Clearing Up Misconceptions
One common myth is that once you start joint therapy with hock injections, you will always have to inject them for your horse to be comfortable.
“The whole goal is to quiet the joint down and bring it back to normalcy,” Harvey said.
However, if a horse has a large amount of cartilage damage or osteoarthritis, to keep the horse at a comfortable level, maintenance injections will have to be administered.
“A lot of times, it’s just an inflammatory component. If you reduce that inflammation, let the horse rest and let the joints return back to normal, the horse will get better with therapy,” Harvey said. “Sometimes, if you don’t have any osteoarthritis, and you inject the horse, the therapy can be almost curative, because it returns the joint back to normalcy.”
Tanner says repeat injections aren’t a guarantee, but if you’re treating the joint pain because of osteoarthritis, for example, you will have to continue to treat the cause in order to address the symptom.
“You had to inject that joint for a reason, and that reason may persist,” Tanner said. “If that reason continues, you’ll need to inject again. Whether the job they have is hard on the joints or they have started to develop some low-grade changes to their joints—those aren’t going to go away. You may have to treat the joint again—not because you injected the hock, but because the horse has a condition.”
Harvey says some horse owners are fearful of using cortisone on young horses. He injects a compound of medication based on the horse’s needs, so a younger horse may not require the same amount of cortisone as a seasoned mount.
“For a young horse, I would definitely add hyaluronic acid to the mix, but if their radiographs are good and clean and there isn’t a lot of osteoarthritis like we see in older horses, we don’t need as much cortisone versus that older horse,” Harvey said. “But cortisone is not bad to use in the hocks. It’s almost a necessity. If you don’t reduce the inflammation, then there is no way to get the joint quieted down and returning to normal.”
Tanner says one misconception he’s come across is using hock injections as a preventative measure against soreness.
“It’s not a vaccine,” Tanner said. “It’s made to treat pain, but I wouldn’t go into a joint unless you need to. If you need to inject, inject, but if you don’t, then don’t inject. There is no guarantee that if you inject the healthy hock today, three or four weeks down the road he won’t get sore.”