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Life after an SI injury: happy update!

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  • Life after an SI injury: happy update!

    I've been hesitant to post this because I don't want to think about it, but I need to start thinking of some options here.

    My 15-year-old horse injured his SI in September last year. He responded very promisingly to a treatment of chiropractic work, acupuncture, rest, and controlled strength-building exercise, according to the vet's guidelines. He was starting back over fences before he re-injured the SI (probably in his field) about two months ago. Subsequent vet treatments have helped him for only a week or two before he feels unsound again, whereas before, he was holding his adjustments, etc. for one to three months before feeling off.

    This is a horse who loves to work. Even though he has a definite hitch behind (I should add, he is not 'Oh my gosh, that animal is lame,' he is 'Huh, he looks a little off behind') he is happy to go forward and enjoys his light flatwork and trail rides. He is not expressing pain. I am more concerned about the way he feels than he is. He loves to jump and tries to lock on and drag me to jumps in the ring. If he found a fallen branch in his field he would jump over it back and forth over and over. This is not a horse who is standing at the pasture gate saying, 'I am ready to live in this field for the rest of my life,' but one who is saying 'Take me out to the ballgame,' even if he needs to step down from playing in the big leagues to playing the neighborhood circuit with plenty of Advil.

    I'll be talking to the vet about this too, because I think it's time that we started looking either at some other options for treatment or some other ways to help him. I'm fine with tincture of time if that's what it takes but it is concerning to me that he has been benefiting much less from his recent treatments than he did before. I'd like to collect other people's experiences dealing with this type of injury, how it was treated, what the horse is doing now, and how they manage it, so that I can come prepared with some thoughts to discuss with the vet. Tip will be with me for life regardless and I want to be sure I'm doing well by him.

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Renn/aissance; Oct. 19, 2010, 01:39 AM.
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

    Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
    Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.

  • #2
    I'm sure your vet told you SI injuries/recovery/return to work take a VERY individual course, but here's a success story....

    SI injury (ultrasound documented ligament tear) in 15.1h appy gelding. Total stall rest for eight weeks. Hand walking ONLY for another eight weeks. Return to pasture turnout for the rest of the year. CAREFUL reconditioning (beginning with one month of daily walks only) for six months. Horse resumed happy and sound career as 2'6" packer. Five years later he's still truckin' with no sign of SI troubles.

    FWIW, while at OSU with another horse for another problem, I overheard a conversation between vets discussing SI injuries. Both agreed the reason they see them back so often is the reluctance of riders to give them the necessary time off - lots.
    Patience pays.


    • #3
      As I'm sure you can guess, this news bums me out. Had no idea he was not doing well (and I can't believe he's 15!!!! I feel old).

      I haven't dealt with a horse with an acute SI injury, but have been around and ridden a lot of horses who have had their SIs injected and have seen HUGE improvements in them. Most of them are either a little funny (kinda like you describe) or having some performance issues but no real lameness. Has injecting it been discussed at all? I have no idea if it would be appropriate, but he sounds like a lot of SI horses to me.


      • #4
        My horse tore his SI in July 2007 (we didn't realize it was torn at the time). We tried rest and bringing him back slowly, but by December he was rearing and trying to dump people.

        Did stem cell in Jan 2008, followed by 6 months of slow rehab on treadmill, careful under-saddle work (walking, then 10 mins walk, 1 min trot, etc.).

        2nd bone scan in July 2008 showed complete ligament healing. Started back to work properly, focusing on building strength over the back.

        April 2010 started showing again at second level. Horse is fully recovered, stronger than before and solid at third level. Changes are solid, extensions are fabulous. Lateral work is not a high point, but it never was. Haunches in & half pass are good.


        • #5
          Si joints take a long time to heal properly. I would also second the injection....
          Mai Tai aka Tyler RIP March 1994-December 2011
          Grief is the price we pay for love- Gretchen Jackson
          "And here she comes. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's ZENYATTA!"


          • #6
            I am 17 months post-injury and just getting back to anything resembling regular work, starting with very slow and careful conditioning. Agree with the poster who mentioned taking the requisite time. We had a setback with my mare because she started to volunteer to work harder than she was ready to and I let her.

            We have not gone the injection route yet; vet wants to see how she looks with a base of fitness first (and see if we can get a base of fitness without causing soreness). But that may be in this mare's future.
            Equinox Equine Massage

            In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
            -Albert Camus


            • #7
              The horse I'm leasing came with a very slight "hitch" going to the right, nothing you'd call "lameness" but sort of uneven in his contact, and he began kicking his way into canter departs. We gave him the benefit of the doubt at first--new barn, new riders, etc. but within a couple of weeks it was obvious that this was a "hurt" thing and not a "naughty" thing.

              Luckily a really good FEI vet was up looking at my trainer's Advanced horse, and he had a look at mine--pegged the SI joint right away by watching me ride him and on the longe. Did an ultrasound, no huge findings, and we decided to inject them both. Gave him 2-3 days off, very light work for a week, then eased him back into regular work. He hasn't taken a bad step since, never kicked again, and is moving and jumping great. This was in October/November, IIRC. We're not sure how it happened--he's a light, little horse, very flexible and loose and it could've been anything from the trailer ride up to a slip in the paddock to a scramble in his stall--who knows?
              Click here before you buy.


