Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hoof Cracks: Causes and Repair - Full Article

by: Stephanie J. Corum, MS
May 01 2006, Article # 6868

Your horse's feet are some of the most important structures contributing to his performance ability, and most people do what they can to keep them healthy. Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong with your horse that can cause hoof cracks to form. Maybe he pulled a shoe in the pasture or grabbed his heel during a competition. Perhaps conditions have been muddy or icy. Sometimes you don't know what happened. Still, there it is: A crack. What can be done about it?

Most cracks are superficial and grow out without consequence. However, there are instances where the crack is more severe, or what appears to be superficial becomes more serious. Then you could be looking at lameness, infection, and a much longer recovery time.

The Normal Hoof

The hoof is composed of a number of regions, including the wall, sole, frog, and the white line. The hoof wall bears most of the horse's weight and is most vulnerable to wear and trauma...

Read more here:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Building a Trustworthy Trail Horse - Full Article

By Christine Barakat

Three seasoned trail riders offer strategies for overcoming the most common spoilers of the great-outdoor horseback experience.

Ah! A nice, relaxing trail ride on a pleasant summer day: What could be better to break the tedium of ring work and soothe the stresses of show training? Just head for the hills, the woods, the rolling meadows on horseback, alone or in congenial company, and all your troubles will melt away. Yeah, right... until your horse refuses to cross the creek or runs in terror from an innocent boulder or takes up a bone-jarring jig that puts you both in a lather for the duration of the ride.

When horses and their riders are unprepared for the out-of-arena experience, a simple walk through the woods turns into a series of frustrating or frightening confrontations. The disconnect between expectations and reality often begins with the choice of mount.

"Most people don't select horses for trail riding," says Montana horseman Dan Aadland, an avid backcountry rider and author of several books on the topic. "I get tired of hearing, 'Well, she's not good enough for the show ring, but she'll make a good trail horse.' Why should trail riding be relegated to a secondary job for a horse? If you want to trail ride exclusively, buy a horse who excels at it, not one who can’t do anything else."

Compounding the problem, says Aadland, is a tendency to overlook the importance of a trail-riding education: "We train horses for very specific arena jobs but expect them to just automatically know how to handle the trail. Then we get frustrated when they don't. Horses need to be taught to trail ride just like they are taught reining, roping or any other skill."

Read more here.

Experts Tackle Equine Laminitis at Research Workshop

March 29, 2010

Goal set to Conquer Laminitis by 2020

On Nov. 8-10, 2009, the AAEP Foundation hosted the 2nd AAEP Foundation Equine Laminitis Research Workshop in West Palm Beach, Fla. Nearly 50 researchers and laminitis experts from around the world met to prioritize future laminitis research needs. The group also explored specific questions about the direction and cost of future laminitis projects.

In the two-day workshop, presentations and discussions of varied topics ranged from inflammation, vascular, endothelial dysfunction, insulin resistance to biomechanics and chronic pain management. The group learned there is much information being generated on the topic of laminitis and they will seek answers to the many questions that loom surrounding this disease. A "World Cafe" session posed a special opportunity for attendees to delve into 10 important questions that will guide a plan for future research efforts and the corresponding funding needs and establish timetable to accomplish the industry’s vision "to conquer laminitis by 2020."

"During the 2nd Equine Laminitis Research Workshop we learned that we must continually develop and refine our vision for the future," said Dr. Rustin Moore, chair of the 2009 workshop. "By continually engaging veterinarians, researchers, farriers, caretakers and the greater equine community in a collaborative effort to advance, expand and disseminate knowledge through research and collective experiences to effectively prevent and treat equine laminitis, it is hopeful that together we will move closer to our 20/20 vision of conquering this devastating disease by 2020."

The 2nd AAEP Foundation Equine Laminitis Research Workshop was designed to build upon the foundation established by the 2004 AAEP Foundation Laminitis Research Meeting, as well as other meetings that have been hosted by the Havemeyer Foundation and the International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, over the past decade. The purpose of these meetings is to move the industry closer to unraveling the elusive mysteries of laminitis and help to develop effective strategies that will eventually lead to eradicating the disease.

Participants of the November meeting were challenged to develop plans for collaboration between investigators and to identify specific priorities in laminitis research for the next 10 years.

