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When is it time to give up on my horse?
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rachel
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 Posted: Thu Apr 12th, 2012 11:40 pm
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Dear Dr Deb and everyone else, I'd love some help with my moral dillemma I am having.

I have my beloved horse, a 11 yr old, 14hh, Qh/Paint that is a pleasure to ride and own. However he has some problems that are at odds with what I think I want.

I want a horse to ride, I want him to enjoy being ridden, and to be an enjoyable ride. He is good to ride.

The problems are he is blind in one eye, and has impared vision in the other. I can tell this as he runs into things in his paddock like his stable, or if the car is in there for any reason etc. He also trips often on uneven ground, and over sticks, rocks etc, and they dont have to be big. He is however very quiet and when in work does not act blind when ridden on even ground, like roads and paths.

Another problem we have is he seems to tie up, or colic or both after enforced excercise, and does spend a lot of time lying in his stable after a ride, sometimes up to a day and a half, only getting up to get a drink or toilet. He is not ever locked in the stable.

I have had a good vet check him for EPSM, PSSM etc, changed diet, excercise, other management and nothing has been found, he does not appear to have sand, and a rectal has not found any signs of entroliths. I havent had him ultrasounded.

He had a bout of colitis and salmonella poisoning last year, and I nearly lost him, and since has had no solid poos at all, they look like cow pats. Nothing has so far worked to cure that either.

He has cost me a lot of money with a good vet, has had almost every test known to man to no avail, is it time to give up, or do I just ride him anyway? My vet says he should be ok to ride as I dont ride him hard, and he enjoys it, but everytime I do he has something go wrong, sometimes it is tye up, and he is only on grass or grass hay ( a change of diet didnt help) or he gets colicy, either full blown cost a lot, or mild. Other times he has just lain down and doesnt get back up for hours. I find it hard to do to him.

It doesnt seem to have any correlation to length of ride either, sometimes a short ride will do it, or a brief lunge, or a longer ride. It just seems to happen every time excercise is enforced.

I do not have the room to keep him as a retiree, or the money for two horses, should I call it quits with him and give him a dignified end, continue to ride him and accept his limitations or something else? I have had him semi retired in my yard for two years and would love to ride again rather than just look at him.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Apr 13th, 2012 07:30 am
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Rachel, to begin with: you need to have the pH (acid-alkali balance) of the water that your horse drinks tested. Go get a good pH test kit, the kind that has strips that turn colors and then you match the colors to numbers; or else an electronic tester. If your horse drinks from buckets, test the water at the source from which you fill the buckets. If he drinks from a tank, test the water in the tank that he drinks from.

Then report back here as to what the results are. When horses are compelled to drink water that tests acid, they will have difficulty absorbing minerals and electrolytes from the gut, as well as certain nutrients and vitamins. This unbalances many body systems, and will commonly result in cow-flop poos and other problems such as you describe, including the tying-up and exercise intolerance/fatigue after exercise. On the other hand, water that is too alkali can also be harmful. 

What you want is for your animals to be drinking water that pH-tests just a little on the alkali side of neutral. Neutral pH is 7.0, so you want the water to test from 7.25 to 7.5 on the pH scale.

If you water tests acid, you will want to restore it to the proper pH by adding bicarbonate of soda to the water at its source, or else in a big tank if the horse drinks from a big tank. Bicarbonate of soda is ordinary baking soda (NOT "baking powder"), which you can buy for $1 per box at the grocery store. You'll add the soda bicarb a little at a time to the tank until the tank tests at the right pH. You'll need to test repeatedly to get it just right. Once you know how much soda bicarb it's going to take to neutralize whatever sized container you have, then you'll need to return every time the tank is "refreshed" with new water from the source, and add more soda bicarb to make it the ideal pH again. You'll work out a schedule over time where you treat the tank every few days, so as to maintain an "average" pH that's about right.

This initial step should be taken immediately -- certainly before you give up on a horse you've cared about and that is such a good ride.

You also want to make sure you know how much salt your horse is eating. You'll do this by getting a brand-new salt block and weighing it on a scale before placing it in his enclosure. Leave the block where the horse can lick it but in a place where it won't get rained on. After one month, weigh the block again and report the difference to us here. What you want to see is that your horse is eating at least 2 tbsp. to 4 tbsp. of salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) per day.

