Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Round And Round We Go

...Where we stop?

Hopefully with a sound horse again!

Things have just gotten worse and worse with Moon's back issue.

Something is not right and I was at a total loss.

So I made an appointment with the new vet that I have been using to have a thorough exam and consult about all of the 'issues'.

It was mostly prompted by walking out yesterday morning and noticing that Moon's ears were 'dropped'. His head was canted and he kept shaking it.

I wiped Moon's ears and didn't feel anything. So I trimmed the long hair and peered down in there with a pen light. Couldn't see anything. So I took a soft cloth and wiped down in his ear as far as I could reach (gently!) and didn't get anything that looked out of the ordinary. As a last resort, I massaged the base of his ears and on the left side it felt like moisture squishing around down in there. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how he would have gotten moisture down in there, so I figured having the vet check it out was in order.

I have been wanting to talk to her about the back issues, have him flex tested again and discuss ulcer medications anyway, so I guess it was actually good timing.

Of course, by this morning, Moon's ears were up again and even though he seems a bit sensitive to touch around the base, the squishy feeling is gone and he has stopped shaking his head. The vet decided it wasn't worth sedating him and thought perhaps it was just a wax nodule. Apparently massaging the base of Moon's ears helped it dissipate.

So on to the stuff that has been making me pull my freaking hair out...

The back issue!!!

I gave her a run-down of the symptoms and Moon's personality.

She agreed that if Moon does not have a full-blown ulcer, he at least is probably prone to gastric distress. Thankfully, today was not a day that Moon decided to suffer in silence. He was in a full-blown 'mood'. She had the receptionist call around to see what it would cost to scope him, but at a whopping $400...we both decided it was probably most effective to just start feeding him a better ulcer preventative supplement. I had been looking into the Gastroguard/Ulcergaurd...but at over a $1,000 a month, she thought without the scope to back up confirming an actual ulcer...it may be a futile and excessively expensive measure. She recommended Platinum Balance. Personally, I was looking to switch to U-Guard. I kinda like the fact you can buy that in powder, liquid or pellet form. Any opinions on one vs. the other from anyone?

One thing I did learn...whole oats is not good to feed to horses with ulcers. Rolled oats = fine. Whole (even crimped is not great) is irritating. So it's off to return my newly purchased stock of whole oats in favor of rolled oats.

Since Moon's blood work and urinalysis had come back normal, we talked about kidney stones. Kidney stones are not common in this area, nor any of the areas I have kept Moon. Adding in the fact that I seldom feed alfalfa...she said the chances of that are highly unlikely.

Bladder stones would be more likely. However, we pretty much ruled that out because Moon urinates normally and I have never seen any sort of discoloration or dark (bloody) streaks or streams even at the end of his urination.

We moved on to movement and palpation. Moon is obviously sore over his kidney/loin area...on both sides now. Not just his left side. His tail is raised and he is in obvious discomfort in the hindquarter. The vet flex tested both hind legs/stifles and came up with only one issue. His right hind foot. She applied the hoof testers and found just enough tenderness in the sole around his toe area to cause a reaction. Moon does have a bit of thrush that I had already noticed and have been treating for a few days.

There was no tenderness in his other feet, so it's a possibility he stepped on a rock...or has an abscess brewing. Even though it has only been 4 weeks since he was re-shod, his feet have grown significantly and he is due to be re-set, so I made that appointment with my farrier. I'm actually going to have his shoes pulled...I think! We will say what the farrier says.

I will say...I was not as happy with my shoeing jobs the last time I was over there as I have been in the past. I didn't think they looked as good on any of the horses as they usually do, but there was a lot going on, a lot of people popping in to visit and the farrier has a new kid in training. The kid didn't trim the feet or set the shoes...just pulled the shoes and then clenched the nails. However, I think the farrier was disjointed doing his job, trying to juggle trimming and setting two horses at once and having constant disruptions. From now on, I am only going to take one horse at a time and I won't go in the evening again. It's much quieter around his place when I go over at noon. But I suspect that is the reason I noticed (and the vet pointed out) that Moon was loading to the outside on his left front.

Neither of the minor feet issues would account for the excessive soreness over Moon's loin though. Personally, I think I can feel two vertebra that feel out of position just before the break in the loin, but the vet said she is not good with that, so she didn't give an opinion...guess I'll have the chiro out again. But even with that, the tightness/pain over Moon's loin seems excessive.

