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Bone spavin

From: Vicki

Hi Jessica, I recently just subscribed to the horse-sense list, and I have a question about bone spavins. I have a 7 year old pinto gelding (exact breeding unknown, however he looks like quarter horse with either thoroughbred or arabian influence). I have owned him for 3 years and I knew him 2 years prior to that. He has mainly been used for pleasure and some light schooling over fences. He has been to some small schooling shows, but not on a regular basis. The past two years he has spent more time in pasture than under saddle. After a spell of sound/lameness periods, he had a full lameness work-up last November at Texas A&M University. The diagnoses was bone spavins. His left hock has totally fused, and he shows no lameness (about 2 years ago he was lame for awhile and I thought it was in his shoulder, because he had come out of a trailer before i had him tied, and someone had already put the butt chain up. He went under the chain and scraped his withers real bad and some other areas on his top line. He came up lame after that and it seemed to be in his shoulder, and with about 6 months of pasture rest he was okay. The vet at A&M thinks that possibly it was really his hock that was sore and not his shoulder.).

The ex-rays of the right hock showed some fusing, but it was not complete. The vet injected the hock, gave me a very large supply of bute to use for heavy exercising periods, and recommend that I work "Wild Thing" heavily to irritate the hock and encourage it to continue fusing. Well since that original check-up I have not been able to do much exercising. (To heavy of a load last semester and most recently an injury from another horse, that has kept me laid up for the last 6 weeks.) I am ready to start back with Wild Thing and my question(I know your saying finally) to you is this: What do you recommend, as far as exercising goes, to help get Wild Thing back into shape and also help with the bone spavin. I would really like to have the hock continue fusing(for obvious reasons) and would like any suggestions you may have. Because of the damage done to my left leg by the other horse, it may be awhile before I can ride properly, and have full use of my leg. Any suggestions as far as lunging would be helpful also. Also I would like to know what you feel about using MSM for this type of injury. Sorry this has gotten so long, but I felt the background info would be helpful. Please mail any suggestions you may have. Thank you, Vicki Peart and Wild Thing.


Hi Vicki! I know what you're going through with the hock fusion -- and it's hard to work a lame horse when you'd rather just leave him alone, but it really is the right thing to do in this case. I wouldn't suggest longeing, though, or free-schooling, or long-lining, or ANYTHING that involves circle work. It's just TOO hard on the horse, and can set him up to get other injuries.

Are you riding at all? You don't have to ride "properly" or even very well to exercise this horse the way he needs to be exercised. Lots of walking and trotting on straight lines -- around a large field, for instance -- would be fine. Or if you have someone else who can ride him for you, the same thing would apply -- you aren't going to be "working" or training the horse until the hock has fused and has stopped causing him pain. The exercise is needed to help the bones fuse more quickly -- injecting the hock and feeding anti- inflammatories is actually counterproductive when a hock fusion is involved. If there's no one to ride him, what about 24-hour turnout? Most horses will put in many miles of walking over a 24-hour period, and although he won't be "riding fit", he can certainly exercise himself in pasture.

MSM probably won't have any effect on this problem, and neither would chondroitin sulfates -- the cartilage in this horse's hocks is already damaged, and you don't actually want to try to repair it, you want it to finish disintegrating so that the bones can fuse together!

It sounds as though Wild Thing's left hock took quite a while to fuse; his right hock may take just as long. Be patient, keep checking with your vet, and when it DOES fuse and you can go back into real work, take things very slowly. Wild Thing has done so little work in the past few years that you will have to allow a lot of time for him to strengthen his muscles, his supporting structures, and his bones -- once he's moving sound again, plan on a year and a half of systematic exercise to get him back into shape.

Good luck with him -- and with your own leg!

- Jessica

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