Please visit the AAEP Foundation Web site at to see the complete 2009 AAEP Foundation Equine Laminitis Research Workshop report, summaries and related articles.

This research workshop would not have been possible without the support of the following agency and corporate sponsors: AAEP Foundation, American Quarter Horse Foundation, Barbaro Memorial Fund (NTRA Charities), Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health and Morris Animal Foundation. The AAEP also recognizes supporters of this meeting including Marianne and John K. Castle, Margaret Hamilton Duprey, Gretchen and Roy Jackson, Elizabeth Moran, Denise and Michael Rotko and Carol and Mark Zebrowski. This cooperative effort aims to identify priorities for the equine industry and benefit the owner, veterinarian, supporting industries and, most importantly, the horse.

The AAEP Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, was created in 1994 as the charitable arm of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The AAEP Foundation's mission is to improve the health and welfare of the horse through support of research, education, benevolence and the equine community. Since its inception, the AAEP Foundation has allocated more than $1.5 million to support its mission and help horses.

Contact: Keith Kleine

Friday, March 26, 2010

Guided Tour: Horse Hoof Anatomy - Full Article

by: Christy West
January 01 2010, Article # 15697

Clip. Clop. The simple hoofbeats of your moving horse effectively hide the highly complex anatomy and physiology at work inside his hooves during each step.

As a horse owner/caretaker, knowing the basics of hoof anatomy and physiology can help you keep your horses sound and bring them back from lameness more quickly. Plus, it certainly helps to understand what the heck your veterinarian and/or farrier are talking about if your horse comes up lame.

Andrew Parks, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVS, professor of large animal surgery and head of the Department of Large Animal Medicine at the University of Georgia (UGA), puts it like this: "Understanding anatomy is a prerequisite to understanding physiology. Owners need to know what's in the foot for many day-to-day reasons; for example, if the horse steps on a nail, they need to know what structures might be damaged so they know how serious it could be." (Hint: A nail puncture in the middle third of the frog is particularly dangerous because the nail could damage several critical structures.)

In this article, we'll take a tour of equine foot/lower limb anatomy and physiology with Parks as our guide.

Basic Anatomy/Physiology Concepts

"I think of the horse's foot as a model, and try to envision the parts fitting together from the inside out (starting with the bones)," says Parks.

Read more here.

Thrush (Tea Tree for Me!!)

Thursday, March 25, 2010 by Amanda Washington
Lately the word on the street has been thrush. It's all over everywhere- listserves, message boards, product advertisements and billboards. Ok, maybe not on bill boards but for horse owners who obsess over natural horse care, it is a big deal. Mostly I really just go with the flow about these sorts of things.

You can't really change too much of the environment, which is a large part of the problem, so I tend to look for solutions to help without breaking the bank, having to do treatments three times a day or bug my horses so badly they start hiding from me when they hear my truck.

We have had an interesting winter in that the normal period of deep freeze was substantially short. As in, like, a week. We usually go months and months with rock-hard frozen ground, which causes its own set of problems. Instead, this year, we got the pleasure of tediously slogging through a foot of wet, stinky, sticky mud. Mud is gross. I hate it.

I took to hosing off my ponies feet everyday just to make sure there were feet under that disgusting layer of grossness. I sneered when my snowbird and southwestern friends called to complain about the "freezing," i.e., 60 degree days, and the "horrible rain." They forget to remember that not only where we dealing with REAL freezing temps, but lots of rain, snow, wind and all things winter. Otherwise known as torture to me. Ask anyone, I *really* need my vitamin D!

If it wasn't for the Rambo, Khopy would have been covered head to toe with the yucky stuff!

