Christine & Texs Story

Today in your PSSM stories we hear from one of our founders and admins Christine, and her PSSM story with her American Paint Horse Gelding “Tex”.

My name is Christine and my horse Tex was diagnosed with PSSM1 (N/P1) in December 2019, and PSSM2 (N/P3) in April 2020. In order for me to tell you our PSSM story I must tell you it from the very beginning- from the day I first brought Tex, how much of what happened in our story was relevant to PSSM in the very beginning I can never be sure, but I will leave that up to you to decide- here is our story.

The year was 2014- I’d just lost my horse of a lifetime.
Carter my 18 year old Palomino Quarter horse stallion, he was the best horse I’d ever owned. After being a Warmblood owner all my life American Quarter Horses were a totally new breed to me, but never had I owned a horse so easy, quiet, and sweet natured as Carter, he was the true definition of a gentleman despite being a stallion. After losing him I knew my next horse had to be another American Quarter horse.

Me and Lad Bargold (Carter)- My horse of a lifetime

So the search for another American Quarter Horse began. But if there was one thing I learned about American Quarter horses, it was that in the UK they were very few and far between. I was looking for an unbroken Quarter horse that I could produce for English riding and mould into my own, but any I found for sale were either foals, already backed western, or were way over my budget.

My mum was the one who found the advert for Tex- a rising 4 year old American Paint horse gelding on horse deals one evening for £1,800- an American Paint Horse is still a stock horse like an American Quarter horse but they are coloured.

The photograph on Tex’s advert

I wasn’t overly keen when I first saw the advert for Tex because I was never a fan of coloured horses but I asked my mum to enquire anyway, Tex was the only horse I had seen that was the right age and actually below my budget.

Tex was only being sold due to the owners ill health, he was described as unbacked and unspoilt but having had basic handling, his temperament was described as having the typical laid back calm nature of the breed, he sounded ideal. I asked Tex’s owner to send me further photographs, and videos of Tex moving. It wasn’t long before the photographs and videos arrived, and I liked what I saw, Tex had great conformation and moved beautifully, more emails went back and forth, and before I even knew what I had done I had put down a deposit and Tex was being loaded into a transporters horsebox on the long drive from Camarthenshire, wales to Essex it was one of the only times I’d ever brought a horse unseen.

Tex arrived in Essex on the 13th December 2014 at 8pm in the pitch black, When the ramp was opened on the 3.5 tonne horsebox I felt sick, but once I saw him the nerves soon turned to excitement, as standing there amongst the light inside stood an American Paint Horse, he stood snorting his breaths turning to icy smoke as they hit the cold winter air, the whites of his eyes were showing and he looked nervous. The transporters told us it had taken them over 2 hours to load Tex as he refused to go on the horsebox repeatedly rearing, but now Tex had been on the horsebox for so long he didn’t want to come off- he was frightened.

It took us around ten minutes of gentle coaxing to give Tex the courage to eventually step down the ramp and towards the light of the stable block.
Once unloaded we put Tex into a stable, he walked around his new surroundings snorting before tucking into his haynet and putting his head over the door, I tried to stroke him but he was still very nervous and jumpy. We put a fleece on Tex as he was sweaty from the journey, before staying with him for a few hours checking he was ok and all settled for the night before leaving him to it.

Tex when he first arrived- note the fearful expression

The next morning arrived and I jumped out of bed, I was keen to get to the yard because it was the first time I’d get to see Tex in the light.
Upon arrival Tex was still very jumpy and nervous, but he had eaten most of his net and seemed quiet otherwise. I decided to tie Tex up and give him a little brush that morning before turning him out, that way I could give him a proper look over. Tex surprisingly came out the stable quiet as a lamb, I tied him up with a quick release knot, encase I had to untie him if he did anything silly, before removing the rug.

As soon as I removed the rug I wished I could put it back on, as in the light I could see that the whole of Texs back was covered in rain scald 100’s of tiny scabs from his withers all the way to his bum, there was not a single clear patch of skin, he had a mishapen back hoof that curved outwards like a half moon, and he was full of sarcoids, but not just 1 or 2 sarcoids- Tex had around 10 just on his sheath alone with another one right by his girth area. Everyone with horses knows you do not touch a horse with sarcoids with a barge pole. It was then I began to wonder what on earth I had done, and how stupid I could of been to of brought a horse unseen, but I was in this mess now and I had to deal with it.

