I currently own a filly affected with CA.
Her case is mild enough that I have not
chosen to put her down, even though she will never be ridable. But I want to encourage everyone to learn more about this
genetic disease and to do what you can to help. It is appalling to watch a young horse repeatedly fall down, run into fences, run over people and have trouble with tasks as simple as eating a treat from your hand. ...Also, it's an odd disease because
it varies in severity and it not usually
present at birth. My filly did not exhibit symptoms anyone noticed until
she was a yearling, and this was also true of another filly I know of.
ago I bred a filly foal with CA.
The first thing I noticed, that when the mare was
foaling, it was a very slow process although a normal birth. These small things I always take particular notice
and make a note for future reference.
was born, all looked ok.
Two hours later the foal was still on the floor with no attempt to move, I started to have suspicions this foal was not normal. We decided
to help the foal up, from this time took 7 hours to find the milk (which can be normal). Suck reflex was
The following morning I noticed the foal had a very slight
wobble of the head when focusing on something. I called the vet, I think he thought I was just being paranoid
at this early stage, it was probably the fact that the foals eyesight was not
I watched carefully over the next hours. Upon waking
from a very deep sleep, the foal got up, not front end first but back end first!
Out comes my veterinary book.
very much like CA. 3 vet opinions
later, it was diagnosed.
at Liverpool University (GB) was
very interested in this case. We made videos and
experimented with small tests, for example - throwing a carrot into the
paddock to see what the response would be. In the beginning the reponse was more or less normal, look suprised, and investigate.
As weeks went on the front leg action was becoming very exagereted and balance was becoming more and more difficult.
We already knew the fate of the foal and decided as long as she was sucking
and not in danger of hurting herself we would keep her alive for the mothers sake.
months old she began to fall into fences, the carrot test was still a suprised look but she could not make her way to investigate,
she wanted to but her legs would not go
in the direction she wanted. This was sad, we named the day for her to go to sleep. Upon the request of Dr Knottenbelt we travelled
the foal to the university in a trailer deep in straw so that she couldnt
hurt herself, she stood all the way and loved her
back stratching, she was not at all stressed about leaving her dam. Did she know? we cant tell.
at the university she hapilly walked
out of the trailer with my arms around her body guiding her direction. We put
her in a recovery stable with cushioned floor and
walls, where vets watched her eat hay, drink water and study her reactions, again she was under no stress, she was a happy
A few hours
later she was put to sleep. The
post-mortem showed the cerebrem had not grown, the rest of the brain had. CA. ....Forgot to say, her growth rate was
was `poppy`, bless her.
have seen a CA foal, and its progress, you
can never mistake it for anything else.
Over many years but not recently, I have seen
5 foals with CA, the first one that I bred of all English lines that was diagnosed as a wobbler. This foal was perfect when born,
and by 4 months old had a nodding head and leg disfunction that became increasingly worse rapidly leading it to have no control
and banging into things as described. The
diagnosis was queried with the vets and on autopsy was found to have CH,
now known as CA.
one was of Russian lines and the colt evidenced
it when it was 2 years old – not bred by me for what difference
it makes – but nowhere as
bad as the foal mentioned above.
3 that I have seen were abroad and
of English or American or French lines or combinations, all foals. How do you tell an owner what you feel is wrong with
the foal - that was very difficult to do as they
had not noticed it.
Nancy Bourque/Ibriz Arabians (Canada)
We also had
a cerebellar foal. It was when we were first raising Arabians. We bought a western pleasure champion who was very heavy in Raffles
bloodlines and bred her to a Padron/ Fadur stallion. The foal was fine at birth but we noticed a week or so later
on that she seemed disoriented and if you touched her she would startle and run into the wall...The symtoms started
appearing at about two days of age and got progressively worse... Outside, she
would just wander around the mare and act like she was unaware of what was going
on around her. We had the vet for
her, took her to a clinic etc and after checking out things they said it was cerebellar hypoplasia. My vet brought
me a lot of literature to read on it. At three months we put the foal down. She had gone as far as she could. It seemed such a shame because she ate well and looked like a normal foal but it was obvious she couldn't continue on the way she was
mare had had about 8 foals and was 18 when she foaled this filly. She had never had another cerebellar
foal. I understand from the reading that I did that the trait is recessive and has to be present in both sire and dam to
produce an affected foal. One in four,
approximately, will have the disease, two will be carriers and one will be disease free. After all of this I checked up on what
the other daughters of this mare produced and heard some stories about foals born who died in a strange
manner so I assume that some of the other daughters were carriers as well. The stallion owner is aware of what happened to the
foal but she denies that her horse
is a carrier.
