There is something wrong with my mare

MissTyc

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My 11 yo warmblood mare has always been a bit "special". She is the outcome of backyard breeding (I bought her dam, a crooked Hackney, and later found out she was pregnant. According to sellers, the only possible sire is a gypsy stepping horse/trotter) and has struggled with her gaits and spatial awareness her whole life, leading to some early injuries and a generally easy life for her. She has insurance exclusions for every body part so is on catastrophic insurance only only. But we've had fun - she hacks, she jumps a little bit. She's always been spooky but "normal spooky". Recently, her ridden work has dramatically deteriorated and, alongside this, she's dramatically spooking at invisible things. By dramatic, I mean, trips herself up by shooting sideways and tumbles onto the floor. Several times, resulting in an injury to me as her rider and superficial wounds to herself (with her own hooves - she's barefoot) ...

According to the vet she is "sound". Or to be accurate, he said she's "as sound as she's ever been" and I take him point. She's never been "normal" but she's always been happy and forward. I disagree with the vet but I don't know where to start. We tested eyesight (fine), bloods (normal ranges) ... My gut feeling is "back", but that's a huge area to investigate without insurance when we have no starting point. She doesn't change on bute, she doesn't respond to palpitation, but a horse that is absolutely fine one second, then throws itself on the floor in an apparently, then seems absolutely fine again afterwards is not "sound" (body or mind, something is wrong!) ...

I feel at a loss and I don't know where to start. She's not being ridden for now, but ran into me while I was leading her this morning - walking like a dobbin and then smash crash I was on the floor and she was hyperventilating... and then a deep breath and everything was totally normal again like it never happened. My instinct is that something is giving her unexpected shoots of pain, perhaps nerve/arthritic changes/who knows. This is a super respectful horse; she would never run into a person unless in a "blind" panic in that moment.

I am oddly pessimistic about this - I think I've always worried she would break down and now here we are. I am also concerned because I was told her dam (that I had to sell to pay for my foal's vet bills!) died of a broken neck after "an incident in the school" but I was never able to find out any details. The dam would have been 14 at the time and had apparently been getting trickier and trickier to ride over the preceding months/years.
 

YorksG

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My first go to is always possible feed problems, having had two who were hyper sensitive and a third currently who can be a bit "odd". The trouble with it is that it can be random passers by who give them something!. We had one idiot who was chucking cattle creep feed in to ours! Maybe worth looking into?
 

Roxylola

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I don't mean to sound callous, but I think I'd be evaluating carefully how good her quality of life might be. If bute makes no difference any pain is probably very significant. Horses do not go down without good reason, they're prey animals being on.the floor makes them really vulnerable. They're also big heavy animals and having one that will run into you (blindly or otherwise) is incredibly dangerous.
If you investigate how likely are you to find anything fixable? And if its fixable at what expense?
I'm so sorry but I think your gut is right, this is really serious and for me I think the time has come
 

GrassChop

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As above, what feed is she on? She could be reactive to legumes.
Also, there are some types of pssm, I think type pX?, that can cause this sort of erratic behaviour which could be worth testing for.

ETA: if she does have soundness issues already, it may be significant pain also mentioned already. Sorry :(
 

MissTyc

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She isn't fed other than a handful of Healthy hooves molasses free with her joint supplement. She's a fantastically good doer who looks a million dollars - sleek shiny etc ... could have a deficiency, I supposed, but would be an extreme reaction to a deficiency! Autumn grass is a thought, of course, and any metabolic conditions are worth investigating like PSSM - wonder if they still have some blood from the general tests we ran ... As I said, I don't know where to start. My gut feeling is still on unexpected pain. I didn't mean to imply she isn't/hasn't been sound. The vet thinks she is sound and not in pain and can't see anything wrong, but of course the mare won't replicate her behaviour when the vet is watching so he hasn't actually seen what I've seen, which is a panicked horse for a split second not in control of herself or her body. If I had to put my money on a single guess, I would be saying the thing it reminds me of the most is like an intermittent wobblers, so nerve/neurological.
 

