PPE Results: Horse with Tendon Tears? Am I Crazy to Even Consider?

I’m seeking advice from experienced equestrians. I’ve had an awesome 16-year-old quarter horse gelding on trial for the past couple of weeks. He checks all the boxes and is pretty much everything I want. My trial is almost up so I decided to do the PPE.

Well, turns out that he has multiple tears along both of his hind fetlock tendons. He has always been a little stiff when we start working but I just assumed it was age and he did work out of it. But he flexed positive (like very lame after being flexed) so we did some digging to see what the cause would be. X-rays revealed mild arthritis that the vet was not concerned about for his age. Then we did an ultrasound and discovered the tears.

The vet does not think the tears will resolve but could possibly be maintained with supplements, Legend, anti-inflammatory meds, and shockwave treatment. All of this would be monthly. So we are talking about a significant amount of maintenance every month for the rest of this horse’s life. I mostly do trail riding vs his previous home which was a show/performance home and worked him pretty hard. But I would like to be able to walk/trot/canter with this guy and the vet said there is no way to tell how long that would be possible given the tendon injuries. I can afford maintenance, but that doesn’t automatically make this an easy decision.

So now I’m a bit stuck. I really like this guy. He has the personality, movement, and training I’m looking for. And is it not easy to find a horse that checks all those boxes where I live (I’m in upstate NY). He walks over to me as soon as he sees me coming for him in the paddock. He seems happy to see me and I feel like we are starting to form a bond. I’m just reeling from the PPE results. I’m not sure if tendon injuries are a deal-breaker or if I should be willing to invest in ongoing maintenance for the rest of his life since I like him so much. This is the downside to doing a trial - I had time to connect with the horse and so it’s not a black & white decision anymore.

  • The vet thinks I should consider the maintenance, but she of course would be the one providing the maintenance.

  • My trainer thinks I should consider the maintenance, but if I don’t have a horse then she loses a client.

  • My friends think I should consider the maintenance because I like him so much, but think the owner should come down in price (which they will not by much).

This horse was $15,000 and they are willing to come down to $10,000. The owner feels his personality and training make him worth it and that maintenance is to be expected with a horse his age. I can go back to them try to get them down even further, but before I head down that road I’m trying to decide if it’s even a good idea to buy a horse with tendon tears in both hind legs.

Would be grateful for objective advice from riders who are not invested in this situation. :slight_smile:

Pass

Please keep looking.

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Personally, I would pass. Unless you are willing to have a very sweet, big, expensive dog for many years.

-Age: At 16, just how many more years of strenuous work do you think he would have left? While I’ve met many horses who happily W/T/C under saddle (and relatively sound) into their mid-to-late 20s, I’ve met a lot more horses that really needed to step down to W/T at 20 due to how hard they’d been worked in their younger years. Would you expect him to be your riding horse for just 5 years? 10 years? 15 years? Would you be willing to take care of him if he became unriddable sooner as opposed to later?
-Injury: The maintenance sounds like a lot for a horse that you don’t plan to work hard (and can’t). You said you mostly just want to trail ride, but there is a lot of variation there (wide, well-maintained dirt paths with little elevation vs. rocky, overgrown deer trail down the hillside). The latter example might be a bit much for him while the former perfectly doable. Additionally, your vet has already said the injury is more of a ticking time bomb than anything.

-He may not have the movement forever.
-How useful is the training if you can’t ride him?
-Lot’s of horses have great personalities. But would you buy him for her personality ONLY?

I’m also a bit ehh on the owners’ price. I’m not saying his training isn’t worth money, but I’ve met plenty of horses that sold for X price that weren’t worth it because they were broken. I knew a woman (K) who got a horse originally priced between $25-35k for more like $10k because the horse was a wreck. The owner had leased horse out to someone, who proceeded to overwork and neglect him. K took him on trail; poor guy was back sore, foot sore, underweight, undermuscled, and super flighty. It took months of work for him to reach a managable state and K wound up retiring him less than 5 years later because he wouldn’t stay sound. I’m not even sure he was older than 15 at that point. K didn’t wind up saving money getting him cheaper because she spent enough on maintenance to make up the difference.