The vet told me not to stop breeding the
mare but to use wisdom in choosing a stallion
for her. Of course, not knowing who was a carrier was a problem. And, people don't always want to tell you if these foals have been
produced... I rebred the mare to another stallion and have a daughter, now 13.
She appears normal but I have never bred her. The mare had several other daughters before I got her and I have heard
through the grapevine that one of them has also
produced at least one of these foals. In the hope of finding a cure or preventative for this horrible disease
I would be pleased to help in any way I
I have a foal I believe is affected also.
Like you she appeared normal at birth but after a couple of weeks I noticed she
was a bit wobbly. I initially put
this down to size (She was extremely tall). But as the weeks have progressed it is becoming more apparent.
mare is Egyptian/Spanish though and she has had 9 other perfectly normal healthy foals.
It is so sad as the baby is the friendliest little soul
I am happy to say we have had such a foal
but understand that it is like SCID in
that both parents have to carriers of the gene and the odds for a foal
to inherit it fatally are the same as for
SCID, 25%,if both parents ARE carriers.
I remember a breeding program in NL, about
20 years ago, that was plagued by what
we called "head-shaking" (schuddebollen). The owners thought they could trace it to a certain line on which they
had based their program. They stopped with the line, had the stallions gelded and kept the mares (I think) to prevent further breeding and started a completely new program based on other lines. I call that very courageous and have great respect for that
Emma Maxwell: (England & France)
I haven't seen a suspect in over ten years
although I have seen it four or five times
in several of the major blood lines. All the foal cases I saw followed a distinctive pattern of behaviour which
I will try to describe. The very first time it became apparent was between 3 and 4 months and was always a response to a
startle. I still watch very carefully when I disturb a sleeping foal of that age into leaping to its feet, becuase the affected foals just show a little tremor or wobble of the head as they achieve
their standing balance. This becomes
undoubtedly more obvious over the next couple of months and while the foal may move perfectly OK when it is in control, it shows
an increasingly more marked head wag,
developing into a stagger when it is surprised. Apart from waking them up, the
other time to watch is when they are have just been put in the field and their mother gallops off and they have to decide
to follow at top speed, when the same tremors and
staggers appear. I have seen one suspected adult case (in Brazil 1986) in a large herd of horses which was very disturbing as the poor mare tried to gallop up an imaginary hill when
her field mates ran away across
the flat field. She ended up going over backwards and was completely 'drunken' in all her movements.
HERE NOW MY STORY:
When it happend in 92 I had 4 foals they had been very healthy and very well done.
All have been from a new stallion I used.
the motherside I used differnt stallions before, in first to 2nd generation
and have never had a problem before.
My foundation mare is 50% spanish, 25% Sahmeth/Marbach and 25% Karmin (polish).
The way my foundation mare was bred I used all this different bloodlines by different stallions
to find out what kind of bloodlines will fit best in this female line. So I did with her daughters. As
I mentionend never problems before using my foundation mare and 2 of her daughters and a granddaughter for this 4 l992 foals.
around midnight, fullmoon, I went to the pastern to check and to sit beside
the horses - it was around June,
July and very warm. The horses had been on a pastern day and night and drinking
water out of pond where the waterflow was not
very high - just by a little river came fresh water in when it was raining. Later the farmers around told me they
let never let drink their cows out of this pond - the water quality should not be a good one - I lived rather new in this aerea.
4 foals (4 weeks up to 2 month) had been laying on they hay and what I felt was that they had been all 4 very cold bodies. This was
just a feeling but as a vet all my instincts had been activated.
I stood on the pastern for more than an hour and observed them. After this hour I felt I have to bring the foals to the stable because I felt something is wrong with them.