About a month ago when I started legging up my endurance horse, I noticed that she was obviously tender in the central sulcus when I tried to clean her foot out prior to putting on her Gloves. I knew thrush had to be the culprit for that soreness, as her sulcus was super deep and her frogs were deteriorating from the wet mushy slop she called


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Muscles, Tendons, and Ligaments

When it comes to equine locomotion, it takes three to tango.
Galloping a mile on the Curragh. Barrel racing. The passage, piaffe, and flying changes. The horse has always been a coveted creature for his magnificent capacity to perform acrobatlike feats. But don't be deceived: Despite his apparently effortless athleticism, all of his individual body parts are hard at work.
As the poet Lily Whittaker eloquently penned,
"What is a horse?
A horse waltzes like breeze over rivers.
She curvets and leaps like rain shivers.
A horse is a marionette."
Indeed, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments function as the wooden cross and strings that drive the marionette's movement. Horses' beauty in motion is achieved via the culmination of a complex and highly integrated interaction between muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and a variety of other connective tissues. Successful coordination of all musculoskeletal system components is imperative for smooth, fluid, pain-free movement. Injury to or malfunction of any part of the locomotor apparatus will negatively impact performance.
By virtue of their remarkable athleticism, horses are prone to injury. Musculoskeletal injuries are the most common cause of poor performance in horses. Understanding the intimate relationship between these three different types of structures is an important first step in keeping them healthy. This article reviews the structure and function of skeletal muscles, tendons, and ligaments, looks at some common concerns associated with each of these structures, and briefly discusses means of keeping them healthy.


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Inclusion Of Flavonoids In The Diet Of Endurance Horses – Dr Greg Clark - Full Article

March 22, 2010

The health benefits of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables in the human diet have long been established. More recently, however, trials undertaken in New Zealand with endurance horses have revealed a new and exciting role for a particular group of fruit-derived compounds in the training, performance and recovery of competitive horses.

Using a unique combination of red/purple pigments sourced from unique varieties of NZ berry fruits, New Zealand scientist Dr Greg Clark has shown that when taken as part of a horse’s daily diet these compounds can help sustain aerobic performance, reduce muscle fatigue and limit muscle damage.

Flavonoids, as these pigments are called, are responsible for most of the bright red and blue colours in flowers, vegetables and fruits throughout the plant world.

As part of a human diet, flavonoids are an important natural antioxidant source comparative to vitamin C and E but, additionally, flavonoids have been implicated in a functional role in support of the cardiovascular system particularly with respect to improved blood flow to tissues where circulation has been compromised or to muscles undergoing repetitive fatiguing activity.

Read more here:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lateral 101: Move Your Horse Laterally, Diagonally - Full Article

Champion trainer Sandy Collier teaches you how to move your horse laterally and diagonally from one corner of the arena to the other.

By Sandy Collier with Erin Sullivan Haynes

Getting your horse to move sideways off your leg (or move laterally) is key to getting total control of his body. Lateral control of the hind end and shoulders helps you in simple things, like opening and closing gates or backing in a straight line. It also makes possible more advanced maneuvers, like changing leads and spinning.

Teaching your horse to move laterally is best accomplished with a progression of exercises intended to gradually reprogram your horse to move away from pressure, instead of into pressure, as he's naturally hardwired to do. You should begin with teaching your horse to move his front or rear end over from the ground, as you stand next to him unsaddled at the hitching rack, and then as you hold his reins before mounting. Once your horse has mastered the concept from the ground, you'll take it a step further and work on lateral movement while you're mounted, maneuvering him next to a gate to open it and sideways along a fence line.

Read more here:

Deworming Young Horses: When to Start? - Full Article

by: University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
March 15 2010, Article # 15976

The thought of your new foal becoming infected with worms is a bit too much to bear for many horse owners. All it takes is one face-to-face meeting with a squirmy white roundworm, the type of parasite most common in horses under two years of age, and you'll never again complain about deworming.

Although most equine dewormers are, by law, supposed to be prescribed by a veterinarian, everyone knows that these equine dewormers can be easily purchased in your local agricultural supply store for a relatively small price. The increased availability to horse owners might sound like a good thing, but using these drugs without a veterinarian's guidance may be asking for trouble. For example, their overuse and inappropriate use may lead to the development of a resistant population of worms, causing bigger problems for your animal.

Dennis French, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP, is an equine veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana who has studied various equine parasites extensively. He explains that, "most owners are aware of the importance of deworming and start doing so at 30 days of age, but this is not the best approach."

Read more here:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Maggots Improve Chronic Hoof Puncture Wound Healing - Full Article

by: Christy West
March 04 2010, Article # 15921

You might have heard about the value of using medical maggots to clean infected, nonhealing wounds in horses and humans, but did you know they can also help clean up infection in structures deep within the hoof?

