Friday, April 27, 2012

And...his back is up.

Tonight while grooming Willy, I was softly using a gelly curry on him, as always, and as I went along his back there came a point (in the lumbar region) where he clearly and simultaneously ducked away from my hand, tensed, tucked his hips in, and tightened his abdomen. I had noticed some reaction there the day before yesterday but I couldn't reproduce it after the first time, so I thought it was likely just the nerve was stimulated in just the right/wrong way. It was duly noted, however, as I'm always on the lookout for clues.

Tonight's reaction was much more clear and 100% reproducible every time, on both sides. Of course, I immediately thought of what I observed a couple days ago. I also thought about the fact that he has been uncharacteristically agitated during saddling in the last week. Not bad, but doing things like holding one leg in the air and moving around. Although I had definitely noticed the change, I thought it had more to do with his time off and not really being worked properly - I thought he was just a tad full of himself.

I sat on him at walk and trot for a total of about 10 minutes because I wanted to assess how he felt under saddle.  He felt fine in terms of movement. I took the saddle off and lunged him at the trot for a few minutes in each direction. Again, he seemed to be moving well but I did not observe the same movement of his back muscles that I usually do. My favorite part about lunging is watching his back muscles flex and relax but today I didn't see much suppleness or good exercise over his topline.

My saddle was purchased for this horse specifically and I chose it based on how well it fit him - as assessed by the best and most respected saddle fitter in our area. I have reassessed it myself from time to time and still think the fit is good (I was taught what to look for in the fitting, though I'm still no expert).

I was able to show one of his owners, which I was grateful for. Although they have been absolutely great throughout everything, I thought they might start to think I was making stuff up when I mentioned this new back issue. Fortunately, Will's reaction is quite easy to see and it's pretty obvious he's sore. His owner also pointed out that the sore area also appeared to be raised slightly, suggesting some local inflammation.

Could this be the explanation I've been looking for, or is it yet another problem in a series of many unrelated ones? Like all my theorizing up to this point, some symptoms would suddenly make sense, while other symptoms don't fit at all. 

SO! I was planning to get a chiropractor out if the radiographs came back clear (still don't have the final word - that's 16 days today!). I will not be chasing every last test to figure this out, but I feel that this is a reasonable course of action to pursue before throwing in the towel. I have to try.

My dilemmas are:
1) is it potentially dangerous to have chiro work if there are real spinal issues? Can they determine real skeletal problems before they mess around with my horse's spine?  Does chiro really work?
2) in this situation, would it be better to have the vet out to assess his back? Would it be ok to just call the chiro? I'm out of my experience here and have no idea. It's clearly sore and appears to have inflammation. I expect the vet will want more xrays and after the clinic session of $700, I'm a little hesitant. A good reminder why I've always said I want a horse-only emergency fund before I ever buy my own horse!

So, does anyone have a course of action they take with a presenting sore back? Who do you call first?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No News is NOT Good News.

I still have not had any assessment from the specialists at Saint-Hyacinthe.  Dr. B made a couple of follow-up calls at the end of last week and again Monday. We did hear that one of the other vets out there took a look at the radiographs and she didn't see anything. I'll take that as a good sign but won't get my hopes up until I have confirmation from the head-honcho over there.

I'm feeling pretty dismal about things even though I don't have full results yet. Actually, it's more like a yo-yo from optimistic to dismal. I pretty much expect the radiographs to come back clear...which won't help me figure out the main symptom. I don't know what to do and I can't just keep testing and testing, waiting and waiting.

I still can't get my head around how everything has changed. It really is like a nightmare and one day I will wake up and it will all be as it was just a couple short months ago.

Although I know in my heart and mind that there is something real going on, there is still the lingering wonder that maybe he did just develop this annoying behaviour for "no" reason. The awful part about that prospect is that while I could start to treat it like bad behaviour, I will never be able to be fully sure that there isn't an underlying issue. Gah!

Anyway, although I was advised not to ride, it took so long to get the results that I did start riding this week. The epic hand-walks were good for his manners and groundwork but he really needs more exercise. I figured I wasn't going to do him any more damage than he would while in turnout and I feel pretty confident I could get myself clear of him if something happened. We've kept it simple and I've made sure someone is around. The first two rides were pretty bad with his head tossing in that it never went away throughout the ride but he kept doing it periodically. Last night, however, we had a pretty good ride. He head tossed during the first few minutes and then settled down quite nicely.

