Aug 20, 2018 | Injuries, Safety
While doing a little late night reading on the computer, I came across a research paper titled, The demographics of equestrian-related injuries in the United States: injury patterns, orthopedic specific injuries, and avenues for injury prevention.
It proved to be fascinating reading. It also led me down what you humans commonly refer to as a rabbit hole. I spent most of the night reading up on how horses hurt you humans, and had to spend the rest of the following day sound asleep on the bench in front of the Clinic. To save you from a sleepless night, I will share with you some of what I learned.
Keep your arms and legs inside the ride
About 15% of injuries happened while humans were on the ground. Of the non-riding injuries, the majority were to the feet. This made sense to me. If you stand in the Clinic long enough (and by that I mean about 15 minutes) you’ll see a horse stand on a human foot. Many of these foot injuries led to long-term pain. When it came to riding injuries, arms and legs were involved a whopping 46% of the time. This also makes sense if you think about what humans do when they fall off a horse. Arms go flailing, and legs usually get stuck in a stirrup.
Mind your melon
I’m going to get to the traumatic brain injury part of things, but first it seems if horses don’t stomp your foot, they whack you in the head. In one study around 25% of non-riding injuries were to the head (they also had a mid-facial area but that seems like another word for head if you ask this cat).
For riding injuries, the head came in first for reasons a rider showed up at a hospital. In this study it was 17.5% of the cases. However, head trauma was responsible for the majority of hospital stays, and increased the length of hospital stay. I will say nothing more than wear a helmet when you ride. I know it’s not cool in all disciplines, but horses and head injuries go together.
Your age and gender as a factor
This should come as no surprise to anyone involved in horses: women and girls were massively over-represented at 89.5% of injuries! Turns out you also don’t get smarter with age. One study found the peak incidence of injuries at 14 years old. However, another found early 20s, followed by late 40s and early 50s to be additional bumps in the injury incidence.
There were multiple studies that looked at the human’s level of horse experience, and personality matching of horse to human. Now this is a tough thing to do. However, they found some interesting stuff. The more you actually know about horses, as defined by hours spent with horses in formal training environments, the less likely you are to have serious injury. When humans described themselves as “self-taught” they were more likely to have horse related injuries. Even more fascinating to this cat was this entire paragraph:
Similarly, humans tend to devalue the importance of equine safety at point of sale, possibly where sellers can be seduced by financial return. For example, human desire for financial benefit might result in knowledge of undesirable horse traits and/or dangerous behaviours being withheld from a buyer. Alternatively, it may result from a buyer’s desire to own a horse regardless of such concerns (perhaps due to high self-efficacy in addressing them). More naively, selling unsuitable horses to riders may be facilitated by a lack of buyer expectation and devaluation of safety.1
How do you avoid injury?
Be aware of the fact that horses are big, and have a major flight or fight response. Look at situations from a horse’s point of view, and try to anticipate your horse’s response. This will give you some advanced warning. Speaking of your horse’s point of view….working with your horse to acclimate them to this weird human world will help reduce those fight or flight moments.
Work your brain, too. “The more you learn about horses, the less you know.” – George Morris. This George guy is somewhat famous in some horse circles, but he speaks the truth. Seek out great horse people to teach you more about horses. Then protect that knowledge by wearing a helmet.
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- Preventing and Investigating Horse-Related Human Injury and Fatality in Work and Non-Work Equestrian Environments: A Consideration of the Workplace Health and Safety Framework
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!
May 21, 2018 | Exercise, Injuries
It rained around here a lot over the last week. It’s Florida, and almost summer. It’s what we do here. For the record, I’m going to state that I don’t like rain. Wet paws are not something I enjoy, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. While it was raining here, I was watching (or attempting to watch) Justify run in the Preakness. Wow, was it raining!!! Also, while it was raining here, Dr. Lacher was showing her horses down in Venice, Florida, where it was also raining. Her event wasn’t nationally televised, so I couldn’t watch it (seems unreasonable, but she said it’s not nearly as exciting as the Preakness). However, she said she had some tough decisions to make about riding because of the rain, and the potential for horse injuries. That got me wondering: do horses hurt themselves in all that mud and slop? I mean, horses hurt themselves on sunny days, when the temperature is a lovely 72, and the wind is out of the east at 4 miles per hour. How can they not hurt themselves in the rain??
