View Full Version : What to do? OTTB w/ knee chip...

Jan. 19, 2010, 11:50 AM
I recently adopted a 2007 OTTB. I found out later, through my own research, that she has a small chip in her right knee (I have email with the x-rays for those of you who want to see them). The person I adopted her from did NOT tell me of her injury.

She had 2 workouts at the track in late September and pulled up with heat in her knee. She was x-rayed in early October.

In November, a orthopedic surgeon in PA looked at the x-rays and said that the chip didn't warrant surgery and she was sound for riding.

She came to me sound at the end of December.

My vet and the surgeon at the same hospital said that the chip was small and she could stay sound or she could develop unsoundness from it later (no way to tell).

I got her as either a Prelim prospect for me (my mare most likely to max out at training, we are moving up this season) or as a resale if we didn't get along or was better suited for a different discipline.

What do I do? I told the lady I got her from that I was very disappointed that she with held this information from me. I also said that if my vet deemed her unfit for eventing, that I would expect her to pay to have her shipped back. I'm not sure if she will even do this...I'm afraid to even go there.

Do I take my chances and keep her? Who will buy her? I will obviously tell them about the chip. Will I have to discount her sale price the amount of the surgery cost?

She's 16 hands and VERY quiet. My husband thinks she's worth keeping but he's kind of an enabler.


Jan. 19, 2010, 12:15 PM
If the horse is sound for riding and has been evaluated as such, why are you thinking you need to do surgery? While lots of chips should and do come out, there are some that are better staying where they are. Heck, my prelim horse has a massive chip in a hind ankle that neither the seller nor the amateur who had him before her knew about. He went to Radnor twice (long format), ran around Advanced, and did a long format one star with me. I figure the horse can't read the xrays, so no sense in telling him about it.

Jan. 19, 2010, 12:24 PM
I'm not going to do surgery unless she becomes unsound.

I guess my main questions are: Will the chip scare people away from buying her? Will I have to discount her price so much that I won't make a profit (assuming she'll be an average BN horse at the end of the 2011 show season)? OR, it it too risky to invest a bunch of time and money in a prospect for myself who may or may not stay sound on a KNOWN injury (I know ANY prospect may or may not stay sound)?

ex-racer owner
Jan. 19, 2010, 12:33 PM
I had a chip taken out of my horse's knee. I had it done at Ohio State University and it cost me $1300- flat rate procedure. His procedure was done 12-28-08 and he came home 12-31-08. PM me if you want more info.

Jan. 19, 2010, 12:38 PM
ex-racer owner,

Thanks for the info. That actually makes me feel better...

Jan. 19, 2010, 12:43 PM
did you ask the seller if there were any medical issues she knew about? my vet used to ask that question because if the seller said no and the answer was yes, it was fraud. I think if you have her for resale, you will have a problem with buyers who expect perfection.

Jan. 19, 2010, 12:47 PM
I think a chip can scare people away - same as a bow, arthritis or any other issue. A consistent performance record can help with that as well. This is why your own PPE is so important if you are looking at the higher levels of any sport. Heck, even at the lower levels it's good to know what you are starting with so that you can maintain it or pass on it. The cost of the horse itself is irrelevent, it's what you are willing to live with. If she were mine, I would keep her and try her, but be realistic that I may not make a profit. Heck, that is the case with ALL horses! She sounds like a nice prospect - I'd see how she does for you. As for the seller - yes, she should have disclosed, but I also think that sometimes you don't know and that is why I always encourage folks to do a PPE when I sell - there may be something I am not aware of going on.

Good luck, and I like the way your husband thinks lol!

Jan. 19, 2010, 01:00 PM
If the key issue is making a profit off this horse, then I would move on. The sales market is not great and there are too many OTTBs that are available without knee chips. I had a consignment horse turn up with chips a few years back and while he did sell, the price was discounted AND it took months longer than expected. The cost of a horse is in the upkeep, and a horse with a defect is going to take longer to sell and that eats up your profit.

Jan. 19, 2010, 01:02 PM
Because she was adopted, not bought, they strongly discouraged a PPE. They pretty much told me not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I took my chances, and this is where I am! Live and learn. Next time, I will do a PPE and x-ray the knees!

Jan. 19, 2010, 01:21 PM
Adopted from a reputable group? Or "adopted" meaning got for free?

If you got the horse for free and like her, have the chip removed if it's worrisome and you want it for resale. Chips will absolutely scare buyers away, even though as GotSpots stated, they may not cause a problem. Mare+Chips? tough to resell unless you have a majorly nice resume or superstar talent.
Is the chip inter-articular? I'm guessing no, since she's sound. Chips can and do reabsorb as well if they are small enough to demineralize.