Just one of Tex’s sarcoids, this was after half of it fell off originally it was twice the size

I put Tex out that morning he greeted my mare he was out with, then he did something strange, something in all my years of horses I have never seen one do before. He went right to the top of the field and stood under one of the trees on his own and he stayed in that same spot for over an hour just looking around with the most fearful expression on his face, it was almost like the look of a child who had been taken away from everything they’d known. If he could of spoken I don’t doubt he would of said ‘I want to go back home.’

Tex standing under the tree in the field, the place where he stood for hours I will never forget his expression

Over the weeks that followed I began the process of treating Tex’s problems, for the rain scald every single day I would rub bio oil into his back and go over him with a curry comb to remove any loose scabs, for the misshapen hoof I got my farrier to corrective shoe him but only on the hinds to straighten it out, and for the sarcoids I sprayed them with purple spray every single day.

Within 2 months the rain scald had completely gone, the misshapen hoof was a thing of the past, and the sarcoids were now down to 5, the purple spray had dried most of them out and they had been falling off one by one including the one near his girth area.

But one thing I couldn’t treat in Tex was his nervousness, I had thought that this nervousness was only present due to his new surroundings, but I was wrong- Texs personality wasn’t calm at all, instead he was quite the panicker and he was very unpredictable. Tex would be completely fine with something 10 times in a row yet on the 11th would suddenly panic without reason, he would jump and flinch at the slightest sudden movement, he tried to jump the stable door when we pushed a wheelbarrow past, poo picking with him in the field was dicing with death as he would run up to you bucking, he would have a meltdown if we swept anywhere near him, and when we tried to hose his legs off he would go ballistic.

This behaviour I thought would get better as time went on and he got more used to his new way of life, but instead it was getting worse, and worse. Tex became more and more reactive, he began to not want to be caught in the field, and when he was caught he would spend 10 minutes on his hind legs repeatedly rearing, or he would let you catch him, snort, and tank off without warning or reason, he did this to me twice in winter sending me flying face first into mud.

The result of 800 pounds of horse, bolting off sending you flying face first into mud twice

I began to do some desensitisation work with Tex to try to increase his confidence, it was something I’d never done before but I was at my wits end so decided to give it a go. I started walking him over tarpaulin, waving flags over his head, and doing ground work games, this seemed to help him and even started to help us bond.

Desensitisation with Tex

Next I began walking Tex on the road to start to get him to see more of the world and to increase his confidence further. Tex surprised me on the busy Essex roads as despite coming from the middle of rural Camarthenshire he was fantastic with everything he came across from cars, to trailers, to cyclists, to dogs, to scary farm machinery. In fact Tex was so good I began taking him out every weekend walking for miles I became quite the hit with the locals who would wave at us and smile- I used to enjoy our walks until along came the unpredictability once again.

Tex walking on the roads in hand, it became our weekly routine

We were on the road home one day when a jogger came running towards us on the path, I wasn’t worried as Tex had already encountered quite a few joggers with no issue. But Tex on this day decided to rear straight up, and bolted, he gave me no warning- despite having a lunge line on him it ran through my fingers like a fishing line and I lost him on the road. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life, I was so worried he would run straight into a car and injure himself or injure someone else. Luckily for us it was Sunday so fairly quiet, the car behind me had stopped the few cars there was, and we were on the road to home.
Tex had bolted all the way up the road, he was a mere dot in the distance. But luckily he had the sense to run back through the gate and into the yard, but after that I never walked him on the road again, it knocked my confidence hugely.

After this incident Tex seemed to go even further backwards he became almost wild, the nervousness returned even worse and it was like all the work I had been doing with him had been nothing but a waste of time. I began to feel like he hated me, and I found myself beginning to dislike him, how could I ever like yet alone ride a horse that I could not trust, every time I started to put my faith in him he would do something to shatter it again into a million pieces, I had never owned a horse who would fly off the handle so easily as him.

