Why Footing Matters

Why Footing Matters

Tuesdays with Tony

Have you guys heard about the new World Equestrian Center in Ocala? I hear it’s just incredible! The stalls are fit for a king, possibly even a very entitled cat. The arenas are impeccably groomed with world-class footing. The entire grounds are utterly perfect, or so I have been told by just about everyone who walks through the clinic doors. My very own Dr. Lacher had the pleasure of competing there this past weekend and she reports nothing but amazing things about the facility, staff and overall wondrous and magical place that is the World Equestrian Center. I can only guess it to be the equestrian’s Disney Land, as it sure sounds magical.

 Hearing how wonderful the World Equestrian Center is got me thinking about what type of events they can have there and how diverse of a facility it must be. Of course they host Hunter/Jumper events, but what else? They also will be holding dressage events, three-day-eventing, polo, breed-type events, and a lot of other things. I thought back to my recent blogs about lameness and it got me wondering about what kind of footing would be so universal to be able to facilitate all things equestrian. Digging deeper, I pondered, what kind of footing would be best for rehabilitating the lame horse? As it turns out, there’s a lot to know just about the ground you ride your horses on.

 A Footing Overview

In general, the basics for footing for all disciplines are the same.  A firm base with a top layer that provides a little give without breaking away when your horse pushes. Whether turning a barrel, jumping a stadium jump, bounding over a table in a cross-country course or performing an elegance piaffe in dressage, a weak base that gives to pressure sets you and your horse up for dangerous situations and potential injury. A base that is “sticky” can cause your horse to feel stuck and exacerbate their movement, leading to soft tissue injuries. Similarly, a “loose footing” will not provide support to your horse’s feet and legs which puts undo stress on their tendons and ligaments, leading to injury.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Arthritis

There is such thing as a surface that is too hard. Imagine galloping across an arena that’s as hard as concrete. The concussion on the joints of 1000+lb horse creates inflammation in their joints, causes micro injury and can potentiate the development of arthritis. Not to mention how slippery that might be! Add in a horse that has shoes on and wow, the concussive forces are increased exponentially. A carriage horse whose main job is on asphalt is probably very much prone to the development of joint inflammation and arthritis. I have been told they make special driving shoes for those big guys which help absorb some of the shock when they are working. One of my minions who has carriage horses explained to me that they do not work their horses on hard surfaces for more than an hour or so at a time, which definitely allows them to have longer careers.

 Should you find yourself in a situation where you are riding on hard footing, I suggest packing your horse’s feet at the end of the day with products such as magic cushion or animalintex poultice.  This will help draw the sting out and make your already-spoiled horse feel like a million bucks.

 Soft Tissue Injuries

As I have already mentioned, loose, deep, or sticky footing can place your horse at risk for soft tissue injuries such as suspensory tears or tendon strains. That being said, certain disciplines require a little bit of a looser top surface to their arenas. Reining horses, for example, require a looser footing so they can obtain those awe-inspiring sliding stops. On the other hand, a grand prix jumper would really want to avoid deeper footing. If the footing gave way underneath as they are propelling themselves over 5’ high fences, it could lead to injury. Similarly, landing from a jump on soft footing puts more strain on your horse’s tendons, ligaments, and joints resulting in inflammation and injury. 

 Unfortunately, you can’t always ride in places like the World Equestrian Center. That means you and your horse may be presented with surfaces that are not what you would consider ideal. If you do find yourself in a situation where the footing is not ideal, don’t be afraid to withdraw from the competition. Your horse’s legs aren’t worth risking. Trust me, my docs don’t want to have to tell you your horse needs 6-12 months off to heal an injury.

 At the end of the day, I always recommend standing wraps for a horse who has worked hard and will be stalled overnight. A nice poultice or liniment under the standing bandage will make you feel better and your horse will probably appreciate it as well. However, if you plan to turn your horse out at the end of the day or weekend, forego the wrapping. Standing wraps can get wet, twist, and slip which can also lead to injury.  If you are unsure about any bandaging for your horse just call my docs, they will be happy to answer any questions.

 Laminitis

Yes, I am saying it, the unspoken word: LAMINITIS.  Every horse owner’s worst nightmare. The good news is laminitis, if caught and addressed early on, is not always the death sentence that you assume.  I have many a-blogs about laminitis and would love to discuss it further, but this blog is about footing. How does footing apply to laminitis, you ask? Well, that is a wonderful question.

 Almost always, if your horse has been diagnosed with laminitis, my docs are going to recommend confinement to a stall. The caveat with stall confinement is they’re going to recommend very deep, soft, sand footing in the stall. The deep, soft, sand allows for your horse to move and stand in a way that the footing moves under them and becomes a naturally balanced surface where they can obtain the most comfort.  A stall with rubber mats and deep shavings can provide a similar dynamic, however, it is not exactly the same and the results of your horse’s comfort may vary. 

 If you do not have the ability to stall your horse, the next best option would be a small paddock or round pen with loose footing in which your horse can find his comfort spot.  The key to laminitis is to help your horse find where he is most comfortable, and once that’s achieved, inflammation in the feet reduces and healing can start to occur. A soft surface alone probably won’t resolve laminitis, of course. It takes a dedicated team: your veterinarian, your farrier, and you to give your horse the best chance of recovery. If you have a barn cat, that could help, too, so there’s always someone in charge.

 While not every facility can have the best footing in the world, you, being the diligent, caring, overprotective horse owner that you are, can play a huge role in reducing injury. Horse owners are the most observant group of people in the world, which means you will know when the riding surface is not ideal. But just because it may not be perfect doesn’t mean you can’t ride, it just means you need to be aware of the situation and be smart about what you ask your horse to do. 

 Should you find yourself in a situation where your horse has come up lame or sore, don’t fret, me and my docs are here for you. We can get to the root of the problem, maybe perform some acupuncture or spinal manipulation, and get you and your horse back to the arena without missing a beat.  

 Until next week,

~Tony

 P.S. If you want to learn more about these soft tissue injuries, my humans have a variety of podcasts where they really get into the mechanics of it. You can find them all for free right here on my website, over on the Podcast Page. And if you are a Patron of the podcast, they even have videos on all kinds of cool things like rehab exercises, building core strength to prevent injury, and more.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Pain in the…Back

Pain in the…Back

Tuesdays with Tony

I see a whole lot of things from the front porch here at Springhill Equine. I hear a lot of things, too. One of the more common things I hear is “My horse has a sore back.” Seems simple and straightforward. The back is sore. Fix where it’s sore. Alas, these are horses we speak of, so nothing is simple. Back soreness ranks up there with how the Hadron Super Collider works: pretty complicated. So, let’s talk backs: How my Docs evaluate a back-sore horse, why it’s very often not the back, and what the treatment options are.

It hurts when you push here

Whew! The ways in which back-sore horses present themselves can be the subject for an entire textbook, but I’ll be generous and give you the short version. Cats can be generous, occasionally. The two most common ways my Docs get presented a back-sore horse are: 1) obvious pain when you push on the back somewhere, and 2) bucking. The bucking almost always involves cantering or loping in some way. 

