Podcast Episode 39: Lameness that hides — Stiffness

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Stiffness often starts subtly. It’s hard to tell if a horse is stiff, or “just getting old”.

The Horse Mysteries Solved podcast out today talks about the two most common causes of stiffness and what to do about it.

Stop injecting joints and try these easy tips first.

Cheers,
Renee Tucker, DVM

Links Mentioned:

Where Does My Horse Hurt Book

50 Horse Secrets

TBT Free Taster Series

Dynamite Selenium

Selenium FAQs:

    -Where can I get good quality, absorbable selenium?

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I recommend Dynamite selenium. Dynamite ships in the US only. For international recommendations, please consult our TBT practitioners in your area. You can find them listed here: TBT Practitioners

    -Why does the internet have so much info about selenium poisoning, instead of how helpful it is?

Much press has been given to selenium overdoses, as it can kill horses. However, these overdoses are from injectable (not oral) selenium. And, in some cases the selenium was contaminated with toxins.

Giving oral selenium is safe. Generally, two milligrams (mg) per day for a 1000lb horse. Too much and the horse will simply drink more water and eliminate it. To be sure, offer the selenium free-choice. Horses will very often choose to eat selenium — if you have an absorbable brand.

    -Do you recommend selenium for people too, and what brand?

Yes, humans need selenium too. I like Biotics Research Selenium (Se-Zyme Forte), available on Amazon. (no affiliation)

    -Why did amending the Scandanavian countries soil with selenium help, but your test amending soil for hay did not?

The study with adding selenium to farmer’s fields worked, I believe, because it was over 20 years ago. There were far fewer chem-trails adding heavy metals to the fields and blocking absorption of essential nutrients to the food supply.

In summary, every horse needs selenium (often with Vitamin E, which is fine).

Transcription:
Dr. Renee (00:01)
Hello friends. Dr. Renee Tucker here, equine veterinarian. Today I would like to share some thoughts I have on lamenesses that hide and stiffness. Now by stiffness, I do mean tight bending, or possibly stiff in one direction.

Dr. Renee (00:20)
And it may be a case where the horse is stiff at first and they warm up out of it. One time I had a guy who had a beautiful palomino cowboy gentleman, and he said, this horse is like riding a four x four, and he means a four inch by four inch piece of lumber. So super stiff, the horse would not bend at all, it just went straight. So that is what I mean by stiff. Now, you may wonder, but why are you calling it a lameness that hides?

Dr. Renee (00:58)
Well, that is a little confusing, and let me tell you, that’s only our first confusion of this podcast. Yes, here’s why I am calling stiffness a potential lameness that hides. Two reasons. One is because stiffness can be hiding subtle lamenesses or prelameness issues. As an example, if a joint hurts, then the muscles, tendons, ligaments that surround that joint.

Dr. Renee (01:31)
They’re going to tighten up to protect it and to guard it against too much motion or pressure or torque. But things get tighter. And of course, if they’re tighter, then they’re stiff. The second reason is if the horse perchance is stiff all over, that can cause problems itself. The horse is too stiff, there’s not enough shock absorption in the whole system, and then you can actually damage the joints.

Dr. Renee (02:04)
Now, if you tell your veterinarian that the horse is stiff, pretty much we’re going to assume the horse has arthritis and that it’s a joint problem. Usually joints will be injected and or recommending a joint supplement. Now that is certainly a possibility. Joints can get stiff, however, other things can get stiff. Some of those would be the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia.

Dr. Renee (02:37)
There’s a few other things, I am sure, but those are the ones that are coming to the top of my mind. All right, so let’s say you have a stiff horse, or, you know, one, and you want to say, well, let’s see, what’s my top two common causes of stiffness? Well, I’ll tell you what they are. Okay. In my opinion, there are top two causes of stiffness.

