Archive for August, 2009

Who Is This Masked Man?

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

When we purchased Fudge in January, his papers were ‘accidently’ left at the broker’s home both times we went to test ride him.  This raised a small red flag, but we would have the papers before purchasing the horse, so I let it slide.  I was looking for a particular attitude and demeanor in the horse, more than the breeding.  We did ask about the HYPP issue, not having seen the papers.

As things began to unravel with the health of Fudge in the first week of ownership, we were focused on finding the problem.  It wasn’t until the EPM blood test came back positive, and the broker said, “Your horse, your problem,” that we began to get concerned about who Fudge really was.  If the broker had been less than honest about the health of the horse, his demeanor, and pecking order, did we even have the horse listed on the papers?

I pulled out the papers again, and noticed that the broker ad had listed the horse as black, even when the papers had shown him as brown.  By this time it was May, and Fudge had shed out to a Bay.   Hmmm.  The diagram for white markings showed white on thee legs, Fudge has a small amount of white on the fourth.  The white on one leg was not quite right according to the diagram.  Hmmm.  Hmmm.  If Fudge was not the QH on the papers, who was he?  Did we care?  The short and long answer were YES.  We already knew that Fudge’s true personality was much different than the horse that we thought we were buying.  Once we killed the protozoal infection, his level of energy came up, and he is not the best match for my daughter.  What if Fudge was a HYPP positive horse?  We needed to find out.

I called AQHA and ordered a DNA test.  It took about 4 weeks to arrive.  It sat on my desk until the nagging questions began again.  I sent in the hair sample, and in about three weeks AQHA called.  We do have the horse bred and named IMA FUDGEAHOLIC TOO.  He has no Impressive in his line, so he cannot have HYPP.  Along the way we have also learned that the AQHA papers for many horses are ‘not quite right’.

I took Fudge for a third, short test ride since January, to gauge his improvement.  He is slowly getting better, but still trips often.  I have videoed the rides, and on review of the last one, noticed another reason he might be tripping.  More changes are coming for Fudge.  Stay tuned.

Shoulder Muscle Atrophy

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Fudge has had a funny line on his shoulder for a few weeks.  It recently got much more noticeable.  On closer inspection, the top of his shoulder has very thin muscles, and no fat.  Below the line, it has thicker muscles and a shallow layer of fat.  The lower portion is 1/4″ thicker than above the line.  I’m not sure if it is continuing atrophy above, or regeneration of muscle below.  Comparing pictures from one or two months ago doesn’t help to sort it out, but does confirm that this is new.

Pattern of muscles on shoulder

Pattern of muscles on shoulder

Line shown in red.

Line shown in red.

Pressured to Ride the Horse

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

A friend and knowledgeable horseperson stopped by the other day.  We went out to look at the horses, and she was concerned over the muscle atrophy on Fudge’s rump.  She said, “You’re letting this horse go to waste!  He has no muscle on the rear.  You need to get on and ride, ride, RIDE.  Build that muscle back up.”

I tried to gently suggest otherwise, but she wouldn’t hear of it.  Fudge looks like he is in good health, he feels good, and isn’t in pain.  Why would I not ride him?  My friend was trying to help with what she thought was a simple problem; muscle atrophy caused by non-use.  

Fudge’s atrophy is caused by a lack of connection between the brain and the muscle.  The nerve damage limits the ability of the muscles to move correctly, or for the horse to know when to move the muscle.  This is a very different issue than loosing muscle from lack of use.  Understanding this difference is important to rehabilitating the horse.

Rehabilitation must first work on the connection between the brain and muscle, until the horse has control of that body part.  Giving the horse 24-hour turnout to gently exercise allows him to use the muscles as he is ready, and for longer periods of time.  Slow ground work exercises will also help the horse activate muscles in a safe way.  Until there is connection between the brain and the muscle, building muscle mass may not even be possible.

One article suggests that nerve damage can be repaired at a rate of 1″ per month, up to one year.  After that time, the window of opportunity to reactivate the muscle is lost, and remaining damage will be permanent.  If the horse had EPM for a length of time, the extent of the nerve damage may be too wide, and the window too short, for the body to repair.  There are also anecdotal stories of spontaneous resumption of muscle awareness two years after EPM.  The key is realizing that recovery is a slow process.

During the horse’s time-off, muscle atrophy will certainly occur due to lack of exercise.  The safety of both horse and rider must be taken into account when deciding to resume riding, even at a walk.  Don’t let someone pressure you into ridding the horse if they don’t understand the reason for the muscle loss.  If you begin riding the horse before he is able to comply with commands, you set the stage for stress and relapse.  A horse that has relapased will have a much longer rehabilitation time than one that is given time off.