Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM) and Thomas Equinas

This blog serves to chronicle my day to day struggles dealing with this metabolic disorder and how it effects my soon-to-be 13 year old dressage horse.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dressage Days 2011

At the GMHA June Dressage Show I earned one of two required 60% scores at Third Level Test 3, putting me half way to a trip to our Regional Dressage Championships in September. With Tom's steady improvement this summer, I've been hoping we could make this happen. The weather has been making things a little tricky lately. Very hot and humid days have forced me to ride early in the day. That's fine for Tom and me, but not so great for my studio work. I usually use riding as a reward after a full day of studio work. When I ride first, there's no incentive to slave away at the drawing table!

I changed Tom's diet and added more grain and alfalfa pellets back in mid June and it has been paying off. He's muscled back up and has quite a bit more stamina. He has barely had a blade of grass since last Fall, and that seems to really help him too. Yesterday I loaded him up and headed off to GMHA for Third 3 at 1:30 in the afternoon. It was nearing 90 degrees when we got there. As I warmed Tom up he immediately started breathing very heavily. I wasn't sure what the best plan for warm up would be, but I just did short sessions and gave him lots of walk breaks. We had a lovely test with clean flying changes and only one break into trot at the end of the test, in a corner, where it didn't really count much. The judge wasn't as happy with it as I was, but we did manage a second place but the 59.48% was just a little shy of what I needed. I was very happy with his attitude and willingness, though, and came home happy.

Today it was cooler (high 70s/ low 80s) and I rode a little earlier. In the warm up he was as he was in June, not as interested in the work for the second show day. He seemed negative, but did manage to work through everything. He reared once when I pushed him in canter half pass- the first time he's threatened me with that in a very long time. I'm thinking (hoping) that he was just a little cranky and thought that might be way to get out of work. When I smacked him and sent him forward he seemed to give it up pretty quickly.

We went in the ring and I rode more quietly today; going for a more organized test. It paid off. The judge (a different one from yesterday) liked it and we got a 63.59%! That got us second place, Reserve Champion for Third Level AND a ticket to the Championships!!!

My goal now is to continue to try to strengthen him so that the canter work can get better and better. I've been to the Championships for Third Level once before- in 2006- and the inability to carry a whip (for championships) cost me a lot of points. We'll work on that "GO" button now, and fitness, and connection and general well-being, AND I'm keeping my fingers very tightly crossed!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back to writing...

After a little hiatus (actually caused by severe feelings of apprehension and doubt about the "progress" of Thomas' condition), I'm back to continue with this discourse about EPSM. Don't get me wrong, Thomas is doing quite well, I have just been feeling anxious about talking about it. Maybe I've been worried about jinxing the situation, or maybe I just didn't want people holding their breath, hoping for good results at an upcoming show or whatever. Anyway, I'm back, and here goes:

I spent the months of May and June working Thomas here at home. First, we rigged up our barn so that he can go freely in and out to our sand ring and back to his stall. He LOVES this change! Bugs have always bothered him, so the ability to just bail and go back to his stall appeals to him greatly. He's moving around more and that definitely seems to help his muscles. We did, however, have to resort to running a hot wire along the top of the fence (Thank you Bart!) because he was leaning over it for the grass and snapping boards daily. Not having grass (poor horse) has helped him too.

By mid-June I was noticing that his rotund shape he had blossomed into upon starting the oil regimen last fall, was starting to waste away. His hip bones were protruding again and his rump muscles were looking weak. I had my vet take a look and she suggested feeding more calories (from oil) and added protein (from alfalfa pellets). Now he's getting the following to eat:

morning: 1 qt Poulin CarbSafe
               1 qt. 15% alfalfa pellets
               1.5 cups canola oil
                3 flakes hay, soaked

noon:     1 qt Poulin CarbSafe
               1 qt. 15% alfalfa pellets
                3 flakes hay, soaked

supper:   1 qt Poulin CarbSafe
               1 qt. 15% alfalfa pellets
               1.5 cups canola oil
                1 scoop Quiessence (Magnesium)
                1 scoop Senior Flex
                2000 IUs Vitamin E
                1.5 lbs (dry) beet pulp pellets, soaked

late night:  3 flakes hay, soaked

It's a lot of stuff. My feed room looks like an apothecary. But he seems to be doing pretty well. I started soaking the hay just recently because we got a new load of first cut hay in, and he suddenly started to feel like he had bricks tied to his feet when I rode him. Soaking the hay is supposed to take some of the sugars out, so I hope that helps.

Work-wise he's been going very well. I remember last winter wishing that I could just get on him and work him in a nice low frame to warm him up and not have to deal with all of his fussiness at the beginning of every ride. Well now he comes out, takes about 5 minutes of walk warm up and then proceeds to a lovely, bouncy long trot and will even happily pop into canter. I work him pretty forward with all of this. His instinct is to suck back and get behind my leg, but it's getting better.

From there he gets a walk break and then usually I do canter work. We've been able to work on lengthening and shortening the frame as well as counter canters and shoulder-fore to half pass steps. Now that's what I call progress! The left to right change is still very troublesome. But if I can get him to let go of his right side, the change will usually come clean.

Walk break, then trot work. This is where he starts to poop out some times. Generally his trot work is better than the canter work, so I work the harder one first, in case he just can't go any more, and then the trot work is sacrificed a bit. He lets me know. Everything gets much harder to do. His stride will start to get shuffling instead of swinging and he will stick his tongue out. Some days he can go a full 45 minutes and get a good dose of trot work in and never really tire noticeably.

