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.