I am reaching my breaking point this week after chiro session #3 on my 6 (yes, 6!) year old OTTB with the chiro/vet stating that he has "the back/flexibility of an 18 year old horse"... His previous adjustments have not held and his whole thoracic and lumbar vertebrae are "a mess." His pelvis was practically immobile, which would explain why he was such a pill when I asked for some leg yielding yesterday...
Saddle was fitted in Feb by experienced saddle fitter. She's coming out tomorrow as the flocking no longer looks even on both sides (right about where his thoracic hot spots are). I had chiro out right after the saddle fit to adjust and every 4 weeks since.
I started treating for ulcers last week with Abprazole (pop rocks) and added rice bran oil, as he still looks like crap. He is on 24/7 turnout with nice grass coming in, 6qt(broken up into 2 meals) of oat/sf mix, Sel+E, electrolytes and flax seed. I started adding a "lunch" meal of 2qt sweet feed 2 weeks ago, I now add his ulcer meds and oil to this to make sure he eats all of it. I always do a thorough grooming before and after every ride, stretch his front legs, shoulders and neck and my horse still looks like a neglect case... Meanwhile, some horses are getting just 2qt of same grain mix, a cursory brush off and are fat and shiney!
I've always felt this horse has not been 100% since I brought him off the track. Trainer feels every time he has a fit under saddle, it's his personality and I will just have to "be the bigger boss." I'm sure his ulcer issue is not new, between his track past and the serious colic episode in Dec, his gut must be a mess. I don't have the income right now to do extensive diagnostic testing, so pop rocks it is. Looking into longterm supplement help after the pop rocks. Vet noticed even with him standing in crossties, he carries some tension throughout his body. I've been concerned that he's not social.at.all in the herd, he's fine being at one end of the pasture eating grass as he is being near his turnout group. Just yesterday, he seemed to be bonding with a new horse, hanging close together and some mutual neck/whither nuzzling. I've never seen him interact with another horse like that before!
Vet also is a very open minded practitioner and suggested a herbal supplement that she has used to help with free radicals and cellular stress (Nrf2 inhibitor IIRC for you science geeks). It doesn't break the bank and I can get it without a prescription as well as being cheaper having it shipped to my house. She also thought that massage may be helpful before chiro and to possibly add in some acupuncture (she's also licensed for acu).
All I want is my horse to be healthy and happy, why do I feel like I'm losing my mind in the process?
I don't feel like three chiro sessions for an OTTB is unexpected? And for them not to hold? It took six months of regular sessions + a year of tune ups AND an SI injection before my guy really started to feel better.
Sounds like you are on the right track with the ulcers, chiro, and saddle fit. I also had good luck with adding magnesium, as did another boarder at my barn (flinchy, cold backed mare became better about saddling, brushing etc). I did the MagRestore b/c it's cheap.
Can you do a single Legend injection? As we were searching for the source of Baxter's pain, I did the shot after we did hock injections (he was better but not 100% after the hocks). When he came 100% sound with the Legend, I was pretty sure there was still an issue elsewhere (we were already suspicious of the SI) and went ahead with the SI injection. 16 months later, I have a new horse (literally -- his back has muscled completely out of his medium saddles and now I'm shopping for a MW).
First of all, this sounds incredibly stressful and no one will blame you one bit for being at the end of your rope. Wearing my new blogger/ rider happiness consultant hat, I am impressed by your obvious devotion to keeping your horse healthy and happy. I'm inclined to trust your gut feeling that something is not quite right. It's always hard when your trainer disagrees with you, but I think it is a good idea to do some more investigating into the physical sources of his "failure to thrive." Your trainer might well have identified a training issue, but if you are also dealing with a physical issue, the training issue will not get solved.
Wearing my horseperson hat, I have a few more ideas about what the problem could be. In addition to ulcers and saddle fit, which you are addressing as best you can, I'd add nutrition. You might ask your vet about the possibility of PSSM-- and you can also PM RiverBendPol here on COTH about it, since she successfully managed a horse with it. Even if your horse does not have the condition, I would talk to a nutritionist about him-- it sounds like he is getting a lot of carbs and he might be a horse that will be much happier on lower carbs. Your feed company can help you. Also, personally I've had really good luck with the APF supplement-- if your budget can handle it, it has done amazing things for Taco's skin and muscles. It might be a good supplement to consider for dealing with ulcers, too.
