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Horse stories - The story of Nilly and Viola

The Konik is a well-known breed that can be seen in the ‘wild’ in the Netherlands. In addition, there are also herds of Exmoors in the Netherlands. Exmoors are originally from the United Kingdom. They are generally small and strong ponies with primitive traits. For research I got to see two Exmoor ponies and they shared their secrets with us. 


Nilly and Viola were both Exmoor ponies from a nature reserve in the Netherlands. Both Nilly and Viola had severe summer eczema. The main cause of summer eczema is the bite of the female Culicoides midge (Culicoides Robertii), which causes an allergic reaction with a lot of itch as a result. This is especially the case between April and October. An impaired immune system can cause the horse’s allergic reaction to be more severe. 


During the dissections of Nilly and Viola it became clear what consequences summer eczema can have, but especially in Viola we were shocked by this. Viola had been scratching so hard that a splinter had entered her chest toward the thoracic inlet. This is a place where many vital structures come together. It is also very close to the heart. This had started to infect and had a very foul smell. If an infection of this nature had ruptured, the consequences would be incalculable. 


Hopefully this case has inspired you and given you new insights so that the stories of Nilly and Viola will not be forgotten. The more horses we can study and compare, the more we can learn! Would you like access to more stories like Nilly and Viola’s? You can find these in the online Equinestudies course ‘The Horse Inside Out’. Click here to go to the website. 


Viola’s skeleton was unfortunately too affected to prepare, but Nilly can be visited in Zefanja’s bone garden in March. If you would like to know more about this, sign up for the newsletter on her website.