In today’s your PSSM stories we hear from Hilde and her story about her homebred mare Custom Made Robyn.

My name is Helen, I am 30 years old and live in a little place not too far away from Oslo, in Norway. I own four horses and live on a small farm. I have always been a horse lover, horses are my life.

In this blog, I want to tell you a story. The story about my horse who was sick with PSSM2 and how it has been for me as a breeder, rider, and an owner.

A little over 5 years ago I was an eventing rider, competing at international level with Robyns mother. We were travelling to Sweden and Denmark competing but fast forward to 2021 and I have not been out competing for years. Everyone I know has been asking me where I went. They have been asking me if I have stopped competing because I am afraid, and even if I have quit riding altogether.

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Hilde & her warmblood mare Claudia

But none of this is the case, here’s my story.

I got my first pony when I was just 12 years old. After a short time, I fell in love with the sport Eventing. It gave me an adrenalin rush like nothing else when we were riding cross country. I also loved the dressage part to which always gave me something to work on.

I have never quit loving the sport, riding, and competing but I have met more tragedies than most can imagine. All the special horses that I have lost on the way… They always left unexpected. I have been working hard with my riding but something always got in the way.

I got my first real horse when I was 15 years old. His name was Night Effekt he was a 7 years old german Oldenburg, and my goals for him and I as a team were big, but we never reached those goals as he sadly broke his leg in a tragic accident out on summer grass the year after I got him in 2008. It was really hard losing my best friend.

Eventually, I found my new eventing partner in a 9 years old thoroughbred. Later I have had many more horses, but in 2011 I lost one thoroughbred to colic and the year after my dream thoroughbred who broke his leg in his stable.

It seemed no matter how hard I tried things just never went my way. But as horses are such a big part of my life I never quit believing and hoping that things would go my way someday.

In 2012 my patience and hard work paid off, and I got given the chance to finally enjoy horses again. I got to borrow a nice warmblood mare named Claudia. I had seen her in some show-jumping lessons, and I liked her very much. She had been doing some eventing and was being put out on loan for breeding. It was then I decided I wasn’t going to buy another horse but instead breed my own dream horse, a little “eventing star”.

A beautiful filly foal was born the year after in 2013. I gave the foal the name Custom Made Robyn. She was so perfect. Little did I know then about our future together.

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Claudia & her foal Custom Made Robyn

That same fall when I was going to send her mum Claudia home I ended up buying her instead. Claudia and I ended up as a dream team. She made all my dreams come true and helped me in a time in life when I was struggling. We ended up training with the Norwegian equestrian team and was competing in international classes in eventing after a while. She never gave me a bad ride and always gave all she had. Claudia had a heart of gold and knowing that I had Robyn after her was so good.

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Hilde & Claudia eventing

Claudia sadly had to be put down at 14 years of age when she ended up lame after our last international competition in Sweden and never got better. Losing Claudia broke my heart into a thousand pieces and put me in a real dark place for years after, not only had I lost my heart horse, but I had lost the opportunity to compete and my passion which was eventing.

But I again found some strength within me to keep going and Robyn was my saviour. She was gentle just like her mum and was so easy to break to ride, and train as a young horse.

As a 2-year-old Robyn ended up qualifying for the Norwegian warmblood elite show, and as a 3-year-old she ended up placing as the second-best showjumping horse at a show for young horses and qualified for the Norwegian warmblood elite final the year after where she placed as second best showjumping mare. I then decided to breed her to give her more time to bloom and also to get a horse after her because of her good qualities.

The result was Custom Made Tommy, an ugly duckling. He got an infection on his first day of life and it was a struggle to keep him alive. He did not drink milk on his own the first four days and needed expensive intensive care at a vet hospital for days. I never got what I hoped for. But he still is my Tommy, who I love with all my heart. It has been a fight to get him to where he is today as a “healthy” three-year-old.

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Custom Made Robyn with her foal Custom Made Tommy

My journey with PSSM started after Robyn had Tommy. After having her foal she never came back as the horse I knew before. When starting to ride her I felt that something was wrong. She would suddenly explode under saddle, leaving me to get hurt on numerous occasions.

She also started becoming aggressive. One day my dad was going into her stable and she attacked him biting him, before throwing him out of her stall. When riding she now started to stop when I asked her to go forward, and after a while, she also started to look lame in her hind legs but my vet could not find out why.

One thing we also always had trouble with was her stomach. She had ulcer symptoms, hindgut ulcers and colic again and again- At least I thought it was colic at the time.

After many vet appointments without any answers, we decided to take the long trip to Denmark to get scintigraphy (bone scan) of her, which came back inconclusive. It was devastating to send her out on that trip without getting any answers but she was my dream horse and I wanted to give her the chance no matter the cost. She was all I had left from her mum who meant everything to me. Coming home I did not know what to do with her as the vets could find nothing wrong so I let her just be a horse for a good while and that she was ok with.

Meanwhile, I was still looking for answers. I did not want to put her to sleep if something could be done to save her. After days of searching, I finally found something called PSSM2, and when I read the symptoms I just knew that was our problem. That same day I sent in hair samples to Germany and 2 weeks after I got my answer.

Robyn had tested positive for the PX variant of PSSM2 her results were n/px. She was not tested for p8 and K1 at that time as they were not available to test for in Europe then, but I think that Robyn also had p8.

After getting the answer of PX I found the PSSM & MFM awareness group on Facebook and with that many more owners with the same experiences as me and also many tips for her new diet.

Her last summer when she was 7 years old she showed improvement and I even got to ride her. But when the fall came her symptoms came back worse than ever and when I one day took her inside in the middle of the day because she did not feel well I decided that her days with pain was over. I could no longer keep her going even if it would break my heart to give up, to let her go. She got some days on pain relief and all the love I could give her before we said our goodbyes in November 2020.

And just like that our adventure was over, she was the one horse I had always dreamed of. Her stamina, her confirmation, her gaits and her beauty. I knew I will never get a horse like that again and I have had many horses through the years.

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Custom Made Robyn before she displayed PSSM2 symptoms

After the loss of Robyn I also decided to test Tommy her son, Tommy, unfortunately, came back positive for PSSM2 type n/p4, n/px and n/p8. Knowing his mum’s story and with him being affected with three variants my hopes are not high. The good thing about it though is that he has been on a PSSM friendly diet all the way and has never been put into stressful situations if not needed. I will now just do my best to give Robyns son a good life as long as he is here and he will never be misunderstood. He is a big horse, 180 cm tall and a bit of a challenge but he is also a funny guy, loving, very, very social and my baby.

Custom Made Tommy with his prizes from the PSSM Awareness online photo competition

Now I don’t know what I will do next. I love horses but I am too afraid to buy another one. I am also not the rider I used to be. I always think something is wrong no matter whose horse I am riding but good things have also come out of this. I have learned to always trust myself and my relationship with my horses.

The last thing I must say is that I am so thankful to my Vet. She has always supported us even when we did not know what was wrong and I think she also has learned a lot after we found out about Robyns illness. Now many more PSSM horses can get the help they are so in desperately need of.

Me and Tommys Story is not over yet. I love horses and even with all my bad experiences, I will never quit loving these beautiful animals. Thank you for reading