Those three dreadful letters….
Horse owners know what it is, but otherwise, you’ve likely never heard of it.
When I first brought Rose here I studied up on all I could find about horse health and how to take the best care of my Dad’s girl.
Let me backtrack a little here in case you might not know the history….I grew up scared of horses - literally my whole life never wanted to get close to one due to childhood memories of my great-grandmother being blind and knowing she’d gotten kicked in the head by a horse. I might have one or two pictures of me posing with their horse, but I’m safely on one side of the fence, while the horse is on the other….
Anyway, in 2015 when my dad suddenly died, I moved into his home to help take care of my much younger [15 year old] sister and get her through the rest of the school year, and during this time I wanted to take care of his Rosey girl. I was still very scared, but she was a living breathing beauty that my dad poured so much love into, so in a way, it was a way to still connect with him, and I was going to get over this fear to be able to take advantage of this connection…
Fast forward 6 months and I found someone willing to trailer her and bring her two hours north to our little slice. I ended up taking in his old golden retriever as well.
For 7 years I’d had no issues with EPM, and regularly see opossums out here all the time. Since Rose arrived, I even got Rose a friend, then another when her bestie was terminally ill, and very old - still never an issue with any horse and EPM, so I thought it was pretty rare, and didn’t ever really worry about until last Friday evening.
In hindsight there were signs, but I’d almost completely forgotten about EPM even being a possibility. Last Wednesday night at dark, I noticed what appeared to be a slight limp in my girl. It wasn’t uncommon for her to overdo some play and get a little too rowdy, and be sore a day or two. She is never asked to do anything, never ridden, and never worked - she’s just a pasture ornament, so sometimes her biggest fun is to get a little rowdy in the field with her buddy. Thursday I put eyes on her in the field grazing and all seemed well. I went to the lake and upon returning, I noticed she was drenched in sweat, despite it being a rather mild day, only hitting the low 80s. So I hosed her down and put her in the shade. My thoughts were maybe she had been grazing in the direct sun a bit too long. Her limp didn’t seem any worse, and the plan was to call the vet the next day if it progressed.
Friday she had her head down most of the day and seemed content, but that evening as the sun was setting, I decided to sit in the pasture and just watch. That’s when I noticed sure signs of a neurological issue. When her head was down, she seemed practically fine, but when she lifted her head to walk, she was noticeably wobbly and unsure of her footing. It was now after hours and I was starting to panic. My plan was to drive to the vet first thing the next morning.
The next morning I took video and showed it to my vet. They were booked all morning but came out right after they closed and performed several movement tests and confirmed it was indeed a neuro issue.
Rose wouldn’t leave the area the run-in was, and she could not walk in a circle, and slight pressure being pushed on her body determined she was a fall risk. The initial observations all pointed to EPM. I was devastated. I’d only heard the bad stories. I’d only heard of the stories involving work horses. Treatment is expensive and very time consuming, and even then all that money and all that time doesn’t guarantee a full recovery. The chances are actually pretty high that a horse may not ever be steady enough on its feet for riding, and euthanasia is often the most financially conservative approach.
Lucky for Rose and me, these are not issues that would cross my mind in whether or not to treat her or not. Sure the expense and being told treatment would cost ‘thousands of dollars’ made me panic, but I’d find a way. I’d have to. The good thing is, my daily monitoring of all my animals allowed me to take notice pretty early and seek treatment before it was terribly bad.
Saturday, the vet gave a sort-of jump-start on treatment and said if we saw some improvement by Monday, she’d be a candidate for the more aggressive treatment. I also have a great friend and resource in Colorado that is very knowledgeable about horse healing acupressure and something called acupressure meridian work, and she made me videos of specific things I could do to Rose that would promote healing, circulation, and overall health.
So between these exercises, shots, and pills, Rose improved at an unbelievable rate the next two days. She went from being unable to walk, to walking with intention (although wobbly), and then yesterday doing some slow lunge movements with the vet. I was shocked, but not as shocked as the vet that saw her lack of mobility just two days prior. The vet drew some blood to send for lab work to rule out any other condition this might be because her turnaround was truly a bit puzzling. I cried like I always do when the vet comes out because other than yearly vaccines, they come out because something is seriously wrong, and the last year and a half I have had rollercoaster highs and lows with my animals. This last week with Rose was on a low, now a high, and my emotions are so confused. I wasn’t really sure if I was crying because I was worried, or relieved and overjoyed at what I just witnessed. My poor vets… they do at least know how important Rose is to me. She’s not just a beloved companion animal/ pet, but she’s much more. She’s a very tangible connection to my dad.
Then last night, as I walked out with meds in a bucket mixed with senior feed and drenched in molasses - what Rose considers the best treat of all time - she started excitedly pawing at the ground! Something she’d not done since last Tuesday. She was steady enough on her feet to be stable on three legs and paw at the dirt in anticipation of her snack!
Then, afterwards….. she walked around LIKE NORMAL (vid posted on my Facebook & Instagram) Head up and steady! I cried. Again.
So I’ll be sure to keep updating here as well as FB & IG for folks who don’t do social media, and I welcome all the prayers and positive vibes, and well wishes you all have sent us and continue to send!