And now this. Another ailment that no vet has ever seen…

I’m a bit in shock.  But I want to send this out there so anyone who thinks their horse has EPM but the symptoms aren’t quite right… maybe it is this.  However, from what I’m being told, this is very rare.

Gwen is my 28 year-old Morgan mare, Mama Tess’ first baby.  She has never been sick a day in her life.  To look at her you’d think she was healthy and younger than her years.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that she wasn’t as coordinated, as if she was stiff in the back end, or loose, I wasn’t really sure what was changing her gait.  So, I called the vet.

The vet didn’t think it was neurologic (EPM) because Gwen seemed to be uncomfortable, not uncoordinated.  So we did several muscle tests, tested all of her hooves, worked on her back… we weren’t sure but since she was sore on her right hip, we figured she got stuck or cast and wrenched herself.  We put her on Banamine and decided to give her a few days.

A few days later, she seemed pretty good.  Getting around fine.

Then on Friday, she was down and wouldn’t stand.  I had already asked the vet to come by on Friday to check on her, so that was lucky.

We took X-rays and saw the problem.

Left rear founder.  Bad.  Really, really bad.  Almost through the sole.  This is terminal and I’m in shock.  Mama Tess never had an X-ray as bad as this one.

For now, Gwen is responding to meds, however, there is no way she can recover.  I’m just trying to get my head around this.  She’s comfortable, for now. If she can remain comfortable enough to make her quality of life worth living, I will clear a paddock of all grass and give that to her during the day.  But, I was told that this option is a guarded outcome.  In other words, the vets don’t think she will survive much longer.

She’s on pain meds, anti-inflammatories, ulcer meds, low sugar/starch feed and Soft Rides all the way around.  (Yes, I know in the pic below, the rears are on the wrong feet – the logo is supposed to be on the outside – I know this from Mama Tess.  But the vet put them on like this so I will switch them when I check her feet next.)

We built her an outside pen attached to the front of the barn.  She is not happy with this.  She wants OUT out.  Even though she doesn’t want to move, she would move to go OUT.  Gwen has always wanted to be FREE.  So, quality of life will be a big thing here.  Can she be comfortable enough?

She has the use of two stalls, the aisle and we made an outside area.  But, she wants OUT out. She wants the grass which she cannot have. I don’t know how long she will be happy like this.

I’m crushed. Will she maintain, get better or fail?   Here we go.  The unknown of “when”.  This is part of loving them.  But not the good part.

OMG. Even Mama Tess never had an X-ray so horrible. This is not survivable.

This is her right rear. They think because of her tendon issue, she may have but more weight on her left, which may have led to this disaster.


We don’t know.  The vets have never seen a left REAR founder, with no other foot involved.

She has a capped hock on her left.  She’s had it for a few years.   The right tendons are failing at the pastern, so she may have favored that foot and put her weight on her left, which compromised it.  They really have no idea.

Again, a catastrophic ailment with no cure.  But, I guess I have to be pleased that she is a 28 year-old mare who has had a very happy life.

She looks great, especially for a mare who is dying.

I am just shaking my head.  My heart is broken.  I watched her come into this world.

This was Gwen in January

This was February when I brought her into the barn due to the intense rains. You can see the down pastern on the right rear, but no indication of any issues.

This was taken 3 weeks ago. No issues. She was getting around fine.

This is Gwen today. Boots all around. She’s sore and getting around OK. Not eager to move, but she does move all around the barn.

We made this outside area. She wants OUT out. She wants the grass which she cannot have. I don’t know how long she will be happy like this. I’m crushed. Will she maintain, get better or fail? Here we go. This is part of loving them. But not the good part.  (Yes, I know the rear boots are on opposite feet.  Logo on outside.)


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9 comments have been posted...

  1. Calvin48

    Sadly for horse lovers, horses weren’t built to last forever. I had friends who owned a 28yo Morgan stallion that developed squamous cell carcinoma in his right eye. They took him to the veterinary college for surgery and he was there for a week. He came home and his eye was looking good. A few months later he developed a severe colic and had to be put down. I’m 75yo and bought my first horse when I was 12. I have seen this scenario many times, so now my policy is that when an old horse develops a serious illness or injury, I put the horse down. I don’t wait to see if the horse will get better and I don’t spend money I don’t have on vets. People love their horses and they want to do something, anything to keep their horse going, but most of the time the kindest thing to do is to let the old horse go. Horses don’t seem to have a concept of the future as it pertains to them; they live completely in the present and I’m sure they spend not a single second of their lives dwelling on their death. You should do what’s best for the mare, pull yourself together and don’t think that you’ve done too little for her. She’s had a long (and I’m sure happy) life. The future only holds pain, anxiety and distress for a 28yo foundered mare. I am sincerely sorry that you find yourself in this situation. I don’t pray, but I hope you will get through the loss of your mare with a minimum of anguish.

  2. dawndi Post author

    I’m waiting to hear from the radiologist and vets. Seems like it… but it usually doesn’t happen on one limb, they say. Injury? No one knows just yet. Waiting.

  3. dawndi Post author

    She doesn’t have PPID or EMS. This is caused, they think, from overuse of the left due to the collapse of the ligaments/tendons on the right.

  4. Judith Vanderkay

    Dawn, I am so sorry to hear this. What a blow! I know you will do everything possible, as you did for Mama Tess. Best wishes for this difficult time.

  5. Rox

    So sad so unfair so heartbreaking. Did they actually medically diagnose the founder as from PPID or EMS? Not all founder is “caused” by Equine Metabolic Syndrome which often pairs with PPID but not always (and if no EMS maybe some limited grazing would be okay). Sure hard to stay strong when confronted by “deja vu.”

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