GrassChop

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She isn't fed other than a handful of Healthy hooves molasses free with her joint supplement. She's a fantastically good doer who looks a million dollars - sleek shiny etc ... could have a deficiency, I supposed, but would be an extreme reaction to a deficiency! Autumn grass is a thought, of course, and any metabolic conditions are worth investigating like PSSM - wonder if they still have some blood from the general tests we ran ... As I said, I don't know where to start. My gut feeling is still on unexpected pain. I didn't mean to imply she isn't/hasn't been sound. The vet thinks she is sound and not in pain and can't see anything wrong, but of course the mare won't replicate her behaviour when the vet is watching so he hasn't actually seen what I've seen, which is a panicked horse for a split second not in control of herself or her body. If I had to put my money on a single guess, I would be saying the thing it reminds me of the most is like an intermittent wobblers, so nerve/neurological.
The ingredients in Healthy Hooves Molasses Free are:

Cereal straw, alfalfa pellets, dried alfalfa, rape seed oil, garlic, vitamin and mineral premix.

Even the smallest amount of alfalfa can cause a reaction. My mare also reacted badly to cereal straw.

I'd swap it to a plain grass chaff and see how she is. If no improvement, test for pssm or start a high dose of vitamin e. If nothing then, I'd be looking into something neurological as well or possibly just ditch the feed for plain grass chaff and go straight to neurological investigation.
 

Roxylola

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I'm really concerned this mare is going to hurt you/someone/herself while any sort of feed change or vitamin trial happens. This is sudden and out of character. Please be careful when handling her, discuss the likelihood of any possible cause with your vet and put a very strict timeline on seeing a significant change
 
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The ingredients in Healthy Hooves Molasses Free are:

Cereal straw, alfalfa pellets, dried alfalfa, rape seed oil, garlic, vitamin and mineral premix.

Even the smallest amount of alfalfa can cause a reaction. My mare also reacted badly to cereal straw.

I'd swap it to a plain grass chaff and see how she is. If no improvement, test for pssm or start a high dose of vitamin e. If nothing then, I'd be looking into something neurological as well or possibly just ditch the feed for plain grass chaff and go straight to neurological investigation.
Yes, but if she has always been fed this then I wouldn't imagine it would suddenly cause an issue?

I would be on the same page as AE, it does sound neuro. Or could she have the onset of something wobblers type, and the fact that she is 'not well' as a prey animal is making her panic into extreme reactions and then losing balance etc as a result of ataxia? Have you done the tail pull/walk backwards type tests to see whether there is any present? I suppose the vet would likely have picked up on this if there was..
Sorry not very helpful, I guess I am more musing out loud!
 

milliepops

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Neuro also my hunch, my wobbler mare is similar sounding - looks well, feels well, enjoys her life, occasionally spooks so hard she topples over. has reared up spooking and gone over too. she looks sound but due to her neuro compromises is actually wrong on all of her legs, though this doesn't seem to give her any pain at all, the impingement means that she doesn't fully know where they are so her gait is unusual if you put her under any pressure.

My wobbler gelding :rolleyes: is similar, looks the picture of health. a very happy horse. picks up dings and scrapes all over, spacial awareness pretty poor, rode sound and looks lovely running about but he also is prone to random outbursts, like the mare they come out of nowhere and then go away as though nothing ever happened.

both have past injuries that have gone arthritic. I could have medicated both but chose not to. I x rayed the mare because i wanted to assess her suitability for breeding but the gelding we just put 2+2 together from his history and gave up at that point.

i'd def pursue this, a good neuro vet could probably give you an assessment just from a thorough exam with no diagnostics if you want to keep costs down.
 

GrassChop

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Yes, but if she has always been fed this then I wouldn't imagine it would suddenly cause an issue?

I would be on the same page as AE, it does sound neuro. Or could she have the onset of something wobblers type, and the fact that she is 'not well' as a prey animal is making her panic into extreme reactions and then losing balance etc as a result of ataxia? Have you done the tail pull/walk backwards type tests to see whether there is any present? I suppose the vet would likely have picked up on this if there was..
Sorry not very helpful, I guess I am more musing out loud!
Ah sorry, I missed that part about always being on that feed! Although OP said she has always been spooky so they could have changed something in the feed recently to make it worse, I don't think anyone ever knows what cereal straw they're getting.

However, yes this is an extreme reaction and I'm not sure if feed can cause reactions to this extent. I would say definitely look into neurological if you want to investigate but please wear a hat and body protector if you absolutely have to handle her.
 

MissTyc

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Always been on the same feed, and really only a handful. This horse wears a grazing muzzle to stay svelte!


