Horse Care Tips

Rest & Recover: What To Expect After Horse Hock Injections

horse hock at sunset
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Written by Natalie Gasper

Help Your Horse Bounce Back

If you’ve decided your horse would benefit from hock injections, you’re probably wondering what that process looks like and how long recovery will take. Read on to learn about best practices!

Hock injections, a standard arthritis treatment, involve injecting a steroid into the hock to decrease inflammation and improve comfort and performance. The procedure is quick, but the prep can take several hours. After the injection, plan for 24 hours of stall rest and a few days of controlled exercise like hand-walking. Hock injections do come with risks (such as infection), but can be great for joint health.

Hock Injections: A Brief Overview

If your horse resists collection, has started acting out, or has a change in gait quality, he may benefit from hock injections, which are performed by a qualified vet.

The Hock: Form & Function

While the hock is often referred to as a single joint, it actually consists of ten bones and four joints. The hock has a similar function to a human ankle.

Hocks are responsible for carrying weight, pushing off the ground, running, jumping, and turning.

Hock Injection 101

Hock injections are meant to relieve the inflammation and pain that comes from arthritis. They are a temporary solution to irreversible damage (arthritis is a condition that is managed, not cured).

Your vet will inject a steroid (sometimes mixed with hyaluronic acid to help lubricate the joint) into the hock.

bay horse hock english riders

Source: Canva

Hock Injections: The Day Of

Hock injections sound scary, but they’re a straightforward procedure. Your vet will most likely sedate your horse (it’s not safe for them to move while being injected), then thoroughly clean the area with antiseptic.

The vet may take an x-ray before injection to confirm the location. Then, your vet will carefully insert a needle into the joint and inject the medication.

How long does it take to give a horse hock injections?

Not long! The longest parts will be allowing the sedation to kick in (and wear off) and for your vet to clean the area. The injection itself should take less than a minute.

Overall, plan for about two to three hours—twenty minutes for the sedation to kick in, fifteen minutes for cleaning and injecting, and one to two hours of monitoring your horse while the sedation wears off.

How much do hock injections cost?

The cost can vary widely based on what is injected and where you are located, but expect a cost of $65 to $250 per joint, plus the farm call and sedation.

How frequently do horses need hock injections?

This depends on the horse. Some horses are good for a year, others may need an injection every six months. Most vets will hesitate to inject more than twice a year, as injections aren’t without risk.

If your horse acts like he needs an injection more than every six months, you may want to look into additional support options, like an injectable or oral joint supplement.

vet rubber gloves syringe

Source: Canva

Hock Injections: The Recovery

The actual injection may be quick, but proper recovery takes a bit longer.

How long should a horse rest after hock injections?

Your horse will need stall rest for twenty-four hours after the injection, followed by one to two days of controlled exercise, like hand-walking or turnout in a small pasture (no running!).

Are horses sore after hock injections?

Yes! Hock injections usually create mild soreness or discomfort while the medication takes effect, which is why it’s important to give your horse a chance to rest.

How long should you wait to ride a horse after hock injections?

On the third post-injection day, you’re safe for light riding. Make sure to return to your full routine slowly, over several days. This is the perfect time for a long, slow trail ride.

chestnut horse legs walking

Source: Canva

Hock Injections: Watch Out

While hock injections are largely safe, they aren’t without some risks.

What could go wrong with hock injections?

Any time your horse receives an injection, there is a chance of infection no matter how clean everything is. Giving injections long-term can break down cartilage and make lameness worse.

Steroids have also been known to trigger laminitis in horses with metabolic issues.

What are the side effects of hock injections in horses?

Aside from infection, most horses are sore for several days after the injection or may appear more lame (this should pass).

When should you call the vet after hock injections?

If you notice signs of an infection, which include swelling, pain, heat, or extreme lameness, call your vet immediately.

vet drawing injection horse and owner

Source: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What alternatives are there to hock injections?

If hock injections make you nervous, there are several alternatives. Oral pain relievers, like bute, can ease pain and reduce inflammation (but aren’t recommended for long-term use).

There are dozens of oral and injectable joint supplements you could use. Injectable supplements, such as Adequan, are more expensive but tend to work better than oral supplements.

You can also reduce your horse’s workload or give him some time off.

Q: Do horses need time off after hock injections?

Yes! Plan for one day of stall rest, one to two days of controlled exercise, then a few days of light riding.

Q: When should you start doing hock injections on a young horse?

Some horses develop arthritis young, whether they were backed too early or are genetically predisposed to the condition. Consult with your vet, who will likely do a lameness exam and x-rays to decide the best way to manage the inflammation and pain.

Q: How do you bring a horse back to work after hock injections?

It’s best to take things slowly. The medicine takes several days to a month to go into full effect.

Parting Thoughts

Hock injections can be a vital part of keeping your horse happy and healthy. Even though they are a common procedure, it’s okay if you’d rather pursue alternate forms of treatment like joint supplements or rest.

The key to success is working with a qualified vet who can help you find the best treatment plan for your horse.

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About the author

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Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!