My horse shivers… but not because he’s cold.

So Salut, in all his 17.2H greatness, has shivers. Shivers is a neuromuscular condition which typically affects the hind limbs. Horses who have this condition hold a hind limb flexed and tremble, often stomping it down. The best way to describe it is that it resembles a ‘charlie horse’ cramp people experience. Fortunately it usually progresses slowly and until this day (Salut is 21) has never affected Salut’s soundness. Shivers is not well understood however fortunately there have been some important findings that can you help you cope with it if your pony has it. Lucky for you I have experimented and here is what I can tell you worked for us:

Consistent work: Even light work keeps his muscles functioning well and decreases symptoms of “tying up”.

Turnout: Lots of turnout keeps him moving and helps the muscles stay conditioned. Consider your grandmother who takes a little more time to loosen up after sitting for a while, this is similar to a shivers horse who has been standing in his stall for a while.

Vitamin E: This discovery has been a saviour for Salut. High doses of Vitamin E have been found to better support a horse’s body when they have a neuromuscular condition. I have experimented with Salut on and off of the Vitamin E and I can assure you it made a significant difference. He is on the Greenline Vitamin E 10,000 Plus which is made by the Canadian company Greenhawk however I have heard Elevate is another good alternative. Salut receives a scoop a day which is 10,000 IUs.  I determined this dosage after reading an article from the Burlington Equine, called “Neuromuscular Diseases”.

Feed: Sugar and starch are an enemies of Salut. He is fed a low sugar and starch feed and fortunately these days there are many options. The sugar and starch level in your horse’s feed is refered to as the nonstructural carbohydrates (“NSC”) level. If your feed manufacturer doesn’t indicate the NSC level on their website or bag, then a local representative should be able to tell you. According to the Kentucky Equine Research group’s article “Does your Horse Really need a Low Starch Feed?” here are indicators of NSC levels:

  • High, NSC >35%
  • Relatively low, NSC =35-20%
  • Low, NSC <20%.

Sticking to this plan has helped Salut significantly. If you have any questions feel free to ask!

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