How Do I Tell if my Farrier is Doing a Good Job?
This is a question often asked by novice and experienced horse owners alike. It is a difficult question to answer, in much the same way as it's hard to answer the question "How high is up?" There are many factors that influence the quality of a farrier's work. Knowledge, skill, experience, attitude, working conditions, the horse itself can influence the quality of the work your farrier does. The most basic answer to the question comes in the form of another question. "Is your horse sound, comfortable and happy with his work?" If the answer is yes, then you can bet that your farrier is doing at least a fair job. The flip side of that answer is the lame horse. The problem here is that many farriers get blamed for lamenesses having nothing to do with their work. Others get blamed for not fixing something that isn't a farrier problem. To further complicate the situation, much of the quality of a shoe job is covered up by the shoe. One cannot answer questions like "How flat and level was the foot before the shoe went on?" and "How flat and level was the shoe before it was nailed on?" without pulling the shoe and examining the foot and shoe separately. I don't recommend pulling shoes to examine a farrier's work. A Word of Warning If anyone takes the words written here out to the barn, evaluates their farrier's work by them, then gets high and mighty pointing fingers like an expert, they are likely going to get a snoot full of unsavory comments from their farrier. Most farriers do the best job they can with the skills they have. They are proud of what they do. They work hard, and quite rightfully get pretty bent out of shape when a layperson starts telling them what they are doing wrong. Remember, only trained farriers are trained farriers. Vets are not farriers. Trainers are not farriers. The feed salesman is not a farrier. The horse owner who hires the farrier is not a farrier. The bottom line about judging the quality of a farrier's work is this: Anyone other than another farrier is venturing into unknown territory. You would not expect an electrician to be able to tell if an orthodontist did a good job with braces; nor could the orthodontist tell you much about the wiring job the electrician did on the barn. You have to be careful because you may see something you think is wrong that turns out to be perfectly proper. Conversely you may miss something really important that is wrong. So, take these words with a grain of salt. Use them as a guideline, not an absolute. After all, the only absolute in the horse business is that there are no absolutes. If you find things in your farrier's work that differ from what is written here, ask him/her about it nicely. If s/he's worth the rust on the anvil, s/he will gladly explain what s/he did and why. Starting at the Beginning There are some things the horse owner can look at to determine the overall quality of a shoe job. Let us start with the premise that we are dealing with a sound horse that has no problems. From there we can begin to see what basic good quality work looks like.First, take a look at your calendar and see when your horse was shod last. If it's been more than a couple of weeks, evaluating the shoeing is unfair to your farrier. Rule number one in judging horseshoeing: All old work looks bad. Look at a fresh shoeing for the best results. Start your evaluation by looking at the front feet from the front with the horse standing square on level ground. Both hooves should look like they are the same length. Next, check the level of the coronary bands. Across the front of the feet, both should be parallel to the ground and each other. If they are not, you may be dealing with a medial/lateral balance problem, or a jammed or sheared heel. Look at the sides of the feet. Are there any noticeable flares? Ideally the walls should be straight from the coronary band to the ground. The angle of the wall depends on the conformation of the horse. Some horses will have perpendicular inside walls and very angled outside walls. Others will match fairly well. Most will be slightly steeper inside than out. It is quite normal for one foot to be slightly bigger than the other, just like with us two leggeds. While you are standing in front of the horse, check the hind feet the same way. Next, go the side and step back several paces. If the horse is in a barn aisle, it might be wise to turn him perpendicular to the aisle so you can get far enough away from the horse to get a good look. With the horse standing square, look at the angles of both pairs of feet (fronts and hinds). Each pair should match fairly closely. If you have a horse with a club foot or one with collapsed heels, you may see an unavoidable difference. The club foot might be slightly higher and/or the collapsed foot slightly lower. It is rare to find these kinds of problems in hind feet. Usually, what affects one affects the other the same way. From the same vantage point, check the angle of the pastern as it compares to the hoof. Make sure the horse is standing square with all four legs perpendicular to the ground. Ideally the hoof and the pastern should be at the same angle. If you see a minor difference you needn't worry too much. Simply ask your farrier about it at the next visit if it bothers you. While you are looking from this position, look for any dishes or flares at the toes. Ideally you should see straight lines on all four feet. Minor flares are usually ok. Major flares could be a sign of a problem. Many farriers (myself included) set the shoes back under the foot slightly to gain a quicker breakover. Farriers have been doing this on hind feet for over 100 years. There it's called a square toe. If the wall is straight at the toe, and the shoe is set back, the excess toe hanging over the shoe should be beveled off neatly. If it has just been whacked off with a rasp or nippers and looks really sloppy, this might be a clue to the quality you are getting from your farrier. The next place to look for signs of quality (or not) is by picking up each foot and examining the shoe itself and how it fits the foot. This can get a bit dicey because everybody sees something different when they look at a horse's foot, but what you are looking for is a smooth well shaped shoe. You don't want to see a lot of kinks and bumps and dents. The actual shape depends upon the shape of the foot. Some general guidelines: The front shoes should have a full rounded broad toe in most cases. A pointed front shoe is not a good thing to see. All the text books say front feet should be round. Many are not. Many are squarish. Many more are kind of triangular on the outside and straight on the inside. But the broad round toe is something they all have in common. The hind feet are more triangular, so slightly more pointed look is ok. Even so, the toe (between the two sets of nails) should be fairly broad and flat. A truly pointed shoe is not good here either. Next look at the fit from the last nail to the heels of the shoe. Ideally there should be about 1/8 of an inch of shoe sticking out the side at the heel, gradually tapering to flush at the last nail. Some horses need more room for expansion than this, others will rip their shoes off in a heartbeat if there is even 1/16 of an inch extra shoe out there. When in doubt, more is better than less ... usually (remember, no absolutes). While looking at the heels, see how much shoe is sticking out the back behind the heel of the foot. On a perfect foot, that 1/8 inch should be there. If your horse has underrun heels, there may be much more than that, up to a half inch or more, depending on how bad the underrun condition is. This is ok. A general rule of thumb is that the shoe should stop at or slightly in front of the widest point of the frog. (This guideline does not apply to therapeutic shoes such as bar shoes and the like. They may extend way past the widest point of the frog for support reasons.) For heel length, the guideline is the more upright the heel, the less shoe there needs to be sticking out to support it. The more underrun the heel the more shoe there needs to be to support it. How much is an individual thing between your horse and your farrier. If you have questions, ask your farrier. Heel support in the hind feet is a bit different. A farrier can (and often should) leave a good bit more shoe out behind the foot on back feet for support. After all, this is where a horse¹s motor and steering are. I have often heard the phrase "Ahh, the back feet will go where the front feet go, don't worry about it." This is true in the same way the back wheels of your pickup will go where the front wheels go. But the front wheels won't go anywhere unless the back wheels push them there. Therefore, the shoeing on the back feet is just as important as the shoeing on the front -- more so in many cases. With this in mind, you may see extended heels on the hind shoes where both heels of the shoe (the last 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch) are turned parallel and point straight back. They may come well past the widest point of the frog and may come back as far as the hairline. This is fine if your horse needs that much support. I'll repeat myself: if you have any questions, ask your farrier. S/he did what s/he did for a reason and should be willing to explain things if you ask. The last thing you should look at is the over all visual impression you get from the work. Does it look smooth and clean? Or ratty and sloppy? Are the clinches all lined up fairly well? (They don't need to be perfect.) Are the clinches well up the wall? A good guideline is the clinches should be about the width of the shoe branch (about 3/4 to 1 inch on saddle horses and up to 1 and a half inches on drafters) up the wall. Are the clinches finished smoothly? Or would you cut yourself if you rubbed your hand over them quickly? Are there major gashes left by the rasp, or is the wall nice and smooth, like a piece of fine furniture? Is the general impression you get that of quality, or sloppiness? If you have taken a good look at your farrier's work and are still uncertain of the quality, there might be some validity in getting a second opinion. Doctors and vets are frequently asked for second opinions. Why not farriers? If there is another farrier in your area you feel you can trust, ask if s/he would be willing to give you a consultation on your farrier's work. Expect to pay for it. Don't be surprised of you get turned down though. Many farriers are reluctant to evaluate the work of other farriers in their area. If one farrier gets accused of badmouthing another farrier (regardless of the truth behind the accusations), it can