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Devastating diagnosis on my sale horse - mildly neurologic. Advice please.

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  • Devastating diagnosis on my sale horse - mildly neurologic. Advice please.

    My 9 y/o warm blood does 3 ft hunters. I am selling him (I've owned him <2 years) and the potential buyer got a pre purchase exam. Long story short-- exam was fine till end and -he failed the neuro exam. My vet had me take him to the vet school for diagnostics, xrays. That led to overnight stays for a myleogram study etc. The films showed some slight changes c 3-4 and 5-6. Vet school sent studies to surgeon for opinion on severity, options etc. Surgeon thinks he needs the basket surgery. I guess since its mild now it will continue to get worse as he ages etc. but I just wont do that type of spine surgery on a horse. Now Vet school deems him unrideable. My horse is sound and has been working/ jumping great up until this exam! Now I'm faced with a horrible situation and what to do. I have mortality insurance but the thought of euthanizing this amazing horse (if that's what the ins company ends up suggesting) is just killing me. But paying for retirement situation for the rest of his life is a tough one too. I'm devastated. Does anyone have any thoughts or experience with this type situation? What would you do?

  • #2
    Wow. They consider him unridable? With slight changes?

    Slight changes does not jive with basket surgery and unridable to me. Have they given you other options?

    I would at least ask if you could explore injecting the facets that are problematic to see what you get.

    Here is my story. You might find it useful...


    • #3
      Second Opinion

      You've gone to good vets, but maybe one more opinion? Not new tests, but independent review? So sorry you and horse are having to deal with this. I was taught to look at the horse in front of you, not necessarily the pedigree, the tests, the show results. Maybe someone will see him that way, even if he has to be given instead of sold. Surgeons always want to operate, maybe chiro or massage input would be useful.


      • #4
        I would absolutely get a second opinion, even if you need to haul to a further vet school, and I would find someone with plenty of experience in these types of cases. The insurance company may want a second opinion anyway, depending on the amount, and you will sleep better with whatever decision you end up making if you know you have really gotten an accurate diagnosis. Honestly, in that situation, I also would maybe think that waiting a month or two (if you are truly not seeing neurological deficits in daily life), and then having another exam done from scratch wouldn't be crazy. I realize that probably seems insanely expensive, but at the same time, it's probably cheap compared to care costs on this horse for the rest of his life, or the emotional cost of dealing with euthanasia.

        Neuro stuff is really hard - I had a horse with EPM, and the vets advised me not to ride him while he was recovering, which is absolutely what they should do from a safety perspective. I knew this horse very well, and had ridden him for years, and when I felt that he was improved enough that I could ride him safely, I did, which I think kept him stronger and helped his recovery. However, it also made me aware that a horse with neurological deficits can be very dangerous to humans, through no fault of their own. So I guess what I'm saying is, certainly take the results seriously - it certainly doesn't sound like a diagnosis that was made cavalierly or without appropriate testing, but also don't be afraid to push for a second opinion or review of the situation, because it's a major decision either way.

        And I'm sorry, that royally sucks!


        • #5
          OP - I have a 23 yr old gelding that was diagnosed with arthritic changes , C5, 6 and 7. He was more than just mildly neurologic, and definitely not rideable at that time. Did the injections (3 on each side of neck). Gave him a few weeks to feel better and h was slowly brought back to work. It has now been 14 months and he is able to do lower level dressage work every other day, no problem.
          Dont know where you are located but DEFINITELY get a second opinion. Given your horse's relative youth, it seems likely that you can buy some time with him still doing his job if he is injected. Certainly I would not START with the surgery.

          Then you have the reality that the horse's value is now not what it was so you either keep him or after some treatment, try to find him a different home. Unless something is missing in this story, I highly doubt the Ins. Co will be up for euthanasia.
          There are some other threads here re cervical arthritis; do a search, it will be helpful to you. Good luck
          We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


          • #6
            Get a second opinion from someone who is not itching to operate on the horse. Might not make him sell-able, but you may get some peace of mind that your horse, although imperfect, is not in fact a disaster. I daresay there are a lot of horses out there with "mild changes" on x-rays who know no better!
            Click here before you buy.


