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How do you know when a horse is just done?

I came here specifically to say what @Sarah616 did about EDM.

I just got home from walking a course. My ankle hurts now. It’s hurt for about a year now. It will likely hurt for a long, long time.

I don’t remember why it hurts–that is to say, I don’t remember hitting the ground on it, ripping the soft tissue, and then falling and hitting my head. I just remember swinging a leg over to tack-walk, sticking three immediate bronc bucks, failing to stick the fourth, and getting up to limp after her as she scrambled away panicking so hard she pulled a shoe.

I’ve had a lot of horse-related injuries, but that’s the only one I don’t remember.

She, too, started off the whole affair with a hind toe drag.

And I, too, wish she could have been a pasture pet forever.

But if your boy does have EDM–and I fervently, fervently hope that he does not–it is very unlikely that he will remain safe on the ground forever. Or even, perhaps, for very long. And he might hurt you, or the farrier, or the vet, or a barn staff member if you board… but he also might hurt himself out of sheer blind panic when there’s no one there to help.


I am SO sorry you’re dealing with this :pleading_face: Without going into a novel about my complex experience with EPM with complications 15 years ago, and from from reading a lot of these threads with “something’s off and I don’t think it’s just over feeding/not enough turnout etc…it will be better worth your time taking him to a full service clinic or hospital rather than piecemeal evaluations from a farm call vet. ESPECIALLY if you suspect anything neuro.


And listen to your “gut.” It does a pretty good job of synthesizing all your information, while filtering out fears and emotion and adding a big ol’ dose of common sense.


Ideally I would like to take him to the closest vet school, which is about 4 hours away. I’m hoping I can make that work. I know that’s the best choice for diagnostics.


And I will be an echo of @Sarah616 and @RooTheDay…a lot of what you describe fits with EDM. Sudden onset of explosive behavior when all other things have generally not changed (ie - you didn’t suddenly lock him in a stall when he had been out 24/7, etc.). is the hallmark sign. I’ve been there and lived through it.

I also got to the point where I was afraid to get on my 18h 4 yo…who had always been the sweetest and kindest horse until then. I was worried about handling him on the ground because the explosions became more unpredictable. His started off with some stifle lameness and some on/off front foot lameness we couldn’t quite sort out. I was lucky and I somehow sat out the two explosions under saddle that should have sent me to the hospital. My gut told me there was something really wrong and it wasn’t just a training/baby horse issue. But it was a hard journey to get to that diagnosis.

I would definitely get a really good vet clinic that has neuro experience and do what you can afford to in terms of work up.


I had an 18-hander who behaved similarly. Usually, fine, but started getting explosive, and ended up breaking my back when I came off during a bolt out of nowhere.

He had some odd ways of standing, and started to become dangerous on the ground (would just walk over you like you weren’t there, hit his own head on things, etc.)

Considered all the Vit E deficiencies, tested for PSSM, checked his eyesight, did all the things.

Finally, a myelogram told us what we needed. Plain films and a straight neck during the myelogram showed no problems in the cervical vertebrae themselves, but as soon as they flexed his neck during the myelogram, he had FIVE pinch points in his spinal cord. He was a Wobbler. At 12 years old.

Because of his increasing ataxia while handling on the ground and unpredictability under saddle, he was euthanized on the table during the myelogram (with the blessings of the insurance company).


Geldings can be dicks like that.
How old is he and what training level?
Are you sure he isnt testing his new human?
Of course, rule out pain

There are so many things here that suggest any number of potential reasons. I like the idea of a full work up, and here’s why.

I’ve been chasing reasons for why my talented, sweet horse has been so unhappy under saddle for a few years now. We’ve done everything you could think of and considered EDM, MFM, PSSM. Xrayed everything, ultrasounded everything, bone scan, blood work, surgery on an OCD lesion in the stifle, IRAP, Prostride. After peeling back so many layers, treating ulcers like a primary instead of a secondary issue, trying to understand a toe drag that has been persistent for years, some steps that look neuro, constant grinding under saddle, head tossing, and bit grabbing with drama, here’s what we’ve found.


My sweet sweet horse has probably been in some level of gut pain for years. The hypothesis can be made that everything has been secondary to inflammation. Muscle tightness behind the saddle? Maybe trying not to move his back in ways that hurt his gut. Wonky steps? Again, protective/responsive to the pain of gas and inflammation. Grinding? Secondary to pain. What I’ve seen is that in treating the gut pain I have a completely different horse now.

I would definitely recommend looking at all the pieces and how they fit together … I am lucky here in Maryland to have an amazing specialist who comes to the farm, and maybe there is someone near you that could organize all the data and give you some thoughts.

I would also run an allergy panel and would almost certainly eliminate alfalfa from his diet.


Not to challenge you, but wondering why eliminate the alfalfa? Just asking :blush:

Generally alfalfa is higher in protein and energy content, and it doesn’t sound like he needs that. Unless he’s way too thin, I’d look for ways to give him less to eat in terms of energy/calories and more space to move.

He doesn’t sound like a horse that can get by with 2 days of work per week.

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Ok. Thanks

If he used to be on mostly orchard grass with just a bit of alfalfa and now he is on mostly alfalfa, I would start by switching that back. Some horses don’t do well on alfalfa.

For those that are curious, he will be evaluated by a specialist later this week. After that, I will know what additional diagnostics to move forward with. I lunged him again yesterday, he again jerked the RH and would then buck. Not explosive this time, clearly something is bothering him. I have also noticed he keeps clipping his heels, which he never did previously. I firmly believe something is going on and all these little pieces have a story to tell. I will update after his appointment later this week. :pray:t3:


I wish you the very best of luck. It’s not easy when they are telling you something is wrong, but it’s not obviously physical.

If he’s on mostly alfalfa you might also want to drop the outlast. Not highly likely in this case but possible to have kidney stones from too much calcium in the diet.



We made the decision to retire him. The vet agreed that it is in my horses best interest to retire. His shivers has progressed rapidly the past few months, and we will closely monitor him.

Interestingly enough, he rolled while the vet was there and the vet was able to watch him get up. He does have some difficulty standing after rolling, so we will very closely monitor him to make sure it does not get worse. We definitely do not want him to panic if he struggles to get up one day, and sleep deprivation is a whole other concern too.

He will retire with other horses and enjoy 10+ acres of pasture and lots of love and grooming.


No doubt your horse is celebrating your decision. :relaxed:

Your horse is very lucky to have an owner who cares so much about him. :slightly_smiling_face: