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Update - new imaging - Diagnosing back pain from behavioral symptoms, or, kissing spine differential diagnoses

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    #21
    I would also be thinking pasture turn out in a herd situation in a big pasture. Even open range. They get hurt less when they have no need to get near fences. They can be inspired to move by the herd and work things out.

    As far as spookiness I think a horse in pain is a cautious even fearful horse. I took my very confident mare to a groundwork clinic when she was recovering from a hoof abscess. Prepaid for clinic, it was at our home barn, she wasn't really limping anymore, work was quiet and she knew it all.

    Well, she wouldn't even approach the bag of tin cans despite the fact she will happily play fetch with them on a good day. She was just taking no risks at all.

    That was.an eye opener on how much confidence even a brave horse feels if they know they are NQR

    Time at pasture will get him used to wind, falling leaves, and squirrels.

    Comment


      #22
      Sounds very much like what I went through with my gelding with his sacro-iliac injury. I will post more later tonight when I have more time...as it was complicated to diagnose and a very long treatment/rehab process.

      Comment


        #23
        So I'm going to be the ***hole that says this. You have done tons to try to find out what is going on with your gelding.

        Hats off to you and well done for getting as far as you have but I have to ask...he is very young and some/most of these issues are only going to get worse with time. Is it worth the emotional/physical trauma to you both to keep trying to get him to work? What do you think he will be able to actually accomplish as a riding horse?

        He sounds lovely but is it worth pushing him knowing he is so uncomfortable/unhappy? Is all of this for you or for him?

        Comment

          Original Poster

          #24
          I had hoped he'd be a hunter derby horse. Right now, I don't really have riding goals for him other than some hacking around would be nice. He does really enjoy jumping, so it would be nice if he could do that but not a requirement. I'd like him to just be happy having some kind of job. If he gets as little as 2 weeks off, even with 8hrs/day turnout, he starts to lose his marbles. He becomes very spooky, hard to handle, nervous. So, total rest doesn't make the life of any daily handlers or farriers etc. very easy. He can be challenging enough when quiet and in work. 24/7 turnout could happen, but I would want to send him where he wouldn't have CO winters or other similar footing issues (e.g., midwest mud) for that, and he would need a specialized level of handler. If I could move and have him at "home" I'd do that and put him in a free choice in/out living space no problem.

          I appreciate everyone's responses and that nothing has read too much like a lecture. I'm pretty tired of getting "training advice" from some people who wouldn't touch him with a 10 foot pole.

          Vet looked at him today and declared him sound, moving extremely well, and behaving the best they have ever seen on the longe, which is true...He's doing amazing with his in hand training. They didn't want me to get on, even though they said when they made the appointment that they wanted to come see his bad behavior. We discussed a lot of things, though I got a PM from Elouise too late on one of the horses she mentioned above, which would have added topics to my list.

          Right now the plan is that I will not ride this week. Next rider will be a h/j friend of mine who wants to give it a go on Saturday. At the least, I could be a good ground person for her. I've got a call out to the colt starter that knows him and also have some references for a couple other local names experienced with starting horses and riding rank rehab cases. Vet wants to see if I could get one of these riders to put at least 3 rides a week on him for 30 days or until either something breaks that they can point to medically or he starts turning around mentally. They aren't totally sure that he's gotten into a physical pain cycle but may be in a mental pain memory anticipatory cycle. They'd like to try treating him like an unbacked 2yo, have someone work with him whose day job is to start and re-start horses the right way, and go from there. They think this year has been hard on him mentally and that may be where he is. If I can't get someone local, then I could send him away for a while, but that would make the transition period back to "normal" life more difficult, and also the people I have in mind I think have wait lists.

          They palpated his back and thought he was "kinda" sore but not bad. They check his neck and he doesn't act painful. But then for his neck, he never has acted clinically painful. Just a behavior problem that magically went away with injections.

