I have a big mare, 16.3h. In August of 2007, she became very ataxic. She could not walk a straight line. She kind of looked like a car with a bent frame traveling down the road when she walked. Always sideways. It was really weird because she went out to the pasture perfectly fine one morning and came in with severe neurological problems. My vet came out and diagnosed her with EPM. He didn't run any blood or spinal fluid tests, just a field neurological exam with feet crossing and tail pull etc... He felt like Wobblers Syndrome could not be the issue because she was 10 and had never had a problem before. She'd been vaccinated for West Nile, so he didn't think it was that.
I joined a great yahoo EPM group where I learned more than I ever wanted to know about EPM and other neurological diseases.
I spent about $5000 total treating her for EPM between vet bills, Marquis, and special supplements for the neurologically impaired horse. After about 9 months, I started rehabbing her and started riding her again after about 14 months.
This past winter, I started noticing some things that made me a little uncomfortable, and then mid January, she came in from the pasture ataxic again, but not as bad as in 2007. There was a new EPM blood test out and I sent it 2 samples spaced 3 weeks apart. The first came back suspicious, but the 2nd one, all her titers had dropped, so the vet at the testing clinic felt that she did not have EPM.
So, I trailered her up to the vet clinic and had a series of radiographs done on her neck. My vet found compressions at C4-C5 and C5-C6. He sent them to 4 vets, including the top Wobbler's expert in the US. All agreed that her neurological issues were most likely due to the compressions and most likely caused by a fall back in 2007. So, the bad news was that the cost of the surgery started about around $14,000 and that was just for the surgery and not for the month or so she'd have to be at the horsey hospital, plus the closest hospital was about 7 hours away.
There are basically 3 types of Wobbler's Syndrome. First type is in young horses that grow too fast, which causes disk compressions. They will sometimes outgrow it if you can restrict their diet and slow their rapid growth. They are also the best candidate for a successful surgery. The next most common is from arthritis due to age and hard work. These horses are generally retired or put down. Then there's the horses who have Wobbler's due to an injury. A good surgical outcome for them is best if done very shortly after the injury.
For my mare, we think this is what happened to her. I had videos from 3 schooling shows in the months leading up to the 2007 incident. I had my vet, an EPM research vet, and the Wobbler's expert look at all the videos and none could see any neurological impairment in the videos. The only conclusion is that she fell in the pasture and hurt her neck.
So, my mare is retired now, eating grass and getting fat. Right now, you can't really see any neurological problems in her, but I've had 3 vets tell me that she should never be ridden again. It makes me sick. She was bred for Dressage. She has this beautiful floaty trot and always wants to please.
Moral of the story. Get as many tests as you can and do your research. There are so many aliments out there and there is no way that a general practice vet can stay current on some of the more obscure ones, like EPM and Wobbler's Syndrome. My vet is a great general practice vet, but I should have pushed for more tests. Back in 2007, I might have been able to swing the surgery because I had a good job. In 2011, I just can't because I am self employed and my business is very economy based.