How could I like a horse I did not trust?

In May 2016 5 months on I made the tough decision to send Tex to my friend in Lincolnshire to back and to sell. My friend is an experienced rider she competes BSJA, and regularly rides problem horses from rearers, to buckers, to broncers, she had also backed horses for me in the past and was a wonderful kind rider who produced horses correctly. When Tex was loaded onto the horsebox and taken up to Lincolnshire it was almost a relief, what I didn’t expect however was less than 2 months later he would be coming back.

Tex away being backed at my friends in May 2016

My friend thought Tex was sweet, he never put a hoof wrong while in Lincolnshire, and surprisingly he seemed easy to back. But what Tex had done was lulled my friend into a false sense of security. Tex had been fine all through the lunging, and backing process over the weeks, my friend had even moved up to sitting on him and she had been doing this for a week with no problems, then came the day she asked him to walk forwards and he went full on rodeo without any warning. He bronced, and bronced, and bronced, then threw a massive buck sending her flying, my friend somersaulted through the air landing on her feet, but she busted her ankle leaving her unable to compete in any of her BSJA qualifiers, and unable to continue the backing process, so Tex returned back to Essex.

My friends messages to me

This was becoming even more of a nightmare not only was I stuck with an unpredictable horse with sarcoids, but I was now stuck with an unpredictable horse with sarcoids that couldn’t be backed and had sent someone who I knew was a very capable rider flying.

At the time Tex had returned I was at a livery yard with my older mare, the yard was also a stud that bred and produced its own warmblood event horses- it also happened to be the place where I had done my work experience as a teenager. Based at that livery yard at the time was the same gentleman I had conducted my work experience with, who rode and competed the studs horses. I knew from my time working there that he was a talented rider and had a wealth of experience with backing youngsters including tricky ones.

Upon Tex’s return I explained my situation to him and about what had happened and asked him if he would be prepared to back Tex for me- He agreed to give it a go.

As the gentleman began the backing process I was dubious I didn’t think he’d be able to do it, but he did manage to back Tex.

Tex in the process of backing

The backing process went so smoothly that within a matter of weeks it came to the time for me to ride Tex- I will never forget it.
I didn’t want to get on I was adamant I still wanted to sell him, but the gentleman was just as adamant that this horse was an absolute doll and the next quietest thing to him would be a riding school horse so I should try riding him. But I’d seen what that horse could do, there was still something in his eyes I did not trust about him, that unpredictability I had seen so much of hadn’t gone it was still there just bubbling underneath the surface waiting to erupt.

Despite everything screaming at me not to do it, I got on him but as soon as I sat in that saddle I was white as a sheet, and shaking, the last horse I had ridden had reared up and flipped over backwards with me so my nerves were already in tatters. Tex did nothing wrong that day, but because of my nerves I was the laughing stock of the whole yard.

After that ride I decided to give Tex another chance but knew that if I had any chance of riding him properly I needed to get my confidence back I didn’t realise how much it had been knocked till that day.
My friend had offered to let me ride her gelding on more than one occasion so I asked her is she would let me ride him and get me to jump- She agreed and I’m so glad she did. Riding and Jumping my friends horse just that once gave me all my confidence back, he looked after me that day and I jumped higher than I had ever jumped before.

Jumping my friends Connemara Casper

When the next day arrived for me to get on Tex I was like a new person, I didn’t think twice and was brimming with confidence, we even trotted, and cantered, and over the coming weeks it was plain sailing we went over poles, ventured into the outdoor arena, and I even began riding him on my own without any instruction.

Riding Tex in the outdoor arena

But that unpredictability that had been boiling and bubbling under the surface was about to erupt.

Tex has been so good that I began to wonder if maybe I had been wrong about him all along, that maybe I just needed to give him more of a chance, and I even began to let my guard down. When one day I took Tex to the indoor school to ride him with the plan of riding him back up to the yard afterwards for a bit of a change- I mounted, bent down to get my stirrup, and asked him to walk on which was the same routine I’d always done.