          If I can get a rider but there will be a delay for scheduling, location, whatever, then they will do the mesotherapy so that I can give that a shot in the meantime. But they are afraid it won't be the magic bullet that the neck injections were that first time and that we'll only get another short window of improvement if any. They are concerned with continuing to put medicine in the horse in search of another magic bullet. And that's fair...I hadn't really seen myself as doing that but I guess I am. They also think that no horse is going to be 100% pain free--like most athletes--and at some point, this one either needs to suck it up or decide he's never going to, in which case we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

          Comment


            #25
            May I delicately suggest you not be there when the other rider works with him this weekend? Just to eliminate the possibility you are part of the mental pain memory anticipatory cycle ( that's quite a mouthful bordering on psychobabble).
            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

            Comment


              #26
              I will try to make my gelding's story as condensed as possible...it was a pretty involved 2 years.
              I got him as a green 3yo...he loved to play/be exuberant, but was always good and enjoyed working, no training issues. At 5 he started tossing his head, getting strong in the hand, fussy. We had the vets look at him...but he wasn't lame. The behavior progressed to stopping/balking, running backwards, kicking out, etc. He would lunge fine, and be semi-ridable on a very long rein...never lame. Did spine xrays, nucl scans (all normal), etc. Went to several big name vet clinics. Nothing was coming up diagnostically. Custom fit saddle, dental checks, supportive shoeing, you name it, we did it.

              A few vets said it was behavioral...send him to a trainer who deals with problem horses. I did not...this horse was never naughty as a 3yo...why now? I kept pushing the vets to try looking for more answers.
              Long story short...vets dx him with sacroiliac dysfunction. We did SI injections...some improvement, but limited. We did gabapentin which did help quite a bit (was worried not riding would weaken his core, which is the worst thing you can do for SI issues). But, eventually the injections and meds were not as effective and he got worse again. I pushed for more imaging...eventually a rectal ultrasound of the SI showed definite remodeling and nerve root injury at S1. At this point I decided to go with "Dr. Green"...turn out only (he had been turned out always, but we increased turnout time and no riding). 14 months. At that point, figured anything that would heal with rest, would have. Started him back...first few days were not pretty...added ulcer meds and Magnesium (from Horse First). Big change and he settled. Did a very, very long rehab process (I am a human physical therapist)...literally walked for the first 4-5 weeks...then added trot (step by step)...6 months until we did simple w/t/c on a longer frame. Took a full year plus before we started to go back to "real" work.

              Knock wood, he is doing great and did PSG last year and is schooling I1. But he requires a very specific warm up, and tactful riding. Lots of vets were really surprised I've been able to get him back to what he is doing...and I'm glad I kept pushing for an answer! Best of luck...these situations are terrible frustrating. But I have found that there is almost always a cause for behavioral issues...sometimes we have to look a bit harder for them.

              Comment

                Original Poster

                #27
                Thanks for sharing all of the stories. Good and bad.

                The colt starter I would choose is booked for training horses through June. The one my vet recommended was nixed by 2 friends who know my horse and have personal experience with that trainer.

                My friend is coming out to ride him soon. Will see how that goes. Depending on the response, the plan may turn into trying mesotherapy and if that doesn't work, just letting him sit/do groundwork till July or whenever the other trainer has time.

                His chiro vet will also evaluate him next week. I'm trying to get a Rolfer out as well for a different perspective hands-on. And in a couple of weeks I'm going to a talk by his CSU vets on the topics of advanced imaging, rehab, regenerative therapies, and back pain. So I can talk to those vets again and if there's anything I haven't already learned on one of those topics, maybe I'll learn it then. I ran into one of the vets at the World Cup finals and half jokingly suggested they use my horse in the case studies for these presentations.

                Comment


                  #28
                  Another vote for Dr. Green. He's a puzzle, this horse, and honestly you've tried everything but that I didn't try as long with my "perma broken" horse. The only thing that DID make him sound(ish) was turnout and benign neglect.

                  I also think, if nothing else, your perspective may change with some time/distance between you and the "problem."

                  I have my vet's horse at my place right now. Big show jumper. When he came I was told "he can't be out in larger than a small paddock, he can't be out longer than an hour, he can't be with another horse-- he's a hothouse flower." Guess who lives out with 3 other horses now? And is the happiest horse out there. And wouldn't go back to his hothouse flower life if you PAID him.

                  Usually they come around. Even if it takes them a couple weeks. And the movement does wonders for their body and mind. I can't promise it'll work but I think you're there in terms of giving it a try because you've literally tried everything else.

                  Hugs.

