Monday, August 21, 2017

Part 1: So What's Wrong With Penn?

The short answer: We don't know.

The better answer: He seems to be just fine now!

Unrelated, I took this pic after a major thunderstorm rolled through in July.
The moment was gone incredibly quickly.

Starting a couple months ago, he'd come to work a bit uneven, but work out of it. In June, he had a few comments in his free walk about not stepping evenly up front. A month ago, that became a bit more consistent in the trot, but then it wasn't actually consistent enough to get any kind of read on it (or nerve block). All we could gather was he wasn't feeling OK, and that he sometimes stepped short on the right front, but sometimes it was his left front (the right more often though). M took him for a spin and felt what I meant, and agreed that it's weird and inconsistent.

He's been getting adjusted by the Chiropractor on a regular basis. He's getting his vitamins and electrolytes.

One night he just didn't work out of it. He felt super shitty. We hoof tested him for an abscess. Nothing. His toes were long, but he's never reacted that badly to that.

His farrier came out the next night and trimmed him (he was already set to come out). His feet were quite long for 5 weeks in the middle of July. We opted to do four weeks next. I've never done four weeks. Why would we be doing four weeks IN JULY AND AUGUST? Oh yea, because it keeps raining and the grass keeps growing and so the hooves keep growing too.

Lots of hoof.

One of the families at the barn has a Pulse machine (their own design based on a human product- it's really cool) and I decided to give that a try. I hadn't considered them in the past because treatments were just too expensive (ie $200 for a session). They recently lowered the prices substantially, so the night Penn came up really weird, I was like, "Sign Penn up!" It's this neat pulse machine that works the muscles into relaxing by applying pounds of pressure on small pulsing heads that the operator takes down the muscles. It has saved logs of each horse that record data from each visit and treatment, so the more you treat, the better the algorithms become (or something like that. I don't code this type of thing!)

Baseline testing down the spine. I believe it works by directing pulses over each vertebrae and seeing what bodily resistance they meet. Red is very bad, yellow is not good. I am not excellent at reading these charts.
Receiving treatment based on the results of the spine test. (red line)
Finally deciding he likes the treatment. It took a while since it has a cord and sounds a little like clippers.

C worked on Penn for over an hour the same night he got his new toes and had very little impact on his muscles- Penn was still wound extremely tight. He recommended I have Penn tested for Lyme- he's had a few other horses not respond to the pulse machine, and they've all been off the charts for Lyme.

The sensor was showing better results after testing, but physical testing (running a jabby finger down the spine) was still earning the pre-treatment reactions.

I had my vet out two days later to draw blood, and to leave minocycline for Penn to start taking while we waited for results. I was hoping for an "easy" diagnosis. While Lyme is not a great one, it is a TREATABLE one. Aka, please give me something that I can just throw money at and fix it. That's how it was with Mikey's hock: "Ok, he's got chips. Can we fix it? Great. Let's do it." When Mikey died, there was a lot of blood... and all I could think was, "OK, we can fix this. Just put it back in. Where can I buy more?"

Unfortunately his lab results came back with only 'elevated' numbers- nothing that should be causing a physical problem. We opted to do another 10 days of mino (we had done 7 already) just to be sure and to knock out the chance of the problem being anaplasmosis (another tick-borne disease that is also treated with mino). Back to the drawing board.

Second session baseline. Much better.

Interestingly, Penn did improve from his first treatment with the Pulse machine. He was still incredibly reactive, but he tracked a bit better laterally and rode better. I opted to have 2 more visits because I had horse shows coming up and didn't have anything else I could throw at him. C found at the second visit he was still very reactive, but he started to respond to the pulses within the session.

We even worked on the neck some! The yellow line is his baseline, the bars are a check to see how he's reacting.
The chiropractor identified the base of the neck on the right side as a major problem area (last time he worked on Penn he spent a long time on adjusting that part of the horse). C was working on the base of the neck and Penn's muscles gave a huge pop and tension release. It was super neat to watch!

By the third session Penn was absolutely in love with C and every time he'd stop to change a setting or a pulse head, Penn would reach over and be like "Hey, keep going!"

What a great baseline!
His back looked much better, but with some tension way back (to be expected since I had him sitting a ton).

After these visits, Penn went on to absolutely exceed expectations with his first official third level score:

Coincidence? I donno. I'm certainly not messing with it though!

So what's next?

Penn is still moving well. I scheduled him to get pulse treatments the week of and the two weeks before championships (3 weekly treatments). He'll see his chiropractor the same night as the first Pulse treatment. He'll see the farrier at 4 weeks again the night of the second treatment.

All I could gather was that he probably hurt a lot bodily somewhere (or enough all over) and would push unevenly from behind. His left hind is the weak one right now, so the right front being short more often would make sense. When I really rode him, I could make him track evenly.

Coming soon, Part 2: More Pulse Fun!


  1. Body sore makes a ton of sense, as well as weak hind. Pig's contact always changes depending on which hind leg is weak. He could feel lame when pushed, just because of one leg pushing less than the other.

    Anyway, glad you're seeing so much improvement with Penn!!

    1. Penn seems to always have something! But he's definitely feeling better and working better!

  2. That machine sounds super neat! Glad that even though you may not have concrete answers, Penn seems to be know the mend!

  3. I want that machine. Plz send to Texas!

    1. I know! The one in these pics is the one you need special training to use (or certifications or I donno what exactly, but I'm not qualified... yet haha). I cannot wait for their mini-pulse to be in production! I will keep you posted ;-P

  4. very interesting. charlie's basically always got a lot going on. between wear and tear from his lengthy racing career, exacerbated by compensation from the natural soreness that comes with building new muscles, plus crappy unpredictable feet to boot, i'm never really quite sure what's going on with him. we've got a lot of chicken/egg stuff, for sure, and it's tricky to know where to start. seems like maybe similar stuff (for different reasons probably haha) with Penn. glad you're finding a recipe that seems to be making a difference!

    1. Right now my recipe is to throw all the things at him, haha. I am looking to reduce it after championships- I'm spending a small fortune monthly between the various things (chiro, pulse, supplements) and I want to see what I can remove and not have a downhill slide. It's so hard to know what's ailing them. If they could only speak! Body work is never a bad place to start though, and I think we did the right thing (even if it put me $400ish in the hole) to test out the Lyme route.

      He's certainly feeling good these days, so I'm just trying to keep it that way!

  5. That machine sounds so cool! I love learning more about alternative treatments.

    1. I'm sad it took me so long to try it out, but it was just so expensive. I'm super glad it's much cheaper to do now!