They came in and I felt they are a kind of somnolent. They had been drinking milk but all 4 foals temperature was around 35 degrees,
so way much to deep for a warm summernight. I was elecrified. The next day the same but all bloodsamples I checked had
been normal, also liver enzyms. Also the one year old filly was a kind of somnolent but was eating and also here
the blood was normal. I started tho phone
around the world because I had no idea about what kind of disease it could be (U Newmarket, U Davis, U Aukland and all horse vets and breeders I knew).
As I lived in a kind of protected aerea a lot of spectactors walked by each nice
weekend - so I never knew if maybe someone gave
the horses something to eat.
called a professional for botanics to check the environment for dangerouse plants, We found horsetail and treated the horses
but nothing changed.
After a couple of days the liver enzymes
raised up but not extremly but significant enough. 2 of the foals and the yearling filly had been ok after a couple of days the
oldest filly and the last borne stood
ok by blood but not by physics. The filly got this soldier type high legged walk and a little tremor, also the youngest who had
more problems with the balance.
went to the University hospital in Zurich but they couldn't help and had also no idea. After that I called the Univerity of Berne and they want me to bring my horses but how could I bring
4 mares and 4 foals because they
also had no idea about the symptoms I explained. But technically it wasn't possible so one of their chief assistants
came by to see the horses and he also had no
idea about what it could be. So we decided that I bring my oldest and worsest filly so they can check her at U Bern. I did. A week later they told me they cannot find something and for all
my other horses I should give my ok to
put her down.
I'm a vet too, but also a breeder, so I'm
interested in what can be the source of
- genetic and then from where is it comming and how can we try to breed it out or
have also other origins than genetics that causes in the endresult the same disease.
- can it be a combination of some circumstances they come together.
What we know as CA in foals is there [
in human medicine ] known as subacute cerebellum degeneration with Purkinje cell loss (exactely the same histopathology like
Autoimmun antibodyies are doing an autoimmunreaktion against the 34-KD-Proteins
of Purkinje cells what they kill and it comes to the Cerebellum Abiotrophy.
human medicin studies they had in some cases the possibility to make visible the autoreactive Immunoglobulines on the surface of
the purkinje cells.
Often it is also in connection with tumoractivity somewhere. Isn't this an interessting
new link to think about?
szedlisa: (Spain & USA)
In my own experience having bred a mare which showed obvious neurological symptoms
as an 18 month old filly, it was diagnosed at that time ( late 70s) as either a grass sickness or a vitamin E deficiency. And as
the filly had been one of the first imports from Spain, who knows what she could have been exposed to, or what might
have happened during travel. Spain's borders had been closed for so long that really little was known about their horses and even
less about how they were raised.
Leased out, then sold to the lessee the filly grew up and was used as a broodmare.
She produced two extremely athletic high quality
foals which went onwards to win Regional and National honors under saddle
in the USA.. She further produced
several very good daughters some of which were used for breeding. Absolutely no symptoms present. Then BINGO, one severely
affected foal which was put down within weeks of birth. By this time Cerebellar Hypoplasia had been differentiated from Cerebellar Abiotrophy and the vets were called in
again. With the suggestion of Michael Bowling to consider CA, the vets and the then owners considered this new approach. The original
imported filly/mare was to be considered
a CA mare and the new born foal an affected foal.
Still CA had not been proven as an autosomal
recessive. Not all but a few of
the mare's daughters were used for breeding both purebreds and half breds, producing stunning foals in both divisions with equally
impressive show records. We all sighed
with relief. One of these producing daughters, years later at the age of 13, showed symptoms including the head ntention tremors.
She was prompty euithanized. A few years later, a son of one of the daughters, sired a CA foal out of a Spanish / Crabbet
cross mare. His only affected foal out of
several sired but he was gelded. Was this turning out to be a recessive gene?
on CA was extremely limited. Yes there had been studies done and the results published . Nonetheless the every day vet either had forgotten the brief description during vet school or simply was not
considering CA. By this time Ann Bowling had welll provn that this condition was a genetic mode of inheritance with her
test herd of CA arabians at UC Davis.
Her studies, unfortunately were
not published prior to her sudden unexpected death.; however an autosomal recessive was highly suspected and a sex-linked (X) mode
of inheritance was rulled out.
