Just a baby or.....?

So my 5yo WB mare is L-A-Z-Y - but only in certain ways:

  1. General lack of energy at the trot.
  2. Very reluctant to go into the canter - will pin ears and suck back when she feels the leg move back to ask…
  3. …but, sometimes, she goes right into the canter no problem. Both ways can happen in the same lesson.
  4. Once she’s cantering, she has a motor and doesn’t need much leg to keep her there - an assist when she starts to slow down is usually enough to keep her going.
  5. Other odd symptom is sometimes after a ride she will get “stuck” - not want to walk back into the barn or into the crossties, even though the ride is done and she gets to finish. She will plant her feet and act like they are glued to the ground, then will move off for 5-6 steps and then get “stuck” again. Doesn’t happen after every ride, but it’s bizarre when it does happen.

I purchased end of November from Florida, had about 4 weeks of good riding due to weather until end of January where I moved to a closer place that also had an indoor.

She started to present as VERY tired/lazy on her 5th ride at the new place - she went from day TO to all night TO but otherwise the same routine.

She had hocks, stifles, back, and feet rads done at PPE and all were great. PPE in general was great.

She was seen by the vet when it first started to present first week in February. Flexed fine.

We did 2 weeks of Robaxin - seemed a little better but not consistently enough.

We just finished a full course of GastroGard and no improvement (but I’m glad I did it anyways with all of the stress/change in her life).

She also does it sometimes with the pro who rides her 1x a week, but it’s harder to say if it’s as consistently since she only is on her 1x a week and I’m on her 4-5 times.

Some days, no trouble to very little trouble. There was no trouble when she first came up from FL. Other days, it’s a true stuggle/fight to get her to canter. Seems to be worse after a few days off, not better.

She’s in good weight, gets enough grain for her activity level and weight (1000lbs) - (we just gradually cut back from 9lbs to 6lbs of Kalm n EZ). She’s on good pasture all night, though vet said to put her in a grazing muzzle so she doesn’t puff up too much more.

She gets ridden 4-5 times a week, jumped 1x a week, at about 30 minutes on flat days and longer, more like 45 minutes, at her jump lesson 1x a week. One of her rides is a trail ride each week.

Someone mentioned that she might have PSSM - it felt exactly right, so I started to investigate. The Type 1 DNA test is out, but I doubt given her breeding it will come back positive. The vet came out to look at her go and said could just be lazy, could be PSSM - we drew blood and while the levels came back elevated, they were still normal, and other levels that indicate muscle damage he said were both fine - he said based on that he didn’t feel comfortable giving the diagnosis. Neither of us want to do an invasive muscle biopsy.

I’m posting more because I’m wondering if there’s some syndrome or cause that I just haven’t ever heard of. Maybe it still is PSSM2 and I’m going to start her on the protocol that isn’t associated with tying up / elevated CK levels just to see if it makes a difference or not.

My trainers both think this is just baby behavior. She’s a very laid back lady. My gut still thinks something else is going on…

What does the COTH gallery think?

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I would investigate ulcers and back further. Did you scope? You also should try to see if you can get blood drawn on a stuck day to confirm she isn’t tying up. In general, could be weakness, normal soreness but she’s just more sensitive about it being she hasn’t had a job for all that long yet, or some kind of body pain like GI, back, pelvis. Any correlation with any mare behaviors?

And it is normal for a laid back baby to sometimes ask, do I really have to? But you should be able to say yes and move on. If it persists, I tend to lean against it being just a training. Also planting when she’s told she’s done and you get off is unusual.


Have you ever tested her Vitamin E level?

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I think I’ll scope if the PSSM2 protocol does nothing as well, as that would be the next logical piece. She doesn’t have any other signs though, no girthiness or sensitivity in that area.

I would love to get blood drawn on a “bad” day, but it’s hard to predict when it would be… I could try on a day when she’s had a few days off before, as that typically leads to them… vet may not be up for it, though, as they have pretty much said there’s just no way to tell for sure short of a muscle biopsy.

She gets regular body work done as well as PEMF - no unusual amounts of soreness in the back or SI area beyond what you would see in a horse of this age for this work - nothing that makes the bodywork folks go, “Woah, this horse is a mess.”

She’s been on Regumate for about 2 weeks now, no difference in behavior either way.

My gut says it’s not just “bad baby” as well - and yes, the getting stuck thing POST ride is just so strange…doesn’t happen pre-ride.

I haven’t, but Vit E is part of the PSSM2 protocol I’m going to start, so we’ll see if it helps.

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Does the new place have deep footing? That can really tire them out and can cause muscle strain. Have you taken her off the property and ridden her someplace else? She might be up a little due to adrenalin but it might be useful to see if she exhibits the same behavior. If it was PSSM you would think that would have affected her in Florida and not just in her new place. What has changed in her environment in the new place?


Check saddle fit.


You could be describing my boy.

