Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Big Decisions Require Big Checks


I'm not even sure how to begin this post.

It would not be  devastating news to most, in fact its routine for many owners.

I, however, SWORE, I would never ever do this to another horse after the Wonder Pony. Ever.

Joint injections.

I VERY much do not believe in continuing to ride animals if they need injections of any kind to stay comfortable. I find it selfish of a rider to continue to ride a horse with degenerative joints that can only stay mildly comfortable with modern medicine. Its like covering up a problem with pain meds and making it worse with continuous stress. And after Spirit, I swore swore swore I would never never never do it again. Not for the cost, but because to me it hurts me to know I'm using injections to keep using a horse for my purposes.

Before you raise a fit though, this is MY opinion. And I DO NOT judge others for doing so. Its your horse, your life, your decisions.

I am also going against everything I've stood for for years and possibly injecting Yankee. And it hurts me. Let me explain before ya'll go calling me a filthy hypocrite.

For those of you who don't know who Spirit is, he was my beautiful little spunk event pony. He could and would jump anything I pointed (or not pointed) him at. I got him when him and I were both 12 and he had only been one mess of a trail horse. Years later we would do many magical eventing things like ride with Darren Chiacchia and win Pony Club Mega Rally.

Darren C. clinic. Yes, that is four foot triple bar on a 14hh pony

  However, when he was 14, he got very sore. Very sore. And we started injecting him so I could continue to event. Because I did what my vet told me to.

We continued to beat as at jumper shows and do mildly well at events (dressage was not our thing) and he continued to love it. Never met a horse who loved jumping more. I justified the injections with his love for competing. But part of me felt very selfish for not retiring him.

And then he got worse. And we started injecting him every 6 months. Put him on the best joint supplement. When I sold him he was 18 and I know he was so bad that he had weekly chiro and massage treatments and god knows how often he was injected.  He evented with young girls until his death at 22, but my guilt for feeling like I had shot my beloved pony's joints, haunts me to this day.

Wonder Pony at 20
Which brings me to now. With da Yankee.

I noticed problems when I brought him back from his 2 months hiatus. He was ouchy for the farrier. He tripped a lot. He was posty leg at the canter. I attributed it to being out of shape/lack of muscle.

Until 4 random people noticed something was just slightly off about his RH. I died a little inside.

Literally died.

NO NO NO he is 11 years old. Not a thousand. I haven't even eveneted him hard because I'm broke. I could understand slight offness if he was a brilliant 2* horse but he's a mediocre Prelim level horse who's actually never competed Prelim.

However. I bit the fucking bullet. Went against everything I swore I would never do and called the vet for flexion tests. He comes tomorrow. I also switched around Yankee's smartpaks to a better grade joint supp.

So I guess I will find out then. I knwo its not the end of the world, but to me it just feels WRONG. ALL WRONG. He's 11 so I SHOULD inject because he has sooo many years left and he's not even lame. WRONG because I feel its wrong to cover up soreness for my own benefit. WRONG because if I don't do it I will be shamed by every single person I know (if he is off).

I'm very torn. I would feel different if I just retired him and injected him to make him comfy out in the pasture. But this is MY BABY. The horse I trained MYSELF to jump four foot and do second level movements with. Spent 8 years finessing. I cannot just throw that away for something little thing I find ridiculous if its treatable.

Feel free to explain to me why injections are such a magical thing. I know they are. But I'm not going to listen. I just find them wrong. Which is why I hate this. Because I will do it if I have to.

Selfishly :/


  1. random: did you ride the grey pony at EA in Massachusetts?

    1. No but I did ride him in the Ohio EA! Twice!

  2. There are many moments when I wish horses could just TALK and tell us what they thought or felt, but these type of moments are definitely when I get that feeling the most.

    Wish Yankee could just pop his head up and tell you what he thinks about injections.

  3. I know I'm stating the obvious - but has yankee had the chiro out lately? Sometimes hock problems start out as lower back/SI problems and if those get fixed, so do the hocks. Wish horses could talk!!!

