Hope for Horses with EPM

Bamba 2 weeks after Rood and Riddle stay, still on EPM treatment

Hope has finally inspired me to start blogging. It is an intimidating undertaking; I must admit. It is like having a living room discussion with your horse-buddy with an audience listening in. “What finally inspired me?” you may ask. It really was my horse Bamboleo. Last December, I decided to bring him to a schooling show at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. I was really excited to get him out. He was going really well at home and my goal was to prepare him for the Spring and Summer show season. He has never been a great traveler; he always gets stressed about the trailer ride and hates being away from home and his friends. I have to say, he didn’t do well at all on this particular trip. He wouldn’t eat or drink and he lost a ton of weight over the few days we were there (we came early to bring another horse to Rood and Riddle for surgery). When I got him out to ride him show day, he had no energy at all. If I asked for changes he would kick out, if I asked for collections or extensions, I got nothing. It was embarrassing. He felt really heavy and strange but I really thought he was just stressed. I brought him home and did some soul searching to evaluate my show ambitions with him. I thought maybe if I got him off the farm more he would adapt better each time he gets out, but I also thought maybe I shouldn’t show him at all. I just couldn’t decide.

Then, the unthinkable happened. I went out to get him out in his field to ride him. He looked strange to me but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining things. Then, he was walking behind me and nearly fell down. I looked at him and told him to pay attention but a thought flashed in my mind of how he had tripped a week before and nearly fell when I was giving a student a lesson on him. I then got him out the gate and he slammed his hind quarters into the post. When I looked at his face you could see a distressed look on his face. I asked him what was wrong. I then thought, I will just lunge him a bit to see what is going on. I went to bring him up to the ring and he completely fell down. I just broke down in tears. I called Rood and Riddle and told them I needed to bring another horse in.

I somehow got him in the trailer, he practically had no control over his back end. He made the trip OK. I put him in the straight load in the back of the trailer rather than the box in the front so he could lean on the walls and inset a bit if he needed. Dr. Peter Morresey met up with us and did an assessment and he thought it was EPM. We did a spinal tap and sure enough it was. I told Dr. Morresey about the show in December (this was now the 2nd week of January) and he said a horse can have EPM for years (most horses test a low positive for it) and never have any symptoms. Then, somehow at some point the protozoa will be able to trick the body just enough to get past the spinal cord barrier and start to cause damage, resulting in a “screaming red” EPM positive. We began treatment including the IV DMSO to prevent inflammation and you could tell poor Bamba couldn’t have been more miserable. He was there for an entire week. He was pretty haggard by the time I took him home, but we continued his treatment for a month and each day he seemed to get better.

One of the protocols Dr. Morresey gave me was to lunge Bamba 3 days a week to keep up his muscling to help him recover. He was so wobbly and would often lose his balance- it just made my heart hurt.  I threw him back out with his crew when he was strong enough and I believe that did wonders for him. It was funny how he compensated for his lack of coordination. He was always the head of his crew and he was determined not to give that up. If he wanted someone to get away and he couldn’t get his body to do as he wanted, he would bawl at them like a mule! His turn out has a big hillside in it so he had to work on his strength and coordination on his own to get up and down the hills. There were many times I saw him try to turn too fast and fall down and it was terrible to watch but he had to get things sorted out himself. As far as lunging him,I just couldn’t see with him sorting all that out that me lunging him was really contributing, so I really didn’t do it very often.

All this leads me to what happened on Saturday. It was beautiful weather- a light breeze, clear sunny skies, and the footing in my new riding ring was just right. I went out in the field and grabbed Bamba. He looked at me curiously and I was reluctant to take him out in all honesty. He genuinely seemed excited to come with me. He shoved his head in the bridle eagerly and stood patiently while I cinched up the lunging girth. I brought him out on the double lunge and he was amazing! He had been dragging his back left toe pretty badly, but that was pretty well gone. He was able to canter beautifully and do a little bit of traverse and shoulder-out. The sideward movements were hardest for him because he had to really concentrate on where his feet were, but the effort was incredible to watch. The best part of it all was when I asked for one last trot he stepped up into this beautiful passage and his eye caught mine and I could feel his pride beaming. I was so shocked I stopped him and rubbed him all over- it was such a powerful moment!

I am hopeful for a full recovery for him and I will continue to post his progress for everyone- there is hope after EPM!


May 22, 2012 Lauren Home No Comments