be tough on a person's reputation, and damaged reputations don't feed the kids or pay the mortgage very well. If you do get another farrier to evaluate your farrier's work, keep the results to yourself. Spreading negative information around the horse community is like shooting yourself in the foot. It will come back to haunt you. You will get a reputation as a gossip and a trouble maker and find it difficult to get along. Farriers, vets, trainers, etc. will avoid you out of fear that you will badmouth them like you did the other guy. So be careful what you say and to whom. If you find you are dissatisfied with your farrier, the next step is to decide if you should change farriers. This can be a difficult decision. Many people are quite loyal to their farriers and have become friends. More often than not, if you fire your farrier, you will also lose the friendship you may have built. Make the decision carefully and thoroughly. Going back is a lot harder than staying put. Most farriers will take a client back who quit them, but that first phone call and appointment are tough and often embarrassing for the horse owner. The phrase "I told ya so" comes to mind. Once you decide to fire your farrier, it is a good idea to line up a new farrier before you send the old one packing. That way you don't get caught short. It is quite rude and down right mean to call your farrier the night before your next appointment and fire him/her. It is a much better practice to give them a couple of weeks notice. Be prepared to explain yourself if asked. Now, let me tell you a story about one client who fired me some years ago. She called the night before her appointment. She said she needed to change her appointment because her work schedule changed. Annoying, but not a problem. I accommodated her. The night before the rescheduled appointment, she called again to reschedule, something about a doctor appointment for her mother. The day before the third appointment she called to leave a message that her schedule was a mess and she'd call me when she got things straightened out. I gave her a week, called her back, got her machine, left a message and never heard from her again. I have to wonder why she never had the courage to tell me the truth. This kind of slimy behavior is quite common these days. If you fire your farrier, please have the courtesy and dignity to face your farrier and tell it like it is. Your farrier might learn something from the experience that will make a better farrier out of him/her in the long run. S/he will respect you for it, and you will sleep better for having done it right. If, on the other hand, you find your farrier's work is up to snuff, be happy, tell a friend.
How To Find & Keep a Good Farrier
Written by: Carla Huston and adapted by Patrick Ards
I tried to call my farrier yesterday, but couldn't reach him. His phone is disconnected and none of my friends know where he has gone. So I called my neighbor, and he is going to trim my horse's feet, and he will only charge me five bucks. Anyway that other guy wasn't so great; he was too expensive and never on time. I think I've got a better deal this way. One of the most common complaints among horse owners is their inability to find a "good" farrier. They charge too much, are always late or breaking appointments, and don't listen to you when you tell them what you want are many of the objections to their talent or behavior. Those of us happy with our farriers keep quiet for fear that if he gets too many new clients we will lose him. Unfortunately not enough horse owners really understand what constitutes a good farrier, how to find him or how to keep him. And believe me, if you find a truly good farrier you will want to keep him. With some careful thought and consideration every one of us can find a farrier we can work with and will contribute to the well-being or our horses. Most of us have heard the old axiom, "No foot, no horse." But despite how much biotin we supplement into the animal's feed or how religious we are about applying the hoof dressings, if the foot is not balanced and trimmed properly for the horse's conformation, the rest is inadequate. This is why a knowledgeable farrier is so essential to your horse's performance and comfort. Not enough of us, though, give this professional his due. The first step toward a healthy hoof and reaching this Utopia of horseshoeing is finding the professional with whom we can work. "Professional" is stressed for a reason; too often horse owners hire an individual who works in this field only part- time. You are not doing yourself, your horse, or the industry any good with this practice. Full-time farriers have much more invested in their profession than the person who buys a pair of nippers and a rasp and sets out after work to knock out a few horses for extra cash. The professional farrier invests in a full inventory of quality supplies, pursues further education in farrier science and may be certified and belong to the assorted farrier's associations. In almost every case he will be much more knowledgeable about his work than the part-timer. Finding this individual may be more difficult than calling the guy down the road, but will pay off in many ways. To start your search check the classified ads in the horse section of your local paper. Many farriers advertise their business there. When you reach him have prepared a list of questions regarding his business and expertise. Do not be shy about asking for his history working with horses, e.g., how long, what types of horses, and where he learned his profession. Watch for key phrases such as, "I apprenticed under," and others that suggest a serious attitude toward education. Those that apprentice usually work under a talented and well-established farrier, and the potential for learning is great in that situation. Also ask for references. The full- time farrier will have an extensive list of clients, either individual horse owners or barns, and should be willing to offer names for recommendations. But be ready to ask these references some questions; don't take anyone's word as absolute truth. Another place to inquire is with other knowledgeable horse industry professionals. Ask tack store owners, trainers and instructors whom they use and why. Be sure to ask many people, though, and compare their comments. Personality clashes are not unheard-of in the horse world, so keep that in mind when listening to opinions. Again, be active in your search; ask questions. Once you have some names start narrowing the field, and make a responsible choice based on facts and solid consideration. A third option is to talk with some local horse veterinarians. During their day they see many horses and are well placed to observe the hoof condition of these animals. The vets have the opportunity to evaluate the farrier's work and often will get to know the individuals themselves. They can usually recommend a competent individual to work on your horse. Also, in many cases the vet will take the initiative and point their clients toward a particular farrier, particularly if the horse needs corrective or therapeutic work. Hopefully you have now found a farrier that meets your and your horse's needs. The next goal is to understand his position. Since he is (here's that word again) a professional his schedule and price will vary from that of the part-timer. Let's first discuss how best to get your horse booked with an appointment. The farrier who practices his profession full-time will have a busy schedule; do not expect to call and receive an appointment immediately the next day. Monitor the growth of your horse's hooves and try to call a week or two before a trim or shoeing becomes necessary. The farrier will appreciate this consideration since it allows him to book clients together in a given area and prepare an organized schedule. Remember too that he is working all day with many horses; try to be considerate and avoid asking him to work all night too. Although their days are rarely nine to five or Monday through Friday, as clients we should try to book whenever possible according to a regular work day. This means refraining from asking the farrier from coming by in late evenings or at other times when most people are not working. If you truly have an emergency call don't hesitate to contact your farrier, but be prepared to pay as you would an emergency vet call. Since you have gone to all this trouble to find a reliable professional it is important at this point to listen to what he says. If he makes suggestions regarding hoof care consider them carefully. As much as you may know about horses, your farrier sees hundred's of horses, day in and day out and has the chance to examine many more animals and conditions than the average horse owner ever will. Along with his education this experience is invaluable when evaluating what is best for your horse. And do not always expect farriers to completely agree on a proposed action. There is more than one way to approach many situations, especially when dealing with corrective work. Trust what he suggests and give his decision time to work; more often than not you will be pleased with your horse's performance. Take advantage of his expertise. So you have now found a qualified farrier and you have booked appointments with him. You are satisfied with his work and how he handles your horse. Now you want to keep him. This will require more on your part than previously, but if you are interested in having the best care for your horse it will be well worth it. One of the easiest things you can do is be accurate when you book your appointment. Be precise about how many horses will need work and have a good idea of the type of work you want done. A big complaint of farriers' is arriving at a client's barn with two horses booked and having five waiting. This throws their schedule thoroughly off, and the rest of the day is spent trying to catch up. The same problem arises when a client arranges for her horse to be trimmed, yet when the farrier arrives she decides instead to have him shod. A twenty minute job becomes a sixty minute one. Next you can show consideration for your farrier's schedule. We have already covered when to request your appointments (please, some evenings and weekends off), but that does not always guarantee the appearance of your farrier and the scheduled time. Unfortunately the best planned days have the tendency to go wildly out of control. Do not be surprised when the farrier is early, late but rarely on time. And don't be upset; those who work full-time with horses are always trying to coordinate time remaining and "things to do." Not only does time get eaten up with extra horses and work, but