EPM and Metabolic Challenges: Time’s Story
It seems that some horses are just dealt a difficult hand in life. ‘Time’, a 21-year-old Morgan gelding owned by Linda Clark, is one such horse. During his lifetime, Time has been diagnosed with five different serious conditions. But thanks to Linda’s dedication and careful attention to his diet, Time has recovered from his conditions and is doing well today. I’m honored to feature him as ‘The Naturally Healthy Horse of the Month’ for March!
Time was born at Linda’s farm, but had a rough start in the world– he had to be separated from his mother at just two weeks old after the mare had been diagnosed with Theiler’s Disease (acute hepatitis).
When Time was six years old, Linda noticed some strange problems when she was riding him. “His front leg would feel like his knee went out–this happened about 12 times in 2 1/2 miles. He never fell though–just kept walking,” she said. Linda had her vet draw blood and he was diagnosed with EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis). He was on medication for a month and his condition improved. But three months later, he began showing the same symptoms once again. He was medicated for another month and has not shown front end problems since.
A few years later, Linda noticed the gelding was now tripping in the hind end though. She took him to her vet again and blood work revealed that he was deficient in selenium and also had hypothyroidism. He was started on thyroid medication and a selenium supplement.
But only a year later, Time began experiencing even more problems. “He didn’t act right,” Linda said. “He was very spooky and light-sensitive. One day, he just stopped while being ridden. I let him rest about five minutes and then he would start walking again. After doing this about 4-5 times, he just laid down.”
Linda remembers it being a very hot day when this happened and she thought the heat was the problem, but then he did the same thing the next day when it was cooler. She took him to two different vets that summer but they couldn’t find what might be causing this.
Still hoping to find an answer, Linda took him to a different clinic where he was finally diagnosed with EPSM (Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy). Linda was advised to change his diet again, this time adding rice bran oil, alfalfa pellets, as well as a selenium and vitamin E supplement. Time soon began showing improvement on his new diet.
In the following years, Linda still worried about Time’s health though. Despite her best efforts, he was still overweight. Linda decided to take him off of pasture and keep him in a dry lot with hay as his main source of forage.
When Time was 19, Linda became convinced that something was definitely wrong with Time once again. His hair coat had become course and he had developed a cresty neck as well as fat deposits on his rump. He also had swelling in his sheath. More blood work revealed that he had Cushing’s Disease as well as Equine Metabolic Syndrome.
Linda began soaking his hay to reduce the sugar content and also added ground chaste tree berry to his diet. The fat pockets on Time’s neck and rump went down as well as the swelling in his sheath. Linda also noted that the rings in his hooves also disappeared after starting on the chaste berry.
Today, even at 21, Time’s conditions are being managed successfully and he is doing quite well. “He is doing great and has nice weight,” she said. Linda is preparing to get him back in shape for riding season. She starts by ponying him to build his muscles up before riding him each year. “He loves to go!”
And no matter what, Time has a forever home with Linda. “He will never be sold or given away,” she said. “This is his home and where he was born.”