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Not unlike humans, as horses age their physical abilities slowly begin to diminish. Joints might not move quite as easily; little aches and pains might become more common; or recovering from a hard workout might take a little longer. But as veterinary technology advances, older horses’ athletic careers are getting longer as well.

Last year, I was preparing for a combined test with Dorado (then 15 years old) when my former trainer and I agreed that he wasn’t jumping quite right. Mentally he was all there, ready to go, but physically, something wasn’t right.

We called our veterinarian to come have a look, suspecting that Dorado might finally be ready for some joint injections–something we’d been able to avoid previously through some careful management practices. When my vet arrived to evaluate, I also took the opportunity to pick his brain about his thoughts on my aging horse continuing in eventing.

After a quick physical exam, we carried out some flexion tests to see how his joints were functioning. Both hocks yielded positive tests (meaning they showed soreness), as did his right stifle. His forelegs didn’t flex perfectly, but the rapidity at which he trotted out of his gimpy steps suggested they wouldn’t need injections at that point

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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