Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vet Visit

Today was a crummy day.

I decided to have the vet out, just because Jetta has been acting so weird lately. I haven't mentioned it on this blog save for saying that she's been "bad" because I had no idea what was happening and I just couldn't handle comments speculating on what might be the matter or what I was doing wrong because I have enough issues with my own imagination! But now that I've had the vet out, speculate away! I'd love to hear what you think.

Here's the deal:

Two weeks ago, a Friday, I rode Jetta and she was absolutely perfect. It was a fantastic ride. She had three days off and then I rode her again on Tuesday. I plopped the western saddle on her with the bitless bridle and hopped on. She refused to go forward and would violently buck and threaten to rear when I tried to get her to go forward. She would walk slowly on a loose rein but any time I gathered up the reins or tried to get her marching forward she'd kick out. I got off and switched saddles thinking she might be having a temper tantrum about the western saddle. I put the dressage saddle on, which is her favorite. Same deal - wouldn't go forward, bucking when I put my leg on. I got off again and took her temp. It was a normal 99.9F. Then I put her on the lunge line. She was quite full of it, snorting and bucking and leaping all over the place. She was not off in the slightest, her trot was bouncing off the ground about a foot. Once she calmed down again I got back on her, but the same deal. I decided I didn't want to die before I finished my final exams so I put her away for the night after lunging her a bit more so she didn't feel like she got away with not working.

Next day I got on with the dressage saddle and her dressage bridle and rode. Same deal, though this time I was prepared and I managed to make her trot. Next day after that she only bucked minorly and I managed to get her to canter. Since then I had a jumping lesson and went and played on the trail course. She was getting almost 100% back to normal, except she had decided that she didn't know how to lunge and would turn and face me, refusing to go forward and would rear if I tried to make her. We worked through that and lunging is back to normal now. Then I rode her on Friday and she almost bucked me off.

The issue is that when she's walking and I put my leg on her, she freaks out, pins her ear and kicks out, bucks multiple times and threatens to rear. Once I get her into the trot, she's perfect. A tad more sensitive perhaps, but we've been having the best canter work ever. But bring her down to the walk and she will buck again. It's the opinion of most people at the barn that it's behavioral, but I wasn't sure since it was so sudden and violent. I would feel terrible if she was in pain or something and I made her work through it. I couldn't find any sensitivity along her back.

Today, Dr. W came out and did a physical exam and flex test. He found no soreness anywhere on her body, which was very good. He watched her trot out and noticed a slight shortness on her left hind (LH). He flexed her on both hind legs. She tested positive on her upper leg on her LH, but Dr. W said is was barely a one. Lameness is evaluated on a scale of 0-5, zero being absolutely sound and five being dead lame.

It's his opinion that her hocks are fusing. While they normally fuse between 12 and 15 years of age, sometimes due to workload, nutrition or genetics they will fuse early. There is some discomfort while the joint fuses, but once it is fused there are absolutely no problems. Of course it also could be her hip or stifle, but if needs be, we will figure that out later.

He said he thought that her bucking and kicking out was just behavioral, that she's testing me (even more than usual) since between the ages of 5 and 8 years old, mares experience hormone changes and look to challenge others because this is the time during which they would normally take over a herd.

I asked about ulcers and he said it could be possible. I could try a 10 day treatment of omeprazole if I wanted, at $35/dose which totals at $350. Ouch. Then if that helped, I'd do the full 30 days of treatment which would end up being over $1000. Oh dear.

I also asked about tumors on the ovaries, since I had heard that it causes aggressive behaviour and while I volunteered at the University Large Animal Hospital there was a horse with an ovary the size of a volleyball (they are normally closer to the size of a small fist or a golfball).  Dr. W said that then there would most likely be soreness in the lower back, of which she had none, but to make sure he'd have to do a ultrasound and he just got a new one which will be coming later this week.

So right now the game plan is to bute her with 2 grams per day for 5 days and see if that changes her behaviour. If it does, then we can discuss blocking her joints to make sure it is her hocks, then injecting the joint to make it more comfortable and to speed the fusing process along. If it doesn't, I think I'm going to give it a week or two to try and correct her behavior then if it doesn't go away, consider the omeprazole trial.

