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Dressage and the Roarer

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  • Dressage and the Roarer

    My dressage horse has been diagnosed by the vet as a low grade roarer. My horse does breathe loudly during his warmup and he sometimes will have coughing episodes.

    Has anyone found that roaring limits their horse's ability to accept the bit?

    My horse is getting more and more difficult to get round and through. He braces his neck like a broomstick. I ride lots of transitions, and incorporate lots of lateral and bending lines to get him through from back to front, but its still difficult. He also resists lateral flexion in his poll. When he does finally come through correctly, he actually seems to breathe more easily and he feels like his old wonderful self. Unfortunately it seems to be harder and harder to get him there.

    I am a very experienced rider and ride several horses daily. I have never encountered this problem before. I have only ridden him in a snaffle with no gadgets. I am beginning to think this is a physical rather than training issue and I am wondering if roaring could be the source?

    I would prefer not to do the surgery as it sounds like there are a lot of risks and side effects, nor is my vet recommending it.

    This guy is otherwise a wonderful generous beautiful moving horse. He has been on the FEI track and has competed lightly but successfully up the levels.

  • #2
    My dressage horse is schooling 3rd with FEI talent and is a roarer. He has grade 4 paralysis which is completely paralyzed. You can hear him pretty much the whole time but he isn't very loud. He's a TB and his is genetic. He evented to Training before I bought him and it never affected him. Now, he is rather stiff and heavy but I feel he's always just had a rather dull mouth. I also don't notice a breathing difference in him when he's through versus when he's being "special". I don't really have anything to compare to though since he was born that way so I don't know if the paralysis made him the way he is or if he just came that way. He's for sale now as I'm in Germany and I wonder how it will affect his finding a mommy. My trainer and I had actually completely forgotten about it until I listed him for sale and it just dawned on me one day...

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    • #3
      I think it depends on the horse and the exact problem. Some horses do well with the surgery and some do not. Have you had him scoped since he started getting more difficult? He might have some inflammation that is interfering with your work. The other thing I have found is that often their roaring affects where they are most comfortable holding their head. I have a pony who roars when tense and he likes to take a lot of long and low breaks during his work. I think this lets him relax and feel like he is in control of his breathing. One thing you could try is letting him warm up with his head wherever he finds it most comfortable, and then moving into more framed up work.
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      • #4
        fwiw, my dentist, a spencer la fleur trained "tooth balancer" feels that too often low grade roaring is actually dental related. she feels that not enough attention is paid to the molars at the far back and that the misalignment of the jaw also misaligns the plumbing back there and actually causes roaring.

        if your horse is bracing, perhaps try a new dentist, one that uses a speculum and hand tools and takes their time.

        my horse had rear molars so overgrown he was actually parrot mouthed when I got him. He is no longer. Bit acceptance was night and day – night and day – after he was finally able to comfortably move his jaw.

        And I used the best dentist in my area before finding my current dentist. Not all dentists, even the really well respected ones, address the back molars, they are extremely difficult to access, even with a speculum.
        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by buck22 View Post
          fwiw, my dentist, a spencer la fleur trained "tooth balancer" feels that too often low grade roaring is actually dental related. she feels that not enough attention is paid to the molars at the far back and that the misalignment of the jaw also misaligns the plumbing back there and actually causes roaring.

          Sorry, but that sounds pretty hoakey to me. The paralysis that causes roaring can not be caused by the lack of using a specially trained "tooth balancer". Sounds like that person should be selling some swamp land in FL.

          To the OP, low grade roaring should have no bearing whatsoever on dressage training.
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          • #6
            hey listen, I don't own a roarer so I don't know first hand, but I do have enormous faith in my dentist, the tooth balancer , and that faith isn't earned easily by me. I believe she was talking about epiglottal entrapment being made possible by misalignment of the jaw, misalignment coming from unbalanced teeth. but I could be wrong there, all I know is that she's working on a long term study following the carriers of roarers who haven't had tie back.