                  If for some reason I have a spot open, he can come here. I don't know that I will, but anyway I will let you know if for some reason I do. I know it's not geographically close but I'm set up/equipped for monsters-coming-down and he can't possibly be stupider than some of the crap my perma-lame horse pulled
                  ~Veronica
                  "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
                  http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

                  Comment

                    Original Poster

                    #29
                    He threw the biggest tantrum I have seen from him to date with my friend today. Thank god she has a good seat and is in her 20s so still has balls and hasn't destroyed her back yet. She rode through it, but cantering without a tantrum wasn't happening. She got some moments of good trot. What I can't figure out is why someone else can give him a swift kick and he'll move (though get mad about it), and lately I just get planted feet and a big F U. Anyway, friend agreed that he got mad at her leg, mad at her seat, really hated it if she was in 2 point (this was one of the new symptoms I noted above), and heaven forbid you pinch with your knees to stay on through all the bucking. She said she thinks he's sore and also a whiny baby, so, yeah, no real relevations but at least he's not just mad at me.

                    Comment

                      Original Poster

                      #30
                      Originally posted by vxf111 View Post
                      Another vote for Dr. Green. He's a puzzle, this horse, and honestly you've tried everything but that I didn't try as long with my "perma broken" horse. The only thing that DID make him sound(ish) was turnout and benign neglect.

                      I also think, if nothing else, your perspective may change with some time/distance between you and the "problem."

                      I have my vet's horse at my place right now. Big show jumper. When he came I was told "he can't be out in larger than a small paddock, he can't be out longer than an hour, he can't be with another horse-- he's a hothouse flower." Guess who lives out with 3 other horses now? And is the happiest horse out there. And wouldn't go back to his hothouse flower life if you PAID him.

                      Usually they come around. Even if it takes them a couple weeks. And the movement does wonders for their body and mind. I can't promise it'll work but I think you're there in terms of giving it a try because you've literally tried everything else.

                      Hugs.

                      If for some reason I have a spot open, he can come here. I don't know that I will, but anyway I will let you know if for some reason I do. I know it's not geographically close but I'm set up/equipped for monsters-coming-down and he can't possibly be stupider than some of the crap my perma-lame horse pulled
                      Thank you. Even potential R&R options for him make me feel better.

                      Comment


                        #31
                        nevermind
                        Last edited by mroades; Apr. 17, 2017, 08:34 AM.
                        "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"
                        carolprudm

                        Comment


                          #32
                          Originally posted by mroades View Post
                          For the love....send this horse to Frank before someone gets hurt!
                          Who is Frank?
                          "When I look back on my life, the times I have been stingy or unappreciative haunt me. I don't regret one instance of generosity." --PeteyPie

                          Comment

                            Original Poster

                            #33
                            I'm pretty convinced now that it's his neck. I think he's made his back sore, but it just all seems like neck.

                            It took me over 2 hours of groundwork to get his head back right today. I didn't try to get on his back once the day started by him backing up when I asked him to walk towards the arena then charging at me with his teeth out when I insisted he walk towards the arena. He pulled that move when he had pedal osteitis so I know how to deal with it now without getting mad. I went really slow with it (hence over 2 hours), but he was able to move forward and give me some trot and canter on the lunge line with a bend in his body and his head down and relaxed by the end.

                            And I could then take him to graze without him getting all nasty. He tried to act like he just wanted to eat grass when the whole behavior started, but just like under saddle it wasn't about grass. It was about not wanting to work because work yesterday was a really bad time for him.

                            I gave him some massages later. His back and hind end are both kinda sore. He was also really wanting shoulder rubs and went to sleep when I massaged his neck acupressure points with a hoofpick butt.

                            It just all looks too much like 2 years ago. Then I was the bronc rider and had trouble with him on the ground and had to get help. He would also get running and bucking with other riders (rather than stopping and bucking in place which is more his go-to with me), which is what he did yesterday. Now I have better ground skills at least. But when he does things to make me think the saddle must be on his withers or maybe his shoulder hurts or something...it's never that. It's never the shoulder. It's the neck.

                            Comment


                              #34
                              Originally posted by IPEsq View Post
                              I'm pretty convinced now that it's his neck. I think he's made his back sore, but it just all seems like neck.

                              It took me over 2 hours of groundwork to get his head back right today. I didn't try to get on his back once the day started by him backing up when I asked him to walk towards the arena then charging at me with his teeth out when I insisted he walk towards the arena. He pulled that move when he had pedal osteitis so I know how to deal with it now without getting mad. I went really slow with it (hence over 2 hours), but he was able to move forward and give me some trot and canter on the lunge line with a bend in his body and his head down and relaxed by the end.

                              And I could then take him to graze without him getting all nasty. He tried to act like he just wanted to eat grass when the whole behavior started, but just like under saddle it wasn't about grass. It was about not wanting to work because work yesterday was a really bad time for him.

