EDM and other sad tales

I am not good at hiding behind screen names and babble. I am hoping that by posting this more folks will be empowered to
learn and understand more about neurological issues, and help each other and our wonderful veterinary community do further research. My story–I had two lovely geldings, purchased at ages 1 and 2 two years apart and raised and trained primarily by myself. This year they were ages 6 and 8. Last year my six year old began headshaking and displaying intermittent subtle left front lameness. I tried all the things with no results. After a major work up at an academic veterinary center that was all negative I gave him nine months off and began some light work on the longe line last February. He was still displaying the same symptoms. I took him back to the academic center and his neurological exam had deteriorated; he was increasingly ataxic which aligned with his increased tripping at home, heel grabs, etc. After ruling every other neurological thing out, they gave him a working diagnosis of EDM and recommended euthanasia. I agreed and my sweet beautiful boy was gone. I am still awaiting post mortem results. The same week that he was euthanized, my 8 year old gelding by the same sire and from the same breeder began demonstrating headshaking symptoms as well, and the most peculiar incessant muzzle wiggling. I have taken him to my local vet to rule out any immediate obvious causes–all negative. I also have an appointment with him in a couple weeks at the same academic center. He is almost unrideable as he demonstrates such discomfort with exercise. I have the best team of vets possible looking after my boys and I am leaving no stone unturned and yet the results are devastating. These things are real and need so much research and study. I am exhausted wracking my brain for possible causes and things I could have done differently, to no avail. I only hope people will learn more in the future, as headshaking and EDM can both be detrimental diseases to the career and life of an animal. I am still hopeful that my older gelding does not have EDM but time will tell.


I’m so sorry you are going through this.

Jingles for the 8 yr old.


I know someone who also recently lost a rising 8 year old (KWPN) to EDM. I am so sorry, it is truly heartbreaking. Hoping for your other horse :crossed_fingers:


I hope you find something fixable for the 8yo. I’ve been down the EDM road a little over a year ago with one that was coming 5. It was a horrible path to travel. And it does give you a bit of PTSD with your other horses (I keep looking at my 4yo who sometimes is not so well coordinated…and just hoping it’s just him not paying attention to where he is going).

I also wish there were better diagnostics for EDM…and a way to know the triggers that can cause the disease.


I am so sorry about the loss of your horse, especially in such a heart-breaking way. You did everything anyone could possibly do for him. That is the best any of us can do for our horses. Please take comfort in that.

Jingles to your other boy and hugs to you in this very difficult time. :heart:


This is devastating. Hope you get good news on the 8 year old!!!


Ohhhh I’m so sorry. This is the same thing that dressage rider Lauren Sprieser wrote about recently.


How gutting. I’m so sorry, @Trekkie! I have deep sympathy because a few years ago I made the wrenching decision to put down my intractably lame 5-year-old, and the necropsy confirmed DSLD (which is also difficult to diagnose antemortem). Jingling that your older horse is fixable.

This EDM thing is crazy. I was just telling someone yesterday that less than 5 years ago I’d never heard of it and now it seems to be running rampant. My friend lost her mare to it a few months ago too. I believe she was 6 or 7. I don’t know what’s going on but it’s very frightening.


A big imported WB at our barn just got this diagnosis. He just turned 5. So sad scary!


Owning horses opens us up for a litany of heartbreaks. Yet, here we are. Wishing you good luck.


A year ago I had never heard of EDM. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen it this year and its just heartbreaking. Does anyone know of any research being done on this? Bloodlines, country of origin, triggers, etc.?


Same. I know someone who lost a lovely import due to it… Now I am wondering if a horse I had in the past had it.


OP I’m so sorry for what you are going through, I had a mare that was a photic headshaker and later in life was diagnosed with EMND which I believe is different from EDM but shares similar symptoms.

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Jingles for your 8yo.

I am so sorry for your loss.


They really don’t know much at all. Most of the published research is about young horses (less than a year or two) who have some form of a vitamin E deficiency or some genetic connection. That is different than what seems to be really increasing…which is 4-10 yo horses who seemed fine and then developed behavioral issues and ataxia or other neuro symptoms. Dr. Amy Johnson from Penn New Bolton Center has done some really good videos talking about it…and she is probably one of the main vets in the northeast who sees a lot of the cases.

When I went through it with my gelding, I made lots of calls and even talked to the vets out at UC Davis who have been doing a lot of research. They really do not know. There seems to possibly be a genetic plus environmental trigger. Low vitamin E during development is one concern…but that is not present is every case. In my gelding, he was raised on great pasture…and has many siblings with no issues. They did bring up with my gelding the possibility on pesticide/herbicide exposure. I live next to a commercial blueberry farm (they only recently established the farm)…they spray a LOT and we get a lot of drift. My gelding was the only one who was on the pasture adjacent to the blueberry farm. But it’s a pretty long shot to make that connection…even though it was the vet who asked me if we were near any commercial farms. Now, I do not use that pasture for any of the younger horses - only those who are older and not developing in any way. Just in case. We can’t stop them from spraying (we can’t even find out what/when they spray) because of the “Right to Farm” act in NJ. Some of the stuff makes your eyes burn/tear…and we also find dead bees after one of the sprays they use (which seems counter to what you want for a farm that needs pollinators!).

I think it’s also a bit like autism/autism spectrum…is it really that there are more cases or is it also that the vets are getting better at diagnosing it?? It’s really hard to determine. Many years ago, my gelding would have just been labeled as a problem horse and bounced around for years. He wasn’t that neurologic in the beginning.


I’m so sorry for your loss, and hope the best for your 8-year-old! Devastating.

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Ugh, gross. It’s amazing how even with all the info out about using pesticides and herbicides as little as possible there are still farms out there basically spraying agent orange on everything while simultaneously spraying pesticides that are killing the bees.

I’m sorry for your loss. It’s never easy, and it’s even harder when they are so young.


I am so sorry to hear this. I am going through the very thing with my heart horse that I trained myself through three years of Zone championships, etc. Began with a bad fall landing an oxer at home. Then again a few weeks later. He is 18.1 and 64 yrs old (he is coming 9) and decided I needed a closer inspection. Vet immediately diagnosed him as neurologic, CNS fluid revealed neg for EPM and Lyme (and I had treated him for both). Last summer he had started pulling shoes off everywhere- especially in the handy. So I rode him barefoot. Started in 3’6 green yr in Dec and he just didn’t want to jump, Started hopping at the canter. I removed the flowers and fill from the jumps indoors… He would shut down 3 strides out. Now it all makes sense. We go to New Bolton mid May for a week. He now has head tremors, esp after being ridden. Now I just let him run around in the grass by day He does stumble and stands wide behind. I just want him to be happy while I await the near future and visit to NB. PM if you need to talk? xo


ps - very low Vit E, even after being on Elevate for 5 yrs.

I suspect this will be proven to be the cause eventually. Neurological damage from pesticides is not a long shot, it’s a known problem. And they develop new ones all the time.