The Horse

MAR 2019

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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A12 March 2019 The Horse | AAEP Wrap-Up ALEXANDRA BECKSTETT ERICA LARSON The Western Performance Patient T hese horses do it all: pleasure rid- ing, trail, reining, cutting and rop- ing, barrel racing and other speed events, and more. All these disciplines place different stresses on the horse's body. When one of these athletes isn't performing as he should, there are more than a few places practitioners can look. William Rhoads, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, ABVP, owner of Premier Equine Veteri- nary Services and Sports Medicine Center, in Whitesboro, Texas, and an experienced reiner, shared tips on how vets can work up poorly performing Western athletes. About 90% of the poor-performance- related cases he sees in his practice involve clinical (apparent) or subclinical (inapparent) lameness or musculoskeletal pain. Common causes include: ■ Synovitis (joint lining inflammation) in the hock, stifle, fetlock, or coffin joint; ■ Tendon and/or ligament injury; ■ Osteoarthritis (OA) in older horses; ■ Stress-induced bone remodeling; ■ Sacroiliac issues (where the spine meets the pelvis); and ■ Kissing spines. Other causes include gastrointestinal, neurologic, respiratory, cardiac, renal (kidney), and hepatic (liver) issues, as well as muscle diseases (such as polysaccha- ride storage myopathy, or PSSM), which are prevalent in stock horses, he said. "As some of these horses are not re- quired to jog (for soundness in competi- tion) in their respective disciplines, many times lameness is not the presenting complaint," Rhoads said. Rather, the rider or trainer notices a decreased ability to perform a certain ma- neuver, diminished gait quality, or mea- surable time increases in speed events. Diagnosis The initial exam is no differ- ent than a prepurchase or lameness exam. "Get a systematic approach, and follow it every time," he said. His exams include: ■ Observing the horse on the longe line at the walk and jog in a sand arena, traveling both directions; ■ Palpating the neck, back, pelvis, and all four limbs; ■ Evaluating each hoof with hoof testers; ■ Conducting flexion tests on all legs; and ■ Walking and jogging the horse in a straight line on a concrete surface. If his initial exam does not reveal any significant findings, Rhoads moves on to additional tests. "In some instances the horse may be evaluated under saddle, with and without a rider," he said. "Many times a problem is not apparent until the horse is actually performing that specific maneuver." He also recommended repeating flex- ion tests with the rider aboard to garner additional information. If the vet identifies lameness, diagnostic analgesia (blocking) or imaging can help localize the problem to a suspected area. If there are no clear answers Rhoads recommended conducting objective gait analysis. He said this can help detect gait asymmetry at different stride phases. "This technology is much more sensi- tive than the human eye and can provide valuable information pertaining to the way a horse is moving," he said. He offered a word of caution, however: "All lame horses have gait asymmetries, but not all horses with gait asymmetries are lame. That's where the art of lameness diagnosis comes in." When All Else Fails "Every attempt should be made to find the underlying cause of poor performance, and this may take several examinations and multiple diagnostic modalities," Rhoads said. Even with thorough exams, there are cases where vets can't find a definitive explanation for the poor performance. "In these cases, it is very helpful to have knowledge of the specific discipline of the horse and the most common abnor- malities that lead to similar performance limitations," Rhoads said. "Response to treatment based on a clinical hunch may lead to a proper diagnosis." 10 Tips for Evaluating Poor Performance in Racehorses "In a sport where races are won and lost by fractions of a second, subtle prob- lems can have a significant impact on performance," said Ryan Carpenter, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, a racetrack practitioner at Equine Medical Center, in Cypress, California. He reviewed how he works up cases of poor performance in racehorses. Like any poor performance evaluation, work-ups on racehorses should include a detailed history and a thorough physical and lameness exam. Carpenter offered 10 tips when looking at racehorses: 1. Listen to the horse's heart to check for murmurs or other common cardiac ab- normalities, as well as the thoracic cav- ity for signs of lower airway infections ISTOCK.COM Getting to the Bottom of Poor Performance

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