But upon asking Tex to walk forwards he let rip and went into a full on rodeo, broncing from the word go. I had no chance he sent me flying and with me in the sand he bolted back up the driveway, through a narrow gate meant only for people back towards the stable yard.
When I finally caught him in the middle of the stable block he stood with his tail over his back snorting, I immediately took him back to the school, and lunged him before getting back on.

Tex let rip and began broncing from the word “go”

The fall had caught me unawares, I tried to look for a reason for it but there was none. So instead I looked at it as a blip as he was a youngster I was bound to run into some naughty moments.

A week after this happened I moved yards to be with my friend. The move was to a bigger, busier yard that used to be an old dairy farm. The move meant I’d have a bigger arena to ride in, and I would be able to hack Tex round the tracks and fields of the farm with my friend.

The move went as good as can be. The yard was alot busier than the last one and Tex reverted back into his nervous self, but it did him good as over time he adapted and got used to lots of new experiences, but one thing that didn’t change was the unpredictability and the broncing.

The next time it happened we had been at the new yard a month and were hacking round one of the fields alone which we had done for the past 2 weeks, the field was directly next to train tracks and we had even had a train go past directly next to us one day right up the top of the field, and Tex had been totally unphased.
But on the quietest day of all when there was no trains, and nothing but the sound of birdsong and stillness of the air. Tex decided to let rip and bronc out of nowhere right at the top of the field, I came off hitting my head, and suffered instant concussion, it was a long walk back from a 30 acre field with your ears ringing and a thumping headache to catch him back at the yard.

Riding along a stretch of the 30 acre field

But our troubles didn’t stop there- Tex continued to bronc me off again and again, but there was no pattern to it, it was often random, inconsistent, and came without any warning. Sometimes it’d be during the middle of a ride, other times it’d be as soon as I got on and asked him to walk forwards, sometimes it’d be when he spooked, sometimes he’d go for weeks without doing it, other times he’d do it 3 or 4 times a week, he was also extremely sharp and spooky, and bolted a few times to.
I began to wonder if Tex was in pain so I had the dentist, the physio, the saddler, and the vet to him just encase but nobody could find anything wrong, I even wondered if he was cold backed so tried lunging him before riding but this to made no difference.

Over the next few months Tex chucked me off so much that he soon got a reputation at the new yard he was known as the crazy horse, the dangerous horse, people had seen him fly off the handle, people had seen him bronc, people had seen him spook, people had seen him tank off when I was leading him as something scared him, people had seen him randomly bolt in panic and me fall off hitting fences, and rock hard fields, they couldn’t understand why I wanted a horse like that, even my own mum was saying to me I should sell him, his to dangerous that I would end up getting seriously hurt.

After the 2nd concussion where Tex had once again bronced me off on the 30 acre field, where I’d hit my head once again but this time had ended up at the hospital as id lost my sense of balance. As I sat in A&E I really did toy with the idea of selling him, I’d ridden youngsters before and even stallions but maybe this was truly past my experience level.
But something inside me told me not give up on him, despite all the falls, all the bruises, and the long term effects of concussion, something inside me told me to still try- and as if luck would have it the universe sent me help.

After my 2nd concussion a lady at my yard was getting help with one of her horses from no other than a cowboy- but not just any cowboy, a cowboy who was from America and had experience with American horses.
I immediately asked her for the cowboys number I rang him and explaining my issues and booked a session with him. The cowboy came out that weekend and during the session with Tex he taught me something called the one rein stop. The one rein stop is a movement that disengages the horses hindquarters by touching their nose to their shoulder and turning in a circle. I was to do the one rein stop whenever I felt Tex going to bronc.

Over the coming days whenever I got on Tex or thought he might bronc I used the one rein stop, and boy did I use it alot! Some days Tex would shoot round as fast as lightning when I did the one rein stop, but as Tex’s hind end was disengaged he couldn’t bronc in a circle.
The one rein stop was the best thing I had ever learned as it actually stopped Tex’s broncing altogether the signs I had now had the chance to feel and learn got less and less, then they eventually dissipated completely, and I was finally able to ride without hitting the deck.

