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Talk to me about arthritis in the neck - stiff right lead canter?

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  • Talk to me about arthritis in the neck - stiff right lead canter?

    I am a little perplexed, so bear with me.

    Horse is a 15 year old TB, raced (42 starts) when he was younger, unknown history between 7-12. Has been sound since I got him at 13, within the last year he's been getting glucosamine IM every 2-3 weeks because it seems to keep him a little more comfortable. Lameness eval a year ago showed minor soreness in both hocks and the RF knee, but vet said overall he's in good shape for a horse of his size, age, and history. He's been fine w/t/c and doing small jumps. Suffered an abscess in the fall that just wouldn't quit and took nearly 12 weeks to resolve. He came back to work in January and has been doing well (just flatwork) since. He appeared to have a stone bruise last week (LF) that has mostly recovered with the application of rim pads and shoes on the front - previous to that, he was barefoot and has been happy that way.

    Within the last few weeks, but most especially last night, his right lead has been a little stiff, most notably on the RF. Not a head bobbing lameness, more like a disjointed shuffle. While it's entirely possible that it could be something lower, like the knee, he trots off sound, which makes me think it could be more in the shoulder or neck. And in doing some research on horses with arthritis in the neck, it seems that he does present some of the more typical symptoms like stumbling when he's been out of work for a while and being quite stiff in the neck. We do carrot stretches before and after every ride and he's relatively flexible, but does not seem to want to hold the side stretches any longer than absolutely necessary. He's a big guy (17.2+) and generally holds his head and neck parallel to the ground or just below that, which I always just attributed to his size. He's been struggling with dressage lately and would much prefer to go long and low.

    So, I'm thinking this may be something we need to explore a little further... I'm interested to hear the symptoms/treatment/anecdotes about other horses that have been found with arthritis in the neck or shoulder. He's got a massage scheduled for Monday, I plan to check in with the vet after that.

  • #2
    OP - there have been several threads on this topic over the last maybe six months; I'm sure you'll get input but it would help you to do a search for neck arthritis. My TB has been dealing w/ this for some time; initial symptoms were stumbling, difficulty holding canter lead, even on circle and some hind end neuro signs. I had cervical injections done, three locations, six shots total - one on each side of neck. My guy came back into light work quite well,over a period of months, and he was 21 at the time. He was a career dressage horse, but now is all about long and low; my only requirement is that he not lean on his forehand. So far, 16 months later, all is still well, but the shots don't always help for this long, and at least my vet doesn't want to do them unless necessary - ie not like people who do hocks/stifles on a more maintenance like schedule. So I ride, and watch and keep my fingers crossed.
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


    • Original Poster

      I did try searching, but the search function doesn't always work so well for me. The "similar threads" at the bottom is bringing up some better results now, though.

      If you don't mind my asking, what did the injections run, price-wise?


      • #4
        Hey H57,

        I also have some experience in this area. My horse (early teens, lower level dressage) also has neck arthritis, and it first became apparent to me when she started being really resistant to right bend and developed an escalating set of evasions. She also had trouble holding the canter on the right lead. It never showed up like a lameness -- trotted sound, negative to flexions, no gait asymmetries per se -- and it was much more apparent when the horse was coming through to the bit in work than when she was stretching or moving at liberty. It was hard to find a vet who was thorough and didn't just assume she was "rein lame" or experiencing a behavior/training issue, and in fact it wasn't until she started exhibiting some neuro symptoms in the hind end that we really got good veterinary advice about it.

        Like 2tempe, we did injections -- twice, now, over the course of 1.5 years. The ballpark cost for us each time was $700-$800 to inject 6 facets (3 on each side), not including the cost of rads and ultrasound at the diagnosis stage. Ultrasound is required to guide the needle, so they tend to be a little pricier than something like hocks. We also use Previcox to try to stretch the time between injections, with some success.
        Evolutionary science by day; keeping a certain red mare from winning a Darwin award the rest of the time!


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by x-halt-salute View Post
          Like 2tempe, we did injections -- twice, now, over the course of 1.5 years. The ballpark cost for us each time was $700-$800 to inject 6 facets (3 on each side), not including the cost of rads and ultrasound at the diagnosis stage. Ultrasound is required to guide the needle, so they tend to be a little pricier than something like hocks. We also use Previcox to try to stretch the time between injections, with some success.
          Christ on a cracker! If this IS what it turns out to be, unfortunately that is going to be a bit of a stretch for us right now. I'm not going to have a meltdown until we get a solid idea of what the problem is, but the signs are pointing in that general direction, and it's a little more obvious since I spent the week riding a couple other (non-arthritic!) horses. I am keeping in mind that whatever it is may force him into retirement, which is a sad thought, he's a lovely mover and was proving to be quite a nice jumper. I had hopes of getting him to his first event this season!