Dr. Renee (03:00)
Again, this can be all over stiffness or just one direction, and those top two are low selenium. And number two is bodywork misalignments. Okay, I’m going to talk about selenium for a while, and you’re going to say, renee, stop talking about the selenium already. Okay, listen, it’s super important, all right? Selenium is a mineral not to be confused with psyllium, which is spelled psylliumi am talking about selenium, the mineral selenium.

Dr. Renee (03:41)
Selenium? Yes. This is a spelling bead, okay. Selenium lives in the muscle cells and lets them fully stretch. No selenium.

Dr. Renee (03:56)
No stretch.

Dr. Renee (04:00)
You’re going to find this silly. Well, I think it’s silly. I learned about this from a board certified surgeon, and I told people for years, all my clients, get your horse on selenium, blah, blah, blah. Then one day, I’m talking to my naturopath, and I had been having some, I guess you’d call it stretching problems. I was taking some yoga at the time, and she said, well, you need some selenium.

Dr. Renee (04:25)
And I just was like, oh, for crying out loud, why didn’t I think of that? Oh, yeah. So I take some selenium. Three days. That’s it.

Dr. Renee (04:34)
Of selenium. I mean, I took it for longer, but in three days, suddenly I went back to yoga, and instead of trying to stretch and ending at a stopping point, like, let’s just say I just bend over to touch the floor, and it would just stop. Like, I couldn’t go any far further closer to the floor. It was like an endpoint. There was no feeling of stretch, but I didn’t notice that.

Dr. Renee (05:03)
But then I took the selenium, and I swear it was three days. And then I would, like, be in yoga, and I’d go to do this same bend over to touch the floor, and boom, not only could I go further towards the floor, but then I felt the stretch within my hamstrings. I’m like, oh, that stretch. Like, this sounds so dumb, but I literally forgot what a stretch felt like in my muscles because they were so low selenium that they just would stop. They would stop their extension instead of stretching.

Dr. Renee (05:40)
So you can see why that would be a problem for the horse. If their muscles, which are supposed to keep going and stretching out, like, say, a beautiful front shoulder extension, and it doesn’t. It just stops. And then you have this kind of clunky horse instead of the beautiful mover that you used to have, it could be simple as selenium. Okay, here is the reason that we have to have the right selenium.

Dr. Renee (06:12)
That’s right. I would say 80% of selenium, particularly the selenium that’s thrown in feedbacks, is not absorbable. What we need is 50 50 selenium okay, here’s the second confusing part. 50% organic selenium and 50% inorganic selenium. Now, when I’m saying organic here, I’m not talking about organic, like on our food, which shows non pesticides or fertilizers, whatever.

Dr. Renee (06:49)
Not that. I’m talking about chemistry. Oh, yes, your old friend from high school. There’s organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry, and I hated both of them. Okay, I don’t know about you guys, but chemistry was not my friend.

Dr. Renee (07:06)
Let me give you some definitions, which probably only our chemists are going to love. But let’s see. Organic chemistry. An organic chemical is derived from, or produced by living organisms and have carbon, whereas inorganic is from nonliving components and have no carbon. Now, who knew that?

Dr. Renee (07:32)
Not me. I didn’t even know that. And I had chemistry for two years. The point is, most selenium is inorganic. I’m talking the stuff that we’re feeding our horses.

Dr. Renee (07:43)
And did you know it comes from the refining of copper? Like, who knew that? There we go. The Internet knows that. Okay, so if we’re giving horses selenium and they all need it, often it is just the inorganic.

Dr. Renee (08:02)
And so that is not absorbable to the muscles. Does it go in the hair and the mane and the feet? I’m sorry by that, but I mean the hooves. Yes, it does, but it won’t go in the muscles and let them stretch fully unless you also have the inorganic. So you need about a 50 50 organic to inorganic type of selenium.

Dr. Renee (08:28)
Now, as you may know, if you listen to me, I recommend dynamite selenium, because that’s what it is. Approximately 50 50. And it’s very observable. Seen hundreds if not thousands of horses. Before and after.

