- Created on Friday, 09 March 2012
- Written by Dr. Justin High
- Hits: 209
“If I inject my horse now, do I have to keep injecting them from now on?” or “I’ve heard if you start injecting a horse’s joints you will have to do it the rest of their life; is that true?” are the two most common questions I have heard from horse owners that are unfamiliar with managing joint-related lameness. Well, I think those are good questions and not as naive as they sound.
Let’s say you have a horse that you have been working, and for whatever reason he goes lame, and your veterinarian isolated the lameness to a specific joint; let’s say the lower hock joints. The X-rays taken may or may not show evidence of arthritis. Just for the sake of conversation, let’s say they are clean X-rays, but your horse is still very lame. Most veterinarians who are experienced with Western performance horses will likely recommend injecting corticosteroids in the lower hock joints to minimize the pain and inflammation associated with the wear and tear of what the horse does for a living. Typically, the horse will be rested for an appropriate amount of time (several days to maybe a few weeks) then returned to full work to continue their training or show career.
Here is where the question is answered. There is nothing specific to corticosteroids used in the joint of a horse that dictates they be repeatedly used once that choice of therapy has been started. In other words, there is nothing addictive or obligatory about corticosteroids used in horse’s joints. If you start, you can stop whenever you want. The origin of equine lameness is typically the use a person has chosen the horse for. Cortisone does a great job of helping sore joints feel better, and when used judiciously is an enormous asset to the equine athlete. The only mechanism requiring a horse be injected repeatedly is what we do with them from a performance stand point. If we make horses sore from working them on cattle at a high level, or running 1D times in three different rounds of slack over a weekend, then over time, the price we (the horse) pay is wear and tear. If we inject and repeat the cycle without taking this into account, it is naïve to think appropriate maintenance will not be required. So no, you do not have to keep injecting a joint after the initial treatment. If, however, you plan to maintain or increase the level of performance your horse is currently at, then you very likely will.
There are many new and technologically advanced methods of managing joint lameness in performance horses, so be sure to have your questions answered by your veterinarian before the times comes. I once heard a very prominent veterinarian that owned numerous champions in several disciplines say, “You don’t have to inject your horse, but you don’t have to win either.” Some people will not agree with that statement, but it’s difficult to disprove, too.