Sudden Lameness, Muscle Cramps, Demeanor Change?

Hi all,
This is my first post I am making here. I just want to start by saying that I am working with my vet concerning the problems I am having with my horse but wanted to look here to see if anyone has any advice or suggestions. The title definitely does not sum up all of the problems I am having with my guy - as such, this will likely be a very long post!

I have a 10 year old Appendix Quarter Horse gelding. I bought him when he was four and he is a great horse - incredibly quiet, great on the trails and road safe, everything I need in a horse! As of late, I have been having some problems with him whereby his usual calm, sweet demeanor has changed.

Remi’s disposition had changed and I had the vet out to investigate this. He was demonstrating some irritability when asked to perform upward transitions and was not acting like himself. Additionally he was reluctant to saddling and seemed to have back pain. I had the vet out multiple times and we searched for many possibilities of his change in demeanor. The vet checked his eyes, checked my saddle fit (had two vets check saddle fit, actually), did multiple chiro adjustments, used hoof testers, checked for kissing spines, prescribed methocarbamol to see if it would help if it was muscle pain he was experiencing, put him on omeprazole after suspecting ulcers, and did flexion tests. None of these things seemed to help or give any indication as to what was wrong. Additionally I should mention his teeth were checked (and are done regularly).

After considering all of these possibilities at my old facility, it came time to move Remi as I was moving. This was at the end of October and the weather was still nice. He still was displaying these symptoms, however, as soon as the cold weather hit here in Canada, I noticed these changes in his personality became even greater.

It seemed that as soon as the weather turned, he became even more grumpy and unwilling to work. He would lay his ears back at anyone that passed him in the cross ties, was very sensitive to touch during grooming, particularly on his back and belly where, when touched, he would throw his head up in the air and lay his ears back. Additionally, he was reluctant to saddling and during riding would lay his ears back and swish his tail when asked for upward transitions. He seemed incredibly stiff when I would ride or lunge, especially in the back end and just seemed generally uncomfortable. This stiffness was also apparent during farrier visits or when I would pick his hind feet, as it seemed very hard for him to hold up his hind legs (front legs are fine). He became very flighty and nervous which is very unlike him. He was also having troubles keeping weight on come the winter months, despite having 24/7 hay access as well as being provided grain (beet pulp and equilizer).

I immediately had the vet out and he suspected ulcers (I should mention that this was a new vet as I had to switch vets when I moved). Although I had already had him on omeprazole before, I was not about to rule ulcers out as I know that things can change, especially with this happening shortly after the move which I knew was a stressful event for him as well as his sudden inability to keep weight (I should mention that he is not deathly underweight but ribby which is unlike him as he usually carries more weight). He has been on omeprazole since that visit and some of these issues have gone away - he no longer acts grumpy when people cross by in the cross ties and is less sensitive to touch and all around seems more comfortable.

The vet had additionally wondered about some form of chronic pain, as Remi was very uncomfortable when the vet palpated his back, so had me perform a bute trial - the bute did not seem to make any difference in the ten days that he was on it. The omeprazole seemed to have made the difference, however, and I have no doubt that he was experiencing pain from the ulcers.

Unfortunately, although the omeprazole helped some issues he was experiencing in the cross ties and during grooming, Remi was still reluctant to perform upward transitions and was still quite stiff in the hind end (his stiffness in the hind end did not seem to improve during the bute trial). He was still quite spooky and just generally not like himself. He was still unable to keep weight on. At this time, all of these symptoms are still present.

I knew that I needed to have the vet out again to investigate some more. One night, I had brought him inside to lunge him in the indoor arena, just to go through the motions and see how he was moving. He seemed particularly reluctant to move. He was fine when walking, but as soon as I asked him to trot he would flatten his ears against his head. I kept watching his trot and observing his gait when suddenly his left hind seemed to just collapse underneath him. After this, he continued trotting however was VERY stiff behind and looked ten times more uncomfortable. I asked him to walk and halt and as soon as he stopped moving his shoulders, belly, and back began trembling, demonstrating muscle cramps.

At this point I wondered about PSSM after doing some research on it, and called the vet again to have blood drawn. I received his results today and the vet told me there was nothing abnormal regarding his blood results, apart from LDH being high (545, normal range 81-390), neutrophils low (2.32, normal range 2.7 - 7.00), potassium high (4.9, normal range 2.4 - 4.7), creatinine low (86, normal range 88.4 - 176.8), and GGTP low (1, normal range 2 - 36). Everything else (total protein, globulin, albumin, bilirubin, AST, phosphorus, chloride, calcium, sodium, cholesterol, WBC, RBC, hemoglobin, etc.) normal.

