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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In which not doing so good.....

About a week ago I begin doing a very naughty thing.

I started telling people that this was the year of the "Broke Melinda and the Sound Horse".

I begin patting myself on the back for my 1000 mile stone, only 2 rides away.

In fact, I begin to contemplate the possibility of having to end this blog and say good bye to all you nice folks because I was OUT of things to write about.....My "Endurance Horse For Sale" was a last ditch effort to actually WRITE something that wasn't a simple update me and Farley.

Last night Farley tyed up. Lovely eh? Let me set the stage for you'all:

Farley has been off for 4 days due to me not feeling well/on antibiotics etc etc. Last night I decide to do an easy 20 minute ssession in the arena walk/trot/canter.

I warm her up for ~5 minutes on a loose rein at a walk and ask for a little trot. Something doesn't feel right so I jump off. No rocks, no filling, no heat. I get back on. Something still doesn't feel right. Put her in the round pen and ask for trot and canter both directions. She gives it willingly and looks fine so I decide that she's being a bit balky (not usual with 3-4 days off) and mount back on.

For the next 15 minutes she's very very obstinate. I am not happy. In fact, as I dismount, I exclaim "that is the worse ride in 3 YEARS I've had on this horse!". Of course, once I'm on the ground and go to lead her forward, I can IMMEDIATELY that she's tied up. Very painful. She's also a LOT more sweaty and foamy than I would expect from a little 15-20 minute work out.

I lead her to the tie rack (~20 feet) and call the vet.

She's alert, more than willing to graze, good vitals, great attitude etc.

The vet comes and confirms that yes, it she has tyed up. We pull blood, give pain meds and a muscle relaxer and wait for the blood results. At midnight, after getting results we discuss the options. The blood sample confirms the tye up and also tells us that her kidneys etc. are functioning fine. Her electrolyte levels are fine. But, she's slightly dehydrated. We decide to leave her at the stable and see if she drinks overnight.

This morning she was moving well, attitude continues to be good.....BUT had only drank ~2 gallons overnight.

So, with the blessing of the vet I brought her into the clinic today and they started IV fluids and will be repeating the blood test at noon today.

The Investigation

Farley isn't the typical candidate for a tye up, but even so I've always kept it in the back of my mind as a possibility and have tried to manage her as if she was at signficant risk. I can't control that she's a mare, an arab, and fit. Other risks, I can control.....
  • Selinium levels - by a stroke of luck I actually had her selinium checked last week, 5 days before the tye up. She's 0.2, which is the high end of normal. I don't think this is an issue, but I'll be doing more research on selinium levels in endurance horses.
  • Activity level - I'm very careful to not let her sit for a long period of time without some sort of hand walking/lunging/jogging etc. After 10 days of rest, I start to worry. For the last 3 weeks since Tevis, she's been lightly worked, but never more than 3-4 days of just being in her pen. This time period has never been an issue (less than a week), but possibly need to shorten that interval to 2-3.
  • Past history - no past history of any metabolic issues what so ever
  • Body type - is not heavily muscled, not the typical "shape" associated with tye ups.
  • Diet (excluding Hay) - I've been very very careful about keeping the simple sugars/carbs out of her diet. No carrots, or apples (very occasionally during a ride or run...). No feeds containing mollassas. Soaking and rinsing beetpulp to be very very sure. High fat diet with oil. I will be checking with Elk Grove Milling to see if they have a detailed analysis of the Stable Mix feed, but a label check (which I did prior to feeding it) showed it to be similar to other feeds recommended for a low sugar diet......I also don't feed anything (except hay) if she's off. For the 4 days prior to the tye up that she was off, she didn't get anything but hay.
  • Hay - This is what my vet feels in the most likely culprit. I've ignored the hay because, being at a bording stable, I have very limited control over the hay. The alfalfa is bought in very large loads, but the grass is bought by the pickup load. She gets a 50/50 mix of the 2 hays. I'm going to have them tested, hopefully to rule the hay out......but if it does come back high than I'm going to have to figure something out.......

So in conclusion, my vet feels that at this point it is diet related, and the likely culprit is the hay, considering the timing of the tye up. It's unfortunate that this is the one thing that I have the least amount of control over....

Lesson Learned

Any horse can tye up, even one that does not fit the "typical" profile, or that is being managed to minimize the risk. Every horse owner should know what tying up looks like and know how to respond. The only reason I knew what was going on was because I educated myself on it and had seen it happen at endurance rides to other people's horses. I was amazed that no one at the boarding stable knew what it was, and the barn owner had only seen it once in all her years. Hopefully by showing people what it looked like and explaining that you do NOT want to walk the horse in this situation and that it IS serious, I have helped someone/some horse some day.


As a bonus, when the vet was checking her over he heard "a lot" of sand in her colon so I'll be starting a regimene to deal with that - BEFORE she colics. Thank goodness.

Where to now?

I will keep you guys updated. For now, she's at the vets for the day getting fluids and being observed. I should be able to take her home this afternoon. She'll slowly be put back to work over the next 2 weeks or so. I'll be busy testing hay. I've obviously withdrawn from the cavalry competition in Reno on August 26-29. At this point I'm assuming she will make a full recovery and be able to do the rides I have planned later in the season, but as always - Farley's welfare is paramount and I'm waiting to make any final decisions as soon as I see how she responds to the rehab.