At the 2009 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas, Nev., one presenter described improved success with treating certain difficult deep hoof puncture wounds using maggots. Specifically, Raul Bras, DVM, of the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., reported increased success with using maggots to treat punctures of the navicular bursa compared to previous studies.

The navicular bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac between the navicular bone (behind the coffin bone) and the deep digital flexor tendon that runs over it. Puncture wounds that compromise the navicular bursa can be especially problematic because the navicular bursa is a deep structure that's hard to evaluate, clean, and medicate. Bras advised that puncture wounds affecting this structure often go unnoticed until the horse becomes severely lame within hours or a few days. Complications such as osteomyelitis (bone infection) and damage to the deep digital flexor tendon sheath and/or coffin bone are not unusual if the infection can't be eradicated quickly.

Read more here:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hats Off - Monica Bretherton - Full Article

Dressage Daily publicized the fact that top US riders like Steffen Peters and Guenther Seidel wore GPA helmets during the warm up for at the Dressage Affaire competition in Del Mar, CA, last weekend, along with green ribbons in honor of Courtney King-Dye. Her riding accident nearly two weeks ago sent shock waves through the dressage world. She is still in a coma, although her husband Jason Dye posted an update on her website that notes some small improvements, like being taken off the ventilator.

I celebrate the wearing of the helmets. I was squeamish about using Courtney King's accident or even the tragic death of Candace Morrison, a Battleground trail rider as well as a high school music teacher as an excuse to write helmet propaganda, but I am stepping on the awareness bandwagon because those of us who take pictures and write about equestrian events have a role to play here, as well as those of us who ride.

As a rider

You don't have to fall off to benefit from a helmet. I have heard my helmet clunk against a tree branch overhead. I have had a horse lose his footing and fall with me. It has nothing to do with your discipline, either. I know a Western rider who was thrown against an arena wall at a show - and walked away because she was wearing a helmet as an example to her students.

Read more here:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Horse Protein Needs and Sources

Proteins are in the class of essential nutrients for horses, and they are comprised of both essential and nonessential amino acids. The quality of any given protein source is determined by the amount and balance of the 10 essential amino acids.
Protein is essential for life, health, and growth. It is utilized to support lean mass; muscle, bone, joint, tendon, organ, hormone, enzyme, hoof, and connective tissue health. Proteins aid in maintaining the structural tissues of the body and are also involved in metabolic stability by contributing to balance in the body's many enzymatic and hormonal functions.
Typically horses get their protein mainly from forage, but to a lesser extent, grain. Most grass hays run about 6-10% protein. Legume hays, such as alfalfa, can run as high as 12-14%.
Protein requirements can vary significantly depending on activity level, age, stress and workload. For a maintenance horse with no particular special-need, protein intakes of 7-10% are more than adequate. Excessive protein intake in a horse with no increased need can be stored as fat and increase the amount of stress the metabolism has to manage in its processing. This, in turn, can contribute to health issues in areas of genetic weakness. For that reason, hair mineral analysis and/or hay tests are suggested to examine each individual horse's needs.
If the need for a protein supplement is assessed, whey proteins are at the top of the list because of their protein quality. Very high levels and well-balanced essential amino acids occur naturally in whey protein. The branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine support muscular integrity and contribute to blood sugar control. Lysine supports immune function and is the most important amino acid in horses. Glutamine protects lean muscle mass, including connective tissue, and supports brain and nervous system health.
Other components of good quality whey protein support gut health and integrity, which is vital to balancing immune function and inflammation.
There are a number of biological situations that increase the protein requirement to achieve and maintain optimal health:


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Managing the Hard Keeper - Full Article

by: Lydia Gray, DVM, MA
April 29 2007, Article # 9476

Horses lose weight for a variety of reasons--some medical, some man-made. Learn why your horse might be underweight and what you can do about it.

Have your veterinarian perform a complete physical examination to rule-out medical diseases or conditions. There are some common health reasons for horses to lose weight, like parasites, and there are some uncommon reasons, like cancer. The more uncommon ones will need additional testing for a diagnosis.

