Northern Virginia, 45 minutes east of paradise - 2 hrs during rush hour
A cautionary tale (long) - RIP Val 10-08-2010 pics post #43
I've debated with myself about sharing this, but I thought if it helps anyone else by sharing I should do so. The way it all unfolded is rather strange.
18 months ago, Val was born. He had some hypoxia and had difficulty swallowing correctly. At 15 hours, he had milk in his lungs and was moved from my vet's place where he was foaled to Marion Dupont. He was tall, a bit contracted in the front and VERY lax behind. He would park out with a wide stance in back for stability but got up and down fine. He spent a week at Marion Dupont and all the vets and techs thought he was a stunning colt and very sweet.
Val comes home, keeps growing. He seems to be taking a long time to get over the leg issues, but every week he's a bit straighter in front and stronger behind. He has stunning movement. Just stunning. Not leg flinging stunning, but old style perfect paces where he rocks back and carries on the hind quarters. Piaffes and passages at play. He prefers to canter over trot. Still sweet and easy to handle. Except... he's weird about being held with the halter. Gets extremely upset if you pull on his head. Really...upset. I learn how to handle him without putting pressure on his head since the only time I ever needed to do it was when the trimmer came. He was fine when leading.
I still don't like how long it's taking for his legs to completely straighten out and vet does rads of knees and feet in front but nothing there to explain it. My lameness vet, who also knows bunches about growth and development, owns his own digital x-ray machine (it lives with him in the truck) and will x-ray ANYTHING. He has seen this colt by 2 months of age and checks him every time he comes out for something. Which was a lot last year as I had a horse with EPM.
Val, who is so sweet, and moves so beautifully, that I get comments about him all time, occasionally looks funny behind when he gallops. He stretches so far when he gallops he leaves his back-end behind. It looks...odd. But he continues to look like the dressage horse he was bred to be at all other paces and still people tell me how gorgeous he is as he canters with the herd. Perfect canter. Perfect walk. A head turner to be sure. Still, I don't market him because ... well... I have nagging doubts.
At the beginning of summer, we started to have trouble keeping weight on him. Just a mite too ribby and I don't feed concentrates (just vitamins and minerals, flax and maybe some rice bran) so he started to come in during the day to eat a pile of alfalfa and rest his quickly growing body. All the other babies at the barn have no trouble with their weight.
In the barn, I never see him laying down unlike his sisters who LOVE a snooze in the stall. The stalls are big, 15 x 15 at least, maybe bigger (all the stalls are broodmare and foal stalls). He would eat and then park himself with his head out the window and sleep like that. Always sleeps with his head up high. Never droopy. He became less ribby but we could still see his ribs. By 16 months he is at least 15.2H. Loads of bone. You can tell Daddy and dam sire are older style guys. Big bones, big shoulders. Strong loins. He seems to have muscle everywhere, except he seems to be loosing muscle in the hind. But he's a yearling, and they do that...right?
6 weeks ago his fetlocks dropped. Boom. Out of nowhere. Scarey looking. Starts to stock up badly when stalled. Vet comes out, shakes his head and says it looks like a development problem in the tendons and ligaments, almost like a protein deficiency. We KNOW he isn't protein deficient in his feed, the hay is amazing, so we look to mal-absoroption or metabolic issues. He is borderline low thyroid, so we start some low thyroid meds, take him off the flax to be safe. We power-pack him to be safe, even though his fecals were clear. I had been giving him MSM and stopped that is case it was messing with his tum. We check his trim and he has nice short toes and is not under-run.
Otherwise Val looks great. Shiny, happy, eating well, stands for trimmer like champ, cantering happily in the field. But I notice that he is starting to park-out again to stabilize his hind end when I pick his front feet up.
Last week it rained for several days and Val stocks up badly. Saturday, he looks bad to me behind. He looks weak in the fetlocks and looks like he can't carry weight on the inside leg when asked to turn in a tight circle. He limps over the inside leg. He looks like he is hurting. I call vet. Vet says bring him to clinic in the morning and we'll but some support shoes on him.
Sunday morning, Val is ataxic. We take him to clinic and when vet pulls on his tail, Val nearly falls over. On neck flexions Val's hind end gives out. Neck x-rays show a congenital malformation of the vertebra at c2-c3 that allow his vertebra to move out of alignment. You can see them misalign on the xray with flexion. Given his history, it's clear he was born with it. His tendon and ligament issues are due to not getting enough nerve stimulation to develop correctly and the fetlocks dropped this summer because they had not developed correctly and he had finally gotten so big that they could no longer support his weight.
Somehow, I always knew. But babies grow funny, look uncoordinated. Grow some more. Look fine. Vet says the next time he sees that kind of rear laxity in a warmblood weanling, he's going to do rads. Just in case.
I did some research and this deformity is unusual and nearly always occurs is horses bred for a high arched neck, like warmbloods and saddlebreds. The vet said when they were working with Val at the clinic he noticed how Val always held his head up pretty high. Even the weight issues are consistent with wobblers.
If we did surgery to stabilize the neck, we cannot roll back the clock on his tendon development and he most likely has permanent damage. He is going to be a very big horse, probably 17.1H and already he is hurting. We're beginning to get the fall rains and he has gotten so bad so quickly I worry about him slipping in the mud and breaking something. So sometime this week, we'll say good-bye. depends on when we can excavate a grave for him.
We have Val's full sister who is 2 and half sister who is 4. I'll be watching them closely.
So there were some strange symptoms but they were all related.
Last edited by Stacie; Oct. 8, 2010 at 08:14 PM.
"The mighty oak is a nut who stood its ground"
"...you'll never win Olympic gold by shaking a carrot stick at a warmblood..." see u at x
So sorry about your boy. I can't imagine the heartache you are going through, but you are doing the right thing. Far better to send him on gently than risk him suffering a horrific injury by falling. Godspeed to Val, and hugs to you.
You have been a brave pair, you and Val. My heart breaks for you. After all this time, you have built a special relationship with a friend, not just an animal.
It hurts to say good-by, I know first hand, after all the hope and time.
But DY is right, better a safe, gentle goodby rather than a terrible and painful injury.
Prayers for both of you.
Maryanna Haymon- Marydell Farm - Home to Don Principe & Doctor Wendell MF www.marydellfarm.com
2012 USDF Champion Breeder! 2007, 2011 USEF Champ Breeder
2009,2010,2011 USDF Res Breeder of the Year!
Thoughts and prayers and huge hugs for Val and you and the entire support team ~ he is lucky to have you and you him ~ Godspeed big, handsome colt ~ and may his sisters grow to be strong and healthy and famous ~ again so very sorry
I am so sorry. As breeders this has got to be the worst aspect to deal with. I know hearing you are doing the right thing is kind of meaningless at this time, but do know so many of us are thinking of you and praying for you and Val.