Atypical myopathy: the lowdown 

Apart from ragwort there is something potentially deadly growing in your turn out feed. 

Atypical myopathy or “Sycamore poisoning” is a fatal disease of horses caused by eating Sycamore seeds (helicopters) or saplings. The disease results in muscle damage and particularly affects the muscles that enable the horses ability to stand and breathe. The heart muscle may also be affected. 

Due to the wet winter in my area and the carnage of Storm Doris the saplings and seeds are everywhere and the toxins they carry are higher than before. But not all saplings carry the toxins. Not all seeds carry the toxins, but why would you risk it? 

If you see saplings on your fields remove them immediately either by hand picking them or by mowing, making sure the cuttings are collected. Seeds will continue to germinate until late in May, so if you clear your paddocks bow be prepared to hand pick or mow again in a few weeks. 


Check for the presence of sycamores around your fields.  It has been estimated that seeds typically spread up to 3 times the height of the parent tree but in extreme weather conditions may potentially travel further. If you do have Sycamores within 100m of your paddocks then:

  • Regularly check for when seeds are falling (spring and autumn) 
  • Fence off areas where sycamore seeds are likely to fall until you can clear them completely.
  • Only turn horses out for a few hours each day and keep younger and older horses furthest away from the sycamores.
  • Provide extra forage (hay or haylage) especially where pasture is poor or grazing is tight.
  • Ensure the horses have access to fresh drinking water and aren’t drinking from streams or ponds under trees.

If treated quickly typical myopathy won’t leave any long term affects (apart from making you really paranoid about field maintenance). So here are the signs to look out for if you have sycamore in your area: 

  • Depression
  • Stiffness
  • Reluctance to move 
  • Muscle tremors
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Reluctance to work
  • Red or brown urine 
  • Colic like symptoms but no colic 
  • Low head carriage
  • Fast or irregular heart beat
  • Sudden collapse

In the most recent case I’ve seen, the horse was seen submerging his head in his water as though he was trying to cool his brain down. Then next thing he was flat out on the ground and wouldn’t get up even when his field companion was almost breaking his ribs “pawing” him in distress. 

Usually once you get to the colic like symptoms there isn’t much that can be down to save your horse so be vidulent with the urine and behaviour. Call the vet immediately if you notice any changes as it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Any question please post below.

Sorry this post has been so blunt but this means a lot to me as it took my bosses horse only three weeks back and he was quite dear to me. 

R.I.P ENZO ❤️️

Catch you laters,

Eloise💕

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