Horses on pasture may be affected by equine motor neuron disease

B C McGorum, I G Mayhew, H Amory, R Deprez, L Gillies, K Green, T S Mair, H Nollet, I D Wijnberg, C N Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reasons for performing study: Equine motor neuron disease (EMND) was diagnosed in 3 horses maintained on lush, grass-based pasture. This contrasted with North American studies which identified limited or no access to green herbage as an important risk factor for EMND.

Hypothesis: Grazing horses that have an apparently adequate intake of pasture herbage to meet normal equine vitamin E requirements can develop EMND.

Methods: Owners of 32 European horses diagnosed with EMND completed a questionnaire regarding intrinsic, managemental, nutritional and environmental factors that could potentially be risk factors for EMND, and also regarding clinical signs, treatments and case outcome. Plasma/serum vitamin E data for these horses were supplied by the veterinarians. No control population was studied.

Results: Thirteen of 32 horses (termed the 'grazing' group) had part- or full-time access to grass-based pasture at the onset of EMND (median duration at pasture 12 h/day, range 3-24 h). Five of these horses were at pasture for at least 23.5 h/day at the onset of EMND, 2 of which were at pasture for at least 23.5 h/day throughout the year. Despite grazing, all these horses had a low vitamin E status. The remaining 19 horses resembled those cases reported from North America, in that they had no or limited access to pasture.

Conclusions and potential relevance: A diagnosis of EMND should not be discounted on the basis that a horse has access, even full-time, to lush grass-based pasture. Inadequate vitamin E intake was probably not the sole cause of either the EMND or the low vitamin E status in the grazing horses; the latter was probably the result of abnormal bioavailability or excessive utilisation of vitamin E.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-51
Number of pages5
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006


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