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When is it time to move on from a higher maintenance horse....

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  • When is it time to move on from a higher maintenance horse....

    Does anyone here have advice on what to consider when deciding if a horse will be appropriate for your goals when they're on the higher maintenance side? General advice about your own experience or more specific if you feel like reading through all my problems here would both be helpful

    I love my horse, but he currently needs his hocks injected yearly, stifles done every nine months, and corrective shoeing with wedges on all four feet ($300 a time in my area). All of this at age 12 to stay sound going BN.... He's the first horse I've owned, so I'm just wondering if this would be considered normal maintenance for a horse of his age and experience? He raced 12 times, did 6 events at BN and Novice, then had three years off before I bought him last spring.

    When I bought him I knew he would need corrective shoeing and hock injections, which didn't scare me, but now with stifles too everything is adding up financially and I'm wondering if it's time to have a hard conversation with my trainer and vet about what would be best for him moving forward. I bought him to get miles at Novice on and move up to Training and possibly more eventually, which I'm concerned may be pretty unrealistic goals soundness-wise.

    I'd be disappointed but okay with switching to straight dressage since I don't think I want to sell him (not that he's particularly marketable between his general quirkiness and maintenance needs), but I'm at a point where I just want to know so I can be all in one way or another.

    At the end of the day doing a lot of maintenance on a horse I know I love is still emotionally and logistically easier (and probably more cost effective) than trying to find a new situation for both of us, so I'm not totally ready to throw in the towel yet. I guess I've gotten myself into a bit of a pessimistic mindset by overthinking things over the past few days and I wanted to know if anyone has had a similar situation and how they worked through it. TIA!

  • #2
    Kind of sounds like it would be in his best interests to move into a less demanding career. I mean, there has to be a point where it’s no longer fair to keep sticking him and asking him to keep working hard on bad feet. Lot of these horses are in more discomfort then they let on if they need multiple injections at shortening intervals to stay sound. That might be why he sat for 3 years before you got him, regardless of what you may have been told.

    But, no, it’s not normal in a 12 year old that sat for years.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

    Comment


    • #3
      My first question is WHY does he need the regular injections and corrective shoeing? That does sound like a lot for a horse doing BN.

      If he is so uncomfortable in his body to need that much maintenance for BN, he probably needs a lower impact job and won't suit you to move up. Have you gotten a second opinion from a vet regarding his needs? Is the ground routinely hard in your area where working out of manicured footing is too hard on him?

      It definitely comes down to the tough question of are you willing to change your goals to keep him comfortable (dressage only), or do you want to pursue your goals and let him go to a more appropriate work level home. Remember that dressage isn't entirely low-impact itself, depending on the level you wish to attain. Self-carriage depends on the horse being able to carry its weight on the hind end, and that puts a lot of strain on the stifles as well.
      Leap, and the net will appear

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      • #4
        What kinds of joint injections are you doing? The sad truth is... the HA injections don't do that much. Are you sure this is actually necessary? Do you have xrays?

        In many ways dressage is just as hard on the hocks and stifles and sometimes more frustrating.

        I would talk to your vet but I don't necessarily think BN is out of the ballpark for him as long as he's continuing with any competition at all. You might also look at what fitness and training schedule you keep for him. You don't have to jump that often, and you can practice over poles and low jumps.
        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

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        • #5
          Not the same situation but similar in that my horse had some physical issues as well as conformational issues that were really starting to catch up with him. He was unhappy working at the level I was trying to but he had a lot to offer someone as a novice safe horse to learn the low levels on, so I did recently find a wonderful semi-retirement home for him. It was hard not to feel guiltily about “giving up” on him but he’s honestly so much happier now and his new mom loves him. In a perfect world we would all keep all of our horses forever but few of us can afford to in reality. If you can find a safe and loving home, and move on to something more suitable and affordable for your goals, then there’s nothing wrong wth that

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          • #6
            Seem like a lot of maintenance for not a ton of mileage. What specifically are you treating for with the shoes and injections?

            Comment


            • #7
              I don’t event but do the hunters, but have found myself with a 17 year old with a lot of miles on him. I knew he needed annual hock injections when I bought him 3 years ago, but he’s a wonderful confidence-building type that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

              Now, he’s suffered a soft tissue injury up front and requires corrective shoeing and Osphos every 6 months. He will never jump bigger than 2’ again (was previously doing more). But he’s happy and sound. I will likely lease him out at the end of this year if he is still happy and sound doing the 2’ and under job. If he’s not - he gets to retire.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thanks for the feedback everyone! It's good to know that I'm not just being a horsey mom hypochondriac about this and that I definitely should check in with my vet.

