"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Neuro Exam Results

Inconclusive.

Because that's how it always is when you have to make big decisions with a horse.

So. Dr. H came out on Friday with her associate. Charles dropped me off at the barn and I sat during the exam because any sudden movements still make my head spin.

My vet did the full neurological workup and found some very minor abnormalities with Gracie's left hind, which is the leg that slips underneath her when she falls. My vet tried EVERYTHING...even walking Gracie with a blindfold, and the mare always knew where her feet were. She even took advantage of the hill in the back pasture. For an explanation on what an equine neuro exam entails, go here. My vet went through every one of the steps explained in that article. For a great video on what an equine neuro exam looks like go here. Dr. DiPaolo compares normal vs neurologic responses in horses in that video.

The one somewhat noticeable abnormality that Dr. H could find were bilateral knots in Gracie's neck at C-2 (second cervical vertebra). When pressed, she had small muscle tremors as if the area was sore, but there were no theatrics from the mare, so she's not in terrible pain. Dr. H said this could be from arthritis, an old injury, or just an incidental finding. If it is something, it is most likely arthritis and the worst case scenario is that it is causing a sort of secondary mild Wobbler's syndrome.


Gracie also had somewhat limited range of motion to the left when it came to getting her to turn her head in that direction. This is something I had noticed prior, but she is so awful about treats that I have been reluctant to teach her carrot stretches to remedy this.

Her muscling over her body is otherwise completely normal and symmetrical, and the doctor said that the small neuro abnormalities that she was seeing could totally be Gracie's normal. She also said that while it is alarming that the mare has fallen so often in the last two months, she has indeed met horses that were tremendous klutzes and just had no sense of self-preservation. She was stunned when I told her that after each fall, Gracie simply gets up and continues to run, but she said she has met other horses that were idiots like that.

Gracie's pupils were dilated and Dr. H did a complete ophthalmic exam in the darkness of Deja's stall with all of the barn windows and doors closed. Apparently Rocky Mountain Horses tend to have some weird congenital eye abnormalities, which I didn't know, not really having been a fan of this breed prior (I still think horses should not be bred for color. The eye abnormalities are more common in individuals with the more typical dark chocolate coat and flaxen mane and tail that this breed is known for.) Which made me really glad I had decided to have her eyes checked! Of course her eyes were completely normal except for a random vessel at the back of her left eye. Dr. H is going to call an ophthalmologist friend of hers to double-check but she said that due to the way the vessel looked, it was highly likely it was nothing.

If you ever go for a Rocky Mountain or Kentucky Mountain horse of this color, DO have the eyes checked as part of your pre-purchase exam! This is the color that has been linked to congenital eye abnormalities known as ASD or anterior segment dysgenesis. You can read about the study here. For an explanation in layman's terms, go here
What next? Well, Dr. H wants to do a moving exam with Gracie on the longe in a surcingle with side reins so we can see how she moves with her head set in different positions. Since I'm dizzy with sudden movements, it was decided unanimously that it was probably not a good idea for me to have a horse go in circles around me. My vet is nice enough that she will split the farm call between this visit and the next, when we do the exam with the mare wearing the surcingle.

Based on what happens with that, there will be two options: neck x-rays, which my vet can do in the field, and/or sending out EPM titers. Apparently EPM is not that common in my part of MD but it can have such vague symptoms that it is not a bad idea to rule it out anyway.

And if we can't find anything wrong, then I'm not sure what next. She is not getting a bone scan nor a myelogram nor any other kind of 'gram or scan that requires a visit to the specialty equine hospital because she is not insured and we don't have that kind of money. And if only people with that kind of money had horses, most people would not have horses. Sorrynotsorry. I'm simply trying to find out if she has something diagnosable within reason that is fixable within reason. If it is fixable within reason, it will be fixed. Hopefully, it is something that can be fixed.






17 comments:

  1. Hopefully, it is either nothing but her being stumblefooted (which might improve with work) or something easy and easily fixable. And it is good to know that there is an eye condition with RM horses.

    I don't blame you for not sending your uninsured horse to the Specialty Equine Hospital. I faced that decision when Ashke was colicking and I refused 1) to put my horse through colic surgery (especially when he was fine) and 2) I am not going to financially devastate my family by paying an outrageous amount for treatment. It sucks, but that's the reality. I made the decision when Ashke colicked that he should be put down. Luckily, when the vet got there and we went to do it, Ashke walked over and started grazing.

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    1. Wow Ashke got lucky. One of our TROT riders went through something very similar with her older horse...the vet couldn't make it out to PTS because of snow. By the time the vet could get to the farm, the horse was fine. He is still fine 2 years later! Going strong in his late 20's!

