Lameness Workup…Except, Not


Today was Not Fun. At all.

I got to work today a quiet mess. My worst fear when I left the office today to head to the barn? “What if he doesn’t find anything and we’re back at square one?”

I take that back. I take it all back.

Chad McGee and his wife Lauren (both vets, and both super cool) showed up on time and ready to get down to business. They are a very capable team who work in tandem with one another. If one was working with Image, the other would be explaining things to me. I thoroughly appreciated having someone to ask questions to while the other was performing the test.

They took a short background on him, and then wanted to see him move. As we were walking towards the the dirt road, Chad, who had been assessing Image’s hind end in the barn, warned me that he was going to walk behind us and pull Image’s tail. I was facing forward, so didn’t get to see much of it…only Image’s very concerned face as Chad pulled to the right. Chad switched sides, and I heard Lauren’s sharp “be careful!” as Image almost toppled over. That was the first indication that they had something other than general lameness on their mind.

Once we got to the dirt road (flattest and in the shade…holy hot, Batman!) and I jogged (er, huffed and puffed, rather) back and forth. Chad flexed both Image’s hind legs, and the conclusion was that he is definitely lame on his right hind. Okay. Interesting. However, Chad had started rearranging Image’s hind legs. I looked to Lauren, who explained that when his hind legs are crossed (literally, his right hind was pulled in front of and across his left hind), he should be going “wtf” and righting himself.

He didn’t. He stood like that, legs crossed in an awkward, uncomfortable looking position, for quite some time. I kept willing him to uncross his legs. He only did because he wanted to shift more towards me…not because he was uncomfortable. Chad repeated the process on the other side, crossing his left over his right…same result. I was not liking where this was going. I looked at Lauren, who quickly explained that a neurotypical horse would have righted himself immediately because they could feel something was out of whack. If they stand like that, it’s likely they’re unable to feel where their legs are. Well, shit.

Chad took Image from me, and began turning him in tight circles. He was off balance and swung whatever hind leg was on the outside, in a wide arc that was not typical movement. Chad then walked Image with his head up, so Image couldn’t compensate for the lack of feeling in his legs with his eyes…he was a stumbling, unbalanced mess, his legs striking out stiffly and hooves hitting the ground harshly. I had to bite back tears.

We headed back towards the barn, and I hooked Image back up on the crossties. By that point, both Chad and Lauren were more concerned about the neurological side of things. As we were talking, Chad was up near Image’s face. He began poking and prodding around his nostrils, and asked me if I had noticed any decreased sensation in that area. I honestly couldn’t be sure…I’ve only had him for six months, and he’s never minded his head being fussed with.

Chad brought out pinchy-thingees (okay, they’re called hemostats, but pinchy-thingee is just so much more fun to say!) and began testing his reaction around his muzzle area. Chad was NOT being gentle, and Image wasn’t even flinching. Hell, there were marks on my horse’s nose, so it’s not like Chad was pussyfooting around. Chad tested all over his face and head and down his neck…and finally got an appropriate reaction behind Image’s shoulder.

By this point, I had already decided to pull an EPM test, which was the vet’s suggestion. Neither of them really wanted to go into other possible diagnoses, as there could be hundreds. EPM is possible, but neither of them wanted to say for certain without a concrete diagnosis in front of them. I understand that completely and I appreciate them not bullshitting me.

I was watching Chad test Image’s reaction on his off side, when I noticed his tongue was sticking out a bit. I pointed it out, and Chad took the opportunity to pull it out of his mouth. Image didn’t fight, and Chad was able to see that there were small, involuntary muscle spasms going on in his tongue. Talk about effin’ weird to look at! If that wasn’t disturbing, watching Image fight with himself to get his tongue back in his mouth, was. He did this on both sides and it took him about 30 seconds to get his tongue back into his mouth.

Both vets agreed that something neurological was going on, and that needed to be addressed before anything else. Chad took some blood for the test and they gave me a bit of bute to see if it helps anything. I have to pick a probiotic up from work to make sure the bute doesn’t cause any further issues.

I skipped out on the rest of work (bless my supervisor, she is a sweetheart and “gets” it) and hung out at the barn the rest of the day. I made some calls and talked with some people (including D and the chiropractor, who is still coming on Wednesday…more on that in a minute). Posted on Facebook and got an outpouring of support.

If it is EPM, there is still a chance he will not be neurologically capable of handling a rider. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. I will treat him and hope that, against all odds, we’ll make it out the other side, and I can try and fix his hind leg soundness issues. If I treat it and he is still neurologically unsound, I will make a decision then. If the vet thinks his neurological state will stay stable, I will see if B will take him back. If, for whatever reason, she can’t (and I say “can’t” and not “won’t”, because I don’t think that B would turn him away unless she had no choice), or the vet says that his neurological condition can still worsen, I will put him down.