          • #6
            This is (one of my) "if I knew then what I know now" stories... My TB is 25 now, I got him when he was turning 13 with the intention of doing novice and maybe training and then passing him along to a pony clubber. He came with some spurs in his hocks, a little ringbone, crappy feet, a great attitude, and a lump like a baseball on his neck. His owner said he was the kind of horse who would probably benefit from my alternative therapy of choice, but she lived in a remote area without access to that sort of thing. Long story short, I think he has/had arthritis in his neck and I think that was probably the main thing that kept him from being a working partner - he tripped, a lot, which made him tense, which made me tense, he'd rush the jumps and would NOT go on the bit for love nor money... not much of an eventer, but turned out to be a wonderful kids' walk-trot horse. And this is the best ending to the story: last winter he wasn't doing well on rough board so I brought him in, changed his diet, changed his joint management program, and half leased him to an 11-year-old girl. He's sounder and fitter and happier than he's been in years, and he's cantering caviletti - my walk-trot horse! I think either the new joint stuff is really working for him, or the arthritis in his neck has finally fused (is that possible?). I'll be curious to see how he is on the trail this summer. I feel like at 25 I finally have the horse he should have been at 15 and I'm so glad I never fully retired him.

            (and I love the expression Christ on a cracker! have to remember that one!)

            edited to add: long incoherent ramble, meant to be encouraging you not to give up on your guy but maybe renegotiate his job description.
            Last edited by betsyk; Mar. 28, 2013, 04:19 PM. Reason: that made no sense.


            • #7
              Had my just turned 7 yr. old OTTB injected in 3 joints in neck several months ago. His neck was thin and he wouldn't hold his right canter lead. Knock on wood, it seems to have done the trick so far... definitely more muscled in his neck and doing better at canter. Ran @ 400 - 500 $ I think. Hope it lasts awhile, cuz I can't imagine doing this for the next twenty-odd years.


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by betsyk View Post

                edited to add: long incoherent ramble, meant to be encouraging you not to give up on your guy but maybe renegotiate his job description.
                Oh, there's no giving up on him. He's a lifer in my barn, always has been, and I know someday he'll retire. I've got a coming 3yo and a mare that will be bred this year, so it's not like I don't have options for future riding horses. He's my only currently "going" event horse, the mare is rideable and has a fair amount of training but is more suited to dressage (IMHO).


                • #9
                  I had a big tb mare who was stiff and who tracked up a little unevenly and was very difficult to get on the bit without a lot of warm-up and lateral work. We had her neck injected and the ultrasound showed some arthritis. She got better for a while but then started displaying neurological symptoms. Finally xrayed the neck and it showed that the arthritis was due to an old fracture. She retired to life as a trail horse (she had been a show hunter). Good luck. Hope yours works out better.

                  I don't remember exactly what I paid for the injections but it was not as bad as the other poster quoted. I would definitely recommend hauling your horse to a clinic for diagnosis and treatment. I spent a lot of $$$$ on my mare before we figured out what was wrong.


                  • #10
                    I also wanted to add, as another poster mentioned my mare was never able to develop a nice top line no matter how much work she got or what we fed her.
                    Last edited by EAY; Mar. 28, 2013, 06:57 PM.


                    • #11
                      Glad he's a lifer (though sorry if he does turn out to be as expensive a lifer as my mare). I happen to live/have lived in places where horses are particularly expensive, and my horse had arthritic changes in several facets so our bills may be on the high end. There's a decent chance that even if it is arthritis it might be treatable at lower cost.

                      Depending on exactly what's going on you may want to talk to your vet about how much more comfortable he could be with just changes in his work regimen and anti-inflammatory drugs like firocoxib (though that may not solve your problem if you plan to show and your horse is not comfortable w/o inadmissable levels of the drug). When my horse was first treated I was working with a trainer who was brilliant about restructuring our rides to increase my horse's comfort while still advancing our training -- were my horse not experiencing neuro issues I would be tempted to see if we could find a sustainable yet satisfying regimen that involved less corticosteroid intervention!
                      Evolutionary science by day; keeping a certain red mare from winning a Darwin award the rest of the time!


                      • #12
                        OP - Yes I know what you mean about the search engine. If I can find an earlier thread, I'll post again. But my injections ran in the same $700-$800 - as I mentioned, three joints, both sides = 6 shots, all ultrasound guided. That was AFTER the EPM testing, xrays, etc that was done to diagnose... I think that mostly you will find that they help for varying lengths of time depending on the horse, and that you have to adjust your expectations for the horse performance wise. I dont think cervical injections allow you to keep a horse performing at a particular level, unlike other joint injections. I think they make the horse more comfortable and allow you to keep it in some reasonable condition.

