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To start off with, I've had my haflinger (could be a draft cross, she's taller and wider than a lot of them) for four years now. Normally she's this super lively girl hopping and hollering after you, making sure everyone knows she's present. She has always been the boss of the herd in any herd she's ever been in, and one of the most active horses I know. Not to mention she absolutely adores the trails and endurance riding, and really enjoys going fast and zig-zagging in forests. Anything that requires her brain, she's there, she's alive, she wants you to look at her.

Last year, she got more and more lethargic. Gone were the days that she ran after me and shook her head willfully at my crazy antics. She got slower, and slower. Where she would have bucked and made her very convincing impression of an OTTB on the race tracks in the nearby woods, she cantered. She went as fast as you would ask her to, but that's were it ended. As if I was riding a machine instead of a live animal.

By July, she got an abcess. She lost all muscle tone, her ribs started showing, and her flanks disappeared. The abcess in her foot was quickly dealt with, but it took ages for her to walk alright again. Months. There were maggots, for Christ's sake. Those days were cleaning, cleaning, cleaning... By the end of the summer, she was quite fine, but something about her gait was still off. We were bound to go on a vacation - an extreme trail that went on for a week. I was worried, I didn't want to go. The friend who came with me with a borrowed horse peer pressured me into it however, and I went. It was my mistake, and I'll never listen to so-called friends again, trust me on that.
The third day came and went and I was sick of it. I didn't want to continue, I was calling someone to pick us up with a trailer. No matter what I was going to need to pay. My friend got very, very mad at me and told me I was selfish. She told me afterwards the reason why she was in the right and I was in the wrong is that her horse didn't trailer well. It's safe to say that was the end of that friendship.

After we came home, I was so worried I got out the big guns. My usual vet came around, the dentist came, an osteopath/vet came, and no one could tell me what the hell was wrong with my horse. After giving the osteopath the blood results, she immediately told me to go and get the heavy worming syringes. My mare had bloodworms due to the other horse with her, who never got wormed. I'm still mad at his owner, and it's the reason why I left the place.

Fast forward to january. We'd done some riding on and off, but things didn't sit well with me. Something was still wrong, I knew it in my gut. She'd gotten so thin she'd acquired ataxia, and she wobbled. The vet came, another one (by now, she'd actually seen three different vets in the span of 6 months) and he told me he would do what the others couldn't - find out what was wrong. Her blood was checked and... nothing. She should've been the healthiest horse alive, but she wasn't. No worms, no abcesses, no sensitivity anywhere. I had a manure test done - nothing again. Free of worms. No Cushings, no PSSM, no Lyme. I was ready to take my head to a wall.

To make matters worse, she fell down in the hierarchy, which obviously wasn't normal and it hadn't ever happened before. One arabian started tearing her to shreds and kicked her lame, which healed after a week or two. I separated them.

At this point, she looked like this -


The osteo came and went, who told me to treat her for ulcers, to be sure. Quickly done - I got the medication, did everything as prescribed. She got it for a month on full dose, and... Nothing. No change. I started experimenting with different feeds and supplements, and she's now on something against Ulcers, a joint supplement because her joints crack all the time (which hasn't helped whatsoever, she cracks just as much and her movement hasn't gotten better) and aloe vera juice.

She also has no artritis. As I said - I just... don't know. She's gained enough weight that I can say she's not ataxic anymore, but she carries herself all wrong. It's weird. She's sensitive on all hard ground - not just asphalt, but hard forest ground, rocks, tiny pebbles, bike lanes,...

Another farrier is coming on wednesday - she hasn't seen a farrier for about six months due to me keeping her feet rounded as she walked to see if that helped. Maybe I'm the one doing everything wrong, I don't know. I really hope it's her feet by now. It's the last place I can stop. There's no one else to help.

She now looks like this -


But she's still lethargic and with these new horses, she kept herself super quiet. She normally acts out, trots circles around anyone new,... but she just walked and trotted as little as possible.

What are your thoughts on this?
 

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I don't know what is comparable in Britain but in the US I would get her to whatever university vet hospital was nearest, and have a complete work-up done. They have access to far more resources than a regular vet.
 

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Do you have ticks that carry Lymes disease in Belgium? I'm really sorry that you are going through this with your mare.
 

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EPM? I'm sorry I have no idea... I would take her to a university for testing. Has her heart been checked? Toxic plant exposure? Brain tumour? Cancer? Equine grass sickness?

Cancer can cause neurological signs so can paraneoplastic syndrome. My dog had a temporary neurological incident - dialated pupils and ataxia. He was diagnosed with cancer a year later. X rays came back normal at first, so did biopsy of lumps. Turned out the cancer was hidden in his sinuses.
 

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So what was actually wrong with her bloodwork? And the most recent one was fine?

And what have you actually treated?

If you bothered to test for Lyme I'm assuming you have ticks that may carry Lyme, ticks are carrying more and more weird diseases. I would absolutely try an aggressive general antibiotic treatment. Absolutely everything matches Lyme disease...if not Lyme a tick disease makes sense.