Then, step back and examine the quantity and quality of the forage and grain your horse eats. Is the hay from two years ago and does it look more like straw? Is he getting 1.5 - 2.0% of his body weight daily in food (for a 1200 pound horse that's 24 pounds of hay and grain, hopefully divided into two or more feedings).

Next, consider the stress in your horse's environment. Does he have to fight for his share of hay and grain? Does he travel and compete frequently? Does he suffer from heat and bugs in the summer and wind and cold in the winter?

Read more here:

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 WEG: Tickets to Ride - Full Article

8 March 2010
Jennifer Bryant

Among the many topics pertaining to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that have generated lots of virtual ink is the cost of attending. A number of horse-sport enthusiasts have complained that the tickets are expensive, the lodging is at price-gouging levels, and the event is out of reach for all but the more affluent equestrians.

So I decided to put on my reporter's hat to try to figure out just how outrageous the pricing of all things WEG really is.

Some readers may not like my conclusion, which is: Attending the WEG won't set you back more than attending most other premium events, and it's a lot less expensive than some.

Here's a brief sampling of comparisons. I browsed (purveyor of WEG tickets, by the way) and a few other ticket-selling sites for prices to this spring and summer's hot concert tours. Expect to pay close to $100 for a sort-of-OK seat (pack your binoculars); you might be able to snag a nosebleed seat for around $60, while the really awesome seats (if you can get them) can run into the hundreds of dollars. And that's just for face value, not what you'll pay after the odious practice of reselling.

Read more here:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Strength and Flexibility in the horse

There are a variety of ways to help your horse be stronger and less stiff.

For an avid horse person, little takes the breath away like watching an athletic horse performing his job in the best of style: The dressage horse suspended in perfect piaffe, the cutting horse hunkered low as he turns a calf, the reining horse spinning and sprinting with fluid ease, the jumping horse in perfect form as he launches his half-ton mass to fly through the air. For an athletic horse to execute a thrilling performance, he must feel comfortable in body and impart strength to his efforts.
Building muscle strength and flexibility is an important part of developing a horse's performance, and the principles of doing this are steeped in science and techniques based on results. A starting point in all cases is to have your veterinarian complete a thorough soundness exam to put any musculoskeletal pain concerns to rest. If problems are discovered on exam, they must be addressed before training can produce success. In multiple studies that have reviewed complaints of back pain, often the horse is afflicted with limb lameness as the primary problem, especially in the hocks or stifles; commonly, back pain is a secondary consequence.
Occurrence of true back pain seems to be relatively uncommon, but it might be underdiagnosed. When it does occur, the likeliest locations include impingement of dorsal spinous processes of the vertebrae, osteoarthritis in the vertebral joints, or problems in the sacroiliac (SI) region where the vertebral spine joins the pelvis. The SI joint is fairly stable through its connection with the rigid pelvis. In this way, muscle contractions of the rear limbs are transmitted through a horse's trunk and back to propel him forward across the ground, up and over a jump, or in sudden twists and turns or stops. Ligament and muscle injuries also occur in the back. It is possible to avoid muscle and ligament strain in the back and hindquarters by developing a muscle-strengthening program that incorporates training exercises and conditioning.
Muscle Action
For movement and locomotion to occur, muscle contractions generate the force to move the skeleton. Every muscle in the body anchors to bone at its site of origin; then at the other end at a distance from the body's trunk spanning a joint, each muscle inserts on another bone through tendon attachments. As a muscle contracts, it folds onto itself and shortens, thereby pulling the bone to which it attaches in the direction of the contraction.


Peak Performance or Burnout? Diagnosing Overtraining Syndrome in Equine Athletes by Hormone Analysis

The Jurga Report

A few weeks ago, I was bemoaning the absence of horses from the landscape of British Columbia during the otherwise-no-complaints 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The more I watched the Olympics, the more I wondered about how the athletes trained during the off (non-snow) season, and how they avoided overtraining.

How do those speed skaters and cross-country skiiers and snowboarders know when to stop training? How fit is too fit? And what about the athletes who do burnout?
It reminded me of what we go through with sport horses and racehorses that are now year-round athletes; the calendars used to allow them a season off, but not anymore.

