Tuesdays with Tony
I spend a good portion of my days laying around on the front porch. From there, I have an excellent view of a whole lot of lameness exams since most of them happen on the asphalt in front of me. There is often a discussion about injections, and arthritis. I’ve talked about injections, but I realized during a recent stroll through my vast library, that I haven’t touched on arthritis. Allow me to correct my oversight. This week let’s talk all things arthritis.
Where does it come from?
One doesn’t generally think of arthritis when they think of the younger crowd. As a kitten I certainly didn’t have it. Foals aren’t born with it, so where does it come from? Let me be the first to assure you it doesn’t magically appear, or disappear. You earn your arthritis. Even me, who spends a large portion of my life avoiding athletic activity, has earned some arthritis. I blame most of mine on Teenie. And before you talk to her about the “incident,” I never said what she said I said, and her actions were a bit extreme in my not so humble opinion. Anyway, the incident and arthritis. Many years ago I was walking down the hallway minding my own business, not mentioning anything to Teenie about her only having one eye, when she suddenly, for absolutely no reason, bit my hind leg. She bit me so hard that she broke one of my foot bones! Once again, I deny anything she said about what I may or may not have said. Back to arthritis. This injury caused me to wear a splint on my left hind foot for about 6 weeks. Wearing a splint led to an alteration in the way I walked. Once the splint came off, my left leg was weaker, which meant I put more weight on my right front. I was given exercises to do once the splint came off, but I really felt these were stupid, and went with laying on the porch instead. In retrospect, the humans may have been correct here. Don’t tell them I said that!!! Those exercises were important……
Tiny injuries change everything!
When an injury, even a tiny one, happens you change the way you carry your body. When you change the way you carry your body, you overload certain areas. When you overload those areas, the body tries to compensate. That compensation is bone being laid down on the edges of joints to try to take the joint to the area of increased load. It also is bone creeping into joint capsules and ligaments to try to strengthen those connections. This plan doesn’t work out well, but I’ve tried explaining it to Mother Nature and she has no interest in listening. What does all this mean? Working to keep your horse moving correctly and symmetrically is really, really important to help them avoid arthritis. Way more important than any joint supplement, Adequan shot, or joint injection. Turns out those dressage trainers are right! Definitely don’t tell them I said that!!!
Think about all the things we do Every.Single.Day to make horses asymmetrical. With rare exception, I have only seen humans leading horses from the left side around here. Watch a horse being led. They turn their head ever so slightly towards the human, they shift their hindquarters to the opposite side, and they bend slightly around the left side. What does that do? Overloads the left front and hind a little tiny bit, teaches them to travel with that arc in their body, and leaves their right side floating in the breeze. You bet your sweet bippee that translates to work under saddle. Do you ride one direction first every time? Do you work more to one direction than the other? Should you?
What does it all mean?
It means you need to talk with my Docs about your horse’s symmetry, that’s what it means. Even without my Docs (really don’t tell them I said that!) there are great tools out there. You humans all carry one of these smartphones around. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s required that you 1. Have one, 2. Look at it at least every 5 minutes. Sorry, side tracked. There are tons of apps you can download on those smartphones that will track what you do when you ride. There’s even some pretty cool gadgets that attach to your girth that will also track all kinds of other stuff about how your horse moves, but just knowing how much time you spend going left vs. right is a great starting point! Watch your horse move around the pasture, or in the stall. Do they have a favorite direction to bend on their own? Do you feel them stronger going one way than the other? By stronger, I don’t mean pulling on the bridle or running, I mean able to hold their shape, speed, and stride better one direction than the other. Think about all these things as you’re riding (or driving) around. Then start to look for ways to adjust.
There are loads of simple ways to help your horse get more symmetrical. One is a good trainer to point out all the ways you are likely contributing. Two is good stretching after every ride. Three is being aware that maybe you do need to work that weaker side more than the stronger one! There are also some super simple exercises my Docs can show you next time they’re out for a visit. Heck they can even show them to you over their new Telemedicine App, Medici. These exercises are better demonstrated by them than explained by a cat who isn’t all that fond of important details.
Now is a great time to work on basics. Turns out they really are important!
Until Next week,
P.S. Wanting to know more about arthritis, or supplements & injections? The humans have a totally cool podcast where you can gain tons of useful knowledge. Click here to learn a little (ok, a lot) of useful knowledge.
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!