The Bottom Line

"They" say that the steepest learning curve is in the first 1000 competition miles. Amen. I think I've seen a bit of everything now between my two horses. Except bullet wounds. Or horrible, gashed open fence pole injuries. Or broken bones. Or horrible, incurable diseases.

I need to stop now or I will start to give Farley ideas! LOL. Seriously though - I wish it hadn't happened, but now that it has, I will learn as much as I can and apply it for the rest of my life. I've just been so careful (diet, exercise etc.) so I never thought it would happen to Farley...*sigh*


  1. Fingers crossed that this clears up, and your investigation proves fruitful.

    And you can't leave us! ;)

    Rubs to Farley, and thinking of you both!

  2. It's got to be the alfalfa hay. I have owned horses for almost 30 years and have never had my own horse tie-up. And I've never fed any of my horses' alfalfa. ((I am knocking on wood because I know it still could happen and I have to be careful always))

    I used to take care of some QH's in IL that were fed straight alfalfa. One gelding had three episodes in the year and a half I stayed there. The vet always said, pull this horse off alfalfa or one of these days he's not going to make it. But the owners (who were formerly dairy cow owners) just would not accept it. They had their own alfalfa field and there was no way they were going to not use their own hay.

    I could be wrong but that is my hunch. And my observations in my years of horse ownership.

    Hope she makes a full recovery, which I can only imagine from the good care you give her!


  3. God luck with your investigation. Testing your hay is NEVER a bad idea. Not only will it give you a better idea concerning her tie-up, it will also give you information on anything that her hay, or diet in general, may be lacking. Grass hays can be high in sugar, so don't automatically think it's the alfalfa. Don't assume that it's any one thing that caused her to tie-up. Sometimes it can be a combination of environment, hormonal balance/imbalance, exercise, diet, or a change in any of those things.
    Keep an open mind, and good luck. I'm sure you'll figure it out.

  4. I may have just gotten really unlucky with her coming into season, on the heels of some time off, combined with a high sugar load of hay (either one). Still, trying not to discount anything that may have contributed.

    If the issue is alfalfa, it would be pretty easy to pull her off of that and feed her 100% grass with a flake of alfalfa only during hard work (none of off days) if weight and protein end up being an issue. It's going to be tougher if it ends up being the grass hay that's not great because of the Ca:Ph ratios........

    wait and see wait and see.

    Haven't gotten a call from my vet yet and I should have 1 1/2 ago!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *sigh* Patience is a virtue right. As in a high Credit Card limit.

  5. I've only had one horse (a TB) tie up and it was a very scary experience. It sounds like she's being well taken care of, and she should recover without adverse effects based on what you said. Hope you can figure out the cause and remove it.

    (I know absolutely nothing about endurance, but have been enjoying your write-ups and analyses.)

  6. Sorry this happened to Farley. It was lucky that you were able to get a vet right away and that it wasn't more serious.

    Watch the hay tho - my alfalfa/grass mix is lower on the NSC/WSC content than the straight grass is.

    Sounds to me more like it was a typical "horse is really fit, got a break, put back to work" tie-up, while also still being "fed well".

    This happened to Tigger a couple of years ago too, after doing the Swanton 100. He then had a mild issue with it after that, since he got a "break" with little work. Mares can be even more sensitive to these kinds of things. Now you will need to be even more careful in the future.

    While I do think that food can play a role in these things, I also think that it is more complicated than that. I'm sure you will figure it out. If you do keep having occurrences I can send you more resources to help.

  7. P.S. "I started telling people that this was the year of the "Broke Melinda"

    You got that right! Literally!!

    (same here, only my vet bills are currently for the small animal vet for my dog)

  8. Oh...I'm sorry Mel :(

    For the record, our episode come on in a period that I had increased the alfalfa proportion of her diet.

    When you get the time and inclination, please post up all the symptoms, because Phebe's episode was so insidious that it got by me & the vets until the urine color gave me a heart attack.

    Hope she is better soon. Hugs.


  9. Karen - I'm going to post her schedule and feeding today sometime and would love if you could give me some feedback. The post Tevis work and diet was very similar to 20 MT and WW. She didn't get anything but hay on the days she didn't get out (which, I think makes a good case for the hay).

    E.G. - Relunctance to move forward and then when I got off to lead her, a relunctance to lead with very short hind strides. The muscle swelling and hardness didn't show up for another 6-8 hours, and she didn't pee until about 4 hours later (at which time I saw it was dark). The attack was very sudden and fairly severe. Her feed has remained consistent over the season, so I'm a little confused....The only "new" feed this year (started using it about 6 months ago) is the stable mix, so I have a message out to EGM, asking about a detailed anaylsis for that feed. And then of course the (unknown) changes in the hay.

    for those of you that have asked - muscle enzymes were too high to count on Tuesday night, and remained high on Wednesday at noon.

  10. freakin' scary, all right. You and Farley are in our thoughts--keep us posted!!!

  11. You have to remember that she is fitter now than she was prior to or after the previous rides.

    It is also a different time of year, so hormones may play a larger part now than say in February or March.

    This combination along with the feed and other supplements she gets could be the cause, as well as periods of activity or inactivity.

    Just don't be led into thinking "it's the alfalfa" and taking her off of that and then assuming that is all that was needed to prevent a tie-up in the future.

    Keep an eye on her feet, especially for signs of heat or sensitivity. This kind of stress can lead to inflammation and a low grade laminitis.


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