The reason, as I understand it, that we need to always have the saddle horse moving "round" at the very least is because it is the most effective and safest way for him to carry the weight of the rider over the course of his career. It ensures that he has the potential to serve many years as a riding horse, with the least damage to his joints.
Obviously a carriage horse does not have to carry a rider on his back, but he does need to pull the weight of the cart and its occupants.
My mare suffered a soft tissue injury approx. one year ago that is now healed. I also, in the process of diagnosing said injury, discovered she had the start of fusions in both hocks (of the intertarsal joint) that have now been confirmed through x-ray to be fully fused. She is not showing signs of discomfort from the arthritis at this time, but given the site of the now healed injury, I have been cautioned by the vet that her riding career may be shortened.
In the interest of giving her the longest useful life possible, I have considered backing her to a light cart and driving her instead of riding. She knows how to long line, ground drive and has dragged a tire.
In terms of stress on the hind legs and specifically the hock joints, is there any significant difference between carrying a rider and pulling a light cart?
Red: No. You might in fact be better off riding than driving, given the location and the nature of the injury.
FUSED intertarsal joints should pose little to no problem going into the future, assuming they are FUSED, i.e. "cold", no ongoing process of bony deposition or inflammation.
Whichever you choose to do, the best thing for the hocks would be to take care to exercise them equally to both sides, which means not only work on the left rein vs. work on the right rein, but going ANATOMICALLY STRAIGHT no matter which rein. Cheers -- Dr. Deb
Thank you. I don't think I said it above, but the original injury was a proximal suspensory ligament/tendon injury, hence the concern over proximity re: the arthritic hocks.
I have another question related to these injuries: I have done the advanced Google search and combed through the forums on the subject of hock injections. The lameness vet I have been using has recommended them for my mare. I am very skeptical and very hesitant, and after reading some of the links to veterinary literature you provided in older threads and your own discussion on the matter, I'm inclined to seek other supportive measures. The mare is only 7 so this is certainly not a case of just keeping her comfortable for a couple more years until she passes, and I would much give her appropriate and correct rehab or adjust her "job" if necessary. The hock changes are the result, at least I think, of poor conformation. I have been meaning to email you shots of her hind legs, as you may find them useful/interesting.
You had mentioned in one older thread the use of IM Glucosamine sulfate or Glucosamine chloride, specifically human grade. You had also mentioned in a thread about bringing back a horse with arthritis that there are a number of things to do before even thinking of going to injections. I could not find, in my search, such a list. Could you provide this information? Could you also speak to the difference between IV Hyaluronic sodium (Legend shots) and IM glucosamine? The Legend/similar shot has been suggested as well.