Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vet: Take hoof injuries seriously

Dr. Adam Biedrzycki

A dog or a cat might adjust to the loss of a foot or leg but horses need four sound feet and legs to survive and perform. Part of the reason a horse can’t manage without the use of its feet is the sheer size of the animals. Plus horses carry almost 60 percent of their weight on the front legs and depend heavily on the rear legs for propulsion, said Dr. Adam Biedrzycki, UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Horses can’t lie down for long periods of time. They need sound feet to even be able to rest,” he added.

Biedrzycki, speaking at a recent first aid for horses seminar, explained that a horse’s hoof is a complicated junction for bones, tendons, ligaments hard tissue, soft tissue and an assortment of blood vessels. Take injuries in the area of the lower leg and hoof seriously.

“Any treatment of the hoof will involve your farrier. They’ll be the ones who’ll be able to work with your horse’s feet and your veterinarian in a treatment and recovery plan,” Biedrzycki said. 

The navicular bone joins the hoof near the back and is tied together with ligaments and tendons to the “coffin bone” which in turn is encased in the hoof itself. An injury to the area at the back of the leg or hoof may involve the navicular bone, Biedrzycki said.

Under the hoof resides the “frog,” a pad of soft tissue protected by the outer rim of the hoof itself. Injuries to the frog, especially penetrating injuries, are a 50-50 proposition for healing, he said. The reason injuries to the frog are iffy is because there are so many complicated structures coming together in the hoof.

“A street nail or penetrating injury that goes deep needs to be seen by a vet. It’s tempting to pull a nail out but leave it alone. A radiogram while the object is still in the hoof can tell us how serious it may be. A nail can go in through the frog and completely miss all the important structures. But you don’t know what has happened unless you do the radiogram,” Biedrzycki said.

And the difference between a serious penetrating injury and one that isn’t is a $5,000 vet bill.

Lacerations, or jagged cuts, around the area of the hoof are another common type of injury. Because there is such a concentration of blood vessels around the hoof, a laceration may look worse than it really is, he said. Since horses are prone to getting their feet tangled in fences and other places, lacerations to the hoof area are another set of common injuries owners are likely to encounter.

“There’s a coronary band that supplies blood to the hoof. That blood supply is responsible for all the growth of the hoof. You should take such wounds seriously,” Biedrzycki said.

Diagnosis of the injury is the first step in determining the treatment and making decisions. Because the hoof is such a complicated place, veterinary costs can begin to pile up fast. A penetrating wound to the hoof, for example, can result in a simple abscess that’s easily treatable with a high probably of full recovery.

But once you start considering surgery and other complicated treatments the costs start to climb and the potential for a complete recovery also may decline, he said. Against the cost and time involved are the value and use of the horse.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stable opens with new owners

People in the horse business around Stoughton will probably recognize Foxfield Stables as something new in the neighborhood. They’ll also recognize the new stable in town as one of the most well-known horse operations in the area as the former Stiklestad Stables.

Stiklestad Stables was operated for years by the Henry “Hank” Stikelstad family. Its location north of Stoughton on a sweeping curve made it a “can’t miss” landmark for anyone heading out of town to Lake Kegonsa. Tourists and townsfolk alike recognized the setting.

Now, the Stiklestad family has left the horse business and the location is in new hands. Jesse and Andrea Nelson with their six-year-old daughter Natalie in tow bought the stable in the summer of 2010 and began picking up where the former owners left off.

“Hank has been out here a couple of times,” Jesse said. “We asked if we could leave the “Stiklestad Stables” on the barn and he said ‘sure.’”

From what Jesse and Andrea gather, Hank and his family are genuinely pleased to see the place carry on with horses. There was some cleaning up and fixing to do but today it is Foxfield Stables and Jesse and Andrea are busy bringing business back and developing plans of their own.

There’s space for 22 horses in stables and room for more in rough board. As of March, they were boarding 15 horses with nine more expected to start rough board in April. Andrea also is developing a group of people for lessons and they have three horses of their own.

Even though the facilities are seasoned, everything was well built. Stables ring the small but workable indoor arena. There’s enough land for pastures, paddocks and making some hay. Boarders do have access to the adjacent Kegonsa State Park where they can use the park’s road system.

“Horses have road rights in the park. There aren’t any actual riding trails but as long as riders are on the roads they can go over there,” Andrea said. “We’re not going to offer any trail riding because the insurance issue is just too much.”

Andrea mentioned the location is not only well known in the community, it’s also easy to get to from Madison which helps access equine-minded people. “We’re about three miles from Stoughton and only about a 10 minute drive on the interstate from the east side of Madison,” she said.

