Vet Report

Yesterday afternoon the new vet came out to give my horses their shots and check Sunshine for lameness. First off, I want to say that I love this vet! He's about an hour away from me, which sucks, but that's as good as I can get right now. When I called Dr. Frazier last week, I knew just from the phone conversation that we'd get along real well. He's a bit of a smart ass, but that's okay with me, cause I am too. ( ; He doesn't take himself too seriously, but you can tell he knows his stuff. Some people may not like that cockiness, but it doesn't bother me. Maybe cause I'm sort of like that, as well? haha

Anyway, on to the visit.

Wiley was up first for shots. I went into the pen and put the halter on him, intending to bring him out to the vet's truck. That's what most vets want you to do. Not Dr. Frazier! He just sauntered right in there with us. Its not a huge deal, but I liked it. It showed me that he's not afraid of horses at all (since there were 2 other horses loose in there with us) - I have had a vet before who was clearly intimidated by equines, and they knew it!! Anyway, Dr. Frazier's assistant (a 4th year student who was super nice) administered the shots and Wiley stood there like a champ. He's always good with vaccines, but you just never know what to expect with him and new people!

This was back in 2010, when Rambler was in training with a "professional." It didn't work out, sadly.
Next up was Rambler. He's always good for the vet and farrier, so I didn't anticipate any problems with him. In fact, I didn't even hold him while they gave him the vaccine; I was too busy keeping Wiley away, haha. Wiley is extremely jealous when my other horses get attention. He's such a brat. ( :

Finally we were ready for Sunshine, who also was excellent for the shots. (Can I just say I am so grateful that I have horses who are well behaved for vaccines, deworming, and the farrier?! I know what a blessing it is.) I told Dr. Frazier what troubles I've been having with Sunshine (I blogged about it here back in June), and at first he was confused. He walked her in some tight circles, looked at her confirmation, palpated her back and hips, and started examining her legs. I have a very limited experience with lameness (Junior has degenerative joint disease, so I know all about that, and one of Mama's old horses, Angel, had severe arthritis, and I've unfortunately seen several foundered horses, though never my own, thankfully - and that's my experience with lameness), so I wasn't even sure what he was looking for. I explained how Sunshine wouldn't canter - and it felt like she couldn't, not just wouldn't. He nodded like that made total sense (I feared he would tell me I'm babying her, you know?). I told him how I've always had issues with her canter, but that I'd always assumed it was because I got her when she was about 8 or 9 (we're not exactly sure; she's not registered) and she had basically zero training. Plus, she's half Saddlebred, so it has always felt like she wanted to gait but wasn't quite sure how (again, I assumed from lack of proper training). I don't ride gaited horses, so I've never been able to test that theory by trying to get her to gait. And I didn't want her to gait anyway. Give me a nice, smooth canter/lope any day!

Dr. Frazier asked me if Sunshine canters in the pasture. I noticed recently that she doesn't anymore. I'm not sure when she stopped, but I have noticed recently on several occasions when the boys were cantering/galloping back to the barn, Sunshine just trotted. She hasn't always been like that; she has always been a little lazy, but she normally canters when the boys do, especially when I call them in for feeding time or when I let them out in the morning.

I had eliminated saddle fit as the issue. I think I blogged about it, but a few weeks ago, I rode Sunshine out in the field (where she normally likes to canter better than in the ring - I assume cause she doesn't have to go in circles out in the open) bareback and I could still barely get her to canter, and when I did it was very ugly and uncomfortable to ride. She's been on a joint supplement since June 1 for arthritis, and I hadn't seen any improvement, so I was thinking either it wasn't a good enough supplement for her, or she didn't have that particular joint disease.

I've also noticed that she "pops" when she moves sometimes, especially if she's been standing still for a while. Again, I figured that was arthritis, cause that's how Angel always sounded in her knees (her knees were humongous with the disease, and she was sound at the walk, but couldn't go faster than that without pain). You can hear a pretty loud popping /clicking noise, but I've not been able to pinpoint where exactly its coming from with Sunshine.

Anyway, Dr. Frazier felt of Sunshine's ligaments around her stifle and knew immediately what was going on. He had me feel them, as well, and it was obvious to me that something was weird, but I had no idea what. Sunshine has Intermediate Upward Patellar Fixation. What a mouthful. (I found a good article on it, here.) Basically, the ligaments on the inside of her patella are way too tight. In fact, they feel more like bones than ligaments. Dr. F had me feel Wiley's in comparison, and what a difference! My poor Sunshine. He said she is mechanically incapable of cantering since her ligaments are so tight. Her right is worse than the left, which makes sense because she's always been worse to pick up the left lead (making her right hind have to stretch out more on a circle).

Luckily, Dr. F said this condition doesn't cause her any pain, it just makes it impossible for her to do certain things. She likely has trouble with hills, too, but there are no hills around for me to test that theory. And since the trot is such a different action for the stifle ligaments, she doesn't have any trouble with that. Backing up should also pose a problem. And come to think of it, she has always been reluctant to back, and I do hear an audible pop when she backs up - which is probably her medial ligament snapping back out of the locked position.