Jan. 19, 2010, 01:24 PM
a small chip in the knee, not something I would be getting super worked up over. If she is sound for the job that a person is buying her for...then I doubt it will impact her sale significantly if it is a very small chip. IME, perfect xrays are usually only needed for unproven green prospects....or sales to very inexperienced buyers. And if it does becomes your issue...have the chip removed.

If it worries you so much and you think you are putting money into her for re-sale only...have it removed now. It doesn't cost much for most small chips...and it is pretty easy surgery. Sometimes it is done on them standing up...and it doesn't take long to recover. Honestly though...I wouldn't be removing it now if it isn't causing any issue but would be watching it closely.

Jan. 19, 2010, 02:01 PM
If I were you, I go ahead and spring for the removal now. It shouldn't be expensive at all. If the chip does start floating around, it can do a lot of damage in a very short time. If the horse was free to begin with, just consider this the purchase price. :)

Meredith Clark
Jan. 19, 2010, 02:06 PM
I know a horse (a TB but not OTTB) that went Prelim with a big chip in the knee.

She was a sale project and the owner eventually had it removed, not because she was unsound on it, but because no one would pay the asking price with it in.

She recovered great and sold well.

Jan. 19, 2010, 02:12 PM
That is a bit of a pickle to be in. In this circumstance, I would be upset that they knew about the chip and didn't disclose. That is not a rescue that I would want to deal with. When we have a horse who has something that we know about it is always disclosed in the first email/contact that I have with anybody interested. Why take the chance of having to take a horse back if you can avoid it? It is standard language in our contract that we STRONGLY suggest a PPE because as we all know there could be things that are there even if a horse has never taken a lame step.

On the other hand, anybody who buys a horse for resale and choses not to x-ray should be prepared to lose the gamble. I have never x-rayed a horse that I have bought but they are cheap and if they end up with something than it is my job is to find them an appropriate home.

That being said it is hard to sell a horse without a performance record or a young horse who has something on a recent x-ray and no earlier x-rays to compare it to. I am from the camp that these things don't bother me and treat the horse like an individual. Were they staying sound to race, how about sound to ride, how frequently have they been ridden/jumped/trail ridden and is there any indication that it is bothering them. Horses are a gamble and always will be. You can buy a horse with clean x-rays for a ton of money and something happens to them or a cheap horse with a minor issue and take a chance. It just all depends on how goal for the horse and how flexible you can be.

Resale is extremely hard and a horse with a known issue will be a challenge to sell. I happen to have a fantastic just turned 4 yr that has all the potential to be an upper level horse and an advanced level rider thought so as well. Jumps well, brave, rideable and sound expect for a minor issue on the x-ray. He is getting the winter off but my plan of action would be to prove he can compete and stay sound and take more x-rays of the issue and see what it looks like. Horse has never taken a lame step. Hoping for the best I suppose but that is all you can do.

Jan. 19, 2010, 02:22 PM
My OTTB had a knee chip. He flexed sound, and the chip showed up on the 'base-line' x-rays I had taken when I purchased him. I'm not sure now what type of chip it was...but it turns out that it didn't matter. I used him as my jumper, and he was never, ever, ever lame or sore - in over 7 years of jumping him.

I took the risk of not doing surgery (and vet at the time told me that the chip shouldn't bother him)...he was 8, and I'm not sure that digging around in there would have helped or hurt. Every situation is different - and every horse is different. Yours is a resale prospect? That is entirely different..depends on the price you hope to put on this horse/how much training. The chip changes everything.

And FWIW, better check your 'adoption' contract - you may be able to return this horse/you pay shipping. Or you may have to confer with the adoption agent, and get permission to do this surgery (if that's the route you choose). I know that I didn't 'own' my horse until one year had passed.

Jan. 19, 2010, 02:35 PM
MC- FWIW my event horse hurt himself last year and when we x-rayed we though we were looking at a new fracture with a palmar osteochondral fragment in his knee. The surgeon at New Bolton said that fracture was actually old and had been there for a long time it was the trauma to the front of the knee that actually caused the lameness and we just happened to find the old fracture. I couldn't believe it! I had him for 3 yrs in seriously hard work and he never took a lame step. Even with the injury he wasn't lame and has come back sound.

I have had so many horses over the years stay sound despite having issues that looked really bad on x-rays. It would be resale hell if I tried to sell them but I actually have sold a few with significant issues because people knew the horse and the competition history spoke for itself. I am always most suprised when I have owned a horse for a long time and then decide to sell the horse and find all sorts of issues going on when the horse was never unsound. You stand there looking like an idiot at a vetting but sometimes there is just no signs anything was wrong.

I wish all buyers were more like BFEN and Gotspots!

Jan. 19, 2010, 06:37 PM
I didn't read all the replies but from personal experience removing a chip, I wouldn't do it again from the get go. I got my OTTB as a 3 year old for next to nothing (200) knowing she had a chip in a front ankle. I was getting married that summer so I let her sit in my field until the fall. I started her, she was quiet, good natured and jumped well so I had rads taken again and was recommended to do the surgery. She wasn't lame when I did the surgery.

She had the surgery in December, supposedly went well. I was diligent about her after care. 10 weeks later I had a lame horse. Retook rads, another chip? Repeated surgery in March. This time she wasn't lame but the time off that leg made it clubby. I know she likely had a predisposition for that foot to go clubby anyways.

Started her back to work that fall (by this point I've owned her for about 15 months) and she did awesome. Started showing that next year and did about 5 events BN and Novice. She was an all star. Next year started having some lameness issues...Was able to compete in 1 novice and 1 training. This mare had great heart though she was always clear XC. So at 6 years old I had a horse that I couldn't use and that wasn't super saleable.

Looking back I would have done the surgery once and only once she took a lame step. I don't regret having this horse or showing her. She taught me tonnes and gave me the confidence to show up to training. I know if she would stay sound she would have done great at prelim.

Her issues I think if anything were more to do with the club foot which was exasperated by multiple surgery and more time spent on the "good" leg. I battled with her hooves ever since.

Jan. 19, 2010, 06:44 PM
I agree w/Vineyridge - I'd have it removed.

Jan. 19, 2010, 07:16 PM
I will be the one to disagree and further confuse the issue. If the horse is not lame I would not touch the chip, esp if it is not in the joint.

Like GS, I have a long format ** horse with a poker hand full of chips. Never had an issue with any of them. Also had a nice young WB that fell in t/o and chipped his stifle, tho we did not know that at the time. He came up lame one day, determined it was stifle we did the standard treatment, two weeks later he was fine. Two years later on a PPE, chip in stifle. Knocked $2K off the purchase price in case surgery was ever needed. Horse is in his second green year (3'9"), no issues with chip.

Surgery has its risks. The only reason to do it now, imho, is if there is potential to damage the cartilage of the joint, but it *sounds like* you have two vet opinions that say not.

Jan. 19, 2010, 07:46 PM
We have an 8 yo OTTB at my barn with a chip in her knee. No issues and going Prelim. Looking at hopefully a long career heading to the upper levels. I'd leave it unless your vet is concerned about the location or the horse is having problems.

Barbara L.
Jan. 19, 2010, 08:36 PM
I have to jump in here...I spoke to the original poster at length about this mare on many occasions. We do not ever say "do not look a gift horse in the mouth"--ever!

What I say is--totally up front--is that horses off the track rarely pass a vet for purchase, due mostly to the aches, pains and arthritic changes that are part of being a racehorse for years. Since the cost for a vet-for purchase can be pricey, and the adoption fees are very minimal, it does not always warrant the expense.

My job is to provide all of the information that I can gather at the track--incl. xrays/ultrasounds, and an evaluation by the best vet that I can find, (and we have some very good ones who donate their time and efforts on our behalf.) I have complete records for every one of the 325 horses which we have taken into the program since we opened, and I am happy to go further, and supply trainer info, or race records, etc.

We also will work out arrangements to take a horse back if we do not feel the horse is being cared for correctly, or if the adopter no longer feels the horse fits into their program.

Jan. 19, 2010, 09:21 PM
We also will work out arrangements to take a horse back if we do not feel the horse is being cared for correctly, or if the adopter no longer feels the horse fits into their program.
I would consider this option seriously.

Jan. 19, 2010, 10:25 PM
Well, I'm of several minds about this.

First, medically speaking, I and every vet I've ever dealt with agree that if the chip isn't bothering her, leave it the heck alone . Horses can have chips their entire lives that never manifest as anything, and perform well and at a high level. So don't go looking for a problem, or create one, unless it's necessary. It doesn't help you to remove it either, in terms of sales, because you still have to disclose it was there, which at best means someone will send their vet on a "find the other chips" hunting expedition with the x-ray machine.

Secondly though, I have to agree that sales wise, the chip is probably a deal killer. If you knew you were keeping this horse for your own use, I'd say don't push the panic button yet, but if being able to sell it well is a must, then yes, I'd look in to returning the horse, as 90% of buyers won't touch one with a chip, and the other 9% that will, will do so for a severely lowered price.

I feel for you, I had a lovely OTTB who I had sold as a hunter, had been completely sound the entire time I'd had him, and they'd had him (extended trial period), passed the flexion, but x-rays found a chip the size of your thumbnail in his knee. Since he'd passed the flexion when I bought him, I hadn't x-rayed.

