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10 Needles

On February 6, 2018 the day had come.  Kidd was booked in to see the travelling Vet who comes to our area to follow up on our appointment last month.  In our last appointment, we isolated Kidd’s issues and confirmed he is not 100% in the hind end; a concern I had lurking deep in my muddled brain for an unfortunate number of years.  I had been convinced by peers and coaches alike that Kidd was fine - I just couldn’t ride him well enough - however my growing suspicions convinced me to seek a professional opinion.  My concerns were quickly confirmed when he saw the travelling High Performance Equine vet in early January.  Upon failing the flexions in both hind limbs, we put Kidd on Previcox while I tracked his reaction and wrapped my head around the possibility of needing to have Joint Injections done.

Scrub-a-dub-dub... Note how 'different' Kidd's front feet are

Unfortunately shortly after seeing the Vet in January, Kidd succumbed to the viral cold wreaking havoc throughout the barn, and as a result he was in minimal work for nearly 2 weeks.  Once his cough was less productive, I lunged him and put a few light walking rides on him.  During this time, Kidd was transitioning from the ½ Tab of Previcox, down to the ¼ Tab maintenance dose.  I had noticed an immense change in his way of going on the lunge line within the first 3 days of being on the Previcox, and was very overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions; both relieved to know he truly is/was in pain, but disappointed in myself for not following my gut and addressing it sooner.  As time went on and he was over his cold and consistently on the ¼ Tab dosage, I did notice a slight decline however there was still a big improvement in comparison to before the Previcox.  In our initial appointment, the Vet said if I noticed a change from the ½ to ¼ tab, to bump him back up to ½ however I chose to keep him at ¼ so I had a good baseline going into our next appointment.  I had rode him a handful of times after he was no longer showing cold symptoms and had a mixture of ‘okay’ rides and one ride that I was very happy with.  

Just the handsomest

After noting the improvement while on Previcox a few weeks ago, I made the difficult decision to book the appointment to do Joint Injections the next time the Vet was up.  While we do have local vets, they are primarily cow/farm vets and as someone already anxious enough about Joint Injections, I chose to stick with the vet who comes to us from the Calgary Area as she is a High Performance Equine Vet with an affinity for sports medicine and soundness.  As a result, she does hundreds of joint injections, and I knew she would ease my concerns as a result.  The appointment was booked for Tuesday, February 6 2018 and I chose to ride him the day before to have a really good feeling going into the appointment, and something to compare it to post injections.  While the ride was incredibly subpar on so many levels, I guess in a way that’s a good thing because it should give me a good comparison the next time I ride.

The scrubbing continues.. this actually took longer than the actual procedure, lol.

To be honest, I was torn on writing this post. Joint Injections are rarely spoke of in my area of the English world. They’re kind of the enigma within horse care, and are often frowned upon by many in my region.  On the contrary, they’re very common in the Western industry but remain the elusive backroom discussion in most surrounding English communities and as a result there is a lot of misconception.  I will be the first to admit, I was not only heartbroken, but equally skeptical when the Vet suggested them.  I had convinced myself I wrecked my horse and subsequently ruined his life and any chance at being competitive.  As the weeks passed after our first appointment, I took every spare moment to gain the knowledge I lacked in modern Joint Injections and what it entailed and I was pleasantly surprised to note the improvements in science in recent years.  Still anxiously concerned with a hint of negativity circling around in my head, I booked the appointment to bite the bullet and get it done and truthfully, it was entirely based on the improvement I saw while on the Previcox.  

On Monday evening I was exhausted and found myself in bed by 8:45, however I spent a lot of that night alert; chock full of anxiety.  I was awake well before my alarm rang out and I begrudgingly drug myself out of bed, dreading the day ahead.  As the minutes became hours and the clock continued to tick along in my bland office, I could feel the anxiety building deep within me.  Lost in the concern of having ruined my horse, causing him unnecessary pain, and topping it off with the ‘what if’ thoughts of post-injection complications, I fought to supress the battle taking place in my brain.  Finally, the time had come when I was finished work and heading to the barn; lost in a flustered trance.

