Where I buy chelated calcium, B1, reishi, pea protein, and some herbs:
Where I buy herbs, seeds, and tinctures:
The “typical” PSSM diet includes salt, magnesium, fat (for PSSM1), protein (for PSSM2), and a full-spectrum vitamin/mineral supplement. This type of diet doesn’t work for Jax and a small contingent of other PSSM horses on the forums. That’s the reason I created this blog – to bring to light that there’s another management strategy for horses that don’t come around on typical PSSM diets.
Jax tested n/P1, n/P2, n/Px, meaning he’s heterozygous positive for a gene associated with PSSM1, PSSM2/MFM, and RER (Recurrent Exertional Rhabdomyolysis) – the PSSM1 test is peer reviewed, but the PSSM2/RER panel is experimental at the time of writing this (read more about testing here).
He crashed at age 8, and it took several years to get him right again. His dietary approach focuses on chelated calcium to balance electrolytes and keep him from having bloody urine issues and tight muscles, and his exercise focuses on distance work (trails and LOTS of hand walking during blanket season) and keeping him supple (occasional cone and pole work, bending exercises, etc).
These 3 minerals are found in the typical horse diet, and both magnesium oxide and salt are in the typical PSSM diet. Jax is an odd duck, as he doesn’t seem to follow the norms of most horses – neither healthy horses, nor PSSM horses.
Through years of trial and error, I’ve found that the typical high magnesium, high salt diet that many use for these guys just doesn’t work for mine, and instead he does well with calcium and occasional baking soda supplementation.
These 2 minerals are what works for Jax. While calcium carbonate is the typical form of calcium supplementation, chelated calcium is the form that works for Jax. We’re in a high limestone area (Midwest US), and calcium carbonate just seems to add to kidney stress for Jax.
However, calcium gluconate has his muscles and kidneys functioning perfectly when other supplemental minerals seem to cause more harm than good.
When I first moved Jax home in 2019, he was a hard keeper after years of being symptomatic and less-than-stellar boarding situations. A high protein, high fiber diet with up to 5 lbs of beet pulp and up to 2 cups of pea protein brought him back around to easy keeper status, along with liberal use of high quality gut support.
He’s now an easy keeper on a small amount of feed for mineral/herb supplementation and a high forage (fiber) diet and doing great. See more information for these dietary approaches in feeding horses.
Exercise management is incredibly important for a PSSM horse and, according to Dr. Valberg, may be more important than diet changes for some. Along with body work, the physical management is incredibly useful in keeping these guys healthy and feeling their best.
Body work is incredibly important for the PSSM horse. The three main sectors of management are diet, exercise, and body work: of those three, two (exercise and body work) are a form of physical work/manipulation. These three sectors of management work as a triad, with all three being necessary, but not all three are equal for every horse.
If the diet is perfect, body work is needed less; however, if there’s a trigger in the diet you’ll find body work can help with soreness to help alleviate the consequences of that dietary trigger (same with exercise). So different corners of our triad can carry our horses through if another sector/corner is deficient.
This horse tested negative for PSSM1 and genetic PSSM2 testing. However, he was found positive for three neuro problems and one muscular issue. His neuro problems were:
He was presenting as a PSSM horse, and the typical procedures for rehabbing horses with sore backs and other muscular issues weren’t helping. The culprit found for this was:
Bambam wasn’t showing as neurological, but was having muscle soreness issues and right hind lameness. His right lumbar was sore and he was getting more exercise intolerant as time went on. Eventually, he did begin to show some weakness on tail pull tests, and eventually tested positive through Pathogenes.
How Important is Electrolyte Balance for PSSM Horses, and can these issues cause behavioral issues
Can shedding affect a PSSM horse? Electrolyte imbalances, kidney issues, and shedding season
I’ve tried a lot of different tack for my sensitive PSSM boy, and have outlined my pros and cons for many different brands, focusing especially on treeless and bareback tack reviews.
My current setup is a Barefoot Physio pad with an Edix Courville with all 8 mesh inserts for extra protection and padding. On occasion he handles my Trekker Luxus with Edix pad, but he’s far more comfortable in the bareback setup.
I currently ride in a wide nylon halter with padded noseband, as Jax prefers bitless. A good five-point breast collar is great for adding tool storage for safety (knife, multi-tool) and helps stabilize the setup, though it’s incredibly stable without the breast collar. See all tack reviews.
The heartbreak of owning a PSSM horse can be emotionally exhausting and financially draining, especially when you have no help finding a diagnosis. The first 5 posts I shared about Jax were the Horse Health series, where my PSSM journey began: a lameness so mild others couldn’t see it, back pain vets couldn’t diagnose, and an owner with more questions (and frustrations!) than answers.
Before finally getting a diagnosis I focused on hoof health, tack fit, and trying to get my boy back into groundwork with massage and other body work (after almost 6 months out of saddle and a major colic episode). I left the original 5 Horse Health posts as I’d originally wrote them but did go back and add some snippets about PSSM – I wanted my frustration and desperation at the time to not be lost in editing.
At the time, I didn’t know that I’d put so much time and research into this, or if I’d find solutions to get my horse back. At the time of writing this, Jax is 15 years old and doing really well, with many solutions found and shared here. This blog has since grown to include all aspects of managing my very sensitive boy in hopes that it will help others help their horses.
Jax’s early PSSM symptoms, the initial stages and struggling with getting a PSSM diagnosis
Stifle issues in horses: Jax’s main symptoms included SI issues, stifle issues, and muscle soreness – but hoof issues were also playing into our issues