koda update leads to more decisions

Earlier this month, I posted about Koda hunching in response to being asked to collect at a lope. It first occurred in January. After a spotty stretch of riding, that included some loping but without collection, it happened again.

After describing the situation, some great knowledge & suggestions were shared by readers. I was reminded how easy things are to assume. It's always good to look for additional perspectives. Your responses are helpful, and often make me think outside of the box. 

As a designer by trade and a curious life learner who is always asking questions, it's a place I like to frequent. I'm the shopper who has to look at all the options, before selecting anything. The person who raises their hand in class, or shares idea's in search of a business solution. I want to explore all the options, and do what is in the better interest of my horse. 

I am still considering treatments, to what I've found out so far:

We took a closer look to make sure my saddle still fits Koda, and think it does.

I tried multiple ways to get a hold of the equine massage therapist that had worked on Koda previously, a brief "I'll call you back" response wasn't followed through. With a vet visit scheduled, I held off looking for a new masseuse to work with. 

In the interim, our trainer briefly checked Koda's back for soreness. She showed me what applying pressure on either side of the spine might reveal. Much to her surprise, he responded with some soreness. We lunged Koda and watched him move. He appears to also be sore in his hocks, the related sore area in his back

After explaining the hunching situation to our vet, he checked Koda similarly yet much more in-depth. He concluded Koda is showing soreness in his right hock, and a little sore in his back. Neither were categorized as bad. Regardless you were right, he wasn't just being a snot - he is sore.

The vet said to either try bute & rest for 5 days to see if that would help alleviate the situation, or inject his hocks. I knew the latter would be his recommendation. Our vet already knows I am hesitant about hock injections, and was likely trying to give me another option with the bute route. I think the bute would likely be a temporary patch, but that could be said about any option. No one I know has a crystal ball, wouldn't that be helpful? The hock injections could be one and done, or a life long expensive route - not to mention the risks involved. I asked if chiro, acupuncture, massage or stretching/strengthening/supplements might help, all possibilities that could be tried. Altho in his experience (he has plenty, and is well respected) where hocks are concerned, his recommendation is that injections are the best treatment for sore hocks. We talked some about different outcomes and areas effected, with the various treatments mentioned. 

Their main concern with this situation revolves around my safety. It's good that Koda let's me/us know when things are bothering him, to avoid further injury to himself. However Brad, our trainer and I, all know Koda's personality well. He isn't the type of horse that takes care of his rider when things bother him, which could lead to much worse for both of us. I'm not a strong enough rider to make him do whatever regardless, and I don't like that path anyways. I don't want Koda to be in pain, or be the cause of pain. This is all very unsettling.

Koda is a trail horse. I don't have to lope him collected, or lope him at all. However that doesn't seem like a good solution for a young trained horse, who turns seven in a few weeks. I've been searching for more info online, and so much of what I've found about hock pain revolves around using injections (mostly pro) as a treatment. 

Decisions, decision, decisions...any additional thoughts or resources to share? 


Anonymous said...

The saddle is a good thing to look at closely. If he's sore in hock(s) and back, the back soreness is likely secondary to the hock issue. Has he recently been asked to do a lot more collected work? This is often very hard on horses and if they're not fit enough and not used enough to carrying themselves from their core, they can tire quickly and this can lead directly to hock soreness.

You might try some rest for a bit followed by just walk work and perhaps some long, low trotting - no collection - let things relax for a bit and then work at building core strength just at the walk - poles and hills are great for this - and only when that's well-established, move to trot. I wouldn't do any canter work until he's feeling much better.

And if he's still sore after all that, consider injections then - I wouldn't jump to do them right off if rest and time will help things out. You could also try some aspirin (I've used Aspirease) which can help with joint pain.

fernvalley01 said...

forgive me ,this is just my opinion but I am startled that a vet would suggest hock injections in a 7yr old horse,esp one that is more or less a trail horse. Its not like he is running barrels or doing working cow horse etc. He seems fairly well put up so regular work that he is doing shouldn't be damaging to him , seems to me I too would look closer at saddle fit ,or chiro. Don't know if you follow Brown Eyed cowgirls blog but she can be found on my sidebar. She has worked a fair amount with horses sore in the hocks and elswhere, and had some success with chiro and massage

aurora said...

Kate, I have not ridden Koda consistently this year and definitely not collected since he started responding with hunches in January. February was a bad non-riding month, we only rode 2X near the end. I was trying to build back up in March, before I asked for collection. However, I can't help but wonder if the way I sit in the saddle (it sits me forward/straight so I can't sink back if needed...) or the work I was doing the latter part of last year (trying to get his stubborn left lead) caused or aggravated his hock. Of course, something could have also happened in the pasture. It's the great unknown.

Sherry, no need to ask for forgiveness - your opinions are always welcomed here. I was surprised (okay, upset) to learn how common hock injections are given, regardless of age. They are very common here, and apparently all show horses get them. Who knew?

Our vet has been very honest with us on the pro's/con's, with all of our horse care treatments. He really is one of the good guy's. He did say they don't inject a lot of trail horses, but it is done for pain/safety reasons. He wasn't opposed to trying any of the other treatments, but - yea, his recommendation was the bute/rest or shots. I will look for the chiro/massage posts, thanks.

I am also interested in learning more about acupuncture, which I would think would directly effect the joint. Altho I don't know anyone who does it/has done it on horses.

I truly appreciate and value both your responses!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I don't know what would be best for Koda right now. I think if he were my horse I would let him rest for a while and take the bute and see how it goes. If there is not much improvement I'd consider a good chiropractor. We use a certified chiropractor who also does acupuncture. They all get a tune-up every year and it works wonders for them. Massage is also an option that I might try.

