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Anyone Else Experienced This? ( Very long post)

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    Anyone Else Experienced This? ( Very long post)

    Hello all! Recently our vet was out, and we got to talking about a horse we had a few years ago that stumped her, but she had kinda guessed on what was wrong!

    Now we had her run every test you could on a horse, blood, DNA, everything I can think of that she could have done ha. After nearly a year of visits and looks. She summed it up as:

    Extreme Anxiety Due to OCD Induced Self Mutilation.

    Now I have personally not heard of this in horses, but based off the idea.. it would make sense.

    So now let me tell the COTH Members a very long tale of a horse called Doc.

    about 8 years ago, our neighbors offered us a free horse, I was about 12 when this happened. Now these guys were old cowboys, ranch men who we let run cattle on our farm land in winter. We all went over and looked at this little black QH gelding. I kid you not, he honestly looked like a horse out of a Hunter ring. Narrow floaty in movement. In general he was a cute little horse. They said he was just too light for them to rope off of, so they would give him to us as a thank you for letting us use your land. We took him, cute little 6 year old gelding would be a perfect project horse for me. And I did like the little guy.

    We walked him up the road home in a halter, and he was very nervous, but would stay as far away as you would let him be and still follow.. we all kind figured he had been beat on a little by the older men trying to use him. we didn't mind. Got him home and placed him in a round pen next to our mares (yes we have all mares ha and still do) And he did great! was not aggressive or trying to act like a tough guy. Could tell he would be happy as low man on the totem pole. So that next week we vaccinated him, wormed him, got him comfortable on the property before letting him out onto the pasture. Again skiddish to so much contact, but getting more willing to trust us all a little more.

    It was around this time I noticed some weird things about him. When he licked his lips, his tongue would come out the side of his mouth and slap up nearly over the top of his nose. We opened his mouth and his teeth were actually in amazing shape nothing missing. Just a strange little thing he did ha. Then I also noticed he would tip his head side to side when looking at you if you were talking at him (we all talk to our horses everyone is guilty ha) much in the way a dog does ears forward and everything. I was 12 and of course thought it was cute he was trying to understand me.

    So out in the pasture he went, happy to be with the girls who all shockingly didn't beat him up, but more treated him as a long time friend. All growing close to him, and I do think to this day it was a confidence boost for him. Because after that he was so much more trusting, more of a pocket pony horse. Soon he got his feet done for the first time by a certified farrier, you could tell that he may had had a very hard time with former owners here, because every time our farrier would put down a foot, you could see him brace and shut his eyes as if expecting a hit from a rasp. Broke my heart to watch. But again, as time past he was a doll that stood without being held.

    About 1 month after we got him, we were remaking our pasture pens so horses were being moved to make better fences and also expand out pastures. So my mother and father had moved two of the mares out, leaving little Doc and his other two girls alone. Next thing I know, mom calls the house phone telling me to go grab my horse, he was biting himself.

    Yes, biting himself.

    I run outside, and he is spinning in circles a mess, sweaty, gabbing onto his flanks with his own teeth eyes rolled back into his head. I run out and manage to grab him getting him to stand. But you could tell he was just having a melt down. He had ripped the skin, not a lot just a little blood so I cleaned him up and calmed him down. Stayed with him till the other two mares were brought back. Like a switch went of.. he was fine again and didn't do it again.

    Well our busy season as hunting guides started up about a week later, so our mares were being used a lot and moved a lot. I didn't feel comfortable taking him out of the round pen yet, so he would stay behind. That is when things just got worse.

    If we moved all 5 of them to another section of the pasture, he would melt down and bite at himself for 10 minutes to an hour. Then be fine. Move one horse away.. melt down till the mare was brought back. We had no idea why he was going so insane! But instead of getting better.. things would get worse.

    For the 4 months of the year we guided it got worse. We finally would take him out and tie him to the horse trailer in a cross tie fashion, so he could not reach his flanks. But then he started to bite hard at his chest, giving himself so nasty wounds. Then we had short ties right by his head hooked up, so he could not get his head low enough to reach. He would have to spend hours this way, to keep him from tearing himself apart. It got to the point even just loving and talking to him didn't help like it used to. I was heartbroken to watch my horse fall apart.

    By the time guiding season was over, everything upset him. If we didn't change our hand line in the same set up, there was Doc biting himself again. School bus drove by half an hour late... off he went. Farrier didn't pick up his feet in the same order each time.. he would become a mess. We had a horse.. with OCD.

