Last Wednesday evening was an atypical night for me. There was pizza, which is always a plus. But then about a half dozen big burly men with a bunch of tools showed up, pulling trailers with–get this–built-in furnaces! The docs called them Farriers. Turns out all you have to do is let them know there will be pizza, and they will come from far and wide. Beth brought in her horse, Princess Chubby Butt, to be the test subject. The docs learned how the farriers approach a problem foot, and the farriers learned why things are not always as they seem on X-rays. It was a great learning experience for everyone…OK, I’ll admit even I learned a thing or two.
It turns out if you ask 6 different farriers the same question, you get 6 different answers. In fact, it is widely accepted that if you ask 20 different farriers the same question, you will get 20 different answers. Luckily, we have a bunch of great farriers in our area, and although they may have different opinions about the right way to approach a problem, none of them are wrong. If your horse was experiencing a foot lameness, it used to be commonplace for your vet to blame your farrier, and for your farrier to blame your vet. But here at Springhill Equine we are trying to change that!
We see the vet, farrier, and horse owner as a team, and we try to come up with a solution by putting our heads together. Whether the problem is laminitis, club foot, navicular disease, arthritis, thrush, etc… you need a vet and farrier working together to get the foot going in the right direction. Farriers are often grateful to see what’s going on inside the foot with the aid of X-rays, and I know the docs are grateful to have somebody else in charge of hammering nails into the horse’s foot!
All in all, our first vet/farrier team building/brainstorming meeting (event name pending) was a huge success, and we hope to have more in the future. Oh, and Princess Chubby Butt is loving her fancy new shoes! If you are ever looking for a farrier, there is a long list of names in the desk that I like to sleep on, and we would be happy to find one to meet your horses’ needs.
Until next week,
While clicking through the internet over this long holiday weekend I came upon this picture of yours truly:
It got me thinking about boots. I make these boots look darn good. This got myself, Teannie, and our weekend guest, a charming horse name Goose, talking about boots in general. We marveled at all the colors, textures, patterns, and types of boots that humans have for their feet. Teannie and I remarked that as the perfect creatures we are, we never have to wear such things. OK, so that one time I had to wear a cast for a long time after Teannie broke my foot when I made, what she considers a disparaging, remark about her ears, but other than that, no foot wear. Goose informed us we just didn’t know all the fun we were missing. He gets to wear boots all the time when he works, and he finds them stylish and comfortable. I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him we don’t work. However, Goose’s statement did make me head off for some research about boots and horses.
My first question to you humans is REALLY??!!??!? Do you really need all of the 8,482 different types of boots I found? There are open front boots, support boots, cross country, splint, ankle, bell, and galloping just to name a few. And the colors and patterns. Don’t get me started on all that. Let’s just say I am never wearing anything in tie dye. Especially not on my feet. Looking in to the why so many freakin’ kinds of boots did inform me that many different kinds are needed for all the crazy things you guys do with horses. Lots of people like the all around support kind. If you jump over things, you like the kind open in front. If your horse hits his ankles you like the ankle kind. You get the gist. Anyway I will give you all the different kinds.
My next question was can they seriously do all the things they say they can? Here’s where life gets a little fuzzy. Let’s start with support. When it comes to the equine limb that is a tricky statement at best. Support what? If you support the fetlock, then more concussion goes up the limb and that can be damaging to the shoulder. With all the weight horses bring to the game, it turns out “support” can’t be done without compromising range of motion, which means no more daring moves of athletic prowess. So how about concussion? This one does turn out to have some validity. When you ask horses to turn quickly around trash cans, jump over sticks, and prance sideways they have a tendency to tangle up those long legs at some point in the process. Those tangles can have some serious forces behind them. A good boot will absorb some of the concussion and prevent lacerations from hooves.
Goose pointed out that sometimes his legs get hot in those boots. Seems reasonable in this ridiculous Florida weather; also important for the health of your horse’s tendons and ligaments. Tendons and ligaments can take normal heat but researchers have found temperatures of up to 145F following exercise! Newer boot manufacturing techniques are looking at the heat build-up problem and working on solutions. I would certainly put boots on just before exercise and take them off just after work to keep those legs happy.
In case you need a good reason to make your horse wear boots, watch this video at around 18 minutes in. Words of warning it is a bit graphic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsvS6gEBJuE
And on that note, I’m off to ponder my new line of feline footwear.
This weekend I learned why I am best suited to my supervisory role here at the clinic. I monitored while Dr. Lacher worked closely with a farrier to determine the best treatment for a horse with a bunch of issues in her feet. I marveled at the way in which they worked as a team, batted around each other’s ideas, and came up with solutions that addressed all the issues. It was like watching TV in a foreign language. As a cat, I am not a team player. Heck, Teannie and I can barely get along. Turns out you need a team to manage your horse. High performance, senior, or just for fun. All horses seem to require a team. Not cats. We only require staff that will jump at our every request. I feel I have trained my minions well.
