The Hidden Cause...Abby going beautifully now!

When my normally sweet tempered mare became highly reactive to being touched and extremely resentful when saddled or brushed I tried everything I knew to get to the bottom of what was ailing her.

What was happening? Horse (Abby, 15 yo Warmblood mare), displayed resentment at being touched over loins/flanks, girth and sometimes her neck and crest would be sensitive. 
She would pin her ears back, swish her tail, go to bite me and move away from the touch and cow kick when you touched her loins/flank.

This behaviour started post 25 April 2014 after a long trail ride.  Her girthiness and ‘cold back’ had been consistent since I recommenced training/riding over 2 years prior.

 

Tack

She had resented being saddled since I brought her back into work in Dec 2012. 
One time she reacted very strongly and leapt around, crashed into the fences etc.  When she came to a stop I went and checked her tack to make sure there wasn’t a burr under the cloth and that nothing was pinching.  I couldn’t find anything.
During this time I had two saddle fitters out and ended up selling my saddle and purchasing another and having that fitted.  I tested and bought many types of anatomical girths as her conformation tends to make girths slip forward under her elbows.
She is always “hot” when I first get on and it can take a while for her to relax.  Abby is not a nose on the ground, floppy ears, rest a leg horse. 

Diet

She had been on lucerne chaff, copra meal, a pellet for horses in moderate work and a little hay.  She had access to very good pasture 24/7. 
Post Anzac Day trail ride when I suspected ulcers I changed her diet (incrementally) to lucerne chaff, rice bran, Hi-Gain Zero pellet and some ultra beet (over winter when grass was not offering much in way of nutrition and it was cold) and some hay. 
I also gave her slippery elm bark and chamomile for suspected ulceration.

Training

Up until the time this all started we were riding at least 5 times a week, a variety of hill work (trail rides) and flatwork with a fortnightly 40 minute dressage lesson with my coach.  We were starting on medium movements – lots of lateral work and some collection. 
She was willing but a little dull to the aids for the lateral work (which is unusual for her as she is highly sensitive to aids). 

 

Examinations & Treatments

May 2014 Examination by Equine Vet :

Cursory examination where vet couldn't/wouldn't touch Abby. Vet diagnosed 'sore back' and treated her, after sedation, with biopuncture (vit B12).
Result after advised timeframe: No change.

I requested that my horse be treated for ulcers.  The vet agreed and we started her on what would be a 28 day course of UlcerShield (omeprazole). 
Result: a little change but not much.  

The BodyWorker

I had a Bodyworker give her a light massage - that was unsuccessful as she didn't relax at all and I asked the body worker to stop the work.

June 2014 Chiro/Vet: 

Examined Abby.  She made some minor adjustments to the spine over her withers, under the forearms into the pectorals, her poll and neck.  She checked her all over and was very happy with her hindquarters, as there was no muscle wastage and no unevenness.  
Result: Abby did respond to the treatment and relaxed and was better for 3 days afterwards.  Practitioner said that the adjustments she had to do were minor and should not be bothering her that much (to display the way she does).

Saddle fitter

After chiro/vet came out and there had been a little improvement so I got a saddle fitter out to check the saddle and possibly fit her for a replacement.  Saddle fitter couldn't even touch her.

August 2014 Equine Body Worker:

This practitioner was very thorough and worked on Abby for 1.5hrs.  We did some neurological tests – I was asked to raise Abby's head and walk her up and down hill so she couldn't see the horizon.  
Abby passed that. 

 I then walked Abby and practitioner pulled Abby off balance using her tail.  Abby passed that.  

We walked Abby in 10m circles both directions.  She didn't step across like she ought to as well as the practitioner would have liked and I told her I had noticed that Abby had been dragging her hind legs, like a lazy person wearing thongs scuffs along, resulting in her 'toes' being squared off.  Practitioner felt this was significant.  

The last thing Practitioner did that she (and I) were concerned with was that she ran a pen down each side of Abby's spine and Abby didn't flinch at all.  She didn't twitch; she didn't dip her back away from the pressure, nothing.
Result: Inconclusive.  Recommended a combined consult with Equine Vet.

October 2014

Highly regarded Equine Vet examined Abby and observed “a very discrete sore spot on the top of the dorsal spine of T15 and maybe T16 & T17. Palpitation without force was resented and elicited a cow kick response. 
The dorsal spines were injected with triamolone and local.  It was reported that she was still resentful when she emerged from sedation.”
Result:  There was no change after three weeks and vet suggested that I “take her to a Vet Centre with bigger radiography machine and scintigraphy.”


Finally!

I spoke to Jenny Paterson around 20 October 2014 and Jenny reassured me that she could help.  Jenny recommended I take Abby off the grass, take all green food out of her diet and add salt and that this should result in a rapid improvement.  Jenny recommended that I introduce GrazeEzy into Abby’s diet.
I also added a tablespoon of salt to each feed.  I saw results after three days.
Started Abby on GrazeEzy around 27/10/14

After 3 weeks on this simple management plan recommended by Jenny and Vicky, Abby was back to normal and was happy and comfortable to be handled and ridden.  We recommenced training with my coach and went from strength to strength.  My coach was delighted with the turn around and what we were achieving and so was I. 

We have since been out to clinics, intensive coaching camps and Adult Riding Club, jumping cross country and hacking out with friends.  Abby maintains well on her ration supplemented with Supreme Vit & Min and we used Alleviate for our first big outing with great success.

It has been almost a full year since Abby started displaying these behaviors associated with ‘grass-affected’ horses and this year I have been able to detect and manage it early.  The autumn rain has brought with it bright green meadows reminiscent of England. 
So Abby is off the grass, her dry forage has increased and is back on the higher dose of GrazeEzy.  I take every opportunity to test her pH – so am delighted when I get to see her pee!
I can’t thank Jenny and Vicky enough for their generous assistance.
Di Ferguson, ACT

All pictures taken after the transformation :-)