Over the years there has always been one type of horse I find fascinating more than any other. And since you are reading this page, you have probably guessed by now it is in fact the Neurological Horse. Not sure how or when I first got interested, I feel a lot of it comes from my desire to always root for the underdog. And that is what a neurological horse is, is an underdog in the Equine world. An underdog in that they are not well understood (by scientists and owners alike). An underdog in that their functionality as a performance horse is limited. An underdog in that many people give up on them via euthanasia, selling them, or placing them in a rescue/sanctuary setting. Very few are willing to take on the task that is caring for a Neurological horse for life. So below we will discuss the three most common causes of Neurological disorders, and then will go into further information how we care for our Neurological friends. Our sanctuary is currently home to 4 horses of varying neurologic grades.
As previously stated there are 3 common Neurological disfunctions in the horse. EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis) is from consuming contaminated feed. Wobbler's is from a compression in their spinal cord either in the neck or back. The final and most devastating one is known as EDM (Equine Degenerative Myeloencephalopathy also known as eNAD-Equine Neuroaxonal Dystrophy) which has a genetic component but is triggered by a lack of Vitamin E in utero.
EPM is way more prevalent in the Eastern US than Western, but since horses are constantly shipped all over the US is important to understand. It is more prevalent in Eastern US as there are more opossum's there which their feces that contains the protozoal parasite Sarcocystis neurona, which then gets deposited into the grain they rummage through. Once in the equine, it spreads from the GI into the blood and attacks the central nervous system. Although it is estimated 50 percent of Equines have been exposed to EPM, only about 1 percent show the neurological symptoms. To confirm EPM, a vet needs either a blood or more definitive a spinal fluid tap to confirm EPM. There are treatments available such as Marquis and Rebalance which helps the horse recover from the neurological symptoms. If treated early, most horses can make a full or mostly full recovery. There are currently no EPM neurological horses here :).
Wobbler's is from a compression on the spinal cord either in the neck or back. There is believed to be a genetic component, and I tend to agree since Rampage and Cassie are both Wobbler's and they are full brother and sister. Cassie was already in utero when Rampage was diagnosed. Wobbler's is a tough one as there is a surgery (known as Basket Surgery) which can improve the neurological grade by at least a grade or two, but there is also a lot of risk putting a neurological horse in surgery and recovery. Vitamin E is highly recommended since there is a compression to the spinal cord, the spinal tissues/nerves are also affected so the Vitamin E helps stabilize the tissue/nerves.
EDM/eNAD is probably the most devastating of the three, as by the time it is diagnosed the damage has been done and the only thing to prevent it would of had to have been done while the horse was inutero.
Video of Rampage showing the gait abnormality associated with Wobbler's. Unusual foot placement, difficulty backing, etc.