Monday, February 5, 2018

2017 Year in Review - PSSM Ups and Downs, and the major effects of hooves on muscles

Wow!  The difference one year can make!  My boy started out 2017 in terrible shape.  He needed oral banamine at least 1-2 times per month in cold weather, and spasms were common.  He had no exercise tolerance.  Trot was rarely an option, canter was nonexistent.  As we start 2018, he's in amazing shape!  He's cantering, his trot is smooth (for the first time ever!), no episodes since mid-summer!  He's also going down the trails barefoot - this is also a first!


Winter 2016-2017 - Not a good season:

  • Diagnosis September, 2016
  • Hoof health up to this point:  after almost a year of not-so-good-farriery and my horse's feet really beginning to suffer, I took over his trimming in May of 2016.  He had flat soles that were so thin I could push with my thumbs and they'd give.  He had extreme forward foot syndrome with stretched toes and crushed under heels.  He had always been tender on rocks, and needed hoof boots for anything more extreme than grass (including the sand arena during wet spring/summer months).

flat soled horse, embedded bar, retained sole
8/11/16 - Left front - all four hooves have been flat since I bought him in 2011
symptomatic PSSM horse hooves
6/3/16 - Right front - crushed heels, I've got the toes back a bit, abscess at hairline

  • Feeding alfalfa and alcar based diet.  Started on trails - he was slow, tripping a lot, and didn't have much stamina.  Arena work consisted of walking with lots of poles, bending around cones, and other suppling work (no speed work was possible at this time).  He seemed to do well until cold weather hit.
  • Blanketing with 300g blanket in cold weather, no neck cover, no infrared blanket (sometimes had BOT liner tied in) - cold weather was a major problem, and he had spasms often due to cold (even though I thought I was taking proper precautions with the blankets).
  • I let his hoof care slip over winter.  I started looking into a method that lets the heel grow out a bit, and his soles and bars went crazy.  He started short-striding in the front, and I was beginning to believe that navicular was part of our problem.  It's extremely obvious here that his hooves are too long, but you'll see in the sole pics below that I was rasping down to sole with each trim.  Since I was basically still following "less is more" protocol, I wasn't touching sole at all, and barely touching the bars.
symptomatic PSSM horse hooves, forward foot syndrome
2/6/17 - Left front - severely stretched forward,
heels beginning to crush again
symptomatic PSSM horse hooves, forward foot syndrome
2/6/17 - Right front - severely stretched forward,
heels beginning to crush again
symptomatic PSSM horse hooves
2/6/17 - Left hind - sadly, the best hoof by far,
though you can see the toe is stretched forward
symptomatic PSSM horse hooves, forward foot syndrome
2/6/17 - Right hind - the weakest limb and the side with
the most lumbar soreness - an extremely deformed hoof

symptomatic PSSM horse hooves
Feb 2017 - Right side muscles extremely tight in
hindquarters on hind limb with the worst hoof
symptomatic PSSM horse hooves
Feb 2017 - Left side muscles more relaxed (hard to
tell because of his stance/shadows) on limb with better hoof

  • Jax's right hind is his weakest area.  He had developed a strange gait and right lumbar soreness (he was also sore on the left, but not to the same extent).  Here's a sole pic taken a couple of weeks after the side profile pics above - as you can see, the sole is touching the ground.  In the lateral bar, a huge lump has been forming for months, and not going away!  I didn't touch it as it was drilled into my head that the sole is sacred.

flat soled horse, impacted bar, embedded bar
8/18/16 - the beginnings of this mystery lump
impacted bar, bar abscess, embedded bar
2/28/17 - the lump is getting bigger!

  • Beginning of February, 2017 - purchased Trekker Luxus (used) treeless saddle.  Couldn't handle it on his back yet, so continued with the Barefoot Physio pad.
  • In March, I finally became horrified enough with his hooves that I started studying more hoof methods.  The ABC Method caught my eye, but I'd heard some negative things, so I followed it a little but made no real attempts to mess with the soles - except for that lump!  I finally trimmed it out, just to find a large abscess area that never burst (unfortunately I didn't get a pic).

