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  1. #1
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    Mar. 19, 2007
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    Default Older horse falling down?

    Saturday while we were in the aisle way with another horse, I heard a noise from my 24yr old TB's stall. I wasn't able to see what happened, but the gal that was with me said he fell down. He was in the doorway between his stall and paddock, so I thought maybe he had been scratching on the doorframe as he does sometimes and slipped on the stallmat. It was a bit wet, so that seemed possible. He could have been napping, too. Thats a common place for him to stand when he sleeps. He seemed perfectly fine afterwards. Then on Monday (yesterday) I was out cleaning his pasture. He was standing in a sunbeam on a bit of a hill (facing downhill), napping. I heard him move suddenly, turned around and his body was almost to the ground (still upright, with his legs all spread out, trying to get back up). He wobbled for a bit then managed to lift his body back up again. It was really weird and a bit scary. He went immediately back to his nap, seemed unphased and still happy to be lazily enjoying the sun. My only thought is that maybe the normal leg 'locking' while sleeping doesn't work sometimes now? Is this common in older horses? Any other ideas? How worried should I be? He seems in great shape otherwise, a little stiff undersaddle when he starts out sometimes, but he has been in light work on soft ground still and seems happy. No other health issues that I know about. I've had him for more than 17yrs, this is definitely a new thing.
    Last edited by Live2Jump; Nov. 27, 2012 at 02:36 PM.
    Work - feed - ride - shovel poop - repeat.



  2. #2
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    Jun. 30, 2009
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    You do NOT want to ride this horse again without a vet check - it is scary enough when a horse falls with control of it's limbs, a horse falling with zero limb control (& zero warning) is very bad



  3. #3
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    Feb. 11, 2011
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    Yup, get the vet involved and stay off him.



  4. #4
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    Mar. 19, 2007
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    Sure hope this isn't the beginning of something really bad. This guy has been with me so long, he's such a good guy. Will call the vet after I go check on him again. Can't stop crying. Has anyone seen anything like this?
    Work - feed - ride - shovel poop - repeat.



  5. #5
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    Feb. 11, 2011
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    Sorry it is happening. Yes I have seen it.

    Once when I was a kid (years and years ago), a friends horse was snoozing on a hot summer afternoon. Somebody mentioned how happily resting the old horse was when the legs just sort of went limp. Tho he woke up before he actually fell over and caught himself. It was kinda alarming tho.

    Do not recall the diagnosis....but I do recall the outcome. The horses issue was limited to when asleep and not during activity. So life continued for he and the rider/owner for many years pretty much as normal.

    So while I am very sorry to hear this is happening to you and your horse I think it best to not assume anything. Stay safe and be careful and get a diagnosis. You really can not move forward until you do know what is going on.



  6. #6
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    Mar. 19, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by D Taylor View Post
    Once when I was a kid (years and years ago), a friends horse was snoozing on a hot summer afternoon. Somebody mentioned how happily resting the old horse was when the legs just sort of went limp. Tho he woke up before he actually fell over and caught himself. It was kinda alarming tho.
    This is exactly how I would describe what I saw yesterday. He was snoozing very peacefully, then it looked like he woke up and 'caught himself' before he actually hit the ground. Afterwards he went back to sleep.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. I've got other people at the barn alerted to keep an eye on him, and I will be able to see him after work today myself. I will call the vet then, in case she wants me to check something while we're talking.
    Work - feed - ride - shovel poop - repeat.



  7. #7
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    Mar. 8, 2004
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    Baltimore, MD
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    Do you ever see him lying down to sleep anymore? Or at least see evidence he has laid down like shavings in his mane and tail? Often when they can't or won't lie down this happens. My broodmare got so heavy towards the last couple months of her pregnancy that she wouldn't lie down at all and she would fall dozens of times per day. Most of the time she would catch herself before she went all the way down but not always.


    5 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
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    Feb. 25, 2006
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    I had a mare who would fall while sleeping and catch herself halfway down - my vet said it was due to her not laying down to sleep and basically getting narcoleptic, and not locking her joints properly.

    That said I have also seen it in neurological horses, but it tends to be less when sleeping and more when moving.
    OTTB owner.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
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    Dec. 20, 2009
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    Many years ago at a barn where I was boarding, there was a (not old) horse that had this problem. Snoozing in stall, would start to tip over, wake up. Never had a problem when he was being handled/ridden, etc.
    I would still get a vet evaluation to be sure it isn't some neuro issue that has developed.
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


    1 members found this post helpful.