As the weeks went on I began to look for ways to increase my relationship with Tex, so I decided to have a go at doing some natural horsemanship with him something I had never really believed in but I thought there was no harm in trying I had to somehow build that foundation of trust with this horse as we still didn’t really have a bond. I started doing groundwork with Tex using the Monty Roberts methods, and join up. On the very first day I had Tex doing join up with me and surprisingly he seemed to really enjoy it, it was something we ended up doing weekly, sometimes even twice a week, and I soon changed my attitude on natural horsemanship because it helped give us something we had never had before, trust and a bond.

Tex stretching down before join up

And so Tex’s broncing had come to an end, and through the use of natural horsemanship I finally got a bond with him, a bond so strong that I never realised how set in stone it would become, as Tex became truly devoted to me. If I walked anywhere on the yard he would search for me, he began neighing at me if he was scared, he began to truly trust me, and if anybody else tried to ride him he would revert straight back and bronc them off, Tex truly became my horse and I became his human.

As our bond grew Tex’s nervousness became virtually non existent and he finally became the horse that I had wanted in the first place- all the people who had once called him the crazy horse now said how good he was, and how quiet he was- the dream horse was finally a reality

My dream horse was finally a reality

In 2017 over 2 years on from our troubles, myself and Tex were soaring with our progress and I finally settled on the discipline I knew I wanted to do with Tex and that was dressage. It had always been my dream to compete dressage to music, and Tex moved beautifully, he had the most trainable attitude I’d ever had in a horse, he never said no to a single question instead he always tried. My instructor saw he had potential and said he would make it to Medium dressage at least so I set myself a crazy goal and that was to produce the first American Paint Horse in the world to Grand Prix.

My instructor said Tex would make it to medium level at least

I took it slowly with Tex and we spent most of 2017 coming in the bottom placings, mostly as I was still working on strengthening him after a year of falls and a year of fun! But finally on the 2nd December 2017 we won our first prelim dressage test with 65% that was with a course error, we then went on to come 2nd in our next test with over 67%. On that day people in the warmup complimented on how nice Tex looked, and how well he was going, and that my training with him clearly showed through as he was in pure self carriage.

Tex with his 1st and 2nd place rosettes

Over 2018 Tex excelled himself even further, he kept placing again, and again, he did so well I moved him up to novice level where he consistently placed 4th’s, 3rd’s and in the top 2. By the end of 2018 I knew it was time to finally affiliate him.

Competing affiliated was nerve wracking it was something I had never done before, and I remember the first time going down the centre line in that long arena thinking ‘wow that’s a long way to the end!’
Tex went out and scored 60% in his first affiliated test, the next test 61%, then the next 63% every time Tex went out he beat his last score consistently again, and again, and again. I became devoted to dressage putting all my time, and money into it, and having weekly lessons, and in Tex’s first year of competing affiliated he qualified for the CHAPS associated championships, and the Petplan Championships.

In his first year of affiliated dressage Tex qualified for 2 BD championships

By the end of 2018 Tex was ready to move up to elementary level, he was working easily in self carriage, he was balanced, and looked a true picture of a dressage horse, it was an exciting time for us.

In 2019 Tex moved up to Elementary level and in our first test Tex scored 60% which I was thrilled with him for. But 2019 was a funny year, it was meant to be the year we excelled working through Elementary towards Medium level. And the first few months of 2019 we were doing just that but from June something changed in Tex.

Despite working beautifully at home, as soon as I got to the competition he seemed to be like a different horse, my beautiful and light horse became inconsistent to contact, he would head nod, gnash, become heavy on the forehand and some days it would be a struggle to get him onto a contact at all.

During 2019 Tex struggled with any sort of contact in the dressage ring

As June went on the contact issue at shows got worse and worse but the weird thing was it was only at shows! My instructors said nerves, I didn’t feel nervous but they said it so much I believed it. Usually I’d only have to put my legs on Tex and give the tiniest half half for him to round, he had the softest mouth, but he had became more and more resistant. I had the dentist, saddler and physio to him, I even tried different bits and even riding instructors as I thought the issue must be me but to no avail, so instead I thought that maybe Tex was just getting bored of dressage, despite only schooling 4 times a week and hacking the rest, I decided to give him a break and just hack him out for the whole of July.

