So since Copper has be NQR since the beginning of the month, but in a different way, I decided to call the local chiro out to check him out again. You may recall that she visited back in spring and he was out basically everywhere but his back/ribs. As a plus sized rider, I was happy to see that I haven’t injured his back, but this month when he became lame, it felt like it was higher than his hock, possibly in his back, so I wanted Jennifer to come out and see what was going on.
I had thought about tacking him to show her how he was going under saddle because when on the lunge line, the lameness presents more as a sore hock, whereas when I’m riding it presents much more like an SI issue or something in his back. When I got to the barn, Copper was feeling a little fresh (you know, maybe because I doubled his feed and separated him into his own paddock and the colder weather has finally arrived) so I decided I’d just lunge him and explain how he looked under saddle unless she absolutely wanted me to ride. The appointment was also held during my lunch break from work, so adding the extra time to tack/ride/untack would’ve made the appointment that much longer. One of the things I really like about Jennifer is that she realizes that horse owners know their horses better than she does. We’ve spoken about my history with Copper and that I’ve had him basically his entire life, so she trusts me to know how he should look and trusts me when I say something isn’t normal for him. So when I tell her that it looks/feels different than the last time he was lame, she believes me.
I warned her that he was fresh so it was good that we were lunging prior to the adjustment so he could get his sillies out. So naturally he walked on the lunge line until I pushed him up into the trot and trotted until I pushed him to canter. No racehorsing or silly bucking, just no nonsense lunging. He truly enjoys making a liar out of me. As usual, the lameness was crazy obvious in his left hind as if it were a hock injury. I asked him to canter and he automatically picked up the wrong hind lead, but correct front. Often, he’ll attempt to grab the hind lead after he canters a couple strides, but this time he put zero effort into lifting his hind end to readjust. I trotted/cantered him his good way next so she could see what his stronger way looked like. His bad way he canters strung out and on the wrong hind lead, but on his strong circle, he picked the correct lead immediately and had much more self carriage. We then took him back in the barn so she could start trying to determine what was going on. When he was on the lunge, she wasn’t optimistic that chiropractic work would help him since she thought the lameness looked very hock oriented.
His left hip was out again, not a huge surprise to either of us since he was operating on the bad hock for a few months after chiro. It made sense that he’d stop using that leg properly and the hip would go back out. As soon as his hip was settled back where it belongs, we took him back out to lunge and saw a very obvious difference in his way of going. His trot work was less stabby with that back leg and when I asked him to canter, he got the wrong hind lead, but immediately lifted his back end and swapped to canter on the correct hind. Jennifer was kind of shocked because she didn’t expect such a change since she thought his issue was mostly in the hock. We went back inside where she adjusted his SI and moved forward to his neck.
Holy tense pony. Last time he was very anxious when she worked around his neck. I half way chalk it up to his needle phobia and wonder if he thinks that she’s a vet? Once she adjusted his lower neck, she moved up to his poll area and he was borderline aggressive, which, if you know Copper, should come as a huge surprise. He’s always chosen flight over fight, but yesterday he was leaning way closer to fight. A couple of times when she tried to adjust his cervicals, he reared and opened his mouth with pinned ears. This isn’t like him at all, even at his worst behavior with the vet, he’s never pinned his ears/opened his mouth, he’s always just tried to get away. He’s never been one to bite, so the fact that he looked like he was thinking about it gave me pause. He was in full giraffe mode with his head up where she couldn’t reach him, but was agreeable when I asked him to lower his head for her. She massaged his neck for a while and discovered that his nuchal ligament along his crest up at his poll was super tight, especially on his left side, and he seemed sore in that area. She said that his jaw didn’t seem bad, so she just massaged it some, which he seemed to really enjoy.
Every time she put something back where it belonged, he lowered his head automatically and licked/chewed, which further confused us that he was so defensive with her. By the end of the appointment, he was standing quietly and looking for her when I was holding him and she and I were talking. He moved closer to her, sniffed her hands and started licking her step stool, behaving much more like himself.
She and I bounced ideas back and forth about his weight loss, lameness, neck tenderness and attitude and can’t decide if he has some big thing wrong with him (like EPM, PSSM, etc.) or if I’m dealing with two separate issues, possibly a dental issue and a wonky back leg. We’re both leaning more towards dental+wonky back leg because a) he does a very uncomfortable looking head tilt thing every time he eats grain as if his tooth hurts and b) the previous issue in his leg from when he was a baby definitely makes that seem more likely. The only reason I’m really even considering the alternative is that his full sister mysteriously died after having her PSSM positive foal weaned off of her. She was maybe 5 or 6? The owners didn’t do a necropsy (would’ve given me more answers than them I guess), but I figure she was likely PSSM positive as well. She’d also had previous incidences of tying up, which Copper hasn’t for the record.
Copper’s PSSM symptoms are the vague ones that could apply to a lot of things and could also be caused by the tooth/leg theory:
- Difficulty bending or acting stiff when bending in one or both directions. (Tooth?)
- Difficulty developing a top line. (Tooth?)
- Lack of impulsion. (Leg?)
- Losing weight when being stalled, even when well fed. (Tooth?)
- Looking lame at the trot. (Leg?)
So, I’m continuing to look for a dentist to look at Copper. While I could use my current vet, he looked at Copper’s teeth in the spring and deemed them fine. So I’m kind of looking for a second opinion. I want it to be an actual vet, not just a dentist since an extraction is a possibility. We live in a bit of a backwoods area so the options aren’t ideal. Honestly once my vet bill is paid off to current vet, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t contact someone at the vet school and just drop his butt off down there and tell them to fix all the things. Let one of them hold him while someone tries to get some of his blood. ha. haha. hahahahaha.
So basically if there isn’t anything wrong with his teeth, I’m going to start him on a diet similar to what a PSSM positive horse would get and see if that makes any differences in his weight issues. I’m hoping that isn’t his issue as it would involve a lot of maintenance for the rest of his life and likely wouldn’t solve his bad leg, so he’d be double high maintenance. If I could get his weight issue solved I’d be tickled to death…though I doubt returning to the 1200 lb version of himself will be great for that hind leg either. Ugh.
He’d better be glad he’s cute and the best thing I have to ride.