I have a five year old Belgian mare that has some ocd in her hocks. She also had a bone chip in her pastern as a weanling. The chip was removed and the joint cleaned up in surgery. I am now riding this mare both trails and western pleasure. She has been on joint supplements with HA since her surgery at 4 months. What else can I do to keep her sound? I know sometimes her hocks seem a little weak. Is the work best for the ocd or should it just be light work. I try to keep her fairly fit. She is about 2000 pounds and I try to keep her weight down also. How much HA should she get? Is that the best way to treat her OCD?
First let me explain what OCD is, then address appropriate supplements, workload, and diet. OCD stands for osteochondritis dissecans and is a type of growth disorder in horses that falls under the general heading Developmental Orthopedic Disease or DOD. Basically OCD is a problem in the way cartilage matures into bone. Some use the term osteochrondrosis (OC) interchangeably with osteochondritis dissecans but OCD is the more advanced form of the disease, where abnormal joint cartilage actually develops cracks and fissures. If this abnormal tissue becomes loose in the joint, like with your horse, then it’s termed a bone chip .
You were right on track supplementing with hyaluronic acid (HA) after her surgery. A study performed by the surgeons at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY, demonstrated reduced joint swelling following the removal of OCD chips from the hocks of young thoroughbreds given 100mg of HA orally. That’s because hyaluronic acid blocks inflammatory reactions, protecting cells in the joint. It’s an excellent choice for acute situations like surgery and flare-ups of chronic joint conditions. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to keep your mare on it.I hope the joint supplement you’re giving her also contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, two ingredients that inhibit the free radicals and enzymes that lead to breakdown of cartilage while also supplying the building blocks of new, healthy tissue. MSM is also a good idea, as it has recently been shown to have a protective effect on exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation of tissues in the horse.
It sounds like she’s already on the heavy side, and I’m sure you know that keeping her at a body condition score of 5 (between 1 = emaciated and 9 = obese) will be better for her joints and other tissues. Since pasture is probably not on her menu then, supply Omega 3 fatty acids with supplements that contain flax seed, fish oil, or other sources of this healthy fat that fights inflammation and benefits cellular health. You probably don’t feed her grain either, so make sure she gets her full ration of nutrients with a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement or ration balancer.
Now that we’ve got her nutrition and supplements covered, what about exercise? Not having seen her X-rays or her joints directly during surgery, I’m going to “turf” that question back to your local veterinarian and referring surgeon. I will just point out that she will benefit from as much turnout and as little stall time as possible, from long and gentle warm-ups and cool-downs, and from regular, consistent exercise rather than sporadic work.
[Ed. note: from the AAEP Ask a Vet]