Reddy’s story (Skips Red Diamond DC 7th May 2009 – 9th July 2013)
Born 7th of May 2009 and my amazing little girl right from the start. Very cuddly and easy going. The first year went by pretty much flawlessly. Once we thought she was suffering from a colic, because she was lying down and grunting a lot. In retrospect, this might have been her first attack. At the time we discarded it as pain due to a severe bloodworm infection she was suffering from. At age of one I moved her from her mom, where she was box stalled, to a herd of young mares, who were in the field 24/7 in the summer period, and in the winter had stalls of 10 by 20 meters. So they were pretty much free to move around a lot. Although I always had felt she was different and falling behind a bit, nothing was ever seriously wrong with her. She would lie down more than the rest of the horses but other than that, she was completely normal. Still the sweetest horse ever and very attached to humans, a real pleasure to ‘work’ with. I was just being an overprotective mommy according to my friends.
At age of 3 I slowly started her under the saddle. Before that I had already started groundwork on her and some lunging, which never caused any problems. In general she was the easiest horse to break in. Just occasionally she would have a spooky day, but usually on the real windy and rainy days, so we blamed the weather. She was used to all kinds of traffic because I walked her a lot when she was younger, so we started going out on trail rides. The first attack was on one of those trail rides, halfway through October of 2012. We were just out and the horses were very eager, so we decided to let them have a crack at it and let them run as fast as they wanted to go. I was with a friend whose horse, as Reddy, was very competitive so they really started racing each other. No different than any other ride, just usually we raced them later. At the end of a long stretch of grass we took them back to a walk and she put her head down further than normal and was really slow all of a sudden. I immediately knew something was wrong so I jumped off and she was trembling all over. At first I thought she was having a heart attack or something, because a year earlier I lost a young stallion to a ruptured aorta and he had shown the same trembling.
We managed to walk home step by excruciating step, I could see she was in horrible pain, but begged her to keep going. It took us half an hour, where it normally takes about 10 minutes from that point on the route. Luckily the vet was at our property for another horse when I arrived home and he checked her out. After some discussion we diagnosed a serious ty up. When she got worse overnight instead of better we moved her to the university clinic in Gent, Belgium. There they performed a thorough exam including 24 hour ECG, she was suffering from sinus arrhythmia but that could not be the cause of her problems. We sent blood to Van Hearingen Lab in Germany and discovered she was n/p1.
I took her home and started her on the diet, which I changed and tweaked and tweaked some more, she seemed to improve so we started lightly working her again. She did best on daily exercise, no exercise, or a change in exercise would just trigger an attack. At some point I was called by the stable owner or a friend at least once a week that she was down and twisting like a maniac. Lots of people compared it to Epilepsy, she would just tumble over and would lay there kicking uncontrollably and grasping for air, poor baby. It was horrible to experience. Usually she would calm down as soon as I sat down with her, she would catch her breath and be up in minutes and would look like nothing had happened.
Interestingly enough I had had her under control the entire winter, when she was box stalled for 20 hrs a day and turned out for 4, on a sandy paddock, and worked daily, varying from 30 minutes to an hour, but never shorter. The symptoms were getting worse and more frequent from March 2013 onward, when the horses were out in the field on grass. At one point in June 2013 I was away for a long weekend and the girl taking care of my horse called me the morning of the day I was supposed to get back that I had to come home straight away because Reddy was not doing so well. I don’t think I ever drove that fast, I must have had a guardian angel on my shoulder, because I didn’t get into any accidents and was not pulled off the road for speeding. When I got home, the worst had passed but she did not recover as quickly as normal. Something was off, we just didn’t know what at that time. We discussed our options and decided to tweak the diet and exercise schedule once more. After all, a lot of people told me that the first year after diagnosis is the hardest. We had to at least try one year! It never got that far. The weekend after this attack she was hit with a serious case of laminitis and despite all our efforts, cooling her feet every hour day AND night, ice compresses and medication, the laminitis spread from 1 foot to all 4 and my vet and I decided it had been enough.
Due to the laminitis she was absolutely not allowed to walk, and for PSSM they MUST move! She was in excruciating pain and there was not even a little light at the end of the tunnel, so I decided to end her suffering. She went quietly. At first she fought the tranquilizer a little, but there was not much fight in her left. As strong and proud and full of fight she used to be, she had just given up, and that is never good, especially not at the age of 4. I know it was the right thing to do, but it still hurts every day and I miss her dearly.
REPRINTED with permission by Reddy's Owner