Report on Danish bred German Sportspony Diskonto S
German Sportspony Diskonto, a participant in the Bundeschampionate and UVM young pony championship in Verden, was purchased at the young age of 5 as a rising star with a string of titles already to his young name. His riding career was only about to begin when purchased for his new pony rider in Denmark. But sadly, things didn’t go quite according to plan because Diskonto was early on in his career diagnosed with the debilitating disease MFM.
A star in the making declines rapidly...
Diskonto seemed to have the world at his feet. A pony with looks and quality. He rapidly excelled and continued to win titles, qualifying for nationals with his new rider but then signs of trouble started within the first year. He lost his impulsion, and energy. He went from being smooth and subtle to stiff and tired. Everything became a struggle for him, yet no one could figure out what the problem was. Regrettably, it took an excessively long time to reach a diagnosis for this beautiful pony, and he was subjected to much misunderstanding and frustration in the process. He spent many a visit in equine hospitals in both Denmark and Germany, and was subjected to numerous tests, scans, X-Rays, scintigraphy and blood work.
Diagnosed by chance...
When symptoms occurred, the disease sadly left little trace or clues in either blood work, or other tests. So, the problem was at first put down to bad temperament, stallion behavior, and lack of discipline, however for the owner this was never accepted. Diskonto was at first such a pleaser under saddle. He loved to show and was his happiest when performing in the dressage arena. However, in handling, he always had a peculiar personality that stood out from what would be considered ‘normal’ and particularly odd for a horse that had been in professional training. As symptoms emerged over time, it became clear that the key to finding the problem was to look at his behavioral patterns in absolute detail. But nobody was prepared for the long journey ahead. This disease is unpredictable, it shows its ugly teeth one day and is gone the next and leaves so few clues in physical examination that everything must be scrutinized, pony as well as rider and owner.
Reading about muscle disease led to Equiseq.
As a last resort a test was submitted and Diskonto finally received a diagnosis, Myofibrillar Myopathy, a subtype of PSSM2 also classified as Exercise Intolerance. The diagnosis made complete sense. His symptoms were clear text book.
MFM a progressive illness...
With alternated diet, temperament improved greatly, and his attitude changed considerably in grooming and handling. The soreness in the lower back decreased. Sadly, the disease was uncontrollable, and he deteriorated rapidly and was unrideable for long periods of time with only a few weeks/months at a time of being functionable. Every time symptoms returned, it became increasingly harder to get him back on track. He only had the strength for very short rides, increasingly so only in straight lines. He couldn’t tolerate grass which complicated his keep and future. He was put to sleep at the age of 8 and the decision was made easier for us with the diagnosis from Equiseq of P3/P3 because we know now that this is a progressive illness and his quality of life was questionable towards the end.
What were the symptoms?
1. A slight gait abnormality - a small swing with hind leg in lunge.
2. A tendency to wideness in the hindlegs (improved with dietary changes)
3. Dislike and struggle to collect (as training level increased)
4. Dragging hind toes
5. Lack of impulsion
6. Aggression around food in the stall (excessive)
7. A strong dislike of being cross-tied (excessive) (behavior greatly improved when being held on a lose lead during grooming, rather than cross-tying him)
8. A strong dislike of being groomed and saddled
9. A clear sense of stress in handling from the ground (put down to disciplinary issues, or a ‘Jack the lad’ behavior)
10. Lack of ability to stand still when asked to do so, biting at his handler, biting at chains, tack, walls, or anything he could get his teeth on, making faces, sticking his tongue out the side of his mouth, pawing with the front legs constantly, pinning his ears when people were to pass him in the cross ties.
11. A challenge for the pony measurer, physiotherapist, chiropractor or anybody wanting to do bodywork on him (a huge dislike of people surrounding him with the intend to touch him)
12. A clear difficulty standing still for the farrier (excessive):
This was clearly marked as a lack of discipline at first. With time it became clear the pony struggled to stand on three legs for the farrier constantly threatening to lose his balance.
13. A need to ‘park out and pee’ numerous times during a ride. At times pee was darkened
14. A constant sore lower back (psoas muscle)
15. Difficulty in backing up with rider.
16. Increasingly stiff gaits when symptomatic (very distinct as pony would be a very flexible and smooth in riding normally, equally lose and smooth to both sides)
17. Regularly holding his tail to one side when symptomatic- otherwise normal
18. Hitch in trot when starting out in trot, looking to want to break into canter due to lack of ability to ‘push’ off from behind
19. Holding his head extremely low to the ground in lunging for long periods of time
20. Lack of energy and complete lethargic when symptomatic (even in open field, attempting a free gallop, it was impossible to pull forward particularly up-hill)
21. Increasing unwillingness to move forward under rider, pulling his abdomen up, pushing himself into a banana shape to resist moving forward
22. Refusal to move, standing nailed to the ground, unable to move
23. Bucking in canter when asked to move forward
24. Bunny hopping in canter and kicking backwards (cow kick) when asked to move forward, completely stiffening his hind end.
25. Occasionally cross firing in canter
26. Increasingly cranky under rider, nostrils flaring, eyes triangular half closing, ears back, biting at rider’s legs, biting at his sides
27. Sensitive to sugar and starch and very sensitive to his feed in general. Went from being fine to not fine in just a couple of feedings
28. Strong ability to show you exactly what was going on, and how he was feeling (we learned to read him from the moment we stepped into the barn and we almost knew even before we started grooming whether he was having a good or a bad day that day)
29. Never had a direct tye up. But he lifted his one hind leg out on a few occasions like a male dog peeing, clearly showing a form of cramp and he would sometimes stamp his hindlegs in the ground)
30. Blood tests showed a small portion of inflammation, slightly elevated CK and AST and slightly raised sugar yet still within normal range.
31. Slight undefined lameness towards the end. Final months, he seemed to struggle with an undefined slight lameness. We evaluated with the vet the slight lameness to be the result of his muscles becoming increasingly stiff.
Tests and Treatments:
He had numerous lameness tests which he passed.
He was ridden by a new rider provided by the equine hospital and evaluated by the vets with new rider.
He had scintegrafi which showed inflammation to the lower back, but he was not susceptible to treatment offered and symptoms worsened.
He was treated by chiropractors, osteopaths, treated with acupuncture, magna- wave treatment, laser treatment and every time we were told he was very tight in his muscles.
He was treated with bowtech treatment, craniosacral treatment, saddle fittings (no problem with saddle), he was gastroscoped for gastric ulcers (came up negative) kidneys and bladder scanned twice, neck scan, teeth work, he had numerous blood tests including for lymes disease, he had his hormone levels checked, he had a neurological examination, he was ridden on pain relief which had no effect apart from worsening symptoms, he was put on full steroid cortisone treatment for enteritis, he had a non-conclusive muscle biopsy test showing signs of inflammation (of course MFM will only show in a biopsy with the use of a special staining as I understand it, plus if the horse is too young the disease will not necessarily show in a biopsy) he spent several months with a kinesiologist, he received homeopathic treatment, he received telepathic treatment.
You name it, we tried it. He had numerous diets constructed for him.