First, you may recall that Sassy started to "tie up" during an endurance ride on May 11 in Mt. Carmel, Utah. If you don't know the details, please scroll to the blog post prior to this one; that way I won't repeat what many of you already know. :)
We arrived safely back in Phoenix, and our vet drew blood and had labs done. As we pretty much expected, Sassy's muscle enzyme levels did come back elevated. The specifics: normal is between 200-500; Sassy's came back at 3,000. At first, I was quite concerned, until Dr. Harvey explained that the 3,000 really only confirmed what we already knew. Sassy had "started" to tie up.
She went on to tell me that most times horses get a lot further in the tying up episode, which seriously elevates their muscle enzymes to the hundreds of thousands! She's seen results as high as 300,000! That put things more in perspective for me.
Additionally, Sassy's potassium level was a little higher than normal, but nothing alarming.
We decided that since she was still elevated after a week had passed, we would test her again and add a couple more labs; ie. Cushing's and PSSM1 and PSSM2.
Here's a link with information on Cushing's followed by a link for info on PSSM 1 and 2:
I had asked Dr. Harvey about Cushing's for two reasons; the first being I noticed Sassy wasn't totally shedding her winter coat, and the second simply being Sassy is now 17 years old.
Side note: someone actually suggested to me I should have Sassy tested for Cushing's because of her age, and then they felt the need to inform me that "Cushing's is the beginning of the end....." I don't think I'll comment on that here right now; in fact, I think most of you who are reading this know me well enough to know how insensitive I deem that comment to have been, and equally unnecessary. Why give it anymore credence?
Moving on, we had a second set of labs done, and received the results today. Sassy's levels are all normal! Of course, I wanted to jump up and down and scream "horray," but I could hear a BUT in Dr. Harvey's voice.
I told her I could hear the concern and told her I could handle knowing everything, even if it wasn't positive. I assured her I can and will deal with whatever it is; I won't fall apart because I need and want and will take care of Sassy no matter what.
She took a deep breath and replied she believes Sassy is in a gray zone, meaning we should continue to watch her closely and test her again in a few months using different procedures for the above-mentioned afflictions. She reminded me that 2 years ago I asked her if she thought Sassy could possibly have Cushing's because she still had a little winter coat left in June. Dr. Harvey asked me what made me think that at that particular time, and I told her that a horse I'd been close to had just been put to sleep because she'd had Cushing's and no one knew about it, and the horse foundered. They tried packing her feet, etc. but it was just too late and she was just in too much pain, so the owner had the mare put to sleep. I was crushed; it was the first horse I knew personally that had foundered and been euthanized.
That mare was about 4 years older than Sassy, but I was associating the disease with the teenage years (although not sure where I got that from). I was glad Dr. Harvey reminded me of that conversation, and I was surprised that I had momentarily forgotten it! She assured me then (as well as now) that Cushing's has more symptoms in addition to not shedding winter coat. Sassy wasn't exhibiting any other symptoms then, nor is she now.
So you're probably wondering the same thing I was wondering.....why is Sassy in a gray zone? I must confess I was thinking it had something to do with the fact that Sassy has had somewhat of a cresty neck since we first adopted her. At the time, of course, I did not know how significant that could become.
After adopting Sassy, Dr. Harvey came out and examined her, gave her vaccines, etc. and we discussed health care management at great detail. I was pretty green at the time, though, due to the fact I'd never owned a horse and had not been around them for about 19 years. The conversation I had today with Dr. Harvey made much more sense to me than 5 years ago, so at least I know I am learning. :)
Dr. Harvey pointed out that Rocky Mountain Horses have a tendency to become IR (insulin resistant), and their weight needs to be watched consistently. Sadly, I will never be able to get rid of Sassy's cresty neck, although it's much better now than it was 5 years ago. At some point in her life, as we all know, Sassy was not taken care of. She'd been terribly neglected, and apparently was very overweight at some time. We have no way of knowing when or for how long, nor do we know to what extent! Dr. Harvey believes Sassy either did founder or came very close to foundering sometime during those first 12 years of her lonely life. The timing was incredible for her to have been rescued when she was, which all the more convinces me she's a gift from God!
If Sassy had been taken care of the first 12 years like she has been these last 5 years, we wouldn't need to "worry" and try to stay on top of the situation, but that's not the case. As they say, "it is what it is." Therefore, I will deal accordingly.
Dr. Harvey suggests we test Sassy again in about 3 months, but in the meantime, she's given the green light to go ahead and let Sassy continue doing her endurance rides that she loves so much! We discussed retiring her, but it's too soon to make that decision. I felt very relieved and proud when Dr. Harvey told me she's comfortable making this recommendation because she knows that I am so in tune with Sassy that the second something doesn't feel right, or if Sassy acts differently, I will know about it. She said I am so "on top" of these health issues, that she's confident if/when Sassy's health changes, we'll know immediately and will be able to deal accordingly.
The feeding regimen I have Sassy on now still provides her enough calories for energy for endurance riding, and it contains very little sugar. If Sassy seems to have a little less energy than "normal," we (Dr. Harvey and I) will discuss dietary changes, but we both feel confident what I'm doing now is exactly what Sassy needs.
I rode her yesterday, and it was the first "real" conditioning ride I've done with her in about 7 weeks. She ROCKED! We did 12 miles in about 90 minutes! Sassy was having SO much fun, but I did have her slow down several times so I could evaluate her; I also had her stop completely twice so that I could check her for any signs of anything not being right. Sassy let me know during those 2 stops that the only thing that wasn't right was we weren't GOING! LOL
Gotta LOVE that Sassinator!
It's getting late, I'm still fighting bronchitis, and my eyes are closing. So, I will end this for now and post it, but I will edit it and add the rest of the information tomorrow afternoon. For those of you reading this, thank you for caring about Sassy, and thank you for allowing me to share her with you! There are some people out there who are not so keen on her, and as far as I'm concerned, that no longer bothers me. It's their loss as far as I'm concerned, and I no longer waste time worrying about their opinions.
I am a very blessed horse mom, and I thank God and my hubby each and every day. Sassy is an unusual, wonderfully-unique, extremely complex and lovingly affectionate mare. She's also strong, healthy, determined, focused and loyal; I'm so, so thankful she's allowed me to love her and honored beyond belief that she loves me back!
The last of Sassy's bloodwork results came in this morning;
she tested NEGATIVE for PSSM1 and PSSM2!!
Soooooooooooo thankful and VERY happy!!!!!!!!