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Retiring an aggressive horse?

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  • Retiring an aggressive horse?

    My TB gelding was recently diagnosed with a 1.5/2 out of 5 ataxia on the Mayhew scale, which is suspected to be caused by Wobbler's, EPM or Equine Degenerative Myeloencephalopathy (EDM), although it is suspected to be the latter due to the way symptoms presented + neck x-rays were clear. He has a spinal tap that is currently still in the lab so I am desperately hoping it is 'just' EPM but I have a sinking feeling that it is not. Unless it is caused by an infection the vets have determined that it is not treatable and due to his level of ataxia he is not safe to ride, so he will need to be retired. I would like to have him as a companion horse, but he requires some level of maintenance due to incorrect shoeing sometime in his past before I owned him and due to the ataxia can be very aggressive to other horses and dogs. I am not quite sure what to do with him at this point, I don't think keeping him at his current stable is a good option due to the turnout situation and expenses but I don't know that I can put him anywhere else. I'd like to retire him somewhere quiet and perhaps see if the medications recommended by the vets will help him enough for him to be suitable to be around other horses but I am not sure how well this will work out. Anyways I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with retiring a horse like this and if they have any advice? What sort of facilities should I look for to board him, if that is the path I take? Obviously nothing is set in stone yet but I'm at a loss for what to do with him, especially as at the moment and probably for the foreseeable future any riding is out of the question so right now he is just a dead weight. I'm sure I must sound awful right now! I just want him to be happy but I don't at all know what to do with him and I am just so so frustrated that this is how everything has turned out

    Yikes this is a wall of text - in short, this horse is unridable due to neurological issues and probably not suitable for turnout for other horses. What to do with him?
    (Yes, I am in contact with his vets)

  • #2
    What do you mean by aggressive?
    There is never any shame in sending a horse over the rainbow bridge when their quality of life isn’t good, even if it’s from the horses’ own attitude.

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    • Original Poster

      #3
      He's been on solitary turnout for a while but when he was with other horses in turnout he would dance around and chase him, he had his tail up like a stud and would always be galloping about and nagging them. Not what I would consider aggressive but definitely obnoxious, he nagged them to the point that both BO and I worried that he would be kicked badly.
      I have most noticed his aggression while we are in the barn, when other horses pass him on cross tie he will snap at them, and the past few times I have ridden him before I stopped from vet's advice he would always pin his ears and gnash his teeth when coming by other horses (didn't have to be close), sometimes going so far as to lunge at them to the point that I only felt safe riding alone. Apparently irritability towards other horses is a big sign of neurological disorders and I have really noticed it increasing over the past month or two so I really do think it is because of his nerve damage - before the time leading up to his diagnosis he was a little bit ditzy in the field and didn't appreciate crowded warmup rings but wasn't aggressive by any means

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      • #4
        He sounds like a horse that would be better separated. They can still touch noses over the fence and do mutual grooming but the other horses can get away from him.

        As he gets worse he will trip and stumble more. So leading him becomes dangerous. From there standing next to them can be dangerous if they are going to fall.

        So it is not fair to board him somewhere and expect other people to be leading him to and holding him for farriers and vets.
        It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

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        • #5
          I would euthanize.

          Otherwise, find solo pasture board so no one has to handle/walk him in and out every day and take care of holding him yourself for all service appointments.

          Very sorry.
          Last edited by mmeqcenter; Jan. 21, 2020, 10:49 AM.
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          • #6
            Consider if he's aggressive because he HURTS. Nerve pain is no joke.

            I agree with mm above on euthanasia. I'm very sorry

            Comment


            • #7
              Ask your vet what would be best for him, retirement or euthanasia. If retirement ask her for recommendations, she'll know the most optimal set up for the horse, and she will know all the area barns and what kind of care they offer.
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              • #8
                Personally, just knowing what you've written here, I'd euthanize.

