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Kidd's Vet Appointment - January 10, 2018

It has been nearly 1 week since Kidd saw the travelling Vet who specializes in High Performance Horses, and I think I have finally gathered my thoughts.  For years I have wanted to do a preliminary Lameness Exam, as despite being a fantastic partner and fierce competitor, as a 4 year old an Osteopath felt he had one stifle significantly weaker than the other.  2 years ago we had bolting problems on the right rein, and he has become increasingly more one-sided.  Additionally, when going 'straight' he wants to carry his hindquarters to the right.  Ironically, a handful of days before the Vet appointment, which I booked weeks ago, Kidd stumbled (hard) two days in a row. Once under saddle (where project Eject Alaina took place) and then the next day on the lunge line.  Whether it was relative or not, I don't know at this stage but regardless we did go through a lengthy Lameness Exam which turned up some disappointing but not overly surprising results.

We began with a general overview of my concerns, and his health.  We discussed his build, and all the things that can effect a horse's ability to do it's job well (ex: teeth, saddle fit, nutrition, muscling, structural balance, etc).  In general terms, Kidd is otherwise healthy and in appropriate condition for his work level for the past year.  He is coming due for his teeth to be done which I already knew, but it isn't 'dire' at this point in time and she agreed my plan to have them done in the next 3 months is appropriate.  We discussed Kidd's lack of topline/hind end muscle yet well muscled neck and it was attributed to his lack of work in the last year or so.  Regardless, it is important he gain the muscling necessary to support himself correctly so we can continue to advance in Dressage and she asked me what my short-term riding goals are, and how hard i'm riding him.  Given our fitness level (or lack thereof), I told her I hope to ride 4x a week, but our rides aren't lasting more than 30 minutes at this time.  I try to focus on riding him very straight and lifting his back and while I might occasionally 'play' for a few strides, he's remained happy and willing.  We both agreed this is conducive to a horse who is enjoying the exercise, and  moved onto identifying and isolating any problems.  

We took him into the arena and a helper trotted Kidd away from the Vet and I. Meanwhile, the Vet took me through the biomechanics of a horse, basic structure, and what she looks for.  From standing behind, we could see Kidd was hiking in his right hip and that combined with his right shoulder being higher due to a hi/lo heel problem we have been dealing with the last while it is pushing me to the left.  Additionally, we could see on the straight line how his step and process is 'different' than his left hind leg.  Essentially, his right hind leg has more 'air time' and is snappier when going down to touch the ground, and his step in general is quicker.  It's minimal, and hard to see as a result, but it is there.

We proceeded to flexion tests, and both front legs showed no issues.  His Left Hind showed a little reaction but it was incredibly minimal, however his Right Hind 'tested' and as such we were able to isolate our problem in confirmation that a lot of our issues is stemming from his right hind.  There was very minimal head bob, but his 'hang time' in that leg became magnified and his stride was shortened.

Now what? As I was overwhelmed with a flood of emotions that I had been successfully avoiding, the harsh reality slapped me in the face.  Instantly, guilt pinged deep in my gut. I caused this. I broke him. I mistook pain for behavior. He was trying to tell me something, and I turned a blind eye and tried to ride him through it as my coaches instructed. I blamed my inability to ride a talented horse, and tried to sell him as a result.  As the world seemed to blur around me, and the quiet hum of conversations around the barn resembled an episode of Charlie Brown, it hit me, then I snapped back to reality.

So my horse is a teensy bit off in the hind end - but what does this mean, and what do we do moving forward?

The Vet was great at explaining things to me in a way I could easily absorb in my altered, sunken state.  Essentially, her feelings is that the Osteopath was correct all those years ago, and he does have an 'issue' with his right stifle.  As time went on, he began to compensate and his right hock took the brunt of it.  While she doesn't feel he is arthritic, she did feel there is some bone change in the joints and we reverted back to my Goals, but this time we focused on the long term goals.  I did my best to form words as I tried to absorb the verbal sh!t storm that was swirling around me, and she presented me with 3 options.

1. Use Off-The-Shelf Joint Supplements, but know if I want to continue his training and advance further it likely will not be enough to keep him comfortable and capable.

2. Use Previcox, similar to Bute for Dogs, but given that horses digest things differently it can be used for longer periods of time.

3. Use Direct Joint Injections

The words I was dreading.  Maintenance. Drugs. Joint Injections. Frick.

As the Vet went through the possibilities and details of my options, she reminded me how nearly all Performance Horses over the age of 5 or 6 require some sort of maintenance.  Whether she was just using her bedside manner or she could see the disappointment all over my face I likely won't ever know, but regardless I needed to make a decision, and I needed to be comfortable with it.

Kidd is on Previcox until the Vet is back in our area in 4-6 weeks, and from there we will inject both Stifles and Hocks, and do his teeth.  While the right leg is the problem, she doesn't agree with only injecting one side and as such she will only do both - which is fine with me.  We are using the Previcox to keep him comfortable while I continue to focus on riding him straight and correct to build better muscle to support himself and his joints to get the most out of the injections.  Additionally, she recommended I get him Chiropractored and that will help as well.

Over the past week I have had various thoughts roll through my head - both positive and negative.  Naturally, I dwell on the negative.  Am I being selfish? Am I just masking a problem?  But on the flip side, even if I am masking the problem, there is no treatment. Am I making Lemonade?  I am slowly coming to grips with it, but then get reeled back when I remember all those frustrated rides when I lost my cool, when I cried, and when I quit on him.

Moving forward, we will get past this. I will ensure he's feeling the best he can be, and I hope it will be enough.  I will always question his protests, and I will never take him for granted.  Joint Injections with a horse under 10 aren't a death sentence, but it does suck.
Hug your horses!


  1. I find as a rider, we inherently blame ourselves for 99.9% of what goes on with our horses. I don't think there is any way you could have prevented this - Kidd has been very well taken care of his entire life and you know that just as well as I do. It's a hard road tho - to hear a Vet tell you the very words you didn't really want to hear.

    The plus side in all this? Now you KNOW. I know for a while there you were picking your brain and at least now you have the ability to take remedial action.

    1. Aww Thanks Cathryn <3 love your positivity. We'll get through this, it just sucks :(

  2. I'm a bit old school and initially cringed at the thought of having to inject hocks. However, it makes a world of difference to how my horse goes, so I accept it and am thankful that it's something we can work with. In my first ride after I first had her hocks done we were able to do all the things I had been struggling with for ages. She gets done annually now.

    1. I guess I am oldschool in the same thinking. I'm curious to see how the injections go, they wont be happening for 4-6 weeks (whenever the Vet is back up North)... Happy to find another Albertan Blogger!!


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