From Endurance to Dressage
Four of them to be precise, and all of them in the hocks. I've had Izzy's hocks injected twice (here and here), and even though I geek out on Dr. Tolley's "lessons," I learned all kinds of new stuff for this round. Maybe I just asked better questions this time. After Speedy's bodywork on Monday, the chiropractor felt like Speedy could use some pharmaceutical support, and my vet agreed.
When we pulled into Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital thirty minutes ahead of schedule, Dr. Tolley was already out there ready to greet us. While his "guys" finished with another horse, Dr. Tolley and I walked over to the scale. Before Speedy got on, Dr. Tolley stated that no matter what the scale read, Speedy's condition looked perfect to him. I agreed. Speedy clocked in at a reasonable 966 pounds. He's weighed as much as 1,000, but he looks good at this weight.
Given that Speedy has been a patient for thirteen years, both Dr. Tolley and I were well aware that hock injections might not be so easy. It took four of us, but we got the job done without much of a fuss, thankfully. Rudy did the prep work, Kathryn helped load syringes and worked the twitch (after Speedy had been tranquilized/sedated AND given a local anesthetic), Dr. Tolley did the injections, and I let Speedy know that it was all going to be okay. It's not like I am some kind of horse whisperer, but there have been many times that I've had to assist before Speedy would let something be done to him - sutures last year comes to mind.
When you think about "injecting a hock," what comes to mind is that big bony knob that sticks out. At least that's what I thought. It turns out that while that is a high motion joint, that's not the part of the hock that needs any help. Instead, it's the two bones stacked below it that form the intertarsal joint which is actually a low motion joint. When a hock fuses, it's these two bones that connect.
For whatever reason, and Dr. Tolley didn't know the why, the tibiotarsal joint, that big knobby joint above my red circles that allows the hock to actually articulate, rarely needs any help. It's the pancake-like bones below it that form the joint that gets painful. In the red circles above, you can see what should be spaces. The blue line shows where and how far in the needle goes. Dr. Tolley drew the line to illustrate what he had done. Like I said; his lectures are awesome. In a horse with arthritis, the gaps between the joints become filled with extra bone. This reduces the space between the bones which has the effect of restricting the amount of fluid that can actually fill in the empty spaces. And of course, once the hock "fuses," there's nowhere for fluid to go which is why you can no longer inject those joints.
The green line in the photo above illustrates where and how deep the needle penetrates on the inside of the joint (proximal?). Again, if the gap has been reduced by arthritis, the fluid can't flow where there are no open spaces. Once Dr. Tolley had finished with all four injections - inside and outside of each leg, he pointed out something quite positive. When he depressed the plunger of the needle, he was met with virtually no resistance. This means that Speedy's joints are well open with plenty of space for the liquid to flow. Of course that would suggest that he probably has little to no arthritis in those joints. Without x-rays, we can't know exactly what his joints look like, but they're more than likely pretty good, especially for a sixteen year old horse.
You might be asking why we didn't do x-rays. Well the simple answer is that it wouldn't have changed anything. X-rays wouldn't have helped Dr. Tolley do the injections. All they would have done is shown the current state of his hocks. Since Speedy hasn't ever had hind end lameness issues, we really didn't need a picture. He either has arthritic changes or he doesn't. All x-rays would have done at this point would be to serve as a reference point for the future.
So if Speedy doesn't have arthritis, why inject the hocks at all? Dr. Tolley is not a fan or prophylactically injecting joints. The injections are steroids after all, and high levels of steroids can cause all sorts of problems. Both Dr. Tolley and my chiropractor felt that with Speedy's current workload, his joints are starting to complain a little bit. Maybe more than a little. Injecting the joints served to reduce the inflammation and pain. Dr. Tolley was quick to point out that every joint responds differently, and that there is no "one" perfect joint drug. If you ask ten different vets which drug they think should be used on hock joints, he said that you'd likely get ten different answers.
Over the past year or so, Dr. Tolley has made the decision to switch to a combination of betamethasone and Adequan. He feels that drug, the betamethasone, is doing a better job of reducing inflammation and pain in this particular joint. In the past, he tended to use Depo-medrol and Adequan (or sometimes hyaluronic acid). That's what he's given Izzy the two times he needed hock injections. I am not a vet, so I am not going to challenge him on which drug is more effective, but I did ask why, and he was happy to explain his reasoning. Works for me.
The day after his bodywork, Speedy's hamstrings already felt much better. When I ran my thumbs down his backside, he got slightly irritated, but the muscles didn't twitch and spasm as they had the day before. Dr. Tolley recommended three days of rest which means I can ride Speedy lightly over the weekend. By Monday, he has the all-clear to return to his regular workload. Of course, I am taking Izzy to a clinic that day, so Speedy will get an extra day of rest. I don't think he'll complain.
