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HELP PLEASE!! Need all input possible!

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  • HELP PLEASE!! Need all input possible!

    So for about 8 months my Quarter horse Percheron Cross, 14 years old, has had an issue that we can not figure out. It has progressively gotten worse over time.

    Basically, my horse does not want to go. At first it started out with a few bucks here and there during the ride. Then it progressed to my horse starting off okay and then coming to a dead stop and not wanting to go. He would come to a dead stop and paw. Then, when you try to get him to go forward again, he either just stands there, backs up, or kicks out and then moves forward. Now, it has gotten so bad that he will go some to the right for a few times around after encouraging him to move forward a few times and then as soon as I cross the diagonal and get in the middle to go to the right he stops dead in his tracks. Then, if I even get him to go to the left his body is turned like he is bending to the right the whole way around. When I try to get him bent the correct way it hurts him and he stops again and can't go.

    This is the most frustrating thing ever. I have had the vet look at my horse numerous times. He first thought it was hocks, injected him and that didn't help. Then, he thought it might be an ulcer and he scoped him and he didn't have one. We thought he could have EPSM so we tried that diet and he didn't show any signs of EPSM. He's been checked for Lyme's disease and that came back negative. I've had corrective shoeing done which seems to have helped a tiny bit. Basically, he has aluminum on front with steel rocker shoes on behind with lateral support.

    He is much better out in the 14 acre field then in the ring. But, it varies sometimes he is okay in the ring. It's so weird like some days he is feeling much better than others. You can ride him Saturday and him have only one kick out and move pretty well and then ride Sunday and he not want to move again. I have owned this horse for 10 years and I know that he is not just ring sour or doing this to be a jerk. He is legit hurting and I want some other people's opinions on if they have ever had this happen with a horse before.

    He has gained some weight so he is about 100 lbs over weight, but we are working on him shedding a few pounds. I've been riding in a bareback pad for the past 1 and 1/2 weeks now to rule out if it is a saddle issue. My saddle is a little tight on the shoulder/wither area, but fits well along the back. He is very sore in his lumbar area though. I have had an acupuncturist out twice so far to do treatments and she said his lumbar back pain was pretty bad. Since the treatments though I haven't seen much difference.

    When he stands on the cross ties sometimes he stands with his feet very close together and next to each other kind of underneath his belly. He also pushes the sawdust into a pile in the back of his stall and rests his feet on it so the heel is elevated and the toe is pointing down. He also looks like his butt is taller then his back. Almost like it dips down from him withers and goes back up to his butt, but he's not sway backed. Also the tight ring seems to affect him more then just going out in a large field. And this horse has never been lame. The final time the vet visited he said that my horse looked better because he has never been lame and his feet were tracking evenly and that he thinks he is just being a butt. I know that isn't the case.

    Hopefully this is enough information. I hope someone can help me!

  • #2


    • #3
      If it were my horse, I'd start with having his front feet x-rayed. The standing camped under/toe down sounds like heel pain, and with his QH blood, the first thing I'd be looking for is navicular. That could explain him not wanting to go forward. In many cases, horses with navicular can be helped a great deal by corrective shoeing to take the pressure off the area.

      AS for the butt high you describe, my horse is a QH and has that same conformation. His butt measures a full inch higher than his withers, so he has a downhill topline. It doesn't cause any back problems that I've seen, it's just the way he's built. He slopes upward from behind his withers to his tail. It's normal for him and has not changer over time. Unless there is a noticible change over time, I'd guess that was just his conformation.


      • #4
        You have made some good observations. the pushing the sawdust in a pile is something I have seen before and associate with some kind of pain. I've had two old girls last summer do that, both have since gone on, but they were both 29.
        If you bute him for a few days, does he get better? that might be one way to rule out pain.
        I wouldn't use the bareback pad if it is tight over the withers.
        Horses are dang frustrating.


        • #5
          After one vet visit, my next call would have been to a chiropractor. It sounds like something is very wrong in his spine -- what with him not wanting to go in one direction and when forced to he will only go in a counter bent fashion.

          He is talking to you in every way he knows how. And you are trying to be a good Mommy and listen to him. Do not listen to your vet who thinks he is faking. Obviously you know your horse very well and you know he isn't.

          It is probably not realistic, but the definitive test would be a full body nuclear scan. Top to bottom, nose to tail. Anything that is sore will light up like a Christmas tree.

          If the $2000 price tag is a little spendy , then maybe Tincture of Time would be second best. Benign neglect (turn him out and stop riding him entirely for several months) can often work wonders.

          But I still vote for a Chiropractor as your next step.
          "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

          Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump


          • #6
            I can relate to the frusteration, my horse went lame last July and did not recover after hock injections. I gave him 10 months off and he is slowly coming back and seems to be doing well.

            It is hard to have lameness in the hind end-and expensive-with not a lot of information. Maybe you need another vet ? Good luck really, I know how hard this can be.


