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.
An Uncommon cause of 'Staggers'!
When Millie's promising jumping pony 'Winnie' developed ‘staggers’ back in mid-February none of the usual protocols worked.
In fact he was much worse after 10 days off the grass and on all the usual treatments. Even the SOS and Alleviate Gold which work on co-ordination and strengthening muscles didn’t help. The vet was called and subsequent blood results gave no indication of what was going on.
We had to put our ‘Sherlock hat’ on and do some further research to figure out what was causing Winnie’s peculiar ‘staggers’. The clue was in the particular gait abnormality Winnie was exhibiting – his fore-limbs were going out to the side (see start of video).
In most cases of staggers the front legs ‘plait’ or cross-over when walking but Winnie’s ‘base-wide’ gait turns out to be indicative of Vit E deficiency.
This fitted too with the fact he got progressively worse after being taken off the grass. Winnie was also wobbly and had a lot of difficulty turning around and going through gateways.
We sourced some pure Vit E and Emily gave Winnie 5gms 3 x day. The second part of the video was just two days later!
He has continued to improve so much that MIllie brought him back into work, taking it easy for a few days, but then as he felt so good, she was able to up his work again and go on to compete in 110 & 115cm jumping classes this weekend!
(See pic on the right taken on the day)
So how did Winnie become so deficient in Vitamin E? Vit E deficiency is not common because there is ample in green grass.
Millie had only owned him for 6 weeks and while his diet prior to developing staggers consisted of grass it was dry and brown from weeks of no rain. He was being fed fibre-pro plus three different processed feeds (Muscle & Shine, LowGI and ShowTorque).
When the total amount of Vit E Winnie was getting from all three was added up it was still very little. We can deduce that the deficiency had crept up over the last few months.
Winnie is now on a plain diet of timothy chaff, crushed barley, crushed linseed and flaxseed oil with salt Premium MVA which delivers over 2500iu’s Vit E per day to a 400kg horse like Winnie along with appropriate levels of selenium and AlleviateGold to help with his coordination.
Video: Winnie's gait before and 2 days after adding Vitamin E> Thankyou Millie for giving us such great videos and feedback.
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
Winnie showing the before and after of his extraordinary journey!
The 'Zonked' look.