by Tori Higgins:
My Special Horse: Keno, EPM Survivor
My name is Polly and my special horse Keno, has suffered greatly in his short life. We suffered together. Three months after he arrived in California, he passed a pre-purchase exam at the age of 2.5 years old. But shortly after the purchase he became weakened and collapsed, hurting his right hind leg. I had him examined by my vet several times, and although his leg was improving, he was still weak and stumbling. We tested him for EPM and tragically, he was EPM positive. My heart was broken!
Over the last five years, he was treated with two months of the expensive Marquis for EPM, but he relapsed shortly after. I then gambled and chose a compounded medication at a fraction of the cost and he improved, but again relapsed. I was desperate to try one last time, and thankfully learned of a new EPM treatment option with a vet in Florida, Dr. Sioban Ellison at Pathogenes, Inc. Her Peptide Elisa test determined that my horse has three strains of EPM, not just one. She offered her treatment and I am thrilled to say, my horse now tests inactive for his disease!
He will never be negative, but he is not currently sick with it, it is gone! Sadly, he is still lame from all the months of falling, straining to get up and down and possibly scar tissue damage to his spinal cord from his illness, but he is still getting stronger each month and his migraine headache expression has eased away. His will to live is truly an inspiration and finally over the last 12 months, I now see a happy horse when I go out to see him every day. He is able to do very light rehab under saddle now, and so far, no relapse!
I should explain that EPM stands for Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis and is a disease cause by a protozoal infection of the central nervous system of horses thought to be contracted by ingesting opossum feces. My horse was born in TN where there is a high number of opossums, but the disease can be contracted throughout our nation.
The next five years were filled with him struggling to get up, due to weakened muscles from muscle atrophy and laminitis. I was trying to build up his immune system, but it was so weak he came down with strangles twice in a year! He became allergic to all the common hays in my area, grains, rice bran, soybean, just about everything he had been eating or that a horse may eat, he was allergic to it! His slick coat turned to a rough dry checked looking coat, much like he had been given a bad perm! It took me months to determine what he was reacting to, and eventually when finances allowed, I had an allergy scan ran, and he indeed was allergic to the hays I was feeding him among other things.
During this time, he was miserable but yet when taken to the vet for evaluation, he always pretended he was improving and we would come home thinking he was on the mend. But it was just his adrenaline that was masking his illness from my vet. It was obvious, Keno knew he must act like he felt well when he went to the vet, but after each recheck, he would quickly weaken again once we got him home. He seemed stiff and sore all over, which did not match EPM symptoms, but my vet expenses were more than I had to spend, and that caused me to have to put off more testing. So, I turned back to the internet and I was lucky and got him into a free case study looking for possible insulin resistant horses. Finally, it was confirmed that yes, he indeed does have multiple health issues, he is also insulin resistant and that could be partly why he seems to hurt all over.
So many things were working against us, but Keno did not want to give up, so I didn’t either! I set course to try to help him nutritionally and learned of a new hay, just being introduced to our area called TEFF GRASS hay, and I tracked it down to try. I had it analyzed and it was low enough in ESC sugars that he should do well on it. The problem has been finding the hay. A local mill was selling TEFF pellets until just this month, and now I am told they will no longer carry them due to not enough demand. My fear is that I may now need to start soaking hay if I can’t find low starch hay in my area. I don’t want to trigger laminitis and allergies again. That is how I came to THE SOAKER Facebook profile and learned of your contest to win The Soaker. I was looking for ways to soak my special boy’s hay when my TEFF hay runs out. The Soaker is now on my wish list for him along with a wish for a miracle to make him sound again.
I kept a journal during Keno’s illness and I created a facebook page, sharing videos, photos and updates over the last five years and if you know anyone who may benefit from seeing Keno’s EPM story, photo’s and videos can be viewed on his facebook page, by searching EPM – Keno’s Journey, or by using this link.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my Keno’s story with you. I know he could really benefit from The Soaker, but most important to me is that Keno’s story may help others dealing with EPM. I believe that is the reason Keno has survived. I will attach a few photos of his progress for you to see how far he has come and please stop by and visit his facebook page too if you get a chance. There are videos of him struggling to get up and struggling to walk during his acute illness. He is improving now though and just last week he got to go swimming for his first fun outing in a long time…. a Hydrotherapy session! I am hoping as funds allow that swimming may help his compromised right side develop muscles so he can be a stronger horse. It was fun just finally getting to do something fun with my horse again, and seeing him swim really touched my heart. He is my heart horse. Sick or not, he was meant to be with me, I understand that now…
I hope Keno’s story has inspired you to go out and hug your horse…or hug someone’s horse. We all need a good hug once in a while!
Polly Miller & KENO
My heart beats for hoof beats