Hopefully, this isn't an annual thing, but if it is, it is. Izzy needed it done twice, but now that he's so much more "broke," there's a lot less jackassery, and he feels great. I am really hoping that between the bodywork and hock injections, Speedy's half passes might show some sudden improvement. Either that or we just keep working on it.
Have a great weekend!
For a year or two, Izzy was getting bodywork every three months. Eventually, he quit with all of the jackassery, and suddenly, he didn't need such frequent adjustments. Imagine that. During Speedy's six-year old year, he also saw the chiropractor on a regular schedule. After about ten years of age, he only seemed to need an annual adjustment. This week he told me he was getting pretty sore.
I didn't look at my health record book until after the appointment with CC, my chiropractor/body worker, but it was actually one year ago (plus two days) that Speedy had his last adjustment. After the SLO-CDS show, I gave him a week off; we were going out of town anyway, so the timing was just good. I rode him on Saturday, and he felt the same as always. When I rode him on Monday, I knew we had a problem.
Speedy walked out just fine, but when I asked him to pick up the trot, he gave a tell-tale lurch and then proceeded to trot around with a faint hitch in his gait. My hunch was that it was a hind leg, so I asked the ranch owner, who was riding her own mare, to give us a watch. I trotted Speedy in both directions in a circle and on a straight line. The longer I rode the better he felt, but he wasn't 100% sound. I asked for a stretch, and that's all he wanted to do. He trotted around doing a deep stretchy trot for a solid five to ten minutes.
Both the ranch owner and I agreed it was a hind leg, and she felt it was the left hind more than the right. I jumped off him and ran my thumbs down his hamstrings looking for any tenderness. Sure enough, both hamstrings quivered under my fingers, the left more than the right. I untacked Speedy and called the chiropractor. As luck would have it, he was going to be in my area that same afternoon.
CC is not just a chiropractor/body worker. He's a true horseman and trainer. He really knows horses. He's never seen me ride, but he knows exactly how both of my horses work. As he points out, Arabs are built to cover ground, not collect and sit. Speedy is no exception. We've been doing a lot of collecting this past year, and his body was showing the effects. CC worked on Speedy from head to toe. Speedy's poll definitely needed some work, as did his ribs. Once CC got to his hind end, he felt pretty confident that Speedy's hocks needed some help.
I wasn't surprised; Speedy's sixteen years old. While he's had a long list of injuries and gets a daily pill for his PPID, he hasn't required any other age-related intervention. If getting his hocks injected prolongs his soundness, it's something I am happy to do. As soon as CC left, I called the vet and made an appointment.
Before CC left, I asked him to also take a look at Izzy. With Speedy resting more comfortably in the shade, I put a halter on the big brown horse. That horse LOVES attention, and CC is always willing to give it. When CC walked up to Izzy, I could almost hear that big brown horse squealing with glee. CC ran his hands over Izzy's poll, down his neck and across his back. I waited for a flinch or a head snap, but nothing, which was very surprising since his last adjustment was last July as well.
CC pointed out that as Izzy has matured and quit fighting so much, he's a lot easier on his body. I appreciate CC's attitude about bodywork. If the horse needs it monthly, fine, but if they can go a whole year, that's even better.
Since the ranch owner reapplied a fresh coating of the dust control product she uses, both horses got Tuesday off which fell in line with CC's recommendation for Speedy. On Wednesday, Speedy went to the vet. More about that tomorrow.
I've written about the ranch's dust control product several times already. You can read those posts here, here, and here. But for those who haven't seen this product before, I thought I'd share again.
Yesterday, the ranch owners reapplied the ArenaKleen. While it's a long-lasting product, it does need to be freshened up eventually. The last application gave us two full years before a small amount of dust started to form.
While it's definitely not cheap, if you live in a drought-ridden state like California, it might be cheaper than a water bill. Here at the ranch, there's a well which means we use a lot of electricity pumping water to irrigate a couple of pastures as well as to control the dust in the sandy lots where the horses live, my two in particular. Watering an arena would both take up a lot of time and add a lot more more work for the well pump. With the ArenaKleen, we never have to water the arena which helps conserve water, something the ranch owners care about.
With the ArenaKleen applied, we have no dust. Zero. And no, I am not exaggerating. Over the past month, some dust has started to come up, but it's hanging very low, and hasn't been a problem. Once the dust started to form though, the ranch owner placed an order for the new containers. I don't blame her for stretching the product for as long as she can.