    We called the vet out, she had never seen anything like it before. It shocked her, so she wanted to do everything she could to find out, so she very kindly didn't charge us for a lot of things. Blood work, took DNA I think, everything. She floated his teeth to see if it as a mouth problem, cleaned his sheath to see if that was causing him pain to bite at. She recommended a fly sheet, and gave him a shot of cortisone to see if it was an allergy. NOTHING HELPED HIM. By now, it is mid May. And none of us have any idea how to help him.


    We had walked Doc home in July, and now it was May of the next year. Nothing was helping him, everything we did around the property set him off..

    Then we finally pushed him over the deep end.

    We farm Alfalfa hay, and by the end of May, it was time to cut. So 5 Swathers rolled out of the shop, and he melted since the pasture is right next to the field. We held him when we could, but it was an all day thing for those Swathers to be on that field. He just couldn't .. or wouldn't stop.

    Night came, everything was away so we knew he should have been okay. But we were very much wrong. My dad went out to feed that morning and found him on his side in a pool of blood barely alive. His flanks were no longer existent. just huge gaping wounds on both sides were they once were. His chest was gone.. like flat with just huge chunk marks. To our shock.. he had managed to reach his ribs.. and they were so torn up you could see the bone.

    Dad put him down on spot, the old way. There would have been nothing we could have done to help him, he was only suffering a very hard life.

    It was sad, hurt bad as I had grown so fond of him. But even the vet said it was probably better for him to have been put down. His blood tests showed nothing wrong, nothing showed anything different with him. As much as she would have loved to do a necropsy.. my dad's bullet kinda ruined that chance. She said the best way to sum it up, was a combination of Anxiety, OCD, and Self Mutilation on top of it. Ever since, it was what we used to describe him.

    Now I am sorry for this long post, I am just curious if anyone else has ever had this happen in a horse. my area is pretty secluded, so our vet had not seen much (didn't help it was only her second year around here). But I want to know if this does happen to other horses.. or if something really was wrong with Doc in general that could have brought this on.

    Thank you!!

    #2
    Haven't heard of a case that was that extremes, but equine self-mutilation syndrome is definitely a recognized problem.

    There's a fair amount in the veterinary literature about it.
    Dodman and Shuster at Tufts were working on it at one point.
    "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

    ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

    Comment


      #3
      I haven't heard of that but what a gut wrenching story! I can't wait to ask my trainer who has worked at race tracks across the country if he has ever heard of it.

      Comment


        #4
        There was a horse at a barn that I boarded at who would self mutilate, although not as severely as Doc. He tended to go after his knees. I didn't know him or the owner well, so I couldn't tell you what tests or treatments were done, but it was definitely an ongoing issue with him.

        If you think of even "normal" reactions to stress, horses have a wide range of responses, ranging from taking everything in stride to getting ulcers to weaving/stall walking/fence running to colicking... I have no problem believing that self mutilation falls on the far end of that spectrum, for horses who simply cannot cope and figure out another outlet for the anxiety. Or who, frankly, are just not wired right.

        I'm sorry you went through that with Doc.
        She Gets Lost

        Comment


          #5
          I have not heard of such a thing. I'm sorry you had to go through it.

          Comment

            Original Poster

            #6
            i have read some of what is written on it, but I feel like he was beyond what most the cases explained/showed. I feel something else fueled him to go to such extremes.

            It was sad, because it was as if our mares knew. They had beat up other geldings all taking turns in a line at times.. but not him. They seemed to have felt something was wrong with him.. offered him more comfort than I had seen horses give one another.

            Comment


              #7
              From my understanding, most cases of horses who self mutilate involve animals who have suffered severe abuse. In layman's terms, horses that got really f'ed up by people. The same is true in dogs.

              But not every abused horse self mutilates. So it does appear there is some personality involvement. But it is not uncommon for horses with severe behavioral problems to show "nothing wrong", because PHYSICALLY, there isn't. Mentally is another story.
              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.

              Comment


                #8
                The cases I'm familiar with didn't have any particular history of abuse.
                "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

                Comment


                  #9
                  The only cases I have known were breeding stallions and one teaser pony although none were anywhere near as bad as you described and none of them had any history of abuse unless you count frustrating the teaser.
                  McDowell Racing Stables

                  Home Away From Home

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I wonder if a grazing muzzle would have worked, or if that would have frustrated him enough that he would resort to other means of self-mutilation.