As I said 2019 was a funny month, and just as Tex began having problems throughout June, so had our youngster Karlo we had just started backing him when he had began having unexplained lameness 2 weeks into the process. We gave him a few months rest on the advice of our vet but to no avail so he went up to Rossdales in Newmarket for further investigation.

2 weeks into the backing process our homebred began having unexplained lameness issues and was sent to Newmarket for further investigation

I had given Tex a months break hacking and it seemed to work, and he came back on from again. But in November I moved yards again with Tex to one with better grazing, and facilities. The move seemed a good call for Tex he was on top form for the first few weeks of moving, but then something changed.

Tex started having contact issues at home aswell as at competitions, but this time they were ten times worse. He became so heavy on the forehand he felt like he was going to pull me over his head, his canter seemed to be getting worse and worse, some days he kept getting disunited behind and becoming so sluggish his canter was more of an amble, our scores at competitions plummeted we went from the high 60’s to 53% the last competition I took him to he was so stressed on the horsebox during the test he was breathing heavy, sweating profusely, and could barely move forwards, when he got home his pee was the colour of dark brown coffee, I knew there was something really not right with my horse but I didn’t know what.

The time eventually came when we had to pick Karlo up from Newmarket and the vet Mariana at Rossdales told us the bone scans, ultrasounds, and x rays had all been clear, and because Karlo was half quarter horse they were testing him for something called PSSM1. And as Mariana sat there explaining the symptoms to us it sounded nothing like Karlo, but instead exactly like Tex, in that moment me and my mum looked at each other and we knew what we had to do. That same day we took Karlo home I ordered the PSSM1 test for Tex and pulled his hair that day sending it off.

During the time I was awaiting the results to come back I did nothing with Tex, but despite this his condition worsened he began walking out the stable stiff, acting like he had a neurological problem his head and neck would wobble and at times he would be unable to stick his head back up, his pee was still dark, and he started to become grumpy this was totally unlike him.

In December 2019 Karlo’s and Tex’s PSSM1 test results came back

Karlo was N/N for PSSM1 meaning he wasn’t affected
Tex was N/P1 for PSSM1 meaning he was affected

After Tex’s diagnosis myself and my mum researched PSSM1 day and night, and we put Tex on a strict PSSM1 diet. I even moved Tex back home to my private yard with no facilities, where I could manage his grazing better, he came off the Rye Haylage he had been on and went onto soaked hay, and was fed on vitamin e, Dengie hi fi molasses free, and whole hemp seed for oil and fats. The difference within a week of Tex being on the PSSM1 diet was astounding, he was like a new horse. The symptoms completely disappeared, and he actually came back better than he ever was before in his ridden work, he was back to being soft and working beautifully on a contact again. Over the first few months of 2020 Tex excelled, we even went out to a few dressage competitions where even the local photographer who had seen us before diagnosis said how much better he looked.

Tex after PSSM1 diagnosis and management

Then in April 2020 my whole world came crashing down- Tex started having symptoms again but this time it was ten times worse than last time, he began dropping off weight he lost his muscle mass and his huge neck, and looked permanently tucked up, he became so tight even walking was a struggle, and he was so depressed he was like a shell of a horse.
I thought it must be the grass so put him into PSSM1 rehab, on a concrete paddock, with hay soaked within an inch of its life, he was on this for 2 weeks but he didnt improve in fact he seemed to be getting worse and had lost further muscle. I got Tex’s bloods checked for his sugar levels, but his sugar levels were actually below average so it wasnt PSSM1 causing the issues.

Tex in April 2020 when he was extremely symptomatic

At this point in the story we go back to Karlo. Karlo had led me to Tex’s diagnosis, if it wasn’t for him I’d of never heard about PSSM, but although he had given me answers for Tex we still didn’t have any answers for him.

Over the course of time Karlo had been home Karlo had deteriorated, he was still just as lame, he had become aggressive, he no longer liked to be touched, and developed swellings in all his joints. We had been researching more about PSSM and discovered that as well as PSSM1 there was also PSSM2, the vets couldn’t give us any answers so we decided to request to have Karlo tested for PSSM2 and he come back N/P4 meaning he was affected, over a year on we finally had answers for him, and I began to wonder if this could maybe be what’s wrong with Tex?