                              I gave him some massages later. His back and hind end are both kinda sore. He was also really wanting shoulder rubs and went to sleep when I massaged his neck acupressure points with a hoofpick butt.

                              It just all looks too much like 2 years ago. Then I was the bronc rider and had trouble with him on the ground and had to get help. He would also get running and bucking with other riders (rather than stopping and bucking in place which is more his go-to with me), which is what he did yesterday. Now I have better ground skills at least. But when he does things to make me think the saddle must be on his withers or maybe his shoulder hurts or something...it's never that. It's never the shoulder. It's the neck.

                              It seems very much that the horse is telling you quite clearly that work is not working. I know you have pursued many possible causes and treatments.

                              Would you consider a therapeutic break from any work----as in, turnout to Dr. Green as his only job? You said before that you just want him to be happy in his job. I don't recall if you have done as others have suggested, turning him out for 6-12 months, and then seeing what horse you have.

                              I've read most of your journey with this horse, and I want to say this kindly. What if this horse's physical capabilities will never match what you want to do, or what you think he should/might be able to do? What if his demeanor never changes, even if you chase down another diagnosis? Will he be enough for you to simply enjoy as he is, and only as he can be?

                              Pain clearly causes unwanted behavior, including aggression. TBH, I don't think that I would have spent two hours trying to work through a training issue as you did today. Discipline in the moment for ground manners? Absolutely, and immediately. But I think you are setting up the horse and yourself for failure, if you expect a battle when handling him or working him. There is a reason he cannot do what you are asking.

                              Whether it is physical, or if it is attitude due to physical causes, or anxiety about anticipating pain--- to me, I would change my training plan, and find something simple and successful to end on, in an abbreviated session. Adapting my plan to the horse that is in front of me today, and knowing that sometimes it is less stressful/more successful for each party if I decide to end my work with an easy request and correct answer. A horse that is distressed has a more difficult time giving you the right answer. A horse that is in pain may be simply unable to give the correct answer. A horse that you spend more than two hours of ground work "to get his head back right today" is not a horse in a state where learning is effective. After more than two hours, you may have just had an exhausted, defeated horse, physically and mentally. Especially given your report about the previous day and his behavior with your friend riding.

                              Maybe I am not reading your posts as you intend them, so apologies if that is the case. I just don't understand asking a horse to work, when the horse's refusal is most likely due to pain. Some days, success in training really is just going for a civilized hand walk, hand graze, or having a grooming session....especially with a horse that is painful.
                              Last edited by keysfins; Apr. 16, 2017, 11:03 PM.
                              "When I look back on my life, the times I have been stingy or unappreciative haunt me. I don't regret one instance of generosity." --PeteyPie

                              Comment

                                Original Poster

                                #35
                                I called it "groundwork" but he probably just longed about 15-20 mins if that. We did a good amount of walking, moving his feet slowly in patterns he is comfortable with, and a lot of standing around with me just waiting for him to show a sign of release. To blow out or lick his lips or close his eyes. And then more waiting until he was ready to move on his own. I let him off the lead for a while when he just wanted to stand, and I let him stand until he wanted to move and follow me around. That took a long time. Later on, I got some trot but he wanted to do these tiny circles. Eventually, he stretched and was willing to move out a bit. It was hot and he didn't even break a sweat. Leading him after that was uneventful. No nastiness. I took him for a long graze, and he would have been uncivilized at that had I not done the groundwork first.

                                If I'd done it any faster, it would have been a fight. I didn't fight him for 2hrs. I just waited him out till he started to feel ok.

                                At this point, I don't want to send him out for training like my regular vet wants. I think this weekend made that clear. I don't really consider him rideable right now so not sure what to do if we can't get him comfortable.

                                Comment


                                  #36
                                  Originally posted by IPEsq View Post
                                  I called it "groundwork" but he probably just longed about 15-20 mins if that. We did a good amount of walking, moving his feet slowly in patterns he is comfortable with, and a lot of standing around with me just waiting for him to show a sign of release. To blow out or lick his lips or close his eyes. And then more waiting until he was ready to move on his own. I let him off the lead for a while when he just wanted to stand, and I let him stand until he wanted to move and follow me around. That took a long time. Later on, I got some trot but he wanted to do these tiny circles. Eventually, he stretched and was willing to move out a bit. It was hot and he didn't even break a sweat. Leading him after that was uneventful. No nastiness. I took him for a long graze, and he would have been uncivilized at that had I not done the groundwork first.

                                  If I'd done it any faster, it would have been a fight. I didn't fight him for 2hrs. I just waited him out till he started to feel ok.

