A horse suffering from Stringhalt will display a jerk, a jump, and a hop with the hind legs tucked up high, almost as though they are attempting to cow kick.Stringhalt seems to make horses yank their legs up and halt them there momentarily before taking their next step.The clinical signs are usually more extreme when the horse is turning or backing up. Some horses have such severe stringhalt they actually kick themselves in the abdomen when trying to walk.Both hind legs might be equally affected and one might show more obvious signs than the other. In some cases stringhalt might be apparent in the forelegs. Clinical signs, such as pastern extension when the hock is flexed, can vary from one horse to another.
Today, researchers are hard at work looking into ways to make horses with this condition safe, happy, and free of clinical signs.Although stringhalt might look like a muscular problem, neurological issues are at the root of it. Nerve damage most causes abnormal activity of certain sensory receptors called spindles. Located in the body of the muscles, spindles are responsible for detecting changes in muscle length. This faulty wiring of the spindles causes certain muscles to contract either too early or too late, or too much or too little, during certain phases of the gait. Thus, intermittent abduction (movement of the limb away from the body) and caudal (toward the tail) jerking in the hind limb may result from spasticity of the biceps femoris muscle (located along the back of the hindquarter) during the swing phase of the stride.
Stringhalt is divided into two major categories. "Australian" stringhalt usually is a temporary disease resulting from toxicity, whereas "classic" (or atypical, depending on the geographic region) stringhalt has no known cause and usually does not resolve on its own.So I suppose we are in one sense lucky here in Australia that research seems to have narrowed the cause to weeds such as Dandelion, Flat Weed and in some situations, Cape Weed.Due to the ongoing drought and long, hot summers, these weeds can often be the only ‘green’ in your horse’s paddock, making them much more susceptible to Stringhalt.So, speaking to a good pasture management company, a qualified Equine Nutritionist or removing your horse from paddocks with these weeds and relying more on hay for roughage may be a good idea if you suspect your horse is at risk.
How nutrition can help
As it appears that certain weeds in Australia may trigger Stringhalt, believed to be due to toxicity and throwing out the nutrient balance of your horse, it is important to ensure your horse is supported by his diet.By feeding a simple balanced diet and supplementing with the recommended formulas it is unlikely the stringhalt will return once the horse has recovered, however it is essential to maintain this support, even during seasons that are lush and green for the reported repeat cases once a horse has had Stringhalt is high.
For over 25 years we have been assisting owners deal with Stringhalt very successfully. Whilst the cause of this condition and subsequent treatment is largely unknown with little concrete research, there has been a common denominator with all Stringhalt cases we have treated. Every Stringhalt case has not been supplemented with a daily natural therapy formula and in many cases not fed a balanced feed ration. Some horses have been supplemented with the incorrect additives; many vets have a stock standard recommendation of magnesium. However, it is vital to use the correct formula and for the prevention of Stringhalt we recommend the use of the Oxydane on a daily basis at a 20 gram dose mixed into a slightly damp feed.
Through years of experience with affected horses, it does appear that this condition can be prevented. We believe that Stringhalt may be a nutritionally based condition in which case the correct daily nutritional intake becomes absolutely paramount. It may also mean that certain horses may have the inability to uptake particular nutrients including essential minerals and therefore may be deficient.
- 2 large rounded scoops of Oxydane (25 grams) daily.
- 2 Large level scoops of ProflamAid Plus (50 grams) administered into the Morning and Night feeds.
- We also would recommend a course of the BioEquus to assist with digestion. 2 spoons scoop daily 16g
Daily recommended feed
We recommend the JT Johnson Natural Formula Feed either the EveryHorse or Elite formula, if the horse is a good doer then we would suggest the EveryHorse, you only require a small amount per feed and not other types of feed or additives are required apart from what we have recommended. 300-500g should be sufficient for overweight horses. If your horse is underweight we recommend the EveryHorse WeighGain formula and you may need to feed 2.5kg per day. Always provide plenty of hay and make sure you hard feed is not wet, just damp bordering on dry.
Continue treatment for 14-28 days and then contact our office to provide us with a progress report. If the case is severe, relief will take quite some time, even up to 3 months, however 90% of all cases recover.
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Please note the above advice has not been provided to replace veterinary advice, please contact your vet if the horse’s condition appears to be worsening.