Apart from her Hudini routine, Leonie has been worrying us in other ways over the last few weeks. In fact her whole future has been in the balance. She’s a lovely little mare in so many ways, but she does have a few problematic quirks. A complete and utter inability /total reluctance to pick up her feet for picking out or the farrier.
Leonie was only 5 when she came to us last year, and, other than the sales pitch we got from the dealer (think a young, Devonian, Arthur Daley), we know nothing about her background . I’ve had 5 year olds before who wouldn’t /couldn’t pick their feet up. Sapphire was particularly difficult. However, they usually get th idea after a while. Not so Leo.
Beginning to suspect that there was more going on than just bad manners and ignorance, I asked the vet to assess her. . Is this behavioural, or is there an underlying health problem? Baring in mind that Leo is blind in one eye, is it a balance problem caused by that? After all, my own balance is rubbish! I don’t know what changed her mind; our vet had just said she thought the problem was behavioural, but suddenly said “Oh hang on” and started doing a load of specific tests over and over. Then she said the thing I was dreading, “She may potentially have Wobblers Syndrome “!
Wobblers Syndrome! Notwithstanding it’s silly sounding name, Wobblers is a diagnosis that nobody wants to hear. The cavity running through the vertebrae of the cervical spine (neck) is too narrow for some reason, so the nerves in the spinal cord don’t have enough room. As a result the nerves become squeezed, and perminant lay damaged. Effected horses do not have full control of their back, and sometimes, front, legs. They fall over easily and are considered dangerous . There is no cure. I had heard of Wobblers before, but naively thought it was something that tall, gangly youngsters got and then grew out of. How wrong was I!?
The vet gave us some suggestions as to what to do next, and told us to take some time to consider our options, but under no circumstances were we to ride Leo,as she could just fall over with no warning.
Devasted, and with Hal in a state of denial, I set out to find out what the future might hold for a Wobbler. Oh dear! Everything pointed towards euthanasia. However, we were given the same piece of advice by two separate people. Both of whom we trust . They said that before we made any big decisions about Leo’s future, we should have her neck x-rayed. This was one of the options that the vet has suggested to us. We were told that occasionally a horse may present with symptoms similar to wobblers, but may actually have arthritis in the neck. If this is the case then the problem can be treated. We were advised that there is no real way of telling without having a look at what is going on in the neck. So this is what we decided to do.
Unfortunately however, The day before the vet was due to come and do the x-rays, The x-ray machine broke down. We had to wait for another fortnight before we could have the x-rays taken. All this time we were not allowed to do anything with Leo, safety first of course. It was during this time the Madame started to escape from the field into next door. She was also getting increasingly nasty towards Paul Florence. A typical board and fractious teenager.
However, when we did eventually get the x-rays done, she behaved like a total angel. The x-rays and her symptoms and test results were sent off to a specialist vet up country somewhere. I’m so glad we had them done.
So there’s good news and there is bad news. The good news is that Leone does not have wobblers Syndrome ! What a relief. In fact there is nothing wrong with her neck at all.
The bad news is that she does have some form of mystery and neurological problem going on. She might be what is called a Shiverer . However she does not fit the typical profile of a horse with shiverer syndrome. 85% of sshiverers are tall (17hh plus) geldings, whereas Leo is a short (14.3hh) mare.
The good news is that shiverers are safe to ride and can have a very successful ridden career.
The bad news is that as we do not know exactly what the problem with Leone is, we do not know if it will deteriorate or not. We could send her away to have a lots more tests to find out exactly what the problem is, but this would be extremely expensive and we still would not be able to resolve the problem.
The good news is that we are now allowed to return to normal with Leo. We have been told to be careful and vigilant, but she can be ridden. The vets are confident that she is not in any pain, and now we have put them on some grass she has stopped beating up on Florence.
So hopefully a future is once again bright.
Know if she could just stop escaping from the field…