I arrived at the barn and gave Kidd a brush while conversing with the Vet, her assistant (who is Kidd’s Chiropractor), and a friend who’s horse was seeing the vet before us.  Luckily, the Vet is fantastic, laid back, warm and inviting.  As they joked loudly about the adorable little Hafingers impressively sized manhood, I felt a small shard of anxiety disperse as I became more at ease.  

Finally, it was Kidd’s turn.  We discussed the improvement with the Previcox and discussed some other under-saddle issues I was having with him recently.  While she did question Ulcers, we both agreed to sort out his soundness issues first, then revaluate our other concerns later to avoid medicating for things and incurring additional expense for something unnecessary, when he doesn’t necessarily fit ‘every’ symptom.. from there, we went straight into walking/trotting in hand to see how he was moving.  She noted improvement from our last appointment, but he was still not 100% behind.  We flexed him again to have something to compare to, and the results mirrored our last appointment.  We also hoof tested him, as last time he had shoes/pads on and we weren’t able to.  He showed mild heel pain but it is likely attributed to just pulling his shoes.  Regardless, I informed my farrier (as she wanted to know), and we will keep it in mind moving forward.

After the flexions, the Vet quickly re-presented my options for treatment but said if I choose to just stay with the Previcox, she recommends a minimum of a ½ a tab and it’s truly not meant to be used long-term (as in, the rest of his life).  Plus, she reminded me it is like bute and essentially masks pain, rather than treating or slowing degeneration like injections do.  I announced that I had come prepared to inject him, and she quickly looked relieved and said she feels like I am making the right choice.  I took the opportunity to ask her about TMJ Injections because lets be real, at this point I already have to sell my first born child on the black market to pay my vet bills, so why not!  It had come as a recommendation from Kidd’s Chiropractor, and after a lengthy discussion she agreed it would likely be beneficial. 

50% Drugs, 50% Miserable

As we took Kidd to the Wash Bay to begin scrubbing him down in preparation for the injections.  Kidd’s Chiro assured me she would scrub him extra-well, as she knew I was still concerned and we lightly joked about giving me injections as well to ease my own tension.  Upon ample scrubbing, we laughed at how very much awake Kidd still was, despite receiving a fairly heavy standing sedation, and we topped him up and pulled him out into a well lit space.  As the Vet approached us with 10 needles in hand, my heart jumped into my throat. It was happening, and as Kidd unsuspectingly dozed in hand, I attempted to push things back down; buried – just how I like to keep my feelings.

Each stifle requires 2 injections, each hock requires 3, and each TMJ requires 1, which equals a whole lot of poking and scariness for me.

Before I knew it, the first needle was injected in Kidd’s right stifle and she quickly called me around to her to show me the runny joint fluid leaking from the needle.  She explained, in detail, the consistency she looks for and reminded me that theoretically a healthy and happy joint would not have any ‘push back’ when she inserts the needle, especially a steady stream.  Push back indicates excessive pressure in the joint, which in turn indicates inflammation.  Additionally, the runny/watery consistency supports that theory as it indicates there is fluid in the joint.  As she performed the second injection in his Right Stifle, the same watery fluid leaked from the needle thus providing relief that I had made the correct decision.

Right Hock Injection (1 of 3)

She then moved to his Left Stifle, and the same fluid leaked out however not quite as much, nor was it quite as runny.. regardless, there was still indication of growing problems.  From there, she moved onto his hocks.  By now, Kidd was protesting her needles despite being heavily sedated and though he didn’t kick, he did regularly lift legs in an ‘owwwwwwwwwwie, lady!’ reaction.  Regardless, the vet continued on and we again noted the runny fluid leaking from the first 2 injections in his right hock.  While his left hock produced none, we injected it regardless.

We luv drugs

From there, we moved to his TMJ’s which were particularly scary to me. Needles in my horses face? No thank you. I’m not squeamish at all, but all I could think of was going too far and hitting his brain – I’m neurotic.  Additionally, he will have his teeth done when she is back in march.

Just like that, my bank account and will to live were both drained. It was done, and I was reminded what I good decision I had made.  My anxiety quickly transitioned to concerns of Joint Flairs or other adverse reactions, and I sent a long winded text to the barn manager, knowing full well she is very much aware he was injected and what to look for.  I confirmed it was okay to put his stable blanket back on (again, I’m neurotic) and waited for him to wake up before administering his oral bute to him.