Anyway, Teamwork. Turns out teamwork is very important for performance horses. There is often a trainer, owner, veterinarian, and farrier at the very least. Trainers and owners need to feel comfortable talking to their veterinarian and farrier about how the horse is performing. It may be something as minor as a lift of the head in a transition one way, but not the other. Based on a trainer’s description of the problem, our Dr. Lacher will put her detective hat on and start investigating. Dr. Lacher uses her 30+ years of horse experience alongside her veterinary knowledge to help track down the source of pain. (We won’t tell her I talked about her 30+ years)
Treatment and rehab come next on the list. Again, teamwork is critical. I really don’t understand why there has to be all this teamwork. I would just impose my will; no questions allowed. Veterinarians today have a wide variety of therapies available. Joint injections with steroids are the most common treatment used. Problem is, those steroids come with some side effects. Hocks handle those side effects well, and can be repeatedly injected. However, every other joint doesn’t. Every steroid injection takes a little tiny bit off the end of a horse’s career. This means careful discussion with everyone involved to determine if injections will help the horse get better faster and cause less damage than the injury they have. Maybe some of the new, crazy advanced therapies like stem cells and platelet rich plasma should be used instead. Maybe rest and targeted exercises should be used. All of that has to be talked about and factored in. With all this talking, I’m going to need more nap time. And more food.
One of the biggest collaborations happens between our Docs and farriers. With the utterly ridiculous design horses have for feet, they need constant attention. Lots of horses need special shoeing to keep those feet comfortable or to help them heal from an injury. Our Docs use radiographs (x-rays) to help farriers line up their shoes perfectly. There is also a whole lot of discussion that goes on about what the Docs have found out from their exam and what the farriers think. There’s always tons of communication going on. I try to make sure I am nearby to assist with this process.
It can be a challenge to determine the best, right thing for these crazy horses sometimes. Making sure you have a winning team sure makes it easier. Until next week.
Ah May…It’s hot and dry, then we get rain, then it’s beautiful out but dry. Last year was weird with all the rain. This year seems more like the days I remember as a young kitten. Turns out this weather is fantastic for making hoof abscesses. And while those are fun for the Docs (they have an unnatural love for pus), they are no fun for you or your horse.
I realize I talk about the stupid design of horses a lot, and here I go again. That hard hoof wall is great for walking on but it makes it extremely painful if there is any swelling of the soft tissues inside. Hoof abscesses form when a tiny bit of bacteria get between the hoof wall and those soft tissues. The body reacts to the bacteria by sending white blood cells to kill the bacteria, and, Voila!, pus. The white blood cells also release some chemicals which cause swelling and pain all on their own. All that extra stuff stuck underneath the hoof wall hurts worse than whacking your thumb with a hammer. I do love when humans do that. I laugh every time.
Abscesses usually make their presence very well known. Much like when I sleep on the computer keyboard, you can’t help but notice your horse is not right. It may start as a limp on one leg, however, they always progress to “Holy Cow I can’t stand on my foot!” Once they reach the Holy Cow stage they are ready to be opened. You can get them to this stage faster by soaking the foot daily in warm Epsom salts for 5-10 minutes. This often goes about as well as bathing a cat so may I suggest the baby diaper method. Take one baby diaper (Newborn – size 3 depending on the size of your horses hoof), place a small amount of Epsom salts in the baby butt area, add enough water to make it pasty, place diaper on foot, securing convenient tabs around the pastern while you grab duct tape, run duct tape across the bottom and around the hoof to secure the diaper. Change this daily.
Our Docs can help the whole abscess process get done and over quicker. The closer your horse is to the Holy Cow it hurts stage the more likely they are to open the abscess. Dr. Lacher or Dr. Vurgason will start by cleaning the bottom of the hoof, then applying hoof testers. Hoof testers are these incredibly barbaric pinchy things that help the Docs find the sorest spot on the hoof. Once they find it they will use a hoof knife to pare the hoof away and open up the affected area. They will dig a bit but don’t be surprised if they stop before they open up the abscess. This can be tricky thing. If you dig too deep you can create more problems so the Docs tend to be very conservative. Like I said earlier, they do love to pop an abscess so rest assured they are going to try as hard as they can to get it opened.
The good news with abscesses is that, almost always, once they are opened and drained your horse will return to happy and comfortable. And now back to napping in the sun in the handicapped parking spot. Pretty sure they put that there for me.
