Posts Tagged ‘muscle’

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.

Weight Lost from the Big Butt

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Chubby Hubby is losing weight from his butt.  It’s a good thing, but not what this post is about.

Fudge is also loosing weight in his butt.  This is not a good thing.  The lost weight is muscle - lost from the nerve damage he has sustained to his rear end.  If he doesn’t have the ability to feel the muscles, the nerve synapses don’t fire, and the muscle atrophies.  This is very typical of an EPM horse, but generally not the first symptom seen.