In the spring of 2019, Clara Mugnai boarded her 14-year-old mare, Minor Details (“Juno”), at St. Lawrence University’s riding facility in Canton, NY. She noticed the mare was dragging her toes slightly and went on high alert – her school was amid an Equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) outbreak and that slight difference in her way of going might indicate that Juno had contracted the disease, reported the Chronicle of the Horse.
EHV is relatively common; it often causes fever, mild respiratory disease, and nasal discharge in affected horses. EHV is a contagious disease that is spread through contact with contaminated objects.
However, some horses with EHV develop potentially life-threatening neurologic signs; these horses are affected by Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM).
Juno rapidly became so neurologic that she had to lean against a stall wall to stay on her feet. She was tested and confirmed to be suffering from EHM.
Faculty, staff, and students at St. Lawrence rallied around the mare to assist her in any way they could. The maintenance team created a fabric sling to hoist the mare to her feet when she went down in her stall; they placed jump poles across the top of her stall and used tow straps and a stall mat connected to an engine hoist to get her upright again.
The mare received aggressive medical care in addition to supportive care. After six weeks in the makeshift sling, the maintenance team had to modify their design to allow for the mare’s increased movement in addition to providing support.
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As Juno continued her recovery, the maintenance staff assembled a rolling walker with a sling that was designed by St. Lawrence engineers. The large metal cart had casters that allowed the mare to walk up and down the aisle until she was strong enough to walk unassisted.
Juno has recovered from her battle with EHM with no permanent neurologic deficits and has gone back to jumping low fences in the show ring with her veterinarian’s blessing.
Read more at the Chronicle of the Horse.