Friday, June 27, 2008

"No Good Horse is a Bad Color"

That's an old horseman's saying.

"No good horse is a bad color... unless it's a gray" is mine. Now I don't mean that like all gray horses are bad, Monty is gray and the equine love of my life. I mean dealing with the heartbreak of melanoma in gray horses, as grays have the highest incidence of melanoma tumors of all horse colors.

Monty is only 13 years old and he's got very aggressive tumors under his tail, under his dock, in his sheath, around his lips and small assorted lumps here and there on his body. The tumors started to appear when he was around 6 years old (which to me seems kind of young) and have steadily progressed to the point they are at today. I've had some extremely unpleasant episodes with the ones on his tail becoming like a boil, then "bursting" and oozing "stuff". These require frequent washing to keep clean and once needed the vet to put in a drain to help the "stuff" clean out completely. At that time, Monty had a piece of rubber tubing in one hole and threaded out a second hole in the tumor, then the ends tied together into the skin of his tail. He looked like he was wearing a very bizarre piercing!

I've tried herbal remedies, which at best perhaps slowed the growths but didn't stop them from continuing to spread. And I really gave the herbal supplements a fair shake because I kept him on it religiously for 2 years. Then, deciding the result didn't warrant the expense I stopped feeding it to him. He's only turned out in the paddock that's all in shade, in case the sun has anything to do with it. I've had discussions with the vet about it but all the treatments are non-confirmed, there is no consistent cure from case to case.

If you see his pictures on my blog, he's big, fat, and in great condition. He will trail ride for hours, gallop his heart out, jump whatever is in front of him, stroll around the yard with me onboard bareback or give my twins a pony ride. He's the most wonderful horse I've ever owned and I cherish every ride, every minute spent with him. The vet says as long as he is eating and drinking well and has no changes in condition or temper that he is healthy enough to do whatever he's asked to do. But it's hard knowing every day what he has will most likely be what ends his life and probably too soon.

There is a new organization called Take The Reins and they are looking to try and find a cure for this condition but they are just beginning. Maybe one day, they will find the answer.

Other sources of information on this condition:

Gray Area - equine melanoma

Virginia Tech researcher examining malignant melanoma in horses

Contained in Article: gray horses unsuitable for slaughter due to incidence of melanoma

Equine Melanoma Study in a Population of Lipizzaner Horses

Equine Melanoma - Very few Solutions


Grey Horse Matters said...

Monty sounds like a wonderful horse who is lucky to have a mom who loves him and gives him the best of care. Obviously, grays are my favorite, having been owned and loved by my best friend Erik since he was 3, until he passed a year ago at age 18 from colic. We were lucky he never had any melanomas, but I do hope that the organization, Take the Reins, finds a cure for this condition soon.
In the meantime all you can do is love him and have fun times, which it sounds like you are both doing.I wish you and Monty many more years of togetherness.

Mrs Mom said...

I think fellow equi-blogger Nuzzling muzzles ( had some issues with melanoma on one of her young Arabs. Maybe she would be good to connect with, and see what she used? She went through an incredible amount of effort, and finally found something that worked quite well...

Dont know if that will help at all, but might be worth a read!

SolitaireMare said...

grey horse - your horse Erik sounds like he was a wonderful friend! Your length of years together remind me of my last horse, we were together from 4 until she was 24!

mrs mom - Thanks for the link to nuzzling muzzles page, I will definitely visit and see if she has any insight on this condition!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

For my horses, the melanomas were mostly on thick, fur-covered portions of skin (shoulders and butt cheeks). For your horse, the melanomas are mostly on the thin-skinned, sensitive locations. I could see why your vet didn't want to experiment with Xterra.

Have you tried Cimetidine? It didn't work for my horse, but sometimes it is very successful with others. It would be the most non-invasive solution. Unfortunately, since there is no consistently successful treatment, you just have to try what is out there and hope for results.

Katie said...

Hi there,
I'm Katie from A Girl and Her Horse. I just found your blog and I'm really enjoying it!

I hope that you find something that will help Monty out. Unfortunately I have no experience with Melanoma on horses so I can't offer any advice (even if you did want)

Happy Blogging :)

SolitaireMare said...

Hi nuzzling muzzles! I've been catching up on your blog and enjoying it very much! Haven't tried the cimetidine. My vet doesn't think it will do much considering the extent of Monty's tumors. Maybe I'll consider again.

Hi Katie! Glad you stopped by my blog! I see your horse friend is a gray, too!