We’ve had a lot of lows lately which is why I’ve not been posting here. Shah has been poorly for quite a while and it’s taken every effort trying to get him well again and at some points I’ve been seriously considering retiring him although he’s only 18 years old. Here’s the story.

After being lame for nearly five weeks in May due to a stone cut on the heel I started him up again in June and we sailed through the slow progression phase, starting with 10 minutes walk each day, slowly building up in 5 minute increments until we were back on being able to ride at a decent speed for 1-2 hours. We had a set back when he decided to reverse into some brambles and cut himself quite badly in the groin stopping any faster work for a few weeks as he complained every time he stretched out. But it healed nicely. Then something else hit us.

Early July and Shah’s chronic pastern leukocytoclastic vasculitis (PLV or LV as it’s also called) flared up badly. We’re still not sure what allergen he ate to start it all off but in just a couple of days all four feet were affected and he struggled to walk. So it was onto a strict routine of being indoors during daytime, out with sunprotect boots (Equilibriums much better than Cashel in my experience) and trial of several types of steroid/cortisone creams to try and clear it up. LV is very individual but for us, Betnovate has helped tremenduously. A warning here though, if you think your horse suffers from LV rather than ‘ordinary’ mudfever, don’t start severe treatment unless you have had it diagnosed by a vet. Using steriod creams on normal mud fever can do a lot of damage.

LV is an autoimmune system disorder. This means that once the immune system has sorted out the initial allergen it overreacts and turns on itself, in effect destroying itself and not being able to cope with anything else. When the LV flared Shah also caught a virus of some sort, we thought he’d just caught a cold as it coincided with some bad weather and being outside at night without a rug on (come on, it’s supposed to be summer here!!). But the cough hung around. It wasn’t too bad to start with, just the odd cough when exercised and especially in the dusty school so I didn’t think much of it. And we had our hands full with trying to work out how to get rid of the LV which was causing us a lot of problems at the time.

With strict management we succeeded in getting rid of the scabs in time for my next planned ride at Windsor on 19 July. We were really looking forward to it. A nice 32km through Great Windsor Park, manicured bridleways fit for a queen! The route took us passed the castle, through the deer park and we had an excellent ride finishing on heart rate 46, average speed 13.7k/h and gained a grade 2 – our best grade so far!! However, I knew all wasn’t right as he was running out of steam after about 20k. We had to stop and walk a few times especially during the last 5k, which is very unlike him. So although we had a great ride I also knew that there was something else lurking inside him.

Since then, the virus inside him broke out and he was coughing, wheezing and struggling for a few weeks. In the end we had to get the vet out (another horse on the yard has had the same so we’re pretty sure it’s a virus) and he prescribed some ventapulmin, which has now cleared the cough. I’ve also had Shah on a course of Transfer Factors to see if they would help regulate the immune system and clear the LV. In the meantime I’ve also had to change his feed completely as I’ve found out that he’s allergic to loads of things and there are quite a few feed stuffs that can trigger the LV, soya being one, alfalfa another so I was advised to go right back to basics with the feed.

It’s been a tough few months but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Shah now feels like his old self again. The LV seems to have cleared, thanks to the bad weather I think, the cough is definitely gone and he’s just a little tight in the chest. The tightness seems to disappear after a bit of fast work when he can clear it all out. Hopefully the last of it will go after another week or so. I’m considering putting him on some homeopathic remedies over the winter to support the chest as he sometimes gets a cough anyway when he’s stabled more.

We’ve also moved stables. Same yard, just different stable to give him more air circulation, he can now stand with his head outside in the fresh air which is better for his airways. And I’ve been giving him some pink powder to get his guts working so that we can feed him haylage instead of the dry hay. He loves it, but it tends to make his belly rather loose! But with the support of the pink powder he seems to be fine.

With all the ill health now hopefully behind us I can start thinking about endurance again. We’re hoping to get up on the Downs again this week for a nice hilly training ride and I want to use it to see how Shah’s chest holds up. We were due to do a proper ride this weekend (40k at Firle) but I’ve cancelled our entry as I don’t want to exert him yet, it’s still early days and the cough could come back and if he became ill again I’d be gutted. So I’m helping out instead, will be on checkpoint 2&4, if you ride past say hi!!

If all goes well now, we might still be able to get another ride or two in before the end of the season but I have low hopes after the bad run we’ve had this year. We’ll see how it goes over the next couple of weeks and then decide what distances to try.