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.

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.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Feeling Hopeful!

The snow is melting; the horses are shedding; it's staying light well past 6:30. Winter may actually be on its way out. And along with the yearning for all things green, warmer weather and weekends full of horse-related activities, I'm feeling like Thomas might actually be feeling good enough to join me in enjoying spring.

We've had several days this week in the high 40s and low 50s, and each of those days Thomas improved from the day before. Today the wind was clocking in with gusts of over 50 mph (!), so the plastic-covered arena was an interesting place, to say the least. One of the gusts at the beginning of our ride, made it feel like we were inside a balloon- the pressure changed and then the doors at the end banged and creeked. Thomas was incredibly brave. He only spooked one big one at the beginning, and to tell the truth, I spooked at that one too. It really felt like we might be carried up and out to the stratosphere! When he's brave I know he's feeling OK. His confidence is the first thing to go when he's feeling bad.

Today we worked on transitions trot to walk, walk to trot, over and over, until he relaxed and reached out to the contact through the transitions. Then I moved on to canter work. By the end we were doing a few collected strides to several lengthened strides on the circle. To the left was pretty good all along; to the right he was still reluctant to soften in his jaw. The tongue came out and he seemed to "tip" to the left- chucking his right rib cage out at my right leg. But it got much better and when he gave me a light, soft collected canter and happily lengthened the frame to a bigger stride I called it a day, gave him big pats and hugs and put him away treating him to his beet pulp, 2 cups of oil, Vitamin E and Magnesium.

I am very hesitant to say that the effects of EPSM are worse in cold weather, but so far it appears that might be true, at least for Tom, at least for this week...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring is definitely in the air!

After discovering the lack of ulcers, I've changed my tactics with Thomas a bit. Basically, I'm cutting him very little slack. He's been pretty good. A couple of minor shutdowns daily and then much improved work towards the end of a 45 minute session. Today I was riding with the big arena doors open, and no bulky parka! Hurray! I cooled Tom out with a brief hack down the road. He was fine until a pick up truck came up behind us and he kind of blew. But that's what he does and that's why I rarely go out for hacks alone.

My latest quandry is that I've been reading that people with EPSM horses have had trouble with their horses reacting poorly to vaccinations. Tom has never shown any adverse signs, but it does make me wonder. I'll be running that by my vet when she comes out next week to do his shots. I'll also have her check his insulin  and Vitamin E/ Selenium levels, just to keep tabs on them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Better weather makes better rides.

I got thinking the other day about Tom's reaction to the snow coming off the roof. He's been terrified of all the noises in that arena since we got there, and adding the view of the sheets of snow sliding down the roof put him right over the edge. In the video I posted he looks pretty calm, but actually he was too scared to move. His security blanket is the mirror in the end corner. He runs right back there for comfort from that other big, black horse. What I got thinking about is that when he shuts down he tends to be near the mirror. Not always, but enough that now I'm thinking that he's looking for help from that "other horse". The more I think about this, the more I think this might be a big part of the issue. So, I still don't know why he's shutting down and/or needing reassurance. Is he hurting, worried or something else? He tends to do it more when he's not completely warmed up. He rarely does it at the walk and is much more likely to do it on the left rein than the right.

Yesterday and today I focused on working him really low and deep (LDR- low, deep and round) in the warm up. It seems to help to loosen him up and prevents him from getting distracted and silly. I think when I first started working him after the EPSM diagnosis I sort of backed off and didn't really insist on doing things MY way ALL the time. Thomas is the type who takes advantage of any tiny crack left open, blasting through and creating a gaping hole, which is very hard to close up again. In sealing up the "cracks" he seems to settle into work much better. He shut down once today. It was to the right and away from the mirrors, but I was able to shove him right back into a marching walk, overbending right, and demanding forward! He didn't do it again, and the work became really good after 40 minutes or so.

My question now is, "Is he playing me?" I'm quick to back off if I think he's hurting and maybe he's figured that out. Now my job is to figure out if his anxiety is for real, and caused by a physical problem, or is he just checking my sympathy barometer for the day? He's moving SO much better than he had been prior to the diet change, and his musculature is much improved too. To me that must mean that his body is working correctly. Now if I could just get his head to cooperate too, I'll be all set!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm Back!

Sorry about my absence. I have to admit, I got pretty discouraged and started wondering about the whole "why am I doing this?" thing. Thomas has been consistently inconsistent. Even though that's exactly why I started writing this blog in the first place, it's also why I stopped for a while there. I thought writing here would help me to figure out why bad days with him happen, or at least vent some of my frustrations. But then I let little demons in that make it hard to write about things not going as well as I'd like.

We've had some really good days where he has been happy to work on a little bit of collection, counter canters and even the rare flying change or two. We've also had some really bad days where he is reluctant to move- literally stopping and refusing to move forward at all. Then, when I can finally get him to move he's balky and stiff.

One day a couple of weeks ago I took him out for a hack with Penny and her big horse, Sobe. It was an unusually warm February day. The dirt road was soft and there was a hint of spring in the air. About 15 minutes into a nice ride, we were happily (I thought) trotting up a gradual incline, Sobe was ahead of us by a bit, when Thomas all of a sudden put on the brakes. He just stopped in his tracks and started to go backwards. I had my dressage whip and I tapped and clucked, encouraging him forward, but he "didn't wanna!" Penny said that his tummy was all tucked up and his eyes were way back in his head, like he was in a lot of pain. I got him going and just a little ways up the road he did it again. I let him walk and he seemed to relax eventually and we did manage a decent trot on the way home. Penny and I got thinking.

Could this be ulcers? I had come to the barn earlier than usual and Penny and I had decided on the hack on short notice. Tom hadn't had his grain (1 little quart of Carb Safe) yet. Were stomach acids causing this behavior? He does this in the ring too, but not quite as adamantly as this episode. And it does seem to be more likely to happen if he's working on an empty stomach. So I started feeding him handfuls of hay prior to putting the bridle on. That seemed to help. I called my vet and asked about ulcers. She said it certainly could be and suggested I have him scoped because the GastroGuard is so expensive for a horse Tom's size, she didn' t think it was a good risk to just treat him and hope that he'd come around.

Thomas had a camera stuck down his throat on Tuesday. It showed a beautiful, pink tummy, with no signs of ulcers at all. I couldn't help but think that ulcers would have been a nice, easy fix. I could medicate him for a month and he'd be happy and good to go onto wonderful things. It wasn't to be. His stomach is fine. Something else is definitely bothering him. So onward and upward.

I worked him yesterday and he was pretty good, considering that he had 2 days off and 5 hours standing on the trailer on Tuesday. Today I went over, fully intending to work him. It had snowed lightly all day and had changed to rain as I was driving there. The snow was sliding slowly off the roof, casting weird shadows and making awful noises. Thomas didn't even want to walk to the arena; let alone go inside! I just let him loose and chased him around for awhile. He really is terrified of arena snow. I'll attach a video clip here. He looks pretty mellow, but really he's petrified! Check out the sliding snow shots at the end.