The Short Answer: It Depends
Ah, that most-human of answers. Racehorses are running at top speeds, pushing the limits of how fast the equine skeleton was designed to go. However, they are running in mostly straight lines, and big curves. The tracks are also meticulously maintained, especially for a race as big as the Preakness. What that means is, yes, the horses may have to put in a bit more effort to overcome the wet track. Overall, though, you probably would have found the track to be quite good to run across, even in the chosen human running gear of sneakers and inappropriate shorts.
Events which require quick turns and changes of speed, like the jumping Dr. Lacher does, may have a different answer. The other major difference in pretty much any horse sport but racing is that the horses are going to be going over the same spot repeatedly. There should be serious thought put into how the footing will handle that, and if it can. If you are the last one to go before they drag the ring, what kind of damage has been done to the footing around the barrel, or the jump, or the obstacle? Horse factors should be considered as well. If your horse is young, or working on confidence, asking them to handle footing that is even a little challenging can be hard on the brain, if not the body.
Eventers are crazy and don’t even realize it’s raining, so we won’t talk about them. (Just kidding, eventers!) Same as everyone else who isn’t racing in the Preakness, I recommend you evaluate the track, and decide if it’s going to be OK. You humans have enormous brains. You should put them to good use.
Why rain matters less than you think
There are two kinds of injuries horses get: the wrong step/trip and something-tears kind, and the low-level repetitive strain kind. Guess which horse injury is more common? And guess which one is sometimes really disguised as the other? That’s right, repetitive strain is the real bad guy. Lots of times there’s a weak spot created by that repetitive strain that breaks when there’s a bad step or trip, so I’m counting that as a repetitive-use injury, too.
How to avoid injuries
Appropriate fitness is the answer. Just like people, horses need to be fit to do the job asked of them. Just like people, horses can get bored, bored, bored with the same old stuff. Know why CrossFit became a thing? Bo Jackson (if you’re under 40 you may need to Google him) got bored doing the same drills, and his injuries kept getting worse from doing those same drills over and over. He started incorporating strength and coordination exercises of all different types to keep him fit enough for baseball and football without the repetition. You can CrossFit your horse, too! It’s called dressage with your jumper, or jumping for your dressage horse. Team pen with your barrel horse. Take your reining horse to an obstacle challenge. The absolute best thing you can do for them is trail riding. I don’t mean the cat version of trail riding: a slow meander involving lots of naps. I mean a ride across terrain with a purpose. Ask them to collect downhill, push uphill, bend around trees. Take advantage of any training opportunity the terrain provides. While you’re busy enjoying nature, your horse will be working on coordination, strength, and balance without even realizing it. As an added bonus, the next time conditions are a little sloppy, your horse will be ready to deal with it.
Fitness is hard. Need help with a plan? Ask Dr. Lacher. She’s rehabbed not only client horses, but her own horses as well. Dr. Lacher seriously knows her stuff when it comes to fitness for equine athletes.
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Until next week,
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!
Jan 1, 2018 | Colic, Dentals, Eyes, Injuries, Lacerations
My humans have been worrying about the future a lot this week. The weather people say it’s going to get cold (no one seems to remember how often they’re wrong), and with cold weather comes colicky horses. That got me thinking, so this week I asked Kayla, Nancy, Beth, and MJ what they worry about more now that they’ve worked here and seen all the things horses really can do to themselves. After all, they see hundreds of horse problems every year, so they have plenty to worry about with their own horses. We call that the Curse of Knowledge. Here’s their Top 5 list.
#1 Eye ulcers
Maybe you’ve had the Docs come out and put some of that fluorescent green dye in the eye. Then they tell you to use a few ointments 4 times per day, give some Bute or Banamine, and they come back out to check it again in a few days. Lots of eyes heal perfectly well this way. The ones that don’t, however, are the ones my team worries about. My minions have all had the joy of treating ulcers in eyes. They say what makes this one Number 1 on their list is that everything can be done absolutely perfectly, and things can still go bad. These ulcers are also very expensive and extremely time consuming. Treatment very quickly goes into the thousands of dollars, and is a minimum of 4 weeks. My minions also agree eye problems are a great reason to have major medical insurance on your horse!
#2 Very specific lacerations
Last year we had a weanling come in with a very small cut over her hock. She was an extremely well-bred barrel horse. Turns out that small cut went into the hock joint. It looked like no big deal, but because of the location, it was life-threatening. That’s right: life-threatening. Wounds in joints can very easily lead to infections in joints, and infections in joints are extremely difficult to clear in horses. Luckily, with about $5,000 in treatments, my Docs were able to get this one cleared up. MJ was horrified at how small the wound was, how easy it was to overlook, and how bad it all could have ended up. She says she’ll never take a wound for granted again! We all know horses are incredibly fragile, but MJ was amazed to see it action. Also, yet another reason to have major medical insurance on these crazy horses.
