So. I worried, I fussed, I called the vet out for intermittent yet persistent breathing issues that present primarily on hills and with her lack of recovery. Pony is not supposed to sound like a freight train.
I should note, first off, that this is a different vet than the one I had out last year. For a number of reasons I am no longer using that vet.. “bloodwork looks fine” is one, but rest assured not the only reason. My data-driven mind would have liked to see those results.
The vet came out and did a brief physical assessment, and then we discussed. The good: her lungs sound excellent. Poor Fetti thought breathing into a bag was a little weird, but dutifully did so when asked anyway. Very good pony.
- Has she been tested for PSSM? No, I can confidently say she has not. That would be one possible explanation. As an owner/rider, however, at least with the minimal research I did into this last year.. I would be surprised to see it present for the first time at 21. I also didn’t think this was all that common in Haflingers, but the vet says it is. I sense more research in my future here. We did not move forwards with testing on this, and I am not convinced it’s the probable cause, but.. I will resume feeding flax and vitamin E. Beyond that, she’s already getting the PSSM-recommended diet.
- Allergies. This was my gut feeling when everything first started a year ago, and then when it flared back up again in the fall. It’s thus no surprise that I can believe this answer. Fetti gets a daily dose of Hydroxyzine (feed-through) and I’ll give her Ventipulmin prior to any rides. If these work to clear symptoms at the originally prescribed dose, we’ll look to reduce one and then the other. I definitely cannot compete on Ventipulmin. The vet wasn’t 100% sure if Hydroxyzine is AERC-legal. I suspect not, but haven’t looked into it yet. If they don’t work, it doesn’t matter because we won’t go with her sounding and looking the way she is. If they do work, and we can get real conditioning in, and we can get her tapered off, then a ride in two months is not completely out of the question.*
- Has she been tested for Cushings? She’s a senior horse. And again, I can confidently say she has not been tested. She and I have been partnered for almost seven years now. Fetti is starting to go gray, yes. But. She is still shedding out normally. There’s no unusually long coat, no substantial change in body condition (beyond the “pony just got six months off” change), no change in her drinking habits. I mean, I won’t rule it out, but it would have been another $150 or so to test for it. That didn’t feel like a productive test to run right now. If the allergy medication has no effect, we’ll move forward here.
*Again – competition is not my primary goal here. Getting her breathing is the primary goal. I asked the competition questions so I could have some idea how to plan for the next few months. Pony isn’t fit enough and/or breathing well enough for the ride? We won’t go, easy as that. Her long-term health > any one ride.
Hopefully we’ll make it out for a quick sprint this weekend to see how things are. It should only take one or two good, solid hills to see if we have an initial difference. Fingers crossed.