Monday, June 7, 2021

About to sell him down the river

As was pointed out to me during my trial (yep, failed to see this one on my own...), Yoshi has a "dropped hip" on the left side. What I was told by the vet who did his PPE and by my friend in Delaware, is that this is a fracture of the tuber coxae. 

Image from Nikki Hall Equine Sports and Rehabilitation Massage Therapist

Usually this injury happens when they run through a stall door/pasture gate or hit a barrel in the case of barrel racers/starting gate in the case of OTTBs. Looking at his race record, his seller and I both assumed it must have happened when he was quite young. He raced first as a 3 year old in April 2017 and raced once a month until November of that year. He then had a 6 month break until May 2018. From that point on he ran at least once every 6 weeks until he retired in October 2020. When his seller got him in November, 1 month after his last race, there was no evidence of trauma to that hip in terms of healing skin wounds. Generally, tuber coxae fractures take 3-6 months to heal, so it either happened before his first race or in the 6 month break between Nov 2017 and May 2018. 

When the fracture happens, the internal abdominal oblique muscle usually pulls the fractured piece ventrally (down). There is unilateral lameness, typically more lame at the walk than the trot, and soft tissue swelling and pain over the fracture site. 

Image from

This is a hard area to take x-rays of because there is just SO MUCH muscle there, it is a lot to shoot a through. If you use an oblique angle though, you can get a view of it. I suspect rads are most commonly used to diagnose, but there's also scintigraphy, ultrasound, and standing CT. 

Image from JAVMA

The prognosis is good for this type of fracture. There is a retrospective study that included 29 horses with tuber coxae fractures. Of those 29, 27 returned to their previous intended use. A book chapter describes healing of tuber coxae and tuber ischii fractures as "generally inevitable, with a full return to function".

So after basically being told it was not a problem by two vets that I trust and respect, Tuesday I was shocked to be told it was a major problem, and he should be sold as a trail horse. Apropos of nothing other than my feeling he should get all the things to feel as good as possible, I had a chiropractor out to work on him. Honestly, he's been feeling better and better each ride. He's really benefited from some time out of the ring allowing us both to remember how to go forward and then bringing that forward back into the dressage ring to attempt 20m circles and corners again. I'm no longer panicking each time we turn. No panicking and remembering I do have a right leg to use as an inside leg has led to him feeling pretty damn even. Shoulders are not always straight tracking right, but we're working on that too, and if I ride him correctly then I can get him straight.

Anyways, back to the visit. After a brief, mostly visual, assessment, I was told he would never be able to engage his hindquarters properly and was compensating for both the dropped hip. I don't pretend to know enough about anatomy and gait mechanics to tell whether this will be an issue or not. The literature I've pulled up on it does not seem to indicate it will be, but I haven't found anything that really delves into it on a biomechanical level. Honestly, although I have aspirations of FEI level dressage, the chances of me truly lining up everything in my life to make it there are fairly slim. So if he doesn't have the ability to make it to those levels, that's fine, most horses don't. Some because of physical things, some because of mental things. And, according to my dressage trainer who has taken a lot of horse/rider pairs to those levels, Yoshi has the mind for it, so that's half the battle right there. Only time will tell on the physical, as with all horses. And even if it turns out that's not for him, he's got the mind that would make him a lovely lower level teacher. 

In addition to his hip, I was told he has cervical arthritis and was sore over his right suspensory ligament. Now... Euthanizing a barely 8 yo horse for cervical arthritis before I got Yoshi made that particular subject a little touchy... I made sure we flexed and palpated his neck thoroughly both during my trial and during his PPE. And neither myself nor his vet, who knows my history with my mare, saw or felt a problem there. The chiro then adjusted his neck and seemed surprised when he was able to be adjusted, actually quite well, in the neck. My friend in Delaware does chiro as well and said that nearly every OTTB she works on is locked in their neck and needs to be adjusted. Because, guess what, working mostly in one direction at fairly fast paces, isn't super easy on the neck. But she said if he could be adjusted and didn't lose his mind when she did (which he didn't) then his neck didn't hurt any more than the average OTTB in her long distance opinion. 

The chiro also palpated ONLY his right front suspensory. And pronounced it very sore, which "wasn't a good sign since he's only in light work at this point". If you'll remember, when I palpate the proximal suspensory on all 4 legs he reacts... so I immediately called BS on that one (in my head). I still did go back later and check, and yep, he palpates sore in exactly the same way he did at the end of April when he was doing zero work. 

Mr. GY was out there for all of it. He has a passion for learning and never misses the chance to watch and soak up information from various professionals. He didn't say much during the whole thing, just quietly observed. The next day, after a call to my BFF and some mulling and internet research, I rode Yosh and worked on a ground pole exercise - 4 poles evenly spaced on a 20 m circle. He trotted around the circle really quite beautifully in both directions and could string together 3 of 4 at the canter. We did a good number of transitions as well in between working on the poles, balancing my desire to use transitions to help rock him back and dressage trainer's desire that every transition be beautiful and round or else it shouldn't happen. We popped over the "liverpool" (tarp between two poles on the ground) they have out in the big field, and then called it a day. I was letting him graze in the barnyard while cleaning tack when Mr. GY appeared. He's got many, many years of experience with eventing and horses in general. He cautiously asked me what I thought about the day before. I explained, in brief, my thought process from above. He looked relieved. I asked him what he thought and got a flood, ending with "I just came out to make sure you weren't about to sell him down the river." 


  1. Hmmmm...I don't know enough about any of those injuries to be an expert, but you having recent clean rads of his neck and the chiro saying the sky is falling despite that would be enough to make me not want to use him/her again. I have to be able to trust my whole horse team.

    1. We didn't actually take x-rays of anything during his PPE, just thoroughly flexed and palpated. I would've taken rads if recommended, but once you start, where do you stop if nothing actually flexes/palpates like a problem. Especially for a $4k horse.

      But yeah, enough of the other things said were provably off/not based on enough info that I am not going to use this person again.

  2. i'm glad you didn't take it too much to heart, bc damn.... gotta admit i'm *HIGHLY* skeptical of any horse professional (regardless of their credentials) who would walk in and make sweeping proclamations about a horse's future based off limited first impressions....

    1. Yeah, after taking all of the surgeon's remarks to heart last time, I took a breath before delving into this one.

  3. That's so frustrating. But agree with the others--listen to the whole picture. You'll know what's right.

    1. Thank you, and yes, money and emotional energy wasted for sure.