Atypical myopathy: fear of horse owners

atypical myopathy. This disease is especially fatal to horses. In 2013, the source of these deadly poisonings was identified – sycamore maple. The latter is widespread in Wallonia and is even popular due to its richness in biodiversity. Some animal associations want to remove this species from the plantations currently subsidized by the Walloon Region.

The non-profit association “Help Animals” is wary. The list of species of the Walloon Region eligible for the planting subsidy includes the sycamore maple.

“It is heresy that the Minister for the Environment and Nature, as well as the Minister for Animal Welfare, continues to give subsidies for a tree that kills animals in excruciating suffering,” says François Hacher of the NP Help the Animals.

In 2013, maple sycamore was indeed identified as the source of atypical myopathy. This pasture disease is feared by breeders because it does not leave poisoned animals with a chance.

“No one wants their horse to one day die of atypical myopathy,” says Dr. Dominique Votion, head of the toxicology department of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Liege. She has been working on this topic for many years and knows how terrible this disease is.

“Sprouts in spring and samarrs in autumn poison horses. Sycamore, even far from the meadow, is a mortal danger. But all the horses in the same meadow will not necessarily be drunk,” she explains again.

For this Varemma breeder, “lack of food makes horses eat anything! Me, knock on wood, I’ve never had a case, and I’m glad about it. But I stock all my sport horses with feed points so they are always available,” explains Michel Rigaud, sport horse breeder Elevage de Longchamps.

As the Uliège services identified the source of the problem, horse owner support was organized. It is not possible to eradicate the sycamore maple, but we can limit the risks, in particular by managing the meadows on a case-by-case basis.

“We support people who ask us for this in the management of their pastures. These may be people who have already had cases of atypical myopathy, but not only. Now that we know the source of the poisoning, we must reduce the toxic pressure as much as possible so that the horses are less at risk, ”comments Arnaud Farinel from Fourrages mieux asbl.

The sycamore maple is one of the most common species in Wallonia, and although it poses a potential danger to horses, it is nonetheless rich in biodiversity.

“Of course, we were asked about this,” confirms Céline Tellier, Minister of Nature, Environment and Animal Welfare of Wallonia. “Our services are in full reflection. It is possible that this species will be withdrawn from subsidies,” she says. “Nothing has been decided yet.”

However, it should be noted that in recent years there has been a very marked decrease in the incidence of atypical myopathy. It should be emphasized that scientific discoveries, as well as weather conditions, are directly related to this.

Sophie Driesen


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