He said she doesn't have a classic presentation of UPF (of course she doesn't, she's my animal), but he's pretty confident that's what she has. In severe cases, you'll see the horse drag that leg when she walks, and if you don't actually catch that, the hoof normally shoes a wear pattern from being dragged. Sunshine's is not that severe, but she's probably on her way there, if the hardness of her ligaments is any indication. I asked what causes this condition, and Dr. F said no one's certain yet, but different things can attribute to it. He says he sees it in a lot of post-legged horses, and I'd never thought about it, but if you look at the picture above you can clearly see that she is a bit post-legged. He also said it was genetic, and she's been like this her whole life, which really made sense with me, given our history of canter struggles. I guess its just been slowly getting worse over time.

I did some research this mornin and found that physically unfit horses can get this condition, too, and one of the cures for it is to get the horse back into shape, and especially the stifles (hill work, trot poles, cavalletti). That makes sense, too, since Sunshine is so out of shape right now. She's never confined to a stall, so she walks a lot, which probably has kept her from gettin too bad yet. So now my goal is to work on strengthening her stifles. We don't have any hills around here, but I have plenty of trot poles and the ability to set up cavalletti. And that stuff is fun to me, so I won't mind doing it. The problem will be trying to find time to actually ride her. :/ Maybe I need to try again to ride before work in the mornings...

Anyway, Dr. F recommended a shot of ECP (estradiol cypionate), which is supposed to work to loosen tight ligaments. When I heard the word "estradiol," I immediately asked if this was gonna make her go into heat or act more marish than she already does. He chucked and said no. But I researched it this morning, and the drug is used to make mares go into heat, and all the other uses listed also have to do with their cycles and pregnancy. So we'll see how it affects her. I did read, though, that sometimes it completely chills a mare out. Sunshine's already getting more chill the older she gets, but less hormonal would never be a bad thing. Dr. F said to keep riding her and keep asking for the canter, and if in 4 weeks she's not improved, we'll move on to the next step. According to him, that is to inject the same drug directly into the ligaments (yesterday he did an IM shot). I'm sure 10 different vets will give you 10 different opinions on treatments for UPF. But Dr. F seemed to know exactly what he was talking about, so I trust him. My hope is that this one shot did the trick, and getting her back into shape will prevent it from happening again.

So I feel a lot better now that I know what's wrong with my girl. I'm glad its not arthritis, or a non-healing injury, or behavioral (though she may have some behavioral issues cause she thinks she still can't canter even though hopefully she will be able to). And I'm glad she's not in pain. So wish me luck on getting her back in shape, and pray that this shot fixed her up!!

I feel like I have to blog about Junior's visit with Dr. F, as well. As some of you know, Junior used to live at my house until a year or so ago, when Mama purchased a new horse, Sixx, and didn't want him to be alone. So she took Junior back (who was originally her horse anyway). Even though Junior's not mine anymore, I still have a bond with him (boy, me and him have had some good times!), and I go see him whenever I go to Mama's.

This was taken last year, right before Junior went to live at Mama's again.
Mama said Junior has been lame the past several days, but I hadn't seen him. I just assumed she was overreacting (as usual), so I brushed it off. Well, I went with Dr. F to Mama's house after we were done with my horses. My cousin trotted Junior off and boy was he lame. :( Poor baby. I could tell he was off in the front left and the right hind (the right hind is where he has the joint disease, so that was no surprise). Dr. F did an exam of his front legs, and ended up doing a nerve block on his foot. That completely took away the lameness (in the front end). He mentioned navicular, but he doesn't want to make a diagnosis yet, since there's so many things that could be wrong in the heel area. He put Junior on a pain medicine for a few days to see how he goes, then he'll go from there. Most likely, Mama will end up having to put corrective shoes or a slight wedge on Junior's front feet. And hopefully that'll fix him up. Dr. F didn't have much time after all that, plus he wanted to address one problem at a time, so he didn't do anything about Junior's right hind. I told him that Junior hasn't had a joint injection for the degenerative joint disease in 4 years, so its probably time for another one. He agreed that's probably the case, but wants to do x-rays and compare them with the old ones to see what's changed in there. Boy, am I glad I'm not payin Junior's bills anymore! haha I do feel bad that my old boy (he's not even old, he's only 17) is in pain. I hate seein a horse in pain like that. They can't do like dogs and hop around on 3 legs when one hurts.

Then you have Mama's horse Sixx. What a mess. He has way too many problems to list. We had to give him a shot of corticosteroids before he could get his vaccines, because he's prone to anaphalactic shock. Luckily, that did the trick, and his other issues are well-maintained right now. That's another one I'm so glad I don't have to pay the vet bills for! He's a really nice horse, and he is supposedly trained in low-level dressage, but I've only ridden him once. Mama wants me to ride him more and see what he knows, but I'm too scared he'll break! haha

So that was our exciting vet visit yesterday. Oh, yes, I almost forgot. I also asked Dr. F his opinion on Sunshine's thyroid tumor. I first noticed it 2 years ago, and my vet at that time told me what it was and said there's not much to do about it. She said it may grow to the point where it interfered with Sunshine's breathing, at which point we'd probably have to put her down. But I've just been keeping an eye on it, and so far it hasn't bothered her at all. Dr. Frazier said he sees thyroid tumors a lot, and the majority of the time they don't bother the horse ever. He said he saw one grow to the size of a cantaloupe and the horse was fine. That made me feel better. I'm just gonna continue to watch Sunshine's and pray that it never affects her.

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