Lyme Disease Related to Undesirable, Unexplainable Equine Behavior

1995 San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Instructors Debby Potts, Edie Jane Eaton & Copper Love. Could they be checking for ticks way back then?

Today I asked a question on FaceBook about experience with Lyme Disease in people, which generated a lot of response. I am hoping to hear some specifics of what has actually worked to relieve the symptoms.


The issue brought to mind an experience I had years ago with a very challenging Appaloosa mare in a week long training in Germany. Her owner had had her for a year. The mare had been rideable and just fine in the beginning, but then had a complete change of behavior and could not be mounted.

We did all the work we usually do: TTouches, Labyrinth, under and through plastic, chest driving. She was fine with all of it. Because her owner was so concerned about her explosive reaction to mounting, I basically started her over.

On the 4th day of the training, I decided it was time to mount her and slipped on bareback while the mare stood quietly. The moment I had my legs over her back, she felt like she would explode. It was not like anything I have experienced in 67 years of riding. The strange image that came into my head was as though she had ants under her skin biting her everywhere. You can be sure I slid off before she could react. I was certain she had something terrible going on in her nervous system. Luckily, the training was at a rehab center for sport horses, so I asked that the mare be checked for Lyme Disease and Herpes. Sure enough, Lyme Disease was detected. Unfortunately I never learned whether she could be treated successfully enough to become rideable.

It was 35 years ago that I first had the “ah-ha” experience that undesirable behavior can be a result of pain or fear of disease. That ah-ha has certainly been clarified for me with countless horses who were simply called disrespectful , stubborn, resistant, and dominant.

This Appaloosa mare is only the second horse in all the years of teaching week-long trainings that I have run into with Lyme Disease. The other horse I know of was 20 years ago in New England. That horse had not shown significant improvement, but I don’t remember much detail.

Of course we see it frequently now in dogs.

There is much helpful information on the internet. Just the first piece I read indicated a wide range of symptoms and responses from horse to horse. The Appaloosa mare I wrote about showed no lameness. The very knowledgeable and experienced vet I spoke with did not at first believe that she should even be tested for Lyme Disease. If I had not had such a bizarre “ants under the skin” feeling when I sat on her bare back, I would never have thought of Lyme. It was just an intuitive sense I had.

If you have experience and would take the time to share it, it could be helpful to some person who is buffaloed by unexplainable behavior. The lines are open!

I also wrote on this topic in Seeking the Real Cause of Misbehavior In Horses, and Linda’s Tick Tip. Take a look at the responses to those posts to read some interesting experiences with Lyme Disease.

© 2011, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.


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