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*Possible* Shivers in a purchase prospect

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  • *Possible* Shivers in a purchase prospect

    So I've been on the hunt for my first horse as an adult for a while now. I came across a horse that I really liked and had a good connection with, and was able to get the price to something I'm comfortable with. I did a PPE on Wednesday and the vet THINKS he has shivers. I've been doing a lot of research since, and he doesn't present with what I would consider to be a textbook case (I know, I'm NOT a vet, so I am taking his diagnosis over my own opinion). He has no issues backing (got him in/out of trailer with no issue, backed on flat ground no problem), picks up his feet for cleaning, has never had to be sedated for farrier. However, the vet had a really tough time getting him to stay in flexion on the back legs. He would pick up, then step sideways away from the vet and put the foot back down. The vet didn't think it was a pain response, and was able to get him to hold flexion on both sides after a few attempts. He's an 11 yr old 16.3hh WB gelding, so does present as the type of horse that would have it, but I'm just not sure. The vet said it was weird as well, but couldn't find any other reason for the behavior (could be that he's just naughty, but he's very well behaved otherwise).

    Due to the potential diagnosis, I was able to negotiate the price down further. I've been in communication with my vet, farrier and trainer and all say that its not typically a reason not to buy a horse if everything else is great. I've read other similar posts on this on COTH, and people seem fairly mixed on opinions. I know that I can find another horse out there with as much talent without the potential issue, but personality is SO important to me and he really has exactly what I'm looking for in that regard. Even the vet commented on what a friendly and well behaved horse he is, and he's the same under saddle.

    He'll be used as a low/mid level event horse, worked 6+ days a week and kept in a program with a very knowledgeable trainer. I haven't signed anything yet, but I'm leaning towards purchasing him as I feel we have the skills and capabilities to manage him should he progress at all. I was wondering if anyone who has had a horse that started showing symptoms later on (10 and older) could share their experience with progression. I know each horse is different, but it seems that the horses that had symptoms from a young age progressed to a worse state than those with possible symptoms later on. Just looking for some reassurance from people who have been in similar situations!

  • #2
    I support a 17yo now retired TB. Holding his feet up for routine cleaning has never been much of a problem. However, since we purchased him at age 4, he has always had trouble holding up his back legs as long and as high as most farriers seem to want them. Through the years, the term "shivers" was occasionally mentioned although he had no other symptoms.

    Up through age 15, this horse he was kept shod all around. We went through several farriers (for various reasons), and all of them had some level of difficulty doing the back legs. Some were more tolerant than others, but this aspect of working with him ensured that he was never a farrier favorite.

    From age 11 to age 15 the horse was in sporadic work mainly due to my daughter being in college. Around age 13, when working him was attempted, he started having trouble with occasionally sticky stifles. We did various things attempting to treat the stifles before throwing him out in a pasture two years ago to see what Dr. Green could do. Unfortunately, Dr Green does not appear to have affected a cure.

    If the horse you vetted was so friendly and well behaved otherwise, he was probably telling you *something* when the vet was doing the hind flexions, and based on my past experience, I would be inclined to investigate a little further. In your position, I think I would try to have your FARRIER do a PPE - get under the horse, pull the hind shoes off and then put them back on and see what he or she thinks. It is no fun to basically dread every farrier appointment because you know the farrier doesn't like working on your horse. I would be concerned that - as seems to be the case with my horse - there is something not right in the hind end - whether it is shivers or something in the hocks, stifles, or higher up.

    ETA: The other thing I want to elaborate on just a bit is that soundness-wise (wrt to hind end issues), our horse did fairly well overall until daughter's college years when he was not kept in regular work (although he was turned out daily and stalled at night). As you probably know from your other research, keeping this horse in regular, correct work will be very important if you decide to purchase him. It's easy to plan to do that, harder to actually do it - so keep that thought in the back of your mind as well.
    Last edited by Groom&Taxi; Jun. 5, 2019, 01:47 PM.

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    • #3
      So the vet suspects shivers but this is an atypical presentation?

      You in fact have no idea what is wrong back there.

      So your question is really: should I buy a horse with something NQR in the hind end that showed on a PPE?

      Are there further diagnostics you could do?

      I have a horror of NQR, and see so many horses losing function subtly in the hocks, stifles, SI, from wear and tear.

      Comment


      • #4
        Pass. I wouldn't even spring for further diagnostics.

        That's not a normal presentation of shivers and I have mentioned it before on this forum, but I have always been told by vets that in order to be diagnosed with shivers, the horse must have difficulty backing up. This is something that is validated by Dr Valberg, who is one of the leading authorities on shivers (and other neuromuscular diseases).

        It could be any number of things. PSSM, EPSM, several different muscle myopathies, SI trauma or disease, hock and/or stifle issues..

        I would not go buying (or borrowing) trouble.

        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by beowulf View Post
          Pass. I wouldn't even spring for further diagnostics.

          That's not a normal presentation of shivers and I have mentioned it before on this forum, but I have always been told by vets that in order to be diagnosed with shivers, the horse must have difficulty backing up. This is something that is validated by Dr Valberg, who is one of the leading authorities on shivers (and other neuromuscular diseases).

          It could be any number of things. PSSM, EPSM, several different muscle myopathies, SI trauma or disease, hock and/or stifle issues..

          I would not go buying (or borrowing) trouble.
          This. As my vet says “this is a nice horse to own. Not a nice horse to buy” IOW if you’re already stuck with it you’ll likely make do but otherwise steer clear.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Xanthoria View Post

            This. As my vet says “this is a nice horse to own. Not a nice horse to buy” IOW if you’re already stuck with it you’ll likely make do but otherwise steer clear.
            Yes, I agree. Don't buy other people's problems.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thanks for the input so far. In terms of diagnostics, I've already done xrays of hocks and stifles. Some very mild arthritic changes were seen in the lower hock joint on the right side, which the vet concedes *could* have caused him some discomfort on flexion, but the fact that he did it bilaterally and the other hock/stifle came back totally clean lead him to suspect that wasn't the cause.

              What I've come to find in my search thus far is that horses in the age/price range that I'm looking with the experience I'm looking for generally have the beginnings of arthritic changes. As this is my first owned horse, I'm not looking for a green bean and don't have a crazy budget for a super talented well schooled youngster, so some 'wear and tear' as described above is to be expected to some degree. If we all demanded to only purchase perfectly clean horses, far fewer of us would have horses I have immense trust in my trainer, vet and farrier's combined experience. I'm mainly looking for anyone who has had a horse with a diagnosis of shivers in maturity and how they held up in work over the years.

              I agree, this doesn't present typically as shivers, but the vet felt comfortable giving me that diagnosis and gave no indication of any other issues mentioned above. I asked about PSSM/EPSM and EPM and he's far less symptomatic for either of those than he is for shivers (no exercise intolerance, normal musculature, no tenderness to palpation or stiffness).

              Comment


              • #8
                My horse just turned seven, and was diagnosed with shivers and PSSM at age 2 by Dr. Valberg. So, I cannot speak to horses with later on set. However I will say that Dr. Valberg told me that about 70% of horses with shivers progress to the point where the horse is no longer usable. Others remain stable.

                My horse presented with a moderate case early on but does not appear to have gotten worse. He has shivers in all four legs and issuing him requires sedation and a lot of effort. PSSM tends to go hand in hand with shivers, and in my horse’s case it does seem to make it a lot harder to get him fit among other things.
                Other accommodations I have made include buying him a trailer with a side ramp that is rear facing so he can walk off it, since backing is difficult.