                                  At this point, I don't want to send him out for training like my regular vet wants. I think this weekend made that clear. I don't really consider him rideable right now so not sure what to do if we can't get him comfortable.
                                  Would you consider sending him to a retirement place for a year and then seeing what you've got afterwards? If so, would you want him to stay near you or would other places be ok? I have 2 friends who each have their horses retired at separate farms in Virginia. Actually 3...2 horses at 1 farm, 1 horse at another. I can get the names of those places if you'd like.

                                  Comment

                                    Original Poster

                                    #37
                                    I would consider it. For selfish reasons, I'd want him near me, but I think he'd do better in a different climate to be honest. He could probably go back barefoot and would only have to worry about bugs living somewhere milder with softer ground. Though he's gotten very attached to me (and me to him) so it'd be hard. Heck, I'd love to move to VA myself permanently, but my job market is tough.

                                    Come to think of it, I might know a place in NC he could hang out, but I'd appreciate names.

                                    Comment

                                      Original Poster

                                      #38
                                      I was able to have a more frank conversation with my vet this morning. He still thinks training is worth a shot but believes me when I say it's got to be the neck. When I was legging this horse up this time last year, I was worried about how 6 months of small confinement would have affected him. He got injured in pasture when his neck was doing super. I was worried about what horse I was going to be climbing back onto. And my vet said don't worry, if it's neck behavior, you'll know and we'll do something about it. Thankfully, he legged up fine. Through months of other hard to diagnose issues, I injected in Sept when I wasn't sure but thought I was being adequately proactive, and based on his ultrasound and ROM, specialist vet agreed. Well, it's only been 7 months. And most of that has been bad, but I'll give him a month or two due to foot lameness.

                                      I said I'm afraid injections just aren't going to work anymore. Vet said if we inject now and even if it does help, he thinks that after this short amount of time, his neck is taking a bad turn.

                                      I'm going to a presentation at Littleton Large tomorrow night on neck and back injections. His acupuncture vet will see him Wed, and then I may or may not call CSU for one last look at him to see if he's got something else we are missing like hind suspensories or who knows (my regular vet thinks that's impossible but...).

                                      This is likely to just be one last ditch effort at pain relief before just leaving him alone for a while.

                                      In a few months, one pasture may open up that he could share with his one friend. But the hot fence would have to be fixed because he'd be next to the guy who bit his face again.

                                      Anyone have $2mill I can borrow so I can buy a nearby (unfinished) farmette for sale and if need be retire him at my house? Sigh. Horse's former rehab barn is closing, so I also have a crazy idea of opening my own rehab place, you know, with all the spare time I have and money to start it up lol.

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                                        #39
                                        Sorry you are going through all of this. I'm going through similar issues with my mare right now. I've thrown a lot of resources into her, from a custom fitted saddle, to joint injections, to chiro work, to massage therapy, to osteopathy, to carrot stretches and other body work to special girths and pads and new bits.

                                        It's very frustrating. Some horses recover from whatever ails them, or at least they appear to be feeling better whereas others just never get any better. It seems like with all the advances in modern technology we all should be able to figure out what's wrong with our horse and fix it.

                                        I also wonder if some experts are just happy to collect our money knowing very well that the horse will never get better; it is a business after all.

                                        Hope you can get to the root of the cause and live with whatever the outcome is.

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                                          Original Poster

                                          #40
                                          I don't think the vets are trying to take me for a ride. They are as frustrated as I am. My regular vet even spent a long time on the phone with the horse's breeders when we first started to find neck problems. He was trying to get them to take him back to save me from all of this. The poor PPE vet could hardly tell me how sorry he was for me. No one faults him at all...I mean, we drug tested, and the horse was in work 5-6 days a week, jumping 1-2 days, and passed all the usual exams and 20+ xrays. It was such good news that we seemed to find something that worked.... at first. Whether it's the vets or other boarders or trainers, everyone says the horse just moves so beautifully when he's happy to go around. He gives you a really good feeling over jumps even though he is super green. He always calls to me and can be a really sweet boy. It's just very sad I can't do more for him. I'm an advocate and problem solver...it's why I'm good at my day job, and it's very hard for me to give up. He was also my adult re-rider project horse that I saved a long time for, and I don't have the funds to get another one. I'm hoping that worst case scenario he just needs to sit and finish growing, but there are enough stories of retired 7 year olds on this BB that I'm afraid that's not going to be the case.

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