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Feeling like a failure of a horse owner...

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  • Feeling like a failure of a horse owner...

    I will start this post by asking for kindness and support as I feel as though I have failed as a horse owner. I feel like I have done everything I possibly could (and then some) within my financial reason at 26 years old and have officially run out of ideas.

    I have owned my beautiful, 7yo APHA mare for 3 years now. When I bought her, she was a bit green still and her history prior to me was pretty low key due to the previous owner's pregnancy. She was started and pretty well trained, but not driven into the ground like some youngsters. I, to this day, feel good about the way she was brought up and started.

    I'll try to keep this as short as possible - About a year into owning her, my trainer at the time said she was moving NQR in her hind end. The biggest indicator that something is wrong is that she flat out refuses/gets dangerous cantering on her right lead only, getting herself so worked up to the point that I could feel her heartbeat through my western saddle. I knew right away that this was pain related, not behavior like me ex-trainer believed and punished her for (she's ex for a reason!). LL is fine - quiet and soft. X-rays of her RH (clinic vet was sure it was RH) to find hocks and stifles to be clean, then sent to the university for a nuclear scan that was also clean but the university vet said the LH was the culprit and that findings in xrays show that she has arthritis at a 5-6 out of 10 with suggestions of retirement (at 5 years old!). Brought her home heartbroken to have my new-to-me barn call vet insist that while she had some changes in that LH x-ray, it was not that severe. Together we decided to send her to be turned out for 6 months and had her magna-waved daily during that time (I personally was not ready to inject so young). Vet said that was the next best thing. Finally I brought her home, added Previcox daily and did inject all joints in both hocks and both stifles on her 6th birthday in March 2018 (sorry, mare!), and they lasted around a month. 4 months later, moved her to a paradise of a barn that allows for turnout 8+ hours a day. Since moving there in August, she has been so on and off at random times with no true pattern. I had to switch vets due to the location (rec'd by barn mate), but she is in agreement that the RH is the problem leg once again. I opted to inject again in January and they, again, only seemed to last a month or two. She is now compensating specifically in her RF which is making her just completely discombobulated (per my vet during her spring vax appointment). The vet was nonchalant about it, and said "well, we can inject her knee and maybe her SI as well."

    I'm at a loss. I love this horse more than life. I was riding lightly a couple days per week to keep her active, W/T only, and some days she's fantastic and others she can hardly trot at all. Since her spring vax appointment, I have stopped riding altogether and don't know where to go from here. I don't have many horse friends for guidance and I'm so heartbroken feeling like I failed my mare. I personally have never heard of an arthritic horse not having a positive outcome to both daily Previcox and injections so maybe I am naive. I'm not sure I really trust this vet, but I also feel like I shouldn't bring in another opinion. I guess this is my final cry for help.

  • #2
    This kind of on and off lameness is very hard to deal with, from everything I've heard. After a while chronic lameness will start to affect the other legs and the whole body. At this point, if she were mine, I would give her indefinite long term turnout on a really nice pasture, and re evaluate in a year or two. Find somewhere out of town where the fee is cheap, there is a compatible herd, and someone knowledgable is keeping an eye on things. Start up with another horse.

    Comment


    • #3
      You are not a failure. Some horses just aren't sound, and trying to duct tape them together only lasts so long. For what it's worth, a right lead issue is much more likely to be LH related than RH, so I think the university clinic was probably on the right track there.

      Personally, I've never seen a horse with that kind of lameness at such a young age hold up to any level of work. No experienced horse person in their right mind would blame you for cutting your losses at this point. If there are days she "can hardly trot at all", you have to start asking yourself about her quality of life. Is she unsound in the pasture, too, or just under saddle? If she's sound *enough* for pasture retirement, and you're comfortable financially with supporting a pasture ornament for, potentially, the next 20-30 years, then that's one option. If not...there are fates much worse than euthanasia for horses like this.

      ((Hugs))

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      • #4
        With it being on and off and no one is really sure what leg it is it makes me ask this frequently asked question - have you tested for Lyme or EPM?

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        • #5
          Let my start by saying you did nothing wrong here, and are a good horse mom. Frustratingly, it sounds like you had some diagnostics done but didn't actually get a diagnosis that your vets agree on. The experience level of the vet is so critical in these kinds of cases, and these great vets aren't equally distributed around the country. Sometimes its also luck - whether you happen to try the test that finds the problem early or late in the diagnostic process.

