So, you have finally purchased the farm of your dreams - you have 10 acres - 4 make up the yardsite, including a nice little barn and the other 6 make up the pasture you have been longing for since you were a child and first dreamed of having your hown horse. You take possession in mid-July and with the Canadian winter coming you want to get a horse as soon as poosible so you can enjoy it as much as possible before the snow flies. You started looking as soon as you made the deal on the farm but decide to be responsible and wait to purchase until you have moved in and settled a bit.
The Big Day has come. You had seen a horse advertised near you and on the phone the answers checked all your boxes, so you were going to go take a look. When you pulled onto the yard you noticed a nice neat hay shelter loaded with small square bales. The yard was small but neat and had a couple of pens with about 6 horses that you could see. A couple of babies and a couple of chubby mares. The owners came out and after introductions they lead you to the pen where the horse you were interested in was kept. He was beautiful - it was love at first sight for you and as the owner yammered on about bloodlines that you had no clue about all you saw was the beautiful horse.
They saddled him up. He stood quietly and patiently with a good natured expression. The owner was still talking, but you were only half listening. They rode him every day, he had never had any issues, his feet were good, etc. etc. When he was saddled up the owner longed him a little bit to show what he had all been taught - again, they were talking and you were only half listening - as they said the longe him a bit every time before they get on - they do this with all their horses. You admired their training as he obediently responded to voice commands. Then they got on him and he rode perfectly - a nice steady walk, a nice slow trot and an easy lope - he took both leads nicely the owner was saying - you didn't notice. Then it was your turn to get on. Your lessons had paid off because you knew the basic cues the horse had been trained with and he responded just as well to you as to the owner.
The owner offered to take him out of the pen and ride him off the yard for you and you watched as he road off down the driveway without so much as a call to the other horses. The owner came back and asked if you wanted to try - you had already made up your mind to purchase but hopped on anyway and the horse easily rode off the yard for you too with no thought of truning back. You had found your dream horse.
One question left... Why were they selling?
They explained that they had one or two foals a year and raised them up, broke them to ride and then sold them. This particular horse they had like so much they had decided to keep him, but then some financial issues dictated he needed to be sold. They were sorry to see him go, and they were such nce people it seemed sad to buy him from them - but he was your dream horse. You wrote out the cheque (Canadian) for a fairly large sum of money, but it was worth it to you - you had heard plenty of nightmare stories about new buyers buying cheap half trained horses that turned out to be disaster - you were taking all the right steps to make sure your first horse was going to be with you a long time. Arrangements were made to drop off the horse the following day. You got in your truck and went home, filled with excitement for the next day.
The next day finally arrived and right on time the sellers dropped off the horse - you had also purchased the saddle, birdle and saddle pad that they had used on him. You thanked the sellers profusely and could hardly wait til they left so you could enjoy your new purchase.
You figured you'd let him get used to things for a day before riding him so you turned him out in your beautiful pasture. He had never seen a pasture before so he was pretty excited about it. Someone had told you that if you have a horse in a big pasture a good idea was to either give them oats or horse treats so that they would be easy to catch - so you had those ready but he had no interest, he was having fun in the pasture.
No worries the next day was when the fun would begin, today you would just be satisfied with admiring him in your pasture - finally your dream had come true. Little did you know the nightmare was about to begin.
The next day you went out with treat in hand - he had settled with down, his natural curiousity kicked in and he came up to you - you offered him the treat and he acted like he had no idea what it was. No worries. You clicked the lead rope on and took him to the barn and saddle him up. You got on and he was okay (forgetting about what the owner had said about longing him before you ride) so you rode slowly around the yard showing him the sites - you were ecstatic - this was what you had been waiting for - he seemed fine so you headed out into the nicely worked field behind your house and he was still fantastic - after what you considered a great ride you called it a day, very pleased. Again you offered him the treat and this time he actually took it from your hand and ate it. What a good boy you thought and figured he also deserved some oats - so you gave him half an ice cream pail full - at first he acted like he didn't even know what they were - but then quickly gobbled them up. As you put him in the pasture you wondered if he needed a blanket - they were calling for an early frost this year and had stated that tonight it could get very close to freezing.