So finally we come to the question of saddle fit. Of course, I tell the vet that I finally have a little saddle that really seems to fit Moon...however...I mentioned to her that it does have tiny little skirts and it had crossed my mind, due to my mom and step-dad's teachings that could cause undo pressure on the spine. I pull the saddle out of the trailer and set it on Moon.

Wanna know what?

The vet came to the same conclusion that even though this saddle fits Moon very well...the tree ends at the exact point where Moon's back pain starts...right over his kidneys. We think the tree may actually be too short and applying a consistent pressure to the kidney area....

Which, when I started putting the time-line and everything together...

Fits! (or doesn't depending on how you look at it)

This was not the saddle I was riding the night that Moon jammed his back, but I switched to using it shortly after, to help free up his back and every since then things have just gotten worse and worse, with a lot of unexplained back pain issues.

Suddenly...all kinds of things started clicking in my head. Usually when I ride in the desert, I use the Cactus All-Around because it's so comfortable for long rides. Moon is never sore after a long desert ride. But when I am around the place and practicing, I always use the little barrel saddle so I get the right 'feel' and after a couple of days, that is when I start noticing Moon getting more and more irritated and sore.

God, I feel dumb now!

It's not a given that this is the problem...I'm going to have to go back to riding my Cactus saddle around the place and see...

But hopefully...we have finally figured it out (fingers crossed). All this time....with having so many people looking and checking things out...It never dawned on any of us that it was the back of the saddle causing problems. Holy Crap!!!


in2paints said...

My fingers are definitely crossed! There are so many variables when it comes to horses that the process of elimination is often the only way to come to a conclusion... hopefully Moon is back to his old, happy self soon with the Cactus saddle!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Sometimes it is the least of things you would have ever suspected, causing the biggest headaches. Let's hope this brings the horse some relief. Finally!

Shirley said...

Hope you have finally nailed it. Poor Moon!

fernvalley01 said...

Gosh I hope this is it!Poor Moon , and poor you seems you get one step forward , and whammo something else! Best of luck with this . Once you and Moon get it beat , I bet you will be unstoppable!

Laura said...

too bad he is still sore...what a bummer. I hope it is something as simple as that barrel saddle putting pressure on his back and not something more... Good for you for sticking with it and trying to solve the problem.

Crystal said...

thats so odd, I have heard about saddles being too long for horses, never thought about them being to short. Hope that solves the problem!

Funder said...

Oh I hope this is it! Poor Moon, I feel so bad for both of yall.

Cut-N-Jump said...

I forgot to mention I used the U-Guard pellets for my TB mare. They are simple and easy, 1 scoop, twice a day and far cheaper than some of the other stuff out there. It's worth a shot and if it doesn't work, you still have both arms and legs to invest in something more pricey.

kestrel said...

Seriously, do the baby powder trick and set different saddles on him. It's tough to find a saddle that does the job for both you and your horse, I think you've got it figured out now. Sounds like a great vet, I like the ones that are honest!

C-ingspots said...

Boy, I can sure understand your frustration! You can't fix it, if you don't know what's wrong. If the saddle proves to be the cause, that would be a wonderfully simple fix. But, if not...you might have a vet who specializes in lameness check out his lower back, same basic area as the kidneys. My boss finds a fair amount ofhorses have pain issues there for varied reasons. He's had great success with injecting steroid into their lower backs. And crap, I've forgotten what he calls it! Anyway, horses with pain in that location usually have difficulty lifting their hind legs up and slightly out as it causes pressure in that part of their backs. Sorry, if I remember the name, I'll let you know. And we sell the powdered U-Gard and it does work quite well. Platinum products are quite good too, but in comparison are very spendy...but vets get a percentage of every item they sell back from Platinum, so they recommend those products when others may work (possibly) just as well. FYI only.

C-ingspots said...

Ok, I remember now. There are 2 main locations that he injects:
1) SI Joint (sacroillyac) I'm probably misspelling that. :)
This is the one when the hind leg is lifted up and slightly to the outside that the horse really reacts painfully.

2) Lumbar-sacro joint.

