Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis also known as EPM has become my worst enemy. We moved barns, we took lessons, we grew. Then we realized something changed. We were unbalanced, uncoordinated and spooky. We had been working so hard for months to advance to the next level together, and we did. Until this..
We called the vet who ran some test. One of the tests that we ran was for EPM, and it was the test I was hoping would come back negative. We waited and waited for about two weeks until I got the results..
Not only was the test positive, but the titer was high. The higher the titer the more severe the EPM is.. My worst nightmare had come true. My spicy, red headed mare was no longer spicy in a good way. She was spicy in the way no one wants their heart horse to be. She was in pain, confused and there was no way in the world to communicate to her what was going on. That’s what hurt the most.
We chatted with the vet about our options for treatment and got started as quickly as possible. Waiting for the medicine to come in was a week and a half that I can’t forget. I knew what was happening to her body but she didn’t. She was constantly tripping, unable to keep her balance in anything but a walk, hills were my worst nightmare for her. Then there was coming to the barn each morning hoping she hadn’t hurt herself while she was out at night, making sure she was eating, thinking of ways to help keep her muscle and weight, and so much more. I just wanted the medicine to come in NOW. EPM played with my head probably more than hers. Constantly checking her weight, making sure she hadn’t hurt herself in a way that I couldn’t possibly see. Each day was like a vet visit, only I was the vet. Checking her shoes became an everyday occurrence, contemplating changing her feed, walking the paddocks to make sure they were as safe as they could be even though I couldn’t change anything. There was so much going on in my head that continues to live rent free up there to this day.
The medicine took about two weeks to to get here after ordering it through my vet. We started a 28 day treatment of Toltrazuril and DMSO. The DMSO helps the medicine travel to the brain faster, reduces swelling of the spinal cord and the brain in horses. She was wonderful with accepting the treatment. I think she knew that what I was administering to her was going to help. After about two weeks on the medicine I started to see a difference in her. She was more upbeat and willing to work. The tripping was still there but not as bad. I would say at about two and a half weeks there were positive results arising from the treatment. We are on our third round of medicine now. There has be so much improvement. We are hoping this is our last round for awhile. This journey has taken a toll on me and on her. Through out this I have enjoyed watching her get better and return to her normal sassy self.
We are riding again after 4 months and she is sound! The subconscious thoughts of checking everything, worrying about everything still have a place in my head but I am focusing on the positives and living for every moment we spend together. Her outbursts of excitement while doing new things are wonderful and I laugh at them compared to being fearful in the past of getting hurt. We have learned so much about each other during the experience and I am thankful to have come out on top with her. Here is to a lifetime of new adventures and learning to love the things that once scared me.
If I had any advice for anyone after all of this it would be to learn to love the calm moments, the moments when you just spend time with them grooming or standing with them while they graze. I learnt to love the quiet times of not riding and just enjoying her for who she was, aside for when I was on her back.
Love your horse through their good times and their bad and they will do the same in return. I know I fought hard through all of this and in doing so, I feel like I gave her the strength and support to fight her best fight too. Be there for your horse and don’t give up and they’ll give you the world in return.