Neuro Horse, Maybe?


I am starting this as an off shoot of a previous thread about the struggles I have been having with my horse Middleton.

Our full background is on that thread and context for this issue as well but things have changed and I don’t want to stay swamped in that older one.

I haven’t been riding him hard and is in light work. Since I bought him, he has lost weight and muscle and isn’t putting it back on. I also recently moved to a new barn. Since moving, his symptoms have gotten worse. After not bucking at all from May when I bought him through December, when we moved to the new barn. Moving should have meant that he improved, it was a far better situation, however he has bucked more frequently under saddle since moving then he has before. He has also started bucking on the lunge, which he never did, and he is incredibly weak and has very little muscle and basically no topline.

One month ago we had a vet out, she did an evaluation and he was neurologically questionable. His inflammation numbers were high and she said that treating EPM would make the most sense as false negatives are fairly common and if horses he was around are now also being diagnosed, it makes sense. Two weeks after the treatment started, my trainer rode him. I don’t have a saddle at the moment, so I can’t ride much. He seriously let one loose and almost bucked her off. About week 2-3 on the Marquis for EPM, my trainer was very insistent that we inject him. We went ahead and did so. Now week 4/ the end of the Marquis, I was lunging him the other day and he was dragging one back toe, he wasn’t picking it up fully and the toe dragged.

I am very concerned because he should be better, not worse, technically. I am just very concerned with what I see, someone else mentioned it could be scoliosis or Kissing Spine, I just would appreciate any similar experiences or insight. I love this horse with everything, and it breaks my heart that he isn’t ok.

There is a lot going on here, and I’m going to comb back through your other thread when I have time. But the thing that jumped out to me is that he was a masters horse and now he has a light riding job. Depending on the flight and the hunt, this horse has possibly gone from working 30+ miles a week (and being fed accordingly) to doing what sounds like a lot of nothing. Many foxhunters also almost never ride their horse in the ring, or in circles, or lunge.


you have a presumptive diagnosis, not a diagnosis. You are chasing a possible diagnosis of a condition that is sometimes only managed, not cured. Without more knowledge you are taking pot shots

I would invest in radiographs both neck and lower back. Blood work

You need a vet who will invest effort to find and give you knowledge


I did not read your other thread so if I missed it I’m sorry but has he been tested for Lyme? Maybe you are not in an area that has it, but if you are, it would be worth testing for. I had a mare that presented with neuro symptoms plus weight loss and she ended up being positive.


I know, which is why I don’t know why he isn’t fat. He was sound and I was experiencing nothing wrong except for struggling at the canter, which I put down to weakness. He was successful and well muscled and in good condition as a fox hunter I’ll pop up a current picture


I’m curious as to how a master’s horse ended up sold to a sport/pleasure home. It’s been some years since I had involvement in hunting, but last I checked good field hunters weren’t often for sale and when they were for sale they mostly sold on to other hunting homes. That the horse also came with a disclosed bucking habit makes me suspect that something has been going on with this horse for some time.


It doesn’t really sound like all of a sudden. That’s a pretty long thread you have there. I suspect you bought a very fit horse used to doing hills and straight lines, the fitness deteriorated over a long period of time, and that, combined with asking it to ride on footing and do circles in ways that its now weak muscles aren’t used to, leads to a horse that feels like absolute crap to ride. Pony him cross country. Start with long walks. That’s what we do with the epm cases anyway so you are addressing whatever it might be. Get it fit, up the protein, then try circles again.


most of his history is laid out in the other thread but I will explain on here.
Owner 1: breeder, sold when he was 5 rising 6 to a trail/pleasure home
Owner 2: trail/pleasure home, lots of hacking and some low key fox hunting, owned for one year, sent to two pro trainers each for 30 days in that year because a buck was exhibited under saddle but with no noticeable motivation, they sold him to the people I bought him from
Owner 3: fox hunter for 70 year old master, really suited him well (galloping and jumping) except he did not like being around the pack of hound around and under him, they own a horse business and could not afford to keep a non/hound pack suitable horse or acclimate him when the owner is 70 and his daughter, who owns the buying/selling/training business, couldn’t afford to keep him and take the time to get him used to hounds while running her business and her father wanted a masters horse who is more seasoned, I trust these guys implicitly, she feels terrible that we are dealing with this and she is still involved, the buck of his was exhibited on the first day she rode him and never since, it has now re-cropped up since I moved to this barn

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I really like this idea, now that thankfully spring is coming the good weather will let us get out more. I will be trying to do more like this. I personally am not a fan of lunging so much, I think its not the best for them mentally or physically, joints and so forth.

Inject what? Joint injections? Most vets don’t want to do a steroid joint injection on a horse that is currently under treatment for EPM, whether a confirmed diagnosis or just because there was something questionable in the neuro exam and EPM meds are being tried.

Ignoring the medical aspect, and the weight/muscle/balance/etc for a moment, it doesn’t really sound like this facility is the best for you and your horse. If both professionals that he has bucked with (enough to warrant a discussion about, any horse might buck once or twice) have been at this farm, and the one professional is nervous to ride him (from your view point), there might be something in their program that isn’t suiting him. I would hope that a professional who you are paying to train your horse, especially when you aren’t able to ride much, isn’t going to be scared off by a buck, and that they would have some tool in their knowledge to help fix the problem, once it has been cleared up that he does or does not have a medical problem.

There are just a lot of question marks with the professionals and the people who are directly related to this horse, who you are supposed to be able to look to for guidance. It sounds like you didn’t really trust or know the vet who you had out, and it sounds like you’re not sure if the professional rider is doing the right thing by him. Did he get worked at all in between the start of Marquis and the time he bucked enough to scare the pro? Was he maybe fresh? As said before, you’ve taken a horse that had been working a lot and put him in a situation of minimal work, it wouldn’t be surprising for him to be fresh.