Are there parallels between horse and human athletes? To my surprise (and delight), I came across some recent research that suggests that future Olympic athletes may have some thanks to offer to our equine friends.

There is a science of training, as any racing, endurance or eventing trainer will tell you, that involves deciding when each horse in your care will peak based on a given training program, and adjusting that training program to fit the calendar for a given competition, as well as changes in terrain, footing, altitude, weather and the horse's mental state because of shipping, breeding or other interruptions.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Electrolytes and Rehydration - Full Article
by: Sarah L. Evers
April 03 2002, Article # 3442

Electrolyte pastes can increase water consumption, improving rehydration following administration of furosemide (Salix). A recently published study was done at Michigan State University on the effects of rehydration during the 36 hours after dehydration was induced with furosemide. The study appeared in the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

Harold C. Schott II, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Associate Professor in equine medicine at Michigan State University and a researcher involved with the study, said that based on the study’s results, "Oral electrolyte pastes can be used in many clinical situations to treat dehydration, as well as to minimize dehydration as a result of strenuous, prolonged exercise. If they are to be used for treating a medical problem, they should be used judiciously, and should definitely be used under the supervision of a veterinarian."

Water consumption, body weight, and blood and urine constituents were measured in six horses before and after dehydration was induced by furosemide and water was withheld overnight. The drug furosemide is frequently given to racehorses and other horses involved in strenuous exercise to prevent or minimize exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or bleeding from the airways. One known side effect of the drug is dehydration from its diuretic activity.

To read more:

The Health of the Foot: To Shoe or Not to Shoe

HORSEMANSHIP Q&A with Charles Wilhelm

Question: What are your thoughts on horses going barefoot?

Answer from Charles Wilhelm: For me, horsemanship is being knowledgeable of and responsible for every aspect of the horse. There are many areas we need to understand about the horse and one of the most important is hoof care.

There is a good deal of discussion these days about whether horses should be shod or go barefoot. I'm sticking my neck out but here goes - this is an area where we should use common sense, taking into consideration the health of the feet and the amount and type of activity of the horse. We also need to consider the type of feed and the supplements the horse is getting. When a barefoot horse comes in for training and the feet are healthy with good conformation, I don't recommend having the horse shod. Some horses have very hard feet with good conformation and will never need to be shod. If a horse with iron feet is working a lot on terrain that is rocky or abrasive, shoes may or may not be needed. We usually ride over many types of terrain and not just rocks. So, here again, we use common sense. The decision is always based on the health of the foot.

Some people say shoeing is not natural. Putting a rider on a horse’s back is not natural either. Plus, a rider adds more weight to the horse and that changes the dynamic of hoof care. Some people are adamant that all horses can go barefoot but that is just not true. Most horses can go barefoot under the right conditions, such as not being worked and being a pasture pet. Proponents - some, not all - of going barefoot have the philosophy that all horses can go barefoot if given time to adjust. When a horse is going to go barefoot, time does need to be allowed for the feet to harden and adjust. If it takes a year to get a horse sound when barefoot, then I don't think it is fair to the horse to leave it barefoot. There are special boots that can be placed on the feet to get them used to being unshod. These are similar to the EasyBoot that can be used out on the trail when a shoe is lost. These may help, but the horse is still walking on a hard surface inside the boot. The more a horse is ridden by a rider who is paying attention, the more the rider is going to know if shoes are needed. The reality is that not every horse can always go barefoot.

You also hear that it is good to pull the shoes in winter and there is some merit to this. Mud often sucks the shoes off anyway and we usually ride less in the winter. It is fine to pull the shoes if the horse has healthy feet and can handle it.

For a horse with a narrow heel, going barefoot gives the foot a chance to spread and the heel to open up. Also, going barefoot increases the flow of blood and supports a healthy foot. The feet are stimulated because there is more contact with the frog and the bottom of the sole.

I like big shoes on a horse because a large shoe allows the hooves to expand. If a horse is shod with a shoe that is too small the hoof cannot expand and will be constricted. The bottom of the hoof wall will contract; it can't expand because there is no place for it to go. As it contracts, the farrier puts on another smaller shoe and this can cause a horse to go lame. The bottom of the shoe should not be smaller than the coronary band. Farriers often keep the shoes as small as possible so that the horse does not lose a shoe. It is true that a horse can over reach with the back foot and pull the front shoe off. I still want the biggest shoe that fits the horse to have plenty of room in the hoof wall for the nail. From my perspective, it is a good tradeoff.

