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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul. 18, 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    269

    Default ideas on these signs/symptoms?

    My horse has had some interesting symptoms/changes over the past few months, and I don't know if it's related to training, weather, diet, or some physical cause. these are all pretty mild, but can anyone see a connection/possible cause here?

    Background: 5 y/o ASB gelding in light work as a hunter, recently started dressage lessons ~3 months ago. Also broke to drive and loves this, but haven't driven in a few months due to spookiness (one of the symptoms). No obvious signs of lameness or illness, eating normally, no change in feed (gets Triple Crown Senior with whole flax seed and MSM, basically free choice grass hay, round bale outside, soaked alfalfa cubes after I work him). He's an easy keeper, probably about a BCS of 6, low/neg fecal counts and dewormed regularly when needed. Saddle custom fitted and flocked last summer by master saddle fitter and it fits really well, flocking just adjusted in October. Teeth floated about 6 mo ago by vet. Turned out about 8 hours/day with 2 other horses. Usually very laid back and easy going.

    Okay here are the symptoms/changes I've noticed:
    1. Spookiness- unusual for him, but has been very spooky and jumpy for about 3 months since some new jumps/equipment were placed in one end of the arena (usually he gets over changes quickly, but he is just persistent and wound up over this, even our dressage instructor comments that he looks worried at times). He is just more reactive in general than usual. This really interferes with his concentration and makes dressage work tough.

    2. girthy- this seems fairly mild, but he never used to react to having the girth tightened, this has been about 3-4 months. I talked about this with my vet and he thought it could be due to the fact that he was a little bit heel sore around the time it started, and that girthiness and heel soreness are often connected. There's no obvious foot problem anymore and I haven't noticed obvious lameness. He also often moves when I go to put the saddle/surcingle on his back, he's done this off and on for years, but it's been much more consistent lately, usually he's too lazy to care.

    3. avoiding bit contact/teeth grinding. This I think is complex, but has been going on about 3 weeks now (he did used to grind/chew his bits a couple years ago, but it resolved spontaneously after a few months). I think it's probably because we're learning new things in our dressage lessons and he's frustrated, but he's ducking behind the bit and BTV more than he ever did before and raising his whole neck up and being generally less consistent with contact, frame and speed than he usually is- I suspect this is partly because he's been so edgy/spooky too- he lifts up when we go by the scary end, then I can't get him to lower/take contact until about when we're back by the scary end again.

    4. loose stools- not every BM, but the barn help comments that usually a couple of the piles in his stall look more like cow pies than horse piles. this has been going on for probably 6 months, didn't think much of it because he had nothing else going on when it started. he also has pretty much always had a different odor to his poop than the other horses, ? MSM?

    5. head shaking- did this about 2-3 times over the past month during rides, usually just a brief shake like he has a bug on his neck/head (but it's winter), then nothing more the rest of the rides. . .

    6. skin sensitivity- about 1-2 weeks, some tail swishing, flinching/moving away when being brushed around the flanks and back of his belly, more on the right.

    Could all of these subtle things be connected? I'm hoping it's all just a winter funk (or me being a total hypochondriac), but between the spookiness and lack of connection on the reins, we haven't been getting much done under saddle. . . and I'm sure not going to hook him to the cart with him acting this way.

    Thanks in advance, and sorry for the length.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 24, 2011
    Posts
    77

    Default

    at the risk of being chastised by those with more horse knowledge and experience.....
    Ulcers?? Check with your vet and give him a short regimen of banamine and see if it helps.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec. 31, 2000
    Location
    El Paso, TX
    Posts
    12,642

    Default

    My guess is ulcers or Lyme.

    You "might" consider removing the flax and MSM for a couple of weeks and see if you notice a huge difference. There have been threads on here about some horses ending up having a bad reaction (spookiness, crawling out of their skin behavior) after being on MSM. And jet reacts really poorly to flax. Gets really spooky/nervous/takes hours to settle down.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2007
    Location
    NW Louisiana
    Posts
    5,211

    Default

    Ulcers would be my first thought too, nd tht's not usully my go-to thing. You could try some Zantc for severl dys nd see if tht helps.

    My other thought would be not enough mgnesium. I use epsom slts, bout 1/4 cup per dy.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2011
    Posts
    53

    Default

    Since many of your horse's symptoms sound like my guy's symptoms, and I treated my guy for ulcers with wonderful success, I'm voting for ulcers here.

    Unless there's an actual bleeding wound so that diagnosis is black and white, I'm convinced that most horse ailments come with additional symptoms that make diagnosis more "interesting."

    Good luck to you!



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 4, 2011
    Posts
    48

    Default

    My best guess would be ulcers also. Seems like some of the symptoms may be unrelated but there are some that certainly point to ulcers. Good luck! Hope you win the lottery to pay for the meds!



