A horse has a lot of complicated moving parts, and often, when things aren’t right in how they’re moving, it’s because more than one piece has gone awry. Back in 2017, Tonka started twitching his head. Then he said it hurt to move. After a litany of diagnostic tests, we found that Tonka had bursitis in his poll, bony changes to 3 cervical vertebrae, back pain, arthritis in one hock, and sacroiliac issues. They didn’t happen all at once, rather, they were observed, one after the other. It’s like the game, Whack a Mole, you fix one thing, but something else pops up into the picture.
Over time, the bursitis cleared up (rest did that), the back pain went away (new saddle and exercises that improved his top line strength) and Tonka’s sacroiliac joints and hocks were no longer painful (rest, injections, exercise.)
But lately something has been bothering him. You can see it when he goes from walk to trot. Even with a loose rein, he braces his neck – as if he’s anticipating pain.
However, once Tonka gets going, he moves in a balanced and happily forward way.
But if I ask him to go in a more uphill frame with a rounder neck, Tonka grinds his teeth – an obvious sign that he’d rather not.
Our veterinarian, Monika, said it looked like neck pain. That reminded me that Tonka’s discomfort started with a diagnosis of 3 compromised vertebrae at the base of his neck. Maybe the treatment that we did two years ago, has worn off. It was time to do it again. Tonka didn’t have to go back to the veterinary hospital. It could be done at the barn.
The veterinarians and the vet techs were impressed with Tonka’s exemplary cooperative behavior. However. because the procedure required Tonka to stand absolutely still while long needles that deliver drugs into the spinal column were inserted, Tonka was given a mild sedative. Tonka didn’t mind at all.
Ultrasound images helped the vets to guide the needles into the joints.
Tonka has had three days of stall rest. Today he got turned out into his big grass paddock. That adds up to four boring days. My horse is ready to do something interesting. Me, too. Not having riding time puts us both out of sorts!
I can get back in the saddle tomorrow. It will take two weeks to see the full effects of this treatment. I’m hoping that it will allow Tonka to get back to how he was moving last summer.
But, if it doesn’t, I can adjust how he goes so that those three vertebrae don’t bother him. As long as he’s happy, I’m happy. There’s still lots we can do. Outside of the ring.
We both want to keep those boring days to a minimum!