I'm also considering adding some more herbs to her diet. I really did feel like the raspberry leaf helped over the summer with her touchiness when in heat, so maybe if I add something else she'll mellow out a bit more. I'm considering stinging nettle leaf, but am finding it difficult to buy it in large quantities in the US. I read a great article in one of my favorite magazines, Equine Wellness, about different herbs for mellowing out mares so I'm wanting to try some to see if they'll help.

It's just so frustrating because everything was going so well and I really cannot afford any of the treatments which makes me feel even more crummy. The whole way up to the barn I was having a panic attack because I was freaking out over what was wrong with my horse. I currently have a headache from grinding my teeth. And I'm broke. I had set aside $200 to get Grady and Colton's teeth done and now I just had to spend that on Jetta's vet visit. Also, since I'm moving barns Jetta needs a new turnout blanket because she doesn't have a waterproof one. I have a car payment coming due and I my bank account is running dry while I wait for my paycheck to come. Sometimes being an adult sucks, especially being in school and not having a full time job. Blegh.

We'll just take it day by day though. There's a tack sale on the 7th of January so I guess I'll be sorting through my stuff to see what I can part with and hope it sells. Grady and Colton's teeth will have to wait and since I've been working more over winter break, let's just hope my paycheck is large enough to be helpful.

So any thoughts? Do you agree with the evaluation of it just being behavioural or is there anything else you would have ruled out by the vet?


  1. What kind of feed is she getting? Sounds alot like how Ollie behaved with ulcers. He's on a low starch, low sugar feed which helped him a ton.

    Regarding treatment of ulcers, the meds will cure the existing ulcer but once off the meds, if you haven't changed the feed or stress that's causing the ulcer, it will come right back.

    Let's hope it's ulcers because that's easy to treat once you know what it is!!

    Good luck to you!!

  2. Being an adult does suck. . .sorry about all your troubles.

    I can't really speak on much, but I can comment on the raspberry leaf from personal experience. It has made a world of difference with my mare. When I got it, I started her on the raspberry leaf because she was a bit spooky and I had done some research on herbs and supplements. After a few months, I took her off and almost immediately noticed a difference. . .a negative difference. So I put her back on and her mood is much more even and stable.

    I hope everything works out and Jetta gets back to her normal self!

  3. Can't speak of any of the mare issues. I have never owned a mare, I figure I have enough hormone issues of my own to deal with. My suggestion would be chiropractic plus behavioral. Just because you cannot find apparent soreness in the back does not mean that something is not out of place and it is probably the least expensive place to start. Steady can get shitty about trot/canter transition, pinning ears, bucking and threatening to rear and it is like I said 50% chiro, 50% behavioral. His lumbar goes out regularly and the chiropracter has not had success keeping it in place but bottom line is I don't care that there is pain somewhere but that kind of response is NEVER acceptable and you will get your ass smacked ever time you give me the wrong answer. I think you should still continue on the path to try to find an answer but NEVER tolerate that behavior, pain or no pain she can still be respectful of you. But you have to demand it from her.

  4. Thanks for your comments! Jetta is currently on a low starch, low sugar feed, which she has been doing well on for the past year. I think if it is ulcers, then it is due to her two small feedings a day and no turnout, which will soon be rectified when we move to a new barn (soon!). Amy, that's kind of what's been happening. Even if she is in pain, I don't want her to be so nasty, so I've been making her work through it. It's just so random and weird! I'm going to give it a couple more weeks then we'll see about ulcers.

  5. I like your ideas. My first thought was saddle fit (der) but you ruled that out nicely.

    The sudden onset makes me think not ulcers though. It also seems suspicious for a chiropractic issue unless there was some sort of trauma--falling or getting cast or something.

    I'd put her back on the raspberry leaves (or magnesium, which is their active ingredient) and ride through it and see if it keeps happening, particularly after she has some turnout at the new barn.

    Yeah... the sudden onset just screams behavioral/hormonal to me.

    Two things to keep in mind:
    1) Don't get yourself killed.
    2) Was the onset as sudden as you described? Sometimes I'll get a similar response from Izzy, but looking objectively at the situation, I can see how it built up slowly and she tried to tell me and then she starts screaming.

    Sorry for the monster comment, but if it really was that sudden, I'm inclined to agree with the vet. Beat her ass. (In a productive way, of course and evaluate how things change).

  6. Thanks SprinklerBandit. I'll try not to die :) And yes, it was so sudden. One day I had a great ride, absolutely no resistance or naughtiness. The next time I rode it was a rodeo.