          I'd be highly suspicious of a hind suspensory injury given the story that hock injections work, but only last a month. Has the horse ever been ultrasounded behind? Or blocked directly into the hock joint, stifle joint, or suspensory? Or even a more general nerve block behind?

          Perhaps you could take a follow-up x-ray to put side-by-side with t he one the university took to see if the arthritis is progressing?

          When you say some days she can hardly trot at all, can you try keeping a journal so you can identify the triggers for these days? i.e., they all occur below 40 degrees, or when it rains, or when she's been ridden the day before, etc.?

          When you say she's completely discombobulated, does she trip or appear to lack awareness of where her limbs are? Lyme disease, EPM, and neck arthritis can all cause those symptoms. Two of the three are very treatable. The last can usually be managed for some time with injections and shockwave.

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          • #6
            One none of this is your fault, two there is no shame in the retirement game.

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            • #7
              I expect vets have ruled out things like HYPP, PSSM and such?

              Some horses with that are not quite right, but nothing to find on examination.

              Fits that clinical picture, so I imagine vets somewhere have gone over that already.
              Just be sure someone did, some time.

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              • #8
                Do her back hooves have negative plantar angles?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
                  With it being on and off and no one is really sure what leg it is it makes me ask this frequently asked question - have you tested for Lyme or EPM?
                  or PSSM and HYPP? A friend's paint cross with intermittent unsoundness that moved from leg to leg ended up testing positive for PSSM. She did all kinds of diagnostics and such, like you are doing. After the diagnosis of PSSM, a relatively simple change to his diet and exercise program really made a huge improvement.

                  For PSSM daily exercise and long warm up and cool down are important. Is there a correlation between her good/bad days and her exercise schedule?
                  "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

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                  • #10
                    I’m sorry to hear about the struggles you are having with your mare. I had a similar experience with a horse I purchased that had been off the track for a year. This horse even “passed” a PPE...but just couldn’t hold up to regular work. Like you, I chased arthritis and injections around all four legs (main problem in LF fetlock and SI, but other body parts would compensate and the pain would move around, like playing whack-a-mole).

                    After a year of struggle, I chose to retire my beautiful 6yo TB gelding that I had purchased to be my upper level eventer. It was a financial stretch, but I found a cheap place for pasture board and managed to afford a second riding horse. Seven years later, when I finally had a hobby farm, I brought Apollo home. Apollo is very special to me, extremely kind and quiet on the ground but too hot and spooky undersaddle to be a beginner’s trail horse (which is all he was physically capable of handling).

                    I am happy with my choices, but I don’t expect everyone to be able to support a horse that way and I wouldn’t necessarily offer that deal to every horse I own. Horses live a long time and can be a significant expense.

                    Good luck and feel better, it sounds like you are doing everything you can for your mare.

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                    • #11
                      During nuclear scintigraphy, was a soft - tissue phase done?

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                      • #12
                        Not sure if the nuclear scan/diagnostics done would have picked up something like kissing spines, arthritis in the neck, or something higher in the pelvis/SI? From the facts presented, it seems to me that the problem almost has to originate somewhere other than a leg.

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                        • #13
                          Aspoonfull – please don’t feel like a failure. You have had multiple vets involved and followed their advice – you have done and are doing your absolute best for this girl.

                          I think you have a few options, in no particular order
                          One – turn out for a year and see what you have
                          Two – pursue further diagnostics
                          Three - euthanasia

                          If you can’t spend more at this stage then I see nothing wrong with turn out, as long as she is comfortable in the pasture with no shoes. The ideal situation in my mind would be a small, settled group in a big pasture with plenty of shelter and rolling hills (+10acres). Horses would be visually checked daily, have an experienced hand run over them once a week or so, regular hoofcare & worming.

                          If, and only if, you can actually afford it, I’d be wanting to go to a really good sport horse vet and do one more lameness work up, starting with nerve blocking, then pursuing, within reason, what that turned up. I’d be leaning very heavily towards ultrasounding the hind suspensories – the on/off nature of the lameness and the one month result from the hock injections make me think of this. If nothing conclusive found on nerve blocks then I’d just turn her out and cross my fingers or go straight to option 3.

                          The third option, well, I wouldn’t rule it out. You have already done a lot of diagnostics and are no closer to figuring out what is going on. She is clearly pretty uncomfortable and possibly in significant pain at times. Unfortunately, like Montana’s girl said, I haven’t seen many good outcomes for horses this young that are having serious soundness issues.

