Diary of an Equine Mum

Saturday, 21 June 2014

I Will Do My Absolute Best For Him


My poor old Zeb has not been right for quite a few months now. I moved him in April for some summer grazing as the fields at the farm where he has been for over 7 years have really been trashed by the awful winter we had last year. Unfortunately for Zeb who always suffers with mud fever, he had to come in for 10 weeks or more as the fields were liquid knee high mud. This box rest though is detrimental for his legs also as he then suffers from edema. He has such a large frame being 17.2 with short boxy hooves so his confirmation is really not good, especially now he has reached his veteran years. This year it was bad though and he was really stiff and swollen. No matter if he had gentle exercise in the school, rode him out or just turned him out in the school  for a run about, the other 23 hours a day being in was doing him more harm than good. I've tried everything to reduce the swelling from bandaging to using magnetic boots but it didn't really help. His swelling was so bad his poor little winky was nearly hanging to his knees! He is a huge big old boy that needs to move.

Since April he hasn't been 100% sound. He became lame in his near fore which I thought at the time he had twisted it as he was in a new field in new surroundings and high jinx was to blame. After cold hosing, equine claying and using a boot with some bute too, he became better. Not 100% sound but better. When riding him though(only gently) he just felt not right.... Although this leg seemed to have improved he felt off to ride. Then a couple of weeks ago he became very lame in his offside front leg. I did the same treatment initially but was thinking that this cannot be an injury or tendon as why would it replicate into another leg?? Then navicular came creeping into my head.... So it was time for the vet who came out this week.

After a thorough examination, a trot up and lunging on both legs my vet is pretty sure he has degenerative arthritis in his front legs. I have decided to pay for some x-rays which is being done in a couple of weeks to see how bad it is. We had a long pragmatic talk about the condition and how it will affect Zeb considering his problems that he faces with his legs in the winter. It really isn't ethical or financially viable to pay for long term painful steroid injections with the chances of them not 100% working on a 19 year old horse. We have decided to put him on daily bute for now and see if he comes sound with this. I just want to immediately get him comfortable and out of pain. I have put him on Cortaflex and an oil with his feed also to see if this makes a difference to him.
My worry is not now but for the up and coming winter and this is the concern of the vet too.... The fields are potentially likely to be bad again unless we have no rain from October to March (unlikely) so he will probably have to come in off the fields because of the mud fever. The vet and me have agreed that we are worried that his legs cannot cope with the edema again, especially with the arthritis now added to the mix. I could try and find a big barn turnout but they are few and far between around where I live and it's the practicalities of him being moved again (he's not good without his buddy and that's another long story). So........ I am going to have to think very carefully about putting him through another winter....

I am hoping the bute will work and I can try and keep him out as long as I can, it's just what the winter will bring. I am going to be positive about it but I am putting my level head on about his future and what is right for him. The thought of him in pain, swollen and stiff as a board is heartbreaking. But then it is heartbreaking of even thinking of life without him.Tough times ahead I think....


  1. Cartrofen injections go into the muscle not the joint like steroids so are far less painful and invasive its just a jab! It is particularly useful when more than one joint is affected.

  2. Hi Samantha,

    I am an equestrian novelist soon to release my new racing romance, Share and Share Alike, and was hoping you might consider reviewing it on your site. Drop me a message if you’re interested.

    Best wishes,

    Hannah Hooton

  3. Fingers crossed and lots of hugs! :(

  4. Reading the above post re Cartrophen, we have a sled dog with bad hips/joints who has been on monthly Cartrophen injections for a while and the results have been very good up to now. It may be an idea to discuss with your vet but, based on how effective I have seen this to be, it may be worth a try.

  5. Good luck with your lad.... my old boy was diagnosed with arthritis when he was about 18. He was hopping lame for about 3months, I didn't go for the injection but did have him on bute for a while. I weaned him off as I didn't want him on it long term if he could manage without. He was already on cortaflex and codliver oil. I now give him feedmarks extra flex, linseed (more appropriate than cod liver) and devils claw. He is not in any pain, he has a bit of a funny action some times (arthritis in his knee) but he has always dished on that leg too. He is now 25 and going strong. I still ride him regularly and proper ride - he still willingly offers gallop when he gets on grass. He has checks with the vet when ever they are on the yard to see my other horses and they keep saying to just keep doing what I am doing. Old age is rubbish but don't give up hope, you will find the right solution for you and your horse I'm sure xx