Wednesday, May 13, 2009

devastating news

Part of me wishes I had left well enough alone and never made Junah a bigger paddock.

After I took the pictures of him grazing the other day he really played hard in his paddock for the first time. Really hard. He was galloping and starting and stopping really hard. At first I was scared, then I started to laugh and enjoy watching him flex his muscles. What an incredible athlete!

Then I saw him take a bad step behind. No big deal he turned and raced back the other direction.

Then he did it again.

It was almost like he did not place his foot flat, almost knuckled over to the front hoof wall. Then the other side did it. If he was not so muscular and athletic with his front end he would have gone down behind. Then his hind end strides got short. Really, really short. There was nothing that looked painful, he still continued to play and snort and all of the veins in his gorgeous body distended with his efforts, he looked amazing. But gone was the beautiful floating trot and collected canter. In its place was a disjointed scary caricature of his former graceful way of moving.

I haltered him and brought him to the barn.

My mind was reeling.

When we first got him Rosemary had played detective quite successfully and tracked down people that knew the breeder and remembered the horse.

They said he had been kicked back from the track for "hind end weakness". We all assumed that he was just a gawky baby that was still growing.

He was a touch lame at Hana's but nothing more than a bit short behind on one side. He had horrific feet, the ground was frozen, and he had been on concrete at the auction yard for days.

At my place he had never been lame. Quite the contrary. He was a beautiful lofty mover and I was so excited to get his feet fixed and get him going under saddle. But he was in a 60ft round pen and had never been able to do anything other than a very collected canter and occasional playful bucks for a few strides.

Now this. I called Dr. Bob DeWard.

I called Rosemary and sent e-mails to the other PUR members.

Then I started putting it all together. The track history, the panicky reaction to us working on his feet was partially due to lack of handling but he had gotten so very kind with everything else and continued to be fearful of giving up his feet. Particularly his hinds.

I felt sick to my stomach.

The next morning I talked to Dr. Bob extensively. We discussed the different things it could be. EPSM, EPM and Wobblers.

With the history of weakness 3 years ago it is unlikely he has EPM. It would have advanced and he would have muscle wasting. He does not. He also would never have been able to collect himself enough to perform the beautiful collected canter he could do in my round pen.

EPSM is also unlikely as his diet is extremely high in starches and he has never showed signs of tying up or muscle tremors.

Wobblers fits. It is a narrowing of the channel that the spinal cord sits in. When a horse aggravates this area when exercising the resulting inflammation causes the spinal cord to be compromised and it most often manifests itself in hind end weakness. The diagnostics are expensive, laying them out under general anesthesia and doing a serious of radiographs with dye to track where the spinal cord is pinched. The resulting diagnosis is not very helpful as there is no known treatment that can make them sound. There is a surgery that can help a bit with some horses, but it does not render them rideable.

Yesterday Junah was reserved when I turned him out. Gone was the scary weakness in his hind end but he was not his usual fluid self. He had short strides and did not do anything more than wander and graze.

This morning he was a bit better and more "normal" in his gaits.

This too fits with Wobblers. As the inflammation fades so do the symptoms.

We are trying to decide what is best for the horse now. It will not be safe to put a human on his back. It will not be safe to have his feet done without laying him out flat to trim him every 2 months. This alone could aggravate his condition.

This is very difficult for me. I watched him follow my husband like a puppy this morning. Andy would stop and pet him and Junah would follow. As a joke my husband walked in a circle. Junah followed with his nose on his shoulder. Watching made a huge lump in my throat and my heart ache.

I have euthanized many animals over the years. You do not have a bleeding heart for geriatric animals and not face this reality on a fairly regular basis. But Junah does not have debilitating arthritis or geriatric disease. He is a young beautiful horse with a scary neurological condition. But he looks perfectly healthy.

It is very hard to consider his fate.

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