Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Rehabbing the EPM Horse, 3 years later


A recent photo of the Big Handsome Bay, still the peppermint king, still happy and engaged with his herd and his people. 

I noticed the posts I wrote about Keil Bay’s rehab after he contracted EPM at age 31 are getting viewed lately, so here’s an update three years later, as he nears age 34. 

Keil is for the most part back to his pre-EPM self. He is generally the first to walk all the way down the front pasture hill in the mornings, he is still very eager for his meals and whinnies for them, he will walk/trot/canter/gallop up the hill and in the arena on occasion, and some days, like New Year’s Day of this year, he defies his age completely. On the first day of 2023 he put on a dressage exhibition in the arena with his best pal Cody. I saw this out the window and watched; honestly I couldn’t tell he was a day over his 15-year old self, nor did I see a single misstep as he walked, trotted with suspension and extension, did shoulder in, cantered, and passaged. He looked amazing. 

Every now and then I’ll notice a hind leg sticking out a bit, but that comes and goes and his chiropractic vet thinks it’s as likely to be related to age/arthritic changes as it is to any residual from EPM. 

I have continued him on colostrum + mushroom extracts and he is on every other day Equioxx at the moment. This January I decided to stop the monthly acupuncture and Legend injections to see if he declined in any way, and I have not seen that. He remains on a number of joint supplements and this winter I replaced the GMO-free Naturals pellets I supplemented his tubs with for the Triple Crown Senior Gold. The Naturals pellets had most of the ingredients used in a complete senior diet mix I used to feed Salina, including beet pulp, but they changed the ingredients last fall and removed the beet pulp. The Senior Gold has it, and it also has molasses, which I’ve avoided generally but decided in what will be Keil’s final years that unless I see issues, I’ll give him the feed with the molasses. He had dropped a little weight this winter and I don’t want him skinny, so this did the trick. He adores this feed. Note: this is served in a few scoops added to his larger meal of wet Ontario Dehy Timothy Balance cubes twice a day, and he gets 2-3 scoops of the Senior Gold by itself (wet) at lunchtime, so overall he’s not getting a large amount of this. It has leveled his weight out though, and he does love his meals. He continues to eat timothy-orchard hay and he grazes with great pleasure when we have good grass in the pastures. 

I do feel the EPM aged him; prior to contracting it he was still sound under saddle at all gaits. I haven’t tested this since the EPM as it felt risky and with his actual age being 30+ I figure he deserves retirement. Though there are days when he comes to me and it’s clear he’s thinking about a ride. He will join me in the arena ground work on occasion and it’s clear he enjoys that. His silvery gray mane and tail hair was minimal pre-EPM but definitely increased through that year. There’s no way to know what age-related changes were coming anyway, though, so I can’t say what was EPM and what was the passage of time for his body. 

I remain unnaturally obsessed with his stance, his movement, and his demeanor, and any tiny thing sets off my alarm bells and anxiety. I have noticed a shift this year in my own demeanor, which is a slightly calmer and deeper feeling of peace: that he has lived a good and long life thus far, that he is happy in his daily routine, that he is incredibly healthy and active for his age, and that when his time comes it will be hard but it will also be … what is the word … a normal part of life, not unexpected. Though it still does feel to me and to my family that Keil Bay will somehow live forever. He’s got so much character and presence it’s difficult to imagine him not being here. 

When the EPM was at its worst I feared that was the end for him, but there were always clues that he wasn’t ready to go and that the arc of improvement pointed to recovery. I fretted that he would be impaired even if he lived, and the quality of his life would be less. That has not been the case, but it’s true that I did everything I could find that had any chance at helping him recover and rehab, and I’m sure that approach made a difference. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

He's an amazing horse in so many ways! You've done so much for him and you know he appreciates it and loves you all. Such a beautiful and special guy, I hope he's got many more good years ahead.

billie said...

Thank you, A! He is The King. :)

Matthew said...

I was out there with him this morning and just thinking how well he has been doing for quite some time now.


billie said...

He is pretty amazing.