                          I went through a similar thing – bought a 6yo horse who had never been in serious work. Had on/off soundness issues for the entire time I owned her – just a little off on a tight circle to the right, then fine for months. After spending a lot of money, different vets, barefoot, fancy shoes, supplements, feed etc etc I ended up giving her away to a friend. She was the same until she died – always NQR for a bit, then fine for months, then NQR again.

                          I’ve watched friends & acquaintances go through the same – it’s heartbreaking, wallet emptying and soul-destroying. I won’t do it again – if I can’t get to the bottom of it/fix it/have a diagnosis in 12mths then that’s it.

                          Good luck with whatever you decide – I know you’re doing all that you can. Please be kind to yourself.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I really feel for you. I’m going through something similar with my gelding who turned 7 today. I’ve had him a year and a half and about a week and a half ago (after being ridden after having the winter off) came up lame. Thought it was because his feet were overgrown and sore from going from not being used to used all of a sudden. Had him trimmed and he still is sore. Thought maybe laminitis and ruled that out as his feet are fine and there is hardly any green grass to be had. We now figure it’s ringbone. He may also now have some teeth issues 😞. I was told about a really good vet about 2 hours from me that specializes in lameness-I’m hoping to take him to figure what exactly is going on.

                            It’s so heartbreaking when you find your forever horse that is your perfect match and you have to possibly retire them at such a young age. I’m hoping I can get
                            my guy sound enough to pleasure ride.

                            Good luck to you, I hope things work out for you. And your not a failure as a horse owner.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'm so sorry OP. You're not a failure and you've done WAY more that what most would do.

                              Given your love for the horse, I would also suggest turning her out and letting Dr. Green take a crack at it. Pull her shoes and see if she can get herself right.

                              Also, sometimes there are things going on that can't be fixed. Conformational defects in the spine, irreversible neuro problems, etc. It's awful and heartbreaking, but it's not your fault.
                              Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

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                              • #16
                                Oh wow, OP your post gave me flashbacks to 20 years ago when I was 20-something and the real Buck was going through something eerily similar. He had horrible hocks on film, but that never was the problem - he had a stifle issue, tore his meniscus (we were competing in slop footing and he slipped). Took years to diagnose as every vet went after his hocks (he has capped hocks too, so vets would just get radar lock on his hocks). I literally had to beg vets to treat his stifle, nobody believed stifle from the way he moved and his rads.

                                Only thing that worked was turning him out 24/7 and keeping him moving, and paying attention to footcare carefully, never letting his hind toes get long at all.

                                1 year of turnout and we went from unable to ride to back to competing.

                                That was over 20 years ago, and he's 39 years old now, still bopping around his paddock happy as a clam.
                                Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Thank you all so much for the kindness and reassurances! It's been an emotional two years almost and after a while it's hard to get your spirits back up, especially since I'm feeling like I'm in this alone basically. I appreciate all the advice and well wishes so much. Now to respond to some of your thoughts...

                                  Montanas_Girl - She's lame both under saddle and in pasture, but it's not every day and the severity is ever changing. She's on great turnout now - 20 acres for 8+ hours a day weather permitting. If I choose to fully retire her, she is staying right where she is!

                                  trubandloki - We did test and give her 2 rounds of treatment for Lyme, even though her Cornell test came back as negative for Lyme. EPM we have not tested, but it also had not been suggested by a vet either. Maybe something to look into?

                                  joiedevie99 - Mare has never been ultrasounded. Everyone has been on the inject for arthritis train. She was nerve blocked in both femoraltibial (stifle) joints last summer to find a "willingness to move forward and lameness improved but still present" (straight from my vet's progress notes) to follow with blocks in the left tibiotarsal (left hock) and lameness improved greatly. So, the hock and stifle injections were performed that day and lasted about a month. I would like to have xrays done again - gotta save up though. On her bad days that I refer to not being able to trot, she just has such reluctance to move forward and just feels like she can't find her feet as you said. I have not been able to find a pattern - it's seemingly random. We did test and treat for Lyme even though Cornell results came back negative. I'm interested in learning more about the neck arthritis.

                                  Bluey - HYPP and PSSM have not been brought up yet and I don't know much about it. Definitely going to ask about this.

                                  4horses - No she does not to my knowledge, but her RF is a slight club. She is trimmed properly every 6 weeks with shoes on the fronts (hind shoes not allowed due to group turnout). Would you mind educating me on this?

                                  MissAriel - I will have to look into PSSM. No one has brought it up and I don't know much about it!

                                  NaturalSelection - I appreciate you sharing your experience with me. It's so tough going through this, and your situation is exactly what I hope happens to us. I love my mare more than anything and I would love to bring her home someday.