My gelding was very sick a few years back, he acted colicky quite a bit despite not having a reason for it, we ruled out all stomach issues then my mother pointed out my fiesty Arab had "lost his sparkle" the vet had quickly ruled out any tickborne illness as at no point did he have a fever, but when my mother mentioned that she said "you know, aside from the lack of the a fever this could absolutely be a tick thing" and she was positive he had some type of infection going on and put him on heavy duty broad spectrum antibiotics (tetracycline? don't remember) and within a day or two he was himself again, finished a few months of the antibiotics and he's been fine since.

Now your mare isn't presenting as my gelding did, BUT she's actually MORE typically for a horse with a tickborne illness than he was. I would definitely try the antibiotics.

She's not too thin in that first picture, but she's obviously not right. She definitely looks good now! But there's clearly something going on.

Her feet just don't make sense unfortunately. Talk to your vet of course but I would try antibiotics even if you can't find anything (blood results) necessarily indicating to.
 

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It sounds like Lyme Disease to me too.

In the early stages of Lyme bloods will show positive but after a while it doesn't show. I know there is a place in Germany that runs a special test which can show it after regular tests show negative.

What I would suggest is that you get her on Natural Animal Feed D-Tox. I had a horse with very similar symptoms that vets couldn't find what. I really thought he was going to die he was that sick. Fortunately the vet who designed D-tox had lived next door then moved to Spain. I called him for advice amd he sent me some to trial. Within a week the horse was obviously feeling a lot better. It took a few months for him to come right but he did.
 

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Have you tried a course of an antibiotic (doxycycline is a common one) to treat for tick disease just to see if it helps? Testing for it is hit or miss-- if a course of antibiotics help, it's generally diagnosed from the fact that the treatment makes it better.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I don't know what is comparable in Britain but in the US I would get her to whatever university vet hospital was nearest, and have a complete work-up done. They have access to far more resources than a regular vet.
I would, if I had the funds after looking for exactly a year now, after all the money that went into awful vets....

Alright, so in general - She's now thirteen years old. She should be in the prime of her life, but the vets tell me it's simply because she's "getting old". I don't buy it. I've seen many horses get old in my lifetime, and none of those horses have ever shown this kind of lethargy. It also happened so suddenly with her, and then it went downhill...

She had bloodworms, the first time it was tested. That was a year ago, in June. In january, she was tested again, and there were no more blood worms. Her manure came out perfectly clear as well. She has been tested twice for Lyme, twice for Cushings. Both came back negative. The cushings part I wholly believe, but not the Lyme part. What else could cause this odd muscle ache and her being so low-energy?

She has no lumps or strange spots anywhere. When she's stressed out, she does get hard flat lumps on her stomach or hind end, which dissipate over time. I suspect it also has something to do with insects, because they only ever show up when summer rears its head. Last week, she formed a lump around a tick bite, which was gone after I took the tick off and murdered the thing.

The vet's coming over tomorrow, again. He told me he's going to do a blood test to test for lyme, because she may have contracted it between january and now. Which is stupid, since she's been like this since June. Checking for Lyme three times isn't going to make it show up positive. Sadly, he doesn't really think further than "Oh we gotta check her blood until something changes". He wants proof of something if he's going to give her medication, it seems. I think this is silly, because what good will it do? Better to get her started on antibiotics and see how she fares... If she responds, hello, there's the problem. A blood test is 90 euro's here, I simply do not have the funds any longer. Of course I'll explain my situation again tomorrow to keep him from drawing blood again, the third time. She's healthy as can be otherwise, so it's going to amount to absolutely nothing.
 

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Could you get video of her trotting on soft and hard ground? And ask for some sharp turns at the walk?

What about pssm? The only way to definitely test for it is with a muscle biopsy. Bloodtests only detect one type.
 

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It's a shame the vet won't listen to you, of course you don't want to medicate willy nilly, but I think you're past that point! At the very least it's your horse, you can't make him do something, but you CAN say "no I don't want this".

I would try to find a vet to prescribe antibiotics. Even if Lyme negative could still be Lyme as mentioned or something very similar to, but not, Lyme, it's not that far fetched. And sure she could have contracted it more recently, but that's not the problem now is it. I'd try to talk him into at least a trial. At this point you need to treat per the symptoms, like my example with my gelding. And I'm not buying that it's Cushings or that she's old, as you said she's in her prime. I consider a horse that looks aged in it's late teens early 20s to be going down hill fast! 4 of mine are in their late 20s and only just starting to show their age (and one has Cushings). So no, it's not "because she's old". AND old age doesn't create diseases out of thin air. A horse that is old may have arthritis, or weakness, etc, etc but those are things that there are specific reasons for, not magically appearing.

I'm curious what xrays of her creaky joints would show, not that it's an important step at this point, jw.
 
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