Hi Henry. Thanks for getting back to me, and especially for all of the detailed photos. They are of great help. Thanks for taking the time to send them along.
I can certainly understand your situation with Mac (who, by the way, is an extremely handsome guy, and it is obvious that you have taken excellent care of him). It is a tough decision as to which way to go when it comes to aging horses, quality of life and their overall well-being. I’ve been there several times myself with some of my own horses, so I understand how you’re feeling.
Looking at the photos, it’s apparent that he does have advanced arthritis in the majority of his joints, including the fetlocks, due to the noted swelling and puffiness. As far as the growth on his offside hock, I doubt that it would cause him to stumble, in the respect that it would interfere with his gait and become something he may “trip” over with the opposite limb. That said, however, I would be extremely cautious when riding him, due to the advanced nature of the arthritis, which could cause him to stumble or mis-step at any time. His joint flexion is most likely limited, which can put a hamper on his once solid footing and confidence. So in my opinion only, I would recommend considering not putting yourself at risk, and Mac as well, as a fall could very well injure the both of you. Based on what you have said concerning his overall condition, unfortunately, I would say that it is not worth taking the risk of riding him any further, at this point. Not something that I want to tell you, of course, but there are too many inherent dangers. I so wish I could tell you otherwise……
The folds on the skin are age-related, due to the loss of elasticity that comes with aging. As the cracks seem to be healing, I would recommend to keep doing what you are doing. Any antibiotic cream or even a Vitamin E/Aloe cream would help.
There is not much more to do, unfortunately, as far as managing Mac’s pain from the arthritis. There are long-acting cortisone injections available through your Vet (Methyl-Prednisolone) that I use quite often for pain management in cases similar to Mac. They can often provide up to several months of moderate relief, as they help to inhibit the arthritis-associated inflammation. They can be given in the muscle, just like a vaccine, and are quite safe in situations such as this.
Of course the ultimate decision is yours. When I get to that decision with my own animals, I ask myself the question: “are they still having a good time?”. Also, financial considerations are a factor, and I understand that as well.
I thank you again for taking the time to communicate with me about Mac. It’s a tough spot to be in, but I have confidence that you will make the right choice.
I’ll be thinking of you both.
-Dan C., DVM.