Other thoughts: teeth ok? feet ok? Lyme disease?
Sorry I am probably raising more questions than answers. But the bottom line is that I support you in your quest to find out what is bugging your guy. Good luck, and hugs.
I'm also quite happy with the Tribute Kalm Performer GC feed. My picky, hard to keep weight on WB gelding chows down and is fat and shiny. Plus it has the added benefit of containing MSM and chondroitin since he fractured his elbow last fall. I cut out my monthly $175 to SmartPak for supplements by switching over to this feed. Just a suggestion!
In Search Of (ISO) I also don't get the Buddhist Temple thing. . . sorry.
I don't know how to say this without sounding rude and I do tend to be abrupt without meaning to. So I'll address the feed thing. I would have him on TC Senior and either hay stretcher or chopped hay all soaked in a mash with ground flax seed. What you are feeding him even on pasture is not a lot at least in my barn with almost all OTTBs. I would address his condition first and not go crazy and try to fix everything all at once. Sometimes all it takes is a month of omeprazole, Senior feed and good hay.
It seems like you're all over the place and you should be addressing one thing at a time. . . IMHO. It seems you need the Buddhist Temple is this what you meant? (I spent 2 years going to one) and learn to organize your thoughts.
I got a mare OTTB 1 1/2 years ago and she was skinny, had the worst rain rot and was not sound. First I got her in condition (200 lbs) and started walking her, teaching her to go long and low, really long and low. This stretched out her back, yoga for horses. I then started adequan which helped tremendously. It took a year, but she's fat and looks great, even my vet can't believe her. How long have you had this horse? You may be expecting too much too soon, it can take a year or more to get an OTTB mentally and physically healthy.
I feed my mare 1 scoop of legends
1/2 scoop hay stretcher
1 cup ground flax
2xs a day and this won't go well with a lot of people, but I feed free choice alfalfa hay along with grass hay and pasture. I began by weighing all my feed and this is what I feed now. When I compete her, she gets chopped alfalfa hay soaked (as much as she can eat) and a tube of canadian omeprazole for each day of competition and a lunch of some legends and hay stretcher. This is what she gets now, that she's settled in and calm. She got Senior for a long time at first and the riding consisted of just walking quietly for months.
I'll think some more on this, but I really would love to know how long you've had her , in the meantime Namaste!
Also, remember you can't go by what other horses eat or do, yours is an individual. And good for you for all your effort!
Last edited by Eventer55; May. 7, 2013 at 04:19 PM.
RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"
"To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."
If you suspect ulcers, treat for a few days with Sucralfate (not expensive). It is not a long term treatment, but will help in the diagnosis - if the horse improves, then explore "ulcers" further. If it doesn't make any difference, then the problem is probably something else.
To ME, a lot of what you describe sounds more like Lyme than ulcers.
chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).
Buddhist Temple: We both need to chill out and somehow find out how to be stress free both physically and mentally.
I have considered Lyme, not thrilled with that prospect. It is on my list of "what else could possibly go wrong right now."
Vet/chiro feels that after 3 sessions he should be holding something, especially in the pelvis/SI area, but he's right back where he started. I'm OK with continuing chiro, but at this point it seems like I'm throwing my money away. Vet does not feel it's hocks or stifle, more that he's been standing hunched in pain from somewhere and that is what is causing the chiro not to hold.
I am not thrilled with the feed program, I think it's very "old school" and barn is not really open to having 24 different types of feed for each horse(which I can understand to a point). However, I am willing to provide different feed if I can find one at the local feed store of quality. I get to choose from Blue Seal, Legends, Nutrena, SafeChoice, Southern States, Triple Crown, Pennfields(surprising!) or Purina, though they say they can order me anything. I was thinking Purina Ultium as that was what I put him on initially to put some weight back on in Sept when I bought him(he had almost 0 muscle because he hadn't raced in 2mo). He unfortunately lost most of that after the colic and I've been "behind the curve" ever since. I did talk a little with the vet about changing feeds, we both agree that changing everything at once is a little counterproductive because then you have no clue what fixed the issue or you've ruled some things out. I will look into an equine nutritionist and see if I can find something better.