Resting that foot really accentuates how rotund he is

Kidd will be on Oral Bute for 3 days, and continue on the Previcox for 10.  By the 10th day, his injections should be in ‘full effect’ and we can then take him off the Previcox and track the changes.  The goal is to not need any Previcox at all, and I’m really hoping that is the case, but time will tell.

Leadropes were actually designed for holding heads up

She instructed he have 3 days off from any forced exercise but I have decided to give him until Sunday or Monday off, just to be safe.  I will continue to hand walk and stretch him and he will be turned loose in the arena to play with his buddies as per usual.  If the weather ever smartens up, he will be reminded what the outside world looks like (seriously, he hasn’t gone outside in 10 days now due to the extreme cold), and hopefully be feeling like a brand new man as mama takes to the streets to pay for his vet bills.


  1. A lot of english competition horses get injections all over the place, definitely does not carry a stigma where I am from.

    1. That's interesting! I re-worded my post a little as I wasn't clear, I meant specifically my region and the area I grew up in :)

  2. Yeah my experience is the same as L's above. Joint injections are pretty common among all disciplines where I live :) hopefully you see great improvement!

    1. That's interesting! I suspect it will pick up in my area as this vet develops more clients in the area. I hope I do as well - I just want him feeling good!!

  3. Not intending to make you any more paranoid, but apparently if the joint gets infected it won't show up for at least a week. This was news to me last time I had hocks done. I always thought it would happen much faster.
    I'm pretty sure you will be pleasantly surprised when you start riding again at the difference in how Kidd feels. And then kick yourself for waiting so long to do it. The first time is hard, but when you see the good results it is much easier afterwards!

    1. Haha no worries, luckily the Vet was very detailed in the possibilities of complications and let me know that problems may not be 'obvious' for 5-8 days post injections, so I have come to accept that I will continue to be a ball of anxiety for at least a week, lol!

      Thank you for your kind words, i'm curious to see how he feels in 10-14 days!!

  4. yep i'll echo the rest to say that joint injections have grown increasingly common in basically every horse sport. i know what you mean about not a lot of people talking a ton about them... but it's not as much of a "secret" as it maybe used to be. (hell, walk around any fancy dressage barn in the winter to see how many horses have little clipped spots up and down their legs lol).

    re: the fluid in the joint, every healthy joint capsule has synovial fluid in it. it's what lubricates the joint and keeps it operating smoothly and without friction. friction being the thing that creates inflammation. so fluid in the joint is not the issue -- rather, it's the viscosity of the fluid that tells you about the overall joint health. that runny fluid? suggests a break down in the fluid, and suggests the fluid isn't doing as good of a job as a lubricant. when it's higher viscosity (ie, healthier), you can squeeze a drop between two fingers then see "threads" of thick fluid between your fingers when you separate them. that thick, high viscosity fluid is the goal, and what the injected chemicals seek to produce.

    i hope Kidd feels like a million bucks after all this!!

    1. I live in a fairly secluded area of Western Alberta and while it's very common in the Western industry, few in our English community discuss it openly and I have been judged fairly strongly over the past month when telling 'friends' and acquaintances but i'm sure as the Vet builds English clientele in this area, it will become more common. That being said, one of my best friends/clients has been injecting her geldings hocks for 2 years and I saw first hand the massive improvement it has made in him and I'm certainly curious to see how they go with Kidd! I'm hopeful, but a shard of that is because I need to be in order to accept the bill coming my way! I'm not looking forward to doing my quarterly financial report post.... lol!

      Thank you for your supportive words, and thank you for clarifying my mumbo-jumbo re: joint fluid! Basically everything you had said was what the Vet told me, I was incredibly unclear in explaining it, which I will attribute to my frazzled anxiety (and thus unable to form legible sentences, apparently) and lack of familiarity in this realm of horse care. As such, I appreciate your input!!

  5. I'm so glad you are feeling better about the injections - fingers crossed Kidd is feeling much better after his date with the Vet!

    1. Thanks Cathryn! I'm sure in a week or two I will be feeling much better about this!


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