Dr. Renee (08:43)
Before and after, you say, yes, before. If you feel a horse who’s low selenium, the neck muscles feel stiff, they feel hard. They don’t feel smooshy or massageable. Okay, say, well, so what, man? That means they’re buff, they’re so muscled that you can’t squish them.

Dr. Renee (09:09)
Well, okay. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the day, who had amazing musculature, if he relaxed his arm, you could massage it. If it was contracted, you could forget about it, right? Solid. Had a lot of people tell me, well, no, that’s just my horse’s butt.

Dr. Renee (09:28)
It’s just so muscle that it’s hard, actually. And this is super cool. Horses, when they are standing still and they’re in good alignment, only the tricep muscles are turned on and contracted. I know, they’ve got so many. There’s that whole thousand pound top line.

Dr. Renee (09:54)
Well, not the whole top line is thousand pounds, but 1000 pound horse has got a lot of musculature. But when he’s standing there, only the tricep area muscles are turned on, which turns on the stay apparatus of the front legs, which locks the front legs so that horses can sleep standing up. Okay, so they’re not like us, man. When we’re standing, I’m already tired just thinking about it. All right?

Dr. Renee (10:23)
But when they’re standing, they’re just using their silly little tricep muscle. My point is, therefore the rest of their muscles should be relaxed and smooshy massageable. So if you feel a horse and they’re tight, dude, one time I felt this horse who was the utmost hardness, you couldn’t smush anything. And I called that horse statue horse, because I couldn’t tell it was even alive. It was alive.

Dr. Renee (10:56)
It was 15 years old and beautiful and so stiff. It was absolutely incredible. Super low selenium. Then when you get your horse on the selenium, it usually takes three to four weeks. It’s got to build up in the system.

Dr. Renee (11:13)
It’s got to move to all the muscles. Then you can smoosh the muscles. They’ll become massageable. If you have any knots or tight spots in the muscle, those should soften up as well. We really, really need selenium and we need absorbable selenium.

Dr. Renee (11:33)
Now some people may say, hey, lady, I have had my horse blood tested and the selenium is fine. I say to you, freaking fantastic. What does that say? That you have selenium in the blood. The body prioritizes blood.

Dr. Renee (11:50)
You know why? Because the heart needs it. No heart, you die. And the heart’s also a muscle, right? So is there’s muscle in the intestine, right?

Dr. Renee (12:03)
That creates peristalsis, all that nice smooth muscle. I have had chronic colicking horses that just needed selenium to get their muscles to move. Is that crazy or what? But it’s true. Okay, the blood tests tell you how much selenium is in your blood.

Dr. Renee (12:24)
Not relevant for this story. Even if your blood test is perfect, you still need selenium. The body will literally suck every living drop of selenium out of the muscles to stick it in the bloodstream to stay alive. So if your horse is over firm to the touch, they need selenium. And they’re probably deficient, but every horse needs selenium.

Dr. Renee (12:55)
Do you know, I used to think it was just in the Pacific Northwest. That’s where I first learned about this. Then I moved to California, and I thought, oh, look, it’s everywhere. The whole west coast is low. Selenium must just be the west coast then.

Dr. Renee (13:10)
And then I found out when I learned when I worked other places. Let’s see, I went to med school in Tennessee, and then I was in Florida for acupuncture school. And then I was blessed enough to have some people host me for some seminars. So Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, UK. I’m probably missing somebody.

Dr. Renee (13:34)
And I did love traveling. This was, sadly, all pre Covid, but all those horses also were too hard and needed selenium. I thought this was just dang crazy. It’s everywhere. Well, I hope this is not rambling on too much, but I want to tell you about this secret experiment that did.

Dr. Renee (13:52)
Okay, it wasn’t really secret, but anyways, it’s much funnier when you say secret. All right, listen, I finally found somebody who was making hay. This was in Utah, and she had 100 acres and had seen the results of selenium in her horses. So she wanted hay with selenium in it because it’s supposed to be in the hay, but it’s not. She had the farmer amend the soil with selenium, which means add the selenium to the soil.