                        By the way while I'm typing here, I notice that just below is a table called "Similar Threads" and there are two recent threads on this topic listed there, as well as an older one...Read thru those when you can.
                        We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                        • #13
                          On the search thing, I sometimes have better luck finding stuff here through a regular Google search. The other option is to do a site-specific search on Google, like neck arthritis site:www.chronofhorse.com

                          My horse was diagnosed with neck arthritis in Sept 2011. Symptoms included a stabby way of going in front, resistance to moving forward, especially on the right-lead canter, and bad stumbling. We did IRAP injections of the three joints in the neck closest to the shoulder on either side which is even more ka-ching than regular neck injections. On the upside, the whole ultrasound-guided injection thing is pretty fascinating to watch.

                          Re-did neck injections about a year later, last fall, when the stumbling started again.

                          Both vets thought that the neck arthritis could have driven the front end issues that the horse had starting back in 2008. Had I known now what I know now, I would have looked at the neck back then.

                          So, I know have a horse who is kept mostly sound with a pretty expensive protocol, a really good shoer, and consistent correct work. Sound enough that trainers at the new barn who don't know about his past have noted how great he looks, though I can feel a slight NQR trotting to the right on a circle some days. A horse that I am afraid (concerned) to jump--partially because of the falling-down thing which is really not fun, but more because I don't want to accelerate his decline.

                          Then last Sunday, he went from sound (but gumpy) to 3/5 lame in the RF after standing and then moving off at the trot. Still lame when the vet looked at him Wednesday. Now soaking foot and hoping for an abscess. Though I will say that an abscess may or may not be a good thing: one of the vets at the clinic said that horses with collateral ligament strains (which he had back in 2008 and again to a lesser extent in fall 2011) often present with a series of what appear to be abscesses.
                          The Evil Chem Prof


                          • #14
                            I have to say, what's helped my guy the most is work. Yes, he's on supplements, but once he started getting as much turnout as possible (weather permitting) and keeping him in work even if it's lite work, that's when he feels great


                            • #15
                              Very long thread about my experiences here:


                              Can't recall how much injections cost. The whole experience was quite stunning financially.


                              • Original Poster

                                Originally posted by NBN View Post
                                I have to say, what's helped my guy the most is work. Yes, he's on supplements, but once he started getting as much turnout as possible (weather permitting) and keeping him in work even if it's lite work, that's when he feels great
                                Mine lives out 24/7, with my other two horses. They force him to move around more than he would otherwise, he's one that tends to just stand. And he does seem to enjoy working, I took him out and put him on the lunge yesterday, mostly walk/trot but did throw in a circle or two of canter - which was good, because I didn't see nearly what I expected to. He started out a little stiff, worked out of it for the most part but was still skipping behind, swapping back and forth from the correct/incorrect/correct leads. I took some video but didn't get a chance to upload it last night. He was playing a bit at the first canter each direction, which I haven't seen him do in a while (I hardly ever lunge him).

                                After his chiro/massage appointment on Monday I may also talk to the vet about our options for better joint support - I don't really want to go right to injecting the (hock, knee) joints but maybe Pentosan is an option. The vet that prescribed the IM glucosamine was unfamiliar with Pentosan and basically said we either do this or start Adequan or Legend.


                                • #17
                                  Didn't read the whole thread but will say my guy was like this. He twisted a shoe on lf and nails went in his hoof. Treated to keep from abscessing and it didn't thank goodness. But while he was sore he compensated to much with his weight on his front right. I started back riding and he was stiff and would toss his head a lot. Was not lame at all! But I knew something was up. He would buckle his knee once in a blue moon while riding also. Not bad but enough that I knew something was different in that one stride. Turns out when he over compensated on the other hoof he caused a slight rotation in his coffin bone. Rest and corrective shoeing it is back to normal and he is going better than ever.

                                  I will also say my older guy was like this and he had epm.

                                  Could also be in the neck. I would probably xray the neck and feet just to make sure then go from there.
                                  Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                                    Very long thread about my experiences here:


                                    Can't recall how much injections cost. The whole experience was quite stunning financially.
                                    That's quite the saga, and I'm sorry it didn't have a happier ending. I read through the whole thing. I must have missed it the first time around.

                                    As I mentioned earlier, we don't have the funds right now to go on exploratory missions (and I commend you for being so dedicated to Blush!), but we'll do what we can. Starting with a good bodywork session on Monday. I'll try to get those videos uploaded later today.