  10. #10
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    Oct. 19, 2008
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    I have a 25 year old, very big and arthritic t-bred who does this and has done this for years. I believe he isnt comfortable in laying down to sleep and consequently sleeps on his feet. His front knees dont lock properly and so when he gets to a heavier sleep he starts to fall. I have never seen him fall over completely. I found the first few times that I saw him do this horrifying, but as time progressed and no injuries resulted from his near misses, have learned to accept it. I cant do anything about it truly except treat the arthritis. He never did it either while being ridden. hope this helps.



  11. #11
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    Mar. 9, 2003
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    Baldwin, MD
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    I had a 9-yo TB in high school that used to fall asleep in cross ties. After a few minutes, his knees would buckle, then he'd wake up and catch himself, then go right back to his nap. He also did this while snoozing (fully tacked up) at a horse show while my non-horsey dad was holding him. Scared my dad half to death! We never saw him go all the way down to his knees, but we knew he did because he would intermittently show up with abrasions on the front of his knees, cannons and fetlocks (which before noticing him in the cross ties I had passed off as playful TB buddy injuries).

    I had a battery of diagnostics done - routine bloodwork, neuro/tick panels, full neuro exam, full eye exam etc. etc., and nothing showed up abnormal, other than 1+/5 flexions on hocks behind and 2/5 on the right front.

    So, we started him on a bute trial, injected his hocks and coffin joints, started him on Adequan and Legend, and gave bute after any kind of tough work (jumping lessons, shows) and he didn't do it again for about a year. When he started it again, we rechecked blood work, neuro and tick panels, all of which were within normal limits. So, we repeated the bute and hock injections, and I didn't see him do it for the rest of the time I had him before he was sold.

    I've heard it called "sleep-deprivation narcolepsy," although it isn't truly narcolepsy (as told to me from some of the higher ups in equine academia), just a lack of REM sleep because of anxiety and pain - horse knows it will hurt getting up and down, so won't lay down and sleep. It's fairly common, but does take some digging to find physical problems. I know the one that I had was at a super nice barn, doing the junior jumpers successfully (no stopping or decreased performance that I or trainer noticed), and was still falling on his face just from some minor 9 yo arthritic changes, potentially combined with the stress of away shows. ::shrugs:: I guess TB's really ARE sensitive!


    2 members found this post helpful.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Live2Jump View Post
    Sure hope this isn't the beginning of something really bad. This guy has been with me so long, he's such a good guy. Will call the vet after I go check on him again. Can't stop crying. Has anyone seen anything like this?
    Sorry didn't mean to scare you - except to stay off him until the vet is able to come out (check that vet is confident to do a neuro-exam).
    Even if it's neurological, I'd expect horse to carry on happily enough for years, just perhaps not as a riding horse.

    Hopefully it's just sleep deprivation as others have suggested



  13. #13
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    Feb. 5, 2002
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    I've seen it, too, in both older horses and middle aged. Sleep deprivation, for whatever reason, seemed to be the common thread. Don't give up on riding him, do get him checked out, and see if you can collect data on when and where it happens. If it's only when he's relaxed and snoozing, maybe you'll never see a sign of it under saddle.



  14. #14
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    Nov. 18, 2007
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    I have a 26 yr old TB, she will not lay down ever any more. I see her at 3pm everyday taking a little snooze where she will wobble, then start to fall, wake up, straighten up, and keep on napping. Like others have posted, she is too arthritic to lay down.
    I hope your horses issue is not something much more, and only sleep related.



  15. #15
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    Aug. 17, 2006
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    what about alot of shavings? so that it doesnt hurt to lie down? I rode a 27yrs narcoleptic, standing too loong was bad. if he wasnt weaving he was sleeping. he only fell u/s if a rider let him stand too long. hah the bombproof guy? only time he spooked was when he saw hooves under the 1/4 opened door and when someone tightened the girth while he snoozed(he actually reared!)
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  16. #16
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    Agree with those who suggested sleep deprivation induced narcolepsy.

    Had it happen to a horse that I owned, see it in others.

    Make sure the horse has a nice place to sleep, may have to bed up the stall. Also might try a course of previcoxx, in case the old guy is just arthritic and uncomfortable.