The vet told me that there was “nothing exciting” about his bloodwork. I feel like I have hit a dead end. I have tried so many things to make Remi more comfortable and just want him to be back to the way he was before. It is so frustrating to know that he is obviously in pain - I don’t think that this is simply a training issue, as it seemed his demeanor changed overnight when these problems started happening, got worse in the winter, and it is so obvious to tell that he is in pain.

So, I was hoping to have some advice on my situation. I know that we all just want to do what’s best for our horses. I am willing to do anything I can to help Remington and hope that maybe someone will have some insight regarding this situation. I just feel so alone right now as no one I know has had these issues with their horses, and can not explain any of their experiences or offer any advice or ideas.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

It is not letting me edit the post, however I wanted to add that I have done so much research on the various problems Remington has been having and it is so hard as nothing I have found really matches up with his situation very well, or points me in a direction I have already been. The only thing that I can think of doing now is going through with a muscle biopsy, which is why I wanted to ask all of you because I am coming to the end of my ideas!

I would send those blood results to an internal medicine specialist and also get his Vitamin E checked. So of what you described sounds similar to a horse that I have that had a critically low vit E.

I have a medical mystery horse too … I’m on the verge of doing a muscle biopsy as well (leaving out the gory details).

If you’re concerned about PSSM, consider first sending a hair sample to the University of Minnesota, who will check for the genetic component first. I’m in the process of sending my horse’s samples to a researcher in New Mexico, haven’t got results yet.
https://www.equine.umn.edu/research/equine-genetics-and-genomics-laboratory/current-projects/polysaccharide-storage-myopathy-type-1

You might also consider doing a hair analysis for minerals. Low magnesium is known to bring about hyper sensitivity and spookiness. Low selenium can bring about that and a whole host more symptoms.
https://equine.uckele.com/equine-hair-mineral-analysis

If you don’t already have an all-around supplement that you’re giving, you might want to consider something like EquiShine that would be a carpet-bomb approach to the lacking in minerals theory. I don’t know about availability of this partiuclar product for you, but anything that does a wide range of vitamins and minearls including Vit E, Selenium, and Magnesium miight be a sort of cheap attempt at improving the situation.
https://www.drschoicesupplements.com/

PS - my horse is frequently high in CPK values, and LDH as well. CPK can be easily written off as being brought on by work or stress. But when it’s chronically high, it does mean something’s not quite right.

Thanks for the reply! I have read up about low Vitamin E in horses online and wondered about that as well! Have you had success supplementing with Vitamin E and returning back to normal?

Has EMND (equine motor neuron disease) been looked at as a possible cause?

Wow, my computer definitely dislikes this website and won’t allow me to reply with quotes!
ladymcts, it’s interesting that you bring this up as I do know that where I live (Ontario) we tend to have selenium deficient soil and as such have selenium deficient hay.
Here is a link to his current mineral supplement (Purina Equilizer) which has the feed analysis:
http://equipurina.ca/en/products/lines/equilibrium/equilizer/

Wow, my computer definitely dislikes this website and won’t allow me to reply with quotes!
ladymcts, it’s interesting that you bring this up as I do know that where I live (Ontario) we tend to have selenium deficient soil and as such have selenium deficient hay.
Here is a link to his current mineral supplement (Purina Equilizer) which has the feed analysis:
http://equipurina.ca/en/products/lines/equilibrium/equilizer/

Hey cayuse,
I have done some reading into EMND however have not followed through with talking with the vet about this yet. Do you have any experience with horses with EMND? He does seem to show some of the symptoms of it from what I’ve read.

Hey cayuse,
I have done some reading into EMND however have not followed through with talking with the vet about this yet. Do you have any experience with horses with EMND? He does seem to show some of the symptoms of it from what I’ve read.

Yes the horse got a Dose of Iv vitamin E and now maintained on a good Vit supplement and is god as ever

Do you know his breeding, or do you know if he has been tested for HYPP?

https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/hypp.php

Quarter Horses (including appendix bred) that descended from Impressive can carry the gene for it, and muscle spasms or “tying up” is one of the primary symptoms. I imagine a milder case may present as general muscle soreness and reluctance to work.

trilogy, I’ll have to look into it then, it would be nice if it was a deficiency and I could fix it with supplementation! Glad to know your horse is doing well!

