Kingsley Shacklebolt was a horse with countless problems, but lack of love certainly wasn't one of them. I bought him initially as a lesson horse, but it quickly became apparent that he was going to be a rehab horse in need of some special attention. Kingsley taught me to look beyond the current condition of a horse to see the heart and soul of a horse.
Kingsley spent his time with me educating me in subtlety of riding aides, the importance of straightness and how to just let go and have a good old fashioned gallop when you're overwhelmed with the bugs. :) More importantly, he gave me a thorough education in the various disorders a horse can have, and ways to treat and rehab through them. He has given me the stomach, the patience and the drive to continue to bring in horses who are wanting for that "little bit" of extra care, regardless of the costs - financial or otherwise.
These horses pour their lives into working for us. It seems only fair that we do the same for them!
Below is a list of the various issues Kingsley had. I post this in an effort to record some little bits of information on each disorder/disease, as many of them have very little representation online.
PSSM - Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy - This disorder appears to be genetic, and often causes tying up, hind end weakness and quivering muscles. We treated this by feeding him high-fat, controlled starch feeds as well as ALCAR (acetyl L-Carnitine) and Magnesium. He also had to be warmed up very slowly with special attention paid to his hind end. He often shook/quivered at the beginning of work, and his muscles were so weak that he was unable to rein back or even lift his feet for hoof picking without shaking for many months.
Gastric Ulcers - While Kingsley was never formally scoped, he came to me with signs of ulcers so I started him on omeprazole with incredible success after about three days. He had been picky and slow with his food, and was incredibly food aggressive, often grunting in pain while eating or kicking out when he was brushed over his flanks and belly. After those first few days of treatment he became docile and even seemed to be hungry, where before he would only eat a pound or so of his feed before giving up.
Narcolepsy - Over time I began to suspect this was actually exacerbated by sleep deprivation due to stress. Kingsley was a very large horse who rarely lay down in the field while his hind end was weak at the beginning of his rehab, and we soon found that when pressure was applied over the left side of his poll he would fall almost instantly asleep, often by toppling into walls. This was especially tricky when he was worked on by the massage therapist and Masterson method practitioners. As his strength and comfort increased, this disappeared almost completely, only reappearing in the last two days of his life.
EORTH - Equine odonotclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis - In the last six months of Kingsley's life, his teeth had begun to show signs of EORTH - the same disease that poor Branson has. The roots of his teeth had become more prominent and his gums were receding, making his teeth appear "long." Worst of all was that you could shift them slightly by applying pressure to them, which implied they were beginning to cause him significant pain when grazing.
DSLD - Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Disease - In the last three months of Kingsley's life I had noticed a significant change in his hind end. I will have to see if I can find photos, but his stifle and hocks had begun to lose their angle, causing his fetlocks to drop. Just two weeks before his death, his hocks had begun to take on fluid, and when the vet came out for his initial colic treatment she agreed that he was very likely suffering from DSLD, a systemic disorder causing the strands of connective tissue to lose their elasticity due to an overabundance of proteoglycan. Basically it's like his ligaments were beginning to stretch, like old rubber bands. This is not a disease with a good prognosis, as there is currently no treatment and it causes considerable pain and mechanical disfunction as it progresses.
Colic - Ultimately, what killed Kingsley was a very severe case of colic. Ten days before his death, he had a bad case of colic that lasted through the day. His pain returned twice after receiving treatment, first simply banamine, and second a tubing, rectal exam, banamine and buscopan. He finally came through in the morning and appeared to make a full recovery. The vet had not been able to feel anything concerning in his initial rectal exam, though it's been suggested that this initial colic may have caused a chain reaction, ultimately leading to his second colic.
Ten days later, Kingsley violently colicked again. The vet came immediately out, and found a small, soft impaction and slight gas distention that was concerning but not immediately alarming. He was treated with more pain meds and unfortunately shortly after the vet left he began to show signs of pain again. When the vet returned, the impaction had moved and things were looking more promising so we decided to dose him with lots of pain meds to see if it would pass on its own.
Unfortunately two hours after the second visit, Kingsley began to show pain again and we hooked up the trailer. He was hauled to MSU to their amazing emergency clinic, where they did an ultrasound and found one large hard obstruction in his small intestine on the left, and then several others on the right which suggested it was true blockage and not just being pinched off by an enlarged section of colon.
They then did an abdominocentisis where they stuck an apparatus into his abdominal cavity to check for endotoxins. His normal blood protein levels were 1, and the protein levels in his abdomen were 3.3 - more than three times his normal level, which implied his intestines had begun breaking down, or dying. While surgery might have been an option, he wasn't a great candidate because of the multiple blockages and the level of protein in his abdomen.
The team at MSU was amazing and supportive, and with his additional degenerative disorders, it was a relatively easy call to make, though I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Kingsley crossed the rainbow bridge at 7:27 that night, peacefully and with his head in my hands. The resident vet at MSU contacted me a couple of days later to let me know that in the necropsy they'd found a large section of his small intestine that had looped back on itself and formed a knot, and there was considerable damage to the tissue. He was adamant that I'd made the right call, which definitely brought some comfort.
I would like to thank everyone who came together to donate funds toward Kingsley's vet bills. In losing him, I have realized what an inspiring and supportive community I have around me.
Love to you all!