This isn’t the only way back-sore horses present though! From poor performance, to an obvious lameness in one leg, back soreness can show up in a whole lot of ways. This is why my Docs always talk to you humans before and during their exam. They’re like Sherlock Holmes: looking for clues to the cause of the crime. It’s also why my Docs evaluate the entire horse during a lameness exam, and why they may ask for videos of your horse doing it’s job, and why they may want to see all your tack on your horse. It can be a complicated task figuring out if back pain is a saddle, pad, or even rider issue, or if it’s a horse issue. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Why it Hurts

Okay, let’s talk about why horse’s backs hurt. 

  • Tack fit. Notice I didn’t just say saddle. It’s really important to evaluate how your tack fits your horse. Get help from a saddle fitter if needed, change things up to see if your horse has preferences, and evaluate all the tack, not just your saddle. 
  • Sore front feet. Number One reason horses get sore backs is sore front feet. This can be due to things as varied as navicular problems to poor foot balance. If your horse’s front feet are sore, they’re going to carry themselves weird, and that’s going to cause back pain. Pro Cat Tip: it works the same in people. If your back hurts, ask a physical therapist to point out how crooked you are. 
  • Sore back legs. Number Two reason. Put number one and number two together and you have around 90% of the causes of sore backs. That says something about leg lameness and backs! Hocks get blamed for this a lot, but any hind limb lameness can lead to back pain for the same reasons any forelimb lameness can: when your legs hurt, you walk weird and that messes up your back, even if you’re a quadruped.
  • Actual sore backs. Yes, this does happen. I’m not here to tell you it’s only an Urban Legend on par with walking colics (just don’t, please don’t walk your colics). There are things that can go wrong with the back to cause back pain. The most common one is affectionately called kissing spines. This happens when the big fins off the top of the spine touch each other. This causes them to rub up against each other as your horse moves, and that hurts. These horses are almost always worse when ridden, because adding a human and some tack makes the back sink which leads to more intense “kissing.” There are some other issues in the back as well, including arthritis and low back pain, usually around the sacroiliac joint. 
  • Sore necks. This one is sort of just an extension of the back, but hey, gotta include all the parts. These horses usually have trouble turning their heads side-to-side, and their back pain is present, but not horrendous. Managing the neck issue usually fixes the back issues.
  • Miscellaneous. Ah, my favorite category. It’s a category made for cats. I included this one because lots of things can contribute to back pain so it’s important to evaluate the entire horse (even the teeth!) when there’s back pain. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

What to do

The first step to managing back pain is figuring out the real cause. That’s a simple sentence that does little to capture how difficult this can sometimes be. For example, a horse comes in with back pain. On evaluation, there’s some hock pain going on. My Docs inject the hocks, and give you some exercises. Two weeks later the back pain isn’t better, but when my Docs check your horse, the hock pain is gone. This happens all the time, and is usually pretty quickly remedied by helping the back figure out it’s new normal. My Docs have a number of ways to do this including FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation), spinal manipulation (chiropractic), and acupuncture. It very much depends on each horse’s symptoms to decide which one of these is the correct answer, and sometimes it’s all three. Have I mentioned Spa Day? I’m mentioning it now. This is the greatest gift ever for the hard working horse. It’s an FES session, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation all at one great price. Seriously, what horse wouldn’t want this??

I sort of hit step two up there in step one, but step two is helping the body get back to normal. This is done through a combination of rehab exercises, and therapies like acupuncture and spinal manipulation. The back is whack so we gotta help it get unwhack. Just like in human PT, this will often involve exercises for you, the human, to do with your horse. Common ones are shoulder-in, walking over poles, and backing uphill (finding a hill is sometimes the hardest part). These exercises typically evolve into a base set of things your horse needs to work on forever. Just like you humans are better with a left or right paw, horses are stronger on one side or the other. Helping them build even strength will help avoid lamenesses and back pain. 

Step three is believing in your feelings. No, I’m not getting all mushy on you. I’m saying believe yourself when you feel something isn’t right with your horse. Back pain, in particular, can cause very subtle signs. If your horse is doing something new and different, call my Docs for a conversation. Heck, shoot a video. You humans all have those things you call a phone but only use for pictures and videos anyway. Sometimes watching a video really helps you see what’s going on.

Back pain can be a real pain in the, well, you know where. With a solid team approach, you and your horse can get back to great rides in no time!

Until next week,
~Tony

P.S. My docs talk about this stuff on their podcast a lot. And to take it a step further, they’ve created videos on some of the exercises I was talking about for Official Patrons of the podcast. That’s a pretty sweet perk! If you aren’t listening to the podcast, you’re missing out on some great horse doctor knowledge. There’s a lot to know about your horse, and you can find it over on the Podcast Page. It’s what all the cool cats are listening to these days!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Parts of the Lameness Exam

Parts of the Lameness Exam

Tuesdays with Tony

One of the great things about being a cat is that I am admired for simply being. I lay around, I eat, I survey my clinic. My servants would never dream of asking me to fetch things or jump over things. As a cat, I am above that nonsense. But as for the horses that come to my clinic, their people often want them do things. Ridiculous things, like running circles around huge cans of cat food, jumping over sticks they could just as easily have gone around, or prancing around a big litter box with letters on it. It all seems very unnecessary, but you ought to hear the moaning people do if their horse is lame and can’t do those things.

 One of the most common things my docs do at Springhill Equine is lameness exams, so let’s talk about what may happen if you bring your horse in for lameness. There are several parts to a lameness exam that help my doc figure out the problem, and you might see my doc doing some or all of these things to check out your horse out. Some types of lameness are more obvious and won’t require all the steps, but for a more subtle lameness, each of them can be a piece in the puzzle to find the source of the problem.

 Motion exam

If you drive by my clinic, you will often see horses being trotted up and down the grass outside the clinic while my docs watch them. This is the Springhill technicians’ favorite part of the day. They love the healthy exercise, especially at noon in July and August.

 So what does it look like when a horse is lame? It can be an obvious limp in a forelimb lameness. Your horse may not want to bear weight on the leg or may have a pronounced “head bob” when he walks or trots. For a forelimb lameness, think “down on sound” – meaning the head bobs downwards when the sound (non-lame) leg hits the ground. So if the head bobs down when the left front foot hits the ground, the lameness is on the right front leg. For a mild lameness, there may not be a super obvious head bob, especially when he’s moving on a straight line. My doc will also listen to the sound of his footfalls – a lame horse will land softer on the foot that hurts, as he shifts his weight to avoid pain.

 Hindlimb lameness is evaluated differently than forelimb lameness. It may look like a “hip hike”, toe dragging, or a shortened stride on the lame hindlimb. It can also just manifest as problems picking up or keeping the canter leads, lack of impulsion, or even “crow hopping” or bucking.  Don’t worry if you aren’t sure, that’s what my doc is for. If you’re feeling like something doesn’t seem right, just call my doc.

 Some lameness is more subtle than others. If your horse is quite sore, my doc may just need to see him walk and may not need him to trot. For most lameness cases though, the horse is evaluated at the trot, because the symmetrical nature of the normal trot gait makes abnormalities more apparent. Sometimes my doc will ask to see a horse canter to check out how the hind end moves. She will want to see the horse move on a straight line and may want to see him moving in a circle (such as on a longe line) to see how positioning his limbs on the inside or outside of the circle will affect his lameness. Different types of lameness may look worse on soft vs hard ground, so my doc may ask her tech to jog your horse on the asphalt driveway instead or the grass to check out the difference.

