This 6 yr old horse shows classic signs of staggers caused by mineral imbalances, easily remedied with some diet changes. the official diagnosis was that he 'must be' a wobbler -this was without x-ray verification - which almost led to him being PTS.
See his story here
How do you tell the difference?
The first way to know is that the ‘Lolitrem B’ myco-toxin is only found in Perennial Rye-Grass so if your horse pasture doesn’t contain this grass you know it isn’t a mycotoxin problem.
If your horse pasture is any of the ‘endophyte-free’ strains of rye-grass you know the cause cannot possibly be a mycotoxin either; it will be due to the mineral imbalances.
Wobbler Syndrome should always be verified by X-ray to avoid having the horse PTS unnecessarily!
What to Do
Besides taking the horse off the offending pasture temporarily and feeding ad-lib hay, you will need to add salt, GrazeEzy and AlleviateC/SOS until the horse regains his co-ordination and his muscles strengthen up.
Avoid lucerne and clover because both are high in potassium and nitrogen (and devoid of salt) so they only add to the problem.
Time frames to regain coordination vary from horse to horse but are usually around 1-10 days. If you don’t see improvements after 2-3 days contact us to help identify what is getting in the way.
It is very important to keep the horse SAFE while he is so unsteady, make sure there is ZERO possibility he could accidentally stagger or fall into fences, down steep hills or into ditches.
Classic Base-wide stance.
Signs of Staggers...
Muscular weakness – giving out in the hind quarters
Looks like they’re drunk
‘Plaiting’ with the front legs while walking, see video
Heavy on the forehand, stumbling/tripping over nothing
Uncharacteristic stopping at jumps
Difficulty backing up
Standing base wide
Trouble judging distances especially 'depth' - as if their
eyesight is affected
Spooks at things underneath them, ie while jumping
Hypersensitive to sounds
The ‘Zonked look’ (Sleepy eyed, ears askew - see pic)
Difficulty walking downhill
For every extreme case, where the horse develops full blown staggers and it's really obvious, there are hundreds of mild to moderate cases with maybe just a touch of one or more of these symptoms – best not to ignore them!
There are actually several possible causes of ‘Staggers’:
1. Mineral imbalances caused by rapid Autumn (or Spring) grass growth - especially after a drought-breaking rain is the most likely and most common cause of staggers.
Rapidly growing grass of any species, especially after drought breaking rain when it suddenly turns green, is very potent because it is FULL of potassium and nitrogen (at the same time as being devoid of salt).
The symptoms of staggers are due to the ensuing disruption to normal nerve and muscle function which cause problems with coordination as well as weakness in the hind-quarters.
'Staggers' is common anywhere there are cool-season grasses (NZ, the UK, lower regions of Australia).
NO amount of toxin binder is going to help the horse if it is the mineral imbalance variety of staggers.
2. The mycotoxin – Lolitrem B is produced by the endophyte in perennial rye grass from late summer through to Autumn.
Fungi in general tend to produce myco-toxins in times or regions of humidity (northern parts of NZ and many regions of Australia). Autumn is a time to add ToxAll
to your horse's daily feeds.
However a significant number of horses still develop ‘staggers’ when there is very little, if any, rye-grass in the pastures.
This happens because of the mineral imbalances.
3. ‘Wobbler Syndrome’ - where there is a malformation of the vertebrae of the neck which compresses the spinal cord, verifiable by X-Ray, usually only seen in younger horses.
Staggery horse before diet changes above,
and after below...
The horse in these clips is a 24 year old gelding who had developed symptoms of grass staggers.
His owner started feeding him twice a day, giving him SOS, GrazeEzy and Himalayan salt. After a week he was no better so we advised to substantially increase the amount of SOS he was getting, she upped it to a total of 150gms/day split over multiple feeds along with 10gms of salt and 10gms of GrazeEzy.
A week later he was much improved so she could drop him back to a scoop morning and night. He was still tripping over his front feet a little but was now tracking up with the back legs back to normal.
Thanks to Julie for supplying the before and after clips
The 'Zonked' look.