            • Original Poster

              I don't think it's navicular only because most horses that have that are lame and my horse isn't lame. I have tried buteing him before and it didn't do anything, but I am trying it again starting tonight through thursday I am giving him a gram in the am and a gram in the pm and then riding Thursday evening to see if it helps at all. Also, its the saddle that is a little narrow for his shoulder, not the bareback pad. I'm not riding in the saddle anymore.


              • Original Poster

                I really don't want to have to take him out of work if I don't have to because I have a half leaser and wouldn't be able to afford board at the farm I am at without her and I love it there so I don't want to move.

                Lord Helpus- I am actually trying to get another vet to come out now who is the original vet I wanted to come out, but she is so good she is SUPER busy all the time. She actually does acupuncture and chiropractic work as well. I am thinking it is something bone related also. I am almost wondering if he has a bone spur or cyst?

                I just want him better I love this horse so much


                • #9
                  From my own unfortunate experience, I am going to suggest hind suspensory or stifles.

                  Best wishes on getting your boy's issues sorted out and on the road to recovery....


                  • #10
                    Not all horses with navicular issues show lameness. I know of 2 different instances where no obvious lameness was present (and one of those two was a horse who refused to go forward).

                    Horse's don't "fake". They just don't. They don't come up with devious plans. Your vet is wrong. Get xrays, ask your farrier to look into the issue.


                    • Original Poster

                      Also he doesn't have a problem in his front end, its his back end, like most navicular cases. But, I still may look into it. The vet just thought my horse had an attitude, but he doesn't know my horse that well. He is a really good vet, but he is better with more obvious lameness problems, not things as subtle at my horses' problem. But, I am working on getting the vet I want to come out to the farm! I'm crossing my fingers that I can get a hold of her to come this week! Still, thanks for your input. This is awesome!


                      • #12
                        Suggest blood work to test for thyroid issues (weight gain) and for his overall system balance. He is older now and these issues seem to follow age. If his system is off balance, he is not processing what he would normally process, well. Energy could be low, sugar levels not balanced, his muscles might not be getting all the circulation that normally they would. System could just be getting a little slower as he ages......and he aches


                        • #13
                          Your vets should be quite impressed with your detailed observations. I am. While I disagree with karlymacrae that horses don't come up with devious plans (my daughter has a Haflinger-she plans better than a wedding organizer), this sure doesn't sound like anything but "please help".

                          In my experience pain like this is usually especially frustrating because we look for one cause, and usually there are at least 2 compounding each other.

                          Don't underestimate how much pain a saddle pinching in the shoulders can cause. Time spent being hurt by, and trying to compensate to be hurt less by, a saddle that pinches in this way can cause a horse to look like he is headed to the rainbow bridge. The bending and not-bending and behavior crossing the ring sound very much like pain of this time. Don't underestimate how long it takes to undo it after going to a proper-fitting saddle (and properly placing it back far enough so that there is 4" between rear end of top of shoulder muscle and the front points of the tree)--it isn't the case we just get a properly-fit saddle on right and all the problems go away. The entire muscle structure of this horse may have tightened and seized to protect from saddle pain. He'll have to totally release, relax, and re-condition. A horse that has gotten all in a knot from saddle pain will even lunge w/o tack sore for awhile, but that doesn't mean the saddle diagnosis was wrong.

                          The mounding of shavings and standing with heels up does hint at navicular, also.

                          He's lucky to have you.
                          At all times, we are either training or untraining.
                          Flying Haflinger blog: http://flyinghaflinger.blogspot.com/ Flying Irish Draught blog: http://flyingirishredhead.blogspot.com/


                          • #14
                            Something else to keep in mind is that if he's evenly sore in both front feet (or all the way around, for that matter), you won't see a traditional head-bobbing lameness until one foot is blocked and the other hurts all by itself.


                            • #15
                              DEFINITELY get him xrayed for navicular. The standing under and positioning the shavings in the way you described so he could stand with his heels up sounds like navicular to me. Someone also said that could indicate a suspensory injury, but then you'd almost definitely see the lameness.

                              Also, THANK YOU for consulting vets and alternative "doctors" (acupuncturists, etc) before consulting COTH! So many times I see people who just jumped right to the forum without actually getting the horse checked out by a professional first. It sounds like you're doing everything in your power to rule out, well, everything in your power that could be wrong. I agree with trabern, your vets should be quite proud that you are observing your beastie this closely and doing everything you can to get him feeling better.
                              Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


                              • #16
                                Yes, if both fronts are hurting, he might not appear lame. But if both fronts are hurting, it could manifest as a back issue. Thet compensate for pain somehow, and if it can't be by limping, it can be by stiffness etc. The toe pointing definitely screams heel pain.

                                Whether he's back sore and that's the main issue or he's back sore because of another primary issue, a good chiropractor can help.

