Not The Post I Intended To Write

First, everything is acutely fine. Nobody is dead or dying so there’s that up front. No tissues needed.


Yesterday I went to Windridge for a cross country school to help determine who would be riding him in the Feb 15th show. It went amazing. Best school of my life. So many wonderful things to write about and I had the Cambox so while helmet footage isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it is something.

But then after we got home shit hit the fan and I had to have the emergency vet out and well now everything sucks. So instead of writing about my most amazing afternoon, I’m going to write about this instead. Boo.

We got home at 4:15pm and I put Eeyore back in the pasture as I always do. Nothing out of the ordinary happened to be a red flag during the school or ride home. Trust me, I’ve about killed myself wracking my brain over what I did wrong. I was starving having not eaten all day so we ran to the local Waffle House for a cheap and quick dinner. When we came home 45 minutes later Eeyore was laying down in the pasture.

My first thought was “hahahahah look how tired he is!”. We called the horses in for dinner and he cantered to the gate so I didn’t think much else about it.

Until he didn’t even look at his dinner and did this instead

I thought he was dying. Seriously. I got him up and called the vet to come out and began walking. She said after 20 minutes to let him rest and only walk if he was trying to roll so we alternated hand walking and resting until she arrived.

Long story short: he wasn’t colicking. He had good gut sounds, heart rate of 44 and pink gums. She pulled normal, wet manure from his rectum and didn’t feel anything displaced. A tube into the stomach pulled out refluxed small intestine fluid and then he was back to trying to eat everything in sight and cribbing in his stall so she felt ok having him stalled for the night with water but no hay or grain. Diagnosed him with some excess gas and a weenie personality.

I felt a flood of relief until she looked at me and said “but we really need to discuss his 3/6 heart murmur”

His what?!?!?

Now he has seen a lot of good vets in the 1.5 years I’ve had him. He had his PPE May 2018, a thorough lameness eval Aug 2018 and his dental by a vet in March 2019. No mention of a murmur from any of them. A 3/6 is even audible by me, so no way it would have been missed by all three.

My handsome man waiting to hit the ground running towards solid obstacles

So uh????

She asked if he had been sick at all or if his performance has changed suddenly.

Well, shit.

He was his full blown raging energy monster self for the JBF show. I rode him hard the day before and the morning of and he had plenty of energy for all three phases. Then a month later we crashed at the FGF show because he had no energy. I blamed it on him being ridden hard the day before though that hadn’t affected him the previous show.

Ever since he has been subdued. Enough that Dusty and Trainer have commented. He breathes hard warming up for the lesson and lacks energy during. I’ve thought it was his training kicking in. I’ve thought it was his new evasion from real work. I’ve thought I’ve gotten better at riding him. Trainer worried enough that she prescribed a conditioning program on my hill at home.

Maybe I’ve been right. Or maybe his heart is giving out on him and he really doesn’t have the energy to do the work.

Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can cause a heart murmur though the vet said not usually this pronounced or loud. Plus his heart rate was only 44 so while he was in pain from the gas, he wasn’t physiologically stressed enough to cause a murmur such as this.

So shit.

Some murmurs aren’t an issue. Some can be managed. Some can cause the horse to pass out while galloping head long to a fence. The question is which one is this?

The other question is honestly, and excuse my language, wtf? How does an 8 year old horse, not in strenuous work, go from an undetectable murmur (or none at all) 1.5 years ago or really even 11 months ago, to a stage 3 with potential performance limitations? If it was a congenital valve defect it should have been present on his PPE or any exam thereafter. If it is degenerative, then that’s a big degeneration in a short amount of time and his prognosis is poor. Possibly infectious endocarditis but from what and how? I’ve read some articles and some say prognosis with that is 10% so let’s hope it isn’t that, ok?

My best guess with zero diagnostics and no cardiology education? It’s functional which exists. All those other evaluations were done after periods of rest. Normal heart function. Yesterday he worked hard for me, got dehydrated and became gassy which taxed him enough to not fully recover from the exertion and the heart murmur stayed.

Not sure what that means for prognosis on career or life span. Or anything for that matter.

Vet said to listen again tonight to see if after he returns to normal health, it sticks around though honestly I’m not sure that is going to change my course of action.

Dusty has asked that I not ride until we have this figured out. The risk of him fainting and breaking my body is too high without clearance that this isn’t going to happen. So the Windridge show is off the table as is everything else for the moment. We are going to set up an appointment with a cardiologist and figure this out. Maybe it is perfectly manageable with a strict conditioning program and sticking to the low level stuff I want to do anyway. Maybe it’s not and we are done.