                I don’t know which of the two conditions is worse, but Many horses can do well into old age with shivers, and many horses can be managed OK with PSSM. It’s the ones that can’t that break your heart, and you don’t know what you’re getting into with this one…

                My feeling is that if you can afford an early retirement, can support a second horse if this one has to retire, and this horse is talented enough to teach you a lot in the short term, then you have less to lose. Some of the people who think it’s no big deal have their own property or enough money to afford replacement horses.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Since your vet isn't sure that it is shivers are you comfortable with the possibility that it very well may be something much worse? There is post after post on here about vet's who are stumped over a wide range of lameness issues and a lot of horses who are undiagnosed and unsound.

                  Arthritic changes and wear and tear on an older horse is somewhat expected, but I would not buy a horse that has an issue that the vet is just guessing on. The vet has nothing to lose if they are wrong --you do.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I would pass on anything remotely neurological that came up in a PPE. There could be so many causes, and often, after spending thousands, you still may not have an answer as to the cause or any idea of how or when the issues may progress.

                    Having owned (and having had to euthanize at 16) a neurological horse, I would not wish that experience on anyone. I was extremely heartbreaking to watch a relatively young, sweet and athletic horse deteriorate both physically and mentally.
                    Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It sounds to me that you really like this horse.

                      If you're going to buy him, be prepared for ugly vet bills down the road. It's hard to say what's wrong, what could be wrong, and how long he's going to hold up for.

                      Since the owners are agreeing to lower the price, it makes me think they know something is up. People tend to sell their horses and cars when there's some sort of trouble.

                      If you're okay with having a potential pasture puff, and you're prepared that this horse may not hold up, then buy him. But if you want to show and compete for years to come, I would walk away. I think that's what happened with my horse....

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RonniM View Post
                        I have immense trust in my trainer, vet and farrier's combined experience. I'm mainly looking for anyone who has had a horse with a diagnosis of shivers in maturity and how they held up in work over the years.

                        I agree, this doesn't present typically as shivers, but the vet felt comfortable giving me that diagnosis and gave no indication of any other issues mentioned above. I asked about PSSM/EPSM and EPM and he's far less symptomatic for either of those than he is for shivers (no exercise intolerance, normal musculature, no tenderness to palpation or stiffness).
                        The vet did not give you a diagnosis. The vet used the catchall term "shivers" to give a name to one of many possible diseases/conditions that might cause the horse's resistance to having his hind legs flexed.

                        Has your trusted farrier seen the horse or tried to lift the hind legs? Most farriers don't cross the line and diagnose things that are better left to vets, but they spend a lot more of their time standing under horses which is why I recommended that you get your farrier involved. The farrier might be in a better position to say whether this horse's difficulties are somewhere in a normal-ish range or not.

                        If the horse is currently in a program similar to the one he will be in with you and is (and has been) sound doing work similar to what you will be asking of him, he might still be an acceptable risk. The decision is ultimately up to you - depending on how much use you hope to get out of him and what options you might have for him if he can't do the job for you any more.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          While some maintenance or limitations on use might be acceptable in a schoolmaster horse, I think you really need to know what those are before you buy the horse. Buying a horse with shivers, or with arthritic changes needing annual injections, is not that same as buying a horse with an undiagnosed NQR. If the owners are so willing to drop the price fast on such a nice horse, it suggests they know there is something wrong even if they haven't had it diagnosed clearly either.

                          You don't know that you have a horse with shivers. You do know something isn't right back there. Advice about shivers might be completely inapplicable.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Agreed with what is said by previous people. Since it doesn't present classically as shivers it very well could be something else. However, no gait abnormalities noted, no injections ever needed in the past, horse didn't take an off step at all after flexions. Just didn't appreciate this vet asking him to hold flexion. Never offered to kick him, didn't pin his ears and passed the (admittedly basic) neuro exam with no problems.

                            I'm new to horse buying and PPE's in general. I sent videos to my farrier (horse is over 3 hours away from home and even if I paid my farrier would have said no to that journey :P) who didn't see anything obviously wrong with the horse. The other thing I thought about his how I would feel about someone hold my leg in forced flexion for 45 seconds without explanation. I don't know how much I'd appreciate it either.

