Ulcer stress; on Pop rocks, not sure I BELIEVE just yet... Good Update!
I know ulcers don't always show improvement with outward behavior until they are completely healed, but I'm starting to worry. Are the Pop Rocks not working? Should I bite the bullet and just get Gastroguard instead? or could it possibly be something else entirely?? Here's my horse's story:
- 5 years ago when he was first imported from Germany, all looked ok but he never had that 'bloom'. Appetite was great, but no matter what he was fed he didn't gain weight from being just a hair under what I liked and should have had a much glossier coat. With the endorsement of my vet, we tried him on a month of Ranitidine (did not scope). AMAZING difference, gained 45 lbs in 2 weeks, so we felt it was pretty obvious that our diagnostic guess had been correct. 2 weeks after discontinuing, he started to have occasional mild gassy/colicky episodes. We did another month of Ranitidine and had no more problems after that. Since Ranitidine is cheap I did a month every spring for the next few years just in case (vet said not a bad idea).
- 2 years ago he started hunching his back occasionally when saddled. Had a fitter come and reflock his saddle, which seemed to be the magic ticket for a while. 5 months later he started doing it again. Put him on a month's worth of Ranitidine again in case ulcers were an issue (with no change), then had the fitter back out to re-check the saddle (they said it was fine). He continued to be good under saddle despite this happening now and then, so I would just lunge him a bit on the days he did it before I rode thinking it was a cold-backed issue.
- Last year he started to become more and more unpredictable under saddle - BIG sudden spooks and bucking fits that seemed to come out of nowhere, for no reason. They weren't at the beginning of a ride from being fresh, he seemed very calm prior to and afterwards, etc. I messed with a few diet changes and couldn't figure out what his problem was. I tried another month of Ranitidine and he got a few chiro appts and body work sessions, too. Nothing seemed to make a difference. Since the first time he had ranitidine it made such an obvious difference so fast, I felt like ulcers were probably not the issue. Finally I gave him a year off. He was starting to scare me as a rider and I knew it just wasn't like him to act that way - I didn't have the money to spend a lot on more investigation, so I thought let's see what time can do in case it was back soreness, or ?. He still ate normally, was sound, seemed normal in every other way.
- This summer I wanted to see if I could bring him back into work. I got him out and tacked him up. When I started to slowly girth him, he hunched again but this time he also *twitched his skin like he could barely stand for it to touch his sides*. Poor poor baby. Obviously this couldn't have been back soreness from being ridden in an ill fitting saddle since he hadn't been ridden for a year. The next week I tried tacking him in a different saddle just in case, same reaction. When I led him around he started to relax a bit after a few steps, so I went ahead and lunged him. He seemed so happy to be out and paid attention to! I feel so bad for him. I really can't think of anything else it could be but ulcers, especially watching that youtube video of where ulcer pressure points are. He even seems sensitive in that lower back region that they say indicates long-term ulcer issues when I curry him.
Where we are at now:
He never got much grain, so last month I decided to switch him to just a RB together with what he was already getting - soaked beet pulp and alfalfa pellets 2x a day and plenty of quality timothy hay. He is on 24/7 turnout. He started on Pop Rocks 3 weeks ago. I get him out once a week and saddle him to see if there has been any change. I have seen none so far and am getting worried. My trainer says that her mare took 3 months to recover from bad ulcers so not to panic yet, but I hate hate hate that he is still NQR! I discussed his story and symptoms with another vet last week and she thinks that I should try a week of GG instead and see if that shows a difference. She's not convinced that any other form of Omeprozole is effective. She also agreed that she would put the money towards the week of GG before having him scoped, sounded so much like ulcers. I've got 12 more days of the Pop rocks, so I think I'll do the GG if no change shows by the end. If there is a change, I'll keep him on the rocks for another month or 2.
So, has anyone out there seen similar behavior in a horse? Was it ulcers or something else? How long did things take before they seemed to resolve? In 30 years of being around horses, I have never seen this extreme twitching. I can't think of anything else it would be. If the course of Pop Rocks and a week of GG don't show anything, we'll take him to the vet hospital for more investigation, but I'm stressing. :(