                A couple of edits and answers to questions:
                - He's actually 13 now, not 12. Birthday was in May and I forgot, though not sure how big of a difference that one year makes.
                - He needs corrective shoeing since he has thin soles and low heels.
                - He got hock injections before I bought him supposedly for preventative reasons. The x-rays from my PPE also showed that he has mild arthritic changes in both hocks and a bony abnormality in his LH.
                - He got his stifles done a few months after I bought him since he had a kicking out issue, was short with his left hind (left stifle flexed slightly positive in my PPE but x-ray was normal), and became slightly lame behind without it being obvious which leg was worse. He became sounder after the injections.
                - Vet also mentioned that he looked a little positive in his RF at one of the (unfortunately many) times I've seen her in the time I've owned him, and that coffin joint injections might be necessary eventually if it starts to bother him (I've already decided that if it comes to that he should be retired).
                - The joint injections are a HA/steroid combo, but I don't remember specifics off the top of my head.
                - Before I bought him he was getting Adequan for maintenance.

                Looking back at my PPE while writing this made me feel a little stupid for buying him in the first place if I'm being totally honest, but I guess no matter what, I've learned a ton on him.... Both about what to do and what to avoid

                One of the things that's making it hard for me to think about what to do with him if I retire him from eventing is that he would probably not be super well suited for an AA or kid to learn on for lower level stuff. He's super sensitive and can be reactive when he's put in overwhelming situations or if you make certain mistakes. Selfishly, I also want to think that it would be doing him a disservice to stick him in a field, even if I'm sure he would be plenty happy about it.

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                • #9
                  Ok well my answer is it depends... without seeing him I would first ask if your corrective shoeing is being done with xrays. If you have negavtive Palmer angels then the shoeing is necessary. If not and your farrier is just wedging up because his heels are low you can be causing problems.

                  I would also mention that xraying the hind feet for Palmer angles is also a good idea. When I have horses that are sore in Hocks and stifles before I go crazy with injections I take xrays. About half the time the hind limbs have negative Palmer angles. Adding a wedge pad makes these horses much more comfortable, and the soreness goes away without any injections.

                  Thin soles can be addressed with hoof hardener and biotin and keeping feet dry. Personally I just put pad on so to keep my horses on night turnout; but these other options can help.

                  This all said; if your horse is a complete saint down to a fence and a all round stand up guy that you can ride and feel safe on.In the scheme of all that is horse; I would not think this is overwhelming maintenance if he is indeed a saint.

                  I would first back up what your doing with facts not some Farrier’s opinion (vets and farriers should work together as a team) and then a good fitness strategy and see where you are in 6months. Best of luck
                  http://www.windsweptfarmllc.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My question is - why did he have 3 years off?
                    Janet

                    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2017.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Random thoughts as I am reading this thread -

                      - is saddle fit good? (See below)

                      - Do you feel the horse has completed imparting the lessons he has to teach you at BN? Do you feel YOU have mastered the level and are hungry and excited to move up? If not, maybe stick with him at least until you get to that point.

                      - If you have not done so, I would do what it takes (2nd opinions, rads, etc) to reevaluate if the horse needs the corrective shoeing all around. If that significant ongoing expense can be reduced, the savings will add up fast and can be applied to other maintenance.

                      - With each passing year, the advancing age of the horse is going to make it harder to find a situation that you would feel comfortable moving him on to - especially as you have described him. As someone who is supporting a retired 17yo OTTB eventer who 1) does not have a packer mentality, 2) maxed out around BN, 3) has hock and stifle issues and 4) needs shoes and pads in front even in retirement, ask me how I know. By the way, in hindsight, I believe my horse's issues were at least somewhat related to being ridden in an ill fitting saddle for years.

                      - The above being said, you just never know when it comes to who might have an interest in the horse. I've seen a few horses re-homed - to good homes - that I was certain nobody would want to take on. I think when you are a single horse owner with a horse whose issues make you feel a bit overwhelmed, it can be easy to get tunnel vision.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It is hard to successfully rehome a horse who has issues. Retiring him to a field is great if he has good shelter, good food and adequate care. You need to monitor that, as it can go from good to awful in a hurry. I successfully rehomed one of our horses who had lots of issues. A friend had always loved him, and she brought him to her farm. He was smart enough to endear himself to her husband, so he had the best care a horse can get. Another one who we rehomed did well, but only because I stayed involved and interceded any time there was something that the family couldn’t provide. Three others lived with us for their very long retirements. Think of joint injections, heaves, inability to eat hay, Cushings, a conjunctival tumor, and so on. Older horses with health problems are like old people. It is hard to find a family that is eager to be given your diabetic,incontinent 95 year old grandfather who has Alzheimer’s, and wanders.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by Guyot View Post
                          Ok well my answer is it depends... without seeing him I would first ask if your corrective shoeing is being done with xrays. If you have negavtive Palmer angels then the shoeing is necessary. If not and your farrier is just wedging up because his heels are low you can be causing problems.

