Yesterday I just happened to see my 13 year old TB collapse in his pasture (he's boarded, so if this is a common occurrence I wouldn't know) and then have a very brief seizure. I was completely beside myself (thought he was going to die right there in front of me), but when I reached down to touch him, he hopped up and started trotting around.
I had had my finger ready to dial the vet's number, but then I was like, "huh?" I took him out and just hung out with him for an hour and watched him and he was completely normal. Then I called the vet and they came out that afternoon. My boy checked out completely fine, and the vet said that he probably has narcolepsy.
He does start to fall asleep in the crossties every once in a while, but when I poke him he wakes up. I thought he was just relaxed. He has never fallen asleep when I've ridden him. He's a very forward, happy horse.
Anyway, is this a neurological condition or is it from sleep deprivation? I never see him lie down, even though he's out in a pasture (he hates being stalled), and has a pasture buddy that he loves. Maybe he lies down at night?
A seizure isn't narcolepsy. Until you can be sure he won't have another seizure, I wouldn't let anyone ride him. I don't know your vet, and I am not trying to criticize. But based on what you said, I'd get a 2nd medical opinion.
Seconding MayS. I would get a second opinion for sure - if the horse truly is having seizures, he is a danger to ride and even work around. I would get another vet out and have a full neuro work-up done on him.
Years ago I leased (with option to buy) one that would close his eyes & knees would buckle on crossties and while standing in stall. Never went down. Never under saddle- he was the exact opposite. I was not informed of this before lease but obviously did not make the purchase.
For the record I hate this story.
I was a manager for a farm and came out to feed one day and found a very darling horse with a huge gash next to/in his eye. I called the vet and the owner, moved the horse out of that stall and started going over the stall to figure out what he had hurt himself on.
The vet and owner arrived and the vet was puzzled because he said the injury was a trauma injury, like he had banged his head on something. As we were talking about it the horse had a seziure, went down, busted his lip open and scared the crap out of me and his owner.
The vet figured that is how he hurt his eye. The horse had been out in a pasture with just a run in shed for years so he could have been doing this all along. They had brought the horse to a boarding barn for her daughter to take lessons on.
We ended up putting the horse down that day. The vet felt he was to much of a danger to himself and others.
As others have said, you need to know for sure what you are dealing with, but to offer a little hope... there is a narcoleptic horse at my barn She is fine to handle, fine to ride, and just a lovely horse to have around. But when she is standing in her stall or even in the cross ties if you leave her too long, the lip gets droopy, the eyes get heavy, she starts to sway back and forth, and sometimes she wakes herself back up and sometimes she falls down and sleeps. I've never seen her go down in the cross ties, but I've been told that it's happened. I've seen her do it in the stall, it's kinda freaky if you don't know about her, but she does it almost every night. She's 16 now, and has been doing it as long as anyone knows, vets have checked her out and can't find a thing wrong, etc. She is also a horse that you never see lie down to nap like a normal horse does, she's either on her feet, or she fell asleep and fell down. It's just her quirk. Hope your boy is ok!
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Oh YEAH... call the vet FOR SURE... and I'd get a second opinion also.
If there a reputable vet hospital in the area (like a New Bolton, Tufts, Cornell, etc), I'd even consider bringing him over there for some diagnostics.
Narcolepsy is NOT something to mess with... and can easily mean serious injury to both equine and human handler/rider.
Knew one that had it... figured it out by the scrapes on it's knees. Very sad story... family had little $$$... horse was pulled out of a field... and I guess it didn't show signs of falling down during trial time. Came into barn... scraped knees... falling asleep on crossties... turnout was more rocky... and 2 vets confirmed that it was, indeed, narcolepsy.. and since it wasn't something that could be regulated... horse was euthanized, as they feared it would eventually break a bone... and wasn't considered trustworthy to ride.
I had a horse with Narcolepsy once. Her's was from sleep deprivation. Long story. Any time she stood still, in the cross ties, under saddle etc she would nod off & her knees would buckle. She never fell and she never had a seizure.
I would certainly dig further for more information. Seizures are not narcolepsy.
