EPM Horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 09-20-2010, 02:18 PM Thread Starter
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EPM Horse

A very nice older couple who do a ton of heavy trail-riding (cross state, etc) have offered to me a beautiful 8 year old mare who is ***recovering*** from EPM to use as a therapeutic riding horse. They treated her with Marquis for a month, and then something with Tetra and Sulfa(don't quote me on this one) as the prefixes for a month. They've also had her on vitamin E since they discovered she had EPM.

Their "reason" for getting rid of the horse is that they have several other dead-broke trail horses, and the wife (who hasn't worked in two years) will no longer be getting unemployment so they just can't afford all of their horses. They'd want her back if ever I decided she just wasn't working out for us (she'd be coming here with the expectation that she will be used as a lead-line therapy mount for children). Dilemma #1: while I have seen pictures of their special needs family member on the horse and I certainly wouldn't put my family on a horse that wasn't GREAT, we can't ride her till Spring because she is still in the recovery process. I don't think the people would lie about her being a kind, kid-friendly, lead-line horse. Buuuut, you never know when someone doesn't have the heart to put their horse down... Anyhow: the vet told them 1 year rest. The horse supposedly has nerve damage now to her back hind that doesn't cause her to stumble or anything, but she does not pick it up quite as high as the other hind. She tore across the pasture at breakneck speed and bucked a bit while we were visiting, and after she stopped and went back to walking around, there was no shaking, anything out of the ordinary as far as showing more symptoms.

Dilemma #2: Her most disturbing symptom was a loss of her inability to swallow hay: they got her through the winter by force-feeding her soaked Equine Senior and hay pellets. She came off of treatment in April and the vet advised 1 year rest. While we were standing there she kept getting mouthfuls of hay, chewing, then spitting it out. She seemed to eat the grass fine, however. This mare is a huge, beefy thing, so she is obviously eating her forage okay (mostly grass pasture). They also feed her 2lbs Safe choice with various supplements per day.

Dilemma #3: They blood tested, did not do a spinal tap to determine presence of EPM protozoa.

They've called their vet and given her the go-ahead to give us explanations of her prognosis and medical history. I've already decided that I will be telling the people "Thank you very much, we really do appreciate your offer but no thanks". But, if this horse could have a successful future as a light-work mount and could be beautifully re-purposed, I'd love to give her that opportunity. Soooo - I will be contacting the vet "just to see".

My questions to you:
Who has had a EPM horse? Are they ever truly "cured" of the protozoa? I've heard horses with EPM can relapse, and this is more common if they havn't been treated for at least 3 months (this horse recieved 2 months ) Was the recovery in your experience total, or did your horse show lingering problems? My concern is that the draggy leg and the chewing/spitting out are not just "lingering" problems, but instead point to her not "taking" the treatment, or she is relapsing. If she hadn't taken the treatment, wouldn't her symptoms be horrendously apparent to the extent that she should be put down if it started last winter? If it were the result of permanent nerve damage (as opposed to an indicator of still active disease), the cost of hay pellets/cubes is about equivalent to actual hay, so it wouldn't be anything but more time to feed. What kind of concrete explanations should I look for from the vet (I don't want the run-around treatment and want to stop it in it's tracks if it starts)?

I don't have experience with this nightmare of a disease... so any thoughts would help. I'm semi-torn: probably 85% certain I don't want the hassle that this horse will likely be, and 15% questioning whether this horse is actually "cured" of EPM or her symptoms are just "hiding" right now, only to relapse later.

Last edited by leonalee; 09-20-2010 at 02:27 PM.
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post #2 of 11 Old 09-20-2010, 02:24 PM
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Leona, I'd be reluctant to take on a horse who has been diagnosed with EPM.

Even if she does go into complete remission, the chances are good that the EPM is merely lying dormant in her system. I'm not sure an EPM horse can ever really be considered 'cured'.

I have known a few that never had a symptom again, but I've known others that kept having recurring bouts over the years.

If you take this mare on, you can never be sure that she's not a ticking time bomb, just waiting to go off.

It seems rather suspicious to me that they have other perfectly fine, healthy horses, but only need to divest themselves of this one.

I'd pass, if I were you. You don't need the heartache or financial expense if the EPM comes back.
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post #3 of 11 Old 09-20-2010, 02:31 PM
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The disease is caused by a spore in opossum feces. It's a bacteria that is dormient until the right environment is present for it to reproduce, which it what happens when a horse ingests it. It sounds like this mare was in the later stages of the disease since she had trouble swallowing.

I bet she will never completely heal (even if the bacteria are killed) and will have permanet nerve damage for the rest of her life. Be it spinal or brain. I don't kno wether or not other horses can be infected by a infectious horse. So keep that in mind.

I would talk to a vet though, and get a professional opinion of what to do.