                          I would also mention that xraying the hind feet for Palmer angles is also a good idea. When I have horses that are sore in Hocks and stifles before I go crazy with injections I take xrays. About half the time the hind limbs have negative Palmer angles. Adding a wedge pad makes these horses much more comfortable, and the soreness goes away without any injections.
                          I did x-rays on all four hooves when I bought him, and he did have negative angles, so I had my vet send them over to my farrier. Since he wasn't being shod with this in mind until I bought him (that I know of), it seems likely that it contributed to his hind end discomfort over time.


                          Originally posted by Janet View Post
                          My question is - why did he have 3 years off?
                          Was told since his owner didn't have time for him between her other horses and kids.


                          Originally posted by Groom&Taxi View Post
                          Random thoughts as I am reading this thread -
                          - is saddle fit good? (See below)
                          - Do you feel the horse has completed imparting the lessons he has to teach you at BN? Do you feel YOU have mastered the level and are hungry and excited to move up? If not, maybe stick with him at least until you get to that point.
                          Saddles were just fitted about 6 weeks ago since I wasn't able to pay for it with ongoing vet bills. My saddle fitter said they definitely needed it and he seems more comfortable now!

                          I actually bought him after I'd already run a few novices on my last horse with the plan to start out at Novice this season, but due to behavioral problems and soundness challenges I ended doing one intro on him and have since done two BNs and was planning to move back up to Novice in September.


                          Originally posted by AKB View Post
                          It is hard to successfully rehome a horse who has issues.
                          This is the bottom line with why I've been holding back on this. I've been wondering if this is coming since some of the earlier issues I've had with him, but have been thinking that if I can keep him comfortable with maintenance then I should try to make things work. At the same time, I want to make sure that I'm not forcing him to work if he's going to be in pain.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            abbylee if you have negative Palmer angles in the hind limbs you need wedge pads on those hooves as well. If you haven’t done that then you are probably injecting Hocks and stifles unnecessarily. Adjusting those angles should provide much more relief then anything else will.

                            This is good news as your costs will or should go down. And is a much easier maintenance issue. Keeping those angles correct and on a consistent schedule, you should see results very quickly. Don’t be surprised after wedging up that you have a much happier horse but he may fatigue quickly the first couple weeks until he gets stronger where he was compromising.
                            http://www.windsweptfarmllc.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              On the 3 years off because there was no time left after other horses and kids....really? Heard that a lot over 5 decades in horses and it’s almost never true. Horses are expensive whether they just sit or are in work. Usually the time can be found to keep them in work if they are sound and certainly he could and should have been sold far sooner then 3 years just standing around if there just wasn’t time.

                              Did you personally speak to owner or is that what you were told by somebody else who probably was told by whoever they got the horse from.

                              Arthritic changes are manageable but get pricey. Negative Palmer angles can be managed with varying success but it gets expensive, Coffin joint injections? Why? Had them done on two different Navicular horses. One very effective, one no noticeable change. Both expensive. When you add the stifle thing is when you really lose me. notoriously hard to manage and might be due to an old injury.

                              All 3 of these in combination suggest he needs a much lower impact career. Can you retire him and support him for the next 15 years if he’s not able to continue? Or can you only have one horse at a time? Tough choice but he is still marketable in some capacity now although probably at a reduced price. Another two years at age 15 with two more years on thise arthritic changes, he may not be.

                              When you board out and can only handle one horse at a time, your choices are different from others who can keep all their horses forever and their advice doesn’t work in your situation. It affects your buying and selling decisions.
                              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                How long have you had him? (My apologies if I missed this info.) If less than a year, I'd say give it a bit more time. Have serious conversations with your vet and farrier--do they think he'll need the corrective shoeing forever? Are there options that could shorten the time needed for correction? Do they think the hoof issues caused or contributed to the hock and stifle issues? You note that he wasn't getting the corrective shoeing before you got him, so it's possible lots else will resolve once the feet are fixed.