This one had to be on the list. However, my minions said they view colic very differently than they did before working here. All colics used to scare them. Now it’s the colics that don’t respond quickly to drugs. Then they go into full on panic. You see, most colics get some sedation and a little pain relief, a whole lot of water and electrolytes, and off they go. It’s the ones that get painful again very quickly that scare my minions. Too often those are surgical colics. Even if they aren’t surgical, they do require lots of fluids, pain meds, and care. These colics are always touch and go for a bit. And yet another reason to insure horses!
PS on this one: coastal hay is the number one cause of colics. You can feed coastal to your horse, but please, please, please also feed some alfalfa or peanut hay!!
#4 Tendon Injuries
You pick up the trot one day and something doesn’t feel quite right. You wait a day or two and try again: still not right. My Docs come out and do a lameness evaluation, put some novocaine in different parts of the leg until the lameness goes away, and then do an ultrasound. You know you should be worried when the Doc gets “that look” on her face. She tells you it’s a proximal suspensory tear. Why do my minions fear this diagnosis so much? They know it’s a minimum of 6 months of rehab work before we even know if things are going to be back to normal. They know with some of these small tendons and ligaments (like the oblique sesamoidean) that it is nearly impossible to get the horses back to normal. They also know that the best shot for healing comes with extremely diligent physical therapy work, and most people don’t do so well at that part.
#5 Lay Tooth Floaters
I saved this one for last, but it should probably be higher on the list. There are lots of people out there who will “do your horse’s teeth” for not a lot of money. You get what you pay for. Unfortunately you also often get much, much less than you pay for. My minions have seen broken teeth, missed tumors, infections caused or made worse, and, simply put, really bad floats done. Even worse, many lay floaters sedate horses which is AGAINST THE LAW. My Docs went to school for a really long time to know all the things that can go wrong when they sedate a horse. They drive around with a truck full of stuff to manage problems if things do go wrong. My Docs have the knowledge to understand how that little thing they see can be an indicator of BIG problems. I can’t be any clearer: Lay floaters are not a good answer for your horse’s health. Dentistry should be done with bright lights, sedation, a speculum, and a doctor.
Want to know how to keep your horse safe in a scary world? Communicate! My Docs and minions are here to help you. Send pictures, call, email in questions. From abscesses to zoonoses, they’ve got you covered. Now I’m headed for a long winter’s nap.
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!
May 2, 2017 | Injuries, Lacerations, Wound care
The Shock and Awe Phase
You walk out to feed in the morning and are confronted with what you are sure is your horse’s leg hanging off a bloody stump. Go ahead and freak out for 30-60 seconds. It’s OK. We all do it. Now calmly catch your horse and walk over to the water hose. Begin hosing the wound and continue to hose it for at least 15 minutes. If possible, call Springhill Equine (I’m even going to give you the phone number right here: 352-472-1620 and the emergency line number in case it’s a weekend or after hours: 352-474-5007 ) while you are hosing. Even better, email or text a picture of the wounds to my Docs, and then call. If you can’t call while hosing, hose first, then call. My minions have a saying: dilution is the solution to pollution. Basically, the water dilutes out germs, dirt, and general nastiness.
The ‘Take Deep Breaths, it will be OK’ Phase
Once you have hosed the wound for 15 minutes or so, put your horse somewhere quiet. We want them calm until one of my awesome Docs can get there. Do not apply any lotion, potion, or goop, no matter how many people tell you how great it works! It doesn’t matter that it worked great on that injury your great aunt’s cousin’s friend had. Each wound is different, and my Docs are the best people to decide which goop will be the best goop.
Your horse is likely in pain at this point. We know you want to do something about that pain, but please wait to hear what my Docs have to say! They will direct you about which pain medication to use, and how much. Generally bute, Banamine, and Equioxx are the go-to choices to start with, but your horse’s medical history and the wound severity and location can change those choices. Once they assess the wounds, they will likely add some stronger drugs to help with pain.
Let the Healing Begin!
OK, you’ve hosed the wounds really well, a super awesome Springhill Equine veterinarian has taken care of your horse: now what? Less truly is more! Once again, I know you really, really, really want to put that super cool stuff in the blue bottle, or green tub, or white bottle on the wound. Vern down at the feed store said his friend’s niece’s cousin used it and it worked great. I promise you it didn’t and it won’t. Horses really, really want to heal wounds. They do it despite all the stuff we do to the wound, but if you want it to heal the fastest and the best, you need two things: pressure and moisture.