Further, you should immediately get your horse on a magnesium supplement. Magnesium oxide will work, although magnesium chloride appears to be better. You can buy commercially-prepared "calming supplements" that contain MgO, but since many of these contain other substances, you might be better off simply going down to the grocery store or discount store and purchasing magnesium pills meant for humans. Get the kind that are powdered MgO in gel-caps or gel-coated. Each of these pills contains 400 mg. of MgO. Break open one capsule and give it over lightly dampened bucket feed once per day. Since your horse already has diarrhea, we can't apply the usual test for when the dosage of MgO is right (i.e., just less than it would take to provoke diarrhea), so what I'll suggest initially is that you just leave the horse on 400 mg./day for a month and then report to us how he's doing.

Alternatively, you can get magnesium chloride (MgCl) by going to http://www.ancientminerals.com. Buy a container of what are sold there as "bath crystals" and administer 1/4 tsp./day over lightly dampened grain. Yes, the stuff is sold as for external use, but the product is quite pure and can be taken orally.

Magnesium supplementation will greatly assist your horse not to tie up, will increase his overall energy levels, and will help heal the chronic enteritis that is probably behind your horse's ongoing diarrhea.

You don't mention in your letter whether you've had the vet examine the horse for periodic opthalmia (so-called "moon blindness") but this sounds likely to me. So ask your vet whether they feel testing for this would be worthwhile, and/or whether an empirical trial of anti-helminthics might do some good. Alternatively, is the animal an Appaloosa? There is an inherited blindness due to nerve-degeneration in Appys. You will in any case need to determine exactly what is causing your horse's difficulties with sight, and only your vet can do that, beginning with a thorough eye exam.

There are many people who have had satisfying relationships with moon-blind and/or outright blind horses. If it proves that your animal's vision problems are untreatable and/or progressive, this again is hardly reason to give up on him. It sounds to me like you are somewhat pining for a more exciting ride and/or a sounder horse. That's valid, but you don't need to just throw in the towel. What you do instead is look for alternative work for him -- someone who needs a quiet horse to act as an "uncle" for newly-gelded colts, for example, or a handicapped riding program that could use him, or a mature person who just wants a quiet horse for the occasional trail-ride.

But first let us know how the water-testing goes.

And Pauline, if you read this, your comments would certainly be welcome. -- Dr. Deb

 

rachel
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 Posted: Fri Apr 13th, 2012 09:05 am
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Thank you Dr Deb for that awesome advice! I will test the water tomorrow and get the other stuff and try it and let you know how it goes.

I actually didnt want to give up on him, just couldnt see how it was fair to cause such discomfort for my pleasure.

His blue eye is the blind one, and my vet didnt think it was a problem because he is so quiet and agreeable. His other eye hasnt deteriorated, it was always suspected low vision. My vet did do a lot of testing on him over the years, and he didnt tell me it is anything to worry about.

I purchased him for $1/kg as an unhandled 4yr old stallion, that had never seen a vet or been wormed. He was an absoloute bargain and the best purchase I have ever made, except for my dog.

The local disabled riding cant have him because of his blindness, and if I gave him to someone who only occasionally rode I can certainly keep him for myself!

I have tested the ph; with the ph test strips it is 6-6.5, with my fish tank ph tester it is 6.5 to 7. I will take a sample to work on sunday to test with the calibrated electronic tester to confirm. Thank you!

Last edited on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 09:21 am by rachel

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sat Apr 14th, 2012 03:50 am
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Hello Rachel

To give you some background to this issue, around this time last year I started looking into the significance of drinking water pH for horses as I had been tracking the urine pH of my own three horses. Although all were fed the same diet, two of the horses consistently had a urine pH of 6.0 while the third horse had a urine pH of 8.5. Textbooks suggest that pH 7.9 is normal for horse urine. The horse with the higher urine pH has no problems of any kind while the two horses with lower urine pH each had significant health issues. Both have a tendency towards fungal skin infections, one severely so, while the other has Cushings and has been highly susceptible to laminitis. I wanted to know if this was just co-incidence or if there was some correlation with overall body pH.

Rainwater is naturally acidic due to the dissolved carbon dioxide content acquired from the atmosphere prior to precipitation. The global average is around pH 5.6 and can be as low as 3.0 even in pristine areas. This should not be confused with the ‘acid rain’ of polluted industrial areas. Freshwater from ground sources such as lakes, wells or deep bores is commonly slightly basic as it has been buffered through layers of rock and vegetation. Most town water supplies appear to be close to neutral or slightly alkaline.