 Here’s one thing I want you to understand – horses don’t lie about lameness. Their brains don’t work that way. Your horse isn’t “faking” a lameness when you ride him just because he doesn’t look as lame when you see him cantering in the field. He isn’t capable of that. Some things, like the additional weight of carrying a rider, or the specific motions he is asked to do under saddle, just make a lameness more apparent. So if you notice lameness when you ride, just schedule a lameness exam with my doc instead of thinking your horse is being tricksy.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Physical exam

My doc will do an exam to look and feel for abnormalities in the horse’s body. She will look at his conformation and muscle symmetry. She will check out his posture to see if he stands squarely, since abnormal stance can give clues to the areas of discomfort. His hooves and shoes will also be evaluated carefully – I’m sure you have heard the saying “No hoof, no horse” – the angles and health of the hooves are critically important to soundness. My doc will feel your horse’s limbs for heat or swelling and evaluate his tendons for thickening or pain. She’ll feel the limb pulses to look for areas of inflammation. The joints will be palpated for swelling and taken through their range of motion. The exam will often include an evaluation of the back muscles for tension or sensitivity, especially with a hind end lameness.

 Hoof testers

You may see my doc use a big metal instrument to squeeze your horse’s hoof. That instrument is called a hoof tester and it checks for sensitivity when pressure is applied to certain areas of the hoof. My doc’s knowledge of the anatomy inside the hoof helps her to determine what pain in a certain spot means. Sensitivity in one area may indicate laminitis, whereas another spot may signify a problem with the navicular apparatus. Hooftesters can be used to locate the position of a hoof abscess so my vet can open it up to drain.

 Flexion tests

You may see my doc holding up your horse’s leg for 30 or 45 seconds and then asking him to immediately trot off – that’s a flexion test. The purpose of a flexion test is to accentuate pain that may be coming from a joint, in order to localize the part of the leg that is bothering your horse or to look for a subtle problem that isn’t immediately apparent. Specific joints are flexed in turn to check the response to that area. If your horse has an arthritic hock, for example, flexing the hock for 45 seconds may make him trot off more lame than he was without the flexion. That can help my doc determine the part of the leg that needs treatment. Flexion tests aren’t always a black or white answer, but they can be a useful puzzle piece in some cases. My doc uses her experience to know the appropriate position, time, and pressure for a flexion test, since it’s possible to get an inaccurate assessment if you flex the joint too hard or for too long. It’s also useful for her to flex the same joint on both the left and right sides to compare how the horse responds.

 Nerve or joint blocks

Have you ever gone to the dentist and had a shot to make your tooth numb for a filling? That’s basically the same thing as a nerve block my doc may use during a lameness exam. When my doc “blocks out” an area on your horse’s leg, she is temporarily numbing it to see if that region is the source of the pain. If the correct spot is numbed, your horse won’t look lame anymore since he won’t feel the pain. Unless there is an obvious abnormal finding on her physical exam, my doc will inject a numbing agent into specific anatomical areas until she finds the one that takes away the lameness. Nerve blocks are an injection to directly numb a nerve and the area it supplies feeling to, while joint blocks will inject the numbing agent right into a joint, which is a sterile procedure. Nerve blocks only lasts a couple of hours though, so don’t confuse them for a permanent treatment, they are just a way of finding where the problem is so it can receive the appropriate therapy. 

 Imaging

Once my doc has determined which leg your horse is sore on and which part of the leg is the problem, she will often recommend imaging to get a look at what’s going on inside. This is most often an X-ray (radiograph) or ultrasound. Generally speaking, X-rays look at bone and ultrasound looks at soft tissues such as tendons. Occasionally, advanced imaging such as CT or MRI is needed, but the majority of cases can be diagnosed with the imaging equipment at my clinic. Once a specific diagnosis is made, my doc can recommend the best treatment to get your horse sound and back doing those silly things you want to do with him!

 

Until next week,

 ~Tony

 P.S. Looking for more information on lameness exams? I bet you can find at least one if not a few podcasts on lameness. Check out our podcast here. You can also search back through my old Tuesdays with Tony to see what wise words I have shared in the past. 

 

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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2020 Recap

2020 Recap

Tuesdays with Tony

Wow, wow, wow, what a year it has been! Can you believe we are only 3 days away from a New Year? Where has the time gone? That’s an easy answer for me: I have spent the last 8,349 hours sleeping, the remaining 363 hours I have been eating. Surprisingly, time really does fly when you are having fun. I figured this week we could recap 2020 and talk about some New Year’s Resolutions for 2021. I have heard over and over again from my minions what a crazy year 2020 has been for everyone. I sincerely hope for the sake of my sanity that 2021 is a little quieter so I can get my full 23.5 hours of sleep in each day!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

2020 started off mild, just some buzzing around about the Royal Family when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle elected to quit the Royal Family. Why anyone would quit being royal, I do not know. Being a cat automatically makes me royalty, and personally, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. But alas, to each their own. I haven’t heard much more about Harry and Meghan the rest of the year, and can do nothing but wish them well.

One day, probably around mid-March, I was basking on the roof of one of my doc’s trucks when I saw a client pull in.  Nothing new, nothing surprising. Clients come to see me all the time. This time it was different though. This time before the client got out of her car, she put on a muzzle.  I have heard of dogs and cats being muzzled because they don’t like the vet, but I have never seen a human in a muzzle.  This person piqued my interest, so I followed them inside. 

My mind was racing. How do I protect my minions from this vicious person? What if they come after me, can people get rabies, and can they give rabies to cats or other people if they bite? Needless to say, I was very anxious about allowing this person into my clinic. I kept my distance while planning my attack but close enough to follow them into the clinic. Much to my surprise, I was greeted by my staff who are also all muzzled. No one seemed ill though. No foaming at the mouth, no growling, no obvious signs of any problems among the staff or the clinic. So why would they all be muzzled? I had to delve further into this situation. I confided with Teenie, who lives inside at all times. She told me everything has been status quo around the clinic, and since she can’t see, she really could tell if someone was acting a little off.

In order to obtain more insight into the situation I pretended to sleep quietly in my usual chair. This is when I heard my staff and the client talk about Corona and how they have to help stop the spread of Corona.  Well, I was even more confused now.  Why prevent people from drinking beer? Is there something wrong with a particular batch of Corona beer, and how would a muzzle prevent the spread? Hoping to find out more about this odd behavior I continued my stealthy plan of “sleeping”. This is when I found out that they were not talking about Corona the beer but Corona Virus, or Covid-19. I listened further and learned that they were not in fact wearing muzzles but that the masks they were wearing were to prevent the spread of the virus.  Now it all made sense. 

