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Help me diagnose what happened this morning

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  • Help me diagnose what happened this morning

    I've been riding 7 years, but have only owned a horse for 1 1/2 years, so I need some opinions from you experienced horse owners about what happened this morning.

    My horse is an 8 1/2 YO OTTB gelding. He's normally lively and inquisitive and greedy. I last rode him on Friday morning and he was fine. Forgive all the details below, but I want you to have a clear picture of what happened.

    He was in the pasture eating this morning when I arrived and he came to me to get his carrots, which he ate in his usual enthusiastic manner. I walked him back into the barn, about 100 yards, and noticed nothing wrong until after grooming and tacking, just when I was about ready to put on his bridle, he just started to go down, front and rear. When his head got pulled up by the cross-ties, he lifted back up and stood.

    I finished tacking up and started walking him down the barn aisle and noticed he was walking slowly, and his eyes seemed slightly closed and inwardly focused and disinterested. I let him stand for about a minute, and then we walked the 200 yards to the outdoor arena. He walked somewhat slowly and wasn't trying to eat the landscaping, as he often does.

    In the arena, he didn't want to walk to the steps, so I positioned them to him and got on. I queued him to walk and he went about 30 feet and stopped. I pressed again and he walked another 6 feet and stopped and wouldn't move after that so I got off and walked him back to the cross-ties.

    At this point his eyes seemed more alert and he tried to nuzzle some papers on the bulletin board (his usual behavior). I decided to put him on the hot walker and during that 75 yard walk he seemed much more normal. After about 15 minutes on the walker, I walked him out to the pasture and he immediately started grazing again. When I drove away about 7 minutes later he was still grazing just as if nothing had happened.

    So, what do you think that was all about?
    Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!


  • #2
    I wonder if he might have had a touch of gassy colic relieved by the walking.


    • #3
      cinch was too tight is my guess.
      if it happens again, loosen it, and see if that doesnt resolve things... then tighten slowly on the walk --
      one notch at a time, walk, another. walk...
      it can come and go that quick..
      OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.


      • #4
        Possibly the girth was to tight pinching something like a nerve.
        Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


        • Original Poster

          The girth was at the position I always put it.
          Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



          • #6
            It is possible he had a little choke episode from the carrots. Moving it around cleared it and he felt better.


            • #7
              Based on my own experience (20+ years worth), I'd guess Omega Alpha has the best guess so far. I've seen nearly identical behavior from horses experiencing mild gassy pain ... the fact that it apparently resolved with some walking exercise would seem to support that.

              "Collapse" from abrupt pressure on the medial ventral and/or lateral pectoral nerves from a too-abrupt girth-tightening, while documented, is actually pretty rare. IME (a single case as a massage student, so not at all exhaustive), it also comes with some pretty unmistakeable muscular responses, as well as a more spooked-worried demeanor than the inward focus descried above.

              OP, for your education, this has nothing to do with placement of the girth, but with abrupt, unacceptably strong pressure to the area. In a horse with known problems (e.g., the massage subject I saw), even "normal" girthing can trigger the nerve pain, so it is not necessarily an error on the part of the rider. It is relatively rare, and can be chronic or an occasional problem related to some other issue the horse happens to be having.

              Likewise, the choke suggestion, while somewhat plausible, seems less likely because of the lack of any unusual coughing, swallowing or head tilting/shaking behavior.

              The OP seems to have been observant, noting expression and demeanor, so absent symptoms specific to nerve pain or choke, and with the fact that the described symptoms mirror exactly my experience with gas pain, I'd put my money on the former.

              OP, very glad your horse seems to have come out OK. I hope you have no further issues!
              Equinox Equine Massage

              In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
              -Albert Camus


              • Original Poster

                I hope the carrots thing is it, as that would be easier to prevent in the future.
                Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



                • Original Poster

                  I just read coloredhorse's response. So if it was gassy colic, how do I prevent that in the future? How long after eating does colic develop? On Friday I let him eat some very long grassy weeds after I rode and washed him, but normally he eats the same thing day in and day out.
                  Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



                  • #10
                    I'd go with mild gassy colic as well. NBD, though I can understand your concern. Walking to and from the arena was probably the best thing .
                    COTH's official mini-donk enabler

                    "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


                    • #11
                      Sometimes, these little gas colics just happen. Changes in feed/routine/weather can precipitate them sometimes, it seems. If nothing changed, OP, don't beat yourself up. Hopefully, you will own this and other horses for many years ... start training yourself to cuss, shrug and accept these little blips as "just one of those things."
                      Equinox Equine Massage

                      In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
                      -Albert Camus


                      • #12
                        One of my mares nearly went down on the crossties when I was in a hurry and tightened up the girth more quickly than usual. She was fine as soon as I unbuckled the girth.


                        • Original Poster

                          Noted about the girth, too.
                          Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



                          • #14
                            Glad it turned out ok. I had a horse with sweet itch (allergy to tiny gnats) that would want to lie down when the itching on his belly was intense. Does your horse have any crusty scabs on the centerline of his belly? That's one of the symptoms of sweet itch among others.

                            One other hint, some landscaping plants can be poisonous to horses...best not to let him sample!


                            • #15
                              Definitely sounds like a temporary choke episode due to the carrots...my mare has done this frequently over the years, and it always resolves on it's own within 15 minutes (thank god) But she stands and quietly panics until it resolves...she is definitely despondent while it happens...


                              • Original Poster

                                No crusty scabs on the belly.
                                Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



                                • #17
                                  I've had quite a few horses have gas cramps over the years just like your horse did. I've also seen about 25 to 30 choke episodes and none of them were like what your horse exhibited. All of them expressed discomfort through the neck and the severe ones coughed, wheezed and discharged fluid from their nose. I had a horse get a little gassy a few weeks ago right as they were eating breakfast. That horse stopped eating his breakfast, pawed a little then stood stock still in his stall. I waited to see if it got worse, but in a few minutes, he relaxed his expression, went back to eating and was fine after that. Gas episodes just happen here and there, just like they do for us when we suffer mild discomfort. Always keep an eye on your horse for a bit though to make sure it passes.
                                  Susan N.

                                  Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.