                            Its also worth noting that the owner wasn't present for the exam, and I certainly didn't let on how slight the symptoms were. The vet told me he considered it shivers, which is what I told the owner, whom I believed to be very surprised by that and agreed that in that case the price should indeed be lowered. Anything's possible, but I have no reason to suspect they'd knowingly lie if I'm doing a PPE regardless.

                            I appreciate all the input, I really do. It's hard when the horse is otherwise perfect and one possible issue stands between you and owning him. I'm sure everyone else here can appreciate that as well. Clearly I have some considering to do and questions to ask.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              With enough of a discount I would consider it. But not if the money is more than you can afford to lose. Also, be prepared that if it goes wrong, you could be facing either a retirement or euthanasia or big vet bills.

                              But the price should be SUBSTANTIALLY lower than a horse with mild hock arthritis. Like around 1/3 of the horse's value otherwise, for me to take the risk. at least don't pay more than half the value if he didn't have shivers.

                              I've taken risks before, some work out and some don't.

                              One question -- is the horse currently in the work you want to do? If he's been sitting around, I would be wary but if he's currently jumping happily around the height you want to do, I'd be more willing to hope he'll continue to do the same for a while.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                With the additional info...

                                I can understand why OP wouldn't send the farrier three hours to have a look!

                                I don't necessarily agree with previous posters who state that the seller's willingness to lower the price indicates a fire sale. IMHO, it's more likely that the horse's price was set with some room to negotiate, and the reduced price was still in the seller's acceptable range.

                                Would it be possible to get a second vet to do a more minimal version of a PPE? Maybe review original vet's rads, repeat flexions on hinds, maybe image back and/or neck?

                                I realize all parties involved are probably ready to be done with the deal if there's going to be one, but for a first horse purchaser whose primary interest is in riding and not having a pet, having a second vet take a look might be worthwhile.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Yes, do you have a vet that you could send video or rads to at home?

                                  It might be nothing or it might be something. It's true that flexions themselves can be uncomfortable and a vet that overdoes them can make a horse appear off.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post
                                    One question -- is the horse currently in the work you want to do? If he's been sitting around, I would be wary but if he's currently jumping happily around the height you want to do, I'd be more willing to hope he'll continue to do the same for a while.

                                    He's currently in full training at a hunter/jumper barn. I don't know if I'd consider the work harder or easier, just different. My barn is strictly eventing and takes longevity of an athlete very seriously, so we don't jump more than once, mayyyyybe twice a week if we're in peak season. In the winter its more like once a month, if that. That being said, our flatwork program would obviously be more work for him. He was an eventer before being sold to a girl for hunter/jumpers. Evented through Training and cruised around 3' hunters for the past 2 years. The girl moved on to a project horse, so he's been in training to sell. He knows how to collect and use himself properly, just hasn't been asked in a while.

                                    I'll see about getting another vet out. The vet who did the PPE is from a relatively nearby equine hospital with many other equine vets at the practice. Maybe he can have a colleague review findings and I can ask them to come out and see him.


                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I purchased a schoolmaster with shivers. No problems backing up, and the only symptom was not being able to hold his front feet up to be picked. But as long as I wedged them between my knees, he was fine.

                                      I learned so much on that horse and he never took a lame step until the day he died.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by RonniM View Post


                                        I'll see about getting another vet out. The vet who did the PPE is from a relatively nearby equine hospital with many other equine vets at the practice. Maybe he can have a colleague review findings and I can ask them to come out and see him.
                                        My two cents - sending a colleague from the same practice would be highly unlikely to yield a fully independent assessment - they are unlikely to give you a conflicting report and would be predisposed to agree with their colleague. If you are going to go to the trouble of a second opinion, I would use a second practice with no incentive to agree with the prior opinion.

                                        Have you talked to your own vet? Is a trainer involved on your behalf? It is common to have your own local vet review the PPE findings. You could even have the horse flexed again and video it for your vet to review if you have a vet you trust.

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