As pastures change and dry off, the risk of exposure to plants causing string-halt increases for our equine friends.
String-halt is a commonly seen equine condition which affects muscles, nerves and tendons, most commonly localised to one or both hind limbs.
The classic presentation is a horse with a high stepping gait in the hind limbs with exaggerated flexion of one or both hocks. These horses usually struggle to back up and can become easily stressed due to their gait abnormalities.
Plants that have been linked with horses developing stringhalt include:
- flatweed/false dandelion
- sheep’s sorrel
- couch grass
These plants thrive in dry, bare pastures, from Summer through to Autumn.
Unfortunately, there is no curative treatment for stringhalt. Removing horses from pasture or paddocks containing the above weeds is the first step to recovery.
Interestingly, horses grazing in the same pasture will not always be affected to the same degree.
The majority of cases will spontaneously recover over time, but typically take 6-12 months to resolve. Some cases can take up to 3 years to resolve or be so severe that euthanasia is required in the best interest of the horse. Thankfully cases this severe are rare.
At times, supportive veterinary treatment is required and may include muscle relaxants, pain relief or supplements. It’s best to seek veterinary advice if you suspect string-halt to confirm a diagnosis and tailor a plan specific to your horse & property.