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Injecting hocks on a 15-yo TB eventer? UPDATE--yes!

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  • Injecting hocks on a 15-yo TB eventer? UPDATE--yes!

    I've never been of the opinion that horses should get their hocks injected without a full physical workup and some suggestion that the hocks are causing a problem. However--I'm starting to wonder if my daughter's horse, while not lame, might warrant that sort of workup.

    Mickey is a 15 yo OTTB. His first owner rode him for several years, taking him from straight off the track to Prelim. He's a small horse, and Prelim was barely within his abilities, so his owner put him up for sale and went on to a different horse. Micks was tried and rejected by one potential buyer (he's a quirky soul), then stood in a field for several months, then was bought by us about 18 months ago.

    Other than an abscess, he's never limped. He is prone to recurrent back pain. We've had a saddle made for him and my daughter (their combined physical attributes don't suit off the rack saddles well) and I really don't think that's the issue. We get chiropractic work done on him every few months, which is to say, as often as the chiropractor comes to our area. My daughter's been very good about working him in hand over ground poles, as recommended by the chiropractor, and doing other exercises, and this helps. She competes him BN right now. When she's competing, she rides him 4+ times per week; when she's busy with something else, for instance the high school tennis season she just finished, she'll ride him 1-2 times a week but not hard, and she'll give him several weeks increasing work before she competes him again.

    His back issues are becoming a little too common for my comfort. He's turned out 24/7 and will do stupid TB moves in the pasture sometimes, but I'm no longer sure that explains everything.

    I've heard that back pain can be referred hock pain, which makes me wonder if he's got some hock issues starting up. Now, our local vets are not what I'd call experts at subtle equine lamenesses. I'd probably take him to UT or to a specialty vet somewhere near one of the trainers I work with when I can.

    Can you all share your experiences and opinions with me? I'd appreciate it.
    Last edited by gully's pilot; May. 24, 2013, 09:24 AM. Reason: update title

  • #2
    I have few regrets when it comes to horses, but I regret not injecting my teenage TB's hocks sooner, 'way back when I thought you needed to see spurs on the xrays before injecting. By the time he was "lame enough" and the spurs were noticeable, he had developed some bad habits about jumping and had lost his confidence over terrain, because it hurt! For your daughter's sake and safety, take care of his hocks. All it takes is one jump where he says, "mom, I just can't heave myself over this any more so I think I'll stop here" and then shoots her like a lawn dart onto her head... this actually happened to a friend of mine, and when the vet looked at the horse the next week he flexed very, very sore behind - wasn't noticeable as "lame" but he was painful enough to refuse in a very bad place.

    Also (not that you want to hear about more problems) consider stifles at the same time you consider hocks. And if you're at the point of looking at both of those, think hard about ongoing Legend or Adequan or your maintenance product of choice. A 15-y-o TB whose career has been in eventing will appreciate the ongoing support. The nice thing about the injectable products (not injections to a specific joint) is that they hit all the places you haven't noticed yet...

    Comment


    • #3
      I'd get him looked at for sure. What do you mean by back problems? Sore when you touch him ir just problems undersaddle? Injections are meant to take down inflammation in the jt (steroid component) as well as help protect the cartilage from further damage ( hyaluran component). He may not have noticeable changes on rads but still be painful and have damage to the cartilage.

      Comment


      • #4
        I too have heard that back or SI joint pain can refer to/as hock issues. So I would def. get a full work up to see where his pain is coming from. Do you have him on any supplementation now?
        "If you've got a horse, you've got a problem"

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          I mean pain when you push on his back muscles, at about where the cantle of the saddle sits. It usually goes away entirely after a chiropractic session, and it sort of ebbs and flows without any noticeable correlation to his activities. He definitely is helped by stretching exercises. He's on Smartpak Senior, and has been since we got him.

          His behavior under saddle is also noticeably different when his back is sore (duh!). We really started to notice the back pain because there would be days when he'd want to be inverted and he'd rush, and other days when he was completely the opposite. He's a great guy, doesn't have an ounce of meanness or any kind of rude stop in him, so we know whenever he misbehaves at all that he's probably hurting somewhere, and we try to pay close attention to that. We can manage his back, my concern is more that the back pain is really happening because he's not quite right somewhere else.