A lot of the bad rap about shoeing is caused by improper shoeing. Many lamenesses are caused by poor trimming and shoeing. A two-day class is not sufficient to gain the knowledge required to shoe properly. I have a lot of different horses come in for training. About 90 percent of the time the horses are not shod properly because they are not balanced (the horse's feet are not hitting the ground evenly) or the shoes are too small. I can understand why there is so much discussion about going barefoot, but a horse’s natural conformation needs to be able to handle it.

I don't believe that all horses should be shod. I do believe that all horses should be shod if they don't have healthy feet. If they can't stand up to a training program or go on a long trail ride without getting sore feet, they need shoes.

Horsemanship is a complete package. It is doing what works for the horse. It is not saying that barefoot is the only way or that shoeing is the only way. It is being flexible and reasonable to meet the individual needs of the horse. It is paying attention and recognizing your horse's needs, protecting your horse with good stalls and fences, knowing about nutrition and health care - a complete package of knowledge and action.

For more information about Charles Wilhelm, his Foundation Training program, clinic schedules, equipment, books and DVDs, please visit or call 877.886.9001.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Healthy Horses Workshop: Joint Disease and Lameness

"Traumatic joint disease is the leading cause of lameness in horses--and it can happen to any horse at any time," said James Casey, DVM, MS, who runs an equine sports medicine and dentistry practice in Laurel, Md. "More than half of all equine lameness is due to noninfectious joint disease and injury. It can happen from one bad step, but it's most likely due to cyclic (repeated) trauma."
Casey discussed joint disease and lameness for a full house of 303 horse owners at the 2006 Healthy Horses Workshop, held in conjunction with the American Association of Equine Practitioners 52nd annual convention on Dec. 2 in San Antonio, Texas. His main point: Prevent joint disease rather than treating it once it has occurred.
"You don't wait until your car is completely broken down to get it fixed; you usually get oil changes and maintenance before it gets to that point," he recommended. "Think of veterinary medicine the same way."
For the racehorses he primarily treats, "We usually go through and inject joints as a preventive treatment before and during the seasons," he said. "Not every horse needs that, but if they're doing maximum performance, it helps maintain health in the joints."
Progression of Joint Disease
Casey discussed the structural and fluid components of joints before moving on to joint disease.
"Joint disease is a process. It starts with a little problem, then it snowballs," he said. "A little synovitis gets worse and leads to pain, which leads to reduced use of the limb, muscle atrophy, unequal forces (loading), more pain, etc. Predisposing factors include poor conformation and joint instability. We cause a lot of these problems ourselves with poor breeding, shoeing, footing, etc."
Inflammation is a key part of the joint disease process, Casey explained--it's a normal body function that leads to repair and wound healing. Thus, it signifies injury. White blood cells play a big role in this process. However, when the stimulus for inflammation is too strong, the inflammatory process itself causes damage to joints.
Casey described the progression of joint disease as follows:
"First, there's synovitis--the synovial membranes (which line the joint and produce synovial fluid to lubricate it) become inflamed and permeable. Then white blood cells gain access into the synovial fluid, burst, and release enzymes that break down hyaluronic acid (HA, a gel that lubricates and cushions the joint) and destroy its lubricant/barrier function. Eventually, these enzymes gain access to the articular cartilage (covering the ends of bones' joint surfaces) and the surface of the cartilage starts to fray because it can't repair as fast as it's damaged. Once the articular cartilage is impaired, it can no longer provide equitable distribution of forces or compliance. The subchondral bone that lies directly underneath the protective cartilage now can't take shock forces, and you end up with bone fractures (joint chips, or maybe bigger fractures).
"Degenerative joint disease becomes a vicious cycle," he added. "When full-thickness loss of cartilage occurs, this is permanent."
Watch for the Signs
"Once you see something (joint pathology) on a radiograph, you're a long ways down the road with this problem," Casey cautioned. "We need to try to interrupt the process earlier. Notice subtle differences in the way the horse moves and how aggressively he trains. If you see a change, call your veterinarian. He/she can perform a physical exam and also may perform a synovial fluid analysis of the affected joints. The synovial fluid's thickness and consistency is an indication of a joint's health."