Things changed pretty significantly around the clinic. Everyone was wearing masks, there was hand sanitizer on every surface, and clients were asked to remain outside the building. My minions have certainly done their part on preventing the spread, and so have all of you. I am bursting with pride at how well all of you have embraced the changes we made at the clinic and during appointments. You all have been remarkably understanding and welcoming of the changes which has allowed my docs and staff to continue to treat your horses with the best care possible. For this I thank you. We have not let the Corona virus prevent us from treating your horses and we will continue to do whatever is necessary to keep everyone safe while providing top veterinary care to your equine companions.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

I am pretty sure we have heard enough about the Corona virus. But what about those Murder Hornets? What a short-lived fright to give us all just a brief distraction from the pandemic mayhem.  I guess avoiding hornets is significantly easier than avoiding microscopic virus particles. Nevertheless, Murder Hornets cannot be forgotten and I remind you all to stay diligent and avoid wasps and any kind of stinging insects. 

Speaking of stinging insects, there were plenty of outbreaks of Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus that affected horses all over the country this year. Those pesky mosquitos really took advantage of the warm humid weather. Reports of EEE and West Nile were made in our own back yard in Alachua County. Even though we have had freezing cold temperatures the last few days, mosquitos are still all around and can still spread these viruses. Here is your reminder to get your horses vaccinated twice a year to help prevent them contracting one of these deadly viruses.

The rest of 2020 has not been all fun and games either. From the presidential election to numerous protests, there has not been a lack of news out there. We have seen wildfires out west and deaths of many famous people including Kobe Bryant, Eddie Van Halen, and Alex Trebek.  Now we are witnessing the release of the first Covid-19 vaccines. 2020 is sure to go out with a bang leaving everyone hoping that 2021 brings a bright future with health and happiness for all. 

I am sure you all have your ideas of New Year’s Resolutions heading into 2021. I have one more that I want you to add to your list.  Sign your horses up on the 2021 Wellness Plan. This is the best way to keep your horses happy and healthy. Help me, help you, to help my docs, help your horse.  My Wellness Plans will keep your horses up to date on vaccines and routine dental examinations and flotations. In my opinion, the biggest perk of the Wellness Plan is that any horse who is enrolled on a Wellness Plan will not be charged an emergency fee should the need to call my docs after hours arise. 

Needless to say, 2020 has been an interesting year. You and your horses have all been amazing as usual.  I speak not only for myself but for everyone here at Springhill Equine: we are looking forward to a bright New Year in 2021 with you all!

Until next week/year,

~Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Justin B. Long author books

101 Ways to Feed Hay

101 Ways to Feed Hay

Tuesdays with Tony

I understand why horses are often, not so affectionately, referred to as hay burners. Especially this time of year, they can really down some hay. I don’t know how, or why, you humans put up with it. Hay is HARD WORK! Something we cats abhor. Not only do you have to buy the hay, but you also have to unload it once you get home, and then schlep it at least daily to your horse’s chosen dining location. That’s exhausting, and you get hay where no one should have hay based on the conversations around the clinic. My understanding is that a piece of hay lodged in a bra is on par with one of Dante’s circles of Hell. And yet here we are talking hay. I’ve talked about a lot of things when it comes to hay, so today I thought I’d get you humans up to speed on new and innovative ways to feed that hay so it lasts longer! Who’s looking out for the humans??

Nothing but net

Step 1 in the efficient hay feeding process involves a device which will slow your voracious equine down. There are many options (don’t worry I’ll hit most of them), but let’s start with nets. Oh, how far the lowly hay net has come from the large, horse-leg-sized holes of my youth. These days hay nets come in every size, shape, and size-of-hole a cat could dream of. Establishing how much hay you want to feed at a time will help you choose, but be aware there are some very, very cool options that could help you get pretty creative here. 

Let’s start with the typical hay net. 

You’ve got old school:

I don’t recommend this kind. They are made for hay to fall out of, horse feet to go into. They do work great to hang box fans on a stall front. Side note here: don’t leave box fans unattended. They like to catch on fire.

I prefer new school ones like this:

Much smaller holes so no feet can go through. Shoes can get stuck in them so I do recommend they are hung high enough to prevent pawing of the net, or they are located behind some protection like this:

Which brings me to things you can do with netting. Holy human ingenuity. Turns out with some netting and some hardware, you can turn about anything into a slow hay feeder. 

Truly all you have to do is decide how much hay you want to feed at a time, then use the Google machine to find an idea for how to do it. There are so, so many ideas out there.

Even more options!

Let’s say you don’t like nets, or, and this is a for-real problem, you have a horse who looks at nets as an opportunity to see how fast they can chew a big old hole in them. We’ve got alternatives! Nylon webbing is a great one to start with. These are along the same idea as the hay net, but use webbing instead. Depending on the type of webbing used, these can stand up to even the most committed hay net destroyer. Biggest drawback is they don’t come in the wide variety of sizes and shapes that nets do. They do last forever though!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Other options are really heavy duty plastic feeders like the Portagrazer and the High Country Plastics Slow Feeder Saver. These are more expensive than the net and web options. However, they offer durability as the tradeoff. Pretty sure these are a one time purchase kinda thing. They are built to last! 

I’m going to conservatively guess that 99% of the horses we see here at Springhill Equine are on a diet, but that dang equine gut wants food all the time. Using one of the plethora of options I’ve provided can give your horse hours of entertainment, give their gut the continuous small meals it so desires, and give your wallet a break! What’s not to love about that? 

Want even more information? My humans are full of it! Subscribe to Straight From the Horse Doctor’s Mouth podcast, or check out any of the thousands of blogs I’ve written. 

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Before you start clicking links to check out those hay feeders, take a second to scroll down and subscribe to my blog. Don’t rely on Facebook to show you the latest post, they’re unreliable. It’s because they don’t have a cat in charge. 

Also, Christmas is upon us. Whether you’re staying home or seeing family, you’ll need a good book to get you through it. Trust me. If you click on the green banner below, you’ll learn all about the Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband series. It will get you through the holidays, and if you need a last-second gift, it will double for that, as well. It’s a win-win! 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Wellness Plans 2021

Wellness Plans 2021

Tuesdays with Tony

It’s a chilly December in Florida and I’m celebrating the season by finding the warmest patches of sunshine in the Springhill Equine parking lot and knocking holiday decorations off the counters. Meanwhile, my clinic humans are busy preparing for the new year, and that includes a lot of talk about Wellness plans.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Wellness plans are the discounted healthcare packages available from Springhill Equine to take care of your horse’s routine healthcare. Because the needs of an active show horse differ somewhat from the pasture pet that never goes further than the greenest patch of grass in your back yard, we have 3 different plans to best fit your horse’s lifestyle. Personally, I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t sign up for one of these plans, unless they like shredding up dollar bills as much as I like shredding potted plants.

 The Pasture Pet plan is for the homebody. You rarely take your horse off property and there’s not much horse traffic on and off your farm to expose your horse to diseases carried by other horses. But don’t give me the excuse that your horse doesn’t travel so he doesn’t need vaccines. Mosquitoes travel on to your property and so can a rabid raccoon. They carry deadly diseases and they’re not going to respect your property lines. The Pasture Pet plan is perfect to take care of your horse’s basic healthcare needs. It includes wellness exams and the EWT/WN vaccine twice a year, and the rabies vaccine, coggins, dental float, sheath cleaning, fecal exam, and deworming once a year. This plan is $430 a year.

 The Weekend Warrior plan is great for the horse that heads out to trail rides or small horse shows occasionally. Because he’ll be exposed to other horses, his risk for diseases such as rhinopneumonitis and influenza is increased. In addition to everything on the Pasture Pet plan, the Weekend Warrior plan also includes vaccination against Rhino and Flu to keep your partner well protected. This plan is $500 a year.

 If you’re actively showing in any discipline, the Performance Plan is designed for your horse. In addition to all that other stuff, we include an extra visit to identify and address any minor problems and a 3rd EWT/WN/Rhino vaccine, since your horse has a significant exposure level. This is also a good plan for horses younger than 3 years old who need extra vaccines to stay safe. Bonus – you even get a $10 discount off each Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) session! Don’t get me started on how awesome FES is for treating muscle pain and giving your horse that extra competitive edge. That’s a topic for another day. The Performance plan is $620 a year.

 If you add up all the services in any of the Wellness Plans, the discounted package price of the plan is significantly cheaper than if you paid for all the things separately. You want your horse taken care of? Yes of course you do. And who would want to pay more for that stuff than necessary? I feel sure you could find better things to buy with the money you save. Like cat nip, or that salmon filet you left out on the counter the other day. Puurrrrr.

 One of the best things about being on Any of our Wellness Plans is that you pay NO EMERGENCY FEES! That’s a $100-$150 value for each emergency! You really want to pay an extra hundred bucks every time you need one of my docs on emergency? Do you enjoy shredding $100 bills in your spare time? It’s not like your horses are going to give you a break from colics, or lacerations, or hoof abscesses. I mean, you have met horses, right? You know they will find any way imaginable to get hurt. Our Wellness Plans are literally handing you back the $100 that your horses are definitely planning to cost you. They are plotting this right now. I can hear them plotting, can’t you?

 I know you forget stuff. You have notes taped up on your fridge or you have lists on your phone. Or maybe you do neither of those things and you just accept that you are hopeless at remembering things. The last thing you need right now is more stuff to remember, like when your horse is due for his vaccines or his dental float. I mean, we just had to live through 2020…I think you’ve had enough stress, right? But guess who is still planning to visit your horse even though you forgot to schedule his vaccines? Good ol’ Mikey Mosquito, zooming around your horse’s field, giving the gift of West Nile Virus with every bite. The vaccine lasts 6 months, but in Florida, mosquitoes are forever! Do yourself a favor and let my awesome Springhill office staff remind you when it’s time for your appointment.

 You can find the link to the Wellness plan sign ups right here on the Springhill Equine website. Now is the time – we’re signing up for 2021 Wellness right now!

 Until next week,

 Tony

P.S. I almost forgot to mention we have a Wellness 2021 contest going on! Check out the flyer below and be sure to sign your horse or donkey up to be entered. A FREE Pasture Pet Wellness Plan or a FREE SPA DAY are up for grabs.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Castrating Horses

Castrating Horses

Tuesdays with Tony

CASTRATING HORSES

This past Saturday was one of my favorite Saturdays of the year. I hosted veterinary students from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine for a day of fun. Every year I have the students out to the clinic to get hands-on experience with my docs performing castrations on horses and donkeys of all ages and sizes.

This year was a little different because of COVID but we made it work. I hosted 24 veterinary students and 16 horses for Saturday’s festivities. All the students got to practice basic physical examinations, medication dosage calculations, intravenous catheter placements and routine castration procedures all while under the watchful eye of my docs. I spent my time monitoring the lunch portion of the day and making sure that each and every student checked in with me for mandatory petting prior to starting the day. Needless to say, a “ball” was had by all.

While overseeing the activities on Saturday I got to thinking about how many castrations my docs do every year, when and why they perform castrations, and what sort of complications can occur. Then I starting thinking, if I’m wondering about these things, you all must also be wondering about them, and luckily for you, I am here with the info.

WHEN

Saturday was utterly exhausting for me. I only got 20 hours of sleep instead of my usual 23 hours. But nonetheless, I woke up early for you all on Sunday and started my research on castrations. What I found was pretty interesting. There is conflicting information floating around out there about what the best age to castrate a horse is. Some think that the earlier it is done the better and will allow the horse to grow large. Others think if it is done too early that the horse will not grow enough. Still others think that waiting until the horse is at least a year old is the way to go. My motto and the motto of my docs is if it has two testicles that are dropped and easily palpable, it’s time for them to go. My docs do not set an age limit young or old on castrations. I have seen them done on horses as young as 4 months old to as old as 21 years old. Age is just a number. That being said, it is possible that the complication rate may be slightly higher for the younger and older age group of horses. However, there are very few situations in which a castration would not be recommended by one of my docs.

The time of year is also important to consider when performing castrations. Castrations in the summer are more prone to complications from insects. But who wants to do a castration in the freezing cold of winter? Not me, I am a warm weather kitty! Ideally spring and fall when the temperatures and weather are mild are the best times to have your horse castrated. A little heat, a few bugs, and some cold temperatures will not stop my docs, though.

WHY

There are a countless number of reasons to castrate your horse. The number one reason people get their horses castrated is behavior.  When your horse’s testicles are removed, their testosterone levels drop, aggressive behavior decreases, and the urge to breed is decreased. It is a stallion’s natural instinct to be protective and to want to be involved with mares. This can become troublesome when it comes to performance horses. Schooling areas are busy places and a stallion who is following his instincts can be dangerous to the other horses in the area. Similarly, the world is a lonely place for stallions. They don’t get to be turned out with other horses, so they live a solitary life. This is for protection of the stallion and others. Castrating your horse will alleviate the stress that comes along with owning a stallion.

Another reason to consider castration is horse overpopulation. There are unwanted horses throughout the country and across the world. Unwanted horses can end up in horrible situations. They can be neglected, starved, and even sent to a kill pen at auction or slaughtered. Castrating horses who are not intended for breeding purposes helps to lower the unwanted horse population and decrease the horse overpopulation situation.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

COMPLICATIONS

While everyone here at Springhill Equine thoroughly loves a good castration (I mean, I have an entire day dedicated to castrations, so if that’s not love, I don’t know what is), as with anything horse related, there are complications that must be considered when a castration is performed.

First and foremost, all castrations that my docs perform are performed under injectable anesthesia. This means that after a thorough physical examination, the horse is sedated and then laid down for the remainder of the procedure. This ensures the safety of my docs, my techs, owners, and the horse. That being said, anytime a horse is sedated and placed under anesthesia there is the risk of death. Death is extremely unlikely, but it also has to be considered when deciding to perform any kind of surgery, including castrations. Recovery from anesthesia also presents some risk and possible complications. Such complications include tendon and ligament injury as well as the possibility of breaking a limb during recovery. Again, these complications are rare but must be mentioned.

Some other complications that are slightly more common include bleeding from the surgical site, excessive swelling, and infection. A small amount of blood after surgery is normal and expected. Testicles being the annoying little suckers that they are, are extremely vascular. This opens the possibility that a horse may not clot well or may become too active shortly after surgery and disrupt the clot resulting in excessive bleeding.  Horses are giant creatures and can stand to lose a large amount of blood safely, but if the bleeding does not stop it can be a life-threatening situation.

The aftercare protocol my docs follow after a castration is designed to reduce the risk of swelling. Occasionally some horses will develop more swelling than expected at their surgical site. Luckily, this usually can be resolved with some anti-inflammatories, controlled exercise, and cold hosing.

Finally, any surgery, including castrations, opens up the patient to infection.  Some infections can be minor and easily treated with systemic antibiotics. Others can become more serious and travel up the surgical site into the body and form abscesses. These kinds of infections can cause the horse to become systemically sick and may require surgery to correct the problem.

Needless to say, I really love castrations, particularly when they involve students who provide me with all the love. Castrations make for some really lovely geldings in this world. Who doesn’t love a gelding? Be sure to talk with my docs about any questions or concerns you may have prior to scheduling your horse’s surgery.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Looking for more information on castrating your horse or donkey? My docs have spent a lot of time working on their podcast, be sure to check them out on the podcast page of our website. While on our website, be sure to check out our Wellness Plans. We are currently signing up for the 2021 calendar year.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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EPM

EPM

Tuesdays with Tony

There’s a crazy bug out there. It lives in critters that wander the pastures with your horses. In a very few horses this bug gets into the spinal cord, and wreaks all kinds of havoc. What am I talking about? Equine Protozoal Myeloenchepalitis, or EPM. Three letters that strike fear into the hearts of horse people everywhere. This week, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t be scared of a little old E, P, and M, and why, sometimes, you should be. But first here’s a spoiler: your horse most likely doesn’t have EPM. Cats love spoilers. We’re a little bit evil like that. 

Let’s talk Lifecycle

Where does this bug come from? That’s a complicated answer. You see, bugs like the one that causes EPM go through several different life stages inside several different animals on their way to adulthood. I’ve gotten ahead of myself. 

To begin with, there are two main bugs that cause EPM. They are Sarcocystis neurona, and Neospora hughesi. Being a cat, I’m going to start with the easier of the two: Neospora hughesi. Humans don’t know a thing about this one. That’s right. They don’t know what animals it comes from or how it goes through its life cycle. Moving on to Sarcocystis neurona. This guy hangs out in a wide variety of animals during its teenage years. Racoons, skunks, armadillos, sea otters, and, whoa, wait, what?!? Even cats(!!) can help these guys go from babies to teenagers. 

After Sarcocystis neurona reaches teenagehood, it moves onto opossums, and almost definitely some other critters, but humans aren’t sure which ones. From there the adults hang in the opossum GI tract, which sounds like an awful place to live, and spit out eggs which are then spread by opossums pooping. Did you notice I didn’t mention horses anywhere in there? Yeah, that’s because they aren’t supposed to get them. Horses don’t work as a good choice for completing the life cycle. The little guys get to be teenagers, but then can’t leave. I hear you humans sometimes have a similar problem.  The technical term for this is aberrant intermediate host. Kinda like Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Horses aren’t supposed to have this organism living in them. Good job, horses. 

Those troublesome teenagers

Alright, back to teenage EPM organisms. What do they do to cause trouble? When a horse gets infected, these guys head for the brain and spinal cord. When they do, they start to take up space where there already wasn’t much room. This is sounding more and more like human teenagers. That space was used by a nerve that was sending a signal to some body part, or doing something important if it’s inside the brain. This explains why EPM symptoms can vary so wildly! It all depends on where that tiny guy takes up residence. 

The most common symptom of EPM is an area of muscle wasting away before your very eyes. OK, maybe not that fast, but certainly over a few days. Now, there are a bunch of different things that can cause this. EPM does it by taking up the space where the signal is formed on the spinal cord, and squishing it. EPM usually causes those signals to be blocked in a very one-sided way. For example, if the muscle on the forehead is affected, it will be only the right or left one, not both. That little organism would have to line itself up very, very purposefully to hit the signal for both sides of the body. That’s probably tough when you are made up of only one single cell. These bugs can be anywhere in the spinal cord, or, less often, brain, which means any muscle can be affected. To make things even more confusing, they can be affected badly, or mildly. This can make diagnosing EPM a challenge. Whoa, that was an awesome segway into my next section.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Diagnosing EPM

I’m going to start discussing diagnosis with a few statistics. For the entire United States, current best estimates are that 0.14% of the horses get actual EPM. That’s not a lot of horses. The odds are it’s not your horse. For the State of Florida, that’s 539 horses out of the 385,000 horses that live here. Again, a very tiny number. I can hear you humans now…..but my neighbors, cousins, sisters friend had her horse tested and it was positive. More on that in a minute. 

So you’ve called my Docs because you checked with Dr. Google (you know you did) and Dr. Google said EPM. My Docs are going to start with a very thorough physical exam focusing on symmetry. Remember, I talked about how important that was earlier. Then they’re going to ask your horse to do some fancy footwork to make sure your horse knows where his feet are. They ask for backing, spinning in tight circles, and walking with the head up and the head down at the very minimum. Based on that exam, they’re going to decide if they should continue on with testing for EPM. 

There’s only one tried and true way to diagnose EPM, and that’s a spinal tap. This is where a needle is placed into the area around the spinal cord, and some fluid is removed. Yes, it sounds scary. It is a tiny bit scary. However, it is a low risk procedure that can even be done with your horse standing. This is the only test that will tell you if there are organisms in the spinal cord. That’s right. The one and only test. Yes, yes your friend of a friend of a friend had a blood test. There are several available. They all are good if they’re negative, but worthless if they’re positive. No, I am not being a contrary cat. Allow me to explain. 

A negative blood test for EPM means there is no evidence of exposure. This means your horse hasn’t seen an EPM organism in the past 12-18 months minimum, or that your horse was literally just exposed and hasn’t had time to acknowledge the presence of EPM yet. That second scenario is super unlikely. The body mounts an attack in as little as 3 days. The chances that you are seeing symptoms, have gotten an appointment with my Docs, and had a blood test done and three days haven’t passed are pretty miniscule. It’s close to the chance I could walk by a piece of tuna without gobbling it down. So that’s negative. 

A positive test only means your horse has had an EPM organism inside them. In some areas that can be as many as 90% of the horses. Back to that 0.14%. This means that of those 90%, 99.84% of them clear the organism by themselves.  The immune system is impressive like that. It’s how we stay alive. It’s also why a positive blood test doesn’t mean a whole lot. A positive spinal tap, on the other hand, is really, really significant! 

Treating the beast

Well, you’ve lost the horsey lottery, and gotten a positive spinal tap back. What now, you ask? The good news is we have some good drugs to treat these nasty bugs with. The biggest two we use are Marquis and Protazil. Both are a drug that specifically targets the EPM organism and knocks it down. Both are pretty pricey. This means typically my Docs start with one of these drugs then transition to a cheaper drug that does a great job killing these nasties once they’ve been weakened. The most common version they use is one called Rebalance. 

These drugs are usually used for about 3 months total. Then your horse is back to normal, right? Nope. Nerves take a long time to grow back. It’s typically 10-12 months before horses are fully healed, and it’s going to take a whole lot of rehab to get them back there. It’s also important to know that the worse off the horse is when treatment starts, the harder it is to get them back to normal. That’s a kick in the pants right there. This is why it’s important to call my Docs quickly when you think your horse isn’t quite right. EPM, like most things, does best when diagnosed and treated quickly. 

A little mythbusting

I can totally hear you muttering under your breath that you treated your horse for EPM and it got better from whatever it was it was doing. Let’s talk about why you may be right. The drugs we use to treat EPM have what my Docs call an anabolic effect. This is like the steroids those sports guys took, and they got in big huge trouble. They build muscle, reduce inflammation, all kinds of good stuff. Unlike the ones the sports guys took, these drugs only have a smidge of this effect. However, it’s enough to make your horse feel better. And that’s what really happened when you gave EPM medications and your horse felt better. Wouldn’t you rather know what was really bugging them, and treat that instead? A smart cat would. 

I get it. EPM is scary, and complicated, and Dr. Google, and all your friends say it’s everywhere. Rest easy tonight knowing it isn’t everywhere, and chances are good (0.14% good) your horse doesn’t have it. Instead, call my Docs, set up an appointment and talk with them about what’s going on. They’ll help you find the reason, and design a program that gets you back enjoying your horse in no time!

Until next week,
~Tony

P.S. If I haven’t given you enough information here, the humans did an entire podcast episode about EPM, and why your horse probably doesn’t have it. You can find it over on the Podcast Page.

 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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How to Bandage Horse Legs & Feet

How to Bandage Horse Legs & Feet

Tuesdays with Tony

For reasons unknown to me, horses simply love to injure their legs. Yet more proof that us cats are superior to horses, am I right? And they are so creative about it! Lameness or lacerations, tendonitis or trailer rides…there are many reasons why my docs might ask you to bandage your horse’s leg. If you don’t know how to do it, it can be a bit intimidating. And though bandaging is really useful, if done wrong it can actually do more harm than good. This week, I’m going to go through two of the most common bandages and the materials you’ll need for them. My doc will direct you on which one to use when she sees your horse, but if you follow my instructions, you’ll be well prepared!

Standing bandages

Springhill Equine Veterinary ClinicThis is the most common type of bandage, applied around the horse’s lower leg from the top of the cannon bone down to the fetlock or pastern. The basic materials are a thick padding and a compressive bandage on top. A standing bandage is great for covering a wound, supporting an injured tendon, or controlling swelling. It’s also a good option for protecting your horse’s legs when trailering. Keep in mind, this is not the same thing as a polo wrap that you might ride a horse in. Let’s look at the layers first so you know what to have on hand.

 The quilt or “cotton” layer: It’s a thick, cushy padding. Even though it may be called a “cotton”, I do NOT mean the kind of cotton roll that pulls apart into bits. My doc uses that stuff for cleaning sheaths. She hates it for leg wraps, because it bunches up and causes pressure points or the little cotton fibers stick to the wound. You have 2 options for this bandage layer. One is a disposable product such as a combine roll that is commonly used in a hospital to cover a wound. This is only meant to be used once and can’t be washed.

 

The other option is a fabric wrap like a quilt or “no-bow” bandage. These can be washed and reused indefinitely and are really useful to have around the barn. In my not-so-humble opinion, all horse people should own them. Don’t try to cut corners and use a thin padding or a towel for this purpose – you’re more likely to cause a skin or tendon injury if you don’t have sufficient padding.

The outer compressive layer: This holds your quilt in place. You can use a disposable product such as Vetrap or a reusable stable bandage.  You may be tempted to use a polo wrap, but it really doesn’t work very well.

Optional: If your horse has a wound, you may also be using a thin bandage underneath the standing bandage, made up of a non-adherent pad and some white roll gauze. This can cover the wound without sticking to it and keep wound ointment in place.

 

Tips for putting on a standing bandage

  • Despite what you have probably heard, it doesn’t actually matter which direction you wrap in! The convention is to wrap clockwise on the right leg and counterclockwise on the left, but you don’t have to. I know, I know, other horse people may judge you if they think you’re going in the wrong direction. But really, it’s a habit, rather than a medical necessity. You can be a rebel if you want to.
  • When you buy a stable bandage, it will be all wrapped up nicely in the package with the Velcro on the outside. That’s useless for actually putting it on the horse. You will have to unroll it and re-roll it the right way. **This part is important to avoid much frustration and potential curse words**. When you roll the bandage, fold the Velcro ends towards each other and then roll the wrap with the Velcro towards the inside. That way, when you get to the end of your beautiful bandage, you won’t find that the Velcro is on the inside of the wrap and hence, not at all useful for securing the bandage.

  • Pull firmly but not excessively. It’s helpful to practice this to get the right tension. Too loose and the bandage could slip down, but too tight and it can injure the skin or tendons. If your quilt layer is nice and thick, injury is less likely to happen.
  • Smooth out the wrinkles as you apply the layers, so they don’t cause pressure points.
  • For the compressive layer, each layer should overlap the last one by about 50%.
  • Leave about an inch of the white padding layer exposed on the top and the bottom
  • For safety, don’t sit on the ground when applying the wrap, just in case your horse objects. Horses wearing hind limb bandages will frequently lift their back legs high on the first few steps. Just keep him moving for a few steps and he will usually get over it.

Check out this video of one of our awesome Springhill technicians applying a beautiful standing wrap.

 

Hoof bandage

This bandage is really useful if your horse has a hoof abscess and you need to poultice his foot or protect it once the abscess has drained.

 The materials you will need:

  • A diaper. Not tiny baby sized, unless you have a tiny horse. A size 4 is about right for most horses.
  • Some duct tape (gorilla tape works even better and won’t wear through as easily)
  • Scissors

The steps:

  • First, make a duct-tape patch. Tear off approximately 6 strips of duct tape roughly 12 inches long and place them side by side vertically. Then tear off another 6 strips and place them side by side horizontally, on top of the vertical strips. So you will have 2 layers of tape, going in different directions. It helps to stick the pieces of tape to a surface as you are making the patch, and then peel the patch off when all the layers are on. Pro tip – don’t do this on a surface you would be upset about peeling the paint off. In a pinch, your thigh will do.

  • Make a 2-inch cut on each of the corners

  • Hold your horse’s foot up and apply whatever poultice or dressing is being used under the bandage (if any)
  • Place the middle of the diaper on the bottom of the hoof and fold the top of the diaper around the pastern. Many diapers will have Velcro ends you can use to secure it.
  • Place the middle of the duct tape patch on the bottom of the hoof. You may then find it easier to allow him to place his foot down and do the rest with him standing on the patch
  • Fold each side upwards and overlap the cut corners snugly to fit the shape of his hoof. You should still have diaper extending further up than the duct tape reaches. This will protect the skin.

  • Take the roll of duct tape and wrap it around the hoof so it secures the patch in place. Don’t pull too tightly over the heel bulbs. Make sure the diaper is high enough that the duct tape doesn’t contact the skin.
  • Check the bottom of the hood bandage a couple times a day, as your horse will eventually wear through the bottom of the duct tape, depending how actively he is walking.