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul. 18, 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    269

    Default

    thanks guys. Yeah I was thinking ulcers/tummy too, but I wasn't sure if it was just me looking for signs with all the hype we hear about ulcers these days. . . and I hadn't heard that much about nervousness/spookiness being related to ulcers, but the more you look. . . haha. I can't imagine the couple episodes of head shaking is related except maybe to frustration/discomfort. And I'm not sure if loose stools is a common symptom of ulcers or another red herring. I am going to start him on some low dose Zantac tonight (last time I talked to my vet about it when I talked to him about the girthiness, he recommended that if I was going to try it, to try a lower dose than the recommended 6.6 mg/kg, so I'll start with 3.3 mg/kg and if no effect in a few days, increase it to the 6.6 and see if that helps). I think my vet was more concerned about some low grade impaction than ulcers when I talked to him, but I don't see how that could really be if he's got looser stools, is not off of his feed, has great bowel sounds, and shows no signs of colic. Anyways for the Zantac, I can really only realistically dose it twice a day due to barn help schedule, but if he gets a dose a few hours before I work him in the evening, I think I'd see a difference if it's going to help. I hope we don't have to go to Gastroguard, will have to search the forum more to read up on some of the other omeprazole options out there if the Zantac doesn't do it.

    I forgot to mention that I also caught him chewing on a fence in the pasture the other day- not sure if he's learning to crib from his pasturemate or maybe another sign.

    I will ask the vet to check him for Lyme this spring when they come out, I just pulled an engorged tick off of my hubby's walking horse the other day (and mind you it's winter in MN. . . wierd).

    Thanks for the help guys, I'm open to any other thoughts you have too.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar. 3, 2007
    Location
    North-Central IL
    Posts
    3,637

    Default

    My mare would jump out of her skin on flax... Otherwise it does sound like ulcers.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug. 2, 2000
    Location
    Chesterland, OH USA
    Posts
    2,766

    Default

    You might also want to give the alfalfa cubes before riding.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug. 3, 2009
    Posts
    834

    Default

    Yes, possible development of ulcers, but I would consider your facts. It seems he started this behavior approx the same time you started doing a bit more work, i.e., dressage lessons. The dressage work or generally asking more of him, might of tiggered an exisiting issue un-noticed at the time. I would check many things, saddle, back, other areas for possible soreness, he may be avoiding wanting to go into work, be bridled, saddled etc i.e, having fear of pain if he goes into work, thus panics in an attempt to "TELL" you something is not right. This overall, would cause ulcers too.... but I would check everything and perhaps have a chiropractor out.

    Also, he might be an overly-sensitive guy and going slow maybe the key. Slowly building up trust in each stage of development process.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct. 7, 2010
    Posts
    478

    Default

    Your horse is young enough that changing his work routine (even if he is very laid back) could be causing him some pain and/or anxiety which could be leading to stomach upset.

    From the facts you have provided, it seems like there are many different factors at play here and you will want to take a look at all of them and how they factor into the bigger picture of the mental and physical health of your horse.

    Ulcers/stomach upset are a likely end result, but I would look at what is causing the recent change in behavior. If his behavior gets better with your ulcer treatment, you might want to consider putting him on a daily probiotic supplement to see if it helps with loose stools and odor -- and I agree with whoever said to give the alfalfa cubes before your ride.

    Lyme testing is not a bad idea, but you might want to look into other sources of pain, possibly in his back and/or hocks. Since you have changed his workload, he is more than likely using his muscles differently and stressing his back/hocks/etc. If he was in light work as a hunter, how much more intense is his dressage work? Does he need better conditioning? Would a chiropractor/accupuncture session help?

    Just as importantly, I would look at how he is handling his new work program. Are you asking him to do too much before he is mentally ready? Do you need to take a few steps back to make sure he is confident with what you are asking him to do? Is he feeling confused and needs some time back at the basics?

    Finding the answer(s) to his behavior change will take some time and detective work. Good luck!



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul. 18, 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    269

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Paddys Mom View Post
    You might also want to give the alfalfa cubes before riding.
    yes this would be ideal but my husband would have a freak out if I spent another hour at the barn so that I could soak them, let him eat, then give him a few minutes to digest before riding/working him. It would be more ideal, but not practical. I did pick up a bottle of peppermint tums, which he likes, so I will plan to give him some of those before riding.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun. 25, 2007
    Posts
    2,228

    Default

    Sounds like ulcers to me too. In addition, I think checking tack, back pain, etc due to change in riding discipline would be wise just in case. Yes, loose stools can be a sign of ulcers (among many other things). Rather than Tums and Zantac, why not put him on Ulcergard of Gastrogard for a few days? If it is ulcers you should see a significant improvement...my vet feels 48 hours to see improvement. I only mention that because he seems to be showing some stress or "unhappy" signs pretty evidently. I don't know that I'd be trying Tums or Zantac - unless you are going full dose Ranitidine which is effective too. I know it's expensive though which stinks but I think you'd have a clearer answer faster.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb. 3, 2000
    Location
    Nokesville, VA
    Posts
    35,163

    Default

    My first thought was Lyme. But ulcers are also a strong possibility.