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Hard pass. Sorry.

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Yes, you are all probably right. It’s so sad! :sob: I know this horse is just going to be put to heavy work if I send him back, which the vet said would likely break him fairly quickly. I’m wondering if perhaps the vet and my trainer are not ruling him out because I obviously like him so much and I would provide the kind of home this horse actually needs. I feel selfish sending the horse back to a less ideal home because I want to be able to w/t/c. :cry:

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Those are the horses you look back over the years still wishing things would have been different, but they were what they were.

No, that horse doesn’t seem suitable for someone that wants to have a horse to ride for long time.
All his problems and that maintenance to help him will make it sad to live with.
Will spend those years wondering if we are doing right for a horse in that shape to keep using it, knowing that without that extra care he would be worse, horse enduring.
That may be a bad situation to be involved in right from the start, unless you are into rescuing more than riding.

We carry a horse we had and did much with thru those last years when the time comes.
Not sure we should be putting our emotions and other resources into a horse with those problems we are buying now in his last years.
That is the question you need to answer, the PPE presented that future, is that what you want of your next horse?

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I would pass as well, but keep in touch because when he needs a pasture to retire in, perhaps you’ll have one by then. He could be a buddy to the horse you do buy. Maybe even ask the owner to consider you for a retirement home when he gets too sore to work. Wouldn’t it be lovely if every horse had some form of social security?

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Unless you are willing to spend $10,000 on a pasture ornament (because that could happen any day) and give him a soft landing, then pass. Otherwise, you are likely to spend the money, have him break down in X months/years, and be back horse shopping again, this time with a dependent.

Sorry :sleepy:

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I understand the answers and points of view above, but am curious why the vet feels those tears won’t resolve w proper care and rehabilitation.

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At that price I would definitely pass. At any price I would pass, unless you know that having a pasture ornament is going to be useful (i.e. companion) and affordable.
I would be very wary of tears in both hinds that have not resolved already. That suggests an ongoing syndrome not an acute injury.
Story time! I have two horses who have had tears in hind tendons (both ddft). One I owned when it happened. His resolved after a year and he is sound but with scar tissue evident on ultrasound. His conformation, work type, and breed do not lend itself to hind leg injuries, it was a one off pasture accident. But, I will never work him in heavy mud. The other I bought as a cheap companion, hers had been treated for over a year, and kept reoccurring. Her conformation and previous work load (classic paint/QH build, barrel racer) may have predisposed her to a reoccuring injury. The last time it was looked at, it remained an active tear. Two years on she is sounder, but she routinely tweaks the tendon. On good days the swelling is ugly but cold and hard. On bad days, it is hot and she is noticeably lame. She is 20, injury happened when she was 16 or 17. I will probably have to put her down in the next few years.
Unfortunately, your horse sounds like the second case to me.

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I would consider if the price were cheap, really cheap and I had sufficient funds to maintain a horse for light riding and potential for just being a pasture pet; however, for that price no, especially if you are looking at a lot of use/riding, showing - pass.

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Sounds like he can currently do the job you want him to do.

You can extend the length of time during which he can do that job for you by treating him kindly (not working him pretty hard) and providing maintenance.

At age 16, he’s not a spring chicken. You are looking at 5 to 10 years of useful riding life. Confidence, personality - all those intangibles - are hard to find and important. And in today’s market, $10K is chump change. Wild child off the track will be >$5K.

Given what you are looking to do with this horse, I think you have good reason to say yes. If you wanted to do lower level eventing, I would agree with the others it is a hard no. But in your situation, I think the risk of breakdown is low based on what you wrote and your vets recommendation that you do the maintenance (i.e. that will keep this horse doing the job for you).