So that's where things stand today, more or less.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

All or Nothing.

We took Willy to the clinic yesterday for his follow-up diagnostics to try to figure out his head-shaking.  He had radiographs of his head and an endoscope. Almost everything appeared perfectly normal. My vet did think that his C1 vertebra appeared "flattened and degenerative" but he wanted a radiologist to look at them. So, the radiographs have been sent to St. Hye for their opinion. In the meantime, I'm advised not to ride since it could be dangerous if he does have spinal issues.

I've looked over all the radiiographs on the CD they gave me. Naturally, I didn't understand a thing I was looking at, at first. But after consulting a few reference documents I can at least tell what structures I'm looking at now. I obviously don't have the skill to see anything that is possibly degenerative.

C1 and C2. C2 looks like a parrot head.

Either way, this isn't good news. A lot depends on what the specialists say, but if there is an issue with his C1 than it's likely the end of Will's work under saddle. What happens from there will depend on how much pain they/we think he is experiencing.

If it comes back with nothing, I still have the headshaking with no explanation despite all those diagnostics.  Logically, I know it makes no sense to continue with him if he's got an issue like that, especially not purchase him. But I can't imagine my life without him. What if it resolves? What if I just need to look elsewhere for a cause, like allergies.  I can't imagine how completely everything would change in my life if I had to decide I couldn't/shouldn't continue with him. I don't think I'd want to jump into another lease and certainly I am more shy than ever to purchase a horse I don't know well.

I'm trying hard to stay positive but it seems that it's a bad situation no matter which way it goes. It would be almost easier if there was a spinal problem - then at least the decisions would effectively be made for me.

I should hear back early next week. I guess I will take it from there.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Armchair Veterinarians

I'm sure we have all met and/or had personal experience with armchair veterinarians. Before now, I hadn't really had intense personal encounters with this in the horse world. Brumby's veterinary issues were not for me to consider, let alone hypothesize about - not because I didn't want to be involved but because his owner did not welcome my thoughts, despite the fact I spent at least as much time with him as she did. Perhaps I myself came across as an armchair veterinarian. Of course, I will say this is doubtful!

In the begining, I was good-spirited about people's ideas and suggestions as to what was wrong with Willy. His owners and I had pretty much discussed every possibility by the time Dr. B was out the last time, so no one really presented anything new. Still, they meant well and I graciously discussed possibilities with those who started the conversation about it. I myself had stopped discussing it without provocation with all but a few - his owners, my coach, and a boarder I trust.

The problem became that I was/am "provoked" for information a lot. I don't do well when it comes to withholding information, so I tend to tell everything like it is - even when it would probably be best if I said less (to quell the humour-mill). And my barn is pretty low on the rumour-mill scale - one reason I like it so much!

It seems everyone has their favorite theory about what is wrong with Willy. Never mind the fact that I've already wracked my brain considering every possibility, spoken with knowledgeable people I trust, and - most importantly - sought veterinary advice on multiple occasions. everyone still seems to think they have the answer.

I admit I am growing tired of hearing how all I have to do is have the chiropractor out or that "all horses do that."  Then there are those who think I'm not asking for enough focus during rides (explain then why his issues resolve under saddle and why he does it during turnout).  I have not closed my mind to any possibility but I really do not need to hear about everyone's pet theory every time I see them. Considering I'm at the barn almost every day, that amounts to a lot of opinions! It amazes me that people seem miffed when I say I am going to follow my veterinarian's recommended course of action.

Anyway, Will was supposed to be at the clinic all day today but they had to cancel because my vet had to be out of town. I was able to reschedule for next Tuesday. Not ideal, but it's the earliest we could manage with my work schedule and the Easter weekend.

On a happier note...

Video of the not-so-orphaned filly 'Ari' (Aristocratic Lady) and her surrogatge mama, Annie. Annie still looks a little rough but she has definitely cleaned up a lot since coming to our barn. I don't think she stopped eating for the first three days (except maybe to drink lots of water)!  She is a very sweet mare who takes everything in stride and definitely thinks this new little one belongs to her! Nature is truly amazing.

 Ari - sleep to canter transition.Camera pans
to show new mama Annie and then Gemstone, in
another pasture, who is overly keen on the baby.