November 14, 2022

 We often share the stories of Horses Inspiring Hope in the individuals throughout our community.  Stories of first words, goals reached, relationships healed, and hearts restored. These stories bring together horses and humans in a beautiful and powerful way, highlighting the potential of such special partnerships. The people in these stories go on to grow and thrive in their families, their schools, their communities, and within their own hopes and dreams.  We have many people who express their gratitude to these incredible animals, crediting them for the transformations they have experienced.

But what about the horses? 

What happens on the journey of our horses as they grow and learn, age, and carry on?  The average lifespan of a horse has almost doubled in the last 20 years with advancements in veterinary care and technology. Because they are living longer the injuries tend to be more prevalent, this same technology and vet care helps us help them. These added years and miraculous recoveries often come with a heavy price tag for their human partners, both emotionally and financially. Muscles and joints deteriorate, aches and pains pop up, and their bodies are not always able to keep up with the servant’s heart these horses give so willingly.

Quip is one of these horses that serves so well.

At 11 years old, it might come as a surprise that Quip isn’t as fit as a fiddle.  Eleven isn’t old, it is practically youthful! Equivalent of a 30-year-old human, yet Quip has had an active life.  He’s had some medical challenges that ultimately limited his potential in his jumping horse career. This led to his past owner finding us and deciding to donate him to Healing Strides in 2019.

Quip has been an incredible asset to our programs: athletic enough for jumping small courses, not the bigger ones that he had done prior to coming here, strong enough to carry our adults and our Veterans, honest enough for beginner riders and educated enough for advanced riders, and kind enough for those who are nervous and unsure of horses.  He has the best temperament, always sensitive to the energy and emotions of those around him, but patient and understanding when things don’t go perfectly—always willing to take a joke and keep going.  He has a quirky personality that endears people to him quickly, ready to build a connection and partnership.

Over the last year, Quip has shown some signs that his body is needing some attention: intermittent lameness that would resolve with rest and a break, carrying himself differently in certain situations, as well as some behavior changes.

These changes were gradual and small, each one addressed as it came up with the medical care required. Tack adjustments were made, additional training for staff and volunteers was given, and/or rest, as needed. Seeing as he could not ‘tell us’ what was wrong, we had to slowly put a picture together that indicated he needed to be evaluated by a veterinarian.

At the end of May of 2022, Quip went very lame with an abscess in one of his hooves. (These are common to see in horses, especially in spring when the weather is so inconsistent.)  When the abscess did not seem to resolve with traditional methods of treatment, we had a vet look at him.  He found the abscess which was causing him quite a bit of discomfort therefore we also did a lameness exam to see if there was something else going on.  The results showed that Quip was quite sore in his sacroiliac joint and lame in one of his front feet.  The vet seemed optimistic that he could treat these issues and have Quip comfortable and ready to get back to work. However, this treatment would be rather expensive.

Joint injections are a routine and common medical treatment that horses may receive throughout their lives.  Many horses go their whole lives not needing them, and others need them, on an ongoing basis, to remain comfortable and happy.  There are many factors that go into this: conformation, genetics, work load, type of work, age, health conditions, and much more. There are measures that can be taken to limit or (hopefully) prevent the need for this treatment, but the varied factors that contribute to it sometimes means it is unavoidable. More importantly, when it is what the horse needs to be comfortable, then it needs to be done.

Since Quip is still quite young, the ideal injection serum to help his joints is one that is nonsteroidal and is not caustic—it will work with his body to remove inflammation and help lubricate his joints. Technology is an incredible thing and the options for horses with this need have grown so much in the last decades! While the cost of this treatment is in the thousands, not only does Quip deserve to be pain-free, it is also far less of an expense than if we needed to retire him and find another horse to fill his shoes (metaphorically, of course!).  With this treatment, Quip will be able to return to his work happy and comfortable, ready to be a part of the stories of those who have the chance to meet him and live out his job as one of the horses that inspire hope.

Soon after this article was written it was clear that Quip could not return without the injections and some intervention. The Director of Operations at Healing Strides, along with Quip’s veterinarian team, made the decision to move forward with the outlined treatment plan previously recommended. We are pleased to share with you that Quip is back at work and his treatment was a success.

It is an example of how investing in routine care and maintenance prolongs the health and well-being of our horses.  

This is not the end of the story, because every horse on the property is worth the investment of quality horse care. With your financial support, the herd, who gives so freely, can continue to receive the level of care they deserve.  

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