WNT, unfortunately I know nothing about his breeding. The girl I bought him from had him since he was weaned so it may be worthwhile to try and get in touch with her to see if she knows anything about his breeding. I’ve always been curious as well, and wondered about possible HYPP when I began reading about PSSM as they both can present with tying up. Fortunately Remington has never tied up but as you said it could be more mild and not present the same symptoms and instead have muscle cramps, soreness, etc. I can and will certainly get him tested.

Yes, I had a mare that was diagnosed with probable EMND and she responded very well to Vit E. Her levels were bottomed out at the time. I think the only way to get a definite diagnosis is with a muscle biopsy, but I might be wrong. My vet went on her symptoms, her vitamin E level and her response to treatment to get to the diagnosis.

Just wanted to add that hypp has also been found in draft horses… impressive sure got around…

Wow, I didn’t know that, it definitely doesn’t seem so unlikely that he might have it then. I’ll have to send hair for testing.

I definitely would. My one mare is unregistered and I only know her lines as far back as her great grand sire. I sent hair. It was worth it to me

Just for the sake of throwing a few more ideas out there…

A fecal flotation to check parasite load.

Scope to check the extent of stomach ulceration, if ulcers do exist.

Certain horses can be prone to food sensitivity that can manifest as abdominal pain. know what’s in your horses diet and consider a slow shift to a different feed program (AKA elimination diet).

Clean the horses sheath and check for beans.

Hock, stifle and SI joint can all present as hind end stiffness.

Lyme disease.

EPM.

Are the horses X-rays clean?

Intermittent locking stifles. Observe the patellas and hind leg range of movement while leading the horse down a hill.

Take some time to just sit at the edge of his paddock and observe the horse move while turned out. Note how the horse carries himself at liberty. It might lead to clues.

Any of the metabolic disorders mentioned might be affecting the horse.

These “mysteriously suddenly turned grumpy horses” can be very frustrating to figure out. Scientific method detective work is the best way I know of finding answers.

Some horses can just sour from a bad experience.

I’ve seen crappy/bad barn help cause all sorts of behavioral problems in horses too.

Lots of times people will just give such horses a lot of time off and it resolves itself.

A good equine massage therapist skilled at diagnostics might be able to provide some feedback as well.

I am following with GREAT interest as I am going through exactly the same thing with my horse right now. No muscle trembling but every other detail is exactly the same. My horse is also presenting with symptoms of sleep deprivation.

I’m awaiting test results for Lyme and crossing my fingers that that is it and not something much more scary and debilitating.

[QUOTE=alterhorse;9014760]Just for the sake of throwing a few more ideas out there…

A fecal flotation to check parasite load.

Scope to check the extent of stomach ulceration, if ulcers do exist.

Certain horses can be prone to food sensitivity that can manifest as abdominal pain. know what’s in your horses diet and consider a slow shift to a different feed program (AKA elimination diet).

Clean the horses sheath and check for beans.

Hock, stifle and SI joint can all present as hind end stiffness.

Lyme disease.

EPM.

Are the horses X-rays clean?

Intermittent locking stifles. Observe the patellas and hind leg range of movement while leading the horse down a hill.

Take some time to just sit at the edge of his paddock and observe the horse move while turned out. Note how the horse carries himself at liberty. It might lead to clues.

Any of the metabolic disorders mentioned might be affecting the horse.

These “mysteriously suddenly turned grumpy horses” can be very frustrating to figure out. Scientific method detective work is the best way I know of finding answers.

Some horses can just sour from a bad experience.

I’ve seen crappy/bad barn help cause all sorts of behavioral problems in horses too.

Lots of times people will just give such horses a lot of time off and it resolves itself.

A good equine massage therapist skilled at diagnostics might be able to provide some feedback as well.[/QUOTE]

Wow, I am so overwhelmed at how much thought you have put into your answer. It is truly heartwarming to hear from so many experienced people as to what this could be.

I think my next step will be further analysis for lyme, HYPP, and Vitamin E deficiency while analyzing his gait at play with his pasture mates as well as some of the other things you have mentioned.

It truly is heartbreaking to see a former athletic, willing and friendly horse do a 180 without knowing what it is that’s bothering them. Thank you so much for your thoughts. I’ll check his sheath tonight and follow up, as well as do some gait analysis. I can try to get a video if it might help anyone. I am so thankful for everyone’s input.