                                  Sansena - According to the progress notes, there was no mention of a soft-tissue phase so I am assuming not. Something to look into maybe?

                                  Groom&Taxi - According to the progress notes, there was "no significant areas of increased radiopharmeceutical uptake." The nuc scan was of her hindlimbs, pelvis and spine. The vet told me there was a 50% chance something would show on this scan.

                                  Feliz - Thank you for the advice!

                                  SLS - Ugh, I'm so sorry you're in this situation too. I'm keeping you and your horse in my thoughts and I hope the problem is found and treatable!

                                  Texarkana - Thank you for the kind words. That is pretty much where my head is at, and I'm sure she is more than happy to retire, so we'll see how it goes. I just wish I could have prevented whatever went wrong.

                                  buck22 - Thanks for the input! I think my plan is to turn her out for awhile to see what time off can do for her. I do hope we can come back to work someday as she has so much time left - hopefully to 39 like your boy! That's incredible!

                                  Thank you all, again. I appreciate the support and advice of those with more knowledge than I have.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I had a gelding diagnosed as basically lame from withers to hoof. Injections helped for about a month. Previcoxx didn't really help. Robaxin. Chiropractics. Hock xrays. About $5k in, the third vet finally got a diagnosis on film where no one thought to xray - boney growth in a hind hoof where the collateral ligament moves over the joint.

                                    A friend had a very slightly off gelding. I think the forth vet after x-rays, injections, adequan, previcoxx, etc finally found the hairline hock fracture.

                                    My point? If you want to make this work, keep driving for a diagnosis. I'm of the relatively unpopular working opinion right now that I'm simply not willing to inject without a diagnosis. There is just too much refractory short term pain relief to make me feel that it's the right thing to do when you're out of guesses. I wish for my gelding I had spent the $800 on hock injections on more diagnostics to try to get him comfortable faster.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      You are not a failure!

                                      I think you are being an amazing horse mom. Like abrant says if you can afford it and have access to more vets have the 5th,6th,7th opinion. If your bank account needs a break and she can safely be out in a pasture then by all means find somewhere that will keep eyes on her and let her rest.

                                      Ultimately it's up to you as the owner since no matter how hard we try we can't get our horses to tell us where exactly they are ouchy. I had an AQHA gelding who after his 13th birthday just was NQR and I poured everything into him to get him to be pasture/light riding sound the last few years of his life but at 18 the navicular and arthritis and abscesses were just too much for him. I do hope you can find a solution for your girl as I can tell you love her.

                                      There is absolutely no shame in euthanasia as much as it sucks and sucks and sucks some more if you believe you have done everything you can for that horse it is a loving thing to do for them. I send jingles and hope that like some of the other posters your vet just missed something on the x-ray or other scans.

                                      Please keep us updated!
                                      when the world turns on you your horse will be there.
                                      -ariah

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by ASpoonfullaSplash View Post
                                        Montanas_Girl - She's lame both under saddle and in pasture, but it's not every day and the severity is ever changing. She's on great turnout now - 20 acres for 8+ hours a day weather permitting. If I choose to fully retire her, she is staying right where she is!
                                        Arthritis is known as a "use it or lose it" disease - in other words, inactivity can cause it to progress faster. In this situation, she may get 8 hours out, but she also gets 16 hours in a stall doing nothing. I would reevaluate your stance on this. I agree with the advice to send her off for 24/7 turnout in a big space with other horses with pain relief, and let her enjoy some life, but if it's arthritis it's not going to improve.

                                        Arthritis is also progressive, and has no cure. Barring other diagnostics (and I agree that should be done) if the problem is arthritis, you either give this horse some pain relief and enjoy her now, or give her pain relief and retire her, until the pain relief stops working.

                                        Dr Ramey says it best: https://www.doctorramey.com/osteoarthritis/

                                        "I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Once OA has developed, there is nothing – NOTHING – that can be done that has been shown to reverse, or even control, the process. That’s right. No supplement, no drug, no injection, no device (shockwave, magnets, special horseshoes, etc.), can make a joint with OA normal. I mean, think about it. If someone could cure arthritis, that person would make Bill Gates look like a pauper! If there were a cure, why are there so many different treatments? If there were a cure, there would only be one treatment, and everyone would use it (like, say, antibiotics for bacterial infections)."

                                        If joint injections, adequan, legend, MSM, previcoxx and other pain killers still leave her in pain, I'm sorry to say the time to let her go has come. Arthritis in horses is a really heartache, and I'm sorry you're facing this with a youngster

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