                    Comment

                      Original Poster

                      #11
                      We don't think he was too extremely abused, because he was willing to accept some contact, though he was a shy horse. He only ever flinched at things when we first had his feet done.

                      Originally posted by equiniphile View Post
                      I wonder if a grazing muzzle would have worked, or if that would have frustrated him enough that he would resort to other means of self-mutilation.
                      I think that would have ended badly, just because of how desperate he would get. When we would have him tied to the trailer 4 different ways he looked like he was almost trying to chew on his own lips. Even at a stand still he was lathered by the end.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        The cases I have known weren't abused either. Isolated, though -- all of them were stallions. I wonder if the early stages of foal development and weaning have anything to do with it.
                        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                        Comment


                          #13
                          It's seen pretty commonly in parrots- I had a foster bird we lost who ate her feet down to the bones. We had $$$ in meds and treatment for her, it didn't help. I doubt you could have stopped him with any amount of treatment.
                          ~Former Pet Store Manager (10yrs)
                          ~Vintage Toy Dealer (rememberswhen.us)
                          ~Vet Tech Student
                          Mom to : 2 Horses,3 Dogs, 1 Cat

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I have never experienced this, and so sorry that you had to, Royal Rain. It did get me to wondering if there is anything in the literature about giving SSRI's to horses. I know some people give dogs Prozac for severe separation anxiety or obsessive traits. Not sure if these drugs have ever been tried in equines?

                            Comment


                              #15
                              "Abuse" doesn't always require whips and chains. In cases like this, being kept in isolation could qualify as abusive. As does poor or incorrect training and handling. Perhaps the term "abuse" doesn't totally cover it, but every case I've heard of were horses who had been messed up by people. I.e. they weren't just born screwy.
                              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.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                I have seen it in a mild form. It ended over time as the horse got worked more and more in a regular routine.
                                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.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Here's a short overview.
                                  "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                                  ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I saw a horse at a trainer's once that self-mutilated. Not aware that it was anywhere near this bad. That was the first and only one I've run into. I have no idea what happened to that gelding. I didn't get the impression that anyone suspected he had ever been abused, and he was a gorgeous animal. It was one time I gave a strong opinion to a friend not to buy a horse (I try not to get involved).

                                    Your story is heartbreaking.

                                    I have a Doberman who hip bites. He does it when he's stressed, and he does it when he's content and happy. He basically does it about 50% of the time when not otherwise engaged. He latches on with his teeth, so it's not really "sucking" although there is plenty of spit. Luckily that is all the further he goes, and he doesn't damage the skin.
                                    DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Ghazzu View Post
                                      Here's a short overview.
                                      Except they are trying to define it based on what is known about the psychology of humans who self-mutilate. Can't compare apples to oats.

                                      Also interesting that they claim "we don't know whether they [animals] think or worry"...huh. Anyone who has spent any time observing or interacting with animals would tell you very quickly that animals certainly do both those things.

                                      Self-mutilation has been categorized as a stereotypy by horsepeople like Dr. Deb Bennett, in the same line as cribbing, wind-sucking, weaving, etc., as a way that the horse deals with internal anxiety or stress, some unresolved issue that the horse has. Sounds like the OP's old horse had a serious problem with changes in herds, being alone, etc.
                                      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.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by TrotTrotPumpkn View Post
                                        I saw a horse at a trainer's once that self-mutilated. Not aware that it was anywhere near this bad. That was the first and only one I've run into. I have no idea what happened to that gelding. I didn't get the impression that anyone suspected he had ever been abused, and he was a gorgeous animal. It was one time I gave a strong opinion to a friend not to buy a horse (I try not to get involved).

                                        Your story is heartbreaking.

                                        I have a Doberman who hip bites. He does it when he's stressed, and he does it when he's content and happy. He basically does it about 50% of the time when not otherwise engaged. He latches on with his teeth, so it's not really "sucking" although there is plenty of spit. Luckily that is all the further he goes, and he doesn't damage the skin.
                                        Your dobe is a flank sucker. That's what the behavior is called. Genetic. Runs in families. I have a little dobe female that does it. She always has. From the time she was a puppy. She's 12 now and still does it. She does it when she's trying to relax and fall asleep. Vet told me what it was called and its genetic in origin.
                                        It was being studied by Dodman at Tufts. Don't know if there are degrees of it.

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