Cold backed a little, so needs to be warmed up to canter. Catch 22 that canter is the best way to warm up.

Training wise he must go forward when asked. This starts with leading. The same consequence each time with riding, a tap with the whip or use the legs. Not whip one time and legs the next.

After being told this I put on a grab strap and chose the whip. I really only had to use it a few times. Not at all the next ride.

@SusanO Yes, the place does sometimes have deep footing and that can effect her stamina. But there are two rings, and the other ring - while her trot stamina is better - still presents the same canter problem.

@jherold Yes, saddle fit has been checked and addressed. She’s in a Voltaire Blue Wing and goes well in the Tad Coffin tree/panels it has.

I was thinking PSSM the entire time I was reading your post. Ulcers were second in my mind.


Have you tried putting her back on day turnout (the same number of hours she used to get)? I’d give it two weeks to see if that makes a difference.

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RER (tying up) is different from PSSM. If she is tying up on the days she doesn’t want to leave the ring, you could potentially see that on a blood test. At her age, even a biopsy for the PSSM/MFM tests may not be that reliable.

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As I read your post, everything was saying PSSM2 to me. Even a muscle biopsy may not show much and come back inconclusive if she’s only having these “mild” symptoms.

I’d start the protocol and give it 2-3 months. I’d also test Vit E levels, even with the PSSM2 protocol as it will tell you how high you need to supplement. When we started my mare she was at 8000 IUI. She’s still on PSSM2 protocol but has been able to come down to 5000 IUI. Anything below that and her levels start to dip again.

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@IPEsq Based on the other symptoms that align with PSSM2 (exercise interlerance / poor performance, worse after rest, presenting after she started to be turned out on grass all night), I doubt it’s RER. Tying up can be a symptom of PSSM2 as well, and it’s oftentimes less severe than true episodes. The next time she’s really resistant and/or gets stuff coming out of the ring post ride I can try to have someone there to take blood soon enough, but it will be a challenge - but not impossible.

I think I’ll just start on the protocols ASAP and see how things are in 3-4 weeks. Dr. Valberg is going to email me the protocols for Type 2 horses without abnormally elevated CK levels i the blood. Thanks all!

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But if she had PSSM why didn’t that show up when she was in Florida or at the other barn? The reason I asked about the footing being deep was because I had friends that redid their arena footing. It was really really deep sand when it was redone and all of their horses blew out their hind suspensories in a matter of a few days being worked in that footing. I would definitely check her suspensories. Per the OP the mare was fine in the other barn and in Florida. So what has changed?

@SusanO In Florida she was turned out on a dirt lot, so no access to grass. She also wasn’t worked very much, only had 60 days US when I purchased.

Other barn her energy level started to dip sometimes, but it was middle of winter and she was out from around 9am - 4pm.

Now at new barn, she was outside from 3pm - 7am and grass was much more lush even in winter.

The footing is not dangerously deep, it just can get deep at the end of the day if it hasn’t been re-dragged. For the most part it’s great. When it’s very deep I usually just ride in the other ring that has shallower footing. Vet doesn’t think it’s her suspensory and she’s not lame.

From the very beginning, I suspected PSSM and it’s still the front runner for me.

Where are you located? Have you had your hay tested? What blood work have you run? Could also be worthwhile to talk to a nutritionist to learn how to balance out her minerals etc.? (I’m no expert and have no real life experience in this, I just started the deep dive into nutrition and am overwhelmed but intrigued)

I’m in the Central VA area - she’s wearing a grazing muzzle now so that will help with the grass situation for sure.

I’m trying to get the bloodwork results in full from my vet so I can see everything they tested, will hopefully have that tomorrow.

Hay will be tested, I’m working on the kit to be delivered. And I’m also working with a nutritionist to get that piece dialed as well - but the Kalm n EZ is a great complete feed so I doubt she’s deficient in any of her needs were she not to have PSSM - I think that WITH PSSM she does need the extra muscle support.

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How long does she plant after rides? I’m kinda thinking she may be exhausted. For sure do all the tests you are planning, but to me???This sounds like a young horse that is being physically asked to do too much. I realize I’m swimming upstream and to a lot of people, 5 is fine for 5/6 rides a week. I think if she is a young 5, I would aim for 3 to 4 rides and back off the jumping. Maybe just poles for now. JMO
I’ve had a LOT of lazy mares. Planting after a ride would not overly alarm me unless I really couldn’t get her moving after a minute or so. I’m curious if she plants after her easy day(trail riding…which I’m assuming is walking with a loose rein). If not, I think she is possibly telling you she is doing too much.
I have done the muscle test for PSSM2 only to have it be negative and told it doesn’t always show up in the muscles until they are 8(for testing purposes).Maresie was 6. Kinda wish I knew that before testing…


If she was on a coastal I would imagine that her nutrients have changed drastically. You may need to balance her out and supplement. I don’t have answers, just sort of brainstorming out loud.