It was about this time that one of the daughters of the original mare, produced a
foal herself with CA symptoms, unfortunately
in an area where the vets did not consider CA as a possibility and treated it for everything under the sun at great expence.
To no avail. This is when I was contacted
as the breeder of the original mare and actually when I became aware of the existance of cerebellar abiotrophy...a short
7 years ago.
Apparently the foal showed a distinct lack of balance, and fell over backwards frequently.
At first its owner thought it was just a question of getting its very long legs properly organized. The foal was
nursing well; started to tuck into its
grain with no problem; ran and played with the other foals; all in all behaving just like any other foal . It was big and did not
seem to have a very good "stop" on itself, as it often did a one point
landing into fences and any other solid object. Big eyed, gorgeous to look at, and really tall, it started to have these little accidents more and more frequently around
4 months of age. Then the head intention tremors started...at first with only an occassional slight shaking which
got more pronouced as it got older. The
owner went through a heart wrenching time as the foal worsened and finally
the decision was made to euthanized it. Those little accidents had become serious and involved multiple stichings, antibiotics and 7/24 care.
proccedure was heart breaking. Anyone who has experienced a CA foal will
1) recognize the symptoms in the
future and 2) will never want to go through it
again. The foal described above was just starting its hypermetric mode
of action...an exaggerated way of walking and running. It was as if it were galloping up a hill (only on a flat area)
and then reach a point where it would fall
over to the side or backwards. At a walk when under stress , each step would get higher and higher as if it were climbing up stairs.
Again on a flat piece of ground. The
leg shoots out from the elbow very similar to the goose-step marching stance of some miilitary forces. In fact the CA foals walk
like a goose, a rather stiff-legged gait with the heel of the hoof slamming
into the ground first as it comes down.
get some more descriptions posted, those samples sent and enough information into the hands of the researchers
so that a test can be developed and none of us have to go through this with our horses.
know I never want to again!
I have a 12 month old filly that started
showing signs of a wobbler in the last
month. I had put her into halter training in March , and the trainer noticed
a few things mid-May. I'm a veterinarian,
and we had another vet come out, and we both concurred that she looked like a wobbler, so we did some neck films. We thought
we could see something at C5-6, which was consistent with the clinical signs at that time, so we thought we had the diagnosis in the can.
to make sure I was giving her every chance, as some wobblers will improve
with dietary changes or need surgery, I
made an appointment for her to see one of my favorite instructors at my alma mater for evaluation and discussion on when we might need to consider surgery. My trainer was keeping her for me meanwhile, as it was a couple weeks before I could get her in.
picked her up from the trainer's two mornings ago, and the trainer mentioned she was seeing her head shake.
My heart dropped to my shoes when I saw my filly, as that indicates the lesion is much higher than we had thought. I thought and
made mental lists of diseases through
the entire 350 mile trip in the pouring rain. It was a very short list.
Upon arrival, my instructor looked, we chatted, and he went to find another
instructor (whom I also knew), a resident, and a neurologist, who is one of the best in the field and whom I also knew.
We all -- that makes FIVE veterinarians,
three of whom are boarded specialists in three different areas -- are 99% sure she has CA.
There is no antemortem diagnosis available. I am getting into contact with UCD; I am on the east coast
and have to wait until they wake up. An
EPM test on spinal fluid is pending -- that is our last hope that she has a weird presentation of EPM -- but
the spinal fluid is normal otherwise. It could be acquired and not genetic, but I'm hoping UCD can help me find out more there. It's also a little unusual in that clinical signs did not start until she was 11+ months old, as usually they
appear around 6 months, but they
may know more on that too.
is home for good now. She can get around and doesn't fall, but she trips if the ground is uneven. Her intention tremors are
mostly noticeable when she is focusing on something. We have no idea if her clinical signs will stabilize, if she
will continue to deteriorate at
this rate, or what. I have no idea of how long I have with her, but every day
is a gift. I know eventually I will have to put this filly down.
What I am looking for is information on the day-to-day dealings with a CA
horse; my glib advice to owners is now ringing hollow. I'm also flat-out scared that this is going to destroy my fledgling breeding program, and that of my filly's
sire's owner, if it does turn out to be a genetic form and not acquired. This filly's pedigree reads like a National Champion's Who's Who with no mention of one horse I had previously heard of being a possible problem. I thought I was safe.