On the 18th and 19th I took Tom to the June Dressage Show at GMHA. He was SO happy to get braided and go to the show! On Saturday I warmed him up for 3rd 3 in the Dust Bowl and he acted like an old pro. He strutted around like, "This is the way it's done!". He surprised me with his willingness, and in so doing, I think I warmed him up a little too long. We went to the White Ring to do our test and he was all business, and seemed genuinely excited to be back out there! The trot work was really consistent and pleasant. We got a lot of 7s (even on half passes which used to be our bugaboo). When we got to the canter work, suddenly he ran out of steam. Lauren video'd it and I can see where his hind end got further and further out behind him, until he just couldn't maintain the canter. He broke 3 times and we got a '1' for the right to left change which didn't really exist. I got comments like "Rider needs to be more diligent about keeping the horse in front of her leg."Hah! If she only knew! We came away with our qualifying score, despite the poor canter work, because the trot was SO good! I was very happy with him and most of all I was pleased that he was so willing and excited to be there.

I took him back on Sunday and the thrill had worn off. I suspect he was still a little tired. I kept my warm up short and sweet, but the test was lack-luster and we ended up with the same score even though I kept him from breaking out of the canter.

So our first post-EPSM-diagnosis-show is under our belt and we are entered in Dressage Days in July. I'm hoping that the alfalfa will help him to have more stamina and strength. I will try to be more consistent with my postings on here. Feedback is welcomed!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Good Report

My vet called yesterday with the results of the blood work done a couple of weeks ago. Thomas' Vitamin E levels were a little high, but that's OK. She says you worry when they're low; not high. He is showing no signs of insulin resistance and his blood glucose levels are normal. Hurray! The Rx is to keep doing what I'm doing.

My husband and I are taking a well-deserved vacation next week. It's not easy to get away when your big babies need so much attention. I am very lucky to have a friend who knows Tom very well and is willing to work him for me for the week. Kat is trained in Natural Horsemanship and is also an accomplished dressage rider. She helped me with Tom 3 years ago when he was rearing (the first signs of what we now know is EPSM). I have called on her when we've gone away before, knowing that she can ride Tom and deal with his idiosyncrasies. This time I had to load her down with oil, beet pulp, Vitamin E, Magnesium and Tums! Although Penny (the barn manager) takes good care of Tom's feed, hay and general needs, someone else needs to oversee his supplements and work schedule. Kat will go there every day while we are gone to give him his supps and to work him. When we get home in a week, I hope that the snow will be gone and I can bring Thomas home and continue with his work here. Then I get to figure out how the new spring grass will fit into his lifestyle. It's all part of the learning curve, I guess!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Quick Update

Still waiting on the blood test results from last week. I've been giving Tom 6 to 8 Tums tablets when I tack him up. He loves them and really likes having treats back in his world. I don't know if the Tums have anything to do with it, but he's been much happier to work. More consistent and less obstinate.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Post Vaccination Report

Yesterday I tacked Tom up, thinking that I'd just loosen him up a bit and expect extra stiffness from 2 days off and a neck-ful of shots. I'm happy to report that he wasn't that bad. Yes, he was stiff and reluctant to move at first, but after 10 minutes of walking then trotting, he loosened up quite nicely and worked well. I didn't push the issue. My goal was just to get him comfortable. The only cranky session came with left canter. He was reluctant to bend and didn't seem to want to push from behind at all. To the right was good and we really got rolling along and had some fun. To the left got better, but never as loose as the right. We played with some trot work and I put him away with lots of pats.

I've been feeding Thomas 6 to 8 wintergreen Tums before I ride. He LOVES them! The vets at New England Equine suggested I try giving him those before work. They felt that even though he doesn't have ulcers he may have a sour tummy, and the Tums might help with that. They are low in carbs, so a good treat for EPSM horses. The extra calcium can't hurt either. It was bothering me that I couldn't give him ANY treats. A handful of hay just doesn't seem to cut it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A change of pace

Yesterday the snow was still coming off the arena roof so I decided to do something different- I thought a distraction might work to keep his mind off the weird noises and shadows.

I've free-jumped Tom a couple of times but he's never really seemed to enjoy it. Yesterday I set up a little cross-rail with a pole for a wing in and one out. There really wasn't much holding him in, but I decided to give it a try. He loved it! He joyfully cantered back and forth over it. I put it up a couple of times and it ended up at about 2'9". He was really into it by then! I'm the only one out there in the ring and I've got one hand on the lunge whip, the other on my iPhone (hence the rather rough shots, sorry).

Maybe if this dressage gig doesn't work out we'll take up Grand Prix jumping!

Today Tom had vaccinations and blood drawn for a Coggin's test and to check his glucose, insulin, Vitamin E and Selenium levels. I asked my vet if I should worry about the IM injections of the vaccines, and she didn't think I should be concerned since he has never had an adverse reaction to them before.

Tomorrow I'll plan to work him lightly and see how he feels.

Monday, March 21, 2011

This is interesting. I'm posting 2 videos for comparison. The first was last August, struggling through Third level, test 3. It's painful for me to watch. Notice how disconnected everything behind the saddle is. He seems to be dragging his hindquarters along. I'm surprised the judge didn't mention the uneveness. Also notice how he halts with his hind legs way out, then steps even further back with the right hind. Ouch!

This second one is SO much better. This was filmed on Saturday (3/19/11). He hadn't been diagnosed with EPSM in August. He's been on the new diet since November and the change in his movement is pretty evident. He's much more connected. His hind legs look like they might belong to him and not to some horse following him! I will try to continue to videotape his progress. I haven't been able to see it either. Small mirrors only give you a little snapshot of what's happening at any given moment, and when he comes home in a couple of weeks we won't have a mirror at all! I've seen it on the lunge, but this helps to confirm for me REAL improvement.