The Horse

OCT 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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48 October 2018 The Horse | exercise may identify abnormalities of heart rhythm and recovery rate. Abnor- malities should be noted and pursued with advanced diagnostic tools, such as EKG (electrocardiogram) and cardiac ultrasound." While a heart rate monitor is a useful tool for measuring working heart rates and recovery, it does not provide informa- tion about cardiac output or electrical conductivity (impulses from the heart muscle that cause it to beat). Cold and Heat Therapy Horses starting back into work might benefit from cryotherapy to reduce in- flammation. Johnson prefers to immerse the limbs in a slurry mixture of ice and water to lower tissue temperature post- work. Cold water hosing or commercial ice boots are useful, as well, she says. Start by applying cold therapy for 20 to 30 minutes once or twice a day in the ini- tial days of bringing a horse back to work. Commercial icing blankets are also avail- able for the axial skeleton (the vertebrae, skull, ribs, and sternum), or you can ice the back manually, Johnson says. Heat therapy is useful for managing chronic pain and injury by relieving discomfort and improving soft tissue ex- tensibility. Johnson says riders can apply microwaveable hot packs, heating pads, or warm water to an area of chronic in- jury before being ridden. For horses with foot pain, she likes to apply heat to the distal (lower) brachiocephalicus muscles around the chest and shoulders before performing stretching exercises. "Many horses with foot pain or distal forelimb pain also experience secondary pain within the distal brachiocephalicus muscle, which is the main muscle respon- sible for advancing the forelimb," she says. "Muscles that compensate for lower limb pain often benefit from stretching exercises to facilitate improvement." Sometimes she employs therapeutic ultrasound, as well, which she says can elevate tissue temperatures by 4 degrees Celsius (39 Fahrenheit) to literally warm the horse up. Being Mindful of Injuries For an older horse coming back into work, lameness issues are the primary concern. Johnson suggests riders be par- ticularly sensitive to a horse's resistance to perform certain movements or activities. "The best advice is to collaborate with your veterinarian before you begin bring- ing a horse back to work," she says. A thorough physical examination can help you identify issues and develop an appropriate rehab plan around them. "While imaging modalities such as ra- diographs, ultrasound, etc. often provide helpful insight into a musculoskeletal issue, abnormal imaging findings don't always correlate with the problem," says Johnson. "Work with your equine veteri- narian to achieve an accurate diagnosis and develop a therapeutic plan. "It's important not to fixate on only one injury; instead we look for global improve- ment by treating all secondary issues that stem from a primary injury," she adds. Positive Progress To track your horse's progress and muscle development, it might be helpful to take regular photos from the right, left, and rear. Position the horse the same in all photo sessions for the best comparisons. Other objective muscle measurements include placing a pliable wire over the horse's rump as a baseline, then repeating with a new wire every three to four weeks for comparisons. You can also use pliable wire to take girth measurements and joint range-of-motion measurements. When to Slow Down Even if you adhere to a very thought- ful and consistent training regimen, not every horse can accommodate the demands. It might be time to pump the brakes if you recognize: ■ Resistance to exercise; ■ Attitude changes; ■ Subtle or overt lameness; ■ Signs of fatigue, which are often subtle; ■ Respiratory or cardiovascular issues, as indicated by an elevated heart rate or respiratory rate and/or delayed heart rate recovery; or ■ Muscle issues, such as overt muscle discomfort or tying-up. After years of layoff, a senior horse might not return to a successful athletic career. Once the horse has been let down from routine exercise, particularly if in his latter teens or beyond, Liberman says it's difficult to bring him back to peak performance. This isn't to say the horse can't be rehabilitated to perform light ex- ercise, such as trail rides, or even perform at amateur levels. Take it slowly, he says, and monitor the aged horse carefully. Take-Home Message Tailor any conditioning program, regardless of discipline or fitness level, to the individual. Each horse's needs and response to conditioning differ. Approach it slowly, have realistic expectations, and make progressive demands that your horse can accept and accomplish safely. "The important philosophy to follow when bringing a sedentary horse back to work," says Liberman, "is to keep expectations low and realistic and accept the horse's ability without exceeding his limits. It is important to separate the horse and his capacity from what an owner or rider wants for their equestrian goals; they may not be the same. Above all, remember to have a good time." h SPORTS MEDICINE Resistance bands can help develop the horse's hindquarters and encourage him to work in a "frame." COURTESY DR. SHERRY JOHNSON

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