  4. I have never injected a horse (including my own wonder pony who was doing Prelim in her late 20's). That being said, I'm not opposed, but I do think injections are more of a "gray" area than a B&W issue.

    Mostly because I think there is a difference between moderate proactive treatment to keep ponies comfy and happy and an insane maintenance plan to keep them going indefinitely. I for one have had my own shoulder injected three times to keep it functional for intercollegiate volleyball. After college I stopped straining my shoulder to the point of needing injections and now I try to avoid activity that seriously aggravates it altogether. I didn't want a lifetime of injections, but I knew I needed them to let me compete for a while. I guess I'd take the same stance with my horses? There's a wide spectrum and I wouldn't think less of you for injecting Yankee if he needs it to move like he wants to.

  5. Try instead of injecting INTO the hock try the intra-muscular one, it could also be that his hocks are fusing, which once fused are fine but it is the fusing that is painful. My mom's 9 yr old dressage TB is going to have to get the Intra-muscular joint injections because at this point we have tried everything BUT that, chiro,teeth,joint supplements, and last year he had all summer off, but still both his hind legs are stiff and he does the pogo leg thing at the canter. You know what is right you Yankee and will make the best decision.BTW your wonder pony looked like my current pony! GOOD LUCK!

  6. I haven't had to cross the injection bridge yet so I don't have advice but I tend to error on the side of whatever my horse needs to be happy, healthy and comfortable (within reason and I need to make sure what I am asking him is reasonable).

    You have to do what it best for you and your boy, the rest of us have no place to judge :)

  7. I won't make a spiel about injections because I've never been in that position, and even if I had been, I still haven't been in your shoes. No one but you has, and you are entitled to your opinion and your reasoning for it.

    (FWIW, I like Gingham, think injecting is a grey area; sometimes the right thing, sometimes too much.)

    So why am I posting this comment, you ask? Well, because a co-worker of my boyfriend's recently got a steroid injection in her foot (for the second or third time). She has bad arthritis in one foot and I would guess that she's in her late thirties. Like Yankee, she has lots of "life" left in her. She could alter her lifestyle to accommodate her arthritis (a job with less manual labour and more sitting, for example), but she doesn't want to, so she opts for injections. Maybe this won't translate to you, but it makes me feel a little better. If a person I know is deciding to have a doctor stick a giant ass needle into her joint so she can continue on with her lifestyle, it makes it seem so much more reasonable for me to make the same decision for my horse if need be.

    Good luck!

    1. That should say "... I, like Gingham, ...", though I do like her too, haha.

  8. I know this is your opinion and you're entitled to it, but I completely disagree.

  9. Read your post and while I agree with you somewhat....wanted you to consider a different aspect of this and maybe make you feel a bit better about your decision :).

    I read your blog but I'm not sure if you read mine.....so in short I'm a 100 mile endurance rider who also got into vet school a couple of years ago. When my horse was ~10 or 11 (3 or 4 years ago?) I noticed that on a dressage 20 meter circle she was just the tiniest bit off. Me, the vet, and the trainer agreed it was probably a bit of hock arthritis. It wasn't showing up in our endurance vet checks (including my 100 milers) but asking her to use her hindend more, espeically on a circle was making it show up. I had a long talk with the vet and did a ton of research. I will not put a bandaid on my horse just to cover up a problem and let me ride.......however, in my case, with radiographs showing very mild changes in one hock, the vet said that this sort of arthritis would do better if I kept her active and the joint injections would reduce inflammation and allow us to do so pain free. The worst thing I could do was put her to pasture. The best was the keep riding, and doing so without inflammation meant that in the future the hocks could fuse without complications and we could go about our lives.