 Spring 2017 - His worst episode to date:

  • I started suspecting that alfalfa was causing trouble, so I started feeding him before working him.  I found that within 15-20 minutes of eating he was having mild spasms.  So, we began a couple of months of searching out new feeds, most of them failing miserably.
  • About 2 days before the UM trip (see next paragraph), he had to stay in due to weather - I've only kept him in a couple of times, but this day he seemed particularly miserable.  He banged his right hind fetlock on something and it swelled up, but didn't seem to bother him too much.
  • March 20, 2017 - 8 hour round trip trailer ride to University of Missouri to remove an eyelid tumor.    This is the second time, last time was about 3 years ago.  He lost a bit of blood, and they took more this time than last time.  He made the trailer ride up there in pretty good shape, but after 2 hours of stall and procedure he started having spasms. We rested outside and ate some grass, he refused water, and after about 30 minutes (and time for the IV Banamine to kick in) he seemed okay.   So we loaded into the trailer, with hay for him to eat, and took off.  I stopped 15 minutes later for gas and he was in full sweat and spasm, so I filled up the tank and took him to a less congested area to get out and eat a bit more.   After another 45 minutes we left again, and I just kept us moving as quick but cautiously as possible.  About another 2 hours in, I stopped and checked him - mild spasms.  We rested a bit (couldn't let him out) and I tried to get him to eat more hay - he did.  Another 2 hours, and finally he's home.  He's still spasming (the IV Banamine didn't stop this episode at all), but after 45 minutes of resting, eating, and finally drinking, he's feeling much better and can go out for the night (it was almost 11pm by this time).

PSSM horse, eyelid tumor surgery, trailer spasms
4/12/17, after scabs have fallen off surgery area
flat soled horse, impacted bar, symptomatic PSSM horse
3/26/17 - taken 6 days after trailer ride to vet.
Extremely overgrown bar - did hoof discomfort add to his distress on the trailer?

  • A couple of weeks after the trip, this crack started growing from the banged up fetlock:
PSSM horse hoof injury
4/8/17
PSSM horse hoof injury
5/30/17
PSSM horse hoof injury
7/7/17
symptomatic PSSM horse hoof damaged
7/17/17
symptomatic PSSM horse hoof damaged
9/11/17

Summer and Fall 2017 - Things are finally starting to going well:

  • Hoof trimming - I'd been following the ABC Method from a distance, and things were starting to click.  I decided I'd start slow, take small bits, and see what happened.  I started removing impacted bar along the frog in July, and found that his hooves were completely locked with impacted bar!  At this point, he can't do rocky trails, even with boots on, without stumbling like his feet hurt.
impacted bar, embedded bar, bar bridge
7/22/17 - The first step to hoof health for Jax: the bright white is bar material, or
"bar bridge" that has spread under the frog and is extremely uncomfortable.
horse after trim, horse hoof trim relief, horse bar trim reaction
Oct. 2017 - That's one relieved and happy horse!  Since I started removing bar bridge and impacted material back in July, this is what he'd do after every trim.  He'd flick his head like his muscles were loosening, rest on the bar, and fall asleep after licking and chewing.

  • I'm upping his mileage and adding trot work, both in the arena and on the trail.  I've read that endurance horses are more efficient at utilizing glycogen, and my research has lead me to believe that raising his endurance/stamina will make his muscles more efficient - it seems to be working! We're averaging 2-3 miles per day, and getting about a 5 mile ride in each week.
  • Feed changes - started Renew Gold around this time, and started raising fat - up to 1 cup of canola oil
  • Baking soda - 1.5 tbsp per day - haven't needed any banamine since starting (except for one very long but mild episode caused by abscesses in August).
  • His muscles are finally beginning to loosen up!  I found a nice trick to help - I mixed epsom salt in a large bucket of warm water, then soaked a large towel in it.  I draped it over his lumbar and hindquarters, and let him hang out in the sun and eat some grass (he's not overly-intolerant of grass, he just can't be on it full-time).  After about 15 minutes, I resoaked the towel and draped it over his back and withers.  After another 15 minutes, I resoaked and draped over his lumbar and hindquarters again.  This was the result!

