Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Funky Steps

I mentioned in my most recent ride journal that Guinness has been feeling a little off recently. Being an older horse, his joints are really starting to feel the years of hard work. Knowing that, I try not to panic when inconsistencies pop up.

"I am 17 going on 18, I'll take care, of you..."
So it's obviously the old fetlock arthritis that is tormenting us? Right?

Well, no. At this point, I think Pig's front fetlocks are basically fused. They haven't truly bothered him beyond some slight stiffness for a long while (Quick!! Everyone knock on all the wood!) Instead, what I think we're dealing with is a variation on the stifle issues from last spring.

If you'll remember, I noticed something funny with Guinness' movement behind after his recovery from our trailer accident. The vet diagnosed the issue as stifles, not hocks. We injected the right side, and went on our merry way.

To update on that, Pig felt pretty great after the injections. I felt some weirdness in July, though it felt more like weakness than an actual issue. I was reluctant to do injections again so close to the last injection date. Knowing he needed a little help though; I accepted a friend's help and tried Estrone. That seemed to help enough to get us through reconditioning. I only did one shot, and never noticed an uneven weakness.

Until this month, that is. And now, the weakness is more of a severe problem like this spring. Unlike before, the issue seems to be manifesting in both the left and the right hinds. It's very funny to feel and hard to capture on video. Here's a clip of Guinness doing his weird stifle dance with the right hind this spring...
"Watch me do the dance of my people. My old and chronically weak stifled people."
It looks uncomfortable, no?

So what's the plan? Immediately, I stopped pushing things. We backed off collection work, only asking for a 1st/2nd level frame. (Goodbye 3rd level, pushing 4th. You were fun for a little while.) The bareback rides have gone a long way toward helping sort out the stiffness before it gets to be a bigger problem. And, I did another round of Estrone injections last week.

One week out, Pig is no longer dramatically catching or swapping a hind. He's still feeling weak in an unbalanced way, but it's obvious that the Estrone is helping a lot. I'm trying to decide if I want to go ahead and try a more regular treatment with the Estrone, or make a vet appointment and get injections done. It's possible the Estrone might get us through the winter, and Pig's lighter work schedule. Once spring hits, we could do both injections and Estrone and really hit the ground feeling great for show season. I'm still undecided.

For this week, the Estrone seems to be working enough to start asking for a little more engagement, think a 2nd/3rd level frame. I'm getting a little resistance from Pig when I first ask, but he's happy enough once he compresses into the collection and feels just fine working there. He tires quickly in that frame, though. I'm trying to be aware of when he's starting to tire, so he doesn't accidentally weight his stifles funny just due to exhaustion.

What do you think? More Estrone? Call the vet and and tell my husband my old man horse stomped all over his Christmas presents? Anyone have a lead on knee replacements for horses?

Argh. Getting old is a PITA.

18 comments:

  1. Poor Pig :( funky steps, lameness and all that is just never fun with horses. Glad what youre doing in the meantime seems to be working! Hope he feels better and it will improve!

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  2. I don't have much experience with creaky joints, but what I have noticed is that the longer I put things off, the more money I actually ultimately spend by utilizing every 'cheaper' alternative before just biting the bullet. So now I usually just jump to what will be the fastest resolution to my problem. No idea if that would work for Pig or what you ultimately want to do with him. I think in this case the Estrone might be fine, since he will be in light work in winter.

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    1. Ugh, so true. I usually agree with you, especially when buying things and using supplements. For arthritis, though... ugh. It seems like every horse is individual, and results/mileage may vary.

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  3. Do you have someone (a trainer) or somebody that has experience with upper level work and older horses? I usually unload my crazy on D and then when I am more rational talk to the vet. That way the vet still likes me and doesn't realize I am a loony bird...

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  4. Stifles are the WORST. With Rico, my vet always recommended to get him comfortable enough to work and then to pack on the muscle. More muscle = more support for joints, but if joints aren't strong enough to allow for the development of muscle, then you're in this downward spiral. I've been there with my back- where I need to get stronger because that will reduce pain in my back, but I can't do any exercises because my back hurts.

    So I vote doing what it takes to first get him comfortable enough (be that through injections or what not) where you can really work the muscle building exercises (and that may not be in an upper level frame if he wants to drop his back or get hollow like a certain bay horse- with Rico the best muscle building exercises I would do for him would be to put him extra deep and do trot/canter transitions over and over), and then reevaluate later. I put Rico on a muscle builder too, which was expensive but helped give him a boost. I used Core Builder, but there are other cheaper ones too.

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    1. So, it's my understanding that Estrone does exactly that. It gives a quick boost to the horse, to allow them to build up more muscle and support tissue around the joint so you can start to work on the conditioning. It seems to be working, though I think Estrone + injections would really be optimal.

      It's weird. I had hoped that all the hills in MD would help him stay stronger in the stifles. However, his turnout here is smaller and actually less hilly ... so maybe that's part of the issue? Argh. Too bad I only have one day a week where I ride in the sun and can actually train hills.

      Canter transitions and 10m circles are on the list of things to amp up in daily rides. The fight against the "no! ow! Imma hollow out!" is so real.

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    2. This. Yes. Estrone was the magic bullet for EuroPony's locking stifles. It allows the ligaments to relax so that they can lay in the right place in the joint instead of popping out of position, and then you keep them in work with stifle-strengthening exercises (walk/trot transitions, poles & cavaletti, hillwork, trotting small jumps) to build muscle to support and keep that ligament in place. So yes I would do that! My vet also cautioned me to lay off the small circles and heavy canter work until he started feeling stronger. Good luck!!

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    3. INteresting... Ugh. Poles and cavaletti are right out. Walk trot transitions are in. And canter transitions are in. I think we'll just play around and see what's he's comfortable with.

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  5. No advice here, but glad you're staying on top of it. :-)

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  6. dear pig: please to stop aging. barring that tho, megan's ideas sounds pretty good too. good luck!

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    1. I mean... really. Where is that Fountain of Horse Youth?

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  7. No useful tips or advice here, sorry, keeping everything crossed for a positive outcome that's not harsh on the purse.
    *hugs*

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  8. Ries is super weak stifled right now. I know what to expect in the future now. Darn TBS

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  9. Estrone through the winter, get him comfy, work on him getting extra muscle and lay off the really hard work. Then in spring do both injections and Estrone and then hopefully he'd be strong and happy to do higher level work again? Healing vibes from us xx

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