            • #7
              I agree you need a second opinion. Sounds like they are jumping off the deep end for some reason.

              I managed a riding program with a moderately neurologic QH mare. Definitely not ridable and we didn't need the neuro exam to tell us, very obvious. We gave her away as a pasture pal and 6 months later she was reliably taking the owners hubby down the trails. She is doing great now, but it's still a mystery as to what was going on previously. I wouldn't hop on the surgery, doomed for life, crazy wagon based on what you've told us.


              • #8
                I also recommend a second opinion.

                Where are you located? Dr. Martinelli in the San Diego area has done a lot of work in that area.

                Has anyone suggested injecting the neck first?


                • #9
                  I'm so sorry! I went through something similar with my 5 year old homebred gelding several years ago. Did the vets tell you what grade they believe your horse to be? Have you noticed any neurological symptoms yourself, such as tripping, falling, standing odd, odd gaits? Something isn't adding up to me...for you to not know anything was wrong, to them failing a vet exam and declaring him unrideable just seems odd.

                  I would definitely get a second opinion from a very experienced in neurological cases. The bagby basket operation seems way too extreme for mild changes!!


                  • #10
                    I bought a horse about 7 years ago, and on the pre-purchase there were slight neuro changes. I declined the purchase.

                    I doubt he is marketable...are you willing to keep him without surgery?


                    • #11
                      Any kind of horse surgery freaks me out! SO SORRY this is happening to you and your horse.

                      There are SO many possible causes of "neurological" symptoms. I am sorry to say, that IMO, most of these neuro cases are misdiagnosed.

                      2nd opinion is REQUIRED. Can you give us more details on how he "failed" the neuro exam? I agree that slight changes would not warrant surgery, and even if you did it, there are no guarantees that the surgery would actually fix this problem.


                      • #12
                        If you are located in an area where there are equine sports medicine practices of the stature of Brendan Furlong in the East or Las alamos Pintados in the West, I would take that route. While veterinary schools are strong in medicine and surgery for all animals, they are not always the go to for equine sports medicine, with perhaps the exception of U of Penn's New Bolton , based in a hotbed of equine sports.
                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                        • #13
                          What have you decided to do? I am in the same boat with my 11 year old imported holsteiner.


                          • #14
                            I have to disagree with the "all surgeons are itching to cut" comments. I feel that every equine surgeon I have worked with has been very fair about weighing the pros and cons for the owner, and telling them they could do A, B and C, but they feel that B is the best option because of X, Y and Z, and that option B has this % success rate, and these possible complications etc. Also remember that a veterinary assessment is an opinion, and that was the opinion of that particular surgeon. That does not mean they are right or wrong, just that they told you what they, in their experience, feel would be best for your horse. Another vet may have a different opinion, and that does not mean they are right, just that in their experience, something else may have worked better for them.


                            • #15
                              I was in a very similar situation with my then 8 year old mare. The ONLY reason I ever found out she had neuro issues was because she slightly dragged her right hind more than the left, and just looked uneven and short on that leg. If she had been even behind no one would have even known! I had big name hunter trainers and a I level dressage judge telling me she was a "10" mover!

                              Anyway, we found a lesion in her right stifle, she had surgery, and the neuro issues were even worse afterwards. She NEVER tripped, fell, and like your horse could jump around 3' without a problem. I took her trail riding everywhere, although she was weird going downhill. She had trouble backing up. But that was the extent of her issues.

                              She was diagnosed as 2/5 on the right hind and 1/5 or less on the other 3 legs. She had slight arthritic changes at C 5-6 but the myleogram was inconclusive.

                              She was turned out for several months, and I free leased her to a trainer of a friend as a occasional school horse and light riding horse with full disclosure - I was willing to take her back at any moment, and pay for vet bills or euthanization if necessary. The trainer had property and pasture and was better able to give her the life she needed. Keeping her in a stall 22 hours a day and expecting her to be a riding horse was unreasonable.

                              After 6 months or so she decided to keep her, I gave her to her again with full disclose, and will take her back at any time.

                              There are MANY mildly neuro horses out there living useful lives. Don't panic. I would definitely get a second opinion from an expert.
                              On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog