In Australia, stringhalt in horses is commonly seen in summer and autumn as drought-stressed pastures are overtaken with weeds such as false Dandelion (also known as Catsear or Flatweed) and Capeweed.
Toxins from these weeds affect the nervous system resulting in an exaggerated high stepping action in one or both hind legs.
In mild cases, the symptoms show when the horse is asked to back-up or if there is a change of terrain, cold weather or if the horse becomes nervous or excited.
Horses with stringhalt can walk, canter and gallop but have trouble trotting properly.
What to do if your horse has stringhalt:
- Remove the horse immediately from the pasture.
- Consult your vet for a diagnosis as medication may be needed to prevent permanent damage.
- Give them Bach Flowers rescue remedy – available from most chemists and good to have on hand for all health crisis situations.
- Feed good quality pasture hay ad-lib. (If you are feeding an insulin-resistant horse who is prone to laminitis, soak the hay for a couple of hours before feeding if it hasn’t been tested for sugar and starch levels).
- Add the herbs Valerian and Mugwort to the feed to help repair nerve signals.
- Feed a good balanced mineral supplement such as Balanced Equine’s Hoof Rescue + SE
- Ideally have your pasture and feed tested to get a customised mineral mix for your horse and area. We recommend Carol Layton and www/balancedequine.com.au
Horses left untreated for this condition will suffer from muscle wastage and may never completely recover.
Most cases resolve once the horse is removed from the pasture in a period of 2 weeks to 2 years, depending on the severity of the stringhalt.
Prevention is better – check your pastures for the offending weeds and if you have a lot of them, remove your horse before it shows symptoms and feed grass hay and supplementary feed according to use and condition.
This Facebook group also has lots of helpful advice.