poor roads, poor directions, and poor weather all conspire to make keeping a timetable difficult. What you should expect, though, is some consideration in return, and warning if your farrier is going to be late or unable to keep the appointment. If he is consistently very late or does not show without giving you notice, he is not acting professionally. Courtesy goes both ways and both of you should expect it and extend it. If an appointment is canceled your farrier should get you rescheduled as soon as possible, but take an objective view of your horse's condition. If his hooves can afford to wait a few days, give the farrier that extra time to fit you in. There are a few other habits you can adopt that will go a long way toward making your barn a pleasant stop. First, you will have well-mannered horses that are properly trained to stand quietly while their feet are handled. Unfortunately, not all of us own these paragons; if you don't, let the farrier know in advance. These horses invariably take longer to work with, and require a special frame of mind. Be sure your farrier is experienced in working with rough animals, and then be prepared to pay him for his time and effort. Remember, he is risking serious injury when working with those ill-behaved horses. Second, try to have a clean and roomy area in which to work. This means keeping all family critters-pets and kids alike- clear of the area. Nice also is a protected place, one that is shady in the summer, and a wind-block in winter. Finally, have your horses clean, free from mud, manure and dirt. It is always a more pleasant stop when you can leave without smelling too badly of thrush or manure. The most important factor in keeping your farrier is showing him loyalty. If you are constantly switching farriers, never allowing one a consistent position with your horse, you can hardly expect to head his client list. If you only call for emergencies or to fix another farrier's work, he will not be too anxious to fit you into his busy schedule. The same holds true if you only use a farrier for the busy summer riding months. He has plenty of business this time of year and welcomes yours, but those who stay loyal and have their horses attended during the other seven months are sure to be appreciated and be important to him. Horses still need attending, and keeping their feet is peak condition year round will benefit you during the riding season; both you and your farrier will benefit. Your horses are very important to you, and any horse owner will admit that they are an expensive luxury. Everything concerned with them is time- and cash-consuming, and quality care is even more so. Don't skimp on foot care thinking that it is less important, and don't pinch pennies by hiring part-time and unprofessional farriers. Consistent and excellent care will allow you to spend less in the end, since maintenance is cheaper than correction. And you will be supporting the horse industry, so that professionals can stay full-time and give you the knowledge of their experience and knowledge.
Managing Penetrating Injuries in the Field (AAEP 2012)
By Erica Larson, News Editor •Feb 17, 2013 • Article #31329
Don't panic--field veterinarians are well-versed in handling penetrating injuries like these in horses, because, yes, nightmares like these are sometimes realized. Photo: Peggy Marsh, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVECC A splintered tree limb or a jagged piece of metal protrudes from your horse's chest. Don't panic--field veterinarians are well-versed in handling penetrating injuries like these in horses, because, yes, nightmares like these are sometimes realized. Shannon Murray, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, a practitioner at Rhinebeck Equine, LLP, in New York, reviewed how to manage penetrating wounds, from tiny (but insidious) punctures to more obvious impalements, during a series of lectures at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif. She covered caring for wounds, with and without synovial structure (joint) involvement. Wounds Penetrating Synovial Structures Puncture wounds involving joints are a common way for bacteria to enter horses' synovial structures, Murray said. These wounds should be considered emergencies and treated immediately and aggressively, as potentially serious consequences can develop. While veterinarians can treat these injuries successfully in the field, she said, referral is generally the best option, if possible. Wound Basics--If a laceration is less than six to eight hours old when the veterinarian arrives, it is still considered acute; bacteria might have entered the synovial structure, but it's unlikely the joint is truly infected yet. If the wound is more than 6 to 8 hours old, it is considered chronic and a true infection in the joint will likely develop. Bacteria in a synovial structure disrupt the joint's homeostasis and cause inflammation, Murray said. "As the duration of the inflammation becomes chronic, damage can occur within the tendon sheath and/or joint, resulting in a life-threatening disease process or loss of use secondary to permanent lameness," she explained. Many horses with wounds penetrating synovial structures appear normal on physical exam, Murray said. In some cases horses develop a fever if infection has developed, and if the horse has lost excessive fluids, such as blood or sweat, the veterinarian might need to stabilize the horse's condition by administering intravenous fluids, among other methods, . Evaluating Penetrating Wounds to the Foot--Murray said that while these wounds can appear small and innocuous, they are often deep and disastrous. The synovial structures most likely to be damaged by a penetrating wound to the foot include the coffin bone, distal sesamoid bone (navicular bone), coffin joint, navicular bursa (the sac cushioning the navicular bone from the deep digital flexor tendon), deep digital flexor tendon, impar ligament, or digital flexor tendon sheath, Murray said. If the penetrating object is still in the foot when the veterinarian arrives (the ideal situation), he or she will take radiographs--at least two different images at right angles to one another--to determine the how deep the object has penetrated and if synovial structures could be involved. She noted that metal objects are easy to identify on radiographs, but wood and other nonmetallic or organic objects might not be as apparent. If the penetrating object has already been removed, the veterinarian will ensure the foot is thoroughly cleaned before paring and trimming it to find the entry wound. In some cases, she said, hoof testers are required to help locate the opening. Once the practitioner locates and cleans the wound, he or she should insert a sterile metal probe or teat cannula (a small, narrow tube) into the wound and take radiographs to help identify the puncture tract's direction and depth. Murray cautioned that occasionally deep penetrating wounds can damage the coffin bone without affecting any synovial structures, which can result in a condition called septic pedal osteitis (inflammation of bone beginning in the periosteum, or the bone's surrounding membrane). This condition isn't always apparent initially, she noted. Over time, clinical signs including persistent lameness, drainage, and local bone loss (apparent on radiographs) will arise if pedal osteitis develops. Evaluating Wounds Penetrating Other Synovial Structures--Murray said that in general, a veterinarian should aseptically prepare any wound penetrating a synovial structure not within the hoof before examining it. Clip the hair surrounding the wound, and lavage the wound to reduce foreign debris and bacteria in the penetration tract. Once the wound is aseptically prepared, she said, the veterinarian can palpate the tract either digitally with a sterile glove or using a sterile probe. She recommended taking radiographs with a probe in place to determine the wound's depth. At this point it's important to evaluate the wound for potential "communication" with a synovial structure (such as a joint or a tendon sheath) and to collect a synovial fluid sample, Murray explained. Evaluate the fluid sample for certain values, including total protein concentration and white blood cell counts, that could indicate an infection. Additionally, she said, the practitioner can use radiography and ultrasonography to identify signs of synovial structure disease and damage. Treatment--After evaluating the wound, the veterinarian should begin treatment. Therapy for these wounds generally includes a combination of the following: Broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy; Intravenous antibiotics, followed by oral antibiotics for at least two weeks after clinical signs resolve; Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) administration; Curettage (surgical scraping, a procedure used only for penetrating hoof wounds); Joint lavage; Intra-synovial antibiotic administration; and Regional limb perfusion (applying a tourniquet to isolate a vein that supplies blood to the affected region, then injecting medication into that vein) . Murray cautioned that not every treatment options is suitable for each patient, depending upon the clinical signs or complications involved. She also stressed that it's essential to continue monitoring and treating patients with synovial structure puncture wounds. Continue treatment until synovial fluid cytology returns to within normal limits. Also monitor how the horse is using the injured limb to gauge treatment response. When clinical signs subside and cytology returns to normal, practitioners can discontinue joint lavage and intra-synovial antibiotic administration. Intravenous antibiotics should continue until any synovial infection resolves, she said, and at least a 2-week course of oral antibiotics should follow. Prognosis--Murray said the prognosis for horses with wounds penetrating synovial structures depends on the individual injury and ranges from guarded to good, depending on how quickly a veterinary care is provided and the horse responds to treatment. She cautioned that not all penetrating wounds heal, and the attending veterinarian must be able to decide when to start or continue treatment and when euthanasia is the most humane option. Other Penetrating Wounds Not all penetrating wounds involve joints or joint structures, however. Murray also reviewed how to handle wounds to the thoracic cavity and abdomen, and she described treating gunshot wounds. Thoracic Cavity Wounds--Veterinarians should evaluate these wounds closely to determine their depth, she said. "With no direct penetration to the chest, the basic principles of wound management