Monday, July 9, 2012
The Heart of a Horse
I know a few people are following this and may have heard the news about Baybee (we renamed him Dickie). I arrived at the stable thrilled to play with my new boy and show him off to the vet. We walked from the boarding stable to the private home where Bre lives. As soon as I got there he stuck his cute face out and give me a nicker. He put his head right in the halter and was ready for his walk. I was laughing to myself right away because I forgot how much babies love to be in your personal space. As far as youngsters go he is pretty amazing but when the herd of Pomeranians down the street voiced their displeasure with his presence on the road he wanted to jump in my lap so I could save him. He doesn't really run over you because is so upset he forgets I am there. I think he just wanted me to carry him. He would snort and look right at me as if to say "Do you see that? We need to get outta here before they eat us" Then he would squeeze as close as he could to me. What struck me though was that he didn't panic and was willing to get off my foot with a gentle elbow in the shoulder. By the time we got to Bre's barn he was willing to give me a little personal space. He sniffed the arena and was more interested in getting love from people than anything else. After we did some work on moving his hips away from me and backing up the vet had arrived.
The vet was just as impressed with him. She loved the bone on his legs and said his joints looked great for such a big young horse. She said sometimes when they are so big so young they can have fluid on their joints. She even thinks he has growing left to do. Then she listened to his heart. I could tell something wrong when she listened twice as long as usual and got very quiet. She didn't even need to tell me that he had a heart murmur and that it wasn't minor. I could tell by the look on her face. She listened on both sides and I listened too. It was a clear swoosh between the S1 and S2. It is very loud and so long that he almost doesn't have two distinct heart sounds. We worked him for a bit because sometimes murmurs can go away with work, it didn't. We talked at length about the fact that murmurs are not uncommon in horses and aren't always a problem. She didn't think that would be the case given the severity of his murmur. She might have given me a grade for the murmur but I had started to shut down when I heard that it may be severe enough that he will never be safe to ride.
Where we stand now is waiting to hear back from the cardiologist. I sobbed my eyes out the whole way home and set to work doing research on the good old net. It seems that all isn't lost. An echocardiogram will tell me where the murmur is. There are places that could be entirely harmless and others that could cause sudden cardiac death while under saddle. Needless to say today hasn't been the great cheerful day I thought it would be. The one good thing is the fact that Dickie had a great day. He loved following the chickens around, sniffing new things in the arena, and getting love from the vet and and Bre's BO. We discovered that he likes labradors he just doesn't like pomeranians. He also seems smitten with his pasture mates and the thick green grass they have to munch on. When I left he was under the trees huddled with his herd thinking about a nap.
PS- I need add that I in no way feel like Pony Up held out on this info. They are as heartbroken as I am. I know that they would have never adopted him out if there were concerns about his health. Nothing about this horse indicated he has a problem. He is big and shiny. His cap refill in his gums was fine. He isn't interested in running aroud wild like most 2yo but he also wasn't out of breath when I free lunged him. He doesn't act listless. Even though he is calm he is still very alert and has a big spunky walk. He is young enough that his teeth haven't been floated so there has been no reason to listen to his heart. The breeder was also entirely unaware of this issue.
Wonderful description of the different types of abnormal hearts sounds (his murmur sounded like it occurs during systole):
Overview of the equine cardiovascular system:
Article regarding the prevalance of heart mumurs in performance horses: