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