Meet "Spot" a middle aged appaloosa gelding. Spot lives a decent life at a local stable. His owner may not be around much but he is cared for and ridden regularly. Spot is a good natured fellow but last year he began to stumble. Not a big deal at first but soon trips became falls, usually in slow motion but now his riders were also taking tumbles with troubling frequency. After a few months slow progression his stumbling could no longer be attributed to "outside influences" and he was deemed unsafe to ride. Something was awry but what? Spot "hung out" in stall & turnout pen for awhile with no improvement so Dr. Bo was called out for an exam & consult.
Dr. Bo's first comment was "this horse looks like Gumby". His muscle tone was almost non existent, he was wobbly, weak and unable to control his limb placement (proprioceptive deficits). His demeanor was dull, kind of like Eyore to continue the cartoon analogy. Sometimes first impressions are the most informative. Hmmm, Gumby and Eyore.... what does this remind you of?
If you're Dr. Bo it reminds you of a nutritional problem. Vitamin E/Se deficiency can cause these signs. This horse is on a basic feed without supplements, foodstuff grown locally is notoriously Se deficient, could it be that simple? Luckily for Spot, indeed it could. A blood analysis showed almost zero selenium in his system. Now, after several months of supplementation, he is reborn as the Spot everyone remembers. (If his rider comes off now it is likely due to a buck rather than a stumble!)
The moral of the story is that small things matter and it's good to bring in fresh observers when dealing with insidious problems. Vitamin E and selenium are antioxidative nutrients that work together to minimize the effects of oxidative (oxygen) metabolism within the cells. Selenium acts to protect cell membranes from the detrimental action of "free radicals" that are produced with normal oxidative metabolism, so it is necessary for normal cellular function, particularly muscle cell function. The tricky part is that
excess Se is toxic and can be deadly, so knowing what your animals (not just horses) are getting in their feed and supplements is very important. Keep in mind that RockyBay Equine is available to help you navigate the finer details of nutrition. Consider making an appointment today for a wellness exam to review all your horses' health care needs before we head into the busy days of spring and upcoming show season.