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

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    Original Poster

    I went to a talk by his sports med team from CSU where they discussed a case study. The horse was laid up due to a soft tissue injury. But he had known kissing spines. So, it was important to keep his back conditioned properly while the limb healed. I thought that part of the rehab included adding weight to his back before a rider was up, but I can't recall the details. I can ask the team for more about that and what they used. But it is a good idea. The trainer was thinking he needed to be longed with a rider, but in the past, I've only been the one willing to have their butt in the saddle. But unfortunately with that, he doesn't respond as well to other ground handlers. I'd prefer to try that with me on the ground but do not know who to get as a rider who could be a pretty soft passenger at first.

    Comment


      what about turning him out somewhere they have a treadmill so he can stay in light impact work for his back, but still have the down time to see if he can get better? Or a walker? Not sure if this meets all the topline conditioning needs, but just an idea.

      Comment


        As I said earlier, I am just so sorry for your situation.

        That said, I don't think it bodes well that there are continuing diagnostic findings.

        If this were me, I'd think long and hard about whether asking this horse to continue working is fair. Lots of unrideable horses look good on the lunge. Interacting with a rider aboard requires something completely different.

        He is a horse with multiple diagnosed, each of which is painful and potentially career ending. Combined.........well, I certainly wouldn't feel like working with all the issues.

        I think Dr. Green is a great idea, but these issues aren't the kind that tend to improve over time.

        I honestly think the most you can hope for is a low level trail horse.

        I wouldn't put this horse in a training program. He literally can't do what is being asked of him.

        I hate to write this post because you've done everything possible here.

        I know heartbreaking this is.
        Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are.

        Comment

          Original Poster

          No places with treadmills that I know of around here with good turnout--I think all available now are vet run facilities so geared towards stalled layups. The place where he did treadmill work previously is not taking clients anymore.

          I am frustrated because regular vet had been saying oh he's fine he doesn't have any pain...just needs his butt kicked for 30 days. But the last time he only watched him go on the longe for 5 minutes and wouldn't see him ridden. So that sent me back to CSU. I think they are more sympathetic and have watched him under saddle a few times now. Of course, horse has tended to be more forward with them watching. Of course.

          They are probably more likely to tell me if I should give up. They are running out of ways to make him comfortable, although they do suspect some of the issue is a training issue because the horse is smart and remembers all the bad days. But will fixing the training part be it or is that still there because he is uncomfortable? I think CSU really wants to find the fix for him, so perhaps they are too driven in the opposite direction of the the other vet. I don't know what to do most days anymore. It's very sad.

          Comment


            Originally posted by IPEsq View Post
            I went to a talk by his sports med team from CSU where they discussed a case study. The horse was laid up due to a soft tissue injury. But he had known kissing spines. So, it was important to keep his back conditioned properly while the limb healed. I thought that part of the rehab included adding weight to his back before a rider was up, but I can't recall the details. I can ask the team for more about that and what they used. But it is a good idea. The trainer was thinking he needed to be longed with a rider, but in the past, I've only been the one willing to have their butt in the saddle. But unfortunately with that, he doesn't respond as well to other ground handlers. I'd prefer to try that with me on the ground but do not know who to get as a rider who could be a pretty soft passenger at first.
            I'm thinking that especially considering an issue with KS, the key is to work with the horse to lift the back in a bow shape, and try to increase the space between the affected vertebrae (if that is possible). Lifting the back comes not from strengthening the back muscles, really, but more from the belly muscles. The horse that can stretch forward and down is stretching the big back muscles longitudinally; the belly contracts to allow the top line to relax and stretch. I wonder if it might be worth focusing on doing belly lifts and finding other stretches or exercises that do more to engage the horse's belly/core muscles? (I do not know what your general working scenario entails.)

            When a horse begins to get tense/anxious/wound up, very often that means the large muscles along either side of the spine tense up. Then you feel the loss of supple feeling and swing, and instead feel that inverted, solid back. That's just what can aggravate the KS issue. Then pain contributes to the cycle.

            I bring this up because from what you have posted, it seems like the horse goes into this "position", if you will, when things are not going well during work, particularly ridden work. Conditioning the back muscles to move and then carry weight, by focusing on the belly/core strength and stretching the top line, might be a more effective perspective to keep in mind.

