Stringhalt: What to feed
from a nutritional aspect. It can be devastating to discover your horse moving oddly, with the classic leg jerking.
Stringhalt (the Australian variety) is caused by horses grazing Flatweed (Hypochoeris radicata) though Dandelion is also implicated. It’s been theorised that a fungus associated with these plants causes damage to the peripheral nervous system but the mechanism is not clear how this happens. More recent research by MacKay et al looked at a possible toxin in the plant itself. The most obvious nerve affected is the sciatic nerve, which is the longest peripheral nerve in the horse and causes the classic leg jerking. Other nerves may also be affected, including the optic nerve, resulting in impaired vision. Depending on the severity of damage, the sciatic nerve can take approximately two years to regrow, so symptoms may persist for that length of time.
Number ONE: Consult your vet as diagnosis is vital. Your horse may need veterinary prescribed medication to prevent permanent damage.
What to feed:
Interesting stuff about Stringhalt:
Will a toxin binder prevent Australian Stringhalt?
Unfortunately there is no evidence that supports toxin binders as an effective preventative. Balanced Equine sells the best fungal toxin binder, Mycosorb A+ but can’t claim it will be a solution.
From the RIRDC Investigation into the Cause of Australian Stringhalt “Horse owners are often advised to feed a variety of supplements to treat or prevent stringhalt. Mycotoxin binders are not uncommonly recommended (author’s observations). Our findings suggest that the practice of feeding mycotoxin (fungal toxin) binders may be unlikely to protect horses from developing AS.” Link below.
Links may change over time. If a link doesn’t work, search the title in your search engine.
Domange C, Casteignau A, Collignon G, Pumarola M, Priymenko N (2010) Longitudinal study of Australian Stringhalt cases in France
El-Hage C (2011) Investigation into the Cause of Australian Stringhalt, RIRDC Publication No 11/127
Huntington PJ, Jeffcott LB, Friend SC, Luff AR, Finkelstein DK, Flynn RJ (1989) Australian Stringhalt – epidemiological, clinical and neurological investigations
Huntington PJ, Seneque S, Slocombe RF, Jeffcott LB, McLean A, Luff AR (1991) Use of phenytoin to treat horses with Australian Stringhalt
MacKay RJ, Wyer S, Gilmour A, Kongara K, Harding DR, Clark S, Mayhew IG, Thomson CE (2013) Cytotoxic activity of extracts from Hypochaeris radicata
Slocombe RF, Huntington PJ, Friend SC, Jeffcott LB, Luff AR, Finkelstein DK (1992) Pathological aspects of Australian Stringhalt
Image of Flatweed sourced from WA FloraBase