Janet and Maisie
Maisie is a TB x Appaloosa horse now aged eight. Maisie came to live with me when she was six months old. A worm count revealed she had arrived with an extremely high red worm count which I treated. For the first two and a half years of her life she was out on my pasture during the day with an elderly horse and on a hay track system at night with the rest of my ponies.
My pasture is unfertilised, unsprayed fairly mixed grazing with access to mixed hedgerow. Certainly not as diverse as it could be but not bad. After the death of the elderly horse Maisie joined my other four ponies on the track with access to small amounts of grass along the edges, mixed hedgerow and ad lib hay. I always use the best unsprayed, unfertilised, most diverse hay I can find.
Maisie has never had bagged feed and only ever has organic apples or carrots. I currently use a very small amount of meadow nuts to carry any supplements I need to give her.
When she was about 4 years old Maisie started to get quite loose droppings with lots of liquid expelled at the same time. To the extent that her bottom, legs and tail would be completely stained with poo. This rumbled on for several months and I tried various herbs and supplements to no avail. I arrived one morning to find her on the floor with colic. After she recovered from colic my vet scanned her intestines and discovered inflammation and thickening of the small intestinal wall. The suggested treatment for this was a three month course of steroids, followed by feeding a rice bran supplement.
The vet told me that they had some success with this treatment although they didn't exactly know why! Though I was reluctant to use steroids I felt I had no option at the time. The treatment seemed to work, however, since then we have continued to have times when she has relapsed slightly.
After that I also contacted a homeopathic vet to see if there was something I could finally do to get it sorted out for Maisie but the supplements suggested didn't entirely solve the problem either. The last big episode was in about October last year and I managed to calm it all down using slippery Elm.
Now to mention Maisie's hooves. She is barefoot and my trimmer was always telling me what fantastic feet she has. Yet, over about the last two years (possibly more) my own feeling was that her feet were looking stranger and stranger. They appeared to be getting taller and taller and the collateral grooves were getting deeper and deeper. My hoof trimmer hadn't recognised the fact that Maisie had been suffering
with mild laminitis for some time. This mild inflammation in her feet and the pressure it was causing was making her feet lay down more and more sole. Hence the appearance of height in the hoof and the deeper than normal collateral groove.
Unfortunately, in February this year she developed full blown laminitis. It seemed almost impossible to comprehend as she wasn't overweight (in fact she was looking fabulous) and she wasn't out on lush grass.
I employed a new hoof trimmer who immediately recognised the signs in her feet that indicated a long standing problem. I also called the vet. The vet advised me that Maisie was overweight and that I needed to reduce her hay intake to 1.5 percent of her body weight and soak the living daylights out of it.
I knew that Maisie didn't have laminitis for the reasons that might usually be seen but that it must definitely be gut related. I also knew that unless I could heal her gut somehow the future wasn't looking too good for Maisie. My new trimmer was doing a good job and she decided it was time to let Maisie have access to more movement.
During these weeks I had been seeking advice from Carol at EquiBiome. Maisie was taking Phyto GI and Phytolean (though Maisie wasn't overweight I was advised it also settles the gut). I had had good results with Slippery Elm so she was still taking that. She was also taking l-glutamine. Carol said I shouldn't be having to micro manage her diet like I was and suggested the only way to know what was going on for sure was to get the EquiBiome test done. So I did!
Unfortunately, Maisie had another severe bout of laminitis and my trimmer asked that we get X-rays done. X-rays confirmed fairly major problems, particularly in her right fore. Maisie was confined to box rest and things generally seemed to go from bad to worse. I had a feeling she wouldn't do well being confined to a box as all my previous experience with her told me that her body went 'really weird all over if she didn't move enough'. I tried to convey this to my vet and trimmer but they didn't understand what I was trying to tell them. After she had been in her box for about five weeks she could hardly move her back legs either. I called the vet expecting that I was calling to have her put to sleep but the vet said it was cellulitis and she needed to have a bit more movement. We had the discussion about putting to sleep but the vet said she looked bright enough in herself and we could defer the decision.
More weeks passed and Maisie was due for a second set of hoof X-rays. When the vet and my trimmer arrived they both couldn't understand why Maisie was looking so uncomfortable. However, the X-rays showed that there was some improvement in her feet and the new growth was coming down with attachment and her pedal bones were sitting more correctly. I again tried to explain my theory on lack of movement to no avail. More blood tests were ordered, including a spot insulin level test. By this time the results of the EquiBiome test were imminent, phew!
The insulin test results showed a very slight raise in insulin levels (26). The blood test just slightly wrong protein levels and bile levels. The vet said the raised insulin level confirmed the reason for Maisie's laminitis and that she wanted to retest in two weeks’ time.
The results of the EquiBiome test finally arrived. They showed that Maisie had hind gut acidosis. Carol was really surprised that a horse on Maisie's diet could have this problem. It would normally be associated with horses on a bagged feed diet with soya hulls etc. Acidosis is a cause of laminitis and also, as too much lactic acid is produced, a cause of 'tying up'. Carol also looked at Maisie's blood test results for me and confirmed that Maisie was tying up. Also that slightly raised insulin levels could be linked to muscle distress. At last all the pieces of the puzzle were fitting in to place. I could see that Maisie had been slightly ‘tied up’ off and on for several years.
So back comes the vet for another blood test. Maisie is hobbling around my yard looking truly awful. I had called my vet before the appointment to explain about the blood test showing tying up and the insulin test possibly indicating muscle distress and the EquiBiome test showing acidosis. The vet wasn’t convinced that the blood test indicated tying up and felt Maisie was demonstrating the classic laminitis stance and the she had probably got laminitis in her back feet too. In her experience bigger horses often do not survive laminitis (which she has said before) and I feel again she is trying to prepare me for the worst.
I then decided to start treating Maisie for tying up using electrolytes and a herbal remedy that Carol recommended. Also at this time Maisie was a few days into taking encapsulated bi carb which had been recommended for the acidosis. Maisie has been taking it for just over two weeks now. She is also three days in to taking encapsulated live yeast. I'm finally seeing improvements!
It feels slow but it's happening! She isn't as tied up and is moving more freely. Her front feet are less sore. I am cautiously optimistic.
I have questioned myself many times during this period as to whether I am being cruel to continue to try for Maisie. Yet Maisie has told me she is okay to keep fighting, she has been remarkable. It's been a period of months that I wouldn't want anyone to have to go through. I thought Maisie was just sort of having minor flare ups of her gut problem. Little did I realise we were teetering on the edge of disaster.
I would definitely recommend others to get the test done. I also would suggest that even if you think Maisie's history sounds similar to your horses don't dabble with any of the remedies I have mentioned. Carol is amazed at the very individual results that are coming in from the test. Get the EquiBiome test done and you will finally know for sure.
Maisie’s test results showed that she has too many little critters that thrive in an acidic environment, hence the acidosis. Treatment is to slowly readjust the pH using encapsulated bi carb. Carol said it takes about two weeks for the pH to become less acidic. She also has relatively low levels of firmicutes. Encapsulated live yeast should help raise levels. Maisie also has low levels of n-butyrate producing bacteria; these bacteria ensure the quality and integrity of the gut wall. Plus low levels of bifidobacteria which Carol says will take time to increase and are indications of gut inflammation. Changes will take time especially as she has been symptomatic for some time.
In those days when I thought Maisie would have to be put to sleep it was Carol’s knowledge and willingness to talk on the phone that got us through. She literally saved Maisie’s life and I will be forever indebted to her.