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.

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 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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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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