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Learn About PSSM

Learn About PSSM

Learn About PSSM

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Report on Danish bred German Sportspony Diskonto S

11.05.2010- 26.09.2018

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.

Welcome to the heart of PSSM

The links on this page will take you to Real Life Stories of people who have dealt with genetic issues in their horses.  Some of them have had good success, and bluntly some of them have not.   This section of the site is dedicated to giving horse owners a voice to share their experiences with their horse.

One thing is clear. 

All genetic issues affect all individual horses in different ways.  Our hope with sharing these stories is to give hope to some while also giving a strong message that is just not worth it to breed these issues forward.

PSSM1 Stories
PSSM2 Stories
IMM Stories
HYPP Stories
HERDA Stories
GBED Stories
MH Stories
Combination of Genetic Issues Stories

If the links above are not clickable it means we don;t have info loaded in those categories yet.

If you would like to have your story shared please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with My Story in the Subject line.

I purchased Starbucks (Ima Mocha Chip) a little over a year ago. I was wanting a horse that I could use myself,  but eventually my granddaughters would show at 4H. I paid to have a vet check and the vet checked everything out and ran some blood and it came back with what I think was elevated proteins levels. she took another test and while we were waiting for the results I went ahead and purchased my dream horse.

When the test came back the results where more in a normal range. About 8 months after buying her, my daughter was at the trainers with her,  when after about a 15 minute warm up she started sweating horribly and couldn't engage her back end and she was stumbling everywhere. She had an elevated temp and the vet was called. She could not move. She had tied up.

The vet suspected PSSM and tests came back positive for PSSM 1. We have not ridden her since. We have changed her diet, replaced alfalfa with grass hay, she is on cool pac, and vit e and in a dry lot. We are just starting her back with walking but we are scared to ever take her to a show or use her how we intended and will never have any beautiful babies.

We are heart broken and scared to use her....

   I bought my horse in late 2011. He was quirky, traveled crooked, and had minor issues that could easily be blamed on a young, unbalanced horse. He had an amazing mind and athletic ability, so there was no real hint that anything could possibly be wrong with him.

   In early 2015, I trailered him 1.5 hours for a trail ride. He had always gotten a little shaky on trailer rides, and he was really shaky after this one - I again, as usual, chalked it up to nerves. (I'm very careful when driving the trailer, the other horse with us had no problems). He was nervous and weak during the ride, and slipped and almost went down. I decided to take him back to the trailer, and he tripped and went down to his knees and couldn't get back up. I jumped off - he was really shaky now - gave him a rest, and hand walked back to the trailer. He spent the next month lame, vets had no answers other than 1) maybe he pulled something or 2) possible SI issue.

   A month later I started slowly bringing him back into work. He did well, no spasms or major issues. Throughout 2015, he slowly started having more issues - his stifles started catching, he was really becoming a hard keeper, he couldn't handle cold, started dragging his toes, very skin sensitive, back pain - things just kept piling on. He started walking like a cripple in the pasture - no more running or playing. In January 2016, he colicked. I changed his feed (I had been giving 2-3 lbs of sweet feed that the barn was feeding all the horses). I didn't start working him because his skin sensitivity and back pain was pretty bad, and I didn't feel right putting a saddle on him. His behavior was changing at this point as well. My normally stoic, happy horse was grumpy, didn't want to be touched (for obvious reasons), and started going after both people and other horses in the pasture. I tried handwalking him but he was so spooky he couldn't walk down the road we had been on at least 100 times before that.

   By May 2016, I'd been reading about PSSM for a while, but the main symptom on all the websites was tying up, and Jax had never tied up. But I decided to try the diet anyway. I also started trimming his feet (he could no longer hold them up for the farrier, and our farrier wasn't doing a great job anyway), and I started back on groundwork. My horse was on lush pasture by this time - he had always been kept in a drylot before this, never stalled. He started doing better on some things, but I still couldn't ride him and the strange twisting with his hinds wasn't getting any better. His tightrope walking was also worse than it had previously been (he's always done it).

   In September of 2016, our progress was stalled. He could move around now and was a little more comfortable, his attitude was better, but I still couldn't actually use him for anything. I decided to go ahead and test for PSSM1, as by that time I had found the PSSM Forum on Facebook and learned that tying up wasn't the main symptom. Before I got the results back, I saw the first, very minor, spasms that I had seen on him (there was another when he was 4, but the barn owner explained it away as a "tired" horse). I moved my horse the next day to a place with less grass, trails to work him, and an indoor to keep him worked year 'round. I got the results 2 days later - he was heterozygous positive for PSSM1 - n/P1.

   Even though I knew he had PSSM, I cried when I got those results. I didn't want this for him. I wanted a healthy horse I could use. From the end of 2015 until diagnosis, I did a ton of vet visits, chiro visits, saddle fittings (nothing fit but treeless) - nothing helped the back pain. The diet changes helped the skin sensitivity but it didn't go away. I was told by a chiro that because she couldn't contort his body without him throwing a fit that he was spoiled - that horse is a saint and never puts a foot wrong when he feels good - but he tried to kill her. He was hurting, and no one, NOT ONE PROFESSIONAL, ever tipped me off to PSSM.

