Perhaps I have been in denial that there is a problem with my young horse Mazzy, but I am fairly certain there is at this point. I guess by finally posting about it I am admitting it. She has been under saddle for just about a year now. From the beginning there has been a weakness behind which we at first attributed to her being young, very large, and having no fitness or muscle. Her training has progressed well, she wants to learn and enjoys working. She is really quiet, so I never have to lounge her, thankfully. I really look forward to riding her everyday because she just keeps getting better and better. Since I've raised her from birth I have a very special bond with her.
Due to her size and growth spurt at a young age I have kept her on monthly Adequan injections and a joint supplement (Recovery EQ with HA). She has always been stiffer going to the right, it is harder for her to bend that way, but don't all horses have a better and worse side? There are some other young horses at the barn that seem to be progressing faster, but I wasn't necessarily concerned with that because I didn't need my three year old jumping 3 foot courses if I want her to last more than a couple of years. I am perfectly happy with the slow pace she has been brought along at. She gets two professional rides a week which has worked out great. She gets to keep learning and I try and reinforce what my trainer teaches her. In March she seemed to have a sore back and was not quite right behind, taking shorter steps. I wasn't concerned because babies go through alot of changes and things get sore as they develop and learn to use different muscles. We gave her some time off. She was fine for the month of April and then the beginning of May was off on her right hind. Gave her a few days off and she seemed fine again. Meanwhile she was consistently hacked and wasn't working terribly hard. The end of May she came up sore again, so it was time for the vet to come out and look at her. She was quite positive to the stifle flexions and dragging her hind toes. We had already assumed her stifles were what was was bothering her, so it was no huge surprise. My vet evaluated her and gave me some options. 1) Injection of anti-inflammatory medications such as hyaluronic acid and corticosteroids directly into the joint OR 2) The use of bone marrow or Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP).
When a joint is inflamed, it creates an unhealthy environment for healing. The inflammatory process can create a less-than-optimal chemical mix in the joint fluid. While non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications block production of PGE2 to effectively obstruct pain, cartilage breakdown continues. Corticosteroids prevent production of PGE2 to block inflammation and pain, but they also inhibit synthesis of the cartilage matrix and increase risk of infection. Traditional anti-inflammatory injection treat the symptoms. Mazzy is so young, so I really wanted to do the least invasive treatment.
And since IRAP treats the cause, we decided on IRAP. Also, because the IRAP serum is derived from the animal’s own blood, the possibility of adverse allergic or anaphylactic side effects is drastically reduced. The cost is quite high for IRAP, but I wanted to do what was best for my young horse. Many horses that do not respond to traditional anti-inflammatory injections respond to IRAP, so I figured I would go what works best. It really stinks having to even make this decision so early in her career!
IRAP uses the body's own protective mechanism to produce autologous conditioned serum (ACS) from your horse's own blood. The ACS counteracts the destructive effects of inflammation within the diseased joint. The procedure begins with drawing blood from your horse into a special patent syringe. The syringe contains chromium-coated glass beads which enhance production of anti-inflammatory proteins including IRAP. The blood is incubated for 24 hours at which point the blood is spun down and the conditioned serum is extracted and processed into individual doses that can be injected similar to a routine intra-articular joint medication.
Good article from The Chronicle of the Horse:
Post IRAP treatment:
Mazzy was hand walked/saddle walked daily for a week and then walk-trot for a week and now she is back to normal hacking. I have had some of the best rides on her since the IRAP, she has felt soft and light and her canter is so much more coordinated. It really has been such a pleasure feeling the improvement. And then...three weeks after the IRAP treatment, lame. So frustrating. I have the vet coming back out tomorrow.