Just recently, after years of research, I have finally been able to give a name to what my wife and I have been living with for years. It's an affliction, for sure, which when undiagnosed and misunderstood can devastate and literally tear a family apart. Very little is known about O.C.E.A.N. Syndrome. But it is my hope this article will generate interest from researchers involved in the equine and psychological sciences. You will, no doubt, begin to identify similar symptoms in your own family and hopefully now be able to cope.
Obsessive Compulsive Equine Attachment Neurosis Syndrome
(O.C.E.A.N.S) is usually found in the female and can manifest itself anytime from birth to the golden years. Symptoms may appear any time and may even go dormant in the late teens, but the syndrome frequently re-emerges in later years.
Symptoms vary widely in both number and degree of severity. Allow me to share some examples which are most prominent in our home.
The afflicted individual:
1. Can smell moldy hay at ten paces, but can't tell whether milk has gone bad until it turns chunky.
2. Finds the occasional "Buck and Toot" session hugely entertaining, but severely chastises her husband for similar antics.
3. Will spend hours cleaning and conditioning her tack, but wants to eat on paper plates so there are no dishes.
4. Considers equine gaseous excretions a fragrance.
5. Enjoys mucking out four stalls twice a day, but insists on having a housekeeper mop the kitchen floor once a week.
6. Will spend an hour combing and trimming an equine mane, but wears a baseball cap so she doesn't waste time brushing her own hair.
7. Will dig through manure piles daily looking for worms, but does not fish.
8. Will not hesitate to administer a rectal exam up to her shoulder, but finds cleaning out the Thanksgiving turkey cavity for dressing quite repulsive.
9. By memory can mix eight different supplements in the correct proportions, but can't make macaroni and cheese that isn't soupy.
10. Twice a week will spend an hour scrubbing algae from the water tanks, but has a problem cleaning lasagna out of the casserole dish.
11. Will pick a horse's nose, and call it cleaning, but becomes verbally violent when her husband picks his.
12. Can sit through a four-hour session of a ground work clinic, but unable to make it through a half-hour episode of Cops.
The spouse of an afflicted victim:
1. Must come to terms with the fact there is no cure, and only slightly effective treatments. The syndrome may be genetic or caused by the inhaling of manure particles which, I propose, have an adverse effect on female hormones.
2. Must adjust the family budget to include equine items - hay, veterinarian services, farrier services, riding boots and clothes, supplements, tack, equine masseuse and acupuncturist - as well as the mandatory) equine spiritual guide, etc. Once you have identified a monthly figure, never look at it again. Doing so will cause tightness in your chest, nausea and occasional diarrhea.
3. Must realize that your spouse has no control over this affliction.
More often than not, she will deny a problem even exists as denial is common.
4. Must form a support group. You need to know you're not alone - and there's no shame in admitting your wife has a problem. My support group, for instance, involves men who truly enjoy fishing, four-day weekends and NASCAR. Most times, she is unaware that I am even gone, until the precise moment she needs help getting a 50-pound bag of grain out of the truck.
Now you can better see how O.C.E.A.N.S. affects countless households in this country and abroad. It knows no racial, ethnic or religious boundaries. It is a syndrome that will be difficult to treat because those most affected are in denial and therefore, not interested in a cure. So, I am taking it upon myself to be constantly diligent in my research in order to pass along information to make it easier for caretakers to cope on a day to day basis.