And even if this sounds a little crazy I've also used Reiki on my horses. There's no one more skeptical than I am but it does work. We once held a clinic with a Reiki practitioner and the horses loved it and were moving better afterwards. I sometimes use it on them if they're looking a little sore. It seems to help.

Then if all else fails I would consider the injections. I'm not a big fan of doing that but if it's the only option that would help in the end I guess you would have no choice.

Then when something does help and he's feeling better I'd build him back up slowly. Good luck I hope you find a solution.

Shirley said...

I think I agree with the other comments about injections being a last resort, and that some kind of Equine Bodywork should help him to get things right with muscle/skeletal issues. I am not a fan of bute at all, and personally would use either herbal or essential oils to combat inflammation and/or pain.
My concern is the way you said that this horse doesn't take care of his rider; for me, being an older rider, that would be the red flag that would make me want to look for a horse more suitable to my needs.

aurora said...

Grey Horse, I don't know what is best for Koda either - I sure wish I did. I think the general perception with alternative care is that it is costly, often requires repeat visits for improvement, and it's effectiveness doesn't last long. I believe much of it is very helpful, when people (and therefore their horses) are open to it. I don't know much about Reiki.

Believe me Shirley, that red flag has crossed my mind plenty of times! Koda is a good horse, and certainly wouldn't hurt anyone intentionally. It's hard to describe his personality without humanizing him. I usually just say he tends to make immature/bad decisions. I wish I knew more about essential oils, and not just for horses for me too!!

Thanks so much for taking the time to give input, it's helpful!

C-ingspots said...

Everybody has opinions, right? :)
Koda is young, and having an episode of sore hocks does not mean that he will have sore hocks from now on. I'd suggest having your vet shoot an x-ray before doing any kind of injections. Find out why he's hock-sore, or if there are any bony changes causing his soreness first. I'd try bute for a few days and some rest, followed by walk-trot work without asking for much collection or any loping for a while. The hock soreness may go away and not return. It is possible he just tweaked a muscle surrounding the hock joint, and if so, that will pass. The x-ray would show if he has any bony changes meaning he's getting a bit of arthritis in his joint. Possible, but fairly unlikely at his age and given his use. I'm not a big fan of alternative medicine therapy, although a lot of people go that route first. If you do decide on chiro, pick a veterinarian who is licensed and practiced in chiro, not just someone who calls themself a chiro. I would steer clear of that for a while though. There's a lot of choices out there, but given his age and fitness level, I'd not just assume this is a "forever" problem. He might have started out a little back-sore and has been trying to compensate by moving or carrying himself differently, and that has resulted in a sore hock. You could also try a nutraceutical with glucosamine hcl and msm in it. Platinum Performance CJ is a really good one, and so is Cosequin. There is also an injectable acetyl-d glucosamine which you can use IM weekly, monthly or whatever you think he needs. That is probably the cheapest route, because it comes from the compounding pharmacy. There's lots more options than your vet mentioned. The worst thing (I think) about injecting his hock with steroid this early on, is that the steroid reduces inflammation, and eventually causes the joint to fuse. That's good if he's getting arthritis, but bad if that's not the cause of his soreness right now. Get an x-ray so you can really see if it's bony changes causing the pain, or if it's just some muscle or tendon/ligament soreness. It costs a little bit more up front, but in the long run, you will have a much more informed picture of what's really going on, and therefore know the best course of treatment (if any) to take now for long-term usefulness and pain management. Sorry for the long-winded comment.

aurora said...

Great comments & suggestions Lorie. Yes we all have opinions, it's exactly why I asked! I want to hear different viewpoints. The longer thought out responses and suggestions are so helpful.

Hope all is well, and at least someone is enjoying Spring?!! It was -4F with the windchill in WI today, but warmer days are coming. It would be nice to enjoy them with a sound horse!

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I popped over to see what you were dealing with and from this post alone, I would say that C-ingspots is very much on target with how I would approach the problem.

I don't even consider mentioning hock injections without x-rays a particularly good assessment.

I have had 2 horses injected and am considering it for a 3rd. One is an older (16y/o) higher level barrel horse, who had one hock that did not finish fusing. He was injected with straight cortizone to promote a final fusing. The 2nd horse has horribly conformed hocks. His x-rays pretty much said if I didn't do 'something' with him, he was just going to be permanently lame and life with tremendous pain for the rest of his life. The 3rd horse, that my vet will examine when I get back to Colorado, is most likely sore due to natural fusing. He's 12, has insulin resistance problems and spent several years of his life grotesquely obese...All of which promotes unhealthy joints. For normal riding, this horse should not need joint injections, however I am trying to make a barrel horse out of him and right now, his hock soreness is hindering that. I put him on i.m. glucosamine, which seems to be helping and I might add that studies show that i.m. glucosamine is more affective to treat hip and spinal stiffness than feed-throughs and this horse is also stiff in his spine and hips.

One thing that I will suggest for body/back pain is a Back On Track sheet. I bought two of these this spring and I cannot even begin to tell you how much they have helped my horses. It just does wonders for promoting circulation and keeping the back, hips and shoulders limber. If soreness over his back is what is promoting the hunching and hock pain...One of these sheets will fix it and if a chiropractic adjustment is needed, they will be able to get it done and have it take because the muscles will be relaxed and the sheet will prevent them from re-seizing up. They are just awesome therapy tools.

aurora said...

Thanks much for your input BrownedEyed Cowgirl. I've never heard of a Back on Track sheet, very interesting! Good to know what's worked well for your horses. While these are all different scenario's, and horses are as individual as we humans are, related circumstances are valuable references.