    My oldie (27) lays down to sleep, but he gets a little previcoxx everyday to keep him comfy



  17. #17
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    Oct. 10, 2007
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    I was going to ask also if he is laying down at all. This can happen when they don't get in the rem sleep cycle enough and they can't when standing. They have to lie down for it. I'd have a vet out to check out for neuro issues butid also watch to see if he is still laying down.
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole



  18. #18
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    Mar. 19, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by alto View Post
    Sorry didn't mean to scare you - except to stay off him until the vet is able to come out (check that vet is confident to do a neuro-exam).
    Even if it's neurological, I'd expect horse to carry on happily enough for years, just perhaps not as a riding horse.

    Hopefully it's just sleep deprivation as others have suggested
    It's ok, I've just had him so long - when I do eventually lose him I'm going to be a wreck. The thought of that possibly being sooner than later is hard to face.


    Quote Originally Posted by *Teddy* View Post
    what about alot of shavings? so that it doesnt hurt to lie down? I rode a 27yrs narcoleptic, standing too loong was bad. if he wasnt weaving he was sleeping. he only fell u/s if a rider let him stand too long. hah the bombproof guy? only time he spooked was when he saw hooves under the 1/4 opened door and when someone tightened the girth while he snoozed(he actually reared!)
    We don't bed our stalls (common around here) as they are always open onto their paddocks. He rotates between being out in a big field during the day/stalled at night (with small paddock access), and being in a bigger arena-sized paddock with a run-in and a sand box to roll in around the clock on the other day. When he's out in the field I still see him roll a ton (he loves to get muddy) then rearing, bucking and running around, so I don't think he has trouble getting up and down. Yesterday he was in the large paddock and I saw sand on the side of his neck/face so I do think he still lays down to sleep when he's in there. He probably is likely to get more of a deep sleep there since he is on his own and has access to the soft sand even at night. Maybe instead of alternating between the 2 spaces each morning I should make sure he's in the big paddock with the sandbox every night. (Unfortunately he can't be in there all the time because he rotates with my friend's stallion who doesn't get turnout in the field, but the stallion could stay in the stall at night.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Judysmom View Post
    Agree with those who suggested sleep deprivation induced narcolepsy.

    Had it happen to a horse that I owned, see it in others.

    Make sure the horse has a nice place to sleep, may have to bed up the stall. Also might try a course of previcoxx, in case the old guy is just arthritic and uncomfortable.

    My oldie (27) lays down to sleep, but he gets a little previcoxx everyday to keep him comfy
    Vet has determined that it's not neurologic, so we think we are dealing with sleep deprivation now. He's been on a joint supplement for years but I'll ask about previoxx as an option if switching around his PM turnout situation doesn't help.

    Thanks so much everyone!!
    Last edited by Live2Jump; Nov. 29, 2012 at 05:55 PM.
    Work - feed - ride - shovel poop - repeat.



  19. #19
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    Feb. 1, 2012
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    Agree that this sounds like sleep deprivation for some reason.

    You said he is a TB - any chance he ever raced? Has he ever been treated for ulcers? Over 90% of racehorses have gastric ulcers, and constant pain can prevent a horse from achieving REM sleep which will eventually cause sleep deprivation.

    Other posters are also on track with arthritis being an issue - again, constant pain, no sleep ....

    One thing to think about is administering NSAIDs for the arthritis...if the issue is a combination of arthritis AND ulcers, you're shooting yourself in the foot with the NSAIDs. My mare did the falling down thing until we injected her hocks (arthritis) - after the injections, she was MUCH better but would still do it on a milder level. A few years later, she was diagnosed with ulcers. We're sure the reason she continued to do it on some level was because although her hocks felt better, her tummy still hurt.

    Another thing to keep in mind: some horses that are too "on guard" will not lay down to sleep because they are edgy and are keeping an eye out for the herd or if alone, themselves. My mare is also this way (which contributes to her ulcers...)If a horse will not lay down for ANY reason, they cannot get enough REM sleep and will become sleep deprived.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  20. #20
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    Sometimes older horse's "stay apparatus" gets worn out, and doesn't hold them up. If that is what it is, you can safely ride them, as it is only when they are trying to sleep standing up that it's a problem. You can buy boots to protect the fetlocks and ankles for when they are not being ridden.



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