Dazed, then jumpy- Is my horse narcoleptic? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 09:00 AM Thread Starter
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Dazed, then jumpy- Is my horse narcoleptic?

Hello everyone. I'm new here, just hoping someone has experienced something similar to what I am seeing in my mare and can offer some advice before I bring in a vet.
My girl is a 14 year old thoroughbred. She is off the track, and I got her three years ago, after she sat alone in a field for a few years.
She has pretty bad anxiety, and we have spent the last three years trying to settle her down. With every new barn we move to, she gets calmer and calmer. Within the last month, we have moved to a new barn where she is incredibly calm. She is still in a private paddock right now just due to her needing to get used to being on grass (long story), but is surrounded by other paddocks with horses in them.
Everything has been going well, until last night. I got to the barn and went to start grooming her, but she was jumpy as soon as I went into her stall. I figured I had just startled her, so I was slow to bring her into the cross ties. I should add, she didn't eat her grain, but that is another problem on its own LOL. Due to more unfortunate circumstances, she has not cross tied in a few months, so unsurprisingly, she was nervous being in them. I wasn't too concerned, but she started getting really restless while I was getting myself ready, so I put her back in her stall for a minute to allow her to calm down (because this usually works for her. Probably not the greatest thing I could do, but after trying everything with her, it is the most effective way of avoiding a meltdown). She had just her saddle on. I shut her stall door and started putting my helmet on when she started shaking and hopping up and down. I remember her bucking and spinning a bit, but the person with me says they saw her twitching intensely and her joints buckling.
Needless to say, I figured I needed to get her out of her stall. She has collapsed in the past (which I will get to), and I didn't want her going down in a stall, so I quickly untacked her once she had calmed down. I noticed she was very quiet as I did this. It was almost as though she was in a daze. Her eyes were glossy and her ears were back, not pinned, as if she were sleeping. I walked her to the arena, and let her go in there, but she continued this daze for a few minutes until I convinced her to walk around a bit. And suddenly she was totally alert again, following me around, and her personality was back. About 10 minutes later, I stopped to talk to someone, and she went back into a daze after tossing her head weirdly. Her eyes got glossy and her head sunk, and she rested her leg. Ears went back again, head tilted strangely and her lip twitched a bit. She looked like she was drugged. I panicked, and tried to snap her out of it, clucking and clapping and trying to wake her up without touching her. About a minute later, she snapped out of it, and went back to normal. She was fine after that, though still a little sluggish.

This has happened before. The first time was when I was not there. My coach at the time was tacking her up to ride, and she leaped in the air and collapsed on the floor before going back to normal again. I don't know the circumstances surrounding it all too well. The next time, I was tacking her up and she got really really quiet (doing the dazed thing), and her legs buckled a bit before she launched herself in the air and slammed herself against the stall next to her. She was freaked out afterwards, but went back to normal soon after.

I am completely lost here. I don't know what is happening, or why her little "episodes" are so extravagant. There is really no common factor here other than each one happening at a somewhat new barn. And also, her being tacked up, though she has never shown signs of discomfort, has had various vet visits in regards to her physical state that have never turned out bad, and would not be due to my saddle, as the first time, it was a different saddle being used.

Has anyone heard of anything like this? The person I was with said it seemed like a petit mal seizure in humans, but I haven't found anything online about that happening in horses. Obviously my next step is to talk to my vet, but in the mean time, I would love to hear of anyone else's experience with something like this.
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post #2 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 11:04 AM
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If its only happening when you saddle the horse:
Some horses have a reaction to the feel of the girth being tight/tightened that can range from a bit of crow hopping to a full blown meltdown. We had one mare that had such an explosion when she was being ridden one day that the billet straps on a nearly new saddle split and rider and saddle went through the air together.
I've seen horses behave as if their not 'on this planet' when it happens, totally oblivious to danger and turn from kind natured to not caring that what they're doing can hurt someone.
Generally the one's that just crow hop a bit will stop doing it when ridden regularly but the ones that have the complete meltdown will often still do it if something happens to create more pressure around the girth area or they lose self control for some reason like when spooking.
You have to rule out pain factors in the back and things like the girth pinching - some horses are simply not as stoic as others and some have far less self control than others.

Just winging it is not a plan
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post #3 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 12:34 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaydee View Post
If its only happening when you saddle the horse:
Some horses have a reaction to the feel of the girth being tight/tightened that can range from a bit of crow hopping to a full blown meltdown. We had one mare that had such an explosion when she was being ridden one day that the billet straps on a nearly new saddle split and rider and saddle went through the air together.
I've seen horses behave as if their not 'on this planet' when it happens, totally oblivious to danger and turn from kind natured to not caring that what they're doing can hurt someone.
Generally the one's that just crow hop a bit will stop doing it when ridden regularly but the ones that have the complete meltdown will often still do it if something happens to create more pressure around the girth area or they lose self control for some reason like when spooking.
You have to rule out pain factors in the back and things like the girth pinching - some horses are simply not as stoic as others and some have far less self control than others.
When it happened in the arena, she had no tack on. Sorry, I don't think I mentioned that haha.
It happens so rarely, which is why it is so strange to me. She typically has no issue with the girth, unless her ulcers are bothering her. I guess there is the possibility of her stomach just being really sore sometimes. Geez, horses are complicated creatures. I will definitely speak to my vet about pain issues though. Thanks!! :)
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post #4 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 03:47 PM
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If this is happening randomly then you need to get your vet involved and have some blood and neurological tests done.
Symptoms can be so variable its difficult to pinpoint a definite thing without tests.
EPM will cause muscle weakness that could lead to collapse and seizures do occur though not common
There have been cases of a parasitic worm in horse's brains, its rare but it can happen
West Nile virus can cause brain damage and convulsions is one of the symptoms
Brain Tumours will cause similar symptoms to those you describe
Lyme Disease can produce all sorts of odd symptoms and it can affect the brain function making horses nervous, over reactive and overly sensitive to the touch
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post #5 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 04:00 PM
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Yes, if this is only happening when saddling, it's an issue, but can usually be dealt with. But since you've also seen it when she was loose with no saddle, then it's very worrisome and sounds neurological, sadly. Lots of things it could be-- some are treatable, some are not. You need a good vet to get to the bottom of this, and I would not be riding the horse until you have some answers.

EPM, West Nile, Rabies, Toxicity, lasting damage from a previous head injury, brain swelling, tumors, epilepsy, all of those and more could be a cause.

Haul her to a vet school and get some answers. I wish you luck.
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post #6 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 04:59 PM
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I would suspect a seizure and have the vet out pronto.
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post #7 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 05:13 PM
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There's a type of narcolepsy called girth-induced cataplexy. Let me see if I can find something on it.
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post #8 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 09:03 PM
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I can't seem to find good articles on this phenomenon, but it's covered a lot by the vets in the Facebook group Horse Vet Corner. I really recommend joining the group and inquiring about your case. It's an extremely informative, well-monitored group where ONLY veterinarians can comment on posts. There are many existing posts about similar cases that can be found by searching for terms like "girth" or "cataplexy" and some people have even posted video examples.

Rules for the group: no commenting unless you're an admin-approved vet, or it's your own post. No angry-face reactions. The group is a wonderful learning resource. It's fascinating and easy to get caught up in it for hours reading all the different cases. You may find some answers there.
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post #9 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 09:10 PM
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Horses can also have sudden REM sleep episodes if they haven't been lying down to sleep. Rereading your post, the fact that this is happening whenever she's at a new place suggests that might be a factor? Horses cannot enter true deep sleep if they stay standing, so if she's had a change of location and isn't feeling secure enough to lie down and sleep properly, she might be suddenly falling into REM sleep, which can mimic actual narcolepsy or seizures.
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post #10 of 25 Old 06-15-2018, 10:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alteq View Post
but she was jumpy as soon as I went into her stall. I figured I had just startled her, so I was slow to bring her into the cross ties. I should add, she didn't eat her grain, but that is another problem on its own LOL. Due to more unfortunate circumstances, she has not cross tied in a few months, so unsurprisingly, she was nervous being in them.
Bit 'by the by' but since you posted... IS it a separate issue that she didn't eat her grain? Could it be that she is either sick/in pain, or too stressed to eat? I'm guessing she's been at this barn a while & has been fine till now? I'd guess then, something happened yesterday to get her on edge. Not that I like x-ties as a rule, but especially if she were nervous already AND she has had a problem with x-ties for months as well, there is no way I'd be forcing her into that situation.

Quote:
Probably not the greatest thing I could do, but after trying everything with her, it is the most effective way of avoiding a meltdown)
Depends, but with a stressed horse, bordering on panic, yeah, whatever it takes to get her out of that stress ASAP, so I wouldn't say putting her in her stall - if that's her safe area - is at all wrong.

So, the problem... I would get an expert vet yesterday to this horse! I would have a full neurological exam done on her. IF it is only ever when she's saddled, then I'd be less concerned, avoid the saddle & get a chiropractor to come check her out first. No, this doesn't sound at all like 'narcolepsy'(or, as I sus it is, that horses who are so exhausted 'zone out' & then startle occasionally). Sounds like she has a serious problem.

The only personal experience I've had with anything of the sort is when a Ranger stopped by to say there was a stray horse in the bush nearby, sweaty & looking like she was exhausted & with (minor) scratches all over her. I said I'd go get her & keep her safely in our yards till we found the owner. Prepared to walk her home, but thought as it was a fair few kms, I'd see if she'd let me ride. She was obviously well trained & calmly accepting, so I hopped on & rode her calmly for half a km or so.

Then seriously suddenly, out of the blue, she reared, threw her head berserkly, started shaking & fell to her knees! I luckily was able to jump off to my feet & keep control - she jumped up, reared again with the look like there was a lion on her back & tried to bolt, only her good training & my holding her overruled. Then she again looked exhausted & was calm. We walked towards home for another 15 mins or so, before we had a repeat performance(tho I wasn't silly enough to get back on her after the last). This happened about 4 more times on the way home. Put her in the yard, gave her hay & water, which she wouldn't touch and called the ranger to say the horse was seriously unwell & advise they tell the owner to bring a vet when they came to get her. Then had to go to work.

So I got a call later, from a distraught owner - the horse was dead. Possibly brain tumour or aneurism. They arrived at our place with the trailer & a vet to find her standing exhausted looking in the yard, feed & water still untouched. Vet did basic tests, couldn't find anything obvious. Put her through her paces & she was calm & responsive, if very lacklustre. So they led her to the trailer, planning on taking her to the vet hospital for more tests. She walked out quietly, then at the trailer, had one of her 'attacks' & fell down dead!

Turns out this was the owner's pride & joy who was a 4yo filly she'd had since a foal, lived only a few kms in the other direction & who had only come back from extensive training a few weeks earlier. The day before, they came home to find her agitated, racing in terror around her paddock, then stopping with her head hanging for a while, only to do it again. They had called the vet, but before he arrived, she tore around the paddock again, crashed through the fence & took off into the bush! They had followed her tracks - which were erratic, all over the place & did lots of circles - all afternoon & first thing that morning, but never found her.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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