He’s adorable. I see why you love him.

What I don’t really understand is your reluctance to admit he’s neurological. His exam wasn’t questionable. He was neurological. You then guessed that it was EPM without doing more diagnostics, treated with Marquis, and expected him to work. He was neurological, he’s still neurological, that’s the problem. You can’t “fit him up” out of being neurological. You can’t fix everything around him being neurological and have a sound horse. The problem is that he’s neurological. Of course he drags his feet and bucks-- his brain and his body are not talking to each other properly. This is the problem (or one problem) you need to fix.

Why would a vet inject a horse suspected to have an ongoing infection? That seems really ill advised.

The other barn had a “spike in EPM cases?” What does that mean? I don’t think we got THAT info in the other thread? Confirmed diagnoses or just a bunch of people whose horses titered positive and decided to throw Marquis at it (which is what you did). In lots of parts of the country EVERY horse is going to titer positive for EPM. It doesn’t always mean much.

DMSO isn’t going to treat EPM, if he has EPM. I think odds are good he doesn’t have EPM. Or at least that that’s not the cause/only cause of his issues.

I am not going to repeat all that I said on the other thread but I think you need to do more thorough diagnostics and make sure you have actually resolved the issue (if it can be resolved) before asking this horse to work. It would have been delightful if a couple weeks of Marquis made him right as rain but it didn’t and now you need to do what most of us suggested before-- drill down on the actual cause of what appear to be longtime neurological issues that are not improving (or maybe getting worse). Playing around with neuro issues is playing with fire. Someone is going to get hurt or worse.

Go to Tufts. Figure out the problem. That’s the best solution here.


Except per the other thread the history sounds a lot shadier. I don’t think we (collectively) can necessarily believe this horse was doing well as a hunt horse. It sounds like a horse that has never been quite right that got passed around a lot with some “explanations” and then got sold to OP because her former trainer didn’t think she knew any better.


The thing that popped into my mind when I saw his conformation is that he is quite a long-backed horse. Does he present with back pain when palpitated, especially over the loin area? How well does his saddle fit? Could cause a bucking issue and also some symptoms that seem to be neurologic (along with poor topline muscling from pain interfering with his way of going)…my horse had a back issue that we thought might have been neuro related/EPM at first. Presented with a buck after landing a jump, also dragged one hind foot. Turned out his back just hurt. Got a truly well-fitting saddle and it was resolved. Worth checking out as not everything will show up on an X-ray.


Nobody I know has ever described a horse not comfortable with the hounds as a good field hunter. If the horse was any good at hunting, he wouldn’t be in a pleasure home.


I think you should go to Tufts rather than waste more time and money with a vet you don’t trust.

ETA: Just re-read your old thread. Unlike some others in the last thread, I thought the Marquis treatment was a reasonable avenue to explore first. But you did that and it sounds like he is still showing neurological issues. So it is likely that EPM wasn’t the cause if he didn’t show improvement with the Marquis. You need to get to the bottom of the neurological issue with more actual diagnostics. Vxf11 and Emily both had really good suggestions for you in the last thread.


This doesn’t make a lot of sense. I thought you said he was a field hunter for a couple of years, and they definitely do not last that long if they cannot handle hounds around them. Particularly for a master. Hound acclimation is something that is generally done before the horse starts actively hunting. Someone selling field hunters has both the time and the resources to do this.


If you’re a few hours from Tufts you’ve got EPM and Lyme in your area. We’ve had a ton of it lately (western CT). Marquis is the gold standard treatment fir EPM. Often there is a die off of the Protozoa 1-2 weeks into the treatment that is painful and uncomfortable for many horses - I’m very surprised your vet had you inject during EPM treatment and especially then.

Before you spend a lot more $$$$ I agree with others who suggest getting him in to be seen at Tufts. Good luck and update when you know something!


Eh, they can go along for a while and then one day that’s enough- he’s lifted a foot out or spooked or laid his ears back too many times and needs a new home.

Since this all changed so rapidly my first guess would be something like your saddle does not fit or he’s having a problem with the new facility. However if he’s neurological I would take him to the university asap. A local vet won’t have the diagnostic tools plus I wouldn’t trust the critical thinking skills of anyone who injected steroids into a horse they were also treating for an infectious disease.


The something that is off is that you have a neurologic horse. Dealing with neurologic horses is like throwing darts at a mosquito. They’re good, they’re bad, you try a different strategy, you stick one, and in a week it makes no difference.

I’m not sure why we needed a new thread on this. It just makes the information harder to track down. I do think there’s something shady in this story but not sure if it’s an issue of someone being taken advantage of or just so much information from the OP that I’m having a hard time getting the ducks in a row. There may genuinely be gaps of knowledge about the horse’s history that OP doesn’t know. FWIW, I had a horse that was suggested to be mayyybbbeee mildly neurologic. No bucking, falling, etc ever happened, but he had a huge spook and bolt and would drag his hind toes a bit. No pro wanted anything to do with him hands-on because why would they?


One thing I have learned through sad and expensive experience: Spend the money on experts and diagnostics first. I spent way too much time and money with a previous horse chasing down this and that and treating and hoping. Ultimately went to Big Clinic and finally got an answer. (Albeit not a good one) With current horse I sprang for an MRI early on which sent us down a different recovery path than anticipated(but good this time!)

In your place I would be going to Tufts or Fairfield to get answers I could believe in.