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How can you tell your horse is having a growth spurt?

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  • How can you tell your horse is having a growth spurt?

    I have a 5 & 1/2 year old TB, who raced up until last year. He's enormously tall for a TB (pushing 18hh) and has been all wonky lately, in weight and soundness. The BO says he looks "different" every time she looks at him. He's been tricky to keep weight on (he gets unlimited hay, HFHF, oil, 3 feedings grain a day) and was treated with blue pop rocks for 30 days once he came off the track Dec/Jan.

    He's lost some power in the hind end, and is reluctant to to push forward from behind or canter to the left. It's been this way for about 6 weeks (started around the time he had his shoes put on all around by a new farrier). He also came in really scraped up from the field around that time.

    I'm think it could be:

    -growth spurt that is affecting his stifles
    -paddock injury

    He had medium-to-long toes before, and when the farrier did him he made them short. (I remarked on how different they looked.)

    Cantering to the left was his "bad" side (although he would always get the lead after one or two "asks") and now he will pick up the right lead, then swap to the left on the lunge only. (Can't seem to get it at all to the left under saddle.)

    Lastly, he's only getting a few hours of individual turnout a day in a small dirt paddock (not my choice). He'll be moving to a place in August that has big grassy fields where he can be turned out with a friend.

    (I'm wondering if he *is* growing/changing, the lack of exercise could have weakened his stifles and they are getting loose.)

    Vet has been out 2x, we can all see he's "stiff" but not lame.
    A quick tutorial on interval training: Conditioning your horse for eventing

  • #2
    Lack of turnout will definitely affect their body (and mind) and in my experience the stifles were the first thing I noticed that became weak and stiff. My young, tall gelding would even have his stifles lock up if he didn't get out for more than a couple hours. I was also having numerous soundness problems w/ him and a new farrier/trimmer refused to take us on as clients unless I moved my horse to full turnout at another facility since she had seen so many chronic problems w/ this lifestyle.

    As far as telling if they're in a growth spurt, I generally know their wither and butt height and either eyeball it or measure.
    "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


    • #3
      They get bigger.

      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


      • #4
        Isn't 5 yrs old too old for a TB to be having a growth spurt? Now a WB, well a growth spurt at that age is normal. But then they just look ungainly and gangly but are still sound.


        • #5
          Could be that he is unbalanced/ uncoordinated . He is a big and (sounds like) gangly boy who hasn't done much but run around a track, right? We had a TB who was just like yours in size and he was just like you describe( except for soundness issues) and it took him a while to know what to do with himself. He didn't completely reach his height until 6 or 7 when he was done growing and filling out.


          • #6
            Originally posted by cloudyandcallie View Post
            Isn't 5 yrs old too old for a TB to be having a growth spurt? Now a WB, well a growth spurt at that age is normal. But then they just look ungainly and gangly but are still sound.
            My TB still grew quite a bit as a five and even six year old. So, TBs do grow that late (more often than I think people like to admit...it messes with the illusion that racing TBs are "all grown up" physically by the time they are racing, but I digress).

            However, I think this sounds like a soundness issue unrelated to growth. I'd suspect farrier issues first, given the history, although the lameness does sound a bit stifle-y.


            • #7
              Neuro issues? EPM? Wobblers?


              • #8
                Originally posted by cloudyandcallie View Post
                Isn't 5 yrs old too old for a TB to be having a growth spurt? Now a WB, well a growth spurt at that age is normal. But then they just look ungainly and gangly but are still sound.
                No, not really. All light horses mature at roughly 6 years of age (per the work of Dr. Deb Bennett). Legs don't get longer but body fills out pushing the top line up. So some growth until 6 years of age is a definite possibility.

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                • #9
                  My youngster is 4 yrs old, going through growth spurts. Intermittment left stifle catching.
                  My vet put him on 1 gram of bute per day, trot sets in the hay field(40 acre hay field with a nice hill in it). I have been doing the trot sets for two weeks now without any catching. And his trot is getting stronger. I do 3 six minute trots with 5 minutes of walk in between. No dressage arena work until this fall.
                  I will add a canter set later this month to add a different bit of cardio for him.

                  Since he is only 4, I expect to go through this scenario again, when he hits another growth spurt, or two.


                  • #10
                    Do you have a good chiro available? My mare was having similar issues recently; vet came out, did full lameness exam and found nothing, but agreed horse was nqr. Reccommended giving a chiro a try, so I did. WHOLE NEW HORSE. Quieter, picks up leads better, no more tripping over invisible rocks. I would always rule out medical issues first, but it sounds like you are doing that.

