As Jennifer Johnson stood in the lineup awaiting the judge’s decision with her recently acquired Quarter Horse mare Dobie Breeze, the last thing she expected was that her mount suddenly would collapse in a heap beneath her. But that’s just what happened. Moments later, the mare scrambled back onto her feet and calmly resumed her normal stance, while her startled and perplexed owner looked on. Fortunately for Jennifer, the mystery of the mare’s strange behavior was solved practically on the spot when a spectator informed her that her horse appeared to be narcoleptic. Research confirmed the diagnosis in the following days.
Although the episodes continued, Jennifer showed Dobie successfully for many years after that initial incident (the mare earned a place on the AQHA Register of Merit). During events that required a lot of standing still, such as showmanship and halter classes, she learned to spot the signs–drooping eyelids, a slight lowering of the head–in time to give the mare a pinch or rattle the reins and snap her back to full consciousness. When picking out her tail, Jennifer would remain watchful and ready to jump out of the way in case Dobie started to fall. Crashing sounds during the night often summoned Jennifer to the stable. There, she would find Dobie standing calmly, often with a few new scrapes and scuffs acquired from a dive into the manger minutes earlier.
Dobie Breeze, now retired from showing, was fortunate to fall into the hands of a kind, patient owner who was willing to work with this otherwise healthy and athletic horse throughout a lifetime that would be oddly punctuated with attacks of equine narcolepsy.
One must remember that equine narcolepsy is an extremely dangerous disease, and only professional horse people should work with these horses. The consequences of an attack can be devastating and life threatening to the person around a narcoleptic horse.