Years ago, my friend next door told me, “You know, I think if you got Gina injected, you’d have a nice Second Level horse.” Gina isn’t making her Second Level debut any time soon, but I did have her stifles injected recently.
Since I got Gina eight (!!!) years ago, she’s had a slight hitch in her giddyup. She’s never lame, but she’s often stiff and sounds like a bowl of Rise Krispies when she moves. She works out of the stiffness after a few minutes of walking although the snap-crackle-pop sounds persist. I put her on an MSM supplement a few years ago, which definitely helped. Regular work also keeps her moving well, and she doesn’t show signs of discomfort.
Hunting season ended back in April, so Gina had several weeks off. When I got on her a few weeks ago, she felt stiffer than usual in her hindquarters. It took her most of our ride to feel normal, which was concerning. So when my friend Holly needed me to trailer her gelding to the vet clinic for a lameness exam, I stuck Gina on the trailer, too.
Gina’s lameness exam didn’t reveal anything unusual or worrisome. She’s a 22 year old horse who moves better than you might expect for her age. She flexed pretty sound, but my vet picked up on what I’d suspected was the problem: there was a slight hitch in Gina’s stifles. My vet thought it was probably the result of some mild arthritis- not uncommon for a horse Gina’s age. She recommended injecting the femoropatellar joint with Hyvisc, a drug that’s designed to mimic naturally occurring synovial fluid.
After her injections, Gina got stuck with babysitting duty for a weekend. She’s usually turned out with Candy in my big front pasture, but I didn’t want to risk her wading into the pond and exposing the injection sites to whatever bacteria live in there. Madigan was unfazed by the change, and the two of them spent all weekend ignoring each other.
Gina felt terrible on her first post-injection ride and I got real worried real fast. Her hindquarters felt weirdly loose, like she couldn’t manage to coordinate them into any gait that normal horses perform. This was definitely not what I paid $500 for!
Fortunately, the next time I rode her, she felt super. She moved really well and seemed to be comfortable. Her usual stiffness at the beginning of the ride wasn’t totally eliminated, but she worked out of it quicker than normal. She was so relaxed and floaty that I briefly considered entering her in a local hunter show next month. (But it’s like a $275 entry fee so it’s not happening.) I even set up a crossrail AND SHE JUMPED IT. I haven’t pointed her at any kind of jump outside the hunt field in years because it never ends well! If regular stifle injections keep her doing that, the vet can take all my money.
I feel vaguely guilty for not considering joint injections sooner. Vague guilt seems to be my theme this year- first with Candy’s ulcers and now with Gina’s stifles. (At least Moe and Madigan don’t seem to have any undiagnosed medical problems? Yet?) I’m glad Gina seems more comfortable- that’s all I really want. And perhaps we’ll schlep down to a less expensive h/j schooling show later this summer after all!