Blood pH is very tightly regulated by the body’s own buffer systems which means that ingested acids from food or water have to be neutralized or eliminated through feces and urine. Like all living creatures, individual horses can vary in their ability to neutralize acids. It appears that some horses may not be able to efficiently neutralize the carbonic acid in rainwater on a longterm basis, perhaps because there would have been little need throughout their environmental history if they were drinking water that was predominantly slightly basic from running streams, ponds or lakes.

I was astounded at the changes in some horses when sodium bicarbonate was added to acidic water supplies. My own rainwater tests at pH 6.0 so I add enough bicarb to bring the pH up to about 7.2. One of the two horses who initially had urine pH of 6.0 slowly came up to pH 8.0 over a couple of weeks. The other came up to pH 7.0 over the same time period, and then up to 7.7 when 20g of bicarb was added to his feed twice daily. His severe fungal skin problems immediately cleared and have not returned, although he is still susceptible to insect bite allergy. The third horse who had tested at pH 8.5 remained at that level despite drinking the alkalized water. For the past year my horses have had a choice of plain rainwater or bicarb-added water. They all show a consistent preference for the bicarb water despite each consuming over 60g of unrefined sea salt daily.

Another horse located not far from you, Rachel, showed dramatic changes after 3 days of having bicarb added to his pH 5.0 drinking water, plus 20g to his feed. This horse had shown many of the exercise intolerance signs that you are describing in your horse. He had numerous tying-up episodes over many years, after very light exercise, had a braced body posture and was aggressive to both humans and other horses. Supplementing with magnesium eliminated the bracing and the aggression but he did not become exercise tolerant until the bicarb was added in to his daily diet about a year ago. There has been no recurrence of any of his former problems.

Doing an accurate water pH test with the electronic probe will be good. At one point I had 4 brands of pH strips on my kitchen bench, all showing a different result when immersed in the same glass of water. I now use a brand that has two reagent patches on the one strip with mostly 0.25 unit graduations.

Would you be able to do a urine pH test also? That will give us a better idea of how his body is handling whatever acidity may be in the water and/or food. If you can do a urine pH test, it’s important to do so before you start giving him any magnesium oxide. MgO is very poorly absorbed by the body (around 4%) so the residual will affect urine pH , giving a higher value than would otherwise be seen. Ditto for any mineral supplements being fed, or processed feeds that contain inorganic calcium or magnesium.

Although magnesium chloride is a much better form of magnesium for most horses, I think you would be better starting with the MgO as Dr Deb has already suggested. His gut may be irritated from the constant loose stools of the past year so the MgO may be easier for him initially (MgCl should not be given to horses with any sort of pre-existing GI tract problem such as ulcers, it will irritate those tissues in the same way that salt does). His extreme lack of energy may indicate a magnesium deficit as magnesium is an essential element of the basic ATP energy molecule in every cell.

Loose stools can indicate magnesium deficiency as well as excess, so it is important to monitor him closely when you start giving him magnesium. Cowpat stools can also be a sign of disrupted gut flora, maybe from the salmonella incident, and could also be a cause of low energy - have you tried giving him a probiotic such as Protexin?

The MgO in capsules for human consumption will likely be pharmaceutical grade which is unnecessarily expensive. You can buy MgO from most produce stores in 25kg bags at around $1/kg. Ask them to get one that is ‘fine mesh’ ie the consistency of talcum powder rather than the granular form of some brands – it will be easier for him to digest. Start with 1 tsp (5g) per feed for a few days, then increase it slowly if there is no deterioration in his stool consistency. I used MgO at high dose (200g/day) for years before discovering MgCl, with very good results. You are welcome to the half bag I have left if you have trouble sourcing some and feel like a drive up the Range.

I don't know if any of this is relevant to your horse but please let us know what happens.

Best wishes
Pauline

rachel
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 Posted: Sat Apr 14th, 2012 08:32 pm
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Hi Pauline, Thanks for the clarifications and more info. First is the easy one, he has had an entire bottle of liquid protexien, a tube and a jar, all at or slightly above the reccommended dosing rates for the full course. I also gave him tuffrock when he showed no improvement from the protexien, and then I tried yogurt, and then yackult. Nothing worked. He also had his bacteria in his manure tested, and we have tried lots of stuff with the vet, but really it seems to keep adding to the cost and no improvements have been seen at all.

He has not been bracy or cranky. When I was riding him he was lovely, and he seemed to enjoy his lessons, when we had them. The rest of the time I had a very nice, quiet well mannered for the most part very adorable pony that I used to trail ride. That tied up, or coliced, that I would often have to tie to a tree to walk home and collect the float for.

He loves people, and the children in my street come and visit with carrots as they walk to and from school.

I am on the Gold Coast now, and as such the water is town water, and seems acid and soft. I forgot my sample to test it today :( but will test it tomorrow.

Meiko still has his original pink salt block, brand new hanging in his stable, that he has not licked, in years. I do hose the dust off it, so it has shrunk, but he hasnt consumed any. When it was in his feed bin he ate around it and left what was touching it.  With his in mind am I better getting a different salt lick, or putting salt directly into a hard feed? The two supplements I have for him are below, and the dosages and chemical availabilitys are also.

He gets a supplement that contains Pink Pellets Each 15g dose contains 1000 IU vitamin E, 1mg organic selenium, with 26mg vitamin B1 and 1.6g Magnesium and the electrolites are copied below.

Directions for Use:
50g (2 measures) daily mixed with the feed, or diluted in drinking water. ( When he gets a hard feed, which he hasnt for months, I also havent mixed it in his water for months either.)


Composition:
Sodium chloride:  277g / kg
Sodium bicarbonate: 267g / kg
Potassium chloride: 198g / kg
Sodium sulphate: 45.5g / kg
Magnesium sulphate: 19.8 g / kg


I hadnt noticed any change with just this in the past, is this salt replacer ok for the purposes of the test? with the water at a better ph?


 

Last edited on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 08:41 pm by rachel

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sun Apr 15th, 2012 01:24 am
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Hi Rachel

Magnesium deficiency can manifest in many different ways depending on the inherited strengths/weaknesses of any individual horse. Some horses become muscularly braced but not spooky or aggressive, some become spooky but not body braced or vice-versa. Some show no signs other than poor hoof structure or itchy skin etc. It could be possible that your horse shows only lack of energy and disrupted gut function as signs of magnesium deficiency. It is also possible those same signs are totally unrelated to magnesium status, but it seems you have nothing to lose by trying.

One of my 3 horses will not touch the pink salt blocks but does accept 30g of Olsson's Macrobiotic Sea Salt in his feed; most horses love the flavour imparted by the trace minerals. It's available in 20kg bags for horses via your produce store but you might find it easier initially to try the 500g pack sold in most Health Food shops. If you mix this into a feed (start with half tsp), ensure you do not give him anything that is naturally high in calcium, eg lucerne, or has added calcium as this will inhibit absorption of magnesium.

I would not feed the Pink pellets, for several reasons. Unless your horse is showing distinct selenium deficiency signs, it could be dangerous to give him a selenium supplement - some areas of the Gold Coast have soils that are high in selenium. Most horses on pasture are already battling high levels of potassium so do not need more. Magnesium sulphate is commonly used as a laxative because it irritates the bowel into emptying; I would never feed this to a horse.

If you are using town water, it may turn out to be OK for pH, in which case you will not need bicarb, but let's see what the test reveals.

We can take probiotics off the list, and maybe bicarb too, so that looks like we are left with magnesium for a trial.

Best wishes
Pauline

rachel
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 Posted: Sun Apr 15th, 2012 01:57 am
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The pink pellets were for the PSSM theory, but after the muscle biopsy, genetic testing and diet change and no diagnoses I still have the supplets, and a horse that still ties up. My vet had suggested them, or equijewel, I have tried both.

So, I will change the salts, and not use the electrolyte mix, I admit I was lazy and picked up the bucket when it was suggested I try that last year, I will go get the Olsens salt.

With regards to the calcium, can I feed the Magnesium in copra? that way I will get him to eat the salts regardless, as it seems to be his favorite food.

