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I think we've reached the end of the road

(8 Posts)
frostyfingers Mon 02-Feb-15 09:19:17

I've had dhorse for 4 years now, he has had kissing spine surgery and I've been managing that and other ailments for all of the four years. He's primarily a hunter, that's what he and I both love, and the jumping that goes with it. Before Christmas he stopped jumping and I've had the physio a couple of times, he's been to the Vet Horspital and had steroid injections and we are now trialling bute to see if it will take away the pain that's causing him to stop. Nothing has changed and he still doesn't want to - he's sound enough to hack but not to hunt.

My issue is what to do next - I'm considering thermal imaging to see if we can pinpoint where the pain is but even then I'm wondering if this is just a "sticking plaster" cure - we can find and treat (hopefully) but what will go next? The vet has said that this is a common occurence with KS surgery - that bit is cured, but the issues move elsewhere - Sacro Iliac, pelvis, hocks.... I've used all my insurance, and more, and although want the best for him and just not in a position to carry on for ever with no end in sight.

The vet has said that he's not suitable for field retirement, he needs the muscle tone to support his back and mentally (TB) it would do his head in, he hates doing nothing. She has also said that the problems will only get worse..... I could try and find a loan home for him but his needs are very particular (has to be kept fit, can not be hauled out intermittently, can't work in a school as he's not bendy (!), can't jump, very definitely not for a novice) and I'm just not sure such a home exists. He's not even 13, he's a sweetheart and I love him to bits and am in such a quandary as to where to go next. My heart says carry on investigating, my head says take a step back and think logically.

He looks fabulous, he's fit and otherwise well (COPD, lumpy legs and a tendency to mud fever aside), it seems so wrong to even be thinking about putting him to sleep.

My current plan is to keep him on bute, exercise him lightly and see if some sunshine on his back over the summer will do it - I can't turn him away for a proper rest as he will lose muscle condition. The whole thing is a nightmare and congratulations if you've got to this far, it helps just writing it out if nothing else.

Here's a pic of him from just before Christmas, mad but beautiful (to me anyway!).

mrslaughan Mon 02-Feb-15 13:42:10

Oh Frosty - I have read the tribulations of your v horse over the years and I really feel for you. It is just such an awful position to be in.
No advice - just hugs......

Goneintohibernation Mon 02-Feb-15 13:52:31

He does look gorgeous, and very well. Re the jumping, is it likely that it is not pain stopping him jumping now, but the memory of the pain? Most TB's I have met have been sensitive souls, and they do seem to remember anything unpleasant for a very long time.

I think in your shoes, I would look for a loan home, albeit from what you have said you would be lucky to find one. If you couldn't find one, I don't think you would be wrong to seriously consider PTS. It sounds like you have tried everything you can, and realistically, sad though it is, things are not going to get better for him, and you do not have a bottomless pit of money!

frostyfingers Mon 02-Feb-15 17:56:52

Thanks both, it's horrible even though I knew it would happen sometime. I think I might give him some bute Weds/Thurs and hire a school for Thurs to see if he can pop some little poles on a nice surface and maybe that will convince him it doesn't hurt any more. The reality is though that he can't have a proper working life if he has to have bute to function, and if we can't deal with what's giving him the pain long term. He will, whatever happens have a summer of lovely grass, fun rides and general hacking.

I've started putting feelers out and have a couple of people in mind so maybe, just maybe luck will be on our side - even if it's only to give him another year or two.

PixelLady42 Tue 03-Feb-15 00:02:57

Hi Frosty,
i am mostly a lurker on mn, but i felt I had to reply to your post.
Im sure you will do the right thing for both you and your horse. When you get a diagnosis like this it is so hard to come to terms with such wonderful animals that we build strong partnerships with having to make such drastic changes to their training, routines and plans for the future.

I agree with previous posters that there is only so much money you can throw at this kind of thing, and sometimes you have to say enough is enough. I think it depends somewhat on finances, but also on what riding goals you want to achieve, what your horse can cope with and what you are willing to compromise on.

I don't know whether this may help you, but a friend of mine had a 4 year old stallion (he is a rare breed called an Akhal Teke - they have a lot in common with TBs) who she had imported from russia.
A year or so after she first got him he was diagnosed with extremely severe kissing spines (not just the spinal processes touching along the spine, but the whole spine itself was 'wavy' up, down, left and right - iykwim)
She is not sure whether he was born with the deformity or it somehow developed, but he was one of two horses she had at that time, the other was a 25 y.o companion she had got from a rescue centre.
She had him checked by the best KS research vet in the uk, who basically said operating wouldn't fix his wavy spine or the touching spinal processes, and he was a lost cause.