Years ago we had a QH (not Impressive bred) that had seizures. He would have them sometimes, not all the time, when you tightened the cinch. His eyes would flutter, he'd stiffen up, brace himself, then flip over backwards. It played hell on the saddle. We took to saddling him in the arena, but the seizures eventually followed him there. He finally flipped with the trainer and we put him down. The vet said he had epilepsy. I don't remember all the details now...it was a long time ago...but the vet made it pretty clear that a horse that has seizures is pretty dangerous and needs to be either a pasture pet or put down. Since you can't always anticipate when a seizure is going to occur, you are putting yourself at risk.
I should also add that this gelding was cutting-bred and we'd owned him since he was a yearling. The seizures started when he was about 8. He had a VERY successful career in the cutting pen up to that point. At first we thought it was behavioral, but the problem was, you could saddle him 15 times without incident, then on the 16th, BAM. I guess that was the vet's concern...the unpredictability. Someone was eventually going to get seriously injured or killed.
One of our Pony Clubbers had a narcoleptic horse that evented at training level IIRC, and did all the rallies and such. He was fine as long as he was moving; they did not cross-tie him, but always had a person hold him, as that was when he'd fall asleep and occasionally stumble to his knees. If he was held, the holder would jiggle the rope and talk to him to keep him from dozing off.
We had a Tennessee Walker mare that would doze off while walking along during endurance rides. On long hot afternoons, riding for completion only, she'd doze off, stumble hard and wake up both herself and her rider, who often as not, was also half-asleep. She was never diagnosed as narcoleptic, and it wasn't exhaustion, as she would get back up, and if terrain permitted, do a brisk running walk for a while (perhaps out of embarrassment!). The correction was to keep her awake and moving out, as she never nodded off while she was really working...but oh, those hot, dusty afternoons, sometimes the last horse on the course, a few miles yet to go...zzzzz.
If there is any question that the horse had a seizure event, even if just for a few seconds, you need to have a vet look at the horse. A horse like that is 100% unsafe to ride.
I've seen a truly narcoleptic horse, too. She came in for colic, and she would occasionally go down to her knees even when just standing for a physical exam. She was covered with cuts and scars on her legs from her falls and she was a BIG girl (at least 1400 lbs). She was a hunter, and I for the life of me cannot understand why those people kept riding her since she clearly was clinical for the narcolepsy.
We have a horse at my barn, a 21 year old TB, who when being saddled falls asleep. It's only then. His owner watches him while she pulls up the cinch. His head will lower, his eyes will close, he'll start to sway a little then his front knees will give. Usually he will catch himself and not hit the ground, only seen him fall to his knees once. She will watch him and when his head starts to drop she'll shake the leadline and hollar his name and say "WAKE UP!" and he does. But soon starts to fall back asleep. He only does this when being cinched up. No seizures or anything, just dozes off...
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There is a difference betwen narcolepsy and another condition that appears to stem from lack of REM sleep in horses. Narcoleptic horses can fall asleep almost anywhere, the others genererally when standing around. Also, some horses do the collapsing thing when being sadled when the girth is tightened; seems there is a nerve there. Lots of threads on this.
25 years ago I worked for a top level event rider. She took in horses to train, and had working students. I was her groom--the first day I got to witness a narcoleptic horse. No lie,never seen anything like it
AND this horse was Prelim champion either for his zone or he was national Prelim champ--regardless, he was a great horse when he wasn't falling asleep. Have never seen it before, nor since in 40 years around horses.
I hacked that horse and ponied him and he never fell asleep under saddle, but he'd go down like a ton of bricks in the pasture. It was creepy
Last edited by lilblackhorse; Jun. 10, 2010 at 12:41 PM.
There is a difference betwen narcolepsy and another condition that appears to stem from lack of REM sleep in horses. Narcoleptic horses can fall asleep almost anywhere, the others genererally when standing around...
I had a boarder horse for a few years would not lay down in his stall (he was 17.2) and would only roll out in the field. Never lay down to sleep. I always believed that he was sleep deprived, not narcoleptic. Poor guy used to fall asleep in his stall and fall to his knees all the time. He'd fall asleep in cross ties a lot too -- I assumed whenever he felt supported he'd drift off. Every now and then he would just keel over. We finally built him a butt rest in the corner of his stall, after he figured out he could jam his butt into the corner and stabilize himself to catch a few good Zs. He was such a big horse we were afraid he'd bring down the stall wall. Poor guy. I miss him.
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