I’m elated to finally have a good’ish update about Simon! If you have not been following along, the short version is that he’s had ongoing soundness issues in his hind end and symptoms of pain causing him to be a bit more fractious than normal and avoiding laying down. Last fall he got hocks and a stifle injection. It took more than a month, but after those injections he started to look a lot more sound. He’s been stepping up under himself with both hind legs much better than he had in months.
In early January he collapsed in his sleep (while standing) a couple times and I scheduled another appointment with my veterinarian. A few days before that appointment I was able to get a video of him rolling and getting up. The video shows how he has quite a difficult time getting up. I’ve seen him try for 5 minutes or more and have to rest before finally being able to stand. It’s gut wrenching and so stressful to watch.
Thankfully the most recent appointment proved to be informative and we seem to be on a path towards wellness. She did another lameness exam which showed that he is in fact sound on his hinds now, but still has quite a bit of pain and/or discomfort in his back. She also noted that he was even more fidgety and sensitive to touch than he’s been the past few visits and it has gotten progressively worse every time she’s seen him. While I don’t like hearing that, it was nice to hear her confirm what I’m seeing and feeling with him. Some people see him and think he looks fine and that I’m being overly sensitive about there being issues, but hearing this from my vet confirmed my concerns.
We discussed treatment options and agreed upon back injections at the site in his spine where a couple of processes were barely touching on his radiographs from October, injections in his Sacral Iliac joint and testing for EPM. An alternative care provider I’ve used in the past told me that she thought he has EPM, but my veterinarian at the time didn’t agree so we didn’t test. He passed, and continues to pass, the balance tests for EPM, but my vet wanted to rule it out just because his struggle to stand from rolling was so pronounced.
While he was getting his injections we got to chatting and I asked what she thought about PEMF. I’ve read a lot about it and listened to other veterinary podcasts with mixed opinions about the efficacy of the treatment. My vet said, without pause, the PEMF would change Simon’s life if he could get it regularly. The challenge for me with PEMF previously has been finding a practitioner who is close enough to come regularly. The wheels in my head started turning because I know some horse owners who have been singing the praises of the BEMER blanket. The BEMER is more of an at-home PEMF option that produces a lower level treatment, but it’s affordable and easy enough to use for an individual to purchase. A PEMF machine easily costs upwards of $10,000 and the BEMER blanket costs less than $5,000. I asked my veterinarian what she thought about the BEMER and she reiterated that it would change Simon’s life, but she thought they were more than $15k so not really an option.
I took Simon home from that appointment with directions for 5 days off work and then to get him going again as the fitness is key to his hind end soundness. I pondered and researched the BEMER blanket and opted to pull the trigger and order one a couple days after the appointment. I worked with Hillary who is a somewhat newly minted BEMER rep and has been using it for a couple years. 10/10 recommend working with her!
It arrived the day a snow/ice storm rolled in, which was perfect since I’d be working from home for a few days. I used the BEMER on Simon twice a day for 4 days, then once a day until Coco and I left for a horse show. Because of the storm and being out of town I wasn’t able to ride him again until mid February (injections etc were in late January), but let me know tell you. He was a completely different horse than I had sat on in over a year!
When a horse gradually becomes unsound or issues develop it can be difficult to pin point when things started to go south and this is very true of Simon. I don’t think his struggles are related to any one thing, but I’m confident that the wreck we had hunting in Missouri in 2020, thousands of miles in the trailer, and some conformational challenges, and recurring gut issues are what got us to where we are today. When I rode him a couple weeks after the second set of injections and after starting using the BEMER he was happy and willing to go forward with a tiny tap of my leg. For months he’s swished his tail and bobbed his head and ground his teeth every time I’ve asked him to move forward, change gaits or move off leg pressure. He was never head-bobbing lame, he never bucked, he never bolted, but there were myriad signs he was uncomfortable. Our ride this week was positively magical. I felt like I had my 2018 horse back. He even did lead changes the best he has EVER done them.
The same day as our great ride we got the EPM results and they are negative. That is good news, but I still think we have some sleuthing to do to figure out why getting up is so hard for him. I’m planning to invest in stall cameras so I can see if and when he either lays down or falls down at night. Usually only a couple mornings a week does he look like he’s lay down at all (indicated by having shavings on his coat or in his tail). I’ve asked Boot City to check when he comes in at night and he hasn’t seen him lay down yet.
I don’t think keeping him sound is going to be a linear path. We may or may not need to provide the same injections again and the timeframe for repeating injections going forward will probably change. He does seem to be responding to the BEMER treatment, so I’m grateful I have that and can keep up regular treatment. Plus I can use it on Coco and Jaguar which can’t hurt them! My work plan for him is going to be doing strengthening work and staying closer to home for the next few months at least, if not longer. The long trailer rides seem to make him anxious and exacerbate his discomfort and anxiety. He’s not an obviously nervous horse so I have to pay close attention to his demeanour to determine when he’s stressed and anxious.
I adore this horse and am so happy to have my horse shaped teddy bear back. I’ll do whatever I can to maintain his comfort and happiness and hopefully have many years ahead in our partnership.