A Black Horse Forum
About 5 years ago, a gal at the barn had
a mare that foaled a filly. These same
symtoms appeared just about the time of the weaning. The head had a knodding like shake....that is the only way I can describe
it. The filly was diagnosed by a local vet, he put the filly thru some tests, one as I remember that was explained
to me they blindfolded the filly and she couldn't maintain her balance. Another test was turning her ( I believe still blindfolded)
and the filly couldn't stay standing
up. I wasn't there...this part was told to me and
it was 5 years ago this happened. The vet felt strongly that it may be CA...Filly was taken to Oregon State Vet school.
They confirmed the diagnosis, filly put down. A post was done...all the test done...confirmed. It was a very sad affair, owner devastated needless to say. The
worst part about it was this was a
really nice filly, seriously nice filly.
Joni Hyrick: (USA)
This has opened up a heartbreak for me
almost 1/2 of my lifetime ago. My first
Arabian horse was purchased as a weany. When she was 5, I bred her to
a local western NY stallion (both pedigrees
I was so very "horse poor" at that age, and put everything into a $300.00 stud fee, all
the best feed and care, and when
her foal was born on Mother's day in 1984, we waited anxiously for the foal to
get up. He couldn't. He'd try, but all he could do was spin himself around in circles. I took emergency time off from
work and slept at the barn. I got up every 2 hours, milked the mare, and fed the foal. I paid for several different vet
opinions, and no one knew what the problem was. We could pick him up and sometimes he could balance. He would always
need to have his head down for balance,
and his front leg's would lift up in a very strange way. We brought the mare and foal to Cornell University where the
head veterinarian at that time felt the foal had Cerebeller Abiotrophy. He asked permission to call all the vet students
to observe the movements of the foal as we held him and let him try and walk. He'd occasionally flip over backwards
if he got going to fast. I had no choice but to euthanize the foal.
told me that as sad as it was, could they perform an autopsy and perhaps use some autopy photos in future
textbooks if the diagnosis was confirmed. The letter from Dr. de Lahunta is attached as well as a photo of "the little gipper",
and the related pedigrees. Perhaps
you can start a database reference which can assist someone else in the future.
We kept the mare and foal in the arena to keep the foal from injuring himself
in the stall. He was only a few weeks old when I lost him.
Additionally, after I received the letter, I forwarded it to Jack Bridgman (the
owner of the stallion). He refused to believe his stallion had anything to do with the foals death (though I learned later
they lost another foal under similar circumstances, but never had an autopsy
done). He refused to refund me the
breeding money, but said I could have a re-breeding! I couldn't believe anyone would be that way. I had extensive veterinary
bills, AND now I couldn't even get the
stud fee back.
I hope this information helps someone else. Joni
CerebellarAbiotrophy.jpg ( 184.11k ) Number of downloads:
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Donna B (USA)
I have a friend who's stallion produced
two CA foals. As soon as they figured out
what the problem was they gelded the stallion and have turned him into a wonderful performance gelding. I am sure
they would be happy to get hair samples from him and the mares and send them in.
As a breeder of ONE CA foal, I would agree
with staying focused with both a & b. It is a heartbreaking disease. Been
there, experienced that.
[a) Become more aware of the causes and
symptoms of CA so we can all help spot
animals who might be affected and help them be accurately diagnosed.
Help support efforts to increase funding for DNA research so that we get
a test for this thing ASAP.]
HOWEVER, I have bred 100+ foals, using the same bloodlines and have NEVER produced
another foal with the same problem. And, with the affected foal, it was a complete outcross stallion, from the mare lines.
But, I only look at 8 generations back.
The only solution is to develop a CARRIER
test. My one experience was devastating
to me, with 10 broodmares. The other two posters,
with 1 broodmare, have stopped them in their tracks! Thank heavens I am
not in their shoes.
I am concerned that Resolutions
proposed, will BURY this lethal disease. A very
large % of the affected foals may be hidden. Develop the carrier test, educate and take away the fear., like we did with SCID.