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We Are Flying Solo

January 21, 2010

It's Time

Horses' legs: structures designed by nature to drive horse owners to and beyond the brink of madness and financial ruin. They are also the source of brilliant marketing opportunities for companies who can figure out how to vaguely promise to magically protect/heal/repair/strengthen/support your horse's legs if you only fork out the cash for their amazing product. And it's a pretty safe bet that if you choose to own a horse, at some point, you will be dealing with some leg-related issue which will cause you to identify strongly with the words above.

So for Solo, it's a hind leg thing. I'm pretty sure it's his hocks. Which means there is a great chance that it has nothing to do with the hocks, because that is the way horses seem to work. But previous study and examination and consultation lead me to believe it's a hock issue, so that is the story that I am sticking to! Until I find a better story.

He has some mild hock arthritis, more so in the left hind than the right. As a result, he has perfected the art of cocking his hips just so to the outside when tracking left so he is not fully loading the inside hind at the trot and canter when asked to bend. It's subtle and often times you can't even see it, you can only feel it when you are sitting on him. It certainly doesn't slow him down, just makes him a bit lopsided (and hey, who isn't lopsided?).

Like a good horse slave, I mean, owner, I set out to try and address this. When I bought him at age 10, he didn't really need anything, but the first winter, I could feel the tiniest hint of unevenness, so I began the Great Supplement Trials, looking for the feed-through which might help him out (different horses respond differently to different things and not all supplements are created equal). I gave each a month or two of trial and if I found no results, I tried something else.

I tried pure MSM. Nope, no difference.
Corta-Flx, adored by many. Nope, no difference.
Some random thing I forget. Nope, no difference.
Injectible glucosamine. Nope, no difference.
SmartFlex II Support. HMMMM....YES! I liked it!

My old vet wanted to inject his hocks straight off (well, of COURSE, that makes a bunch of money for them, doesn't it??!). I said no, it felt too drastic to introduce at this stage, I wanted to work through options gradually. I was sure he would need injections eventually, but I wanted to delay jabbing needles into joint capsules for as long as possible. The second winter, I decided to knock things up a notch and moved him to SmartFlex Senior, another feed through which had higher levels of therapeutic ingredients and also included Devil's Claw. I liked this even more!

About a year and a half ago, as we started to compete more, train more, etc, I wanted to give Solo some more help with the joints, so I added IM Adequan to his protocol. OMG, I love that stuff! I can always tell a difference within 24 hours of injection and it has been a huge help keeping the stiffness at bay. I finally got him back on 24/7 turnout and all that motion motion motion also helps keep everything lubed up, even in the nastiness of wintertime.

This year, our training will keep moving up. Solo will be 14 in February and he has politely informed me that the time has come. I have researched, consulted, polled, interviewed everyone I can get my hands on. And it finally feels right to take that step. So February 1st, the joint injections will make their appearance and the deed will be done.

I am excited, having made the decision. I want for Solo to always be comfortable with his job and I think that this will help him to do so. Of course, by this point, my expectations are ridiculously high. Post-injection, my horse will be able to passage, score a 15 on every dressage test, leap 4' fences from a walk, and make optimum time at the Advanced level.



  1. You thought it through and made the best decision you could - that's OK and it'll work out fine.

  2. Haha, Jen, I am holding you to that!

    Thanks, Kate, it's been a long road to get to this point but I really really really hope (and I think!) it will be a good thing.

  3. Actually, I think you are totally underestimating the injections. Solo will begin to do Airs Above Ground, jump 6 foot fences, and will win Grand Prix dressage tests without a rider!!!

    Good luck with them! You are a great horse slave!

  4. I have no doubt that you'll be holding one of those gargantuan trophies over your head!

  5. Injecting joints isn't horrible, as long it's well thought-out and truly the best thing for the horse.

    Solo will be a 4* horsey in no time -- the O'Connors better sleep with one eye open, lol.

    I'm sure the injections will help immensely. Another thing that you could try is Conquer or some other form of gel or liquid hyaluronic acid. I used SmartFlex Senior and loved it, but the powdered HA is not very bioavailable. Conquer (plus joint injections, plus IM Pentosan) helped my old TB feel much more comfortable.

  6. ROFL, thank you, molly, I needed my expectations raised just a little bit more!

    Hoofies crossed, the next week can't go by fast enough!

  7. I know that Google could answer this question, but I'm lazy ;) What exactly do they use for horse joint injections? I know with people we have synthetic synovial fluid that we can inject into the joint capsule & we also do steroid injections to reduce inflammation, but I'm utterly ignorant of what they use for horses!

  8. It can vary Jen. Some vets just use steroids, some use pure HA, some use a combination. I will converse with the vet to determine which is most appropriate for us.