I posted Tex’s pedigree on the PSSM Forum (PSSM Awareness was only a small group back then!) where people knew more about American Paint Horse bloodlines and there were more members, and a few people said to me they saw suspects in Tex’s bloodline so I decided to do the PSSM2 test.

In April 2020 a week before the UK went into lockdown, I received a message from Melissa at Generatio CAG telling me Tex’s PSSM2 result was ready. I’ll never forget opening that email with my mum, and that feeling of my heart dropping like a stone to my stomach, my mum saw the result and cried- after Karlo this was just to much.

Tex had come back N/P3 meaning he had PSSM2 as well as PSSM1, I knew this result was the worst outcome and that some horses like we had discovered with Karlo who had deteriorated further now with Ataxia, did not respond to PSSM2 management.

But we had to at least try we put Tex on the PSSM2 diet of protein and tri aminos, just like the PSSM1 diet it worked fast. Within as little as 3 days Tex was showing signs of improvement, and by the end of the week he was back to normal, as the weeks went on he began to gain weight again, and I slowly introduced him back into work. By the end of May Tex was back working normally again and he was doing great.

But if there was one thing I learnt about PSSM2 is that it’s very random, and inconsistent, Tex could have a great month then have a week of symptoms again. I came to realise as time went on that 9 times out of 10 any symptoms were due to him needing an increase in protein because as soon as this was upped he would be back to normal again. We managed through despite this still schooling normally, even competing again with no symptoms whatsoever- to just get back out on my horse of a lifetime again was a dream come true.

Tex after diagnosis and on the PSSM2 diet

But in October 2020 we were due to spiral yet again. Since the PSSM2 diagnosis Tex’s airways had become affected, he would breathe heavier than normal, rasp and have a catch to his breath. I would usually stop, give him a loose rein and then carry on and he would be fine but this seemed to be getting worse.

As October went on Tex became unable to hold a contact at all, but this wasn’t the usual PSSM symptoms I’d had before, this was different almost like he was struggling to actually breath, he would gnash, duck behind the contact, and breath extremely heavy with grunts and rasps, and this time a loose rein wouldn’t relieve it. I can’t say the amount of times I jumped off him to check he hadn’t got tight again, or even jumped off and lunged him to see how he was moving, but every single time he was loose and fine.
I had the dentist, saddler, and physio out to him all of which made no difference.

One thing I learnt with PSSM2 is that its a progressive disease, if a horse is affected, it will get worse at what rate nobody can say, the diet is only a management strategy, just like pills are for incurable diseases, it only relieves the symptoms it will not cure it.
On a loose rein Tex was happy and could do anything you asked him to but on a contact he struggled and was in obvious discomfort so at the beginning of November I made the hard decision to retire Tex from dressage activities, he is such a good natured horse I knew he would never say no so I had to make that call for him.

Part of me wondered whether to just fully retire Tex, but Tex is a horse who likes a job he enjoys it. He even takes the bridle on his own as he can’t wait to get going. So instead Tex is now a happy hacker, and a driving horse both of which he is fully able to do on a loose rein with no symptoms or problems he can walk, trot, and canter, he is also proving himself in something I never thought he’d be able to do- Through his trust and bond with me and taking it slowly and cautiously I was able to get my boyfriend on board and Tex is currently teaching him the basics on how to ride.

Tex teaching my boyfriend to ride

PSSM broke my heart, and my dreams, more than once. I don’t think I will ever fully heal from what PSSM has done to me as an owner nor do I think I can ever enjoy horses like I once used to.

I don’t know what the future will look like for me and Tex, and I am fully prepared that he may not live a full lifespan like a normal horse, or he could even end up totally unridable, but one thing PSSM has taught me, it’s to cherish every second because in June 2020 Karlo had to be euthanised because of PSSM2- losing him hit me hard, we never know when it may be our last moment with our horses.

Karlo 2015-2020 victim of PSSM2 (N/P4)

Written by

Christine Mahon