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Yes, his hocks have been very swollen from the beginning - we thought it was because he had been worked so hard and that maybe it was just part of his conformation as an older horse. During the PPE the vet recommended draining the hocks as the first step in treatement.

These are all the things I am thinking. It is not easy to find a horse with the qualities this guy has and I had/have a generous budget when I was looking. I’m not willing to travel the country until the pandemic has cooled down either. But that doesn’t mean I should buy this horse. If I had never met him and just saw all this on paper, it’d be a no thanks. But now that I know him? I’m struggling.

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I was in a similar position as OP years ago buying a YOUNG horse. Not the same physical issue, but one that was only going to get worse - not better. I cried as I told the seller NO, after getting 2 additional vet opinions on PPE findings. A couple months later another potential buyer of the same horse asked me for my PPE report. She was willing/able to do maintenance at a reasonable cost since she was an equine vet. I asked that she let me know her final decision as I was still lamenting passing on the horse. She said I had made the right decision. After reviewing the report, she also declined. That was the final closure I needed to be content with passing on him. You MUST take your heart out of the decision - that’s the best advice I can give you.

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“Normally”, tendon tears don’t bother me much, normally there is a reason why they have happened, and they tend to heal well with time in a younger horse. In this case, the tendon tears seem to be secondary to other issues, and this is more serious. Offer to free lease him from the owner. I’m thinking that no one else is gonna buy him either. The owner may be shocked at first with this offer, and turn you down and take the horse back and try to sell him to someone else, but in time and with multiple rejections on vet pre purchases, you may end up with the horse a month from now. No guarantee on how long he will last as functional for you, but that’s horse ownership for you. If you like him that much and he is functional for you now, it’s something you could think about. You ride him for as long as he is comfortable, then put him down if things get bad for him. There will be some costs to keep him as sound, comfortable and functional as long as possible. It doesn’t sound like he is going to be a long term horse for you, or for anyone. But his last years may be better with you than someone else.

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OP, you didn’t state whether you can afford to keep this horse as a pasture ornament long term, and then get another using horse. If that is the case, and you want to give this horse a soft spot to land whether he’s sound or not, then sure go ahead and buy. A wealthy friend of mine bought the school horse she was learning to ride on. He was an 18yr TB, barely W/T sound, but she had a farm and wanted to give him a pasture and friends to retire with when he was no longer rideable. She paid too much ($5k) for him, but I’m sure it was the best 3 years of his life!

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My long term goal has always been to buy a large piece of property with a small barn where whichever horse I find can retire. I don’t have that property now, but I am hoping that will be my situation in 2-3 years. After having dealt with too much “barn drama” in my time I decided that once I finally found a horse of my own I wanted to have property where he/she would have a safe landing spot should a barn close or if they needed to retire. So the short answer is if he can last until I have that setup established I would happily keep him as a pampered lawn ornament and bury him on my property when the time came.

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Just a little point there, in many locales you can’t bury livestock, it may contaminate the ground/water.
Be sure when you buy your land intending to bury a horse that you can do that, if you still want to do such.

If your intent is rescuing horses, that seems like a good one to consider.

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I second the suggestion to offer a free lease. Perhaps the owners will realize that getting him off their payroll is a good deal for them. They are asking too much $$ for a horse that already has at least one problem. It may take a significant investment to figure out all that’s going on.

I gave my old horse to someone on a “permanent” free lease many years ago. He was a friend of a friend and his 36-year old horse had just died. My horse was sound (coming off some hock issues), but older and I felt blessed that he would have a caring home, living on many acres of turnout, with someone who had experience with taking care of older horses. I even offered to help pay for his ongoing care.

I had sold him once but he wasn’t sound enough for the jumping his new owner wanted to do, so I took him back and found him a better spot. Hopefully, the owners of this horse realize that a soft landing is in their horse’s best interest. It’s wonderful that you want to help him, but keep in mind that his on-going care plus board will be a significant expense and his soundness is likely limited.

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