My 10 year old endurance mare has been strugging with a strange constellation of issues for several months now. They manifest mostly in the following behavior:
Hypersensitive over loin area and hindquarters. Reacts violently to saddling or having anything else (saddle pad, blanket, sometimes even my arm) thrown over her back. Will do anything to get away. Extremely tense (think crouched and shaking) if you do get it on her.
Otherwise normal to touch, groom, etc. No obvious back pain, though one vet did think she had some deep back soreness that he thought was caused by hock or stifle pain.
Very stiff to the left. Amost impossible to get her to reverse to the left on the lunge when saddled, or even with just a pad. Gets panicky and runs through the turn if forced. Much better with no tack but still stiff. "Carrot stretches" are more difficult to the left than to the right, but aren't great on either side.
Doesn't want cinched up, but this is not as bad as just getting the saddle on.
Skitters forward when asked to walk with saddle on. Has bucked when asked to trot. Again, this goes for just the pad as well, though not as dramatic.
Lethargic when asked to work. Doesn't trot out enthusiastically and seems to tire too quickly. This happens both on the lunge and under saddle. Very hard to keep her trotting under saddle, and can't get any extension. Same on the lunge. No sign of tying up, just apparent lack of energy.
When ridden, tends to drop abruptly from trot to walk or stop. Is hard to get going again. If forced to move out again, prefers to pick up a canter briefly. This could be related to the stifle (see below).
Near side stifle catches sometimes, particularly on trot-canter transitions, but she has always been like this and it has never seemed to be an issue in almost 1,000 competition miles. Stifle x-rays showed no arthritis or other concerns.
Hock x-rays were also normal, but there was a bit of back-pressure when vet injected them. Injections didn't help.
Had one, mild incident of neuro? choke? about 6 weeks ago. Droopy lower lip, stiff and twisted upper lip, had a hard time eating. Treated like choke, fed soaked hay for a couple days, and had no further issues.
Rubbing tail out. (She is UTD on deworming, of course.)
No apparent loss of appetite or muscle mass.
I've had 4 good vets and several very experienced friends check the horse and saddle fit.
We've tried chiropractic, massage, Dex for an undiagnosed itchy/sensitive-skin issue in spring (related?), riding with bute, omeprazole for ulcers, hock injections...all to no avail.
We've discussed everything from Lyme (which is extremely rare around here) to West Nile to estrous pain to hindgut ulcers to musculoskeletal pain to PSSM to magnesium deficiency to saddle fit to plain old boredom. Nothing rings true. Poor girl -- we don't know how to help her.
I've quit riding her (with the exception of about 3, experimental rides since May) because she's obviously not right, but what on earth is wrong?
I too thought of a kidney infection reading your description. I would guess an infection would show up with blood work. Check urine/white cells for bladder infection which in some species can travel to the kidneys. Next I would look at other organ problems, liver, hindgut, womb and reproductive system. She seems to be acting like she has back pain along with lethargy which suggests to me some kind of infection.
I would have all panels done and internal exam. Could be a tumor, etc. I think I would take her to a major vet center for a full diagnosis. This has been around for a long time to go undiagnosed.
Good luck. Fill us in about the results from taking her to a teaching hospital, etc.
...I am now at the stage of wine-surfing COTH
If it were my horse I'd be asking my vet to check Selenium and Vit E levels.
My broken wither horse had some of the symptoms you describe, skittering, bucking, no enthusiasm, balking, with absence of visible "back pain" as we recognize it. No vet or chiro could find the broken withers either, only xray revealed the damage. If it were my horse I'd probably be looking into trying to get photos of the neck/spine/withers. Tail rubbing can be a sign of back pain too, my broke back pony is a tail rubber as well, though its usually because of a dirty sheath or bug bites.
Could be low Se levels. I knew someone who had a horse who developed weird symptoms after moving cross country. Being put on Myo-guard resolved his weird symptoms. http://kppusa.com/all-products/myo-guard/
Many vets IMO, fall back on pretty outdated nutritional info when it comes to Se levels. Some of the endurance vets will recommend a much higher level. Also, the source of Se is importent. Sodium Selenite is not well utilized by the body as compared to Selenium yeast which is food derived.
I don't have any new ideas though those suggested seem in line with the problems and may help. I will try them as well. I have another mystery symptom mare though it is possibly under the shoulder and forward. We xrayed the neck to the shoulder and found nothing and the best guess is it is under the shoulder possibly caused by a kick or a seperation. There is sign of a possible Wobbler but the symptoms are not neurological. I have limited range of motion for the neck, she is unwilling to move the base of her neck laterally. She does turn her head. She can get her head about 12 inches from the ground but can raise her head and neck. We had her on Fetanyl patches(top of the pain killing narcotics) the pain was severe to the point she was not there at times. She would go into muscle spasms. Now she is on Banamine which makes a big difference...Bute made no difference...and she is also on a muscle relaxant. Her improvement over the last 2 months is slow but it is improvement. Unfortunately or not she is maintaining a pregnancy...will be due late next spring. She is off the narcotics(what a huge expense that was) and maintains on banamine and methocarbamol. I would suggest trying both of these and seeing if that helps your mare's reactivity. I am very lucky my mare is a very good patient. It seems if she recovers it will be a long recovery. She has been seen lying down and getting up and that is new and welcome. We also believe we had a ulce at the beginning and treated 3 weeks of Gastroguard and have maintained on the omeprozaol Pop Rocks. When I was grooming yeasterday...I am only out a couple times a week...I give her a nose to toes to tail grooming and she is wildly appreciative...I noticed she has a section the side of her face she does not want groomed. We have similarities in our mares though probably they are not the same cause. Good luck with your mare...love your blog. PatO