There is no cure currently available for ES, although many therapies have been tried to manage the symptoms. These include sedatives, herbal remedies, diet changes, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation. There have been suggestions that low starch/sugar diets help but there is no evidence to support this. However, the success of this treatment may have been attributable to some heavy draught breeds also having the metabolic condition polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) that also affects muscle cells and is improved by diet manipulation.
Adequate vitamin E levels are promoted as beneficial for ES and this relates to the antioxidant properties of this vitamin and its role in maintaining neurological function and, whilst not a cure, vitamin E may offer some advantage to the horse.
The similarities to the human condition, Parkinson’s disease, did prompt researchers to try using L-dopa (a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease) but it had no effect on reducing the muscle tremors in ES patients.
Anecdotally, it appears that horses are more likely to deteriorate if they are spelled or left idle in stables, so keeping them in work or maintaining some form of exercise regimen is recommended to prevent deterioration in clinical signs. Stress levels should be minimised and if possible sedation should be used to relax the horse before anticipated times of stress such as when the farrier is due or the horse is transported.
There has been much learnt about ES in the last decade but there are still a lot more answers to discover. Research is continuing and hopefully over the next decade more answers will be found so that either the condition can be managed better, or ideally a cure found. If ES does prove to be a genetically heritable disease, it opens the door for not only better diagnostic tools to be manufactured, but also the possibility that with responsible breeding we can reduce the incidence of shivers in the future. EQ
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