He also recommended that owners watch for the cardinal signs of inflammation around joints: heat, pain, swelling, redness, and loss of function.
"Digital radiographs, infrared thermography, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can all help diagnose causes of a joint problem," he went on. "One thing to keep in mind is if you've got something wrong in one place, the horse is often sore in other places, too. If he's sore in a hind limb, he might be sore in his back (from carrying himself differently to compensate for the sore area)."
Treating Joint Disease
"There is no set treatment regimen for affected horses," Casey said. "You can go a long way by maintaining proper body weight for that horse, modifying his shoeing, and/or modifying his activity level. Some horses may benefit from a dose of Bute (phenylbutazone) before and after strenuous activity. And rest is always a part of treatment; it relieves use trauma and allows inflammation time to subside and damage to heal. Ask yourself: When it comes to treating your horse, do you just want to patch him up for the pain, or heal him?
"Unfortunately, rest by itself is not enough, so we might add physical therapy, cold hydrotherapy, acupuncture, ultrasonography, shock wave therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and/or surgery to remove fragments, stabilize intra-articular (within a joint) fragments, lavage (wash out) the joint, or employ therapeutic joint injections," he said.
The goals of treating traumatic and degenerative joint disease are as follows, he said:
  • Alleviate the immediate effects of inflammation, including pain and reduced function.
  • Prevent the development of permanent fibrosis in the joint capsule (as a result of uncorrected inflammation), which in turn can cause decreased shock absorption in the joints.
  • Prevent or minimize the development of osteoarthritis.
  • Normalize the inflamed joint(s) as quickly as possible before permanent damage occurs.
He also discussed the following medical options:
Corticosteroids are a good thing when used properly; they are the most powerful anti-inflammatory in our arsenal for joint disease. They work by stabilizing the membrane and keeping white blood cells out. There are several choices of medications; some are more potent or longer-acting than others.
Potential side effects include delayed healing and decreased resistance to infection. When corticosteroids are used properly, the benefits outweigh the risks, he noted.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include phenylbutazone (Bute) and flunixin meglumine (Banamine). "I always give a little Bute or Banamine at the same time (when giving joint injections)," he commented. "And Surpass (diclofenac sodium, a topical NSAID) is good for certain things, but it doesn't go real deep."
Hyaluronic acid is anti-inflammatory; it inhibits a type of prostaglandin that affects joints, toxic oxygen radicals, and cell migration. It also lubricates the joint, helps restore the function of HA that has been lost due to inflammation, and improves endogenous (caused by factors inside the organisim) HA production. Use it for mild to moderate synovitis, and keep in mind that higher molecular weight is better.
Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) is a small molecule that can actually infuse into the cartilage. It acts as a building block for healing joint disease. "It's referred to as a DMOAD (disease-modifying osteoarthritic drug)," Casey noted. "It inhibits enzymes from breaking cartilage and synovial fluid down further and stimulates both collagen synthesis and production of hyaluronic acid." PSGAG (Adequan) is available in two forms, intramuscular (IM) for systemic use and intra-articular for direct joint injections.
Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP) blocks bad interleukin (a mediator of inflammation) and allows good interleukin to work. It's a non-pharmacological approach that uses the horse's own materials to help him heal. (See for more information.)
TILDREN, or tiludronic acid is not approved for use in the United States, but your veterinarian can get permission to import this drug. It inhibits bone reabsorption. It has been effective for navicular syndrome and is similar to a drug women take to inhibit osteoporosis.
Take-Home Message
"The main thing I want you to take away from here is this: Don't let a horse break down before you fix him," said Casey. "Work on him in between times, keep him shod properly, maybe use joint injections as needed. Treat him like your car, take him in for maintenance." It might cost money to inject his joints, he said, but that's a lot cheaper than surgery later or not being able to use the horse.
The "Joint Disease and Lameness in Horses" PowerPoint presentation shown at the Healthy Horses Workshop may be viewed on Casey's Web site: (12.9 MB).