Please be sure to check your trailer floor for rotten areas. Many of you saw this horse on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds. Dr. Lacher and Charly pieced him back together and now begins the healing. He is looking at several months of bandaging but with some luck he will be back to good soon.
The sun is just peeking over the horizon in the morning as you head out to feed your horse. You open the feed can, scoop out the morning ration, and dump it in the feed bucket. As you walk away you hear a dry, raspy cough. “Probably just the dusty grain,” you think and remind yourself to ask Springhill Equine about it the next time they come out to the farm. What does that cough really mean? Allergic airway disease.
Allergic airway disease has had a bit of an identity crisis over the years. It has been called: Heaves, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), heaves (again), and currently Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO). All of these are our fancy names for constriction of the small airways in the lungs due to allergies. The allergic response causes an increase in mucous in the airway and makes the muscles around those same airways tighten up. It’s an unfair combination which makes it very difficult to breath.
So why the dry cough? These horses typically breathe in fairly well but can’t breathe out without pushing extra hard. We call this abdominal breathing. One way these horses manage to get a good breath out is by coughing. The other thing that leads to coughing is called airway hyper-reactivity. This means anything that touches the airway causes a coughing fit. Dust from grain and/or hay is the most common cause of coughing at feeding time for allergic horses.
Recently there has been a lot of research on these allergic airway horses. Sadly much of it has not progressed to finding new treatments, but we are learning more about the genetics behind allergies, what different symptoms mean, and how well currently available treatments do work. Most older research focused on the effects of allergic airway disease on the racehorse only. Here are the highlights of a few recent papers. If you hear your horse coughing on a regular basis chances are very good they have allergic airway disease. Allergic airway horses are statistically way more likely to have hit this wonderful genetic trifecta: allergic airway disease, allergic skin, and Anhidrosis (non-sweating). Dexamethasone works well in most allergic airway horses but not all. For the horses Dexamethasone does not work on, inhalers provide a safe and viable option.
Treatment is targeted at reducing the allergic response. Dexamethasone is a short acting (about 24 hours) steroid that can be given by injection or orally. Especially during the summer Springhill Equine Doctors will usually start horses on Dexamethasone to get symptoms under control. Typically the dose starts very high and tapers every few days until we find what makes your horse happy. Changes in the weather, pollen levels, and dustiness of hay or grain may require a brief increase in Dexamethasone dosages.
For horses who are unable to tolerate Dexamethasone or don’t respond to it, metered dose inhalers can be used. Steroid inhalers are used most commonly for human asthma. Inhalers present some challenges for horse owners. First how do you get your horse to breathe deeply when you want them to? Answer: you don’t. Second, inhalers can be very expensive and time consuming. To solve the first problem we use an extender which seals over one nostril that allows us to time the “puffs” with the horse’s breathing. For the second problem we discuss options with you, the horse owner, and come up with the best solution.
Once winter comes around Intradermal Allergy Testing can be performed. Allergy testing allows us to identify what allergens bother your horse. Once we know what bothers your horse most we can begin shots, which over time teach the immune system to tolerate those allergens. Allergy shots can offer real help to allergic airway horses but it takes time. It is generally well towards the middle of the second year of therapy before we see benefits. But those are fantastic benefits. We are able to reduce the length of time and dosages of drug therapy these horses are on.
Moral of the story: if you heard a cough, give us a call. The better we control allergic airway disease the longer your horse stays happy, healthy, and ride-able.
Whew! There I did it. I took a breath!!! I am very glad to have Dr. Vurgason here and settled in. It means I get to sneak away to the beach for a long weekend. I am ready for slightly cooler weather so my non-sweater starts sweating again and a little less rain so her constant rain rot can catch a break but such is summer in Florida. The extra breathing room has also meant my two younger horses are getting ridden more. I have seen this as a blessing and a curse all at the same time. I love the way younger horses advance so quickly as they learn the big lessons of life but I hate teaching them! They are sometimes painful lessons for the rider…..
Springhill Equine is here to help you through any and all lameness issues your horse might be having, whether it is painfully obvious or ever so subtle, we can help! Dr. Lacher’s extensive background in performance horse lameness coupled with all of our new technology makes Springhill Equine your one stop solution for lame horses and ponies. After performing a lameness exam, flexing and blocking if necessary we also can utilize our digital X-ray and ultrasound machines to pin point the issue and develop the quickest most effective rehab program for your horse. Once the source of the issue is revealed there are several new procedures we are performing to help speed up the recovery process and keep our horses performing longer including IRAP, PRP, and FES. If you are at all concerned about one of your’s limping or even just feeling a little funny please don’t hesitate to call!