Lameness exam for (basically) pasture pet?

Am I crazy to have the vet out for a full work up?

Short version: horse that has been basically sitting in the pasture is ridiculously body sore and NQR, despite no riding and no acute injuries.

Long version: Horse is 9 and has been doing a lot of nothing for the better part of two years. Wasn’t doing a ton before (mostly short trail rides and w/t). Has some preexisting issues that are mild (loose stifles) and since retiring from an unimpressive racing career at 3 has been puttered around, with one summer in training and hopping around the 2’9” a few times.
Recently moved to a new barn in the interest of getting him back in shape with help from a trainer, but have only been handwalking hills and poles while searching for a saddle that fits us both.
Horse is definitely ulcery based on dropping weight and behavior - treating for them has fixed these issues in the past. I’ve started the Nexium protocol again but staff feeding supplements has been inconsistent (has been addressed - miscommunication between week and weekend staff) and now he is not finishing his grain (coincides with adding a ridiculously tiny bit of MSM to his supps - he’s leaving the feed that has the powder behind). Basically, he’s really only been on ulcer treatment for a consistent 5 days.
Had the massage therapist work on him today and she could barely touch him. His back/ribs were tolerated for a bit on the left, not on the right, and she got some good work on his hamstrings/general hind end. Couldn’t even get near his hips, neck or chest. Apparently his shoulder was slightly more tolerable but still.

Can ulcers really cause this much overall soreness? Specifically the neck issues surprised me. Last massage therapist (who first saw him while we treated ulcers as well) could do his neck but nothing further back.
Previous barn did haynets which is the first time for us, and he would get pretty violent with it. Could this cause neck issues this badly?
I’m also thinking I should get him Lyme tested.

I guess my question is, in the interest of not giving in to my instinct to throw everything and the kitchen sink at my horse, does it make sense to have the vet out to do a full lameness evaluation? He’s due for teeth (should happen in two weeks), hasn’t been consistently getting his ulcer meds (hopefully that’s addressed with staff and I’m removing the MSM for now), new barn, new routine, etc. but I just have this feeling something else is going on. He has these ridges on his spine behind the saddle, and a bit of a wonky way of going behind. I’d like to pin it down but I’m also afraid there’s so many variables it’s better to wait and see what shakes out.

My OTTB looked crippled because of his ulcers. The compensatory movement patterns he developed to cope with the pain in his stomach threw everything else out of whack. Our local vet was convinced it was a torn ligament in his SI. 6 months of aggressive ulcer treatment/management and shoeing changes, and he’s a completely different animal. Happy and sound.

I don’t think you’re crazy for wanting to get to the bottom of your horse’s discomfort. Ruling out Lyme is never a bad idea when you’re dealing with non-specific body soreness, as are checking hoof angles and trim situation. Could you try feeding his hay from the ground for a couple weeks and see if that helps him any?

In my experience, most vets are receptive if you’re frank with them about your goals for the horse. If you request a conservative treatment plan to start, that may help avoid the kitchen sink situation.


Horse is fed on the ground at new barn. He’s a pig but seems to be cleaning it up for the most part. Definitely going to try to avoid the hay net if possible.
I’m thinking if he doesn’t show improvement with the Nexium (which worked last time) in a week or so I’ll do a trial with just ulcergard for a few days and see if that changes anything. That will get us to fall shots/teeth day just about.
What I do after that is still up in the air.

You might also want to check for epm. My mares first symptom was girthyness and grumpiness. She would stand a bit funny behind, but wasn’t lame and in fact was happy to work, but don’t touch her. Did all the usual. Ulcer supplement, saddle fitting, chiro, massage. She was sore all over. Left side a bit worse than the right. Epm diagnosed by blood test at Pathogenes in Florida. Mare treated using their protocol. (I can’t remember the drugs names, but it wasn’t Marquis). Within a week I had my happy mare back. Unfortunate that it took 9 months to figure her out. Hope you get yours figured out more quickly!

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I agree to test for EPM and Lymes and then ask the vet if there is any other scary condition that the symptoms match. Beyond that, I would give time for the ulcer treatment to take effect before digging any deeper. If he is sore all over, it will take him time to learn to re-adjust his muscle memory once he figures out that he is no longer sore. I’d say if you can keep the ulcer treatment consistent for the full course of treatment, then try again with massage and start him moving more. Then call the vet if there is no significant improvement. Good luck!

That’s exactly this guy. Loves to work, happy to go out and do things, but don’t touch him. Grooming is something he suffers through (if I groom in his stall with hay in his face he will let me do anything with just some tail swishing), and he’s been backsore for months? Years? In varying degrees with no specific cause due to not being ridden.

I did recently get a new farrier and after one trim I’ve been cautiously optimistic she can do some good. We will be putting hind shoes on next cycle to help with lateral support (he walks a tightrope with the left hind and swings the right out, we are trying to address any foot soreness with an eye on shortening the toe).

I’d never considered EPM, is this something I can ask the vet to test for? I want to pull for Lyme and anything else when they’re here for fall shots since it’s a massive amount of horses getting done and the farm call will be like $5 :joy:

Tightrope! I didn’t know of how to describe how my mare stood, but that describes it perfectly. She would stand with her right rear in front of her left rear like on a Tightrope while she ate. She stands normally now. She has also developed 2 bouts of polyneuritis after initial treatment, but since I know her early warning signs, (girthy and sensitive to touch), I’ve been able to treat it right away. My vet says it may be a chronic condition that pops up occasionally.

A lot of the bigger vet clinics and universities don’t think you can test for EPM with a blood test, but my vet does and uses Pathogenes. I live in a rural area and most people can’t afford to do a spinal tap or afford Marquis, which doesn’t always work anyway. My vet has been able to fix a large number of back yard horses using their protocol.

Yes, you can. The Cerebral Spinal Fluid test is the gold standard for diagnosis, but most of the vets I’ve worked with are willing to treat based on positive blood test + clinical symptoms on neuro exam.

Definitely not crazy! While I might not send my pasture pet in for surgery or an MRI, I am committed to keeping him healthy and comfortable. That means a reasonable investigation whenever something changes in his health/soundness.

Did your EPM horse show neuro signs? He doesn’t really but I haven’t put him through a full neuro exam recently. It’ll be on the list for the lameness work up regardless but I’m curious.

My mare had no neurological symptoms at all
She was just girthy, sore, sensitive and crabby. She is 7 and I’ve had her since she was 6 months. She is normally in your pocket friendly and inquisitive. 10 days after the medication, her personality was back. I was never so glad when she started “helping” me muck stalls again. (Getting in the way and playing with the muck bucket).

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