  • Myofascial Release - August 2017 - found a method to release the fascia, and had major results in only 2-3 days!
  • Canter is back, and while it could use some balance and finesse, it's there!  During a trail ride we left the group, then cantered over 1/2 mile straight on our way home! 
  • In July we participated in a "play day" with some friends, with lots of games, gymkhana, and other fun stuff.  Then in October we did another Halloween ride with 5 obstacles to "spook" the horses.  At the obstacle in the pic below, another horse had just freaked out and bucked it's rider off about 10 feet from us!  Jax stood and watched, then walked up to the canoe, I grabbed some candy, and he calmly walked back up to the trail.  Such a good boy!
PSSM horse rehab
Jax, 10 months after diagnosis and proper management,
our first "play day" with some friends
PSSM horse rehab
Jax, 14 months after diagnosis and proper management started,
still riding in bareback pad, Oct. 2017, Photography by Karin

  • I feel it's important to make a note on "spookiness" here.  I've come off of Jax at least 30 times in the 6 years I've owned him due to spookiness.  The worst of it was when he was going symptomatic (though I didn't know that was happening at the time).  Jax has always been a nervous sort, but once I found the proper management for him, he really calmed and became the steady horse I knew was in there.


Winter 2017-2018 - It's Official, This Boy Won't Be Retired Anytime Soon:

  • We're finally starting to use our treeless Trekker Luxus saddle!  We had used it here-and-there, but he wasn't real comfortable with it.  As his diet, hooves, athleticism, and overall health keep improving, his back and shoulders are more comfortable, and the structure of the saddle is no longer an issue for him!  Our current winter setup (pic below) is a Back On Track liner velcroed to the blue Hilason gel western pad, with Trekker saddle, and small rump warmer.  The BOT liner is integral to keeping his back nice and loose during our rides.  On really cold days, I'll throw a bareback pad over his blankets so I don't have to uncover him (though I do reach under and brush him to make sure nothing's under there).
PSSM horse rehab
An exhausted but happy pony after a rigorous indoor ride.
  • Our mileage is going up!  We're averaging 3-4 miles per day, with longer rides of 5-6 miles at least twice a week (weather permitting).  Our shorter rides usually consist of quite a bit of trot work.  Our arena rides usually consist of pole and canter work now, with some lateral work included.
  • Hoof trimming - start removing retained sole and smeared bar:
flat soled horse, toe callus, symptomatic PSSM horse hooves
7/6/17 - Right front - all 4 feet had developed a "toe callus",
and I perceived it as a good thing - it wasn't!

