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The re-education of TB racehorses

A “Basa” mystery

To unravel the mystery of that which is horse is the ultimate experience for those that work with the big beasts. I have had many such experiences that have led to a variety of epiphanies during my long years with horses but believe that I have now witnessed one for the books.

Basa, my TB mare and a rather troubled soul, has been the subject of a series of articles (the first few of which are linked below) that have recanted just how difficult it can be to reclaim a horse after she has spent time on the track. These animals, in my humble opinion, are raced too young which breaks them down mentally and physically. This mare could be the poster-horse for such declarations against current track policies. Her body has proven to be damaged, perhaps beyond repair, and the pain that this has caused her has created dangerous defensive behaviors that almost brought her life to an end before dealing with her put my life at further risk - luckily for both of us that decision has been delayed many times and we are moving past such thoughts.

We have, over the course of two years, slowly made progress with both her mental and physical healing. She has accepted me as a friend and caregiver and has recently begun to accept other’s attentions. We can accomplish a great deal with work in-hand and a bit of lunging but until last week’s strange episode I had given up hope that she would be able to carry me as a rider.

During her five years with me she has, very occasionally, presented with mild colic symptoms. She was negative for ulcers so we provided some basic GI support and these episodes became even less in number and severity. She looked a little off one day not long ago and I decided that she was looking painful enough to warrant a dose of Banamine – the colicky symptoms subsided as was expected and she appeared fine and dandy for 48 hours.

Returning from one of my usual walks with the dogs, just shy of two days after the Banamine, I noticed Basa lying in the pasture – not an activity she typical engaged in with other horses about. Just as I was trying to assess her comfort level she began twitching, she grew rigid and started what I had no trouble discerning was a seizure. It lasted about 45 seconds and with some prompting from a very foolish dog she jumped up, ran over to the other horses and (I guess) told them all about it.

After several common tests came back negative and with no repeat performances and with some very helpful information from a few Facebook friends (thanks again everyone) my conclusion is that the Banamine may have been the causative agent for the seizure. Some TBs have a predisposition to low drug tolerances – track horses are often drugged heavily in order to deal with injuries (many of which could be avoided with different techniques of training as well as starting horses when they are more mature physically). These low tolerances stress the kidneys, liver or both and since these organs spend their days de-toxing the body when they are already stressed from past abuses and cannot perform their usual function other organs are then forced to deal with these drugs and other toxins – as I have come to learn it is not uncommon for this to result in seizures.

Now hopefully you, my readers, have found this information at least a little bit interesting, but the real mystery has yet to be revealed.

Since the seizure Basa has changed – she is holding her body in a better frame, her back has become less rigid and her shoulders no longer look to be hanging from her frame like a saggy suit. She is less intense throughout her entire day and the biggest change of all is she is looking at me squarely in the eye, actually seeking my eye in order to make contact – this has never happened before.

My best and most hopeful guess is that she gave herself a huge all over chiropractic adjustment during the seizure. Of course it could also be a change in brain chemistry. But since there is nothing to prove which it may really be I’m remaining optimistic that her improved state, both mental and physical, will continue and she will, at least, be a more content creature – and who knows we may just get out there for a ride yet.




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