I ended up donating him to a university IHSA program, as he also had extensive dressage training, he did both the hunter stuff and the dressage stuff. I'll admit I haven't checked in on him in a few years, but 6 years in, he was still sound and one of the program favorites. The donation wasn't as good as cash, but we did get a great tax refund that next spring because of it.

I wouldn't consider the chip a deal killer for a personal horse, (depending on location, size, etc.) but for a sale horse, I'd be looking to send it back.

Jan. 20, 2010, 09:28 AM
It was not you, Barbara, who with held information from me. In fact, you have been extremely forthright about the mare. You are the only reason I know she HAS the chip! Thank you!

Jan. 20, 2010, 06:28 PM
Even 100% sound spotless horses are NOT selling right now.

By the time you spend the money and effort to prove her....and prove she stays sound when she PPE's you will still get whacked.

Unless you plan to run the risk and expense (since you now know and will be super sensitve) I would send her back ASAP.

The owence was on the Rescue Manager on-site to apprise you of any and issues. That rescue has a policy of full disclosure accordning to parent director. If the on site management is negligant they should be having the horse picked up.

There is no crystal ball to give a glimpse of how much the knee will take and how well the chip will mineralize or de-mineralize affecting arthritus. Conservative care would still require regular use of Adequaine and Legend, possibly 1-2X year joint injection pro actively to keep it as healthy as possible. Is your wallet up to this knowing full well you have a 50-50 of re-selling her.

It would have been better to NOT know in some cases have horse prove itself then find out. But sounds like this was probably why the horses race career ended and no one wanted to spend the money to remove the chip. How many times did she run??

Jan. 20, 2010, 09:34 PM
I agree to leave the chip alone. A dear friend just removed a chip in a hock that was causing some mild stiffness. After removing the chip, the horse became even more lame and now he will need regular injections the rest of his life just to stay sound and will never be able to compete like he once did (endurance horse). Surgery does have serious risks and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Jan. 21, 2010, 10:56 AM
I have adopted some amazing mares from that organization. I have had nothing but a wonderful experience.
It is my understanding that they get approximately 4 new horses a week and there is a waiting list to get in. The organization relies on volunteers for the paperwork and care of the animals. They also rely on the truthfulness of the owners/trainers donating the horses. I think it is entirely possible that she just did not know till later or forgot because the sheer number of horses.

That being said I am so sorry that you have not had the same experience that I have. I so wanted your mare and was disappointed that she had been adopted. The one I took instead that came later to the program thru Turning For Home I would be glad to talk to you if you wanted to know about her. She has some wonderful jumping bloodlines. If you would like to talk please PM me and I will give you my phone number.

Barbara L.
Jan. 21, 2010, 12:53 PM
Actually, we do NOT rely on volunteers for the paperwork! How responsible would that be??

A full fledged full time adminstrator (that would be me!) with 25 years of racetrack experience collects any and all background info, xrays. ultrasounds, etc., and schedules a veterinary evaluation from one of 3 veterinarians who work closely with us: a racetrack vet who also has evented and has a show horse practice, along with his very busy track practice; a track vet who also is on our board; and an orthpeodic surgeon who is also VERY racetrack oriented.
I also meet each horse personally and try really hard to get a decent conformation shot, speak at length to trainers, run race records, etc. Even speak to the state vet if I feel the need.
We are based right at the track...which means access to all the vets, all the trainers, all the exercise riders--every possible way to glean info...

Jan. 21, 2010, 12:58 PM
Barb, I think she's talking about SJTR not you.

Either way, I get being busy and not having time, and forgetting things. But I'll be jiggered if I *ever* tell a potential adopter not to get a vetting or make them feel bad about wanting to do that. I usually suggest and encourage it, actually. Takes longer to place a horse that way sometimes, but at least people know what they're getting and don't come back upset later.

(again, Barbara, not directed at you, at all)

Heinz 57
Jan. 21, 2010, 01:52 PM
I ended up with an OTTB that I later found out had a knee chip. I got in contact with his trainer, who told me about it and that it was the reason he retired. When I bought him, he was 100% sound.

A little over three years later, I retired him due to a ligament strain caused by an unrelated conformation fault (fetlock was slightly offset to the outside, and was going to continue to put stress on the ligament). This was in the opposite leg. He's happily retired just outside of town on a small farm of misfit horses. He'd be ten in April this year.

Absolutely gorgeous horse, when I retired him (ugly duck when I first bought him!). I never had any issues with the chip, but I'll be damned if that ligament didn't give me hell. It turned up in moderate, regular work - no deep/hard footing, we weren't jumping much. If you *DO* keep her, I'd watch both the chip and the opposite leg for compensation damage/wear. Personally, if you're not too attached and she's a resale project - I'd see if you can return her.