Narcolepsy

"Help me, help me, I think my horse is dying!"

Imagine being three weeks into your new life, with your new horse. You feel you are really getting a handle on things. You have successfully navigated your way around all the straps on a grackle and you have learnt to thread the martingale into the girth strap before doing the girth up - winning. It's all going so well. You tighten the girth up another hole... then all of a sudden your horse drops to the floor. You find yourself shouting out of the stable door, you might only be three weeks in but you already feel something for this animal that is repeatedly collapsing in front of you. Panic sets in.


I removed everything off of her and threw it out the door immediately with a clatter, I was shouting for help, I didn't understand what had just come over her - had I given her something that had made her poorly? Was she having a heart attack? I popped a rug on her as it was mid December and was about to phone the vet but she seemed to make a miraculous recovery. I then spent the next 2 hours watching her. Nothing. Eventually that evening I messaged the old owner to say she had, had a funny turn and I was going to phone the vet in the morning to give her the once over. The previous owner said 'Oh, I completely forgot to tell you, she has narcolepsy!'.


I kept thinking, how on earth can you forget to tell someone of something that serious?!? Only now that I am 4 years in, I often have to kick myself to remember to tell new people that are treating her e.g. physiotherapist.


It can be quite un-nerving watching a conscious horse suddenly drop to their knees. Generally I don't allow it to happen if I am around, I stick my finger in her ear and she wakes up again, particularly if I am about to ride. She has never had a spell out riding - life is too exciting. But she will often do it in her field on a warm day, when she is in the stable warming up after being in the field, when she is poorly (as Lydia only knows too well, after she practically collapsed on top of her with only the haynet as rebound support) and also when girthing up.


Narcolepsy in horses is actually quite rare, I manage it with super thick bedding during the winter (usually shavings) so she has something to buffer her fall. It is unfortunately uncontrollable and incurable, it is often accompanied by cataplexy, where there is a loss of muscle tone - hence the falling to the floor.


Most of the yard are used to it now, particularly the yard owner and she is moved to the best fields, e.g. plenty of shade in summer to reduce episodes happening. The vets are happy with her and as there is nothing we can do about the narcolepsy, we just crack on. I reckon it's just another reason why she is still so full of beans at 29 years old. Power naps!