          Comment


          • #6
            I would have zero problem consulting with a good sport horse vet about doing the hocks in the circumstances you describe. Could be he's not doing a lot to keep himself in shape and (as can happen with less experienced riders), he could not be working enough/sufficiently correclty to keep his back muscles in shape thus leading to that pain, but I think you're smart to at least ask the question about whether there's something else going on.

            Caveat that I likely tend to be open to injecting hocks earlier rather than later. While I know there is always a risk when you go into a joint, I balance that against the issues that can seem like they can arise with sore hocks - in my own horses, I've anecdotally seen what appears to be transference to front legs, back issues, stopping, rushing, and even tendon inflammation. While I can't prove that these were caused directly by sore hocks, I know that in all of the cases, they resolved after injecting the hocks (of course, in conversation with a good vet).

            Comment


            • #7
              Have you tried something less invasive like Adequan or Pentosan? I would go there first for a month and see if there is any change.
              http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                I'd also revisit that saddle!

                Comment


                • #9
                  I wish I would have had the hocks looked at way sooner on my previous horse. It presented as you described. Back pain. I went through saddle after saddle. The unpredictable behavior she displayed when in pain finally got through to me and the vet finally found it was the hocks. I wouldn't hesitate to get the horse looked at.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by gully's pilot View Post
                    I mean pain when you push on his back muscles, at about where the cantle of the saddle sits. It usually goes away entirely after a chiropractic session, and it sort of ebbs and flows without any noticeable correlation to his activities. He definitely is helped by stretching exercises. He's on Smartpak Senior, and has been since we got him.

                    His behavior under saddle is also noticeably different when his back is sore (duh!). We really started to notice the back pain because there would be days when he'd want to be inverted and he'd rush, and other days when he was completely the opposite. He's a great guy, doesn't have an ounce of meanness or any kind of rude stop in him, so we know whenever he misbehaves at all that he's probably hurting somewhere, and we try to pay close attention to that. We can manage his back, my concern is more that the back pain is really happening because he's not quite right somewhere else.
                    I would DEFIANTLY get him looked at. The place right where the cantle sits is a red flag for painful hocks.

                    I would also look into putting him on an injectable joint maintenance program. Adequan, Legend, Pentosan, etc. I personally use Pentosan, more because I am a college student and it is much more cost effective, and it works.

                    I would also look into seeing if maybe someone at the barn could either ride him or lunge him during the weeks that she can only ride 1-2 days a week. I had a older horse that I evented and if I didnt have him in a consistent work program he would get sore from his arthritis. Although being outside 24/7 is a huge plus since he can mve around.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd be very surprised if a 15-year-old that competed to Prelim did NOT have hock issues, especially if Prelim was a significant test of his scope. I'm sure there are some out there, but honestly, hocks are a very common source of pain in performance horses. I know of several very well-known sport horse vets that will inject them without doing rads (especially in an older horse) because they think the likelihood of the horse having hock pain is so high.

                      Now, that does not necessarily mean that's the cause of the back pain. But I think its definitely worth trying.

                      You can also try doing flexions yourself and see if they are positive. Its a cheap and easy way to test to see just how ouchy they are.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'd agree that my first suspicion would be hocks and that is completely due to my experience with my older guy. While he does have back issues as well, his hocks definitely contributed to exactly the kind of back pain you described and injections 2x per year kept him happy competing (N, schooling T).
                        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                        Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                        We Are Flying Solo

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Eventer13 View Post
                          I'd be very surprised if a 15-year-old that competed to Prelim did NOT have hock issues, especially if Prelim was a significant test of his scope. I'm sure there are some out there, but honestly, hocks are a very common source of pain in performance horses. I know of several very well-known sport horse vets that will inject them without doing rads (especially in an older horse) because they think the likelihood of the horse having hock pain is so high.
                          Ditto. Having radiographs would be interesting, but at this age it's time to be thinking of some sort of injectable joint therapy for a horse in significant work. The radiographs might change which therapy to choose, but honestly I would probably looking to do one of the injectables even if the x-rays were clean (which is nearly impossible at this age and history).
                          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

