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Equine Health Resource

Shivers

Shivers is a poorly understood neuromuscular disorder of the hind limbs. A classic case of Shivers is most obvious when a horse backs up; their hind limbs raise in an exaggerated fashion and the limbs stay raised, hyper-flexed, and quiver and tremble. In more advanced cases, this disorder becomes obvious in a horse at rest or in forward motion. In some cases, horses abnormally twitch or move their ears and eyes.

It is most common in draft breeds, and is generally more common in male horses of tall build.

There are various theories about what causes this condition. Recent research suggests a potential defect in the cerebellum of the brain. Other studies suggest problems with the muscle cells of affected horses.

Diagnosis is by examination, a horse that displays the typical movement abnormalities.

There is no treatment for this disorder. Some horses improve on a high fat, low carbohydrate diet.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • Can I make management or feeding changes to improve the signs of this condition in my horse?
  • Can my horse still perform?
  • PREVENTION

    At purchase, select horses without signs of this disorder.

    Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

    RELATED REFERENCES

    Draper AC1, Trumble TN, Firshman AM, Baird JD, Reed S, Mayhew IG, Mackay R, Valberg SJ. Posture and movement characteristics of forward and backward walking in horses with shivering and acquired bilateral stringhalt. Equine Vet J. 2014
    Draper AC1, Bender JB, Firshman AM, Baird JD, Reed S, Mayhew IG, Valberg SJ. Epidemiology of shivering (shivers) in horses. Equine Vet J. 2014 May 6. .

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