                                Also...have you had his teeth checked by a good equine dentist? If he's got points or an abcess, or a painful wolf tooth going on, it could weel be the root cause of everything you're describing. When the mouth hurts, horses don't want to go forward into the pain and it often looks like lameness or back problems because again, the horse is compensating for the pain in the way he olds his head, which affects the way he holds his neck, which affects his back, which affects his gaits...

                                Hopefully a thorough workup by a competent vet (is there a clinic near you where you could take him?) will give you answers and then you can look at next steps.


                                • #17
                                  You said he didn't show signs of EPSM, yet everything you describe can be classic EPSM signs.

                                  What diet did you put him on, and for how long before deciding it wasn't working? It can take several months, it can take a lot of added fat, for some horses to show improvement.
                                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                  • #18
                                    This is the most frustrating thing ever. I have had the vet look at my horse numerous times. He first thought it was hocks, injected him and that didn't help. Then, he thought it might be an ulcer and he scoped him and he didn't have one. We thought he could have EPSM so we tried that diet and he didn't show any signs of EPSM. He's been checked for Lyme's disease and that came back negative. I've had corrective shoeing done which seems to have helped a tiny bit. Basically, he has aluminum on front with steel rocker shoes on behind with lateral support.
                                    I'm a bit puzzled...indeed, what you describe sounds like EPSM, however, it must be realized that EPSM is just one of several syndromes that produce similar symptoms.

                                    You have explained some parts of the scenario well, but perhaps not the whole picture, which is necessary in order to determine whether EPSM or a similar condition might be at the root of your horse's problems.

                                    What is your horse's turnout/exercise/work routine?

                                    How active is he in turnout? Has there been a change in the turnout routine-new horses (more playing), or has the horse been staying in more than he was previously? Has he always been stabled, or was he previously kept out?

                                    Has his exercise/turnout/work been irregular?

                                    Has it been erratic at any point in time?

                                    Was there a disruption in it when these symptoms first started?

                                    Are you a weekend warrior?

                                    How hard and how often does the other person in your half-lease use this horse?

                                    How long has this arrangement been in place?

                                    Has your vet done any bloodwork on your horse?

                                    EPSM (or any generalized tying up) is not controlled through diet alone- exercise/exertion also plays a role. It is also episodic, and while a truly acute episode is unmistakable to a vet or to an experienced horseman, a more subtle presentation of symptoms can be overlooked.

                                    The effects of tying up are also cumulative, which means a that while a difficult workout one day might not tip the horse's enzyme balance over the edge, a subsequent day's light session just might do so. This can be puzzling to figure out without the benefit of hindsight.

                                    It is possible to make an observational diagnosis that a horse has tied up if classic symptoms arise. These include balking, inability to move, cramping, tight muscles (they will tense and feel hard, and stay that way for quite some time), excessive or unwarranted sweating, a crooked carriage (perhaps swinging the quarters, walking sideways), general nervousness, quivering, and darkened urine.

                                    A vet should be called in at once if these symptoms are apparent--the horse is suffering an acute episode.

                                    Its severity can be determined through blood work taken in the immediate aftermath of the symptoms, and again a day or so later to extrapolate the rate of recovery to normal.

                                    The particular syndrome that produces the symptoms can be determined through a biopsy of muscle tissue--the possibilities are EPSM (as has been suggested), PSSM, and RER.

                                    Your horse's breeding suggests either of the first two, as they are common in draft breeds, while RER is a prevalent cause of tying up in TB's and Arabs, but also in QH's with TB blood. (These should not be confused with HYPP, also a genetic condition present in certain QH's).

                                    To properly manage a horse that ties up, both diet (high fat, low NSC) and exercise (it must be completely regular, and of consistent magnitude) must be well controlled. Understanding how both work together is the key to success.

                                    More info about my experience in dealing with tying up in my COMH blog on the topic:


                                    Much more information is available in the Kentucky Equine Research library:

                                    Tying up
                                    Inner Bay Equestrian


                                    • #19
                                      I agree with a lot of the posters to x-ray front feet. I would also test for EPM. But I think the poorly fitting saddle is probably some of the issue here. I had a horse do a lot of what you are describing here and we figured out that the saddle was really a poor fit and it took him about 6 months to undue the muscle damage that had been done so it is good you have stopped riding in the saddle. The other thing you might want to look into is radiographing his back and checking for kissing spine from his withers through his lumbar region. Good luck!


                                      • #20
                                        Lots of good suggestions (and I was going to mention kissing spine -- can be very painful!!!).

                                        He is IN PAIN.

                                        1. Get that chiro/acu vet in (if it's the one I think it is, she is really hard to book but WONDERFUL -- worked miracles with my horse who had a mystery "doesn't want to go forward" issue).

                                        2. Take him to Leesburg, Kevin Keane in PA, or VEI in Virginia for a complete workup.

                                        Or start with #1, which will be less expensive, and then be prepared to go to #2.
                                        The big man -- my lost prince

                                        The little brother, now my main man