The next day you went to go for another ride and you noticed he looked a little off, and maybe ever so slightly lame or stiff. You remembered what the owner had said about longing so you saddled him up and figured you would try longing him a bit to see how he moved - it seemed to you like he was a bit off, but after 10 minutes of longing you couldn't see anything and decided it was your imagination. He rode out okay, maybe a little reluctant but again you thought maybe it was your imagination. You made sure to give him his treat and his oats becasue he was a good boy. It was very cold again that night.
Day three you realized it was not your imagination. He was somewhat stiff. You longed him for a bit and it seemed to disappear. When you went to saddle him he truned to look at you as you were doing up the cinch. When you got on him he gave a half hearted buck when you asked him to move forward. You were a bit puzzled but went for your ride and all was reasonalby well. And you gave him his treat and his oats - he was now very eager to come to the fence to see you, so you weren't going to take his treats away from him.
Day Four - Seemed even a little stiffer, but he had been laying down when you came out and you just chalked it up to his legs being asleep - you longed him and he got better. When you went to put the saddle on he actually nipped at you when you went to tighten the cinch. Weird. Then when you went to get on him and asked him to walk forward he wouldn't budge. You asked him with a little stronger cue and you were not prepared for what happened next! He had an all out rodeo bucking fit - you stayed on for about three jumps and then came flying off. You didn't get hurt but you watched in disbelief as he bucked around the pen like a wild horse. You were stumped. You were also quite shaken and couldn't bring yourself to get back on he was bucking so violently - you finally went up to him when he had settled down and managed to untack him and put him back in the fence - you still gave him his treat and his oats even though he hadn't exaclty been a good boy. Now you weren't sure what to do so you went to the internet to find advice on a forum - you explained everything and you got a ton of answers. His saddle doesn't fit, try a different saddle, the owner's drugged him to show him to you, now you know why they wanted to sell him, he has ulcers, try a chiropractor, get some horse lessons it was probably something you did, get a trainer to retrain him, etc, etc, Like Job in the Bible none of these "friends" were giving good advice. But you figured you would try some of it anyway. First thing you did was call the owners and tell them what he was doing - they flat out stated he had never done that at their place and had never bucked a day in his life, not even when they started him. Well you got off the phone and wondered if they were lying... they seemed like such nice people. Then you called up a trainer, one who specialized in hard bucking cases. He came down and within an hour and a lot of sweat he had your horse riding decently - the conclusion? It must be something you were doing... It was your fault. You paid the trainer, thanked him and he left.
He left you to try t ofigure out what to do with this horse that you were now scared of - sure he had gotten him riding fine but what was to keep him from randomly having anothe bucking fit. Sadly your dream had turned into a nightmare. Was there no answer?
Yes actually there was.
There was a clear answer. It came in the form of a simple hair test to screen for PSSM. Turned out he was PSSM1 positive. The pieces all fit. He was born on a small yard where he was handled daily and only fed a good quality grass hay his whole life. When it was time to break him to ride he was taught to longe and was always well warmed up before they ever got on. They rode him every day and he was not stalled. They were not lying when they said he had never behaved like that for them.
When you purchased him you put him out on pasture - grass is much higher than hay in sugar (sugar is the #1 enemy of a P1 horse) - the lateness of the year and the early frost meant the sugar content in the grass was dratically increased. Your habit of giving him a horse treat (which you checked later and found contained a lot of sugar) and oats contributed hugely to the build up of sugar in his muscles. It was a perfect storm for the PSSM to affect him drastically.
When you finally found this out you got a dry lot built for him and kept him off the grass - you went and got bales from the same supplier that supplied the farm he came from and you quit giving him treats and oats and with a short time your dream horse returned.
This was a good story with a good outcome. It is fictional but factual. Sadly many horses do not have this happy ending - most are labeleld as problem horses and passed from owner to owner, auction to auction. Many are treated badly as they are assumed to have a training issue or to be spoiled so they are reprimanded for things they have no real control over. Many are very good natured horses that "grin and bear it" until they blow up. And yes some manage to get by with showing little to no symptoms - but for those who do PSSM is often the missing piece of the puzzle that owners find after they have spent thousands at the vets, scoping for ulcers, doing lameness exams and trying all sorts of expensive suggestions. A Simple $40 test can provide answers in a lot of these cases.
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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....