Why do Horses' Hocks Fuse?
Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Have you ever wondered why your older horses suddenly get sore in their hocks, especially when you haven’t changed their exercise, living conditions, feed, etc. We have been getting more and more questions if CBD Oil can help a horse’s pain while your older horses are going through this change. The biggest question we get at H & J CBD Equine Supplements is “are horses’ hocks fusing normal”? The answer is yes. Hock fusion happens when moderate to severe osteoarthritis is detected in the hocks. Hock fusion is actually a good thing. It relieves pain and your horse’s quality of life is increased.
Let’s start with why this is happening to my horse. The hock is comprised of 12 bones, and they fit together like a puzzle. Just like a human’s knees, the hocks work like shock absorbers. Fusing begins when the protective cartilage in the joints wears away. Have you ever heard the term bone on bone? The lower joints in a horse are distal intertarsal and tarsometatarsal. These are the two joints that tend to fuse together. Joint radiographs or an ultrasound are used to determine if a horse is going through the fusion process. There are three types of processes.
- Natural Fusion: The horse can be worked with pain management while the joint fuses naturally. This can be a slow, painful process and there is no telling how long it will take.
- Surgical Arthrodesis: A surgeon will drill away the cartilage lining between the joint leaving the subchondral bone exposed and free to grow together. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. Fusion is estimated to take a year to complete.
- Chemical Arthrodesis: An alcohol solution is injected into the hock destroying the cartilage lining. The subchondral bone is exposed and free to grow together. This is a standing procedure done under local anesthesia.
We reached out to our local veterinarians, and they all agreed it takes anywhere between six months to a year for the joints to fuse. It is assumed that fused hocks are less painful, however the full fusion is a very slow progress. If hocks are not entirely fused, they have the potential to cause discomfort. Injections or pain relievers may enable the horse to continue to move without pain while the process is underway. However, this should be monitored by the vet that may use diagnostic imaging to determine progress. Once the hocks are fused, any discomfort or lameness tends to be eliminated, and the horse should usually be able to carry on in normal work.
Full-spectrum CBD Oil made from hemp has been shown to be a natural pain reliever and may help alleviate the pain without using chemicals. Topicals such as CBD liniment, gel, or ointments is also a great way to relieve pain.