should be used," she said. However, trauma associated with lacerations or penetrating wounds to the axilla (the space between the inside of the upper limb and the body wall) can both cause a variety of complications, including pneumothorax (air in the chest cavity), subcutaneous emphysema (air pockets beneath the skin), hemothorax (pooling of blood in the chest cavity), and pneumomediastinum (air in the mediastinum, or the space in the middle of the chest, between the lungs). After evaluating such wounds, veterinarians generally debride and lavage them, and they remove any foreign bodies remaining in the cavity, she said. After cleaning the cavity well, the veterinarian should either close the wound by primary intention (sutures) or cover it with a sterile, airtight dressing and allow it to heal by secondary intention (the wound is not closed and allowed to heal on its own, an approach used with chronic, dirty, or infected wounds). She also noted that the veterinarian should prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics and NSAIDs to help control pain and possible infection. The prognosis for survival is generally good, unless the horse develops a potential complication called septic pleuritis (inflammation within the chest cavity). In such cases the prognosis for survival drops to 50%, she said. Abdominal Wounds--Murray said that diagnosing wounds to the abdominal cavity can be especially challenging for veterinarians. "Skin is much more resistant to tearing than are the fascia and muscles underneath it," she said. "Therefore, if the wound is small, it may be necessary to surgically open it so that the deeper layers can be thoroughly examined." If a wound does not penetrate the abdominal cavity, Murray said, the veterinarian should debride, lavage, and close it; in some cases, apply a belly bandage for support, to help reduce edema (fluid swelling), and encourage more rapid wound healing. If penetration does occur, the horse must be transported to a clinic for emergency care. But first, the field veterinarian must provide emergency first-aid care to stabilize the patient and, in many cases, he or she will pack and bandage the wound quickly to prevent the intestines from escaping through the wound. However in some cases, the intestines have already fallen out of the wound. In these scenarios, Murray instructed, "First, take a deep breath. Remain calm and move quickly." The veterinarian must place the intestines back into the abdominal cavity as quickly as possible, she said. Clean them first to prevent contamination, and sterilize the wound, she said. Then, the wound should be closed and the horse transported to a referral facility for further care. Many penetrating injuries to the abdominal cavity carry a guarded prognosis, Murray said. Gunshot Wounds--Gunshot wounds require careful evaluation because their depths are often underestimated. If the bullet or projectile has only penetrated the skin and skeletal muscle, she said, the prognosis for recovery is often good. The prognosis for survival generally decreases if organ trauma occurs. Initial treatment generally includes debridement, lavage, establishing drainage, and delayed primary closure. Take-Home Message Despite the fact that some horses with penetrating injuries return to full athletic function, owners and veterinarians should not take these cases lightly. Provide prompt veterinary treatment for horses with penetrating wounds, as early treatment often means better treatment results.
Not too long ago, I had an experience that changed the way I will think about farriery forever. It has long been my feeling that properly maintained barefoot horses had healthier feet and fewer lameness problems. I didn’t have any proof beyond my own observations, but I believed it to be true and tried to encourage my customers to leave their horses barefoot whenever possible. Then I went to a horseshoeing clinic. It was rather loosely organized and I was planning to hang out for the afternoon mystery lecture, then head home for a bit of doing nothing. I watched a few demonstrations, chatted with a few friends then wandered back into the kitchen. There was an older gentleman there having a coke and looking a little distracted. Thinking he was a horse owner who might have felt as bored as I was, I sat down to pass the time. Within a minute I knew this man was someone special. Within five minutes, I knew I had just met one of my heroes. Dr. Robert M. Bowker, V.M.D., Ph.D., Director of The Equine Foot Laboratory at Michigan State University, knows more about the internal workings of horse feet than any other single person alive. Where most veterinarians may dissect one or two equine feet in their lifetime, Dr. Bowker has minutely examined thousands. Last year, he set the veterinary world on its ear when he presented a paper describing how blood flow within the horse’s foot dissipates shock. You may have seen an article on his findings in Equus magazine entitled "Hooves Under Pressure." In addition to having a staggering number of papers and abstracts to his credit, Dr. Bowker stands out in his love for horses, his desire to better their lives and his willingness to educate anyone who shows even a glimmer of interest. We sat in the kitchen and spoke for several hours before it was time for him to deliver his lecture. In those hours and in the course of his lecture, my instinctual belief in the barefoot horse crystallized into certain knowledge. Barefoot is the most healthy, natural way for a horse to be. Dr. Bowker places horses into two categories. Good-footed horses live into their late twenties or thirties with few or no lameness problems. Bad-footed horses tend not to survive that long and are plagued by lameness issues all of their lives. So, what makes a horse good or bad footed in the first place? The horse’s environment is 90% of the determining factor of what makes a good-footed or bad-footed horse. Before a horse is born, all four of his feet are exactly the same for the only time in his life. Within two days of birth, the structures in the hoof have already adapted to environmental pressure to such an extent that a pathologist could tell which were front feet and which were hind without seeing them on the horse. The architecture, functioning and even the biochemistry of the horse’s foot change constantly in response to the environmental stresses placed upon it. Mother Nature is going to find a way to support the leg however she can. Normal physiologic demands will produce a normal homeostasis, meaning the foot will find its level and stay there. However, if the physiologic changes become more excessive, the feet will adapt in more extreme ways. Some changes may be beneficial, some may be temporarily beneficial then may turn out to be detrimental in the long run. Horse owners, veterinarians and farriers are a primary cause of environmental stress and so are ultimately responsible for the development of a good-footed horse.One of the primary differences between good-footed horses and bad-footed horses is that good-footed horses have wide heels and their frogs on the ground. These frogs are thick, wide and short as opposed to the thin, narrow and long frogs seen in a bad-footed horse. When autopsied, it was found that feet with good frog to ground contact had an enormous blood supply, a thick lateral cartilage and a fibrous digital cushion. These factors mean that the bones of the horses foot and leg are well supported, cushioned and fed. Feet with poor or no frog to ground contact were just the opposite - poorly supplied with blood; weak, thin lateral cartilage and a fatty digital cushion, leading to losses in bone density, poor support and poor shock absorption. These poor footed horses are the ones that develop navicular and other osteoporotic type diseases. Unfortunately for these horses, shoes can exacerbate the problem over the long run, especially if the farrier isn’t specifically looking for subtle changes that happen over a long period of time. When nailing a shoe to the hoof, the natural expansion and contraction of the horse’s heel is curtailed, the frog is lifted and the sole is "protected" from contact with the ground. If the heel cannot expand and contract, the heels begin to close up. A frog that does not contact the ground grows thinner, longer and less elastic. A sole that does not receive stimulation grows thinner. The consequence of these changes is that there is less blood flow to the feet. As the heels contract, the farrier has to shape the shoes to fit under the narrower heels and often has to resort to using the heel nails, further restricting the natural expansion. A poor footed horse can be put on the path toward healthier feet by changing the way their feet contact the ground. Dr. Bowker has fourteen navicular horses of his own. These horses have all come to him with "bad" to "severe" foot disease. Working closely with a local farrier, Dr. Bowker pulled their shoes and began a program of corrective trimming. All of these horses now rate in the "moderate" category and some are still improving. The transition from shoes to barefoot is not always easy, especially for those horses that are ridden often. Many horses have been in shoes for most of their lives. Their soles and often their hoofwalls are thin. When these horses go barefoot for the first time, they may show tenderness on hard or rocky surfaces for a period lasting from weeks to several months. Their hooves will also chip and crack along the edges until the old nail holes and the areas thinned by rasping grow out. Fortunately, a little patient and judicious farriery can speed up the adjustment period and help keep problems to a minimum. Venice turpentine can be painted on the soles (not the frog!) twice a week for the first two weeks then once a week for three weeks to harden the sole. Put the horse on a four to five week trimming program until the old nail holes are completely trimmed out. If the horse is in regular work, have your farrier measure your horse for a pair of "Old Mac" boots. These boots cost about what it would cost to have all four feet shod and will last for quite a lot longer. They are only used when the horse is being ridden and provide excellent support and protection for all riding disciplines. The benefits of increasing the health of your horse’s feet far outweigh the short-term inconvenience of the transition. As a farrier, I feel my most important job is to protect the soundness of the horses in my care. While I can make a great deal more money putting shoes on your horse, I feel that I would be doing so at the cost of my integrity as a caretaker. This is why, if you ask me to shoe your horse, my answer may be "no".