Dr. Renee (14:24)
What she did. And they had the right selenium and the right amount, and we did selenium tests on that hay before she added the selenium, and then the next batch of hay after it had all been in the soil. Guys, minimal change. I don’t know what the problem is, but most places in the world, the plants are not absorbing the selenium like they’re supposed to. Now, I have my theories on why this is, but that would make this way too long.

Dr. Renee (14:56)
So the point is, anyways, that horses and people, we all need selenium. Humans, by the way, if you like Brazil nuts, if you eat five Brazil nuts every day, you’re good for selenium. I don’t like them, so I just take a small little pill for selenium, and then I can do my stretching. Okay, what else about selenium? That’s pretty good.

Dr. Renee (15:22)
Oh, one little comment. Selenium. You can find it in the pancreas. It’s used in the pancreas and in the thyroid. So if you have a low thyroid horse, you might need selenium.

Dr. Renee (15:40)
And if you have any kind of insulin resistance or related issues, again, add the selenium. It’s not going to hurt. Promise. Guys, promise. Hey, you know why I can promise this?

Dr. Renee (15:52)
Because one time a lady called me because her horse had gotten out of the stall overnight and eaten 20 pounds of selenium, left the grain bins alone, ripped open a selenium bag, ate the whole thing, and I went out there, I thought maybe horse was going to be colicking. This was before I knew about what selenium does. Really? And it was totally fine. It actually drank a little extra water and peed extra for a couple of days, and that was it.

Dr. Renee (16:22)
Now, injectable selenium is no good. Avoid that unless your horse is very, very sick. For example, tying up exertional rhabdomyalysis. That’s hard to say. If your horse is tying up, your vet’s going to give injectable selenium.

Dr. Renee (16:40)
But why don’t we just avoid that and give it orally? I’m for that. Okay, man. I had some other great story, but maybe it’ll come to me later. Meanwhile, let me talk to you about the other cause of stiffness, which is body work.

Dr. Renee (16:55)
Or really, body work doesn’t cause stiffness, but rather the need for body work. So misalignments. I’m just going to give you two examples. Okay, let’s think about if the atlas is misaligned. So the atlas is the first bone in the neck, just right next to the skull, and it can be crooked.

Dr. Renee (17:20)
Sometimes horses hit their head on stuff. It gets crooked, or the halter is right over the atlas. So if the horse jerks suddenly, they can misalign their atlas. What does that do? It increases the tension.

Dr. Renee (17:33)
Like we talked about earlier, if the atlas joint is misaligned, the tendons, muscles, ligaments around it tighten up to kind of support it because it’s uncomfortable. And then the whole neck gets involved, and then it’s tight as well. Suddenly you have a horse who doesn’t want to bend their neck one direction. You’re like, what’s going on? He did fine yesterday.

Dr. Renee (17:58)
Who knows? Sometimes I sleep wrong on the pillow and my neck’s out. Horses do all kind of things, usually when we’re not looking. So trying to figure out why this happens is impossible. But I’ve seen a horse somersault just right across the pasture while he’s running, and then get right back up.

Dr. Renee (18:18)
And if I hadn’t seen it myself, I had no idea. He just did a somersault. It was kind of cool, really. Meanwhile, let me tell you, my second example is the sternum. So the sternum is the breastbone of the horse.

Dr. Renee (18:33)
So the bottom of the thoracic cavity. You know, the thoracic cavity, which is the barrel of the horse, is supposed to swing between the front legs right and left as they’re walking. Right, left. You know why it swings? Because there’s no clavicle.

Dr. Renee (18:53)
You know our collarbone, that’s the clavicle. They don’t have that. So their whole barrel swings. You can feel it when you’re riding. So if it’s misaligned, then it is stuck, if you will, usually to one side.

Dr. Renee (19:12)
So it can only swing one direction but not the other one. So what happens then? Well, one way that you’re riding the horse feels fine, and the other way is stiff. It’s stuck, it won’t work, it won’t bend. So misalignments cause stiffness.

Dr. Renee (19:33)
Okay. If you would like to check some things on your horse yourself, I have a lot of free stuff. I’d love for you to take a look at it. There’s 50 secret emails where I describe little tips and stuff that you can sign up for. All these links will be below in the description or on my website.

Dr. Renee (19:55)
Sorry, my website, by the way, I have two. One is where does myhorseheart.com? That is the title of my book, which is also available and has all of the checkups for all 27 joints in the body. The checkups are pretty simple. Let me give you an example.

Dr. Renee (20:14)
If you want to check the knee of the horse, you pick up the front leg and you bend the knee. I know, I’m a genius, am I not? Okay, so then when you bend the knee, the cannon bone should actually contact the forearm of the horse. So that knee is all the way bent as far as it can go. If the horse can’t do that, or is very uncomfortable, there’s a problem with the knee.

Dr. Renee (20:45)
That’s probably the simplest checkup we got. Pretty easy. But sadly, and I really mean that, regular veterinarians do not know how to do that. We are not taught. What’s the checkup for the knee?

Dr. Renee (20:58)
They’re all in my book. It’s like $26. So a pretty good investment. Not trying to sell a book. I only get a dollar, but I’m just letting you know it’s available along with the free emails.

Dr. Renee (21:10)
And I have a free video series and all those links will be in the description. Okay, summary, stiff horses can be hiding lamenesses. Two main reasons. Low selenium everywhere in the world, to my knowledge, and misalignments in the body. So could everyone please give your horse selenium?

Dr. Renee (21:36)
I’m sorry. I don’t know international brands. But you want to contact them and ask what type of selenium? And you want both inorganic and organic and approximately two milligrams per day. Although you really want to read your product information.

Dr. Renee (21:56)
But two milligrams a day should be fine. Let’s see what else. Okay. Hey, guess what? I remembered my other story about selenium.

Dr. Renee (22:06)
If you have time. This one’s great. Okay. I learned about this probably 15 years ago. There is actually a study out there, and I apologize.

Dr. Renee (22:15)
I don’t have that in front of me. The official name, but it’s out there for real, where? Three countries, and they were scandinavian countries, noticed the amount of pancreatic cancer was. I’m sorry, I said that wrong. The amount of prostate cancer in men was extremely high.

Dr. Renee (22:37)
They’re like, oh, this is terrible. What shall we do? They mandated that all the farmers added selenium to their soil. So not just hay, like my hay story, but all the crops they have over there. And guess what?

Dr. Renee (22:55)
Prostate cancer went down by 90%. Okay, that’s crazy. That is so crazy. We really need selenium. It’s really not in our food or the horse’s food.

Dr. Renee (23:09)
So I didn’t mean this to be a selenium rant, but it is super important, and hopefully that will help you guys with any stiffness you may have in your horse, because you don’t necessarily want to be injecting joints if you don’t have to. Okay, that’s all for now. Please let me know any questions or comments, and I will talk to you guys later. Bye.

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6 Comments on “Podcast Episode 39: Lameness that hides — Stiffness”

    1. Thank you for your comment. While selenium would help the horse in general, it does not directly affect PSSM.

  1. FINALY ! getting a chance to listen to you. This podcast was extremely informative. I see tight horses all the time and no matter what we do, they stay tight. Always been told selenium could be toxic if to much is given. The horse eating a bag full eased my mind. Thanks a bunch for all your time and effort.

  2. Hi Dr Tucker I got my mare some human selenium after listening to your very interesting pod cast. Its a one a day with a and c and each tablet has 100 mcg of selenium. Would you advise giving her more than 1 a day? I have used the animal liquid one in the past and they got 5mils a month but shes still stiff on that one.

    1. Hi Diane,

      This one I can’t answer. I don’t recommend using “One A Day” those are garbage vitamins–totally nonabsorbable. And I don’t recommend giving selenium with anything but Vitamin D. Plus, the selenium need to be BOTH organic and inorganic.

      It’s really best to get Dynamite selenium for your horse.

      Renee tucker, DVM

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