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Starting young horse & knee x-rays?

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  • Starting young horse & knee x-rays?

    Curious as to everyone's approach.

    Looking to learn on this topic as I do not have that much experience with young horses. Yes, we are working with a trainer. Horse is a 3 year old WB and is going well - not gangly, nicely balanced for age (both moving and standing) and good head on shoulders (i.e. attention span) at this point. She can walk/trot/canter, has gone over ground poles no problem and hacks alone and in a group with no protest. She is in work about 4 to 5 days per week, short sessions and as much hacking as possible (walk with a little trot on the cross country course, some sessions of schooling sprinkled in to make her brain work).

    What would you do? Xray to make sure that knees are closed and (if yes) bump up to how much work?

    Even if the knees x-ray as being closed, how much would you do with a 3 year old?

    Looking for input for those that have already been there.

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    I xrayed my 3 year old at about 3.25, just to make sure everything looked good. She had light but regular work over the summer, and we did jump some xs, but didn't really start jumping for another 6 months. It was a piece of mind thing for me, I'm a worrier.
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    • #3
      I had Star's knees x-rayed at about 3.75 months, largely as a result of a conversation with a friend who'd been through months of NQR with his then 5 y.o. who turned out to have "the knees of a 3 y.o." Like Justice, it was largely a piece of mind thing. I really didn't alter what I was doing with him, which was essentially WTC, circles, and hacking out in the vacant lot next door.

      The horse was in a dressage barn at the time. Later that year I moved with the dressage trainer to a facility where there was also a HJ trainer and had her start him o/f when he was about 4.25 y.o. It was initially to keep him entertained so he jumped once a week. But eventually I joined him in the dark side.
      The Evil Chem Prof


      • #4
        As a General rule you should have young horses checked. It does not make a lot of sense to start spending a lot of money in training etc. if they have a problem that cannot be fixed, and it is good to know what you have as a base to work with, what to avoid etc.

        As far as the knees closing specifically I do not have them checked to for that alone, old school program, kind of let them tell me when they are ready, but at the same time I am generally not putting a ton of work on them as 3yo's. They get all the ground work in the world, but as far as saddle work it is limited to getting them used to the idea of having someone in the saddle and then back to maturing etc. until they start to show they are ready to start consistent work.

        That being said it is not a bad idea to check their knees, but mine would not be working hard enough for open knees to be a problem at 3 yo.


        • #5
          I'm not sure I would have the horse worked 4-5 days a week at 3. Even moreso a young WB. We typically put 3 days out of the week of very light work on our 3yr olds. And never any consecutive days (M-W-F or something of that variation). We have never x-rayed knees and everyone has turned out fine.
          Specifically I now have a 4 yr old WB mare. She turned 4 this past May. She was started at 2. We rode her 3 times the Fall of her 2 yr old year and then turned her out for the winter. When she turned 3 we started her in work again and worked with her very lightly all last summer (trail rides, w/t/c in the ring). She was then again turned out in the winter. This past Spring we have started her again and she is in a more vigorous work out routine. We hope to compete her in the 5yo young jumpers next year but we will see. We have waited for her to tell us she was ready for everything she's done and so far so good.


          • #6
            I had my horse x-rayed at three and his knees were almost closed but not completely. I only worked him 3 days a week until he was 3.75 and then x-rayed knees again. He is now four and he has closed knees. I only work him for 45 minutes 4 days a week. My vet from Wisconsin Equine suggested not to do more than this much work until 4 1/2 due to the fact that they are still growing and work can put a lot of stress their legs. I would suggest only doing light work and doing some jumping. Unless you have done a huge amount of x-rays on all joints I would wait to put your horse into heavy work(5 days a week 45 minutes a session) until 5 years.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mouse&Bay View Post
              Even if the knees x-ray as being closed, how much would you do with a 3 year old?
              Growth plates, in general, close from the "ground up". So distal phalanges close first, then cannon bone, then radius/ulna, then humerus, and finally vertebrae. The carpus (knee) is only about "halfway", so it's entirely likely that the vertebrae haven't closed yet, and that's where the rider's weight sits. Or the tibia & femur (stifle) growth plates may not have closed yet either.

              While carpal rads provide some information on skeletal maturity, they do not provide the whole picture.


              • #8
                i had my horse x-rayed at 3.5 years and his knees were wide open. he is a big boy.
                i had them x-rayed at 4.5 years and his knees had closed. so i started jumping him.
                i kept his schedule light until his knees closed. its not worth taking a chance on later soundness. yes some horses are okay if you work them hard, but i think alot are not.