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advice about PSSM

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  • advice about PSSM

    I have seen a horse advertised as having the PSSM gene, it continues that the horse will not have tying up episodes if not kept stalled and given a high oil diet.
    Can anyone corroborate this information?
    Personal experience with PSSM? Is it a managable problem or would you stay away from it?
    thank you.

  • #2
    One of my horses (TB) has PSSM. For him at least, it is manageable and he competed through 2nd level dressage and preliminary level eventing until he was 18 years old. What worked for him is as much turnout as possible, high fat/low starch feed (seniors worked well) and added fat. Avoiding sugars and starches is just as important as having high fat. Look at NSC on feed labels, if they don't have NSC you call them and ask or feed something else. I consulted with an equine nutritionist, which I would recommend.

    What you want to avoid with PSSM horses (in my experience) is big changes in muscle use. Their work and movement should stay steady day to day - don't give them three days off then work them hard, they feel those changes more than normal horses. And turnout, turnout, turnout!


    • #3
      It's semi-manageable, but it's not cheap.

      A full turnout regime with high fat, good quality low-starch/NSC grain (or none at all), alfalfa, and lots of vitamin E will definitely go a long way to making the horse more comfortable and useable, depending on the type of PSSM it has. The full turnout is incredibly important in keeping the horse comfortable physically. PSSM horses tend to get more stiff than regular horses when standing still for long periods of time.

      I have more experience with PSSM 2 than PSSM 1. I enjoy neither.

      Tying up is not the sole symptom of PSSM, and it's not always the most common either -- at least in my experience. You're more likely to have low-grade issues associated with PSSM in the sport-horse.. like loss of performance, overall body malaise, soreness/stiffness particularly over the back, lack of muscle and topline despite quality work, neurological and/or ataxic episodes..

      Most of these symptoms are subtle, so the average person may not notice them and think the tying up is the sole symptom. IME it is one of the last ones, it's just most obvious to an average person.

      That being said, having cared for horses with different types of PSSM, and having had one myself, it's not something I would buy. The vitamin e + high fat diet is costly, and the PSSM does impact their ability to work comfortably and well.

      Most of my horses are on a semi-modified PSSM diet anyway, regardless of their PSSM status.. I do think in general they're better off on high quality roundbales, with alfalfa pellets, high fat diet, and 24/7 turnout.

      If I had to board instead of keeping a PSSM horse at home it'd be very difficult to ensure management conducive to the horse's soundness. Most barns don't want to change their feed to accommodate one horse and most barns do not understand PSSM.
      AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


      • #4
        The thing about PSSM is that it's not an absolute. Normal glycogen storage uses a many branched molecule that can be broken down very quickly. At the extreme other end the storage molecule is a chain and the foal cannot break it down fast enough to get the energy to keep the body going. (I have a great analogy if you want it).

        How easy it might be to manage depends on how close to the chain storage the individual horse is.

        I have one. I was inadvertantly doing almost everything right to manage PSSM and he had mild symptoms that did affect performance. Once I got the last pieces in place and got through the diet transition I had a different horse. We did have some hiccups over the years and I learned a few more things to be careful of (like the time his field got second cut grass hay) but for the most part his EPSM has been well managed. I do board and making sure prospective BOs can and will handle his limitations is a big part of choosing a new barn. At this point it is just how this horse needs to be managed.

        I would not pass on a horse simply because of PSSM, but I would ask for details about management and what signs of problems they've seen, what hasn't worked in terms of feed and turnout and work, what their work routine is like. I would also expect to have some hiccups as I learned first hand what the horse needed.


        • #5
          I have a horse with PSSM. I didn't know this when I bought her, but found out a year later when she had a mild tying up episode after a brief cessation of work and colder temperatures. It took several months for her to recover fully from that fairly mild episode. I later learned that she flunked out of training repeatedly in her past due to tying up when stalled a lot. That said, she is now well managed with very consistent work, turnout, diet/ALCAR, and blanketing as needed.

          In general, I would suggest staying away from a sale horse with known PSSM, unless you have more direct info about its management and presentation. My mare's case is quite manageable, but it does require work, time and money. She is a solid 2nd level dressage horse who schools more than that and also does lots of trails.

          I board and do keep my horse in a stall for weather protection (day in summer/night in winter). Some PSSM horses cannot tolerate any stall time. I do think the more "natural" your approach is to horse management (feed mostly hay, avoid lush pasture, tons of turnout and exercise), the better the chances are for avoiding or limiting PSSM symptoms.


          • #6
            Absolutely stay away.

            Some are difficult to manage, and you don't know when or if the symptoms will crop up. Expensive and difficult to maintain. Can easily be career ending, and even life ending for the horse.

            Why bother buying one with the disease when you can go buy one without


            • Original Poster

              Thank you all, I really appreciate your time.