            To my limited knowledge there are several causes of roaring, paralysis only being one.

            again, fwiw.

            eta, I didn't mean to sound rude, I hope I didn't. I'm in a crap mood right now. tx.
            Last edited by buck22; Mar. 10, 2010, 09:13 PM. Reason: dont' mean to sound rude.
            Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

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            • #7
              FWIW, I don't own a roarer either, but I talk with my vet a lot about everything related to horses and then some...and she is of the opinion that "roaring" is NO problem for the horse, only for the humans.
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              • #8
                Was your horse scoped? If not you need to ask your vet to do it because it sounds like your horse has not stabilized but is getting worse. I lost my 24 year old this year to a form of sudden onset roars - I had noticed his "voice" was different when he neighed but he had as much stamina as ever and galloped around everywhere so put it up to a choke incident 2 years prior- vet said he could have had some scarring.

                Unfortunately, he developed bi-lateral hymeplegia which means that both side of his flaps became paralyzed - typically a roarers will only have a problem on one side. The vet who scoped had never seen anything like it. I had a three week wait to get him seen by a surgeon and the second unusal thing that the vet did not anticipate is how quickly his condition worsened. He became exercice intolerant but was breathing normally when we put him in the trailer - he litterally dropped dead in the trailer 8 miles out. The vet was very upset about not anticipating this, I dont know that he could have.

                Anyway, all of this to tell you that while roaring is fairly run of the mill, sometimes there can be exceptions and if your horse is having more difficulties, trust your experience and have him checked again - his mild status may have changed to something more serious.

                I once bought a horse who was a roarer and the surgery was also a catastrophy. He died of complication. However, I have been told it is an easy surgery and low risk. Not my experience but your vet can guide you.

                Sorry, for the unhappy story.

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                • #9
                  My current GP mare was a roarer - as a young horse had the surgery - and has no adverse effects. I keep her in as dust free an environment as possible. I have had event horses do intermediate 3 day after roaring surgery. My advice is get a super good vet affiliated with a vet school and have your horse really evaluated well, do the surgery if deemed necessary and hopefully never look back.

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                  • #10
                    Exercise intolerance is one of the effects of roaring. The one roarer that I rode didn't make any sound but was extremely lazy and difficult to get wind fit (aerobically conditioned.) The trouble showed up when he started collection, until then it really didn't matter. He had tie back surgery at New Bolton and made it to 3rd level eventually, but after that point I was no longer involved. I learned that he did have some trouble with his larynx years later post surgery.
                    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

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                    • #11
                      Yes. It can, but does not always, affect the acceptance of the bit. Does it get louder when he flexes in the poll?

                      That is why having him scoped is a great idea to see if air flow is obstructed. Also, the coughing part brings up a small red flag of COPD for me.

                      I have honestly found with a few horses that it seems like a mental fear. Once they learn that they can flex and bend and still breathe, things get much easier. Once they learn you will walk and stretch them and let them catch their breath, they become less braced and resistant.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Indy-lou View Post
                        FWIW, I don't own a roarer either, but I talk with my vet a lot about everything related to horses and then some...and she is of the opinion that "roaring" is NO problem for the horse, only for the humans.
                        I have owned 2 roarers, both dressage horses, one had the tie-back surgery and it failed, the other had with success, but 5 years later it came undone. It does cause problems for the horse, especially when working in heat/humidity and hard work which requires heavy breathing. Try telling a racehorse who is a stage 4 roarer it doesn't matter.

                        Although many tie-back surgeries are successful, there are no studies which have followed the horses to track for success or failure, especially in hard working performance horses. The surgery is still a gamble, the best candidates are young TB's.
                        "You gave your life to become the person you are right now. Was it worth it?" Richard Bach

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                        • #13
                          My friend owned a gelding that roared and had the tie-back surgery done at the U and I watched him go with his new owner a year later and could still distinctly hear the roar--I just have the one experience, but I'd call the surgery a failure.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Calhoun View Post
                            I have owned 2 roarers, both dressage horses, one had the tie-back surgery and it failed, the other had with success, but 5 years later it came undone. It does cause problems for the horse, especially when working in heat/humidity and hard work which requires heavy breathing. Try telling a racehorse who is a stage 4 roarer it doesn't matter.

                            Although many tie-back surgeries are successful, there are no studies which have followed the horses to track for success or failure, especially in hard working performance horses. The surgery is still a gamble, the best candidates are young TB's.
                            Actually, there was a study done at New Bolton some time ago. 80% of racehorses that had the surgery showed improved performance. I know that the surgery, when successful, improves the horse's aerobic capacity. However, racehorses generally have short careers, and I don't know how far out the study followed the horses after surgery.