                To get more specific, I would be less inclined to euthanize because of the aggressiveness by itself and more because with diagnosed neurological diseases there is a significantly likelihood that the horse goes downhill quickly one day, falls and can't get up, falls into a fence or gets cast in a stall and destroys infrastructure and/or himself in the process, etc. I don't want to be dealing with euthanizing then.
                Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by bantry bay View Post
                  He's been on solitary turnout for a while but when he was with other horses in turnout he would dance around and chase him, he had his tail up like a stud and would always be galloping about and nagging them. Not what I would consider aggressive but definitely obnoxious, he nagged them to the point that both BO and I worried that he would be kicked badly.
                  I have most noticed his aggression while we are in the barn, when other horses pass him on cross tie he will snap at them, and the past few times I have ridden him before I stopped from vet's advice he would always pin his ears and gnash his teeth when coming by other horses (didn't have to be close), sometimes going so far as to lunge at them to the point that I only felt safe riding alone. Apparently irritability towards other horses is a big sign of neurological disorders and I have really noticed it increasing over the past month or two so I really do think it is because of his nerve damage - before the time leading up to his diagnosis he was a little bit ditzy in the field and didn't appreciate crowded warmup rings but wasn't aggressive by any means
                  Oh dear, my horse with neck issues did get increasingly aggressive in certain circumstances over the past couple of years. In a stud like way, though. And he generally loved everyone...but also was always obnoxious. And if irritable while riding, he would for sure lunge at others.

                  In any event, this is really interesting! Even a new vet that saw him recently commented on how he could kind of be a bull in a china shop and that his jowls were so big he looked like a stallion. He was not, and I tested for gelding gone wrong, but his head did get quite a bit bigger even coming 9 years old. Makes me wonder about how the brain works.

                  Mine wasn't ataxic (just lost him to colic instead), but I never knew of a connection with the kind of aggression you describe. Yes, some "screw loose" or mean aggressive kind of behavior, but not stud like. In any event, as much as it's been criticized, Depo Provera injections really helped him a lot. It didn't get rid of the behavior entirely, but it made him easier to live with.

                  So, I dunno, maybe chemistry could be an option for you since you have to be well involved in his care anyway. That said, I was always afraid that mine would become ataxic and I'd have to make hard decisions because of that. At least he spared me from that. I would at least have your guy turned out full time on terrain that is not that difficult to navigate. A client's EDM OTTB declined very fast once he started showing signs of being ataxic. For a while, he was put on a gently rolling pasture, and sometimes the hills were very hard for him to navigate.

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                  • #10
                    I'd euth OP. Sorry to hear this, but I wouldn't want the risk of him tripping or falling on a human or possibly getting injured being a pain in the pasture.
                    "Anyone who tries to make brownies without butter should be arrested." Ina Garten

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                    • #11
                      The most critical question is "is he a danger to humans around him?" Because while it is possible to find a field board setup with shelter and solitary turnout, he will still need to be handled for vet/farrier, worming, etc.
                      If the answer is currently no, I would talk to the vet about expected pace of the condition progressing,and when s/he feels euthanasia is warranted. If not indicated now, then establish some objective standards so you are confident when it's "time". Perhaps do 6month checkups to grade the ataxia and reassess.

                      But based on what you've written, I would be inclined to euthanize sooner rather than later. For a prey animal, the ataxia must be pretty distressing, given the way it compromises his ability to escape danger.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If you don't want to euthanize now, you might be able to find private turnout for a couple of months and euthanize later. I probably would not bother trimming hooves, unless he grows monster feet. I don't know what the environment is like where you live, or your financial situation... But some time left for him to enjoy, with a date in mind. If he gets worse, make that date sooner.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Small update
                          His spinal tap came back negative for infectious causes, so it almost certainly EDM. Right now he is not a danger to his handlers, but in the future (especially as he is roughly 17hh) he could be - really depends on how he ataxia progresses. It is the weekend now but I am going to get in contact with the vet and ask how fast he can be expected to deteriorate.

                          He's fairly happy at the moment, he has been able to be turned out during the day with one equally obnoxious friend (who notably doesn't have back shoes), we are thinking about putting him with a second horse he has gotten along with in the past. I am looking into decreasing his shoeing costs but that will probably be a long road due to damage from improper shoeing from before I owned him. Right now if we pulled his shoes off I do not think he would be pasture sound but he has made improvement in the quality of his hooves so if that continues eventually I would like to pull them off

                          Thank you for all the advice, I am hoping he is able to live out the rest of his happily.
                          Last edited by bantry bay; Jan. 28, 2020, 06:00 PM.

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                          • #14
                            If he gets uncomfortable, there would be no harm in putting him down.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Put him down...sorry, but it does not sound like there is realistically a long term safe and happy situation for him

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                              • #16
                                Are you treating the EPM? I would certainly start there. my ataxic horse with EPM has recovered fully (knock on wood) and is back in full work 8 months later.

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