Ten Horse Hoof Care Tips
1. Pick out your horse's feet. This may sound pretty basic, but it's the single most important thing you can do for his hooves--and I encounter a surprising number of owners who think picking out the feet is the farrier's job. Your horse gets a head start on healthy hooves, and (as I'll explain) you get a chance to take early action on many common hoof problems, if you pick out his feet... before each ride, to remove any stones or small objects lodged in his feet before you add your weight to the situation, and to check on the condition of his shoes (more on that soon) after you untack him, in case something has gotten stuck in his feet during the ride when you bring him in at night, to check for objects in his feet, or for turnout injuries before turnout the next morning, to check for heat and pulse (see below), remove manure, and check for signs of thrush (more details on that below). Each time you clean your horse's hooves, take an extra couple of minutes after you've pried out any packed debris to gently clear the crevice of the frog, and scrape any remaining bits of matter off the sole, with the tip of the pick. You want to be able to see the sole's entire surface, so finish the job with a stiff brush. Some hoof picks come with brush attached, or you can buy a brush separately and inexpensively. 2. Establish what's normal. While handling your horse's feet to pick them out, notice their temperature; when everything's OK, they'll feel very slightly warm (more soon on what the variations can mean). Take a moment to locate the digital pulse with two fingers pressed against the back of his pastern; you're interested not in the rate of the pulse, but in its strength under normal conditions. Check the frog, which has about the texture and firmness of a new rubber eraser when it's healthy. Don't be alarmed, though, if everything else looks OK but the frog appears to be peeling off--most horses shed the frog at least twice a year, sometimes more often. Your farrier's regular trimming of the frog may have prevented you from noticing this natural process before. 3. When picking out the feet, look for signs of... Thrush. The first clue to this bacterial condition (usually caused by prolonged standing in manure, mud, or other wet, filthy conditions, or even by prolonged use of pads) is a foul smell and dark ooze from the cleft of the frog. Later, the frog becomes cheesy in texture. Although thrush can eventually cause lameness and significant hoof damage, its early stage is simple to treat. Use an over-the-counter remedy recommended by your farrier or veterinarian--follow directions carefully--and make sure your horse's stall is clean and dry. If you normally bed with straw, consider a change to much more absorbent shavings. Some horses--especially those with upright, narrow feet with deep clefts that tend to trap more dirt, debris, and manure--are predisposed to thrush even when well cared for. If you think your horse has an early case, ask your farrier to check. Puncture. If a nail or other object pierces your horse's sole and then falls out, the entry wound will probably be invisible by the time you pick his feet and you'll be unaware of it until it causes an abscess (below). But in some cases the object remains in place, to be discovered when you brush the last bits of dirt from the sole. DON'T PULL IT OUT. Put your horse in his stall (protect the punctured foot, and help the foreign object stay put, with wrapping and duct tape, or with a slip-on medication boot), and call your veterinarian right away. An Xray of the foot can show how far the object has penetrated and which structures are involved. (If you pick your horse's feet out regularly, you'll find the problem within a few hours of its occurrence.) Then your veterinarian can remove the object and advise a course of treatment. Cracks. Some cracks are superficial; others can worsen, involving sensitive hoof structures, without appropriate shoeing. (One cause of a crack is a hoof abscess--see below--which breaks out through the coronet band at the top of the hoof, creating a weak spot in the hoof wall that must be attended to as it grows out.) If you notice a crack in your horse's hoof, call your farrier and describe its location and size so he can decide whether it needs attention now or can wait until the next regular shoeing. Abscess. If your horse's digital pulse feels stronger than usual and/or is foot is warmer than normal to the touch, the cause could be an abscess inside the hoof from a badly placed shoeing nail, a bruise, or an overlooked sole puncture. Your routine check can alert you to the problem and get your veterinarian or farrier involved before your horse--probably at least slightly lame already on the abscessed foot, which throbs from the pressure of increased blood flow to the infected area--is in even greater pain. (If you find increased heat and a stronger-than-usual digital pulse in both front feet, and if he's shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, call your veterinarian immediately. These are signs of laminitis, an inflammatory condition that can cause severe hoof damage--and, if not treated promptly, can even be fatal.) 4. Schedule regular farrier visits according to your horse's individual needs. Although six to eight weeks is the average, there's really no standard interval for trimming and shoeing. If your farrier is correcting for a problem such as under-run heels, a club foot, or flare in the hoof wall, your horse may benefit from a shorter interval. If everything looks fine but you notice that he begins forging--striking the back of a front hoof with the toe of a back hoof (you'll hear a metallic sound)--in the last few days before his next shoeing, ask your farrier whether a shorter schedule might avoid the problem--possibly four to five weeks in the summer, slightly longer in the winter. 5. If your horse is shod, check his shoes each time you pick out his feet. Look for: Risen clinches. The ends of the nails your farrier trimmed and clinched (bent flush with the outer hoof wall) at his last shoeing are now sticking out from the hoof. This is a sign the shoe is loosening, probably because it's been in place for several weeks; he can injure himself if the risen clinches on one foot brush the inside of the other leg. A sprung or shifted shoe. When, instead of sitting flat on your horse's hoof, the shoe is pulled away and perhaps even bent, it's sprung. If it's moved to one side or the other, it's shifted. In either case, the nails in the problem shoe can press on sensitive hoof structures when he places weight on the foot. 6. Learn how to remove a shoe--yes, you! Many farriers are glad to teach clients how to do this (and may even have used tools you can buy inexpensively). If you can remove a sprung or shifted shoe, you may save your horse unnecessary pain and hoof damage and make life easier for your farrier or veterinarian. 7. Help your horse grow the best possible hooves. Some horses naturally have better hooves than others. Your horse may already be producing the best hoof he's capable of, or the following steps may enable him to do better. Fine-tune his diet. Ask your veterinarian whether your feeding program is appropriate for your horse's nutritional needs. Add a biotin supplement to his ration (ask your farrier for a recommendation). Some hooves benefit from these supplements; others show little change. Plan to use the supplement for six months to a year; that's how long it takes any benefits to show up in new hoof growth. Give him consistent exercise. Work on good surfaces, especially at walk and trot, increases circulation to your horse's hooves and promotes growth. 