Once the product is sprayed on, it can be ridden on pretty much immediately. The way I understand it, the liquid encapsulates the grains of sand, weighing them down so that they don't float up into the air. The footing in our arena is a base of sand with DG on the top. I like it, but it's definitely a bit firmer than some of the fancier arenas in which I've ridden. It's rock free, level, and of course, there is no dust.
In the four years that I've been at the ranch, I've not experienced a single negative issue with the product. I ride in it every day and have never experienced a respiratory issue (and I do have asthma). My horses have not been bothered by it either. I only rarely use the arena for turn out - my boys live in large sandy lots so they don't need it, but when the horses have been free to roll, they've never developed any skin reactions. Although, I wouldn't turn them out on it the first few days after it has been applied as it does requires some time to cure.
I would not recommend the product for stalls or places where horses live and eat. The HMIS Hazard Ratings that are labeled on each container show it to be a non-hazardous product, but I would do more research before letting a horse live on it all day. Eating and sleeping on it might cause some irritation.
For riding, this stuff is the bomb. Before moving to this ranch, I spent so many years watering arenas myself. Here in California where I live, our summers are really hot and long, and we generally go for six to eight months without any rain. It's hard to keep an arena free of dust even for an hour's ride. I am so grateful to have landed at such a great facility.
I can't wait to put the dressage court back together and test out our newly freshened up, dustless arena!
Even though I got too busy/lazy to sign up for professional photos before the show, the photographer, Ashton Kingsley, was wise enough to shoot a series anyway. God bless show photographers. It has to be about as non-lucrative a job as one can get. It was 100 degrees, and yet he sat out there all the cursed day long shooting pictures of riders who probably weren't going to buy anything. Even if they had all turned out horribly, which they didn't, I would have bought one anyway. As it is, I bought a package of ten.
All of these photos were purchased from A.J.S.K Photography and used by permission. Visit A.J.S.K. Photography to schedule Horse Event Photography, Horse & Rider Portraiture, Equine Sales Photo/Video, and Non-horse related Event Photography (Birthday Parties, Graduations, etc.). I am delighted with the quality of the photos and am already working on getting some canvases done.
Support your local photographer!
Day two of a show has always been a struggle for us. I am tired, Speedy's tired, and we usually just want to go home. At the SCEC show last October, I finally made the decision that two tests on Sunday is one test too many. At the June show, I rode only one test on Sunday and felt that it was a better choice for both of us. For that show, we had two scores above 60% on Saturday, but I lost focus on Sunday - even with only doing one test, so our score was only 58%.
For this show, my goal was to earn above 60% for all three tests. I've already mentioned here and here that I had adjusted my warm ups to be less than 20 minutes. That proved to be successful; on Saturday we earned a 63% and 61%. Sunday was again super hot, and we were both tired. I felt my enthusiasm waning, but then I gave myself a kick in the butt. If my mental energy was flagging, there was no way Speedy was going to bring his A game. I sucked it up, Buttercup.
As planned, I did the shortest warm up possible; it was less than 15 minutes, The rider in front of me had just started, but rather than walk around for the next 7 minutes, something that makes Speedy sleepy, I headed to the ring so Speedy could watch. Not that I thought he would be inspired, but I was hopeful that the activity would perk us both up.
For day two of the show, we had a different judge. Word had already trickled down that she was tougher. Rather than think that Saturday's judge was just generous, effectively admitting that my scores had been inflated, I decided to show this judge that we were indeed worthy of that Bronze Medal.
While I was mentally ready for the ride, Speedy's energy level just couldn't be raised. I am not sure whether or not you can see it on the video (below), but I was thumping my legs and driving with my seat for the entire test. Speedy felt like a sputtering engine about to stall out at any moment. For much of the test we did well; we earned six scores of 7.0 (both flying changes earned 7.0), and thirteen of our scores were a mix of 6.0 and 6.5.
Unlike the day before, we also had two scores in the 4.0 range. We earned a 4.5 on our trot half pass right which has a double coefficient meaning we earned nine points out of twenty - ouch! We also earned a 4.0 for our canter half pass right. Again that movement has a double coefficient. And finally, our final halt, one of our strongest movements, earned a paltry 4.0. Speedy just refused to plant his feet. Had we earned 6.0s on all thee movements, we would have earned a 62.625%. Instead, we scored a 60.375%. It wasn't a brilliant test, but I met my goal: all three tests earned scores above 60%.
Next up is the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) August 8 - 9. That gives us a couple of weeks to focus on the half passes and polish the flying changes. We could also use some work on our shoulder-in. We've done the RAAC many times, and while we've been last a few times, we've also won at Introductory Level, Training Level, been reserve at First Level, and won at Second Level.
We'll either win at Third, or be dead last. I am hoping the former!
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Shows Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Completed …
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: