Kicking out, shutting down when asked to step under, bend VET UPDATE POST 47
Hope someone may have some ideas. I am having my vet back out.
19 yr old gelding. Lameness vet came out in Sept. because horse would not take right canter lead at all - even on lunge - did eval. and Xrays - bad arthritis in hocks - injected, started joint supps. and did beautifully - started cantering right almost immediately. Horse is ridden 3-4 times a week - flatwork only, trail/field ride maybe once a week. Intro dressage. Working on basic suppleness, bending, and "me" - equitation. Had a great Fall season with him and made some nice progress with my instructor schooling him. Can have a pi**y attitude to work sometimes but never this "shutting down" that I am seeing now.
January - got sick, treated for ulcers. Fine. February - Re-injected hocks due to this issue: When asked to work on 20m or slightly larger circle in correct bend, stepping under himself, shoulder-ins, good "on the bit contact", he goes for maybe 5 mins. at the trot - then stops - kicks right hind out - mini buck with kick. We have trouble getting him forward - kicks harder - his kick is like a kick backward usually with one hoof - moreso on the right. Then he gets sullen, shuts down and that's it. Won't work. When vet did this round of hock injections, he flexed a 1 and 2 on hinds - he had flexed a 2 and 3 in September before the first injections. So vet felt he wasn't as bad as he was before and we were "catching" the problem before he got back to where he was in Sept.
Going around ring, W/T/C - very large circles, straight lines, around our big rings, loose rein and trail/field - he is FINE. Goes with no issue at all 3 gaits. It is when he is asked to really use his back, topline, and work in a bend or frame on a circle. My trainer really senses pain (vs. attitude/behaviour issue). I do too. He is stiff as a board to begin with and "green" as far as bending, working correctly. He was a kids' lesson horse, did trail camps, etc. Unflappable personality, super easy to handle on ground, great teacher which is why I got him.
Obviously it's like looking for a needle in a haystack if you aren't a vet, but curious if anyone else experienced anything like this? Our ideas are still hock issues - he may need more meds/injections - possibly stifle. His right hip/stifle look off or odd to me. Same vet will be out next week or week after to do another eval. and look for a secondary issue. I know he's older but I was really hoping we could continue flatwork (vs. just using him as a trail horse). I would never, ever get rid of him - worse case they tell me he simply can't do flatwork of this type, and I use him for trail and other work - trail - I can ride my teacher's horses for lessons and to improve "me".
But wondering if there is a "common" secondary issue with arthritic hocks or if anyone has had a similar experience. Thanks in advance
If he had never been asked to do this stuff, he may not have alot of muscle strength, especially on the "bad" side. Kind of a secondary effect from working one sided so long.
He may also just not care for the work after being allowed to schlep along all those years, worth thinking about too.
But sometimes you have to just step back and say "if he limps turning right? Don't turn right". Maybe he just will not be able to do those circles for you and you'll need to work around that.
He's no youngster and you know he is not as sound as he once was. I would, honestly, just avoid whatever excercise makes him uncomfortable. And if he does it for awhile then quits on you, that does sound like it hurts.
Sounds like he does alot of things well, do those. No magikal injection site or supplement that will reverse 19 years of wear and tear.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
Well, my first through is changes in the cervical spine causing hind end issues, but the only reason it's my FIRST thought is because that's what I went through last summer with Blush. It would certainly be a zebra in this case.
If you've got the $$, a bone scan would probably be interesting and diagnostic.
Definitely can't hurt - the lameness vet is also a chiro and before he did the injections in Sept. he checked his back (but I don't think his ribs). He does it on a circle in both directions though. When you put your leg on him to step under in either direction, he does it. I would do a bone scan as last resort. It's interesting that he is fine moving straight or around perimeter of the ring. We had him cantering alot today and he was fine.
To be honest, to me it sounds like he's just not up to tighter/turning work at speed. Some older horses just can't do it. Dosen't mean he's being bad, just that he's no longer physically able to do what you're asking him to do.
Why do you need him to canter circles? With my older mare, I really backed off the ring schooling and worked her while we were hacking. It made a huge difference to her physical comfort not to be asked to work in the tighter/smaller figures.
Chiropractors are wonderful, wonderful people!! I'd use one before getting a bone scan. That, plus he's a older guy so it might just be hard for him altogether. But chiropractic and accupuncture might do wonders for him!
I agree with everyone who says to back off of the exercises that really seem to cause this horse discomfort. He needs a physical therapy type routine.
I would work on getting this horse REALLY strong over his back and hindquarters. Work him gently on hills and increase as he gets stronger. Lunge him in a pessoa rig or low side reins if you don't have a pesoa thing, to get him to work over his back. If you can find a gentle hill, lunge him on that for 5 minutes a day on each side, increasing to 10-15 as he gets stronger. It's amazing how well this works.
This sounds like back issues to me and the stronger they are, the happier they are. Just like when a person with a bad back is encouraged by their Dr. to do physical therapy and strengthen the back and stomach to support the spine. Do not let this horse get out of shape. Even if he needs time off pony him off another horse and do hills at the walk and trot.
Bone scan is probably going to mean a trip to a clinic and overnight stay....$$$$.
Chiro may help. Maybe accupuncture...do you have him on anything for joint flexibility?
Have you tried giving him bute or other NSAID for about 3 days and see if he does the same thing? That is a cheap why to see if it is pain related and it will not hurt him a bit to take some short term.
As they age, they change and sometimes we need to adjust what we ask them to do for us as well as help them a little comfort wise. I should know, mine is 20 this month, still showing as a Hunter...but not so often and at 2'6" not 3'. You bet there are some things that will get her a little sore and you bet I avoid them. That includes taking too many lessons, going to too many shows and entering too many classes...and too many circles.
You may need to rethink this one.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
Thanks everyone. I am making a list to talk to the vet about, including back issues, ESPM.
To answer your questions, he is on Plat. Perf. CJ for joints and has been since September. I do have local chiro's and accupunture people I can contact and use - will see what vet says.
I should also mention, when my trainer rides him, he "evades" this particular work (circle, maybe 25 m circle...) with the kicking out and then eventually shutting down and just stopping. When I tried the same work, he evades with me by breaking into canter from trot without being asked. We are trying to get the bend at the trot.
I do have a wonderful, gradual hill/incline to work him on. We have done only about 5 minutes of hill work at a time....so maybe 3 trips up and down at the trot. He does FINE with this - again, it's a straight line.
He did buck quite a bit on our trail ride this past Sunday, but everyone I was with felt he was just being "fresh". I do wonder though if he does have back pain somewhere. He was saddle-fitted in the fall, so I don't suspect anything there.
After this last set of hock injections, vet prescribed Previcox, 1/4 pill per day. I have not begun it - I was hoping to not have to, and was waiting to see how he did after the injections. He had ulcers so any kind of NSAID worries me - even this one which supposedly has less effects on the belly.
Finally, I am fine with stopping this type of work on him either temporarily (while we build him up) or permanently, to be just a basic equitation horse for me (W/T/C but not small circles) or trail/field riding. He is my forever horse and I would keep him. I would simply ride at my teacher's place as I advance if I need to. She has 3 horses I can take lessons on and move forward with.
He can definitely use more muscle and topline (but has improved quite a bit on the year I've had him). Even though I ride sometimes 4-5 times a week, it's for an hour at the most...usually 30-40 minutes, some trot sets, a little canter. I would call it light to moderate work.
I'll update after the vet comes - hopefully next week sometime.
Bone scans are expensive--$1200-$1500 ish (unless you live in CO--CSU is $2200)
The advantage of the scan is that you're going to KNOW exactly where he's hot. They're great when you have mystery issues or multiple issues...and if you wind up radiographing a whole bunch of different areas to try to figure out what's going on, the cost isn't really anymore than a whole slew of rads.
My horse had a whole hell of a lot of odd things going on. At first we thought is was just hocks, so we injected. She was unchanged after three weeks. Then we DID radiograph the whole horse, ultrasounded every leg and ultrasounded the SI area...and couldn't find anything wrong with her. That's when we did the scan. There's a long thread about what I went through with Blush right here.
Just throwing this out there but could it be saddle fit at all? Maybe it was all fine but as you work, he's getting sorer. Can you palpate the area under the saddle? Does he squinch down when you touch/massage/probe the saddle area? Especially after a ride?
I went through saddle fit issues, what a nightmare! And, I had to first get past my it-can't-be-the-saddle attitude as I went to a saddle fitter to this horse fit?!?! But apparently, not a great saddle fitter...
