Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Good, The Bad and Grace's Left Hock

Grace had her follow up appointment with Dr. Hills yesterday. The good news is her suspensorys are much better! The inflammation is down and she seemed more comfortable when Dr. Hills palpated them. We went ahead and x-rayed her hocks, since we both felt that her hocks is where the suspensory issue generated from.

It's been a few years since I've had x-rays done on a horse. I am really impressed by the digital x-ray technology. The digital image appears on the screen within seconds of shooting the x-ray. I worked in small animal veterinary clinics for 5 years. One of my jobs was to assist with x-rays. This usually included holding down a very angry cat who was threatening to claw out my eye balls. I had to make sure Mr. Kitty held real still on the table while we shot the x-rays. The films then had to be developed. By now Mr. Kitty was so mad he was ready to climb the walls. Sure enough the films wouldn't turn out the first time so I had to hold Mr. Kitty down all over again. I would have given my left arm for digital x-rays!

The clinic emailed me the x-rays so I will share them with you.

This is her left hock. OUCH! You can see where it is trying to fuse on one side but not the other. See the jagged bone on the inside? Dr. Hills thinks there may have been a fracture there a long time ago. Here is her right hock for comparison:

You can see how the lines go all the way through, much cleaner looking joints. This is good news as I expected to see some arthritic changes in her right hock by now.

Dr. Hills injected Grace's left hock with steroids to reduce the pain and inflammation. He told me to let her rest for the next 3-5 days with limited hand walking. Then start riding her at the walk. He said I will know in 2 weeks if the hock injections are working for her. At this point the focus is on getting the lower joints of the left hock to fuse.

We also discussed the option of injecting the left hock with alcohol. This would help speed up the fusion process, Dr. Hills said the injection is not painful. It may take anywhere from 1-3 injections to get the joint to finish fusing. We both agreed that this is plan B and we will give the steroid injections a chance to work first. I am a little leary of the alcohol injections at this point. I've been doing some research on line and have heard both good and very bad stories.

My #1 goal right now it to keep Grace comfortable. There is no doubt in my mind looking at that x-ray that she has been in pain for some time. I've held off on joint injections in the past due to cost and the chance of side effects. We did discuss IRAP as an option, which has less side effects, but after the last two vet bills, IRAP is not something I see in my immediate financial future. One of the side effects of the steroid injections is that it will increase the speed in which the hock fuses. This is something we want to have happen in this hock.

If anyone reading this has experiance with hock injections and fusing, please let me know in the comments.


  1. I have had no experance with in fuses , and and happy and glad at the same time, has she ever had an injury on her hock ? If she has some of that bone sticking out might just be a over grown calcium deposit, but if she is in pain probly not ???

  2. Hi, brand new follower here. I read your story over at Mugwump and had to come by for a visit. I've got a half-wild, high maintenance AQHA mare myself that I'm just starting to train.

    I'm sorry to hear about Grace's painful hocks. Hopefully you can find a way to get her comfortable again. Fortunately for my horses, painful hocks are something I know nothing about.

  3. I need to get an update together. Grace is doing MUCH better. We injected her left hock 3 weeks ago. She is moving better than she has in years. I am taking it easy on her this summer, no barrel racing or flag team. The vet has told me twice now that he thinks she had a traumatic injury to the left hock when she was young. Rachel is right, there is a calcium deposit, which may have fractured causing more pain. For the most part Grace seems to be pain free right now, I spend most of my time telling her to settle down because she feels too good.