8. Avoid the "summer cycle" of alternate soaking and drying of hooves. Your horse's hooves can adapt well over time to conditions that are consistently dry or consistently damp, but hooves suffer when the environment fluctuates between wet and dry. Unfortunately, this is often the situation during the very months when you want to use him the most: late spring, summer, and early fall. Evening turnout--a summer strategy to avoid biting insects--puts hooves in prolonged contact with dew-soaked grass; they swell and soften with moisture, much as your fingernails soften after hours in water. Back in a dry, hot environment during the day, the hooves dry and contract. With repetition of this cycle, horseshoe nails loosen as their holes through the hoof wall enlarge slightly. Such summer activities as work, stomping flies, or (if your horse is restless) walking the fence accelerate the loosening; pretty soon you're asking your farrier, "Why can't my horse keep his shoes on?" There are a couple of things you can do to minimize this pattern: Cut back on summer turnout time. Try to reduce by a few hours the time your horse spends standing in a dewy nighttime paddock or stomping flies outside during the day. Reduce moisture absorption by applying Tuff Stuff? to the lower two-thirds of his hooves before evening turnout. (But pass up conditioners that leave the hoof feeling oily; they can actually soften hoof wall if used frequently, and if applied before your farrier's visit, they make hooves harder for him to work on.) Avoid unnecessary baths. Sponging the sweat off your horse after schooling works just as well, without causing him to stand in a puddle for half an hour or more. Save the full-scale bath for just before the show. Shorten his summer shoeing schedule. A lost shoe often means hoof damage, which escalates the cycle of summer shoeing problems. Spacing your farrier's regular visits a week or so closer may avoid emergency calls. Toughen his soles with a daily application of Venice turpentine. 9. Try not to turn out in deep, muddy footing. Hours of standing in mud may encourage thrush or scratches (a skin infection in the fetlock area that can cause lameness). Mud is hard on shoes, too: The suction of deep mud can drag off a shoe already loosened by alternating wet and dry conditions. Mud also makes picking up his feet a harder job; if your horse is slow about getting his front feet out of the way, he may end up pulling off the heels of his front shoes because he's stepping on them with his back toes. 10. Protect your horse's hooves during hauling. Without covering for his heels, he can easily step on the edge of a shoe and pull it partially loose--then spend the remainder of the journey standing on the nails of the sprung or shifted shoe. Another vulnerable area is the coronet band: the rim of tissue at the top of each hoof that generates new hoof-wall growth. Injury to this area (for instance, if he steps on himself while struggling to keep his balance in a moving trailer) can interrupt hoof growth in the area below the affected spot. The solution: Either old-fashioned shipping bandages and bell boots (large enough to cover the bulbs of your horse's heels and the backs of his shoes) or good quality full-coverage Velcro-fastened shipping boots reduce the likelihood of these problems. For additional information, see the following articles in Practical Horseman: "Just a Bruise?" (March 1998); "Send Thrush Packing!" (May 1998); "Laminitis (AKA Founder)" (May 1999). Call 301-977-3900 to order the back issues. AFA Certified Journeyman Farrier Chris Volk cares for performance horses--hunters, jumpers, dressage horses and eventers--from Olympic to local levels out of his Homeville Forge & Farrier Service, based in Washington, Va. He is a team farrier for the Canadian Equestrian Team and traveled with the team to the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, and the 2007 Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This article first appeared in the August 2000 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.
Caring For Older Horses
The average life expectancy of a horse is around twenty-five or thirty years of age. One year of horse age is comparable to 3 years of human age. In other words a 25 year old horse would be comparable to a 75 year old human and a 30 year old horse would be comparable to a 90 year old human. Domesticated horses live longer than wild horses. These days, thanks to quality feeds and excellent care of well-informed horse owners, horses are living even longer. Recently, someone brought a horse to the school to be trimmed that was over 40 years old! According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest horse ever recorded is Old Billy, a cob/shire horse born in England. He died at age 62 in 1822. The oldest pony of verifiable record was Sugar Puff, a Shetland from Sussex U.K. He died at age 56 in 2007.
As a horse matures, its nutritional requirements change. The most critical factor for growing horses is protein. Protein is needed in relatively high amounts by foals for normal growth. However, a mature horse needs a minimum of 8 to 10 percent crude protein to be maintained. If a ration contains more than required amount of protein, it is converted into stored fat and ammonia that is excreted in the urine. Since protein is the most expensive part of the ration, it is wise to feed only the required amount. These amounts have been determined by scientific studies and published by the National Research Council in Nutrient Requirements of Light Horses.
Energy requirements vary with the work a horse does. A horse that does little work needs very little if any concentrated energy such as is found in grain. However, in order to maintain its weight, a horse that works hard requires more energy than grass or hay can supply. When a horse starts to get fat, you should reduce the energy portion of the ration. To put weight on a skinny or an aged horse, you should increase the energy portion of the ration. This should be done with judgment and gradually as a sudden increase in energy can cause horses to colic or founder. Senior horses may need extra energy in the form of pelleted sweet feed to maintain their weight.
As horses get older, their teeth condition becomes poorer. Older horses with poor or missing teeth seem to do better on cubes or pellets than coarse stemmed hay. In addition, protein, fiber and phosphorous are more difficult for aged horses to digest so moistened pellets or pulp are a good way to improve a horse’s condition. Feed supplements are usually not necessary unless something is known to be missing from the ration – for example, if you only have access to poor quality hay.
Horses’ feet don’t grow as much as they get older. Hoof growth rate is highly correlated to heart rate. Young animals have a heart rate at least twice as fast as older animals. Young horses’ feet grow much faster. Studies have shown that a foal’s hoofs grow at 0.6 inches per month while an aged horse’s hoofs grow at 0.25 inches per month. Older horses may not need to be trimmed or shod as often because of this. If an older horse has a diseased hoof, a supplement that stimulates hoof growth (such as Farrier’s Formula by Life Data Labs) may be necessary.
While shoeing or trimming older horses, remember to exercise patience and hold their limbs closer to the ground as they may be suffering from stiff joints. The Hoofjack Geriatric Hoof Stand is a helpful tool when working on aged horses.
Even though horses can do less rigorous activities as they age, they may still be of value as companion animals or riding animals for young children and those with disabilities. A well-trained older horse for an inexperienced rider can be invaluable because at least one of them will have some judgment! Knowing how to care for these beloved animals is important so we can enjoy them for many years.
Pete Butler Jacob Butler
Assessing the Newborn Foal
My mare’s first foal, a filly, arrived right at dinnertime. Within minutes, she untangled those gangly legs and found her way to her mother’s udder. The mare seemed a little uncomfortable with this new experience, but by feeding her handfuls of oats we persuaded her to stand still while her baby filled up on colostrum, and she soon relaxed.
While everything looked good, we decided to call our veterinarian for a quick check-up. He was able to reassure us that our new addition was healthy and doing well. But just what is a veterinarian looking for when he or she assesses a newborn colt or filly, and what should horse owners be watching for?