    At the USEA annual meeting there was a speaker (from SUCCEDED) who said that increased senitivity on the RIGHT side is often a sign of colonic (as opposed to gastric) ulcers.
    Janet

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar. 8, 2004
    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Posts
    19,885

    Default

    The problem with using something other than gastrogard or ulcergard at the treatment dose is if it doesn't work you have no idea if the horse didn't have ulcers or if whatever you tried didn't do the job. Use the only thing proven to heal ulcers as a diagnostic tool then once you get your answer you can try to find an alternative that works for your horse.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan. 1, 2008
    Posts
    4,868

    Default

    My gelding exhibits some (not all) of these symptoms on orchard grass. Vet has no idea why. Just a thought.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Apr. 8, 2010
    Location
    Ocala, FL
    Posts
    1,588

    Default

    I know some people swear MSM causes spookiness. Good luck!!



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep. 20, 2010
    Location
    United States of Absurdistan
    Posts
    1,736

    Default

    I would say ulcers too, especially with the wood chewing/cribbing added.

    I read a facinating article afew yrs ago, in The Horse I think, about how the horse's saliva contains a chemical akin to sodium bicarb, and cribbing increases the production of saliva, which they swallow. When horses do this they may be trying to sooth an upset or ulcerated tummy.

    Hope that made sense

    LBR
    I reject your reality, and substitute my own- Adam Savage

    R.I.P Ron Smith, you'll be greatly missed



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun. 23, 2010
    Location
    south
    Posts
    627

    Default

    I would say ulcers-my guess



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul. 18, 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    269

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by salymandar View Post
    Your horse is young enough that changing his work routine (even if he is very laid back) could be causing him some pain and/or anxiety which could be leading to stomach upset.

    From the facts you have provided, it seems like there are many different factors at play here and you will want to take a look at all of them and how they factor into the bigger picture of the mental and physical health of your horse.

    Ulcers/stomach upset are a likely end result, but I would look at what is causing the recent change in behavior. If his behavior gets better with your ulcer treatment, you might want to consider putting him on a daily probiotic supplement to see if it helps with loose stools and odor -- and I agree with whoever said to give the alfalfa cubes before your ride.

    Lyme testing is not a bad idea, but you might want to look into other sources of pain, possibly in his back and/or hocks. Since you have changed his workload, he is more than likely using his muscles differently and stressing his back/hocks/etc. If he was in light work as a hunter, how much more intense is his dressage work? Does he need better conditioning? Would a chiropractor/accupuncture session help?

    Just as importantly, I would look at how he is handling his new work program. Are you asking him to do too much before he is mentally ready? Do you need to take a few steps back to make sure he is confident with what you are asking him to do? Is he feeling confused and needs some time back at the basics?

    Finding the answer(s) to his behavior change will take some time and detective work. Good luck!
    You do have a good point, and there are some training factors that I'm sure have contributed. For instance, I practiced a mistake in the way I was asking him for lateral work for a couple of weeks between lessons, then had to change the rules on him at our next lesson. He is frustrated and I'm sure he thinks i'm confused too. We've got that all ironed out now and it seems to be going better, he's got his lateral work down really nicely at the walk for the most part, but I'm still trying to keep that work really brief as I want to reward him for doing it right.

    Something that has always been a point of frustration for us is the canter, he always has tension surrounding when I ask him for the canter, since we struggled for a very long time with leads, I think even though he's getting his leads now, he's still frustrated/anxious about the canter. I can pretty much guarantee after I canter him for a short amount of time, he'll suck his nose back off of the bit, grind his teeth, and try to trot/canter/jig instead of relaxing at the walk. Eventually he settles down, but to him, even when he canters really well and I tell him that, he still makes a big deal out of it.

    his back used to get sore, but we have really not had that problem since I got this saddle and had it fitted. I check his back for soreness regularly, and there has been no increase in back pain or tenderness that I've noticed in the last several months (knock on wood). We had a chiro out in October and adjusted him. I noticed no significant difference from before to after. My vet has done chiro/accupuncture on him which has helped slightly, it might be placebo effect, but I'm not convinced that it's a miracle treatment.



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