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This is a discussion on Fainting?? within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

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    05-01-2010, 10:48 PM

Hi...Im new to the forum. I have a strange situation that Im not familiar with...

I recently rescued a 16yo Shire gelding that is was a neglect case and severely underweight. He's been here a few days with no problems, clear coggins, clean bill of health accept for being malnourished.

The strange thing is that today while I was grooming him he fainted, or passed out, or something several times. Its like he is dozing off, then as he starts to fall he feels the pull of the halter and snaps out of it, licks his lips and is just fine. He LOVES being groomed, and will rest his head on the fence, his lip just dangles and his eyes glaze over. The first time he went weak I just figured he was really loving it and dozed off a bit. I wasnt conerned until it happened several more times, but only when I was actually grooming him, he never went faint, or went weak however you would label it, when I wasnt touching him. I know horses can faint due to stress, but he definitely wasnt stressed.....hypoglycemia maybe? I thought maybe narcolepsy but he hasnt done this out in the field that I've seen, and I've had my eyes on him pretty consistently......

Any ideas???
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    05-01-2010, 10:54 PM
Welcome! I'm thinking possibly narcolepsy? There was a gal on here a few months ago who was posting videos of what sounds to be the exact same thing and the general consensus was that it was probably narcolepsy, or potentially a lack of enough REM sleep. Have you noticed your guy completely sacked out yet? Maybe he's not getting enough with the stress of being moved to a new place?
    05-01-2010, 11:14 PM
I was thinking that might have been it, I think Im just lloking for reassurance in my thoughts since I havent dealt with this before!!

He did have a really really long trailer ride, and we had a HUGE storm last night with lightening and tons of rain so my first inclination is that maybe he didnt get enough sleep, if any, and that he is beginning to relax just a little bit in the new surroundings and all the hay..... He loves being groomed....I mean REALLY loves being groomed and as I started brushing him he just mealted and relaxed and went all googly eyed and put his nose on the fence post.....about ten minutes later he had his first little episode.....then he'd be fine for a little while and then do it again. I guess since he was so relaxed and maybe sleep deprived he took full advantage of the pampering literally "melted" :)

Like I said, I havent seen any sign of this in the field or at any other time....
    05-01-2010, 11:18 PM
Better call the Vet. Horses don't sleep for very long or very deeply especially standing up. That may be the reason he had to be "rescued".
    05-01-2010, 11:27 PM
Originally Posted by kevinshorses    
Better call the Vet. Horses don't sleep for very long or very deeply especially standing up. That may be the reason he had to be "rescued".

Ack, shame on me! I meant for that to be my exact line after I offered up ideas. It was my first thought!
    05-01-2010, 11:35 PM
Have yall ever heard of hypoglycemia in horses?
    05-01-2010, 11:51 PM
He could really injure himself if he falls, I would get a vet to check him out.
    05-01-2010, 11:54 PM
Green Broke
We had a horse in our barn a few years ago that had narcelepsy, and it was exactly as you had described. She would be standing in the cross ties being groomed, her eyes would start to close and then her knees would buckle. Once the halter pulled on her she'd snap herself out of it. It was strange! She never hurt herself and it was oNLY in the cross ties. But yes, you should have the vet come look at her!
    05-02-2010, 02:19 AM
I have heard of hypoglycemia caused by an insulinoma (tumor that secretes insulin) but the presentation was much different than you describe. This doesn't sound like low blood sugar or it wouldn't be specific to one place/situation.
    05-02-2010, 11:58 AM

What you are describing is essentially sleep deprivation. True narcolepsy in the horse is extremely rare, and documented most often in foals, all of which seem to grow out of it after a few months.

Horses do require about 30 minutes a day of deep REM sleep. And contrary to popular belief horse's do not "sleep" standing up. They simply rest.

Here is a link to an article by Dr. Joe Bertone who has been studying the issue in horses for a number of years. He's an equine internal medicine specialist at Western University in southern California. Click Here. Here is a link for a few horses demonstrating it in their paddock Click Here.

If you have not seen your guy lay down, there is generally an underlying cause. This cause can be anything including behavioral (not having a secure feeling, not being in contact with a herd, ect), environmental (not feeling comfortable that he can lay down in his stall, see other horses, uncomfortable ground), or physical (lameness, soreness issues, ect.).

Often times, placing the gelding in with a dominant mare or even just another horse, changing the stall/paddock setup, moving stall, moving pastures, etc can help. I hope this helps shed some light on the issue, and that it opens a door to some reading as it is much more complicated than my short description.

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