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Sheer Ecstacy update

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#1 Luthien


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Posted 04 July 2012 - 01:01 PM

Last winter I started a post about a horse with which I was having difficulties, Sheer Ecstacy (Icy), which unfortunately degraded.

The horse's previous owner, Amanda Ubell, and her friends, read that thread, I hope they'll all read this too.

I'm sorry, Amanda. The issues last fall had nothing to do with what you did or didn't know about her hocks.

The real problem with Icy wasn't her hocks - it was her back.
And everyone missed it.

Most of the clinical features mentioned here have been noticed, especially canter and engagement issues.
“A few horses tended to break to canter rather than increase hindlimb impulsion, whereas others showed a poor quality canter manifest as four-time canter, repeatedly changing legs behind, or becoming disunited. Clinical signs were invariably worse when the horse was ridden and sometimes only apparent under these conditions. They often looked and felt worse than they appeared even to a skilled, experienced observer. Many horses showed no evidence of overt lameness or marked restriction of stride, but to the rider, they felt as though they lacked hindlimb power and animation, held the back stiffly, tended to throw the rider out of the saddle, and found lateral work (e.g., shoulder-in, half-pass) particularly difficult. Canter was stiff and stilted, often four time and difficult to maintain. Some horses cantered crookedly on three tracks. Some horses were reluctant to work consistently on the bit. In some horses, the deterioration in gait when the horse was ridden was profound and dramatic.
Horses that bucked and kicked out often appeared relatively normal when examined, moving in hand and on the lunge, and they only showed abnormalities when ridden. The bucking and kicking behavior was invariably worse in the canter; however, in some severely affected horses, it was evident even in the walk. Some of these horses were also extremely reluctant to go forward. In less severely affected horses, kicking behavior only became evident when the horse was asked to collect and work with increased hindlimb engagement.”
Icy looks fine moving loose, but stands awkwardly, looks mostly fine when someone's watching her being ridden, but feels very off to the rider.

Based on photographs Amanda took just days after she got Icy, the spine prominences at the lumbosacral and sacroiliac joints were already present.

We know Icy hadn't received any ridden training before Amanda bought her. It’s not as if she’d been a jumper or racehorse.
This lead my vet and I to the conclusion that Icy injured herself in some other way, maybe being lunged for halter fitness, maybe when she loose in a paddock, or maybe when she was pregnant with her 2006 foal.

But she did injure her back, and little or no treatment was given. The injuries healed and scar tissue formed naturally, and during the acute phase Icy adopted a stance (camped under with all four feet) to help with the pain.

(photos from when younger)
Posted Image

Posted Image

Time passes.
Amanda buys her in the fall of 2008.
Whatever injuries there were have healed, a this point her spine changes were permanent.

Now in Saskatchewan, Icy went for WP training. For reasons unknown to me, her training was discontinued in the spring of 2009 and she goes back to being a broodmare.

I buy her and begin riding her in the late summer of 2011.
Under-saddle issues were a thing from the start. Many possible reasons: I’m a terrible rider (I’m not, but took lessons later on in the year anyway), she’s green, she’s not used to English tack, she’s at a new barn, I’m too tall for her, maybe it’s the saddle (tried six different ones thoroughly, no improvement), it’s the bit (eight different ones, no improvement), maybe it’s the feed, maybe she needs more work, less work, to live inside, to live outside.
Short of drugging her (Mare Magic, Regumate), I tried everything.

I had a vet look at her in December, who told me it was just attitude.
I went with that until nagging doubts led me to go online, and to the vet college library. I had found the article referenced above and had discussed it with people, only to be told "you're not a vet."
No, but who rides and cares for the animal? Who has literally hours of video of the horse being ridden, lunged, loose-schooled? Who has the time and drive to spend 60+ hours on research on one animal? Not any vet.

Spring of 2012, Icy stopped being ridden in order to try figure out what's bothering her. She won't stand with weight on all four legs - never has really since I've owned her. She has never once stood square. Trying to get conformation photos for the vet I positioned her with weight on all her legs, stepped away to take the picture, and the instant I stepped away she rested a hind foot, shifting sides constantly.

This matches what her back looked like, exactly: http://www.igloo.lv/...acroiliac1.html

Posted Image April 2011, pregnant
Posted Image Posted Image August 2011

I found a different vet and told him my concerns about her back, the bumps at the LS and SI joints.
He came out and looked at Icy, prepared with a better background history of the horse and my hunch about what was causing her issues.
He looked at the videos of her being ridden when she was 'bad' and when she was 'better but still kicking out and angry'. He watched me tack her up, lunge her, observed her moving and from above.

He said her hocks, which have never caused me any trouble, were fine and not currently exhibiting anything that would indicate soreness there, and that I was right, it was her back.
We discussed treatments, and the long-term prognosis.

