StringhaltCats Ear

There are several theories regarding the cause of stringhalt which is a condition affecting the long nerve which tells the hind limbs what to do.

Affected horses exhibit jerky upward movements, sometimes even hitting their belly. Some describe it as ‘goose-stepping’ and it can be so bad the horse cannot walk at all. They certainly can’t back up. The condition is worse if the horse stands around and sometimes they get better as they move (warm out of it to an extent)

Stringhalt is usually caused by the horse consuming the flatweed ‘Cat’s Ear’, which can proliferate in horse paddocks during dry spells. It becomes very palatable at these times and horses will really go for it! Cases of stringhalt have also been reported from paddocks where there is no Cat’s Ear growing at all.


Cat's Ear

'Cat’s Ear’ is the dandelion lookalike. It has smaller Cats earflowers on multi-stemmed branches, whereas the dandelion has a single thicker, milky sort of stem, one flower per stem.

Observation and feedback indicate that stringhalt is related to the other neurological problems described here. The condition improves significantly after removal from the offending pasture and good nutrition in particular the feeding of salt and organic magnesium (as in Alleviate or AlleviateC).


Affected horses can sometimes show other ‘Grass Tetany’ type symptoms.
Horses that are well nourished mineral wise are not nearly as susceptible to developing stringhalt in the same paddock that other horses are suffering from it.

In the case of stringhalt, prevention is far preferable to cure because recovery can be a lengthy process compared to other diet related conditions.

What can I do?

  • Spray out your pastures for broadleafs in early spring, in other words be proactive
  • Ensure your horses are topped up on their minerals, in particular salt and calcium/magnesium.
  • Whilst horses with stringhalt need to be immediately removed from the offending paddock, they cannot be confined to small areas or they will get worse with the lack of movement.

Maximus at his worst.

Back to normal!

‘Hitching’ a leg, lifting hind limbs too high are degrees of stringhalt.

"Hi There. I have a little mini that looks like she has developed stringhalt. What I thought was dandelion on closer inspection looks more like Cat’sEar! The pony looks staggery and she is lifting her back legs too high. I have taken them off all the grass – they were grazing on very old rank grass but looks like the Cat’sEar appealed to them more. I'm giving GrazeEzy and SOS every few hours with (about a tablespoon of each dissolved in water)"

This was Tuesday. Ginny had already started doing all the right things which was great. This pony is a good example of how there can be several issues (stiffness, staggers, & stringhalt) but because they are all mineral imbalances. The ‘After’ video was 24 hours later

"HUGE improvement in our wee one today! Walking nicely...trotting. Much happier with moving forward. Still a bit stiff in her back end can't believe improvement!" Ginny, Waikato

Stringhalt - a Good Result for Maximus!

There was a lot of Cat’s Ear in Victoria’s paddock and her lovely big horse ‘Maximus’ developed Stringhalt. You can see from the video clip (below) that his legs are almost hitting his belly! He was also very tight in his muscles and couldn’t trot, canter or go backwards!

Victoria and her partner went around and dug out as much of the Cat’sEar as they could and started Maximus on our diet recommendations.
It only took a few days to see a significant improvement and by Day 10 he was pretty well back to normal. (See video below)

Hi Jenny,
Well guess what? He cantered today! And went backwards. All three got a fright when my partner unloaded a large bale of hay and he cantered! He also trotted after me today.
Happy tears all round! I love him so much and I’m so grateful for your help, 
Victoria, Levin

*Stringhalt is one of the few conditions where you do NOT want to lock them up in a confined space - this is because the symptoms worsen when they have been standing around and then they first move off. The jerking of the limb is exagerated for the first couple of steps and then to various degrees they ‘warm out of it’.
We decided to try the SOS after doing some investigating regarding another horse and came across the fact that the same mineral imbalances can cause (in humans) ‘upward jerking movements of the limbs’ which is exactly what Stringhalt looks like!
Stringhalt has, to date, been difficult to treat because there has been a big question mark over the cause. It was thought to be a toxin on the Cat’sEar, however on looking back on a forage analysis I did several years ago on some Cat’sEar that had caused multiple horses to get Stringhalt, I could now see how it could be a mineral imbalance problem – the DCAD which should be under 200, was 387! 

Another Stringhalt Case

Fiona bought a super little Icelandic horse from the North Island. 
He was on quite lush green grass before he came down to her property in Blenheim:

“The grass here is of poor quality, not exactly sure what kind but it has a tiny bit of clover and cat’s ear plus other rough stuff and it’s very quickly burning off with our high winds and hot days.
I’ve ridden him a couple of times and he was OK, we just walked but he wasn’t really tracking up although I wasn’t asking him forward as I was regaining confidence. Today I decided to lunge him a little first and he started doing this intermittent ‘high stepping’, stomping thing with his legs:. 

Is there something I should possibly be adding to his feed? He is quite round so doesn’t get much but is getting blood tests this coming week as his mane and tail are a bit brittle. He has only started this today after being with me a week. I did then ride him in his paddock where he grazes and he was ok then, walked around went over poles.
I am sure it isn’t his gear causing it as he did it with only a halter too.”

As the hyper-flexion of the hind limbs resembles stringhalt we recommended SOS for the movement issues plus the Premium MVA for his general health which would include taking care of his brittle mane/tail issues.
It took about a week on SOS 2X daily for this Stringhalt-like movement to return to normal; all stomping gone. See second video posted separately
Fiona said she didn’t get bloods taken after all because of the rapid improvement on the Premium MVA & SOS