You can apply pressure the expensive, difficult way: non-stick pad to wound, gauze, elastikon, followed by a quilt or cotton, more gauze, and more elastikon or vetwrap. Or you can go with the easy way: Sox for Horses. My Docs spent a long time doing it the hard way. Now they do it the easy way! You may remember Coby, who fell through the trailer floor. My Docs began using Sox on that horse, and haven’t looked back. Your choice. As a typical cat, I pick easy every time.
Moisture can be applied many different ways, but I find they use plain old triple antibiotic ointment the most. For some wounds they will use a burn cream called silver sulfadiazene, but for most they tell you to go buy out CVS’s supply of triple antibiotic. In a few weeks, my Docs may adjust the topical ointment to add some steroid, but early on, simple is better.
So your plan: Cold hose for 10-15 minutes daily, apply triple antibiotic to wounds, replace sock.
The Real Story from The Top Cat
There are tons of pictures of amazing wounds that healed fantastic thanks to some lotion, potion, or goop. The truth is, horses heal despite all these products, not because of them. The most important parts of wound care are your diligent care and communication! If you aren’t sure about something, call the Doc! They eat, breathe, and sleep this stuff, and they are happy to talk you through your situation so that your horse gets the right care the first time.
Jan 3, 2017 | Injuries, Lacerations
Whenever a horse comes into the clinic with an injury, it reminds me how glad I am to be a cat. Horses don’t have nine lives like cats do, so you’d think that they would be a little more careful! They are also not as smart as cats, at least in my opinion. You are welcome to disagree, but I will point out that I’ve never scratched my eyelid off (knock on wood)!
I’ve been running the clinic here at Springhill Equine long enough to see some trends develop, and I thought that a good way to start the New Year would be to share some of my insights with you, my loyal fans. There are things that make all your horses unique, and then there are things that make them all similar. The similarities are what we’ll look at today.
Some things are preventable, and some things are not. For example, you can’t prevent your horse from rolling and jamming his foot through the fence; that’s just something that a lot of horses do. You also can’t prevent your horse from being a complete jerk, and getting kicked by one of his pasture mates as a result. Sometimes those things just happen, and we do our best to patch them up when they do.
Other injuries are a little more preventable. Horses are going to develop itches on a pretty regular basis, whether it’s on their eye, or ear, or chest. You can’t control the itch, but you can limit what they have to scratch it on. Things like barbed wire, old rusted-out car bodies, nails sticking out of posts and walls, broken gates with sharp edges, ancient farming implements, broken buckets, and all other sorts of things can be removed from the horse’s pasture, paddock, and stall. Even if the horse has been grazing around it for years without a problem, it only takes one instant in time to produce a dramatic injury. I see it all the time.
I’ve watched the docs sew a lot of eyelids back on, and remove a lot of them that couldn’t be salvaged. A lot of those come off while they were scratching on gate latches, metal feed/water bucket handles, nails, and barbed wire. I recommend doing an inspection of every space that your horse has access to at least once every few months. Things change, nails work their way out of boards, the horse sharpens the edges of things she scratches on constantly, they break a bucket or a board, and so on. Basically, if you wouldn’t want a two-year-old kid messing with it for safety reasons, you probably don’t want your horse messing with it, either.
Replacing that strand of barbed wire on the top of your fence with an electric wire is a really good idea. Barbed wire is a great thing for a horse to scratch on, and they will abuse it until it abuses them. New barbed wire is dangerous because that’s when it is the sharpest. Old barbed wire is dangerous because it’s rusty. The cost of replacing it? About the same as a weekend emergency visit from your veterinarian.
Speaking of fences, keeping your fence up and in good repair is another great way to prevent injuries. Some of the more serious injuries the docs see happen when the horse gets into a place that it’s not supposed to be. Remember Coby, the horse that managed to get inside the old horse trailer and then fell through the floor? He’s not the only one that’s managed to get into trouble. Just this past weekend, Dr. Lacher saw a horse that got through the fence and got her leg trapped in some stuff on the other side of it, and did some serious trauma to the muscle, nerves and veins. She’s going to be recovering in a stall for months as a result of it. It happens on a regular basis, and for most horse owners, it’s the first time something like that ever happened.
So, take my advice (it’s really good advice, as it’s coming from a cat): learn from the experiences of others. You don’t have to learn everything the hard way! Clean up your horse’s area, and inspect it on a regular basis. Don’t assume that it’s fine now because it was fine last year. Be proactive about safety, instead of reactive. As my grandcat always said: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!