      I have a similar view on colic surgery whether the horse is insured or not. I wasn't planning on insuring Gracie until she started competing so we're dealing with this as best as we can...and I don't think that we would have pulled out the big guns even if she *had* been insured: you still have to pay up front before insurance reimburses you. This is still way more than she's ever had done. I was told she had a stifle issue by her previous owner but she never had it worked up by her vet. She was months behind on hoof trimming, dental work and vaccines...I had to get all of that up to date. I've honestly always been fine with the idea of her not being a proper competition horse if she wasn't 100% sound as long as she wasn't in pain, but she needs to be rideable. That's all that I ask. She needs to be able to keep her feet underneath her.

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  2. Hmm.. I hate inconclusive things.. so annoying! I hope the next visit shows something easily fixable. If it is just her being clumsy will you keep her or sell her? I'm keeping my fingers crossed!!

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    1. I'm honestly not sure yet. :( I'm just hoping that it's something that can be fixed. We'll see what we do if it can't be. I have everything crossed too!

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  3. Inconclusive - how frustrating. And I hate to think that she ran you down on purpose, but some horses will. I also had no idea about eye abnormalities in KMSH, which might explain why the one at my barn is such a freak, lol. She's dark chocolate, and though her mane and tail are not silver it looks like she carries that gene as evidenced by the silver stripe down part of her face.

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    1. Oh I know...when the vet said, "Her eyes look good!" I was like, "Dammit, I really preferred to think she ran over me because she couldn't see me!" It seems like KMSHs are either really solid personable trail horses or absolute nuts. I met another one at our local trail riders' group who was kind of a whackadoo.

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  4. Gaa! Inconclusive! How frustrating that must be for you! I do really appreciate you writing everything up, though, and linking to the neuro information. At least now if I ever have similar concerns, I'll have a place to start.

    I really, really hope that you can find something that explains her behavior, although it seems that sometimes there just isn't a definite answer when it comes to our beloved animals.

    And you probably already know this, but I read an article recently that talked about how serious concussions are in kids (so I'm assuming the same is true for adults). Apparently, it can take weeks or even months for the brain to fully heal and some doctors are now recommending that kids who get concussions stay home from school and literally just vegetate for days or even weeks to give their brains a chance to heal. I know you can't do that, but please take it easy for awhile:)

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    1. I write about these things in the hopes that it will help someone else. I've learned SO much from other bloggers' issues with their horses!

      And oh yes about being careful with concussions! I've been taking it easy since the accident, though today we did go out and run errands and I went to the barn to see the horses (more Lily than G-mare...grrrr still) and set up grain for them. I felt not quite normal but better than I've felt so far. It was good to get out of the house! I have one more day off before having to return to work, and I plan to just stay home resting. Thankfully work is only two days this week because of the holiday. :)

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    2. *And Carlos drove. I drove home from the barn on Friday with surprisingly little issue, but I took full advantage of the fact that he was off from work this weekend when it came to getting around!

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  5. Ugh. Ugh on so many levels. I did not know RMH's had eye issues. What a shame. They seem to be generally level headed, sweet horses, from the few I've met. And while I'm not a color fanatic, I do like the chocolate/flaxen mane combo. I really, really hope it's not EPM. In fact, I call dibs on it for the year and refuse to let you have it over there. I FORBID IT. It wouldn't be great news, but I hope the knots at C2 ARE related and that they're arthritis and the symptoms can be alleviated enough to make her stable on her feet. Mostly, though... just ugh.

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    1. I know. Every time I think of the whole thing, I'm like, "UGH!" :( I'm hoping it's mild arthritis that can be managed with exercise...she hasn't been uncomfortable in work when it comes to her neck when she has her nose in line with the vertical, and each time she's fallen at liberty she's had her nose up in the sky while running around...so maybe that's the position that causes the instability? I guess we'll find out.

      My vet said she's met a lot of RMHs that had the same in-your-pocket personalities that Gracie has, but the ones whose owners let them walk all over them end up being difficult to manage. She was a ham for the exam, a really good girl: "People are touching me YAY!" She received tons of praise from my vet. Kathy says she's been absolutely perfect when it comes to any kind of handling lately...so that's good at least...

      One positive in the entire thing. :/

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  6. 100% stand behind your reasoning. Big hugs and I'm really hopeful for you.

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    1. Thank you L! And thank you for agreeing with my reasoning.

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  7. Interesting note about the rmh eye condition, I have never heard that either and there is a big breeder in my province. Sending good vibes for some more conclusive answers soon!

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    1. Yeah, I had no idea, but when I went looking for it, there is tons of information out there on ASD. The problem with the breed is that, while they make wonderful trail horses, they are so so inbred. Gracie has fantastic bloodlines: she goes back to Old Tobe on all sides...but it also makes her extremely inbred. It was a relief to find out that she doesn't have any eye issues despite this fact.

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  8. I hate inconclusive. It's makes hard decisions that much tougher. For now it sounds like a bit of wait-and-see. Until then, take care of your head!

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    1. Definitely! :)

      Inconclusive really is the worst sometimes.

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