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PSSM2 Stories

  • Diskonto's Story

    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.

  • Elaines Story

    PSSM is affecting many horses in many ways - might your horse suffer from PSSM?  Here is a typical PSSM story....

    Elaine's Story

       I have a mare that I have owned since birth. She is very loving and gentle. Tall, slender, and sleek. I slowly and gently broke her myself beginning at 2 years old and she rode like a pleasure horse. I just knew she was going to be my newborn son's future show horse! I have shown in local shows and play days most of my life and I like for my horses to do it all! So, about a year ago (right at her 5th birthday) I started walking and trotting the barrel pattern with her.

       That's when I began to notice her acting uptight and nervous when being ridden - very unlike her! I couldn't imagine that she was turning into one of those "barrel horses" because we hadn't even progressed to loping the pattern before the changes in her behavior. She soon began acting even more "prancy" and "chargy" all the time even when trail riding. I tried changing her saddle and had to progressively move up to stronger bits. Had her teeth checked too.

       I attributed her attitude towards being hauled a lot for barrel practice and trail rides and hanging around high strung barrel horses a lot over last summer. I even questioned myself as to whether I was changing the way I was riding!!! Due to receiving tips from a few really good barrel racers i had started practicing with, I felt I was becoming a better, more aggressive and refined rider, but I have very light hands and use a lot of leg pressure when I ride. My mare also seemed to be progressing extremely well on the barrels and I was super excited about her future as a barrel horse. By last fall, she was cruising the pattern well and her turns were awesome! However; I no longer felt she would be safe for a small child or beginner to ride, so I began to let go of the "pleasure horse" plans for her and started to enjoy her as my energetic new barrel horse!

       Also, she was so pretty with her neck arched and that prance in her step! I got constant compliments and many offers to buy her! When the winter started, I didn't ride much except for the occasional ride around the pasture or loping some in an arena. She continued to act "full of energy" and always wanting to run! She was turned out with her pasture mates and given free choice of local grass hay. As it got colder, I increased her feeding up to 4 quarts 12% sweet feed daily and even started mixing in a scoop of oats because I didn't want her to start losing weight. (she has eaten sweet feed her whole life).

       A couple of weeks ago, when we began to have a few pretty warm days, my barrel racing friends and I excitedly got together one evening at a local arena to practice and get ready for another barrel racing-filled summer. I'll admit, my mare was as "out of shape" as she could be! After warming up by loping some stiff, fast, rough, awkward looking circles (which I blamed on her having too much time off) I tried my mare out at a lope on the pattern to see how much she remembered from last year. I don't think she ever even saw the barrels. She blew in the arena! Chomping the bit and trying to rear up. I was so mad at her I took her back out and was going to lope the energy out of her!!!

       She quickly became uncontrollable, was fighting me worse than ever, and didn't want to bend to the right at all. In tears, I just got off of her and stomped back to the trailer and unsaddled her. Remembering the pleasure horse she was a year ago I realized that something more was wrong with her than the excuses I had been telling myself all along. After unsaddling her I tried to lead her away from the trailer. She was stiff, slightly sweaty, back humped in appearance, head down, and seemed to be holding her breath in pain. She grunted when I pulled on her to make her walk. I was devastated because I thought I had injured her really bad. I knew better than to push a horse that is out of shape. A friend said she looked as though she was "tying up".

      At the time I just thought that meant pulled muscles. I had no idea that my big barrel racing plans for this wonderful horse were about to come to a screeching halt. I took her home and stalled her overnight. The next morning she seemed to be much better, just a little stiff, and spent most of the day laying down on her side in the sunshine. Days later, She was mildly lame upon veterinary exam with no obvious located source of the pain, and was sore over her entire neck, back, and haunches. I received the muscle biopsy results late last week.

       Moderately Positive for PSSM. I have been reading a lot about it over the last couple of days but I'm not seeing much about PSSM horses with a successful barrel racing career. I understand it will be a long road starting with diet changes, but could there be a chance in the future that she will ever be a reliable barrel horse? If not, I can accept that and plan to try to calm her and slow her back down to her former "pleasure-type" riding.

       I also sent in some of her mother's hairs for testing because I was getting ready to breed her and I was told this disease is genetic. She was positive also, which surprised me. She is 24 years old, I have also owned her all her life and she has never shown signs of PSSM that we noticed. She also is the "pleasure-type" horse that can run in and win a barrel race. In fact she has won 7 saddles in her lifetime as an All-around champion in local shows and riding clubs.

       I only bred her that one time and got my mare that just tested positive by muscle biopsy. I wanted to try to breed the old mare this month but those ideas also crashed because I would never knowingly pass on this trait! I am so upset. I encourage everyone to please do the 5 panel test on your horse if you plan to breed it!!! Stallion or mare, they do not even have to have symptoms to be positive!!! And it could be their foals that suffer!!! All that time and money lost on planning and training. Not to mention the suffering that so many horses endure because their owners like me aren't aware of what's really going on with the horse! It breaks my heart.

    If you would like to share your PSSM story please email us at foals@manitobahorse,com or visit our facebook page BRIDGEquine and PM us!

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