I have also tried the this:

Mineral Mix Composition (/kg)



Calcium 127 g       Iron (ferrous) 2792 mg      Phosphorus 88 g      Manganese  596 mg    Magnesium  47 g     Cobalt 4 mg      Sodium 107 g      Selenium 8 mg      Potassium  38 g    Iodine  4 mg      Chloride 139 g     Vitamin A 250,000 IU    Sulphur 7.4 g    Vitamin E 1250 mg   Copper 945 mg     Vitamin B1300 mg    Zinc 2020 mg    Folic Acid 100 mg 




 


I have left all the product names off. ( except for one feed)

Last edited on Sun Apr 15th, 2012 02:05 am by rachel

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sun Apr 15th, 2012 03:01 am
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Yes, copra is an excellent feed.

The Mineral Mix contains several elements that will reduce magnesium uptake, eg calcium, potassium, zinc, and maybe some of the others also.

Contrary to current popular ideas on mineral ratios, my practical experience with many horses in various parts of the country has been that most do not respond well when supplemental calcium is included in the diet. My own horses, and others, have received large amounts of magnesium with no additional calcium for many years. Radiographs confirm there has been no adverse effects on bone.

Pauline

rachel
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 Posted: Sun Apr 15th, 2012 03:39 am
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Pauline Moore wrote: Yes, copra is an excellent feed.

The Mineral Mix contains several elements that will reduce magnesium uptake, eg calcium, potassium, zinc, and maybe some of the others also.

Contrary to current popular ideas on mineral ratios, my practical experience with many horses in various parts of the country has been that most do not respond well when supplemental calcium is included in the diet. My own horses, and others, have received large amounts of magnesium with no additional calcium for many years. Radiographs confirm there has been no adverse effects on bone.

Pauline

Thank you!

rachel
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 Posted: Sun Apr 15th, 2012 09:51 pm
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I have tested the ph of my water taken last night around dinnertime, so it should be a representative sample: 7.65. I do believe the test strips are not as good.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Apr 16th, 2012 03:24 am
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Rachel: OK, that's what good testing is all about -- we need to have accurate data before anything else is going to make sense.

Magnesium supplementation still looks like it's needed for your horse, as the tying-up-like syndrome and other signs match those of other horses who have benefitted from this supplementation. So please do all in that direction that Pauline advises, and I would encourage you to go visit with Pauline as she has invited you, if it is at all possible.

It might be just as well to begin with "one thing at a time", i.e. MgO, as you seem to have pretty thoroughly tried quite an array of things up until now. Please keep us posted as to what you do and what the results are -- your horse is important for our growing files containing "anecdotal evidence". -- Dr. Deb

rachel
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 Posted: Mon Apr 16th, 2012 04:22 am
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Thanks Dr Deb, did you want me to try the olsen's salt at the same time as the Magnesium, or to keep them seperate for a few weeks?

Edited to note: I'd love to go meet Pauline, it's a plesant drive.

 

Last edited on Mon Apr 16th, 2012 04:24 am by rachel

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Apr 16th, 2012 06:08 am
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No, I think you should do the Olsen's salt at the same time. What I meant was -- STOP doing any other therapies, so that we can get as clean and direct a result as possible; i.e. so if you're doing another magnesium supplement or another salt or salt block, you should remove those for the time being. And yes -- go see Pauline. You'll be impressed by all that she can tell you, and all that she has done.

Write me an EMail at office@equinestudies.org, and I will forward a PDF of Pauline's magnesium paper to you (and to anyone else who wants it). -- Dr. Deb

rachel
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 Posted: Wed Apr 18th, 2012 11:14 pm
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I have started Meiko on the magnesium supplement, MgO at 1 teaspoon a day so far, and a table spoon measure of salt. He did eat it in his copra, I think he is rather excited to get copra again istead of just pasture and pasture hay.

So he is getting a meal a day of .5kg copra, with a teaspoon of MgO and a table spoon of salt, plus grazing, plus 3 slices of pasture hay.

The grazing is Rhodes grass, barn grass, barb wire grass and wallaby grass, tiny amount of crab grass and cooch. The paddock has also been planted with prairie, but that wont be up for another couple weeks/months. It is nearly weed free, but none mentioned as bad in the poisonous plant book are in there.

See how we go.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Apr 18th, 2012 11:41 pm
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Rachel, check this with Pauline but I think your amounts are off. The "teaspoon" of MgO should be more like the teensy teaspoons that one gets to stir tea with, i.e. about 1/4 of a culinary teaspoon. I can't find above where Pauline suggested any more than that.

And as to the salt, you'll want to gradually increase that to 4 tbsp./day, the amount a normal horse would take in. -- Dr. Deb


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