    So I did it. I injected. A year later, the same scenerio and I injected again. since then it's been at LEAST 3 years since I injected. She's not indicated that she needs another injection and at 14 has never looked sounder. I have absolutely no regrets about doing something at 10 or 11 that resulted in my having a sounder, happier horse both then, and now at 14. (no joint supplements, no special care etc. We are slated to do Tevis in 2 weeks)

    Obviously there are many different reasons that injections might be recommended. I think that for me and my horses, what I'm comfortable with is this: Interventions must not be covering something up (ie making the horse sound for competition and riding) that by riding through it is actually making the conditiong worse in the long term. In my specific case, keeping her in works was actually beneficial, and NOT providing some sort of relief would have been out of my comfort level. After evaluating my references, joint injections are my preference over any of the other options, including joint supplements (oral) that for me fall into 2 categories: 1. Are not proven to work in any validated study.....or 2. Are banned by my organization because they actually work and AERC has a very very tight drug policy that goes way beyond FEI.

    Important issues are rarely black and white and I think the joint injections is a grey area that has a lot to do with the underlying condition, what further work will do to that condition, how the horse responds, and what that horse's job is. I think you are discovering this with your re-look at this issue with this horse compared to your last one, and it isn't a bad thing to reevalute our values in light of new information. I do it all the time and things I have done in the past I woudl NEVER do again, and things I vowed I would NEVER do may be acceptable to me in some circumstances :). Good luck!

  10. Whatever you decide is your path. I finally had my horse injected at age 13 - hocks and SI. She was immediately better even though I never thought she was bad. Its been a year and she still seems great (another issue is going on that isn't related to the injections).

    I was a 9 varsity letter athlete in High School, intramurals in college and an active basketball play in my thirties until I blew my knee out and had to have reconstructive surgery. I was just told that I needed joint injections to continue living an active life. I love what I do and am way too young for a joint replacement. So, I will have that injection.

    You may say that is a choice a human can make. Your pony until the ripe old age of 22 competed and seemed to love it. If your pony was in pain, he would have told you by stopping... I see no harm in what you did and in the retirement at age 22 when it no longer worked.

    Good luck to you.

  11. I'm in pretty much the same boat as you in that I don't really do injections but don't judge others for doing so. That being said, I have injected my horses in the past when I felt like it presented an option that was going to help my horse become more comfortable without compromising his/her longterm soundness/longevity. There is a huge difference an occasional joint injection and doing so many injections that you're essentially duct taping your horse together past what it should be reasonably doing. Have a frank discussion with your vet, keep an open mind, and listen to your heart. You know you have Yankee's best interests at heart. Good luck!

  12. I know you'll make the best choice for Yankee. I personally just had Alex injected a few months ago. As previous commenters have said, I am not a fan of injecting horses every other five minutes just to keep them going, but I did feel like this was the best option for my horse at the time considering his history on the track. When/if he needs to be injected again, I'll work with my vet and make the best decision I can at that time. Good luck, it will all work out!

  13. There is a difference between abusing medicine and using medicine to the benefit of the animal. Most of us who inject our horses do so for their benefit not out own.

  14. It is a grey area and a decision we all must make individually. I have had various joint injections done on many horses over the years, sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't. I have had the injections done on myself and they did not help. But, they didn't hurt, either.

    I look at it this way: If the horse is hurting, he will be unable to use his body in the proper way. The best way to treat arthritis is through correct exercise to strengthen the muscles needed to stabilize and support the bad joints. If the injections can take the pain away for long enough to re-establish good training, then they are worth it.

  15. Life decisions for our babys are always tough. And always fall in to the 'no concrete right or wrong' area.
    I have a question - please don't take offence or think I'm against them, I actually have a story of injections & my beast to share as well, but I'm not following too clearly I think...are you injecting him to keep him comfortable in existence, or injecting to keep him able to compete?

    1. So I can continue riding. Hes not as broken as say a twenty something horse would be but the instant I noticed a slight offness about him, I investigated. Vet said he shoukdnt need them again for two yrs or more bc we caught it so soon. So essentially he isn't even that bad, but def noticeable in the flexion tests.

  16. I would wait for the vet, do some xrays. A much better investment then injections. At least you know what you are working with. I agree injections are not good, especially on younger horses and I think 11 is still young.

    Have you tried Recovery eq? I have had many many friends have success on it without injections. Much safer! Maybe some time off would help too. I would just try to explore as many other options as possible...but thats just me.