There are several other types of bandages you may need in specific situations, but my docs can show you those if your horse needs them. If you have a good handle on the standing wrap and the hoof bandage, you’ll be well prepared for most situations and will earn this cat’s nod of approval!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Want more step-by-step videos? Check out my YouTube Channel! If you watch every video on there, you will be as smart as this cat. Well, almost.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Breeding

Breeding

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Can you believe it’s the time of year where we talk about breeding again? It’s like I woke up from my nap this weekend and it’s already mid-November and we’ve got to start preparing the mares.  Well, I don’t. But, if you intend to breed your mare in 2021, it’s time to start planning now. Believe it or not, there’s a significant amount of preparation, planning, and follow-up when it comes to breeding.  It’s not a one-and-done kind of thing. Sometimes I wish it were, and I know my docs do as well. Did you know that during breeding season, my docs disturb me multiple times a day, even on the weekends, just to check on mares. Rude!

 Preparing Your Mare

Yes, I realize it is not even Thanksgiving yet, and oh, how I long for leftover Turkey! My address for sending leftovers is 2283……. ugh, never mind. My minions have said I am not allowed leftovers, apparently diet is important when you have diabetes. Anyway, if you are breeding your mare next year, now is the time that she needs to be put under lights. 

 What exactly does that mean and why do we do it? It means exactly what it sounds like. In “winter” it gets dark early. We need to keep the mares exposed to light for more hours a day to encourage early ovulation.  When the days get shorter, most mares stop ovulating. They are what my docs refer to as “long day ovulaters”. Meaning, they do not cycle and ovulate year around.  If left to nature, most mares do not start to cycle until late April, early May.  By this time of year, it is already well into what most people consider the normal breeding season. In order to comply with what society has deemed the normal breeding season, we have to alter our horse’s normal cycle. We do this by exposing them to light for longer periods of time.

 Broodmares who will be bred early in 2021 should be brought into their stalls early evening where they can be exposed to additional hours of light. The goal for these mares is to have them under light for a total of 16 hours and allow them around 8 hours of darkness.  The type of light doesn’t matter and it’s not necessary to make a gradual increases in duration of light exposure. You know I love topics that have been researched. Well, it has been studied and shown that if a mare is housed under 10 or more foot-candles of light, follicular growth will be stimulated. A 200-watt incandescent light bulb is enough to provide 10-12 foot-candles of light in a typical 12ft x 12ft stall. 

 If your mare’s stall is attached to a run, you will need to lock her into her stall so she can’t go out into the darkness unless the run-out area is lit as well.  If you choose to encourage follicular growth by using artificial light, it is highly recommended that you keep your mare housed this way until she has been confirmed in foal.  Research has shown that if a mare is allowed to resume her normal daily activities and light exposure is reduced, she may regress and return to an anestrus state where she will not have any follicular growth and will not ovulate.  Bad news if you are trying to make a baby!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

 Planning

You have your mare set up under lights so that hopefully she will start to cycle early next year, great job! You might think that you are all done for a while now, but you would be wrong. The next step is to bring your mare into my docs for a checkup.  A full health check should be performed on your mare by the first part of January. This is the time to talk to my docs about your mare’s over all wellbeing. They will perform a full physical examination on your mare. They will listen to her heart and lungs, they will evaluate her for any lameness, and any other abnormalities that could prevent your mare from conceiving or carrying a foal to term.

 Your mare’s body condition and conformation will also be evaluated. A mare that is too fat or too skinny will undoubtedly have trouble conceiving and most certainly will have trouble foaling out. Some mare’s conformation sets them up to be passing manure right over their vulva. If your mare has this kind of conformation, she may be more prone to uterine infections and may require a procedure where part of the vulva is sewn shut (called a caslicks). Don’t fret, your mare will still be able to urinate normally, this procedure just prevents fecal material and bacteria from entering your mare’s vagina, and subsequently, her uterus. 

 During this examination they will also perform a full evaluation of your mare’s reproductive system.  A rectal ultrasound of your mare’s uterus and ovaries will be evaluated for any abnormalities. It will also give my docs an idea of where your mare may be in her cycle. Any abnormalities will be noted and explained. A speculum examination will be performed to assess your mare’s cervix for any scarring, discharge, or other abnormalities. A uterine culture may be recommended, and many stallion owners require a negative culture prior to shipping semen for the mare.  More reasons to get this examination performed earlier rather than later!

 If a culture comes back positive, this leaves my docs time to treat it before breeding season is in full swing. For completeness, it is also a good plan to have my docs obtain a uterine biopsy.  Your mare’s uterus is given a score, which tells my docs how easy it will be to get your mare pregnant, how easy it will be to keep her pregnant and if she will be able to carry a foal to term.  The full physical examination and reproductive system evaluation are crucial to a successful breeding season. 

 Follow-up

Let’s say you’ve done all the right things. You put your mare under lights, you brought her in for a pre-breeding evaluation, and my docs were able to get her in foal quickly.  Awesome for you! Breeding is rarely that easy in real life.  It can often take up to 3 or 4 cycles to get a mare confirmed in foal, which is why you want to start breeding early in the year.  But let’s pretend it was quick and easy for you. 

 You bring your mare back for her 14-day pregnancy check and everyone gets to see that little black dot in the middle of the ultrasound screen, yay, right? One little black dot is great, but what if my docs see 2 little black dots? Twins are bad news. We never, ever want to see twins. If my docs see twins at your 14-day check, they are going to insist your mare stay with them for several days. They have to perform a procedure where they reduce one of the twins. Mares should never be allowed to carry 2 foals to term.

 Hopefully you only saw one dot. You might be thinking, surely Tony, I’m done now, right? Nope, you get to bring her back in another 14 days.  The 28-day check is when my docs will confirm that your mare’s fetus has a heartbeat.  Once a heartbeat is confirmed, the next check is the 60-day pregnancy check, followed by the 90-day pregnancy check.  During these exams, my docs are ensuring that the fetus is developing properly and checking for potential early embryonic loss.

 Next you get to bring your horse in at 5, 7, and 9 months.  These visits are usually fairly quick, particularly the 5- and 9-month checks.  During these visits, your horse will get her pneumavbort vaccines. At her 7-month visit an ultrasound will be performed to assess for the development of placentitis. Then, finally, your mare is due. Whew, that was a lot to get to this point! But wait, there’s more.

 Now you get to determine where your mare will foal out. Will you have her in her pasture, will she be in her stall, or will you bring her to the Clinic?  No matter where she foals out, she needs to be monitored very closely and my docs highly recommend that someone who has foaled out mares before be present during the birth.  Within 24 hours after the foal is born, my docs need to see it. They will assess the mare and foal for any post-foaling complications and will check that the foal has nursed well to ensure that he received adequate colostrum from the mare. Colostrum provides the foal with antibodies to fight off any illness/infection in his early months.

 As you can tell, breeding is not for the faint of heart. It requires impeccable timing, planning, and follow-up on your part. Many vet visits are required and it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time.  It can be heartbreaking, but it is also beautiful.  If you think you might want to breed your mare, give my docs a call and get your mare on their schedule soon.

 Until next week,

~Tony

 P.S. My docs have done several podcasts on the topic of breeding and foaling. You can listen to them free on my website, or you can subscribe to Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth wherever you get your podcasts. If you’re breeding, you’ll need all the information you can get, trust me!

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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