The neuro / wobbler type stories and suggestions are what seem to align with what I'm seeing the most. I need to somehow film or replicate for the vet - she can be manipulated in any direction, does regular carrot stretches (never been flexible but is enthusiastic) ... Sometimes I feel her spine doesn't bend right.
 

milliepops

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there are various tests you can do as a lay person that would help to identify a classic wobbler, they're googleable - mine show up on different tests - the gelding massively shows up on the foot placement thing, you can put his feet anywhere and he doesn't notice. the mare corrects the placement. She is super super clever at going down hills, she really looks where she is going and so that was an indicator for her. whereas the gelding does the classic thing about slightly stepping up while going downhill. he was OK on the tail pull one side, but really bad the other side. it was a lot less dramatic for her. turning tight circles they both have slightly odd steps behind but that was less obvious. both were OK walking with the head raised up high and can back up quite well.

Her behavioural signs were more noticeable to me as an owner, whereas his clinical signs were more obvious if that makes sense. which is why i've kept her on as a happy long term retiree and his days are sadly numbered.

neither of them enjoyed trotting poles when they were ridden, they both got a bit flustered. and he has a strange away with the fairies thing going on sometimes in a way i've not had with any other horse. just mentioning in case those ring any bells!
 

MissTyc

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there are various tests you can do as a lay person that would help to identify a classic wobbler, they're googleable - mine show up on different tests - the gelding massively shows up on the foot placement thing, you can put his feet anywhere and he doesn't notice. the mare corrects the placement. She is super super clever at going down hills, she really looks where she is going and so that was an indicator for her. whereas the gelding does the classic thing about slightly stepping up while going downhill. he was OK on the tail pull one side, but really bad the other side. it was a lot less dramatic for her. turning tight circles they both have slightly odd steps behind but that was less obvious. both were OK walking with the head raised up high and can back up quite well.

Her behavioural signs were more noticeable to me as an owner, whereas his clinical signs were more obvious if that makes sense. which is why i've kept her on as a happy long term retiree and his days are sadly numbered.

neither of them enjoyed trotting poles when they were ridden, they both got a bit flustered. and he has a strange away with the fairies thing going on sometimes in a way i've not had with any other horse. just mentioning in case those ring any bells!

Ringing lots of bells, unfortunately. Too many. Hopefully we can confirm something, good or bad. Ideally good enough that can enjoy a retirement in the pasture. I've been around horses long enough to trust my gut when it's "not good"


Thank you so much for all your thoughts - I might share with my vet. We've known each other over 15 years and he birthed this mare, so he might be interested in my "raw" thoughts.
 

milliepops

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Ringing lots of bells, unfortunately. Too many. Hopefully we can confirm something, good or bad. Ideally good enough that can enjoy a retirement in the pasture. I've been around horses long enough to trust my gut when it's "not good"
.
i know that sinking feeling in your gut only too well unfortunately. it's rarely wrong, though you so desperately want it to be. hope you have a positive outcome.
 

YorksG

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I would keep a very close eye on who is walking past/ has access to the mare. We were very explicit with a new neighbour, but his girlfriend obviously thought the"do not feed the horses" rule did not apply to her!🤦‍♂️
 

Pearlsasinger

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Yes, but if she has always been fed this then I wouldn't imagine it would suddenly cause an issue?

I would be on the same page as AE, it does sound neuro. Or could she have the onset of something wobblers type, and the fact that she is 'not well' as a prey animal is making her panic into extreme reactions and then losing balance etc as a result of ataxia? Have you done the tail pull/walk backwards type tests to see whether there is any present? I suppose the vet would likely have picked up on this if there was..
Sorry not very helpful, I guess I am more musing out loud!

Yes it can. I was 40 before my allergies became serious enough to diagnose (well probably 38, it took 2 yrs to get a diagnosis). Looking back, I had been reacting to the same things for over 20 yrs, maybe even since childhood, but the symptoms were 'normal for me' and I and evveryone around me, was just used to them. I also found that there would be a build-up of symptoms, anexplosion and then everything calmed down for a while
 

Melody Grey

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I realise you’re uninsured for vets fees, but if neuro tests go well, I wonder if it might be worth x-raying back/ limbs/ neck (in the order of most likely problematic first?) If you could find something, you’ve got some answers and maybe something to medicate. If not, you’ve ruled quite a lot out and might feel more justified in retiring the horse knowing that it’s not anything you can really treat?
 