                                I would recommend bodywork too (I know, one more expense) since the poor guy probably has plenty of body soreness from compensating for the other issues. A good bodyworker will also be able to give you very valuable information about the issues they see and what that means for his future workload and comfort. In the meantime, can you put him on Previcox for a bit and hold off showing, to give him a break from discomfort and a chance to 'reset'?

                                IME, no, all that maintenance is not 'normal' for a 12 year old horse doing BN. That said, most of mine are OTTB and I find that it can take a year or so to figure out the optimal management for each horse and get them comfortable enough in their bodies to really progress in training.

                                So, in short, if the vet and farrier think the prognosis is good, then I'd stick with him, keep him as comfortable as possible, do more long slow miles to strengthen and condition him without pounding too hard on those feet and hocks, and see what you have in 3 months or so. It's going to take any horse some time to get back in shape after 3 years off, and if he's also dealing with the effects of poor shoeing from that time period, then it's not surprising there are some additional kinks to get through. Based on the info so far, I wouldn't necessarily think he's doomed to be a pasture ornament right now.
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                                • #17
                                  From what you've stated about his multiple injections, general soundness issues, and his feet, I would bet my farm that most of his issues are compensatory problems stemming from his feet. If your horse is long term (more than a couple of cycles) or permanently being wedged on all 4 feet his issues are probably going to continue to worsen despite all of the injections and specialty shoeing. In my opinion you need to actually address the feet, not put bandaids on them. If they are as bad as they sound it won't be easy. Probably the best thing you could do would be to pull his shoes, use glue on boots with a pour-in pad for a couple of cycles to help him get comfortable, and then leave his shoes off for 9-12 months while he grows in a new hoof capsule. You probably won't be able to ride him much or at all during this time, but at the end of it you will have a much sounder horse with much healthier hooves. You can then put shoes back on and start bringing him back to work. I run a retirement farm and if more people would just fix the hooves and sit out a few months they probably wouldn't have had to retire their horse. Missing a few months of riding sucks, retiring a young horse sucks even more.
                                  www.retiredhorses.com
                                  Blogging about daily life on the retirement farm: http://paradigmfarms.blogspot.com/
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                                  • #18
                                    For me, the decision would be more along the lines of whether or not -- with the required maintenance -- the horse can do the job you need/want him to. If he can, it does not seem unreasonable to continue. If, despite your efforts, he is not sound enough to do that job happily or consistently then it is time to find him a new job and you a new horse. My wonderful hunt horse (16) requires Legend twice a month, a really good shoeing job every 4 weeks and an occasional hock injection. Osphos also. With all that he is sound, works 5 days a week and does everything I could want to. He is a rock star and absolutely irreplaceable so he gets everything he needs to feel really good. When all that doesn't keep him happy doing his job, he'll be retired.

                                    Kate

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by onthebit View Post
                                      From what you've stated about his multiple injections, general soundness issues, and his feet, I would bet my farm that most of his issues are compensatory problems stemming from his feet. If your horse is long term (more than a couple of cycles) or permanently being wedged on all 4 feet his issues are probably going to continue to worsen despite all of the injections and specialty shoeing. In my opinion you need to actually address the feet, not put bandaids on them.
                                      I mostly agree with OTB here. Also, if you haven't had his feet xrayed since you bought him, and your farrier is putting wedge pads on without the benefit of xrays and working in conjunction with your vet, it is very much bandaid treatment. Start with the feet first. I have owned multiple TBs that came to me with negative palmar angles. In my experience, working with a qualified farrier who can think outside the box, along with a vet who can recognize imbalance in foot xrays, you can often fix this issue and have a usable horse to event. An appropriate trim and shoe for this condition, such as a rocker shoe, can encourage sole growth while you are still able to ride. This type of corrective shoeing does not have to be a career ender. With the right kind of farrier/vet support, it can be very manageable. Wedge pads are a very short term fix and have side effects such as crushed heels that limit their benefit in my experience.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        How much work is this horse in? Assuming you are riding him 5-6 times a week, once a year hocks and stiffles for a 12 year old that raced is not bad at all. Even if he only ran 12 times, he has been in training since he was a 2 year old.

                                        Also, corrective shoeing (to grow more heel and bring the toe back) would be much more beneficial in the long term than just slapping wedges on. Wedges end up being hard on suspensories and can further crush heels.

                                        One other thought. I believe you said he's on Adequan? Perhaps try to do Legend, too. They act differently and adding Legend may buy some more time before he needs injected again. For a less expensive alternative, you could try Polyglycan, too. I know the latest chatter on that, but I have to say, I've never seen a horse (in barns of 10+, on it for months) have a negative reaction and I know some horses who much prefer it to Legend or Adequan.

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