Dr. Fernando J. Marqués, a board-certified internal medicine specialist and professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, says that assessing the foal actually starts well before the birth. “You want to be taking good care of the mare and checking on her daily. If you wait until the foal is delivered, you may find there are problems that could have been avoided,” he points out.
For example, any vaginal discharge from the mare is considered abnormal and could be a sign of infection. It’s also important to look at the mare’s udder, in case she is leaking colostrum (the first milk mares produce, which is packed with antibodies – see page 28). “Because foals are born without antibodies, they rely on the colostrum to protect them against infections and disease. The mare only produces this special milk once, so if she starts leaking before the foal is born, it might be all gone before the foal arrives,” explains Marqués.
If you do notice dripping colostrum, you may be able to make arrangements to get colostrum from donor mares, or have the foal given plasma after it is 24 hours old if colostrum was not available.
The normal birth
Ideally, says Marqués, someone should be present for the birth. Mares do seem to do all they can to thwart this, he admits, often by foaling at night. A normal birth begins with white membranes and amniotic fluid emerging, then both front feet (soles facing down) and the muzzle of the foal. If instead of white membranes you see a red membrane, that means the placenta has detached and that membrane should be ruptured as soon as possible (cut it with scissors, says Marqués), so the foal can get oxygen from the air.
Some congenital malformations can prevent the foal from being born in the normal position. If the foal’s position is different than the usual one, or if the birth seems to be taking longer than about 30 minutes, Marqués says that a veterinarian should be contacted right away. Fortunately, most of the time the birth goes smoothly, and mares generally do better if they are given some space.
Expect the foal to be noticeably breathing on his own within seconds of being born. His heart rate should be about 70-80 beats per minute. A large foal may compress the umbilical cord as it comes through the pelvis, and have trouble getting started with breathing.
Marqués applies the “one, two, three” rule:
• By one hour after birth, the foal should be standing up
• By two hours after birth, the foal should be nursing
• By three hours after the birth, the mare should have passed the placenta
“If any of these are delayed, there may be problems, and a veterinarian should be called,” he says.
The foal, when standing, should have a normal posture with head and neck up. And while the foal may not nurse immediately, the suckling reflex should be noticeable within half an hour (you can try sticking a couple of fingers in his mouth to see how he reacts). No response? A veterinarian will check for possible neurological problems. Foals who have suffered from a lack of oxygen may seem unaware of their surroundings (“dummy foals”), but these effects can sometimes be reversed.
In assessing a foal, Marqués takes its temperature (ideally 37-38°C) and will also check the foal’s mucus membranes, which should be pink and moist (bright red gums, depression or very high heart and respiratory rates may indicate the foal is septic due to a failure of passive transfer of immunity via the colostrum). The foal’s legs will be palpated and should feel warm, not cold, and he looks as well for contracted tendons which can prevent the foal’s legs from being straightened. The eyes are checked for corneal ulcers and possible infections; Marqués also examines the foal’s ribs, as sometimes these are fractured during a difficult birth.
The umbilical cord should be left intact as long as possible to maximize the transfer of blood from the mare to the foal, Marqués advises. There is a distinct area on the cord designed to break naturally, and this usually happens when the mare stands up. Once it ruptures, you can disinfect the remaining stump with dilute chlorhexidine in a small cup, held against the stump for a minute or two. Repeat this once or twice a day for the next few days, and you should see it drying up fairly quickly. Watch for bleeding, pus, swelling on the umbilical stump, or urine dripping from it. “The umbilicus is a major port of entry for bacteria,” explains Marqués, “so it’s important to disinfect it and to be watching for any signs of potential problems.”
It’s common at many breeding farms to give the foals an enema soon after birth to prevent meconium impaction. Meconium is the stool that forms in the foal’s intestines before birth, and it can be quite thick and dry. Fortunately, colostrum acts as a laxative and a foal who is nursing well will usually pass the meconium on his own, but sometimes there are difficulties. (In some cases the foal passes the meconium prior to birth; if its coat is stained, it may have inhaled some contaminated amniotic fluid and may be at risk for respiratory infection.)
If you do use the enema approach, Marqués recommends not giving more than two. “I see many foals where the rectum is very irritated by repeated enemas, and this can actually cause more obstruction problems. Also, repeated enemas can lead to severe electrolyte imbalances. There is also a risk of perforating the rectum if the enema is not given correctly.”
Marqués also watches for normal signs of bonding and connection between mare and foal. She should seem interested in her baby and receptive to the foal nursing, something that may take a little time if it’s her first.
Osteomyelitis is distinguished from pedal osteitis in that the former implies infection of bone; the later implies inflammation due to bruising of the coffin bone. Bone pain is some of the most severe hurt an animal can experience. Osteomyelitis can be a sequela (following the original disease) to severe founder that results in sole perforation or from neglected foot abscesses. It also may result from a sequestrum (piece of dead or necrotic bone) that may result from a coffin bone fracture or a puncture wound in the sole.
Usually, only the outer border of the coffin bone or distal phalanx is affected in founder cases. The blood circulation coming from the circumflex artery that supplies the bone with nourishment is interrupted. The ischemia (lack of blood supply) caused by the destruction of this artery also affects the sensitive sole since most of its nourishment comes from this source. Necrosis (tissue death) may spread to other bones. The infection becomes almost impossible to stop once it spreads due to the difficulty of getting antibiotics to the infection site because of the compromised circulation.
Afflicted horses will exhibit signs of extreme bone pain. They will place their legs underneath the body and try to press downward by standing on their toes. Sole abscesses are usually present. In some cases the horse will appear to have a superficial flexor contracture with the fetlock knuckled over. Horses often develop dicubital ulcers (bed sores) on boney prominences from lying down. Radiographs will reveal areas of osteomiosis (disintegration of bone) in the coffin bone. White blood cell count is usually normal. However, a bone scraping biopsy is usually positive for Staphlococcus bacteria.
George Platt DVM and Burney Chapman CJF found medical treatments with antibiotics to be of little value in more than a hundred cases they treated due to the lack of circulation in the infected areas. In those cases where they did have success, Dr. Platt removed soft necrotic(dead) bone through the dorsal hoof wall and the sole surgically with a curet (bone scraping instrument). Mr. Chapman applied a heartbar shoe with a treatment plate and packed the wound with sugardine (a syrupy mixture of betadine and table sugar) and changed the bandage every other day until granulation tissue covered the bone. Dr. Platt recommended administering the antibiotic Baytril 5 mg/kg and Eq Stim (made by Neogen Corp.) 1cc/250 pds on day 1 and day 4. He repeated the same dose every week. They both concluded that once established, the bone infection was almost impossible to cure. The prognosis (expected outcome) was grave. Prevention is the best cure.
Prevention is best achieved with a treatment plate when sole abscesses are present and/or the coffin bone is severely foundered. This holds medication in place and prevents pressure and contamination of the wound. The plate is bolted to the ground surface of the shoe with 5/16th inch bolts and can be made from 1/8 inch aluminum or ¼ inch thick copolymer plastic. We prefer the plastic plate since it is 1) less likely to deform, 2) does not have sharp edges and 3) the bolts stay in place without lock washers. We recommend the antiseptic and poultice packing be changed frequently by the owner
Radiographic Fetlock Abnormalities in Barrel Racing Horses
Menarim said monthly vet checks can help detect injury early and allow prompt treatment. Further, he said, proper hoof care and the use of support boots could help prevent excessive fetlock hyperextension, which could lead to injury.
