to the surrounding cartilege than what showed on the images taken beforehand. The longer a chip is left in the more damage it can do to the surrounding cartilege. The sooner you can have it removed, the more you can lessen the risk of further damage.

That being said, at least x-ray and get a consult. I have heard of horses that were fine with the chips left in, but you need to know exactly what you are dealing with before taking it on, unless you enjoy large surgical bills and/or taking care of and paying for pasture puffs ;)

FWIW, my horse is sound and I jump and do dressage, though he gets Adequan monthly and the day may come that I will have to inject that knee. However, he was never unsound before the procedure, but that chip left lasting damage. I used Ohio State University because my vet studied under the arthroscopic surgeon and highly recommended her to me, they are relatively close, they do A LOT of these types of procedures, and they were affordable enough to me. I had this procedure done right after Christmas last year and I was quoted $1400- flat fee. They ended up charging me $1300- much to my great surprise!

Dec. 21, 2009, 08:58 AM
Depends on exactly where the chip is, and it's size. Chips can either cause significant joint damage through irritation and arthritic changes that can be ongoing and deteriorating, OR can float free (a "joint mouse") and not interfere at all with the action of the joint OR can float free and intermittantly interfere with the joint, OR can heal back on either in place or in a place where they do not interfere with the action of the joint, OR can dissolve entirely and disappear without surgery.

So "a chip" is only the first part of the story. Find out about it's size and location, and get a surgeon's opinion about what this one is going to do, whether it needs to come out or not to give the horse the best shot at future soundness.

Dec. 21, 2009, 09:55 AM
I disagree with ex-racer's post above do a degree. It's better to get your vet's opinion than a surgical vet. The surgical vets get paid to cut. I've almost never had a surgical vet not recommend surgery. Regardless of the severity of a chip, they always generally say the same things "it may not be painful now, but it will at some point" or "if it moves another 2 millimeters it's going to become a problem".

I agree with the surgical vets to a degree, but not everyone can thrown down $1,500-$2,000 to remove a chip.

ex-racer owner
Dec. 21, 2009, 10:34 AM
I disagree with ex-racer's post above do a degree. It's better to get your vet's opinion than a surgical vet. The surgical vets get paid to cut. I've almost never had a surgical vet not recommend surgery. Regardless of the severity of a chip, they always generally say the same things "it may not be painful now, but it will at some point" or "if it moves another 2 millimeters it's going to become a problem".

I agree with the surgical vets to a degree, but not everyone can thrown down $1,500-$2,000 to remove a chip.

Just as a note, I did have my regular vet examine the x-rays and based on her opinion, I allowed her to forward the images to the surgical vet. My regular vet knows I am not independantly wealthy and offered a few recommendations. I elected to have the procedure done because I intend to keep my horse for a long time but want for him to be as comfortable and usable for as long as possible. I thought it was a sound decision for us both and it was not taken lightly!

I agree that not everyone can afford to have surgery for their horse, but not everyone can afford to keep a horse that they can't ride, if that is important to them. I am suggesting spending a couple of hundred dollars to save yourself from possibly spending thousands down the road, plus any heartbreak that would ensue. My $700 "bargain" has cost me more money than I care to acknowledge.

I also know that plenty of horses do have chips in various joints that never cause them a bit of trouble and if one doesn't have to have them removed due to location, size, whatever, then you probably should leave well enough alone :). I just think that knowing exactly what is going on, in this case, since you already know there is something in there, is to the OP's benefit before they take ownership and become financially responsible for the animal. I speak from experience!:D

Lest anyone get the wrong idea and think that I am not one of the COTH enablers, I absolutely would love for the OP to be able to get the horse.

Dec. 21, 2009, 11:05 AM
And not be a downer but I just got quotes for removing a painfull chip in a "Free" horse. The price was over $2000.

For that I can buy a horse w/O a chip. Do call round for estimates and the rrehab time done right is considerable. Not 60-90 days. But at least 6 months. Again if done right you will get the knee injected w/ good stuff at least 1 X post op and keep horse on Adequain and Legend monthly. Been there done that.
We all have horse who are the loves of our lives, and like you most of us can't afford to buy them.
We wait until the current owner is ready to move the horse on.

Please keep us posted as to the out come.
Even as a broodmare if her knee isn't dealt w/ it will painful and arthritic.

Dec. 21, 2009, 11:14 AM
I have had one in the past and currently have a horse with a chip.

Years ago I claimed one that ended up with multiple chips (not in the knee however), we showed his xrays to a well known vet at Belmont Park who suggested the horse be injected rather than do any surgery. I never had any issues after he was injected and he went on and showed for years with me. He was only injected once, in multiple ankles.

The one I have now does have a chip in a knee. The knee, due to significant arthritis, is large. I had xrays from 2007 and 2009 given to me by his trainer and the changes were dramatic. We drained it before Thanksgiving and injected with Legend. I think he is more comfortable but I am not sure at this point on what he will be able to do riding wise. We will see how he does over the winter with turn out...There was no way to remove the chip surgically due to the arthritis.

Barbara L.
Dec. 21, 2009, 12:57 PM
We see about 75% of our retirees finished racing due to a chip or chips in knees. Our veterinarians at the track are happy to give me a copy of the digitals, and their advice, but I always send them on to an orthopedic surgeon, as she sees these kinds of injuries and repairs them every day.

You do not have to take the surgeon's advice, but another opinion or more information is useful.

Sometimes it is not the chip or chips, but the future arthritis that will develop, and the surgery can keep a currently sound horse even sounder for a full riding career. Just having the surgeon "clean-up" the joint has allowed MANY of our retirees to have the potential to do anything, since any limitations on their careers seem to deter people even if the horse is inexpensive or free.

Veterinary clinics sometimes allow you to pay on a plan, BUT if you just love this mare, cannot afford the veterinary work, and do not care if she is 100% sound five years from now, maybe you don't need to make her perfect!

Yes, time does heal many wounds, but if science will allow time to be sped up (a good thing in this case), and/or make things even better, why not check into surgery?

Dec. 21, 2009, 04:57 PM
It really depends on a lot of things, but I did buy one that had a big knee and old chips (multiple) in the knee. He flexed sound on it and after about a year off the track, the knee tightened up and appeared normal from the outside.

Talked to my vet (surgical facility) about pulling them out and they saw no reason at that point they were already walled off and we were risking more going in. He held up for three years doing the hunters and I was about to move him up to 3'6" when I lost him on the colic table. The knee never caused him any issues during that time.

Dec. 21, 2009, 07:14 PM
Thanks everyone! I will ask a few more questions. I know they will give me her vet records and obviously, since I work at the farm, I can easily talk to one of the many vets we always have around. I'll have to wait and see. If it is meant to work out, it will. If not, that is okay too. Who knows? They might still elect to do the surgery themselves and try to get her back to the track. Hard to say- they still weren't 100% sure on what they were going to do with her. I just know they aren't keeping her as a broodie either way. I'll keep you all posted!

Dec. 21, 2009, 07:50 PM
It all depends on the location of the chip, as if it is in a place that really bothers her. I've know several who go on to be trail horses, dressage horses, and even low level hunters that go years without having an issue. HOWEVER, you have to take into consideration if that chips moves with time, it could make her dead lame. Also, with the chip moving around it will tear up tissue around the joint and also arthritis will set in. Best thing for the filly would be to save money and get the surgery done.

I did surgery on my horse as a 2yo when he chiped him knee coming out of a work out. 4 chips were removed, I did the lay up, including Aqua-Treadmill and eventhough i decided against racing him, he is now a low level Hunter with zero soundness issues!