Last Updated on April 7, 2022 by Allison Price
Our horse’s piaffes are pfizzled. His slides have slid. His rollbacks are back. His leads don’t change.
Someone will almost reflexively say “Maybe he needs to have his hocks injected.”
He might. Maybe it’s more complicated than that. It should be.
FIRST ASIDE (of many): It is a little strange statistically to believe that the first thing that could be wrong with a horse’s hocks might be something to do with them. The front feet are responsible for 70% of all equine lethargy. If you want to appear like a lameness savant and enjoy getting involved in the business of others, you should always say “Maybe his front feet are not right” and then accept that it might be something else. You will appear more like a genius.
SECOND ASIDE Probabilities aside. When people say “Let’s inject hocks,” I immediately think, “Which joints?” The horse’s hoof is not a single joint. If you are serious about anatomy or want to learn more, the hock is composed of 10 bones and four major joint. In the interests of saving everyone time and effort, I would love it if those who know from sitting on a fence line that the horse’s problem hock is the culprit could also comment on whether the proximal or distal intertarsal joints, the tarsometatarsal joints, or the tibiotarsal Joint are the culprits.
But I digress.
This is how a veterinarian would handle a concern regarding a horse’s performance or potential lameness .
- A horse owner or agent is concerned about a possible problem.
- The person should call their vet.
- The agent/owner is open to the possibility that the problem may not be in the hock. It might not even be a medical problem.
THIRD ASIDE It puzzles me why people assume that there is always some medical problem that causes a horse to not respond the way they want. A horse might have a problem with its hocks. It is possible that he has a little problem. The rider might be making him not respond. He may also be feeling bored by the constant repetition of the same task day in and day out (after day). There is not always a solution to every problem. Not every problem can be solved medically.
- The veterinarian conducts a thorough exam.
- The treatment plan is created.
This sequence doesn’t always happen. The system can, and often does, fail to function properly.
WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER INJECTING THE HORSE’S (S) HOCK(S).
You might inject your horse’s hooves for one of these reasons.
- He has a chronic condition. He has osteoarthritis. This is often called “bone spavin” by many.
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the health of your horse’s joints. The cartilage is deteriorating. There is a lot inflammation. It hurts. To relieve pain or inflammation, medication can be injected. One of the most common injectable drugs that horses receive is corticosteroids. However, there are many other experimental injectables that can be injected into horses’ joints. There are many additional treatments that can be used in addition to injections. Orally administered pain-relieving medication are often recommended for horses suffering from inflammation and pain. There are many supplements that can be used to “support” your horse’s joints. ).
THIRD ASIDE – In general, don’t believe everything you read, especially when it comes to horse joints supplements.
- His joint is inflamed. This is arthritis, or joint inflammation. However, unlike osteoarthritis which affects the bone, simple arthtritis is not all bad news. A horse’s joint can be painful but not become a serious problem. It is possible for horses’ joints to become sore but not to become a serious problem.
Overdoing it for a sprained ankle
Imagine a person who injures their ankle. Things get better with rest, rehab and maybe a little medication. You fall from a curb. Your ankle twists. Your ankle feels tender. Are you going to the doctor for injections of your ankle? People who have sprained their ankles don’t usually develop long-term health problems. They don’t usually develop osteoarthritis in the ankle. Horses are also like this. Sometimes, a little anti-inflammatory medication can help to calm things down. A tincture of Time is also a good option. This is a great idea. It is possible to calm inflammation with joint injections. However, the question remains: “Why would anyone use a firehose when all they need to do is put out a match?”
HOW ABOUT HOK INJECTIONS?
“Hey doc, how about some knee injections!”
Right. Injecting the hocks to your horse if he has an inflamed or inflamed hoof may be an option.
FOURTH ASIDE This is to show that the horse is having a problem, even though my opinion may not be shared by everyone. Imagine you went to the doctor and said that you would like your knees to be injected. Would you expect them to fill up a syringe?
Joint injections can be used to relieve inflammation and pain. But, there are many reasons that horses have their hocks or other joints injected.
- People don’t have patience. While you and your horse may be content to wait for your ankle pain to subside, you might not be as patient.
- People believe that joints require “maintenance.” Although horses are not necessarily in need of “maintenance,” I think they do require it. This is especially true if you define “good care” broadly. It is absurd. It’s expensive, too.
- It is easier to inject the hocks than any other part of the horse’s hindend. Horses are generally not keen on having sharp objects poked into their legs. This may surprise some people. The horse will be more comfortable if the injection can be done quickly and without a sharp object being stuck into their face. The injector is a true expert, which is a high-reward thing.
- The hock joints are not just affected by injecting corticosteroid medications. The corticosteroid medication commonly used to flood horses’ joints doesn’t stay in their joints. It can travel all the way through the horse’s body, where it can cause all kinds of side effects. In 2020, for example, horses suffering from asthma were found to be more comfortable after their hock joints were injected . Plus, steroids make horses feel better in general. Even if your horse is healthy, injecting his hocks can make him feel better, at least temporarily.
HOW LONG CAN HOCK INJECTIONS LASTEN?
A LOT OF DUMB IDEAS
There seems to be a belief that injecting one hock (or coffin or other joint) is mandatory. People often refer to horses’ “Hocks needing to be done” because they may have problems in multiple joints. If the problem is in just one joint, why not only inject that joint? It’s like saying to your doctor, “I know that I have sprained my left leg,” but as long you’re here, can you also treat the right side? Injections of one joint don’t “unbalance” another (I have no idea how this thought got started).
Another idea is that once you start injecting horse’s hooves, you will always need to inject horse’s hooves (or other joints). This one also baffles my mind. Injecting healthy joints should never be necessary. It seems that horse owners are suggesting that horses’ joints be injected regularly. It’s better to figure out the problem than just filling another needle and injecting away.
MAYBE IT’S A BETTER WAY.
Personally, I believe there are better ways to manage horses, especially competition horses. These are just a few of the other options.
- You can change things for horses to make them do something different every day. This will help avoid repetitive stress injuries. This helps horses not get bored. Perhaps the training program could be adjusted, or the frequency and intensity of stressful riding could reduced. Perhaps the rider could be more efficient. If the horse and rider form a team, then why should they always take the blame for the four-legged member of the team?
FIFTH ASIDE In my career, two riders/trainers have come across me who assume their horse is the problem when it’s not going as planned. Both of them were very successful.
- Allow them to move as much as they can.
- Horses can be helped by rest and rehabilitation, even without the need for injections.
- Perhaps the horse has osteoarthritis. Perhaps you can lower your expectations so that you can live with the problem.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!