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Too much maintenance?

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  • Too much maintenance?

    I know the answer is yes, sometimes. I have a 14 year old, 18 hand Dutch Warmblood who's had the absolutely best veterinary and farrier care for the last seven years. I competed him a moderate amount in the 3'6" as a Junior, and very lightly in the 3' as an amateur. He has been leased out to the most caring, wonderful woman for the last year and a half, doing flatwork and little jumps, but we seem to have come to an impasse. After diagnosing an OCD lesion in his left elbow four years ago, the vet seemed to have found the cause of some long-standing on-again, off-again lameness. Never anything horrible, but some NQR situations here and there. Because he's so big, we do regular coffin, hock, and elbow injections. But lately the big boy is off again. The wonderful lessor is even more obsessive compulsive about his care than I am, but I'm wondering if sometimes we are hindering him with kindness. He's gotten hip injections, constant chiro/acupuncture, chinese herbs, the works, in the last few months, but lessor says he is not as sound as he has been. He is currently on Previcoxx to manage pain.

    I just can't help but wonder- what would happen if we turned him out for a couple of months, quit with all of the injections, and just let him hang out? Are we doing too much? Lyme has been ruled out, FWIW. I only get to ride him once every couple of months but each time I do, he has felt VERY good once he is working and engaged. Seems to be a bit bridle lame if left to poke around on a loose rein, but moves wonderfully when ridden leg to hand.

    I can't imagine that I'm the only one to wonder if we are overdoing it on the maintenance sometimes. And I do not wish to start a thread about over-injecting, medicating, etc. I'm just wondering if anyone else has dealt with something similar. At the end of the day, I think he's just too big for his own good.

  • #2
    What does your vet think?

    My understanding of OCD lesions is limited, I will admit. But what I do know about it suggests that surgical intervention for that is typical. And if you're injecting everything else...is there a possibility also of other osteoarthritic conditions? Some benefit from time off. Some really don't.

    I think that were I in your shoes, I'd talk to the vet, possibly get another eval done and then go from there.

    But again, I've not dealt with this personally and don't have a breadth of experience with OCD lesions.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


    • #3
      I know you mentioned a couple issues you know he has but it sounds like you are treating other areas without a diagnosis that those areas are actually problematic.

      From here I'd either give him the next 60-90 days off which I would have preferred to do over the winter. After the break, I'd re-evaluate what is going on with him and get a very good lameness exam before starting back up injections and preventative care.

      Other option continue to work him but stop the injections and preventative type care and in 60-90 days have a lameness exam done before starting things back up on the injections.

      Of course if during the time the horse displays obvious lameness have the vet out.


      • #4
        Steroids are insidious and powerful things, and regular injections can take their toll. So can non-stop work and (IMO) just regular and incessant fussing over a horse.

        All of mine get a few months off every year. Naturally unless they are injured I pick December through March, since it's hideous to ride then anyhow.

        I can't think of too many problems in horses that would be made worse by chucking the critter out to grass, naked, hairy, and barefoot, for a few months. Think of it as a college professor going on sabbatical.
        Click here before you buy.


        • #5
          I think I would enjoy chucking my physics professor out on grass naked, hairy, and barefoot for a few months.


          • #6
            Click here before you buy.


            • #7
              Originally posted by deltawave View Post
              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


              • #8
                Originally posted by deltawave View Post

                All of mine get a few months off every year. Naturally unless they are injured I pick December through March, since it's hideous to ride then anyhow.

                I can't think of too many problems in horses that would be made worse by chucking the critter out to grass, naked, hairy, and barefoot, for a few months.
                I can An older, HUGE warmblood like this could easily deteriorate if tossed in a pasture for several months. I know the prevailing opinion on COTH is that all ills can be cured with unrestricted turnout, barefoot, no clipping/blanketing, no grain, etc. If he has worked his entire life, and from the description I imagine he has, THAT is his routine and his comfort zone. A break from hard, repetitive work can be an extremely good thing for any horse, but some of them need it to be structured within the life they are accustomed to. Maybe give him a couple months of light hacks 2-3x week, but keep up with his usual "work" schedule by grooming him and hand walking him around the farm for 30 mins on the other days. You'll help him maintain his muscle tone (vital for protecting joints) while giving his body the chance to have a break and keeping up with the routine that is comfortable for him.
                "Sometimes the fear won't go away... so you just have to do it afraid."

                Trolls be trollin'! -DH


                • #9
                  CatPS has the better plan. Older horses "rust" if they are allowed to get out of shape. It's more of a PITA (even for them) to get back into shape than to stay there. In this sense, horses are not like professors and life in pasture for the horse body is not analagous to prof mind with a year to work on research. Not analogous at all!

                  My understanding of joint injections for high-motion joints is that the steroids have tissue-thinning effects over time. That means they won't work any more at some point.

                  You guys haven't pin pointed the location of the NQR for your horse? If you had, I'd suggest X-raying that joint and seeing how much the joint space has narrowed. That tells you what you have left to work with if you were to keep injecting there.

                  A scary note, too: An old campaigner who gets sounder as he's put into a frame, but lamer without that might be choosing to sublimate pain. I rode an old eq. horse like that for a trainer once or twice. She knew what the cause of his physical pain was, and there was no way that focused work could have helped it. He got sounder by choice and because he had a huge work ethic only.

                  But! The nice old horse (who is also huge and therefore a biomechanical nightmare) might be rideable as a more casual trail horse who gets to choose how much he does. And the horse who sublimates pain (frankly, most of 'em do at some point, to some degree) minds less when he's outside the ring.

                  OTOH (hand #3), if you could find him a grassy pasture with hills and other horses to help him move around, I think you could give him a non-rusting sabbatical.

                  Good luck to you and the Big Galoot.
                  The armchair saddler
                  Politically Pro-Cat


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tom Bloomer View Post
                    I think I would enjoy chucking my physics professor out on grass naked, hairy, and barefoot for a few months.
                    Ha ha! This made me think of my finance professor!! Hee hee!
                    Unashamed Member of the Dressage Arab Clique
                    CRAYOLA POSSE= Thistle


                    • #11
                      I'm assuming by "turned out" that the horse has sufficient room to roam and will do so. I agree that a horse just standing in a 1/4 acre paddock is not going to stay very fit at all. It would bear observing--if while let down the horse just stands around and eats, that could mean one of several things: a) it's too body-sore to roam around and keep itself at a base level of fitness/mobility b) it's a lazy turd or c) it just isn't going to work having the horse turned out because it's naturally not a roamer/mover. Never had one of those, myself, but of course any individual animal could certainly fit that mold.
                      Click here before you buy.


                      • #12
                        If you are asking if you can take too good care of a horse and make him "soft" the answer I would give is no, I don't think so. There certainly is a lot to be said for "Dr. Green" but if there is an actual injury, rest may not be the best thing. My guy is 25 and still going strong but only because we never stop on him anymore. If I am out of town for a week I pay someone to ride him.
                        McDowell Racing Stables

                        Home Away From Home


                        • #13
                          i know you've mentioned injections and such.. but have you tried the OCD pellets?

                          i've had a couple friends who battled OCDs in their giants, and a couple have had good luck with the pellets.. and one had great luck with surgery.