I won’t know until we do some tests and see what’s going on with him and I absolutely refuse to horse shop again so he is just going to have to be manageable and that’s the end of that discussion.

57 thoughts on “Not The Post I Intended To Write”

  1. Oh no. I am so so so sorry. And please don’t beat yourself up over this. It’s not your fault in any way. You couldn’t have known. Fingers crossed for the beat prognosis possible


  2. Ughhhhh I am so sorry to hear this. A barnmate had this exact same thing happen to her 8 y/o last year. He got PPEs from the best in this part of the country, sold out of a reputable event horse barn, and the murmur wasn’t found until it was found. Fingers crossed for you.


    1. Yeah. Most research says grade 1 and 2 are fine. 4-6 not. 3 is in the middle. May be just fine. May be the end of his riding life. Until we get diagnostics and figure out why he has the murmur we won’t know for sure.


  3. Oh wow. WTF indeed. That is so scary. I’m so sorry about all this, Sara! ❤

    I don't know if this will help, but I remember having a vet out when Amber lost a significant amount of weight and was off her feed and the vet told me she had a heart murmur. Which shocked the hell out of me cause she was 5 at the time and had been ridiculously healthy. But strangles was going around all the barns at the time, and she'd gotten a form of bastard strangles that they told me had collected in the fluid around her heart causing the murmur. She had no snot, no temp, no swollen lymph nodes so I had no reason to think she'd caught it, but she was out of breath and had similar tired symptoms to Eeyore. They put her on some yellow powder medicine (I think it was a form of penicillin? I don't really remember I'm so sorry), and she put weight back on and was herself again after about a month. She hasn't been diagnosed with a murmur since then. I don't know if there have been strangles cases in your area, but I wanted to share my experience with a heart murmur just in case. Eeyore's symptoms were similar enough to Amber's that it really reminded me of that.

    I really hope you can get this sorted and that you can get to the bottom of what's going on. That is so crushing and disappointing.


    1. The vet asked if he had been ill lately but not that I could tell. I mean he is still a dork at the start of rides, he just peters out quicker than he used to. But never off his feed or acting oddly. Blood work will be in order. We didn’t want to pull it when he wasn’t feeling well from his guts cuz then we wouldn’t know if it was from that or something else. Now that he is good again from that we can move forward

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh no, that sucks. Fingers crossed that there’s some improvement and that the cardiologist can help. I know that sometimes murmurs can happen after viral infections or thyroid issues – any chance he has/had something else going on too? Grade 3 does seem high though. It’s just weird that no one else has noticed it or mentioned it before now. Did they pull any blood or will that be done as part of the cardiology appointment?


    1. She didn’t want to do anything while he was compromised with whatever he had last night. Plan is to reassess tonight once he is back to his normal (which he was this am) and see. If the murmur isn’t there then it was stress induced and I’m to ride and listen after each ride to see if it recurs. If it remains, then it’s probably here for good and to head to the cardiologist to see what’s up. They will do the blood work there and probably a stress echo as well.


  5. This really sucks and I am sorry it is happening to you guys. I am not a vet – I am also not a horse, but I do have a congenital valve defect myself that despite me seeing a lot of Dr’s when I was young for chronic ear infections, was not ‘found’ until I was in the ER for chicken pox at age 6. Since then it was only audible if I was extremely sick. It is a lot easier to deal with this shit as a human being because I know when I can push myself and when I can’t push myself, I also can follow conditioning programs and diets and whatever a lot easier than a horse can.

    Still sucks. 😦 Hope that whichever kind he has it’s easy enough to manage.


    1. I was going to say every schnauzer I have owned (four now!) has had a heart murmur. None were diagnosed till they actually got sick (with pain or some other thing) then resolved and didn’t show up again.I sure hope this is what happens for you……

      Yikes L! That is scary.

      Glad Eeyore is feeling better today though for sure!!


      1. The difference is you don’t ride the dog. Or I hope not anyway LOL! The danger of his heart giving out or him having a syncope spell while on him isn’t worth the risk. I truly hope it came on with whatever he had last night and goes away. I worry
        It will always be there lurking in the background though and I need seers first I feel comfortable pushing him again.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s the hard part with animals. I don’t know what’s going on to be able to tailor the work to. He can’t tell me he isn’t feeling good or at least not as well as another person could. I’m hoping the cardiologist will give good insight


  6. Oh no! How scary. Irish was dx with a heart murmer back in the fall. I’m supposed to listen for it to worsen but I can’t hear it. Also, he’s 20 this year. Not 8. He may have had it for a long time and, like you said, it was missed because he was always rested. I hope that he’s okay for light work.


