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Struggling to keep my horse sound...looking for some advice

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  • Struggling to keep my horse sound...looking for some advice

    I bought my first horse about a year and half ago. The vet found she had some arthritis in her hocks, but thought it would be easily manageable for my riding goals (low level jumpers and a little eventing) I had her hocks injected about 1 year ago, she was pasture boarded, we jumped about twice a week (which might have been too much in hindsight) and we didn't have any issues.

    In September we moved to a colder, less horsey area. I found a boarding barn that only offers full board with a trainer I like, which I was important because I am not a super competent rider and appreciate input from a trainer. My mare had started to slow down and become more stiff in the fall. Vet found some new arthritis in her left fetock and recommended cutting back on jumping and waiting for spring for joint injection because we wouldn't be able to ride regularly through winter. I gave her the adequan loading dose, which seemed to help but only for a few weeks and give her Equioxx about every other day. Lately she seems very stiff, slow to warm up and a little short in the hind. The vet also recommended pulling her shoes for the winter, which I did about a month ago.

    She currently only gets about 4 hours of turnout per day, and I ride her lightly on the flat a few times a week. I worry that the lack of turnout is a big contributor to the soundness issue. However, the only barns offering pasture board are western trail riding barns that dont offer lessons, and I dont know any trainers that travel here. They also dont offer individualized feedings so I wouldnt be able to continue her joint supplements. Do you all think this would be worth the change? Should I just get her joint injections asap? Any other advice would help! have read a ton about arthritis, I am just getting discouraged and worried about doing right by my horse

  • kashmere
    With only two pictures of a foot (which foot?) it's hard to be too confident in giving feedback - but a couple things stand out about that hoof even from these two pictures:

    - Underrun heels: in the solar shot it's a little hard to see for sure where the heel buttress is, but it appears to be in front of the widest part of the frog. The lateral view confirms a crushed heel.

    - The central sulcus looks very deep, which almost certainly means there is thrush in there.

    Those two things combined tells me that the back half of this foot is probably quite uncomfortable, even aside from any arthritis higher up in the leg. If this is a front foot (hinds are generally less likely IME to run under like this) it's also worth considering that hock pain can cause a horse to overload its front legs which will exacerbate any issues in those limbs - be it fetlock arthritis or poor hoof health.

    Step one for me would be treating the thrush. White lightning or Clean Trax are great commercial products for that. You can also soak in Oxine/Vinegar (much cheaper!). Personally I'd soak every day for a 3 or 4 days, and once the hoof is dry use a syringe to inject a mix of desitin and clotrimazole (anti fungal) cream into the sulcus. Continue with injection daily and soaking 1x week until it's cleared up - the central sulcus should be a shallow groove, not a deep crack. You can also use a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water regularly on the frog.

    As far as trimming/hoof care - really hard to say without more views of the feet and whole horse. Slippering the heel to provide a flat landing spot and encourage better growth direction would be a good approach.

    It's true that "you can't fix in the foot what doesn't originate in the foot" - but it's also true that you can't fix in the limb what doesn't have a solid base to stand on. What I mean by that is that improving the health of your horse's feet may not solve all of your problems, soundness-wise, but it's also absolutely critical to do to support soundness in the limbs and rest fo the horse.

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  • Puffergrrl
    Flexions are arguably not the best way to determine soundness or detect arthritis. (Do you know many middle-aged people that can crouch down on the ground for 60-90 seconds and then take off running without a hitch?) Get x-rays to determine the exact location and severity of any arthritis in the leg joints or signs of navicular in the feet. You'll also be glad you have a baseline set going forward because you can use them to see if there are any changes in your horses legs or hooves going forward.
    If your horse has always had shoes, when it's having soundness issues is not the time to be making changes. I wouldn't pull the shoes unless your vet put the hoof testers on and said foot pain was your culprit and the shoeing was suspect. Most horses get at least a little sore adjusting to barefoot.
    Again, if your horse hasn't been getting limited turn out, going to 24/7 is more likely to cause trouble than solve the problem. If your horse has arthritis, more movement is great, but there's a lot of more between where you are and full-time turnout. Are you able to request your horse get a few more hours outside? Or if it's in a smaller paddock, can you have it moved to one with more room to roam? If none of that is an option, can you ride it more often, but back off the work to 30-45 minutes of walking 6 days a week for 2-3 weeks, then start switching out a couple of the walking minutes for trot and build up from there?
    And if you see some arthritis on the x-rays, I would absolutely give the loading dose of Adequan and plan giving Equioxx for the useful lifetime of the horse. Talk to your vet about how they feel about monthly boosters of Adequan and/or Legend. I, personally, don't like to inject the joints themselves until I can feel they need it and not on a specific schedule, because you can only be gong into those joint spaces so many times, but a good thing to discuss with your vet if the x-rays show need. (I also am sensitive to my horse and can catch her very early on).
    Good luck!

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  • Salo
    Turnout does not always mean that horses are walking around. Some paddocks are too small and boring, sometimes horses don't move away from the hay rack.
    I'd try to exercise the horse every day, at least 20 to 30 (cold weather) minutes walk before you start further training. Next is a good farrier. And don't forget the bigger picture! Be aware of any tension in the rest of the body because this can lead to stressing and overloading the legs. And check the footing of the arena, very important factor.

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  • glumglobin

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  • glumglobin

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  • glumglobin
    Thank you all so much for your advice! I know in my heart moving to a barn that offers pasture board is the better option for my horse, I iust needed some encouragement  I am hoping my trainer/current barn owner will be understanding and I could even still lesson on school horses or trailer in when my horse is feeling better (and I get a trailer lol)

    As for amount of time I am able to go to the barn: right now I am able to go 4 days a week , but in a month my schedule will change and I will be able to make it out every day.

    So now I just need to choose between the two boarding barns. Both barns were about the same distance away and horses looked in good condition. Option #1 has trails and an indoor arena but no outdoor or any jumps. They have free choice hay when the grass in low, don't feed any grain, but I could feed my own, and she would be turned out in a group of 5 hours on about 15 acres. The other barn rotates the pastures and brings in all the horses to a little feed lot and gives them each 5lbs of grain once a day. I worry about her getting kicked in there but they say it works out well. They have outdoor area with trails and some small jumps. What would everyone choose?

    I can also attach some pics of her feet once I figure out how to resize them...thanks again!

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  • betsyk
    Is there any way you can get out to ride every day, or 6 days/week? In the absence of turnout, more exercise under saddle may be the best option. You say you can't ride regularly in winter -- is that due to arena conditions, or some other factor? If you have someplace to ride, I'd prioritize riding as much as you possibly can, and prioritize really correct flatwork. If you don't have someplace to ride, then you're really not getting the benefit of the trainer anyway, and I think I'd look for rough board for the rest of the winter and find a way to work with the trainer again in the spring. Once or twice a week isn't enough to keep an arthritic horse moving well if they're not getting much turnout.

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  • asterix
    I had a horse with hock arthritis and did the opposite of what happened here - when I bought him (he was doing the job I wanted to do, an important factor too) he was on hock injections every 9 months. I moved him from stall half time to full time turnout in a very large field - and never had to do hock injections more than 14-18 months apart again. I tried no hind shoes one winter and he made it clear he was less comfortable that way so we didn’t do it again. Have a very good farrier.
    There is NO substitute for turnout for horses like this. I get what you are saying about your options but this would be by far the most effective thing you could do.
    For the 10 years I had my horse I fed him myself or with help from fellow boarders - If they are on 24-7 turnout they don’t need to be fed at the exact same time every day. You can at least feed a snack with supplements when you ride.
    for training - not much use if horse isn’t sound. Long term you could look to find others who trailer in for lessons and hook up with them.

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  • 4horses
    Agreed! Turnout and inject. Horses with arthritis really struggle being stalled. It is better to have small paddocks or any turnout, rather than stalls.

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  • GraceLikeRain
    Movement is very important for a horse with arthritis (and horses in general). To go from regular work to no hind shoes and limited turnout could certainly make for an ouchy horse. I am a huge barefoot proponent but there are times when the environment or the farrier are not helping a horse succeed. There are a lot of great eyes on here. Posting recent photos could be helpful to get some thoughts on whether the feet are on the right track.

    Feed through joint supplements are kind of hit or miss. Personally, I'd move my horse to a barn with as much turnout as possible and probably inject.

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  • glumglobin
    He thought that her heels were a little pinched and being barefoot for a couple months would help

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  • eruss
    I doubt the turnout has anything to do with the lameness. Why did the vet suggest pulling the shoes?

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  • glumglobin
    No, he did a flexion test and then x-rays

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  • eruss
    Just to be clear, vet blocked to fetlock and determined lameness?

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