At this point, I think I'm just going to step back once I get things sort of under control and go out on long hacks, keep his mind going and maintain a low level of fitness. Sayonara to ring work for a few months, we both need to decompress.
Not an ounce of Slew in him (Bold Ruler is pretty much the only shared ancestor). Teeth done in Jan by Equine Dentist. Wormed with Equimax in Dec. Feet are pretty darn good for a TB, going to put hind shoes on this week as the ground is getting hard. Bought Sept 2012, hasn't changed farms since.
If your horse doesn't respond to the ulcer treatment, I would continue to explore physical issues related to his back. I had a similar scenario with my 6 year old mare - very stiff and sore in the back. First the vets thought it was hocks, then ulcers, then ovaries, then kissing spine, then bad saddle fit . . . .
Ended up doing a bone scan (which ruled OUT a lot of things) and then ultrasound. We found an old SI ligament injury which healed poorly (scar tissue filled in where healthy ligament fibers should be). It explains why my horse was "not 100%" AND why none of the chiro/acupuncture, ulcer meds, regu-mate, feed changes, injections, shockwave, mesotherapy helped.
Your herbal supplement and massage might make the horse feel better temporarily, but if there is a ligament injury or arthritic changes that are causing pain/stiffness in the back, it will not help long term.
My point is that you may want to take a more diagnostic approach rather than trying lots of alternative therapies and seeing "what works".
If said OTTB were a person, most people would say, "Too many meds! Too many supplements! Get back to the basics."
We just did a move with our horses across the country in December and then pasture boarded our two OTTBs for two months. Pardon my French, but they looked like shit. Especially our gelding. His coat was straggly, his eyes were dull, he was obviously not feeling well. This was not our Charlie.
We finally were able to get our fencing done, and they had a pasture change. i understand that not everyone has the luxury of keeping their ponies at home, but sometimes a pasture change, even at the same boarding facility.
They are out on a two acre pasture, just the two of them. We still feed a large round bale. We live in northwest Florida, so our grass is nice all year 'round. We separate our two to feed, twice a day. They eat the exact amount of food and it takes about the same amount of time for them to eat, but Charlie is MUCH happier if he can just do his thing without worrying about having big sister come over.
Free choice hay is always the key. Always. Unless you have a foundering pony, your horse will always do well with free choice (good quality) hay. This includes horses living outside 24/7. They need the roughage, the fiber.
Here are the things (in the order I would approach them) I would start with:
1. Get back to the basics clean water, safe environment (including pasture bullies), and good hay.
2. Adequate grain. I feed Senior grain. I like that it is easily digestible and has a lot of beet pulp.
3. Teeth! Even if his teeth have been checked in the last 6 months, do it again.
4. Feet! Is he in shoes? How long has it been since last trim/reset. Talk to your farrier... they are very smart people.
5. Ulcers. IMO, "pop rocks" isn't going to cut it, to even see an improvement. They are great for maintenance, but not for the beginning.
6. Stress. He's "tense" in the cross ties? Is that mental or physical or both? Have you tried an anti-inflammatory like Pentosan? Have you done a round of Bute? 2x/day for 5-7 days? If he's negative to both of those, then go to mental. No crossties. Try putting him in his stall to tack, lounging him before he even goes into the barn, tacking him up at the trailer or in the arena. Change things up a bit and see if one of these helps.
If none of those are giving you any hope at all, then go to other avenues. The trick is to try them one at a time. He gets better and he's on 246 supplements and you've changed up his schedule every day for 10 days, what is making him better?
I am totally not trying to sound condescending, I am a big science geek and approach it from a science perspective...
Steppin Not Dragon "Bella"
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A diagnosis of Lyme would give you something definite, with a known treatment. And the sooner you start the treatment the better.