  7. Oh, no, I’m so sorry! That’s such horrifying news to come out of the blue like that. I’ve got my fingers so crossed for you that you get better answers and have a good management plan soon.


  8. Found out that Val has a heart murmur last year around this time at his dental visit. He was also having respiratory issues at the time, and others have mentioned viruses etc. so it could end up being a temporary issue. Hoping for the best case scenario prognosis from the cardiologist…


  9. so so insane, ugh. i’m glad it wasn’t worse but also definitely agree with doing ALLLLL the testing and diagnostics!! here’s hoping you get good answers!


    1. Thanks for talking with me through it. He is back to being himself and we listened and heard no murmur, certainly not a grade 3. Next step is a full work up with the local internist with blood work and exam. Will go from there if the cardiologist is still warranted


  10. Oh no, thats horrible news! Not what you want at all.

    You aren’t to blame, they can just appear as far as I know. A friend of mine had a horse who passed a thorough PPE, then when they went to sell the horse it had another but the sale fell through. It wasn’t picked up at either vetting and it wasn’t until the horse colicked shortly after was it diagnosed with a significant murmur. This horse was checked multiple times prior to having the murmur picked up by some of the best vets we have.

    I really hope you get a positive outcome, my fingers are crossed for you!


  11. I hope this will help – n=1 and all that – but – my gorgeous 8 year old Arab was diagnosed with a heart murmur when I’d had him for about 12 months. I’m a vet so I did my own PPE and I’m SURE it wasn’t there then – although I am getting into the “old and deaf” bracket.. When it was picked up it was quiet and subtle and he showed no symptoms so we shrugged, and wrote it off as “normal” for him (something like 15% of normal horses have murmurs). About 6 months later at an endurance ride a VERY respected vet told me the murmur was now really loud and I needed to GET IT CHECKED BEFORE I DID ANOTHER ENDURANCE RIDE. After that (not a vet given to dramatics) I was sure I was about to lose my horse, but we took him for a cardiac ultrasound, and everything was WNL. Since then it has remained quiet, and does not appear to affect him (as a few 7 hour 50s will testify). Best guess remains that he was hot and dehydrated enough to exacerbate the murmur that day, even though externally he seemed to be quite fine (he passed the rest of his vet check with flying colours. I expect a louder murmur next time we do a hot ride, and I now travel with the cardiologist’s report in my pocket. So yes, Eeyore could be hot, stressed and dehydrated without looking particularly like it. Remember external signs of dehydration only show up once a horse is already 5-10% dehydrated.
    I hope the ultrasound comes up with a good result.


      1. I should also add -as a vet student I was once in the 10 minute box at Badminton (30 years ago – old long format) doing heart checks. one of the most prestigious vets in the UK hid behind me as a horse came into the box. When I asked he said – and I quote – “I’m not vet checking that horse – I failed it on a PPE 3 years ago because it had a heart murmur”. And here it was, going round Badminton…


  12. I’m so sorry to read this. I think it’s smart that you not ride him until you figure out exactly what’s going on. A friend of mine PPE’d a 4 yo horse with a 3/6 heart murmur and obviously passed on the horse (was a jumper prospect). That’s the limit of my experience with them. I’m hoping since it just ‘appeared’ it can also DISappear!!

    Please keep us updated and I hope there’s a way forward for you guys!


    1. Made an appointment with a local specialist for Friday as a starting point. He is still NQR – lethargic and not as annoying as usual. Dusty (small animal vet) didn’t hear a murmur this morning so maybe it was brought on by whatever is currently ailing him. Hopefully will get good answers on Friday


  13. So I didn’t respond yesterday as I experienced a little ptsd with the Eeyore laying down picture, but I do want to say, I’m happy that he’s doing better today. Re: heart murmur. Subi supposedly has a very mild one, but only one vet has noticed it. He was dehydrated and this was about ~10 years ago, but no one has really noticed it since. Different circumstances, but hydration can and will play a role. That vet immediately suggested electrolytes and soaked feed and other stuff (he never met Subi, the world’s pickiest eater, but I did do the electrolytes and he’s been on them ever since) and no one has mentioned it since. Anyway, my knowledge ends there, but keep us updated.


  14. Oh my goodness, I hate that I’m reading this! I also hated that I literally JUST missed you at WR (Trainer AB seriously saved the day with my friend’s horse). I hope you get some clarity on the issue and can figure out a good plan for him. And also…seriously, Eeyore?


  15. I got worried when I saw your post on FB (or was it IG?) This is dreadful news and a nasty shock. Fingers crossed that the testing reveals some sort of fluke thing that never causes him any issues, but you must be so worried 😦


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