   After moving him, I started riding for about 10 minutes at a time doing suppling exercises and trying to get him to loosen his muscles. I was massaging with a percussive massager daily, working him daily, tweaking and trying to find the right diet. After 6 months, he really started improving. He still had lumbar pain some days, but was starting to trot finally, and could even canter on occasion. I was seeing some muscle loss, and because back pain and stifles are more associated with Type 2 and those things weren't getting better, I decided to tweak his diet for both types. There was a massive improvement. He's now a year into management for both types, and I recently received the n/P2 diagnosis, still waiting on Px results. UPDATE:  He is also n/PX

   The last 5 or so vet visits before the n/P1 diagnosis, they just looked at me like I was crazy. They had no more answers, hadn't had answers for some time. The body workers didn't understand why his muscles wouldn't hold their adjustments. The saddle fitters didn't understand why his musculature didn't support a treed saddle. The farrier didn't understand why he couldn't hold up his feet, and again, told me my horse was just spoiled.   Despite all these things, finding the right combination P1/P2 diet and exercise routine has my boy doing really well again.    He still has setbacks, and he may never be 100% normal, but he feels good, he moves good, and for the most part he's comfortable.    I'm so thankful to finally have answers for this boy.

Colby’s Story

   My daughter in law got my mare on a trade when she was 18 months old.  When we realized she had Impressive breeding we had her tested for Hypp.  We breathed a sigh of relief when we found out she did not have it.  However, when she was about 22 months old we went out one morning to feed and she was lying on the ground and couldn't get up. 

   Four of us tried to pull, push and encourage her to get up but she wouldn't.  Obviously called the vet but in about 10 minutes she just stood up and acted like there wasn't a thing wrong with her.  Vet came and he couldn't find anything either.  At the time, I kept thinking they must have been wrong about her Hypp status.  

Started her training here at home when she was 2 and she accepted everything very well and was easy to do the basics on.  However, our home arena is small so I took her to a boarding facility so there was more room to ride and expose her to other horses and situations.  While there I began to notice certain little things about her that seemed different from most horses. 

   First, she really did not like to be groomed with anything except a very soft brush.  She also would pin her ears and grind her teeth when you put the saddle on.  If you saddled her and didn't walk her a little she would hump up when you got on.  Everyone at the ranch just thought she was spoiled but I really never let her get away with anything because she is smart as a whip and will capitalize on anything if she gets away with something.   The next big thing I noticed was she had a lot of issues with being just slightly lame.  First one foot and then another and so on.  That has gone on almost all her life.  She was barefoot at the time but I rode her everywhere including the mountains on trails, in shows, working cows, etc.  Every time she got her feet trimmed she would be tender footed for almost a week but I didn’t think too much about this.  Her heels also started getting contracted.  While all this was going on, I was working on canter leads and she would pick up the left without any problem but took her a really long time to master the right lead.  She also would cross fire a lot even when being longed.  Sometimes she would bunny hop on her hind feet, especially if she was running really fast at play. 

   The trainer thought it was just because she was so short backed that it was hard for her so we just kept working on it and she finally was able to do both leads very well.  Once when I was on vacation and my daughter in law was taking care of her she turned her out and when she was walking her back to her corral she just froze and wouldn’t move.  She was 4 at that time.  They tried everything to get her to move and finally got her back to her corral and gave her some bute and the next day she seemed fine.  Daughter in law had never seen a horse tie up so had no idea what had happened to her.  Everyone just thought it was one of Colby’s little idiosyncracies.  Her pet name was the Princess because of her sensitivities to everything. 

   Some specific cues that all was not as it should be included:
   1) When riding in the mountains she always had trouble going downhill.  It seemed like she had no idea where her foot feet were going to land.  She never stumbled on the hills but she sure did when we were just riding around on the flat.  I always told her she should learn to pick her feet up and she wouldn’t stumble so much.
    2) A second very noticeable symptom was that she would sweat at the drop of an exercise session.  She would be sweating profusely before any other horse we would be riding with even broke a sweat. 
    3) She has always had short strides but she is also very short backed so that seemed reasonable.  I never had to teach her to slow jog because it just came natural to her which I now know is a symptom of the condition.  When she turned 6 she had come home because she had a bad case of hives and they just wouldn’t go away so the vet thought a change of environment might help her.  Had her blood tested for allergies and decided to find a feed that didn’t have any of the ingredients she was allergic to.  As it so happens, it contained barley and molasses plus I was giving her oranges off our tree.  When the hives were gone I took her back to the ranch and again she was turned out and when my husband went to get her she couldn’t move again.  By then I was starting to put 2 & 2 together and realized she was tying up. 

  I, then got on the internet and discovered a condition called pssm.  I vaguely knew about this because we had another horse at the ranch who they suspected had it due to his hard muscles.  My mare has more muscles than most stallions and they were bulging.  People would comment on how muscular she was even as a 2 year old.  I read everything I could on pssm and decided to have her tested and you guessed it, she is n/p1.  The new feed and oranges with all the sugar is what caused the last tie up.  At first I put her on the oil diet but she gained a lot of weight and I was afraid she would either founder or get IR from the oil.  Then I found a diet which had something called ALCAR rather than oil. Next I found the EPSM group on Yahoo and Dr. Kellon who is the one who advises the ALCAR diet. Colby has been on ALCAR for 1 ½ years along with 3000mg natural Vit. E, 1 TBS 60% Mag Ox, 2 TBS iodized salt and Triple Crown Lite as a means of getting her the supplements.  Her muscles are now soft and she doesn’t appear to be in any particular pain at the moment.  She is now 8 ½ and thankfully seems to be in decent control. 

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Fun Facts


Sept 1, 2019

Horses 286,306

5 Panel NN 4980

PSSM1 nn 9360
PSSM1 pos 3154
PSSM2 pos 1367

HYPP nn 9979
HYPP pos 4892