Testing for Lyme is likely to be FAR MORE cost effective than continuing Chiro that isn't helping, or buying "herbal supplements" when you don't even know what is wrong.
Personally, I have found massage and accupuncture more effective (both as a diagnostic and a treatment) than chiropractic.
But I would test for Lyme first.
I'm going to play devil's advocate here. I realize it is fashionable, hey almost ubiquitous right now, to lift up every possible rock searching for a medical cause for everything. And you know what? If I'd done that every time my old boy had a moment of resistance, I'd never have had a chance to ride him at ALL, let alone to success in multiple disciplines over 21 years. Resist? Hell, he had 'em ALL down! But polish a rock long enough, make a mirror, neh?
Right now The Ulcer Thing is right where Lyme Disease was a decade ago and Strongid-C was 20 years back; a brand-new drug in search of a "disease." While I don't doubt that some horses are legitimately affected, I'm a huge skeptic that they ALL are--if that were the case, horses would have been unusable from this cause for all of history and this was hardly the case. Up until 2 years ago you never even heard of it. Yes, we may be able to see them on an endoscope--but it doesn't follow that aggressive treatment is meaningful in every individual. Think prostate cancer in men. Many things are suddenly overdiagnosed because we've just discovered the technology to do so!
Don't waste your money on chiro and herbs and supplements; again, for most of equine history no one did this and sound horses were rideable. "Sound" meaning, "not limping, as per the vet." If your horse is getting good hay, adequate turnout, has a shiny coat and is holding weight, a meaningful nutritional deficiency is unlikely. More pixie dust is not going to solve your problems.
Now: Down to brass tacks. Not every horse, let alone every OTTB, is appropriate for "dressage." Most can do basic flat work, like a hunter rail class, but NOT every one of them has the balance, the temperament, the patience in putting up with discomfort to do things like collection, lateral work, very small circles, etc. Simply put, such things are unnatural, demanding, confusing, and boring. Especially to a 6-year old who would rather RUN.
(2) He doesn't understand the question. (Likely. Lateral work is not intuitive for any horse. Chances are you're pushing and pulling at the same time and he's confused, uncomfortable and pissed off. Try working it in-hand on the ground first, or skip leg yielding entirely and go straight to shoulder-in on the rail which is not only easier to teach, it's more anatomically correct for most horses. Ask little, be content with anything, reward much. Build basics and don't be in a hurry. This sounds flip but; is he BROKE? A lot of them just off the track barely know go and whoa and sprawl on their forehands leaning on the bridle. He needs his elementary arithmetic down before he can do calculus!
(3) He's learned he can get out of work and "has your number." This can be a subtle thing. Remarkable numbers of people today, mostly middle-aged women, constantly seek medical excuses why they can't work the horse when the truth they don't want to face is they're not confident or just plain afraid. There is no shame in this--it might be Darwin trying to be your friend. But if that's the case, GET HELP from a qualified pro trainer instead of blowing 9 million bucks on vets and nostrums you don't need. Address the REAL problem if that's it. Then take lessons on him with the trainer who's working with him.
(4) Just get on and COWBOY UP. Otherwise known as the Old-Fashioned Method. In the old days, we used the bit that worked, carried a stick & spurs, and just plain went out there and worked at it every day the horse wasn't head-nodding lame until we GOT IT DONE. There was no litany of excuses like today, no medicalization and no woo-woo.
In sum: If he ain't lame, he understands the question, you're not afraid to ride him and it's a nice day, well: As my old dressage trainer used to say, "YOU MUST VORK ZE HORSE IN ZE ARENA, JA!"
LE has some pretty good points. A bit blunt, sure, but there's truth there.