She is Russian, a bit alternative and very stubborn smile
If she had listened to the vets he probably would now be in a tin or at best a field ornament.
She started off doing her best to learn what he could cope with and what he wouldnt be able to manage. he is a special personality (given the opportunity he will bite most people he meets! ) so he was quite a challenge to work with. she did a lot of research online and had his back muscles checked by a physio every 3-6 months.
To start with she gave him a break and did not ride for 6-12 months.
- it sounds like you are beyond that stage though, as your Dhorse is already fit and his back muscles are relatively strong.

She learned about a training aid called 'kavalkade rein', which she lunged him with several times a week. This made a big difference to his back muscles as it helped them to strengthen and develop. It may help your Dhorse to do this to keep his mind working and give you something to do with him? Once she had done some strengthening work, she started to bring him in to light hacking work again.

Another thing she then learned about was a different, starting off in hand, training method called 'Straightness Training'. It is a series of groundwork and ridden exercises that are used to develop your horse and allow it to carry itself better. She has found this has also made a big difference to his ability to be kept in ridden work. It keeps his mind busy as he is having to think about movements she is asking him (e.g shoulder in or quarter in from one side of the lane to to the other they are riding along), she does them mostly ridden with him as he will happily take a chunk out of you if you stand too close to him on the ground smile

She doesnt really do much if any ridden work in the arena with him as when she first had him and didn't know so much, she paid a 'dressage' trainer to come and school him. the trainer hauled his head in and 'put' him in the correct position, but this was the worst thing for his spine as he hollowed and firstly as a young horse wasnt really strong enough to immediately go like that as the rider should develop collection gradually (and not from hauling in the front end...), and also having undiagnosed KS made it a lot worse. The trainer rode him a few times, each time the horse got more and more uncomfortable and reacted to the rider trying to force him in to 'collecting' and the trainer eventually refused to come back as he said the horse was dangerous. Since then he has been quite dangerous to ride in the school, as she thinks he remembered the pain the trainer caused and connects it with ridden schooling in the arena.

So, she does all her straightness training schooling out hacking. She built him up to longer and longer hacks, and, as hacking near where she lives isn't brilliant (lots of roadwork), decided to join an endurance ride. He is now 11, and she has built up to successfully completing 40km competitive endurance rides.

Sorry - that is rather a long story! But I guess, i am trying to say that there may possibly be another way to keep doing things with your Dhorse depending on his KS development.
You may have to give up hunting him, as I think my friends KS vet said jumping is not advised due to the strain it puts on the spine. But, can you not aim for something else instead, or find someone who is happy to do that? There are other disciplines you can try if you want to keep him in work.

I used to share a 16.2 warmblood and loved nothing more than jumping (though I only got up to 2'6 as I am a wimp - the horse I shared was more than capable :D ) then my mum bought a 14.2 gaited horse which is far from a jumping type. For various reasons I took over riding it, and I now do non competitive endurance myself, and also some showing (though we are rubbish at it) and straightness training, as i have seen how much it has helped my friends horse, so I think it can do nothing but good for a 'normal' horse without any issues.
I don't miss jumping at all as I love all the scenery I see doing the endurance rides, and i love the challenge of constant learning and improvement the straightness training schooling brings (for myself and my horse!)

Anyway, I hope that helps you and your Dhorse in any way - i again apologise for being a terrible rambler. i'll shut up now!

yoshipoppet Tue 03-Feb-15 15:05:11

Frosty, you obviously know this already but there's no harm in saying it 'out loud' - there are many worse fates than being put to sleep, for a horse. If you do decide to do this, your horse will not suffer, at least. Hope it all works out for you.

frostyfingers Tue 03-Feb-15 16:06:43

I'm still mulling things over - it's going round and round in my head pretty much 24/7.....

I'm going to try thermal imaging to see if we can pinpoint exactly where the pain is and then take it from there. Meanwhile he's on a light dose of bute to keep him comfortable, although he's not actually lame.

ColdJerseySpud Mon 09-Feb-15 14:12:28

Im with the others really, once you know you have done everything you know you can, then maybe it is kinder to pts

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