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back. -- Unkown
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post #4 of 11 Old 09-20-2010, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, SpeedRacer. Thats what I was afraid of (as far as the disease lying dormant in their system, I wasn't sure thats what happened or not). I had pretty much made up my mind, but I just always have a bleeding heart. A therapy program that was at our farm a while ago had a horse that had gone through EPM treatment in her late teens and was fine until she died at the ripe old age of 34.

These people actually have several horses that they've raised whom they are trying to rehome because of their financial situation. Here are their deciding factors in rehoming their horses (most seem to boil down to their suitability for the use the people got them for): some are young and these people don't feel like trying to break them out, some have awful rearing or bucking tendencies and they don't see the point in trying to keep them and fix the problems if they can't really afford them anyhow. Of 10 horses, they have 3 that they are keeping, one 20 year old gelding whom they've had since he was 1.5 and has lameness issues but the wife can't part with him because he was her first horse and was "good to her" the past 18 years on trails. Then they have the husband's trail mare, and the wife's new trail mare. Perhaps I'm being "taken for a ride" by their explanations, but I usually have good intuition about people and they seem genuine but over their heads.

Alas... no new therapy horse. She was a little bigger than I was looking for anyhow...

Chevyprincess: I do know that horses cannot transmit the disease to one another as they are considered "aberrant" or "dead end" hosts, meaning they can't transmit the disease to other creatures.

If people would still respond to this, though, it would be great. I love getting different perspectives about things from people who have experienced it... especially with something like EPM where there is such variability it seems (from my limited research).

Last edited by leonalee; 09-20-2010 at 02:41 PM.
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post #5 of 11 Old 09-20-2010, 02:46 PM
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Leona, okay then, that makes much more sense if they're trying to rehome some of the others too.

Still, EPM is a tricksy thing, and unless I already owned the horse, there's no way I'd take on one that has had it.
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post #6 of 11 Old 09-20-2010, 03:13 PM
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I had an EPM mare a long time ago, before medicine had advanced. While she was pretty far advanced and was more than willing to go for a trail ride, she was symptomatic til the day she passed.

Not to mention, Dallas never had any issues swallowing. On a good day, when her parasite count was down, she could haul across a field, bucking and farting. The very next day she could be walking crosslegged. When she had truely bad days, she would lay down and have difficulty getting up.

As a therapy horse, I think she would be OK. But you couldn't count on her.
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post #7 of 11 Old 09-21-2010, 02:37 AM
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Originally Posted by ChevyPrincess View Post
The disease is caused by a spore in opossum feces. It's a bacteria that is dormient until the right environment is present for it to reproduce,
Just to clarify it is a protozoal organism, not bacterial. The prognosis is much better if her response to treatment is rapid, which with the forced feeding all winter does not appear to be the case. I do, however believe that these folks are being honest with you as they spent a lot of money to treat her with the Marquis. They wouldn't have done that if they just wanted to dump her off on someone.

Personally I'd pass on this horse, because there is never a guarantee or indicator that she will not relapse. The market being what it is, I'm sure you'll find another horse to fit your needs without the chance of needing more rounds of a very costly drug to maintain their health. Best of luck.
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post #8 of 11 Old 09-21-2010, 03:58 AM
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Wow....I have never heard of EPM but by the sounds of it, it is similar to Hendra which we are having a load of trouble with over here in the sense that it is a feaces transmitted disease and causes all kinds of trouble. We have native possums over here in Oz but then again they are marsupial possums not rodent possums like you guys so thankfully we dont have that problem......

The Orbs: The Dark Assassin. Read and comment or I eat your nose....just kidding.....sorta....not really......
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post #9 of 11 Old 09-21-2010, 08:05 AM
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I am actually dealing with an EPM horse right now. It is a terrible thing to watch and try to treat. If I was you, I surely wouldnt take this on unless you were ready to treat for a relapse. I will say that I have had standarbred race horses that we treated and they never showed another symptom. But it is not and easy or cheap disease to treat.

Alex Foster
Rocky Mountain/Kentucky Mountain/Spotted Mountain horse lover & breeder
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post #10 of 11 Old 09-21-2010, 08:10 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Kiki View Post
We have native possums over here in Oz but then again they are marsupial possums not rodent possums like you guys so thankfully we dont have that problem......
Kiki: All opossums are marsupials. As such, they are still scavengers and carriers of disease... people in the US that talk about them as rodents are either using the term generally or don't realize opossums are marsupials. Oz? Where are you located?

Thanks guys! I have decided to pass on this mare... the only horse we've ever had that had EPM we acquired after she was successfully treated and hadn't relapsed in the 6(ish?) years prior to us owning her (the therapy program ended up disbanding and was going to euthanize their horses, so we gave them a forever pasture home). She never showed symptoms after her treatment, but all of my research pointed to the fact that there are such variable results :-/

OnaWhim, I hope your horse gets better soon!

Last edited by leonalee; 09-21-2010 at 08:18 AM.
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