The Horse

FEB 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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46 THE HORSE February 2018 the rodeo arena during the 21-day event, Espy says he sees, at most, one to three injuries. When 1,200 or more pounds of sheer muscle erupts from a standstill and gy- rates its body in every direction beneath a rider's weight, it seems as if problems would arise. But Espy says injuries to bucking horses are few and far between. He says he has probably witnessed 12,000 bucking horses perform over the last 20 years, and he's never seen a scar from spurring on the neck or thorax (chest area) or a lameness that wasn't incurred due to environmental reasons, such as a laceration or a foot abscess. He says 90% of lameness issues common to all horses, not just bucking horses, stem from foot problems. Because bucking horses cannot be handled for the farrier, they're housed on terrain that keeps their hooves trimmed naturally. Veterinarians run them through special- ized chutes for immunizations, deworm- ing, and blood draws for Coggins tests and blood work. "The horses are even ultrasounded for reproductive purposes in the same restraint," says Espy. The bucking horses travel hundreds of thousands of miles a year. "The horses become accustomed to the travel and the commotion and their job—it be- comes their lifestyle," says Doug Corey, DVM, Oregon-based past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Corey was instrumental in crafting the Pro Rodeo Animal Welfare Guidelines, and he's served on the PRCA welfare committee. The primary travel-related ailments Espy says he sees in these horses are strangles (from Streptococcus equi infec- tions), influenza, and rhinopneumonitis. They are more difficult to immunize because of the need for restraint and the physical safety of the human handlers. Due to their rigorous travel schedule, Corey says bucking horses are continually exposed to respiratory bugs to which they build immunity, so he rarely sees ship- ping fever. In his experience, respiratory problems in bucking horses tend to be more commonly related to dust and dirt irritation. With that in mind, most rodeos keep their arenas well-watered, he says. Rodeos are also making a big push to educate all their participants about bios- ecurity. "No longer do the horses drink from a common water tank but, rather, they are offered water in water buckets originating from their home," says Corey. This helps minimize infectious disease spread. The rare injury or infirmity might be associated with rapid heart rates pro- duced when horses burst from the gate and buck intensely, says Espy. The horses don't get any warmup—they are moved from the collective holding pen to the chute, buck for eight seconds, and then return to the holding pen. Occasionally, a bucking horse might ex- perience pulmonary hypertension (abnor- mally high blood pressure in the lungs) and develop epistaxis (a bloody nose), a condition commonly seen in racehorses. Espy has seen the odd rupture of the heart's chordae tendineae (tendinous chords), resulting in cardiac failure, and a rare fracture. But in 20 years, he says he has only tended to three pulmonary/ cardiac events. Very rarely, says Corey, a horse might sustain a fracture or run into a fence during a ride. "But," he says, "Most of the injuries amount to nothing more than pulled muscles or a bronc being muscle- sore from travel." If an injury does occur, our sources say veterinarians treat these valuable buck- ing horses just as they would any other performance horse. They administer sedatives, painkillers, and general anes- thetic in a padded stall, if necessary, and SPORTS MEDICINE Bucking horses are housed in holding pens at rodeos. Judges walk these pens daily and alert the stock contractor and veterinarian if they spot any signs of illness or injury. Due to the nature of their work, most injuries to Western performance horses involve the hind end, such as the hocks or stifles. ISTOCK.COM LIZ MASON

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