MissTyc

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I'm happy to spend money on her and will be doing so before making any decision. The horse is too "well" to be rash about anything, and given her lack of field injuries as compared to her ridden injuries, I'm confident that - FOR NOW - mooching in the field doesn't trigger her "drama spook" (I have no other word for it!). I was just really at a loss about where to start, and I don't have enough cash to just chuck it at random body parts and hope for the best. I think I have a plan to play with for now, so will follow the neuro avenue first and take it from there. Then X-rays if we can pinpoint an area of specific interest. If she can be made comfortable for riding, great, but my gut feeling is saying this is unlikely (I too have learned to respect that feeling somewhat!); if she can be kept comfortable in the field, then she's lucky since I have 40 acres for her to retire on and she doesn't need feed so.

The two hard lines are 1) if she can't be comfortable/is in pain, and 2) if she's going to cost a lot to keep healthy and happy e.g. if feed intolerance is a part of this and she can't live out on the grass any more, then that would be a problem for me but also for her, psychologically.
 

PurBee

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Re - sporadic neuro symptoms - that can be caused seasonally in summer/autumn due to eating fern plants in pasture/fence lines. It contains thiaminase, and depletes vitamin B1, essential for nerve function. If you‘re finding these are re-curring symptoms seasonally and she has access to same pastures every year with ferns growing along fence lines, it may be a cause.

Just throwing the suggestion out there, as many dont realise how debilitating bracken/ferns are to grazing animals - a farmer on the farming forum just lost a handful of sheep due to eating ferns. They gorged on them though so got neuro ill very quickly, and died. With small amount of ingestion the symptoms would show as odd neuro behaviour without killing the animal.

I used to use 1 field that was edged with the plant - my gelding was interested in it as a foal, i saw him try it and some edges nibbled, so it’s not unpalatable to them. Ferns prefer to grow at field edges where its shadier/damper.
It’s one of the few plants i make a point of searching for and cutting back.


Its mostly this type of fern thats commonly accidentally eaten:

1630672389633.jpeg
 

MissTyc

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The whole food thing is fascinating. She's always been an easy keeper so not something I've ever really thought about but will definitely follow this up as a parallel route to the neuro avenue.

"Sadly" (?) no fern ... mostly really boring lami-safe chalkland grazing with a couple of horse herbs overseeded! But you know never know. The one thing I have learned about horses is that absolutely anything is possible.
 

PurBee

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The late Appy had a horrible reaction to carrots, OK until pressure applied, thus one day, rocking in the middle of the road after eating some! They were removedfrom her diet after that!
Ive read a few times on here horses reacting quite severely to carrots! Makes me wonder why….carotene Perhaps?
 

PurBee

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The whole food thing is fascinating. She's always been an easy keeper so not something I've ever really thought about but will definitely follow this up as a parallel route to the neuro avenue.

"Sadly" (?) no fern ... mostly really boring lami-safe chalkland grazing with a couple of horse herbs overseeded! But you know never know. The one thing I have learned about horses is that absolutely anything is possible.
Worth a mention about fern anyway.

Maybe the alfalfa in the bagged feed she gets is culpable? Many mention on here alfalfa sends their horses weird behaviourally.
I understand there’s many proteins in it that can only be digested in the hind gut, whereas most other proteins from hays etc are foregut microbes digested. Many horses dont have the bacteria in the hind gut for the complete digestion of hind gut protein metabolism so can cause fuzzy behaviour.
Although it doesnt sound like gut issues would cause neuro-type sporadic episodes….the only way of testing is to cut out the alfalfa slowly….maybe also try a months course of equine probiotics?
 

milliepops

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My welshie's old owner was adamant that she was reactive to carrots. absolutely certain. they told me very little about her so the few things they did mention stick in my mind. I have seen no evidence of this and dish them out liberally!
 

YorksG

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My welshie's old owner was adamant that she was reactive to carrots. absolutely certain. they told me very little about her so the few things they did mention stick in my mind. I have seen no evidence of this and dish them out liberally!
It may well be linked with other factors in the soil/ grazing that causes the reaction. The first food reactive mate could eat alfalfa with no problem, the second two couldn't
 

milliepops

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No idea, that horse has lived all over the place inc abroad with those owners and different counties with me but they were a bit bonkers in general so i think it's more likely that they concocted it out of thin air! :p
 
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