When either of these locations get injected, they HAVE to be done with ultrsound-guided injections. And, I would want a vet who has done these procedures many times. They're done with standing sedation. Horses feel relief within a day or so.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

C-ingspots-Do you really think that after everything I have already done that I would bother to waste my money having a consult with a run of the mill vet? I'm actually insulted that you would even imply that I would waste my time and money on anyone less than excellent in their field.

On the other hand, I have to question the ethics of any one who suggests that injecting the back is the way to 'fix' a problem that no one seems to be able to find the root of.

To be honest, I wished it was as easy as finding a problem with the LS or the SI joints. They are the first place a good chiro, vet or acupuncturist looks at and problems in them show up quite quickly in flex tests.

cdncowgirl said...

Man oh man... how wonderful (but kinda terrible) if it is something as simple as the saddle. (terrible in that its taken all this to find it, cost you runs and had poor Moon in the state he's in)

As for ulcer treatments, I've never had to use them **knock wood**. I'm sure Ed mentioned them to you, the one he & Martha use is the only one on the market that treats the hind gut and foregut. If he didn't its called Oxy Max, here's a link to it:

kestrel said...

I gotta tell ya BEC, I have utmost respect for how you've handled this situation with Moon. You are going to be a fierce team next year, I can feel it!

I believe a horse knows when you're trying to help it, and bonds tighter to it's human because of it. I've also seen injected horses physically destroyed because the underlying problem hasn't been addressed.

Saddle fit can be amazingly tough, hence all of the solutions from special trees to treeless saddles. Every horse's back is different. Hope you find your solution quickly!

C-ingspots said...

I'm sorry if I offended you in any way. It sure wasn't my intent to insult you, or your intelligence, or experience or anything else for that matter. I was merely trying to help; possibly make suggestions that could be of benefit. If I missed your mentioning having checked those areas, then I apologize...sorry. :) The vet I work for is very experienced and educated in the lameness field, he's studied with the best and has had great success treating painful backs many times. As far as being ethical and honest, he's top notch. Of that, I am assured. Again, I was just trying to make some suggestions that might possibly be of some help. Hope it all works out for Moon.

Danielle Michelle said...

Huh. I wonder if that's been it all along. What a simple step if it is!

I'm sure you know - I've always been told the baby powder test to find a good fit only works with the tree of the saddle. Once it's been put together it's not as dependable. I could be wrong though, but I have a friend who's a saddle maker and he always sets the tree on the horse's back to double check his measurements on a custom saddle before finishing it up.

I've noticed differences before in how horses ride with different saddles. Never put much thought into soreness. Good luck!

kestrel said...

I've found the baby powder test to work well even with completed saddles. One area that it points out is whether the skirt lays heavy on the loin, and the biggie, does the saddle make proper contact in the bridge area. I also use the bent wire method, where you bend wire to fit inside the saddle at withers bridge, loin and then lengthways along the gullet, then scotch tape it to the horses back and walk them to see if muscles are moving the wire. I find most back soreness is saddle related, so I keep trying to come up with ways to see what's going on underneath it. Also, the saddle may fit but a thick pad makes it too tight, like wearing thick socks in your shoes, so I want the tree to be wide enough for some extra padding. Usually the saddle needs less padding over the shoulders to allow movement, and more padding under the seat area. The big one that I find is the gullet curve. All too often it puts all the weight on the withers and loin, instead of following the spine so the back muscles support the weight. Too much curve is just as bad as too little, putting weight on one dinky spot.

Cool that your saddle maker fits the tree like that DM!

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I know it wasn't C-ingspots. But we are so far beyond 'Lameness 101'. And in fact, Moon is not lame. He doesn't even travel or function 'off' and that is what is making this so crazy.

Sorry for blowing up at you. Sometimes the most innocent suggestion is the one that makes the most sense. Unfortunately, I keep having to deal with well-meaning people who keep insisting the only thing I need to do is inject because that is what you do with performance horses that have problems. Not that you would know that because I have never mentioned it on the blog. Oddly enough, the only people who don't keep trying to cram the 'inject and fix' theory down my throat are the actual veterinarians I have worked with....which is probably why I haven't mentioned the other people's opinions on here. Their opinions had no merit, so I dismiss them from my thought process.

All three of the equine vets I use are impressed with Moon's joint health and mobility, considering he is a 13y/o gelding who has been a working horse since he was a 3y/o.