Ugh...pre-purchase advice needed!! Thanks in advance!
Ok, as some of you know, I am uber-picky and have been horse shopping for way too long now. I mean, seriously, it's ridiculous.
Well, guess what? I found a prospect I love! She's a 6-year old, OTTB mare...very attractive, very brave, very scopey, appears sound when trotted. Well, she has a little arthritis in one hock. Owner is a trainer and has never injected (says she's never been unsound). My vet has looked at the owner's x-rays and says the arthritis is there, but it's not bad. He suggests I set up a PPE and start with flexions. If the mare flexes at all positive (even 1 out of 5) he says I should stop the PPE and pass.
Passing if the horse is even remotely positive seems a little drastic to me. My last horse was slightly positive on both hind flexions and went on to have a long career as a sound event horse. Plus, I know many people debate the value of flexions. What do you think? I'm looking for something that can take me to prelim (if I'm brave enough!), but probably not higher. Am I crazy to even consider this horse?
I wouldn't rule one out just for flexing a .5 or a 1, particularly for a lower level horse. Heck, I can only think of one horse I've owned/vetted who did not flex a .5-1 on at least one leg - and that was the horse who had the ugliest legs of any I've owned! Plus, that one ended up needing his hocks done pretty regularly by the time he was going Prelim, plus other maintenance as he went up the levels. Another one I own flexed 1-1.5 on all four legs when I bought him, plus had unattractive hock xrays and a giant chip. He's done 30 Prelims and a one star with me, and is still jumping around Training/Prelim at 18/19. Both the vet who did his PPE and my own sporthorse vet agreed that it was a complete no-brainer to buy him, even despite a little jewelry on the films.
In your situation, the questions I would ask are (1) where is the arthritis and what do they mean by "mild"? Generally speaking, small changes or some lipping in the hocks just don't make me hysterical, particularly with one that has raced. (2) I'd want to compare current xrays to the prior, to see if there's any change.
But either way, might make some sense to start owning the aphorism that "perfect is the enemy of the good." Every horse is going to have something on an xray or a PPE. Figure out, independently, what your absolute dealbreakers are, or trust your vet enough to have him/her tell you that, and then live with the consequences. If you're not going to be happy with anything less than an absolutely perfect, not a trace on him, PPE, you're either going to be spending a lot of money on PPEs trying to get there, or you've got to find a blind vet.
Wow! Thank you for all the advice!! My main goal is to find something fun that I love riding that doesn't turn out to be a lame horse. In this situation, I'm fortunate enough to have a set of x-rays from about a year ago, and a second set from last week (that the owner graciously scheduled because my vet said the first set was incomplete). My vet said that there are arthritic changes in one hock (I believe the right), but that they aren't terrible. He thinks that the horse may require some maintenance later on, such as injections. For now, he said that if the horse is sound, injections shouldn't be necessary.
I really love this horse and so I'm inclined to not be terribly concerned by a slightly positive flexion (we'll see...fingers crossed it's a 0). But, I want to make sure I'm not being blinded by how much I like this horse. Hence my wondering if I'm crazy to consider him.
Timely topic as we were just xraying some hocks in the barn yesterday. My connemara/tb is 13 now and his lower hock joints are in the process of fusing and there is some arthritis there. He flexes 1/5 so not horrible but not perfect either. He also has two bone spurs in his left knee. I can honestly say he is one of the soundest horses in the barn and always has been. His hock rays look the same right now as they did 2yrs ago. I do inject the hocks and the knee once a year but that is a small price to pay for an awesome horse. I guarantee I could take him out training level right now if I wanted to and he would hold up perfectly fine.
I do say that many horses thankfully don't read their own xrays. All horses have something so I would much rather buy a horse that has raced (and retired sound) or is already do a job and staying sound than a horse that has no performance history with questionable xrays.
Hocks are also something that I generally think you can work with in terms of injecting/keeping comfortable.
What they said
I would not walk away based simply on a slightly positive flexion in one leg.
I have bought horses with some hock changes but that was because I used very good sport horse vets for the PPE that I trust to tell me whether the changes/flexions are something to be concerned about or not.
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)
Its a very rare OTTB that isnt going to have some hock issues. That wouldnt deter me at all; generally hocks are very easily maintained, pentosan is very helpful. Injections can make a huge difference and generally dont have to be done that frequently, depending on how hard the horse is working.
I would ask why they took the hock rads in the first place. People don't generally shoot joint rads in horses perceived to be completely sound.
I do. On any horse I have that is a competition horse or a resale. We take a set to have as a base line. It is actually pretty common in some area's---I have two very good sport vets that I use and both have their own digital xray machines. I plan to shot a set on my homebreds when they are 3 or 4 so we have a base line for them and there are no surprises in the PPE if I sell one.
** The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits. -- Albert Einstein **
She's a 6-year old, OTTB mare. Well, she has a little arthritis in one hock.If the mare flexes at all positive (even 1 out of 5) he says I should stop the PPE and pass.
I'm looking for something that can take me to prelim (if I'm brave enough!), but probably not higher.
I'm unsure whether this is a horse right off the track or if she's currently jumping etc ... for collected work (dressage) the arthritis & positive flexions would be a concern but as collection is not required until Intermediate, you should be fine
OTOH progression of the arthritis is unpredictable - I'd ask the vet to explain his concerns, further.
I don't care all that much about the flexions, but I don't like seeing a lot of recent arthritic changes in a 6 year old horse. If she's done a lot of work or more than what you plan, and is otherwise really awesome then it's less concerning.
I certainly expect to see some arthritis as the horse is approaching 10 if he's been in serious use. But there's a difference between a couple of tiny spurs and big very active bone spurs.
Part of the question has to be what your plan is if she doesn't hold up.
If I were you, I'd have a detailed discussion about the "changes" and specifically what is happening. (1) if the issues are fairly similar in both legs that is much better than if only one is affected. (2) if the spurs seem likely to create good, useful hock fusion versus just being irritating. Talk to him about options, how he'd treat this horse if she was his patient.
Issues in only one hock can be heartbreaking.
Again, I'd be far more forgiving of arthritis in a horse that is older, especially if I didn't have a pasture handy or another plan B. A young horse with arthritis is not a fun situation. I consider prelim to be a pretty high wear-and-tear situation.
If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket
To answer a few questions...Visorvet, this horse has been off-the-track for a little over a year. The first set of rads were done when the owner purchased the horse. The horse was purchased for the purpose of being a project to train and sell.
Poltroon - I've asked what the "changes" are, and my vet said that there's no spurring, just some narrowing of the joint. He said it's not terrible, and the x-rays alone would not be a reason to discount the horse. That's why he suggested the flexion test, as well, so that we can get a complete picture. He said that the other hock looks good, so it does sound like one hock is worse than the other. The horse has been in work for the past year...no competitions, but solid work. She's currently jumping 2'9" to 3' courses.