Riding was out, done, forever. Horse is unrideable.
Sure, someone could get on her and walk around, but even at a walk her tail was swishing. Moving into a trot, canter, or asking for any kind of flex, bend, hindleg impulsion or engagement meant ears being pinned, kicking out with a hind leg, bucking, occasional small rears, snapping teeth, a pinwheeling tail.
She appeared fine to an observer. That’s fairly normal with SI issues it seems.

Broodmare was out, as 200lbs of pregnancy weight pulling down on a sore and already damaged spine made for no kind of suitable future.
[I have a theory that her last two foals were born 3-4 weeks early because her body couldn't take the stress of pregnancy any more.]

Companion horse? Even standing in her paddock she was uncomfortable, shifting her hind legs and looking like she was standing on a pedestal.

The fact was that the pain was chronic and the lumps on her back would be unresponsive to any kind of massage or chiropractor work. They'd been present for nearly four years, more likely a lot longer, and weren't going anywhere. She had muscle wastage all along her topline, and months of regular riding and proper feed hadn't changed it a bit.
Muscle relaxants were mentioned so she could live without pain, but the price was prohibitive.

This left only one option.

She was euthanized yesterday.

A necropsy revealed fused lumbar vertebrae, and bony growths/lumps on the tuber coxae.

The vet didn't think that opening her up back to the SI joint was necessary; we'd found two sources of what was causing her pain and a third wouldn't benefit in any way. For that same reason her hocks weren't dissected. The vet didn't feel her hocks related to her performance issues at all (no legal/mortality insurance issues).

Considering all the pain she was experiencing, her bad moments were pretty reasonable.

I thought ABN would appreciate the update and the discovery of the definite cause of Icy’s issues.

Now we know why she was difficult…she was hurting.
But not any more, and it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to witness.

#2 liz


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Posted 04 July 2012 - 01:10 PM

This is a very sad story indeed and I feel your angst. But the greatest sadness of all is that this wasn't addressed when she was younger and your mare had to endure such discomfort. You have been a good and caring soul to take the time and efforts to get at the root of the problem.

Everyone jumped to so many conclusions , and all were wrong. However, you were concerned enough to puzzle this out even though it appears it happened awhile ago. Bless you for that.

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#3 felina


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Posted 04 July 2012 - 01:53 PM

I am so sorry for the development, diagnosis, and prognosis and loss of your friend.

It is amazing how much horses tolerate, isn't it? I know the pain that human individuals have with back issues and that is simply supporting their own weight and not the mass of another individual.

Sad that it wasn't addressed when she was younger, but ignorance is often bliss I think. I think people don't always view muscular asymmetries and physical carriage as an external view of internal pain and stresses, since horses are fairly stoic.

Thank you for sharing, as perhaps the information can help another person that has a bit of a mystery horse. It can be so hard to reach a diagnosis when trying to navigate whether it's training, feeding, shoeing, tack issues, turnout, etc. Enough to drive a person mad!
Look back on our struggle for freedom,
Trace our present day's strength to its source;
And you'll find that man's pathway to glory
Is strewn with the bones of a horse.

#4 OHR


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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:03 PM

Poor baby. I thank you, as she would, if she could.

:bigemo_harabe_net-135:   :( 

#5 summerhunny11


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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:15 PM

Poor mare. I am so sorry you has to go through this and endure all this heartache and stress.

My love: JAZZ SAMIR 1993 Grey PB Gelding
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#6 mhtokay


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Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:25 PM

Thanks for the update. You were certainly diligent in trying to figure it out. So sorry for your loss.

#7 KL Phoenix

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 04:38 PM

So sorry for your loss. You worked hard to find out what was wrong. I only wish the putcome had been one that could have been resolved with treatment.

#8 BFF


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Posted 04 July 2012 - 04:46 PM

I had to go back and read the original thread to catch up on this.

In looking at the mares photos you posted it looks like what I have heard called a "hunters bump". I have known several horse
over the years who had them (I grew up boarding at a hunter/jumper barn) and they had great careers.
The most recent one was about 8 years ago, a half arabian gelding, who in fact had little training at the time when he was sent
to me on consignment. His prospective buyers were made aware of that and he was fully vetted at the reknowned Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in California and the vets had no worries that it would affect him. He went on to have a very successful career that continues today.

There are so many differing authoratative opinions on it, I can only go by the half dozen horses or so I have known with them and it really was not a big deal. Clearly from your description of this horses chronic discomfort that was not the case.

Here is a good article for those not familiar with this complete with differing medical opinions.


At any rate as long as you are at peace with your decision that is all that matters.

I am sorry for your loss and for the loss of a beautiful horse.

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#9 Donalda Marshall

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 05:06 PM

Didn't read the previous post you initially talked about but from this post you certainly did your best to figure out what was wrong. Very sad ! Sorry for your loss of her after all that......

Posted Image

#10 secondchanceranch


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Posted 04 July 2012 - 07:19 PM

Very sorry for your loss. Wish I could say I'm surprised. At least she's not in pain anymore.
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