Yesterday my vet got clear of emergencies and made it out to the barn to do herd vaccines and a lameness exam on Desire. By the way, let me just comment on my tough country vet! She broke her tail bone giving birth 2 weeks ago and is already back at work driving more than a hundred miles a day seeing large animal clients in 90+ degree heat. Phew! Poor gal was in major pain but takes her job seriously; I so appreciate having a good, conscientious vet that will come out to us in the hills!
First of all, the lameness test. Initially my vet mentioned that owners requesting EPM tests were generally off base, and I was open minded to that, perfectly happy for her to tell me I was wrong and have some other diagnosis for me. Desire and Blaze are my first horses getting up into their teens--both 17 this summer--and this hip/hock/hind end/arthritis/? etc is all new to me. I do rather a lot of reading and asking and obsessing, however, and for some reason EPM had twanged in my head, out of the blue, on a trail ride when she took a funny step downhill, late last year.
After a flexion test--maybe not the perfect term? But in this case, holding up the hind leg for 2 minutes and then trotting off, on each side-- my vet definitely saw Desire trotting off "weird" on her left hind, as well as short striding on that left hind when she went by. "Weird" is totally scientific, I know. But honestly, it's the word I've been using and it's what the vet said too. Desire doesn't actively limp, head bob, or otherwise give any indication anything is wrong, but if you *stare* at her hips and hind legs, there is something there. Matter of fact my vet commented that Desire's jaunty sky high tail set made it hard to watch her hips when she trotted, and the mare seemed entirely unaware her body wasn't performing as it should. She said that Desire moves as if she had some sort of ligament issue--I admit, I missed the scientific term she threw out--in her left hind, but everything felt clean and normal in her hind legs. Also it wasn't consistent enough to say OH, okay, she's lame Here, and it's From This. The vet also could see and feel that her right hip looked higher, (not as high as it had been before chiro last week!) and in fact pointed out that there was a slight sunken area of deteriorated muscle in Desire's left flank. I couldn't see it myself but did feel the rounded soft muscle on the right flank versus the slight sink on the left. Muscle deterioration in the hind end is one of the red flags of EPM and with the combination of the weird steps, the balance issues, and that sunken muscle, the vet concluded an EPM test was a pretty darn good idea. She drew blood, vaccinated Desire, Blaze, and mini Napoleon-remarking on how polite and shiny they all were--and went on her way.
Lab results in 5 days which probably means I won't hear anything until next Monday. Let the thumb twiddling begin...