Think high-performance barrel racers need a clean set of X rays to bring home blue? Think again. A team of South American researchers recently completed a study that showed nearly 50% of barrel racing horses could be performing with radiographic changes in their fetlock joints."Barrel racing is one of the most popular uses of the American Quarter Horse in North and South America," explained Bruno Carvalho Menarim, DVM, MS, a veterinarian in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Universidad Austral de Chile, in Valdivia."Although injury to the metacarpophalangeal (fetlock) joint frequently occurs in this sport, there is little information describing the nature of these injuries," Menarim said. "The aim of this study was to determine the most common radiographic abnormalities in barrel racing horses with lameness referable to the metacarpophalangeal joint."Menarim and colleagues evaluated 63 barrel racing Quarter Horses in "intensive training and performing barrel racing competitions" that:
Were at least 3 years old;
Were lame at the walk and/or trot before and/or after a fetlock flexion test;
Underwent a thorough lameness examination; and
Underwent a complete fetlock radiographic evaluation.
Of the 63 horses evaluated, 30 (ranging in age from 3 to 19 years, four of which were "spontaneously lame" and 26 of which were only lame after flexion) met the aforementioned criteria and were included in the study.Menarim et al. found that of the four horses with spontaneous lameness, one had bilateral (on both sides) lameness and three had unilateral lameness (one was lame on his right front leg while the other two were lame on their left forelegs). Additionally, of the 26 horses lame after flexion, 10 were lame unilaterally (seven on the right front leg and three on the left) and 20 were lame bilaterally.Menarim also noted that the team found "radiographic evidence of disease" in 29 of 30 (96.8%) study horses' fetlocks. Common radiographic abnormalities identified and their prevalence included:
Sesamoiditis (inflammation associated with the proximal sesamoid bones, which are two small bones sitting at the base of the cannon bone in back of the fetlock joint) in 70% of horses;
Villonodular synovitis (inflammation and/or fibrosis, or scarring, of the synovial pad on the front of the fetlock due to repeated trauma and extreme extension of the joint) in 56.6% of horses;
Osteoarthritis from bone spur, or osteophyte, formation in 36.6% of horses;
Osteochondral fragments, or bone chips, in 13.3% of horses;
Capsulitis (joint capsule inflammation) in 13.3% of horses; and
Generalized soft tissue swelling in 6.6% of horses.
Menarim noted that, according to previous research, "the majority of these radiographic abnormalities suggest injury caused by (fetlock) joint hyperextension."The research team also collected follow-up information on 27 of the 30 study horses for 12 months after the initial examinations. The team learned that:
After 12 months 23 horses were still actively competing;
Ten horses that were lame after flexion were in the Top 10 in their respective classes, and six won classes at the following year's National Barrel Racing Championships (the overall barrel racing champion for the year exhibited a Grade 4 out of 5 lameness after flexion during the study); and
Four horses had been retired by 12 months after the study; only one of the four was retired due to fetlock lameness.
Menarim noted that, in the 12 months following the evaluations, 11 of the 30 horses remained under the researchers' care; eight of those horses received musculoskeletal injury treatment including:
Stall rest (8 horses);
Oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (8 horses);
Topical anti-inflammatories (7 horses);
Intra-articular (in the joint) steroid injections (6 horses);
Intra-articular sodium hyaluronate injections (3 horses); and
Annular ligament desmotomy, a procedure that involves severing the annular ligament, which holds the superficial and deep digital flexor tendons in place as they pass the fetlock (1 horse).
He also noted that nine of the 11 horses under the researchers' care received corrective shoeing in the 12 months following the evaluation.Although nearly 50% of the barrel racing Quarter Horses evaluated had radiographic abnormalities of the fetlock joint, many of these horses continued on as high-performance athletes, Menarim concluded, noting that the same is true for many equine competitors regardless of discipline."This indicates that in high performing barrel racing horses some degree of lameness after flexion, even associated with radiographic abnormalities of the fetlock joint, may not be completely detrimental to performance ability,"said Menarim.He also offered some advice for barrel racing and other performance horse owners: "Monthly veterinary check-ups for high-performance barrel racers increase the possibility of early diagnosis of musculoskeletal injury and, therefore, the odds to have a successful treatment to extend the horse´s career. Adequate hoof care and use of support splints (boots) could be helpful to preventing excessive hyperextension."He also stressed that "the attending veterinarians should always perform a thorough clinical exam and discuss potential athletic incapacitities with owners when abnormalities are found during the radiographic exam, and be careful to state athletic incapacity when abnormalities are found at the radiographic exam. Radiographic abnormalities are easily found in competitors of any sport horse discipline able to ... compete (at a high level)."
The study, "Radiographic Abnormalities in Barrel Racing Horses with Lameness Referable to the Metacaropophalangeal Joint," appeared in April in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science(doi:10.1016/j.jevs.2011.09.064). The abstract can be viewed online
BEWARE OF FALL PASTURE -- LAMINITIS RISK INCREASES!
As temperatures begin to dip, Dr. Juliet Getty, equine nutrition specialist, wants your horse to make the transition to winter feeding in good shape, and that means understanding about the sugar and starch that lurk in your fall pasture growth. If you have horses that are overweight, insulin resistant, or suffer from equine Cushing’s disease, you know about keeping them off of spring grasses. The non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) content is too high for free-choice grazing to be safe, increasing the risk for laminitis. But don’t think you're out of the woods once spring is over. True, summer is safer, but as early fall nights cool down below 40 degrees F, the dangerous carbohydrates once again increase. Grass accumulates NSC (sugars and starch) as it is exposed to sunlight. The levels reach a peak in the late afternoon. During the dark hours, the grass uses this fuel for itself, and by morning, the levels are at their lowest. But, cold nights prevent grass from using as much NSC, resulting in a higher NSC concentration during the day. Don’t be fooled by the brown grass you see in the late fall. Spread it apart and you’ll likely see some green at the base, which is high in sugar and starch. If it hasn’t rained in a while, your grass will look dried out; but be careful – dry grass can actually have a higher NSC percentage than long, lush-looking grass. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Getty’s website – www.GettyEquineNutrition.com
10.WHY HIRE A " CAPF / AAPF" FARRIER ?
The American & Canadian Associations of Professional Farriers (AAPF/CAPF) were launched in 2012. Since then over 600 farriers and others involved in the farrier industry have joined the associations. As a relatively new association, the AAPF/CAPF and its members have already been recognized as an established, relevant and powerful voice for farriers through the promotion of quality hoof-care for the horses and horse owners which they serve.
An AAPF/CAPF Farrier:
Is committed to Continuing Education – keeping up to date on research, techniques and products – in order to provide the best possible hoof-care to their clients and their horses,
Conducts himself/herself in a professional and ethical manner throughout his/her business activities,
Belongs to a family of farriers who are willing to share their knowledge of farriery with each other through mentoring,
Is committed to forming positive partnerships with other equine and farrier associations, as well as veterinarians, through a team work approach.An AAPF/CAPF Accredited Professional Farrier™ (APF) has more than five years of experience while committed to obtaining at least 24 hours of Continuing Education per year.
An AAPF/CAPF Accredited Farrier™ (AF) has two to five years of experience while committed to obtaining at least 24 hours of Continuing Education per year.
We have included here a few educational articles gleaned from several sources we hope you find useful. We will continue to add to this category in the future.
1. How Do I Tell if my Farrier is Doing a Good Job 2. How to Find and Keep a Good Farrier 3. Penetration Injuries 4. Barefoot Persuasion 5. Ten Horse Hoof Care Tips 6. Caring For Older Horses 7. Assessing the Newborn Foal 8. Osteomyelitis 9. Radiographic Fetlock Abnormalities in Barrel Racing Horses 9. Beware Of Fall Pasture 10. Why Hire a "CAPF / AAPF "Farrier
Clearhills Farrier Services
"Quality & Kindness in Hoofcare"