Equine Degenerative Myeloencephalopathy

Above: Dream On and Olivia Ferro. Photo courtesy of Olivia Ferro.

By TPH Intern Olivia Ferro

EDM, or Equine Degenerative Myeloencephalopathy, is a currently incurable neurological disease found in young horses. This disease is career ending for a lot of potentially great horses and ponies. There is also a type of this disease that can be found in other animals such as dogs. The disease causes a decrease, or even an absence, of a reaction during a reflex test. EDM is most commonly caused by a lack of vitamin E, but also may be caused by wood exposure or lack of grass in pasture. The disease can also be transmitted genetically. Therefore, you should avoid breeding your horse if they, or their ancestors, have had EDM.

One of the most common symptoms of EDM is depression. If your horse seems frequently unhappy or abnormal in personality, it would be best to call your vet, even if they do not show any other symptoms. Another symptom of the disease can be general fatigue and weakness. If your horse has a lot of trouble walking up and down an incline with their head raised, it is possible they could have EDM or another neurological disease. If your horse has abnormality of the gait, such as pacing when they are a hunter or a jumper or just trotting or cantering strangely, contact your vet immediately. It is possible your horse has a neurological disease such as EDM. Lastly, if your horse or pony stands uncomfortably or abnormally on the cross ties or while standing, they may have a neurological disease.

Some EDM symptoms are similar to a disease known as EPM, another neurological disease. If your horse has any of these symptoms, you are advised to contact your vet to see if testing for EDM is something you should consider. Right now, there is not a cure for this disease and, eventually, it can cause your horse to have trouble moving about or become unable to walk.

My four year old large pony, “Dream On,” was diagnosed with EDM recently and has moved back to his original home to retire. Clifton showed three of the most prominent symptoms of EDM. When riding him, he often began to pace or begin trotting and cantering with severe abnormality. However, when he was in his paddock, he showed no gait abnormalities. Clifton also often stands with his front hooves touching or on top of one another or he crosses his legs completely. The third symptom that Clifton shows is weakness. He has a lot of difficulty walking up and down inclines with his head raised. He often fights to put his head down and trips or stumbles often.

Dream On. Photo courtesy of Olivia Ferro.

Clifton means the world to me. When he retired, I decided I wanted to make an impact and help to cure his disease. I want to do what I can to raise money to help research find a cure for EDM. Hopefully with our help, EDM no longer needs to be something to fear in your young horse or pony.

I recently started a fundraising campaign called “Dream On” to help raise money to cure EDM. There is a current fundraiser running. I am selling shirts to support Palm Beach Equine in their research. The fundraiser only lasts until November 16th.  If I don’t reach my goal of shirts sold, the shirts will not be printed and the money will be refunded. Please support equine neurological diseases and buy a shirt using the link below. Thank you.