A much-loved pony is one of five horses to have died of sycamore seed poisoning in the Henley area this autumn. Painted Paula, a skewbald mare who won the dressage competition at her local Pony Club Camp this summer, fell ill at a show at Addington, Bucks last Wednesday.
She died of heart failure two days later after being diagnosed with equine atypical myopathy – poisoning from sycamore seeds – leaving her owner, Eva Machan, devastated.
Eva’s mother, Juliet, noticed something wasn’t right with Painted Paula, or PP as she was known, as she unloaded her at the competition and Eva began to warm her up. “She was sluggish which everyone assumed was because she was ‘tying up,” Juliet explains. “After two further visits by the vet we still thought it was the same thing but by Friday she looked much worse and was constantly lying down.”
It was then that the vet suggested testing for equine atypical myopathy – sycamore poisoning – and PP was rushed to the vet hospital where her condition deteriorated rapidly. “A urine test confirmed the worse and she had to be put to sleep. It was a horrible and completely unexpected experience and we need to avoid this happening to other horses,” Juliet says. “The tree wasn’t even in her paddock – it was nearby. We’ve cut down it down and moved our other horses away.”
Experts believe that a wet and warm autumn has led to an abundance of “helicopter” sycamore seeds, which can be fatal if eaten by a horse or pony.
There is no known cure for the condition; the horse’s muscles are weakened so it struggles to breathe and later dies of a heart attack. It is fatal in around 75 per cent of cases.
However, with prompt treatment cases can recover very quickly. If you think your horses could have contracted atypical myopathy contact your vet IMMEDIATELY.
To prevent it happening in the first place:
Fence off parts of the field where sycamore seeds and leaves have fallen
Pick up/ hoover seeds as and when you see them
Provide hay or haylage if your pasture is poor
This article on the BBC Northern Ireland News site published just last Thursday describes the death of six horses in Northern Ireland and the type of poisoning that sycamore seeds cause.
Please share Painted Paula’s story to prevent this kind of tragedy happening again.