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THis sounds like stifle issues to me. Stifles tend to bother a hrose a lot when asked to step up behind and turn at the same time. Straight lines however, don't bother the horse. If it is stifles then only work in straight lines until he is stronger. Stregthen the stifles with walking and trotting up hills (only walk down however) and cavellitti work. You can explore other ways to medically help his stifles, but the vet most likely would want you to first try this to strengthen him and see if it helps
I have a horse who was doing a very similar thing, when asked to step more under and connect. He's a 4th level horse and while I'd seen him take a nasty fall playing in the field, he was not off nor showed any swelling anywhere. Within a couple of weeks of it, he had an abcess that took a couple of months to get worked through. Because he was very lame from the abcess, we could not accurately assess his movement and thus (back/chiro issues). When the abcess cleared the behavior was still there and we did a full lameness work up which revealed no positive flexions, but we got a baseline on what his joints looked like via radiograph for the future. I then got the chiro out (different one as a prior chiro saw nothing with him) and this new person keyed in to regions I knew were blocked and not letting him step through to the contact 100%. After her visits he was a new man.
He was out in the cervical vertebrea and through the loin. I was also in the middle of saddle issues which were making it worse. I actually had to ride him bareback through most of Dec. until we made a suitable saddle adjustment. For him it all started with the fall. He is a 'pasture potato' horse and not known for a fabulous work ethic, but the 'plant the feet and kick out' was definitely specific to a particular body use.
I have a client horse that also does the same thing for the same reason though different side- young at only 6. I wish I could get the chiro on that one, but alas, its a patient process of doing my own massage work, careful manipulations of body position via slow groundwork and non-confrontational riding.
So, yes, get a chiro out to work on the horse. Hock compensations will also create secondary problems elsewhere. So yes, the hocks may be feeling better which allowed you to ask for more which means he's using parts in ways he hadn't before which means he has a new area to tell you bothers him. Of course, all will be for nothing if the rider is blocking him or the saddle.
At his age, ultimately you may have to make some compromises, but I wouldn't give up hope to make him more comfy so he can do his basic level dressage which should have the effect of being a bit like yoga for the horse.
Don't be afraid of sensible use of an NSAID for an older horse that is hurting. Don't just let him hurt because you are worried it might cause trouble down the road-you have trouble now it might help. That is why the vet suggested it.
It just might eliminate some of the discomfort and allow him to loosen up some long unused muscles as well as act as an anti inflammatory agent which can head off future trouble.
You don't have to dump it into him, just whatever dose the vet suggested.
I give mine Bute evenings after she jumps, she gets it if she makes a fool out of herself out in the field and she also gets it the night before a show or clinic and those nights after jumping.
This works out to about 6 to 8 times a month. She is 20. She has been shown twice this year, Champion in fair to good company both times. She does not have ulcers.
NSAIDS are not inherently evil, they are a good thing for an aging horse with proper diagnostic work. They can be your friend.
The bad rap is from those who do shovel it into horses to keep them going when they should not or who over use and over dose.
Give the Previcox your vet left a try.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
I just went through something similar with my horse, who also came to dressage work later in life after years of moving hollowly and refusing to canter on one lead. Everything was aggravated by a slip and fall, so I had the chiropractor out who found areas that he felt were making it hard for him to use his back correctly. After the first adjustment, my horse was much better, but then got worse. The chiropractor adjusted him again, but felt that since my horse had probably been locked up for a long time, now, unlocked, he was using muscles that had never been developed, and they were getting very sore, so he put my horse on a muscle relaxant for a while. What a huge difference that made! Now, he is off the muscle relaxants and working very enthusiastically. Things that we had been struggling with for a long time do not seem to be issues any more.
I, myself, suffer from a chronic pain condition and am often very sore and achy. I just started seeing a new chiropractor who put me on a Magnesium supplement which has dramatically lessened my aches. I had been thinking of putting this horse on a Magnesium supplement before, and now definitely will.
Thanks everyone. I added some videos from today - lunging and riding. Let me know what you see (if anything) and please look at objectively. I say this because today I could not replicate the problem trotting on a circle. The only thing he did was break into canter a few times but we had just finished alot of cantering before that and he has a habitual, short term memory at times . DO NOT FLAME my equitation please - I have a leaning and "arm" problem we are working on and I did the trotting on circle video at the last minute before hacking when another boarder dropped by and I was able to ask her to video for me.
Excuse the bouncing around on the lunge videos. Had to use my whip a few times while trying to hold the camera. Lunging was done first thing - no warm up. Trotting under saddle done after a good 20 minutes of canter work. (after warming up with W/T of course).
Curious what you see and hope these links work. Here's the first one, and you should then be able to see the other videos in my Youtube account - (lunge tracking left and right) and trot videos, one of each tracking left and right.