              • #8
                We have a horse who had a severe SI injury in April of 2008. Began back into *light* work in August of 09. Wasn't quite right. Turned back out until March of this year. Has been back in slight work now since then and is holding up fine so far. We hope to begin jumping him again by the end of the summer.
                Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
                My equine soulmate
                Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for sharing your experiences. Tip's issue is bone alignment rather than a ligament issue, but either way, the soft tissue has to learn to hold the bone in place where it belongs, and I know that that will take time. He can have as much time as he needs; the only schedule I want him to be on is the one he sets for himself. The vet gives me rough guidelines of what is appropriate for him to do and Tip tells me what he feels up to doing.

                  I'm definitely going to enquire about the injection route, although I don't know the first thing about its efficacy for his specific injury. I'm not sure that stem cell would be particularly useful for him, but it's worth asking about anyway. At this point I'm looking to treat more aggressively not because I want him back under saddle sooner (although that would be nice) but because for a variety of reasons, having a long period of complete rest is not good for his overall health (no diagnosis yet but think pre-Cushings/IR; vet likes the slow, controlled exercise for this horse better than complete field rest) and because the more he compensates for his SI, the more strain he's putting on the rest of his body. I've got a similar SI problem myself, so it's pretty easy for me to sympathize with the horse here.

                  Am well aware that at this point, the general difficulty with getting him into a state of fitness and his age are both working against him. We carry on...

                  Thanks again for sharing- please keep your stories coming. The more I know, the more I can help my guy.
                  "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                  Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
                  Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


                  • #10
                    The stem cell is really only useful in case of a torn ligament, since there has to be a hole for the stem cells to be injected into.

                    As for slow, controlled exercise, my vet recommended the same thing. He said that lack of exercise would cause a weakening of the ab muscles, which would place even more stress on the SI ligament.

                    I made up a spreadsheet for each week of the post-implantation workout. Here's an example:


                    • #11
                      Renn -

                      My horse = your horse. Same age. Same situation exactly... after much chiro, it is not any better..... I just called my vet in Aiken and left him a message about injections...
                      FREE TACK/APPAREL ADS: BITS AND BARTER BOARD: http://bitsandbarter.proboards.com/i...ay&thread=5450


                      • Original Poster

                        I thought I'd update this thread after getting a few PMs about SI injuries and how Tip was doing.

                        Following this post, without any other treatment than chiropractic work, Tip was able to hold onto his soundness on the flat for long enough that the vet said there wasn't any reason he couldn't start over low rails. The idea was that part of the trouble we were having with getting him feeling, well, sound was that he wasn't strong behind due to lack of work. In addition, Tip is a very easy keeper and I was having real trouble keeping weight off of him, so he was some 100-200 pounds overweight. We ramped up the ground poles and the hill work and after some weight loss, started over speed bumps.

                        In mid-August the speed bumps got a little bigger. He went to visit the vet, who saw no physical reason why we couldn't start introducing larger fences. At this point he was fitter, happier, slimmer, and very much enthused to be jumping again. As I've said, jumping is his thing, and he'd been locking on and dragging me towards jumps while on strict flatwork only. Once he started back over 2'6" fences in September I started contemplating taking him to the finals of a local medal for which I'd qualified on a different horse, and on a whim I took him to two horse shows to see how he'd feel about it. His feelings were quite definite. He and I were reserve in the adult equitation at the first and champion at the second. I had my horse back. He is a horse who loves to go places (he enjoyed visiting and hanging out at horse shows while he was injured) and he really perked up when he actually got to go in the ring. So I ended up taking him to the finals and, well, horse was fantastic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J32zdU741KE

                        Tip has been back over fences for only about four months now, if you count the crossrails. He feels great- he is starting to regain real liftoff power behind, and it is much easier for him to come through in his flatwork. His lead changes are coming back and are much easier for him than they used to be, although he still has a little trouble with his left to right swap. He has become a left-handed horse where he used to be a right-handed horse. The bad news? He doesn't cope as well with a deep distance as he used to and his 3'6" days are over for sure. But if that's the bad news, I'll take it. He may decide that he wants to go back and be a 3' horse- right now he's giving me no physical indication that he can't do it, but he definitely needs more fitness over the lower fences before we increase the height. There's no time frame. He has all the time he will want.

                        As far as I am concerned I have my horse back. We're experimenting to see what this horse wants to do with the rest of his career, and leaving the ultimate decision up to him. We'll see where it goes from here!

                        A big thank you to Carroll-Butler Veterinary Assoc. at Charlestown Racetrack in WV, Drs. Carroll and Selby in particular, who are the biggest reason Tip is back in action, and everyone else on what I am calling Team Tip- including y'all on this forum for support and advice on everything from "so what now" to "why is my horse so fat?!"
                        "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                        Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
                        Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


                        • #13
                          Renn, Tip looks FABULOUS!!! So pleased for you.

                          \"If you are going through hell, keep going.\" ~Churchill~