If it isn’t EPM…well, I’m up a creek without a paddle. I will be back to square one, and tests from here on out are going to be invasive and expensive. I won’t do that to him, and honestly, I can’t afford it. I love him more than life itself at this point, but if he is neurologically unsound without a curable reason, he is just going to worsen. I’ve born witness to horses that are neurologically unsound, and it is dangerous and scary. Someone will get hurt — be it Image, myself, or someone else handling him — and I won’t have that. His body functions will deteriorate, but his mind won’t…he will be scared, in pain, and unable to control his body. I won’t have that. He could go back to B’s, but I’m not sure I could be comfortable knowing that his condition could deteriorate rapidly, to the point where he injures B, her husband, or himself. It’s likely that I will give him a week or so of total spoiling (and, hopefully, a session with a photographer friend so I have pictures of the two of us), and put him down while he is still relatively pain free and happy.

Could it potentially be something else? Maybe. Could that something else be fixable? Maybe. However, after what I saw today…? Even without having much experience with vet issues…what I saw today was Bad News. I was scared a few times that my horse was going to hit the ground. I don’t know that I’ll ever be comfortable getting on his back, and that’s something I need to seriously think about right now.

This could very well all change if something different crops up in the next few days. The chiro, Anna, is still coming on Wednesday. I called her this afternoon to let her know, and she, with a bit of surprise in her voice, said that she had just finished a four day seminar on neurological chiropractic work. Intrigued by the potential diagnosis, she offered to come take a look at him and see if she could help in any way. So, she will be coming on Wednesday afternoon to talk and explain to me what she’s learned, and go from there.

So. That’s the update. Holding steady for now to see what happens next. I hate, hate, hate to say this, but I am not feeling good about any of this. It’s going to boil down to what’s best for the horse in the long run — even if it’s heartbreaking for me. He deserves only the best, and sometimes the best is not any fun at all.

I’m going to go finish my drink and curl up in bed. Tomorrow is another day.

7 thoughts on “Lameness Workup…Except, Not

  1. Dom June 25, 2013 / 3:17 am

    I've been following your comments on FB and it really sucks 😦 EPM is a deal breaker for me in a riding horses, even after treatment, but it still sounds like it's the best in a list of shitty options. 😦 Keep in mind that the blood test could very well be inconclusive since many horses on the east coast are exposed, but not infected. If he does test positive, I would recommend getting a spinal tap before spending a lot of money on treatment. Fingers crossed for some kind of good outcome here. I'm so worried for you…


  2. Amanda June 25, 2013 / 3:32 am

    Unfortunately, the spinal tap is about as expensive as the treatment would be right now — Marquis paste, the go-to drug for EPM these days, is on manufacturer back order (which is as annoying as Adequan being on back order…cannot wait until my back order folder at work can go down!). There is a top dress pellet that is effective and costs hundreds less and put it right in the range of a spinal tap for a few months worth of treatment.

    I'll discuss it more with the vets if it comes to that, but I'm leaning much more towards your train of thought re: EPM horses. I just don't think I'd be comfortable trying to ride — and retrain a known bucker, who may or may not buck after all of this is “cured” — after an EPM diagnosis. There are too many variables, and too many ways for someone (either him or me) to get hurt. I don't want to get hurt, and I certainly don't want him getting hurt.

    This just sucks. :/


  3. Wordwitch June 25, 2013 / 3:37 am

    Oh sweetie. 😦 *hugs* I worked at a barn where they had a horse that was diagnosed with wobbler's syndrome. I totally get what you were feeling when you watched them test Image. Hamish nearly fell too, when the vet pulled him to one side. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good news for you. Image is much younger than Hamie (he was in his late 20s at the time), and hopefully you can get a concrete diagnosis and some good treatment options.


  4. SheMovedtoTexas June 25, 2013 / 4:16 am

    I'm so sorry 😦 best wishes and I hope you get some good new and a resolution from all of this.


  5. Jessica Fisch June 25, 2013 / 3:12 pm

    I hope today is a better day for you. I went through this with a pet (foster pup that I wanted to adopt) and it was so hard. I'll continue to follow and offer to talk, if wanted. Hoping for the best for you!


  6. Kate June 25, 2013 / 7:26 pm

    I am just heartbroken for you. I'd be honoured to take those photos, if you want. Just say the word and I will be there.


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