DSLD (degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis) is a terrible disease- genetic, still not understood, and incurable. Research is limited to a few universities, and a few dedicated veterinarians who are trying and experimenting with mostly natural methods, as the usual medications simply hide the symptoms for the short term and are of no long term help. Some researchers and veterinarians believe medications add stress to other organs as they are metabolized, and hurry the disease along.
There is not a lot that we can do but to keep trying. Pat is fed a highly nutritional, mineral and vitamin rich diet, supplemented with a natural anti inflammatory, iodized salt to support his thyroid function, and a stomach buffer to keep his gut and digestion in check. On the outside we treat his dropping fetlocks with ice packs, herbal rubs, and cold hosing. The farrier trims his hooves every three weeks in a fashion to reduce the stress on his ligaments, and the vet comes every few weeks to give him chiropractic sessions to keep his skeletal system aligned and his nervous system healthy. We cannot ride him, so he gets free turnout for exercise – the last thing we want to do is to stall him, which would put more pressure on his ligaments, let alone cause depression (yes, horses get depressed).
We could have just “put him down” and moved on, but its not who we are. We committed to battle this until Pat no longer can “be a horse”, and / or becomes too uncomfortable to be happy. So far, it’s been mostly good news, yet lately, our concerns have increased.
After the diagnosis and the experimental treatments began, Pat showed resilience and improvement – galloping and trotting and playing - although it wasn’t every day, but often enough to think he was making a comeback. But throughout the summer, that has diminished and stopped. We think that maybe the act of stomping flies, the hot weather, and less exercise due to both these conditions has aggravated the inflammation, but no one knows for sure. Although he wanders out to the pasture easily, he has stopped playing, and he seems to be giving up his authority over Zip and Lou. He no longer nips Zips in the flank to show who’s boss, or bothers much with beta Lou, whom he tormented with just a stare and taking a few steps towards him. Pat is still very much a horse, but he has definitely slowed down. We are hoping that when the milder weather returns, he will become more active. We don’t know – no one knows – that is the crux of this disease. It may not be the weather at all. He may have reached his plateau and this may be a sign that the day we never want to face is coming nearer. Time will tell. We’ll know better when the weather changes.
It is hard. Besides him being part of our family, Kath and I spent years training and de-spooking him under saddle to be a confident trail horse, and our love, bond, and mutual trust became strong and unbreakable. We continue to hope and keep trying, and so does Pat. We are all doing the best that we can. He’s a fighter. No one is giving up.