bar smear, toe callus, bruising
11/13/17 - Left front - massive bruising
under the "toe callus" that I removed
bar smear, toe callus, bruising
11/13/17 - Left front - massive bruising
under the "toe callus" that I removed
bar smear, toe callus, bruising
11/13/17 - Left front - massive bruising
under the "toe callus" that I removed
hoof muscle atrophy, hoof imbalance muscle, muscle damage by hooves
11/13/17 - Posture is changing, muscles that
haven't been used are atrophied, and more
prominent as he begins to stand properly
impacted bar abscess, embedded bar abscess, bar smear abscess
11/20/17 - Left front - abscess crack
in impacted medial bar
impacted bar abscess, embedded bar abscess, bar smear abscess
9/20/17 - Left front - lateral bar crack
that had abscessed 2 months previous
impacted bar abscess, embedded bar abscess, bar smear abscess
11/26/17 - Left front - trimmed medial bar
abscess out to find a deep, painful bruise
from the "pinch" of impacted bar
retained sole bruises, removal of retained sole, toe height bruise
11/26/17 - Right front - still major
bruising in the toe area from
bar smear / retained sole
bar smear removal, impacted bar bruising, embedded bar removal
12/16/17 - Left front - newly exposed
sole is beginning to shed
bar smear removal, impacted bar removal, embedded bar removal
12/20/17 - Right front - deep thrush in collateral
grooves and frog is disappearing
bar smear removal, impacted bar bruising, embedded bar removal
12/21/17 - Left front - the "yellowish" hue
around frog is still impacted bar,
bruise from medial abscess still there
bar smear removal, impacted bar bruising, embedded bar removal
12/21/17 - Right front - still clear
bruising in the right toe as well.
  • After the very first major sole/bar trim on 11/26/17, I no longer needed boots for trail rides.  The gravel driveway that he hated to cross was no problem.  The rocky creek beds that he started balking at while wearing boots - he was crossing it without boots with no issues!  And those thin soles?  They thickened - I've been taking bar material religiously, tiny slivers about every other day, and I can't push his soles with my thumbs.  Trails that he's never been able to do barefoot (and recently he couldn't even do booted) are no trouble for him now - I can't believe the difference this trim is making for him!  While he gimped around his pasture last winter, this winter he stomps along wherever he pleases, without a single care to where his feet are going to land - it makes sense that his muscles would do so much better, I just never believed there was still so much pathology in his hooves, or that this would be the way to fix it!
  • Blanketing with 380g over an infrared blanket (ceramic coated thread to hold in body heat and loosen muscles), with a 300g neck cover when lows get down into the teens.  I added a 300g under the 380g if it was going to get to 0*F or below.  He's only had one mild episode this winter, and it's when I unblanketed in the indoor thinking it was warm enough in there to work without tack/blankets, and he started tucking up.  I immediately put his blankets back on and he was instantly better. 
blanketing a PSSM horse, cold affects PSSM horses, stop cold weather spasms in PSSM horses
A warm, happy boy in his heavy blankets with infrared underneath
  • He hasn't stayed in a single night/day this winter.  He also doesn't sweat under the enormous amounts of blankets he's sometimes in, so I think we've finally found what he needs to stay out and keep moving.
  • Feed is still the same as above, with a few tweaks for winter such as B vitamins, copper, zinc, and the addition of chia seeds!  Chia seeds have lots of antioxidants and other good things, they help sooth the stomach, and he's been doing really well with them!


Moving Forward:

PSSM1 horse rehab, PSSM1 horse muscle, horse muscle disorder rehab
11/29/17 - Last full body shot for a few months, as I'm not removing and leaving blankets off for any length of time in this cold weather.  His hindquarters are still a bit weak, but his back and shoulders are beginning to muscle up (and loosen up).

I'm still working on Jax's feet, and he continues to get better by the day.  He no longer has major reactions to the trims, such as "pinging" muscles or propping his head on the bar, so I assume his comfort level is overall higher now.  As winter falls away and we get warmer weather again, I'll be upping his mileage back to where we left off, and I'm hoping to get him to 10 mile rides by this summer.  We're working on lead changes currently, and I hope to get him to some local trails this year.  I'm hoping we'll bypass the yearly "tender hooves" that happens every June, and that he'll continue crunching rocks as he's doing now.


More links and research, focusing on hooves:


Dr. Kerry Ridgeway: Feet or Hooves, the Fascial Connection

The Horse.com: Long Toes in Horses: A Pain in the Butt?





About the Artist:

horse artist, equine artist, PSSM horse
Since starting my art business in 2004, I have been on a roller coaster ride that's taken me from art, to house flipping, to legal assistant, to horse trainer, and a full 180* back to my artworks.

I'm thankful to get back to my art, and also for the life experiences I've gained.

Things in life that matter the most!  Jen, husband Jared, and Jax








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