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I'd have a lameness exam done with the thought of doing hocks/stifle/back/SI (not all, and/or not all at once). Its not cheap to get injections done, but you will be amazed at how much better they feel. And yes, the back pain you are describing can begin as a result of hock pain.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My horse was admitted to Cornell to have back surgery, and he left that day with nothing but hock injections per the surgeon's recommendations after a lameness exam and rads. Best decision I ever made.
                              That said, I probably wouldn't just inject without at least a lameness exam +/- rads of anything flexing positive...maybe there are other joints bothering your horse.
                              Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If the best vets available to you require a haul to a clinic? Honestly? I'd spring for a full lameness evaluation and recommendations on a plan of management. He's been a good soul and deserves it.

                                I know it's going to cost but...it's better then watching him try to cope with the pain and cheaper then a new horse. Don't start him on anything until you get him up there for the exam- makes it quicker and easier to pinpoint the issue(s) if they present with the soreness.

                                I imagine they will inject as the exam indicates the put him on Adequan and/or Legend, a GOOD supplement with HA that can absorb like LubriSyn oh Hyalauronex. It's pricey but once he gets past the first treatment regime it's not so bad.

                                Um, horses back change as they age, the ribs drop a bit which "raises" the spine. Starts slowly but it can and does effect saddle fit. I bet that's part of your problem. Usually there are some padding options, little riser or shim under the cantle can do wonders.

                                Good luck with the exam, hopefully it is mostly hocks and that you can manage.
                                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Get a good work up on him, definitely. He's an aged horse with a career...at the least it'll be a good "baseline". At the most, you may find problem areas you can address and make him a more comfortable, happier (and safer) partner for your daughter.

                                  That being said, I have a horse with chronic back issues and NO limb issues. He flexes great, has good rads, etc. He just holds a lot of tension in his back and it has to be managed. I think I've mentioned some of this stuff to you before, but if he DOES seem to have good, sound limbs and it is still just his back, consider things like shockwave, mesotherapy, and DEFINITELY regular massage (even if he does need hocks or something injected, I would still strongly recommend massage). I'm an indifferent (at best) to chiro, but obviously he responds well. But I think you're missing a key ingredient by not having his muscles worked on regularly, too. Once or twice a month massage may make a world of difference to him.

                                  But, first and foremost, get the work up done on him.
                                  Amanda

                                  Comment


                                  • #18


                                    Mickey has a funky back, funky feet and a funky build in general and is most definitely quirky ride... (down hill, long back, different angles and shaped hooves) tries hard, likes to work, and loves his person.

                                    Thank you for working so hard to take care of him.

                                    I wish you guys could teleport up here with him because we now have a really good body worker in the area that could help with the back pain that definitely sounds worse than anything I ever had with him.
                                    -Chelsie
                                    "Hell yes I can ride. I was riding when I fell off!"

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      We have a 15 yr old TB as well with some of the same issues. We started him on Grand Meadows Synergy HA and the Pentosan shots. Great results.

                                      Haven't made up my mind yet on hock injections. Most of our local horse vets say hold off as long as possible. (less invasive, and all those objections)

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Chelsie, it definitely seems to be becoming worse--we can manage him, but I want to see if there are more issues at work than we can see on the surface. He is completely funky and quirky, and he is a terrific fit for Katie, and I want the two of them to have as much fun as possible for as long as possible.

                                        He was in very good form today, with lovely soft safe footing; Katie and I were out with our two sound horses and our two semi sound horses and my aunt and uncle, who ride (my uncle and I on the semi-sound ones). Katie and Mickey were showing off over our cross-country fences, so I told her to go ahead and jump the rolltop, the one really big solid fence we have. Katie laughed and circled Mickey around, and they were just gorgeous over it, and then the landed and Katie said, "WOW! That was HUGE!" Mickey was grinning--it kills me how he grins. And then he looks at my Sarah and you can see he's thinking, "Hmmm. I'd like to bite the mare."

                                        He had a massage down in Florida and he loved it so much he nearly oozed. I wish we had that available here.

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