                    It could be the toe length, perhaps the new farrier went too short too fast. It used to be common practice to let race horses grow a little more toe than non racing horses. Trainers thought that it gave the horse a longer stride, and some of them still think that way even though it has been disproven. I would think that unless there are some underlying structural problems, he should be improving as the feet grow out if it is farrier related.

                    Or it could be that awkward, post racing, trying to figure out how to be a horse slump. How long of a post track letdown did he have before going into work? IMHO it takes at minimum 3-4 months of just being a horse, turned out on pasture with other horses, for an OTTB to figure out that they can do more than go fast. Ideally 6+ months for the the track training to fade and their bodies to rest and recover.
                    It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.
                    Theodore Roosevelt


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                      Neuro issues? EPM? Wobblers?
                      No, my other (retired) horse is neuro and this guy doesn't have any symptoms. This one was vetted by 2 different vets in January and passed.

                      I think this sounds like a soundness issue unrelated to growth.
                      The vet has come out twice to look at him... this is a vet with national credentials. He (we) can all see the horse is uncomfortable but too "sound" to do much besides start guessing at areas in the hind end to flex/block/xray/inject. We tried 2 weeks of Robaxin (after the horse had 2 weeks of stall rest) and it hasn't done much. Beautiful floating trot on the lunge.

                      Trot sets in the hay field(40 acre hay field with a nice hill in it).
                      Hillwork and building the back end would be my thought too for stifles, since the horse was sound as recently as 6 weeks ago it made me wonder if changes + growth (not to mention his limited TO situation currently) has made things worse.

                      Do you have a good chiro available?
                      Yes he's had chiro. You can see he's not level @ the SI (with the higher part being on the right side) and has a bit of a roach in his back. I thought the back thing was congenital but it makes sense that since there was obviously trauma at some point in the RH SI that the roach was part of that incident.

                      How long of a post track letdown did he have before going into work?
                      He only raced a handful of times as a 4-year old. He came off in November but wasn't in regular work until about March. He was treated for ulcers and had lots of turnout and then learned the basics of lunging.

                      Right off the bat he stood at the mounting block without fuss, W/T/C both directions without drama (not a typical TB, easily comes back to trot when you ask, no bolting off in the transition or spookiness), stands in crossties, is easy to lead, etc. Just an all-around nice guy. His owners took excellent care of him, he was their big pet.

                      That's what has made all of this stuff very surprising, he's been so... well, perfect! I don't want him to work if he's uncomfortable or sore.

                      I lightly rode him today to see "where he's at" and he was springy and forward at the walk. However, when I closed my legs to ask for trot, he pinned his ears and sucked back, tail swishing. Not like him at all.

                      I untacked him and put him on the lunge. He was running, bucking and carrying on. After he settled, he had a big floaty trot and got his left lead at the canter but was head tossing and bucking (in both directions).

                      He does have an impacted baby tooth that the vet is going to be removing in the next two weeks (causing the head tossing I bet), the bucking/bolting on the lunge is probably due to the lack of TO.

                      As fo the sucking back/tail swishing... seemed like ulcers to me. I am torn between getting more diagnostics + vet visits or wait until he's had a few weeks of "normal" TO once he moves barns and see where we're at.
                      A quick tutorial on interval training: Conditioning your horse for eventing


                      • #12
                        Issue may be totally unrelated to growth, but just some info on skeletal growth:

                        Here is article by Deb Bennet. It is long & pages aren't numbered but look at ~ pg 7/8 (she says a taller TB or ASB may not be done growing until 8th yr)


                        If he was being raced that may affect muscle vs bone growth, depending on his diet at the time.

                        Geldings grow (up, rather than thicker) for a longer period of time than would mares or stallions b/c the testosterone doesn't get to high levels to shut down the GH. The later the plates fuse, the taller the horse (and the taller the horse, the later the plates fuse).


                        • #13
                          I had a TB that went from 16h to 17h at 6. So no, not too old.

                          I had some similar issues with my current TB (off the track since August) recently (bucked a bit going into left lead, changing shape, weight fluctuated), but he is on 24/7 TO. I had him done by the chiro/acupuncturist Monday and he was way out of whack. Will be riding him today for the first time since but his "not quite rightness" has vastly improved on the ground already.

                          I would say the lack of TO is not helping. Tooth pain is terrible and is probably also not helping the weight issue which could be caused by the pain to eat and stress from having a painful tooth.

                          The sucking back when leg is applied sounds like ulcers or hind end pain.

                          Good luck and keep us posted.