The Visit.

Here's a pro-tip for vet visits:  if you know that the ailment for which Ponykins is being seen is exercise-induced, dress in a manner appropriate for exercise.  I'm going to blame it on the lack of caffeine as well as everything else going on, but, yeah, I wore gym shorts and now I have leg rubs.  Derp.

All of the horses were being seen for regular vaccines.  And I brought up this sudden health concern, so my vet saw other horses while I tacked Archie up and gave him a walking warm-up.  He listened to Archie's lungs prior to riding and said they sounded great.

So Archie did his initial cough when I first got on.  I guess I wasn't super clear in the last post.  I'm not worried about Archie's "warm up" cough.  He's 18.  We're going to start having minor issues everywhere.  What I am concerned about is that he has started intermittently coughing during exercise and isn't "working out of it".

I probably trotted/cantered around for about ten minutes, with Archie pausing and clearing his throat and doing an occasional cough.  After listening to him a few times along his lungs and his esophagus, my vet asked me to push him through a coughing spell and then let him stop.

And heard nothing.

He said that Archie's distal lungs sounded great, even during exercise.  But he understood my concern, as it just isn't right.  I've been riding this horse for ten years and my gut is telling me that something is wrong.

The vet said that we're going to have to approach this by ruling out what it isn't (differential diagnosis).  The first step is a complete blood count (CBC) to rule out possibly number one:  mild bronchial pneumonia.  If that comes back clean, we could proceed with a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL).  This would require sterile fluid inserted into his lungs, removed, and sent off for analysis.  He doesn't feel like this is RAO, but he's very interested to see if his cough subsides once his night stall board stops in September.  So we could also "wait and see".  We talked about the time line and the fact that he didn't have this issue when he was in a stall last summer, but he said that RAO can start whenever.  He also briefly touched on the possibly of tracheal paralysis (roaring), which, honestly.. fuck.  I don't know what the best case scenario is.

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  1. I hesitate to make a suggestion like this, because I know anecdotal, how off the wall suggestions drive me nuts, but: Tristan's coughing improved dramatically once we started treating him for his Cushings. Seeing how much he's improved on medication - as compared to the other Cushings horses in the barn - since we caught it so early has made me a big advocate for getting senior horses tested as a matter of course. Right now is a good time to test, too, since we're not into the fall spike yet. It is a much broader-spectrum disease than I ever knew before I experienced it myself, and broad-based immune system stuff, including coughing/sensitivity to allergens is a hallmark of that.

    So, I just had to say it - and good luck in pursuing the root cause!

    1. ^ This is a great thought and great advice, Beka, especially given Archie's age. Cushings can be so, so manageable if caught early, before the big signs of wooly coats and sore feet crop up. The good thing about TBs is that when they do develop Cushings, they rarely have accompanying insulin resistance like some of the easy keeper breeds do because their metabolisms are so different.

      That said, I hope it's not that. I also hope it's not roaring nor RAO. RAO can be a bitch (it's the reason why we had to put Lucero down during a summer where the Sahara sands were particularly awful on the island. He couldn't breathe and there was no way to remove him from that environment. The Sahara sands are blown across the Atlantic on some years, turning the sky white and collecting on people's cars, and causing all sorts of respiratory nightmares in the 2-legged and 4-legged alike, all over the island.) The one good thing about that diagnosis is that a lot of horses do well just being outside 24/7, so whether it's this or allergies, I wouldn't be surprised if Archie's cough disappears then. I found that my guy's symptoms were also worse when we were having those 80% humidity days.

      Fingers crossed for a diagnosis that is easily fixed!

    2. Yes! ⇧

      Melissa from Paradigm Farms has done an excellent three post series on the topic - current info written in layman's terms and not intended to be internet vetting, just sharing the benefit of her many years of experience caring for many horses with the condition.

      Here are the links if you're interested: Cushings part I, Cushing's part II, .Cushing's part III.

      I know that whatever Archie's situation is, you'll take the best care of him. Fingers crossed for you two.

  2. bummer about the leg rubs (ouch!!). glad that the vet didn't seem super concerned tho. hopefully you figure it out one way or another!

  3. I know a roarer and he's fucking fabulous. Riding him is like galloping along with your very own foley artist on your shoulder. It also hasn't influenced his ability to do exercise (yet). So at least that scenario is not too scary!

  4. Glad you went with your gut! Especially when you've known a horse so long, it's almost always the right call. Too bad about the cough (and leg rubs) :/ hopefully you guys find out what is wrong soon and that it's very treatable.

  5. Fiction was a roarer when he raced and had tieback surgery. It hasn't effected his ability to work in anyway - we just have to soak his food so it won't get lodged in the wrong pipe if he eats too fast :)

  6. I don't know what the best case scenario is either- I just hope he gets better!

  7. I'm rooting for whatever "best case" is. Glad you are trusting your instincts.