            Just something else that crossed my mind as I read your post that I quoted above. (I realize you are referring to a vet case study in that post). I know you are sorting out a variety of issues with this horse, so it might be difficult to accurately attribute "x" behavior to "y" vet issue. Based on what you have shared here, my impression is that the horse still has back pain. And that may not be something that is fixable, especially as it seems that the horse remembers and/or anticipates pain-- that is a tough spot to be in whether you're the horse or the rider!
            "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


              IPEsq i have everything that will still cross crossed. You've been such a big help for me with Dex and I really hope you land on the right formula with your boy.

              Comment

                Original Poster

                keysfins What is weird is my horse defaults to resting in a posture of extension for his back (not just when he's "up" and prancing around). CSU thinks he's trying to stretch out the pelvis.

                Anyway, he does work some in the Equicore bands. I will longe in the belly band but not the rear band. I will ride (when riding) some in one or both bands. I think it has helped. I know CSU uses this a lot in rehabs and did in the case study.

                He used to not do belly lifts at all. He was too locked up. I got him unstuck first for pelvic tucks, which he's now pretty good at and I can get ok belly lifts but not great. I have to use the pointy end of a hoofpick to get him to do it. It's a work in progress.

                The raised cavaletti work we were doing also was aimed at core strength. The vets wanted me to set them on a bit of a collected stride so the poles would make him lift and collect without me having to ride too hard. He was doing really well with that but it's been a few weeks now. In hand, I'm up to doing one pole at a time above a walk becauseHe he gets too excited, but if I need to spend more time working in hand, I can work on that. I've only had one day working with a few 9' rails in a row, in hand (so, not a collected stride), and it was ok but took him some time to not want to jump them all. He has been fussy about long lining lately and prefers the halter, and that needs some refinement with steering and balance.

                Comment

                  Original Poster

                  It appears that there are some companies that make saddle pads that are weighted with things that are not lead and the weight is distributed on the pad to try to optimize comfort. There are endurance and racing shapes. They are incredibly expensive, probably because you'd have to ship something really heavy, and you need a different saddle pad for different weights. That's the closest I could find to adding weight safely (without too many pressure points or things flapping around) without a rider.

                  Horse is not getting put under saddle today after all. He had a good longe yesterday morning, then the chiro checked him out. She felt he was pretty good. Good in his lower neck, more sore in the muscles near the poll. Some soreness around SI, but not bad for him. He got some acupuncture and then apparently went ripping around in the mud later, because I'm cleaning his feet last night to find he's sprung a front shoe and was standing on a clip. Of course he was.

                  So, I cancelled vet and trainer, got the shoe pulled, and packed the foot last night. The clip was basically just in where the nail holes go. I managed to sneak in a favor from trainer's farrier this morning because my farrier is at shows this week and next, got the shoe put on and hand walked. Tomorrow, I'll put him back on the longe to make sure he's not sore, and I'm trying to get some trainer/handler help for Friday, but that's TBD at the moment--left a message.

                  For our ground work, I'm trying to get him to have better control over himself with less input/management from me. He's improving some in this area, even if he gets worked up over something. If I have to make a correction and see him giving me the stink eye, I am sure to give him a little pat or other praise when he does the right thing. It's been immediately softening his eye to get the reward. When he gets bored and starts picking on me, I try to just redirect. I got a tarp out the other night, and he played with it for about an hour, stomping on it and picking it up and waving it around.

                  So, I don't really have a plan at the moment, but for the in hand work, I think the next step is trying to get him back into long lining. He used to be quite good at it, but the last couple of times, he was too backed off, and at canter would just porpoise buck around and root, so something was off and I went back to the halter. This was before injections. I may try that this weekend depending on how the rest of the week goes.

                  Comment


                    I feel your pain. I hope things start resolving quickly.

                    Comment

                      Original Poster

                      Thanks, Second Star.

                      I got a shoe put on, and I scheduled with a trainer on Friday. She watched me work him in hand, then she did some work in hand to explore if he'd tell her to F off. He is always worried with new people and tries to leave/is defensive, so she did have that issue which I don't. She got on first and he was forward off her seat if she stayed loose. He was pissy to the leg. I got on, and it was not too bad, but I had to both sit back/tall and yet not ride defensively. He's acting a lot more sensitive right now, not the dull thighmaster he's been most of the past 3 months or so. And quick to tell me off. I can't put both legs on but have to use one leg and one rein at a time.

