My very first horse was an ex-hunter/jumper in her twenties. She was a true gem of a horse, aptly named Lady Be Good. Due to her former career however, Lady had hock pain in one leg that would occasionally cause lameness. I was just a kid then, but I wish I had known some natural remedies to help her.
The hock is technically known as the tarsus. It’s made up of four basic joints, quite a few bones, and ligaments. It’s the equine equivalent to the human ankle. Hock pain is common amongst performance horses, especially those working off their hind end, like cutters, hunter/jumpers and racers.
Arthritis is a commonly diagnosed problem of the hock and many vets will recommend joint injections to treat the problem. But joint injections carry the risk of infection and joint degeneration, among other things. Plus, corticosteroid injections may merely mask the pain, and the horse could easily re-injure the joint when returning to work.
Fortunately, there are some natural remedies for treating hock pain in horses that do not carry much risk at all. They aren’t miracle workers, but they can make a difference for horses with mild to moderate hock pain.
A nutraceutical is a food or naturally-occurring dietary supplement with medical benefits. They have been shown to be effective for many equine issues, including OCD (Osteochondritis dissecans) and arthritis, where joint cartilage is involved. It’s important to know what problem you’re dealing with before choosing a joint nutraceutical, otherwise you may be wasting your money.
Here are some joint nutraceuticals with a history of successfully relieving arthritis and inflammation of the hock (and other joints):
- Resveratrol supplements like Equithrive, which has been proven to reduce hock lameness. Resveratrol is a natural compound found in Japanese Knotweed and grape skins with anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.
- Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, such as Corta-Flx and KER-Flex.
- Hyaluronic Acid (HA) supplements such as Hyaluronex HA, Conquer, and Lube All.
- Glucosamine/chondroitin + HA supplements such as HylaRx Complete.
- Resveratrol + HA supplements, such as Equithrive Joint.
*Check out Dr. Eleanor Kellon’s book, Horse Journal: Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals for more insight on joint supplements.
Many herbs have been shown to be beneficial for horses with hock arthritis as well, such as:
- Devil’s Claw (herbal blend)
- White Willow Bark
Hot/ Cold Therapy
Don’t discount using hot and cold therapy for hock issues, especially swelling. Acute injuries of the hock are best treated with ice or cold water, while more chronic injuries can benefit from alternating between hot and cold therapies. There are several nifty hock ice wraps, such as this one, or you can devise your own with a plastic baggie containing ice and a polo wrap.
For hot therapy you can use heating pads, hot towels, instant heat packs or hot water bottles.
You knew I wouldn’t leave this one out! I will never forget the time when I was a newbie acupressure student and I used an acupressure point on a friend’s barrel racing horse who was having some hock issues just before the duo made one of the fastest runs in their career. I thought “Wow, this really does work!”
Fluke or not, these modalities can ease hock pain, but they actually work best if used regularly (and not just minutes before a performance!) Here are some acu-points that can help to ease hock pain:
- Bladder 39: reactiveness in this point can be an indicator of hock pain
- Bladder 60: alleviates swelling in hock and throughout the body
- Stomach 41: benefits the joints, especially the hock and relieves hock pain
- Kidney 3: alleviates hock pain
*Equine Acupressure, by Nancy Zidonis, is a wonderful reference guide on the subject.
This content is for informational purposes only. Please contact your veterinarian if you have any questions regarding the health of your animals.
About the Author
Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at www.casiebazay.com.