                            Chronicle of the Horse had a good article:

                            http://chronofhorse.com/article/help...s-breathe-easy
                            Last edited by Eclectic Horseman; Mar. 11, 2010, 03:30 PM. Reason: add link
                            "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

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                            • #15
                              I did some reading on this topic awhile back and remember seeing an article that said the success rate of the surgery is related to whether the horse got the necessary time off after it, or was rushed back to work. Apparently, IIRC, there is a greater chance of excess scar tissue and/or stitch failure if the horse returns to work too soon. I am sorry I do not recall where I found that, it was about 6 months ago that I was doing the search engine thing to read up on this.
                              Jeanie
                              RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.

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                              • #16
                                my mare is a roarer. She had tie back surrgery a few months before I bought her as a three year old. It was a success and I never thought a thing about it until we hit FEI. Her second year at PSG/Int-1, she just didn't seem to have enough stamina despite looking very strong and feeling fit at the beginning of her rides. I would need to finish the last third of my test in a forward open frame in order to keep her going (so much for collection). She didn't make any noise, so I eliminated the other possibilities first and finally had her scoped.

                                Sure enough, the tie back surgery had failed over the years (she was 12). In addition, the paralyzed flap swells during exercise because the pressure of the increased airflow trying to squeeze through a small hole irritates it, so she had less than half of her wind capacity once she had been working for a while. Poor Girl!

                                Dr Parente and New Bolten Center (U of P) did the surgery (a combination of tie back and laser, which he developed). It was tricky because she has a right side paralysis and it was the second time. Still, he did an awesome job!! What a difference!! She was a different horse!

                                Six months later, we were the first alternates for the 2009 USEF National Inter-1 Championships at Gladstone (as an AA - go ammies!) and we just went down the centerline in her first Grand Prix. So I believe, with a successful surgery, the future is very bright for a roarer in dressage and I am very grateful to Dr. P.

                                I agree with the posters who said, get your horse scoped so you have a clear diagnosis and then find the best throat surgeon you can find, who does a ton of these procedures. If you want any further details or info, please feel free to PM me. I hope this is helpful.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  sdlebredfan

                                  my mare's recovery instructions were one month of stall rest (you are right, its important that the surgery site isn't stressed) and then a gradual return to work. Her surgery was in early December and she probably wasn't in full FEI work until the beginning of March.

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                                  • #18
                                    I had a young horse who was discovered to have this problem via scoping, but was not actually 'roaring' since she was not under saddle. Was discovered because she had several instances of choke and we investigated that.

                                    This was around 2002. I came to the conclusion tieback surgery was not a super option - even the vets at TX A&M said it is a fine line to get the 'flap' tied back 'just right' and that they sometimes needed to have it done again. At the time there was a vet at Cornell who had developed a method of using muscle/nerve from the horse itself to 'implant' into the affected area and that was having some success. This 'implant' would take over the job to open/close the flap. A&M was ready to fly the guy from Cornell in to teach them how to do it using my horse. sorry, I don't remember exactly what they called the procedure.

                                    I decided to not have the surgery and take the 'wait and see' approach. Horse is now 10, showing third level and has no issues.

                                    Interestingly, her mother developed a partially collapsed trachea in her late teens - it sounded like she was a roarer, but that was not the problem. Vet said it was not uncommon in higher level dressage horses.
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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by cyndi View Post

                                      Interestingly, her mother developed a partially collapsed trachea in her late teens - it sounded like she was a roarer, but that was not the problem. Vet said it was not uncommon in higher level dressage horses.
                                      That's distrubing. Did the vet give a hypothesis on why?
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                                      • #20
                                        I do Dressage and Eventing, but my boyfriend who does barrel racing, had a mare that we found through traiing was a roarer. Even though it is a very different sport, in training they also ask for some degree of "collection" and bending at the poll. This poor mare, who didn't make a noise like a roarer when in work, everytime she would bend at the poll and attempt to "collect" at all, would get a panicked look in her eyes and act as if she could not breathe....which in effect, we later found out that she couldn't. It broke his heart, but he sold her as a trail horse and she is fine as long as she isn't asked to bend at the poll or any collection.

                                        We also talked about the surgery, but it didn't sound very promising in this mares case.

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