In 2014 I purchased Rio to be my endurance horse. He was everything a girl could dream of, a tall, strong, handsome Gelding, with a killer pedigree. And the best part, he has the mind of a saint. In June of 2013 my trainer found me a very nice Arabian gelding as she knew I wanted to get into endurance. (I leased him until I bought him in 2015).
The horse was being kept in a pasture with other herd-mates and only fed hay, teeth never done, never dewormed, feet barely trimmed. We moved him to my trainers boarding facility where I leased him, took care of him, and rode him for six months. He kept having problems with flies and habronemiasis (and a swollen sheath) but was otherwise fine. He is an amazing horse and I fell in love with him.
Then literally the week I was signing the papers to buy him, the previous owner had him out lunging him and he pulled a tendon. I bought him anyway after having it ultrasounded, as the vet told me that it was very mild and he should be back to full work within 3 months.
I brought him home and did everything right for tendon rehab, hand walking, icing, tendon supplements, chiro, corrective shoeing, cold laser, later hot laser... But the tendon stayed "puffy" and several ultrasounds later showed that it was just healing very very slowly... no one could figure out why. Close to a year and a half later we still had heat and puffiness. He had always been a calm horse, but he became slowly more lethargic over time, but it was so slow I didn't really notice it. Also, he was still battling flies and habronemas, along with having a swollen sheath.
I finally decide to take his shoes off and start a natural trim with him, thinking maybe it would help. I was too inexperienced with horses to really know what was wrong, and neither my trainer nor vet could figure it out either. He was young, only 11, and his symptoms were vague and random. My friend Bethany recommended a great barefoot trimmer named Kimberly, from Los Angeles, and so she came and did his feet. She noticed he was very lethargic, (though I felt that was normal for him), and also alerted me to the fact that he has stretched white line on his hooves.
Hmmm, so now we have swollen sheath, tendons that won't heal, lethargy, and stretched white line. Now I am finally thinking something else is going on. At her suggestion we pull blood and test for Cushings, Hypothyroidism, IR, Iron, and do a full blood panel. I thought everything would come back normal because he doesn't really show any classic symptoms of any of these, plus he was so young.
Well we got the results back, and everything wasn't normal; he came up as having very severe insulin resistance (IR) with very high risk of laminitis. So that explains everything, but he never showed any classic/ typical symptoms. He also came back positive for Cushings (PPID), at 11! We were all very surprised. And again no classic Cushings symptoms, just the vague random ones.
The very first week we changed his diet, and already the tendons are back to normal size, and he is showing more signs of energy! I am SO happy we found out what it was before he foundered. We also put him on one Prascend pill a day to control his hormone (ACTH) levels.
Rio will have to be on Prascend the rest of his life, and have an extremely strict diet. He absolutely cannot have any sugar of any kind, no apples, no treats, almost no bagged feed of any kind, even rice bran has too high of sugar. His diet right now consists of about 15 pounds of Teff hay per day split into two meals in a slow feed net. He also gets a mash, twice a day, made up of a 1/2 scoop of LMF Low Carb Stage 1, a 1/2 cup of ground flaxseed, and either California Trace Minerals, or Arizona Copper complete. The two are almost identical, except the AZ has slightly less Copper and a bit more Zinc. I would love to add Heiro and vitamin E, but that's more money that I can't do right now.
At least we know now and we can manage it! Even though the bloodwork was $600, it was vital to his health and his life. We only have to pull blood twice a year now to double check his insulin, glucose, and ACTH levels. Which as of 2018 have been good, except we still need to bring down the sugar a bit. The only way I can think to do that at this point is to soak his hay, which we may start doing.
So even though I didn't get my endurance horse, he has taught me so much and is so kind he can't help but be my heart horse.
Our timeline looks like this: 2014 symptoms, 2015 getting diet and meds figured out, 2016 healing, 2017 tack walking and long lining, 2018 finally back riding!
We'll be walking the rest of the 2017 year to continue to strengthen him, and maybe, just maybe, by the end of 2018, if he's ready, we can do our very first easy LD.
I love this horse so much.