                      I worked him some more over the weekend. We are mostly walking under saddle. He likes to try to dictate where we go/what we do and then if I disagree verges on the edge of temper tantrums. By Sunday, I had more relaxation, fewer tantrums, and he offered up some forward. I am trying to stay relaxed myself but half the time up there I'm not sure if I'm going to cry or throw up.

                      He seems to have grown again in the shoulder based on how he's growing out clothes again that fit him 3 weeks ago. And so his saddle may need another adjustment. I am going to try to get my friend's saddle on him soon, since she has the same model with less padding in the front panels, and see if he likes that better.

                      Overall, I think he is feeling better physically. I think he's got a lot of mental baggage. He's also really testing me in some new ways like being gate sour and buddy sour and such that have never been a problem before. And it doesn't take much to provoke a tantrum. His hind gut is a little iffy (probably from the ulcergard?), so I upped his Equishure. The trainer can help me about once a week for a bit and is willing to do more rides on him to get him unstuck. I am hoping he can stay sound long enough this winter that we can really put this behind us. But I suspect he will need some ongoing SI support...he still is sensitive in that area to touch and that plus the gut stuff he's carrying his tail a bit too stiff/high sometimes. He has moments where he moves really, really nicely. I've still just got my fingers crossed.

                      Comment


                        Sounds like an improvement at least. Well except for the tantrums and the feeling like throwing up part. But hey, at least you're up! . I really do hope things keep improving!

                        Comment

                          Original Poster

                          Horse is steadily improving under saddle. Fewer tantrums and more forward each day that I work with him. I am keeping riding time very, very short. Still doing more groundwork and longeing. I've added back some work in the Equicore bands and some raised cavaletti in hand.

                          The new trainer works with him about once a week and then gives me homework. I have been applying her NH-type methods plus the movement patters we've been working on the past year (TRT Method, mostly) and building the bridge between ground and saddle through those patterns, doing shoulder in (starting in hand), leg yields and other exercises at the walk that he is confident and comfortable doing. I've gotten him a little more tuned up to the leg, using one leg at a time (put both legs on, and he stops, still). He also seems to prefer a dressage type thigh position at the moment with more thighs inward and on, lower leg more off. Treating him like a baby riding with both halter and bridle. It's going ok. He's given me some canter as well, and while it sometimes starts out like the beginning of a tantrum, I just sit still and steer with one rein, and he has kept his legs on the ground. No bucking! All of this groundwork in and out of the saddle (bending in the body, crossing the legs over) is really making him supple in conjunction with the increased neck ROM from the injections.

                          It's time to start tapering the ulcer meds, so keep your fingers crossed and jingle and wave chicken bones or whatever that it keeps going well. The last 2 rides were the best we've had since injections triggered all those new undesirable tantrums, and so I think he's feeling more confident in his body and is back trusting me a bit more.

                          Comment


                            Originally posted by IPEsq View Post
                            Horse is steadily improving under saddle. Fewer tantrums and more forward each day that I work with him. I am keeping riding time very, very short. Still doing more groundwork and longeing. I've added back some work in the Equicore bands and some raised cavaletti in hand.

                            The new trainer works with him about once a week and then gives me homework. I have been applying her NH-type methods plus the movement patters we've been working on the past year (TRT Method, mostly) and building the bridge between ground and saddle through those patterns, doing shoulder in (starting in hand), leg yields and other exercises at the walk that he is confident and comfortable doing. I've gotten him a little more tuned up to the leg, using one leg at a time (put both legs on, and he stops, still). He also seems to prefer a dressage type thigh position at the moment with more thighs inward and on, lower leg more off. Treating him like a baby riding with both halter and bridle. It's going ok. He's given me some canter as well, and while it sometimes starts out like the beginning of a tantrum, I just sit still and steer with one rein, and he has kept his legs on the ground. No bucking! All of this groundwork in and out of the saddle (bending in the body, crossing the legs over) is really making him supple in conjunction with the increased neck ROM from the injections.

                            It's time to start tapering the ulcer meds, so keep your fingers crossed and jingle and wave chicken bones or whatever that it keeps going well. The last 2 rides were the best we've had since injections triggered all those new undesirable tantrums, and so I think he's feeling more confident in his body and is back trusting me a bit more.
                            I've been following your post on this horse. You sure have dedicated a lot of time and money into your boy. Hope horse keeps improving,sounds like you're on the right track now. BIG jingles for your boy to keep improving!

                            Comment


                              Hope progress continues IPEsq...it's been a long and ongoing journey. Thanks for the updates.

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