If it were my horse, I'd do a couple of things: first, I'd see what happens with a week of gastrogard. Pop rocks are fine, but I don't think they give you anything like the results that 7 days of gastro do - and, I think it's a pretty useful diagnostic. I've found with the ones who are working on ulcers that you'll usually see a pretty big difference in about a week if there's an issue there. It'll cost you a couple hundred bucks, sure, but that's not far off what you're spending in chiro etc. Second, I'd run a CBC and Lyme titer. Again, not that expensive, and lets you rule out low-hanging fruit (assuming you're in a part of the country where Lyme is prevalent - if not, then just the CBC). Third, I'd take a lot of the supplements out of his diet and go to a basic, low-sugar feed with a ton of good hay (e.g., something that looks more like an EPSM/PSSM diet - but which is pretty great for most horses anyway). And fourth, to the extent he's not already, I'd make sure he has a lot of turnout.
Once you've got those basics squared away, see what you've got. I'd not be thinking about leg yielding - I'd just solve for forward, balanced, and rhythmical. Circles and bending, sure, but keeping it simple and forward thinking. And beyond that? Who cares if he doesn't have friends in the pasture? If his coat isn't great yet, give it time and it'll improve - lots look like donkey as they are shedding out. If he doesn't have a ton of muscle, give him time to get there and build it.
He has a job to do...but you also have a job to let him be a horse. Don't anthropomorphize about whether or not he is "happy" or "content". If he's got appropriate food/shelter/water/turnout he will be. Otherwise you'll make yourself crazing meditating on the what-if's, none of which is time you are spending enjoying riding/being around him.
This sounds VERY MUCH like EPSM or some other muscle myopathy to me. The parts about him getting sweet feed and also about being a poor keeper are HUGE red flags to me.
Get him off of the sweet feed. That is terrible crap to feed a horse, even if he doesn't have EPSM. If he does have EPSM, it's making the problem much much worse.
If he were mine, I would get him on a low starch feed, a lot of free choice hay (as much as he will eat) and I would start giving him oil, slowly working up to about 2 cups a day.
I was driving myself INSANE chasing weird lamenesses down every rabbit hole I could find with my horse and then finally tried the EPSM diet. MAJOR improvement in a very short time, although improvement can take up to four months.
Just food for thought. But I would definitely get the horse off the sweet feed. No horse should really eat that garbage.
Nothing to add except that I have no idea how you convince a horse to eat hay when they are on really good pasture 24/7. Assuming you are wrong about them "needing" hay no matter what since we have 20 horses living out full time on 70 well-managed acres - they wouldn't touch hay these days if you paid them
The first thing that jumps out at me is treating for ulcers AND feeding sweet feed...that could be your whole problem right there. Also, the oats aren't doing anything for you either...
I would get him OFF the SF ASAP! Low starch, something BP based...NOT Ultium! If you want a complete feed, look at Triple Crown Senior...11.8NSC. Or Triple Crown makes a Safe Starch Forage, there's regular old Beet Pulp or Hay Pellets...Sweet Feed is not helping him out at all, if he's on 24 hours of good pasture AND his digestive tract is working, he should be in good weight with a shiny coat.
Something else to really look at is hind gut ulcers...if he's having a hard time keeping weight on and the grass is good, he is probably not digesting his nutrients properly, which points to hind gut issues. Someone above suggested Sucralfate, which will help you diagnose hind gut ulcers. I also have had great success with Succeed.
Despite what many people think, you do not need to feed huge quantities of grain to keep an OTTB (or almost any horse) in good weight and condition. What you need is a balanced gut and enough high quality roughage. The grain and the SUGAR will exacerbate the ulcers, unbalance the gut bacteria and immune response and can cause a lot of the stiffness you are finding in the back and pelvis. An immune compromised horse can't hold a chiro adjustment, or his weight, etc...
ETA Bottom Line: Increase the roughage (BP, hay pellets, alfalfa pellets/cubes, forage) and decrease the sugars, starches and NSC
IME, most ex-race horses have pelvic issues from the gate. It takes a while of chiro + lateral work + judicious use of robaxin and/or NSAID + maybe SI injections to get them right. They come around, but it takes time.
I feed my 4 yr old TB (still growing!!) free choice 2nd cut hay, beet pulp, hay stretcher and alfalfa pellets. I also did a round of pop rocks on him.
Some times you have to play around with the food. I had one we just couldn't get in good weight, eventually found out he had food allergies.
Good luck, hang in there, and take some zen breaths!!!!