Facilities are rounded out with outdoor riding areas, wash racks, locking tack room and a heated viewing area next to a small office. Much of the outdoor fencing was replaced with electric tape with wood posts.

“We cut and hauled a lot of brush away to get the fences and pastures ready. And when we first went in the barn we found all the doors off the hinges on the stables. We had to go around and hang and repair almost every stable,” Jesse added.

Even with so much ongoing work restoring the facilities and managing business, Jesse and Andrea have an eye on the future. Plans are underway to add a larger more modern riding arena. There’s also room to grow the riding lesson business and provide other services.

“We take care of each horse. Every horse is a little different: different feeds, different supplements, different breeds and each one has its own personality. So we want people to come out and enjoy the time they spend with their horses,” Andrea said. “We’re in a nice spot here and I think people are going to continue to want to have horses and a place they can go and ride.”

Certainly if you’re starting a new business it helps to have a solid old brand name to build from.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stay calm with a wounded horse

Dr. Sabrina Brounts

Stay off the panic button and size up the situation if you find your horse cut and bleeding, said Dr. Sabrina Brounts, UW-Madison Veterinarian, during a recent seminar on equine first aid. The last thing an injured horse needs is panic that might make the injury worse or imperil you in your efforts to help.

Wounds fall into several categories: punctures, lacerations, incised wounds and abrasions and contusions. If you know what you’re looking at and can properly describe the wound to a veterinarian you’ll have a better chance to help your horse when you start taking action steps and treatments.

“Determining the nature of the wound will go a long way toward knowing what to do. Knowing what you see can help you make decisions about whether or not you should move or transport the injured horse, if immediate attention is needed or if it’s an injury that can perhaps wait,” Brounts said. The more you know the less likely you are to panic, too.

Puncture wounds often are hard to spot but can have debilitating effects. Nails are a common culprit in puncture wounds and can leave a small, round hole that’s hard to detect. And if you find a nail sticking in your horse, resist the impulse to pull it out.

How severe the puncture (nail) wound is depends on how deep it goes and where it is. An x-ray can determine if the nail is near anything vital or how much damage is done. And nails can bend in odd directions and what looks simple is often not so easy.

Lacerations are rough, jagged cuts to the skin. Unlike the laceration, an incised wound is a clean, even knife-like cut to the skin. Abrasions are non-penetrating scruffs usually at the surface of the skin and contusions are deep scruffs on the skin that may expose muscle or bone tissue.

“It can really help if you’re on the phone with your vet and can tell them if you’re looking at a laceration or a contusion,” Brounts said. “And what kind of wound the horse has affects what you can do right away.”

Also important to the assessment is where the wound is on the horse. Wounds close to joints, bones, and tendons are potentially more serious than wounds confined to soft tissue areas. Bleeding or discharges from the wound also are clues. If the wound is bleeding, make an estimate about how much it’s bleeding. Severe blood loss may require a tourniquet or other measure.

One step you can probably take is to clean the wound. If at all possible, Brounts said, cover the wound and clip away all the surrounding hair. Hair in the wound introduces more bacteria and makes it harder to treat and care for as you go. Avoid razors in favor of clippers when trimming hair.

“The next thing is to clean the wound and remove as much dirt and debris as possible. You can irrigate the cut with warm tap water and a spray bottle or a large syringe. Don’t use a hose with pressure because that can cause more damage. If you use a sponge, use the softest most non abrasive sponge available,” Brounts said.

In certain cases, you may need to explore in the wound with your fingers to find any remaining debris or objects. Brounts said to always use medical gloves and move gently with your hands.

Disinfectants are tricky. Clean tap water is usually your best cleaning solution but keeping saline solution on hand is a good practice. Iodine in diluted solution of 0.1 percent so it looks like weak tea is suitable in some situations and after thoroughly cleaning the wound.

A two percent solution of Chlorhexidine diacetate also works as a good disinfectant after cleaning a wound. The chlorexidine does have a slight residual effect meaning it’ll continue to fight bacterial for a short time after being applied.

“Avoid using hydrogen peroxide, bleach or vinegar. Those substances can actually damage the tissue,” she said.

What happens once you have a wound cleaned up depends on consultations with your vet. Dressings, stitches, trimming are all possible pieces of the treatment process. Stitches are often used to close incised wounds, for example, but stitches may not be used in a complicated laceration.

“Just remember to try to stay calm,” Brounts added.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A temperament for healing

From 2011_CT_temperament
If your horse is badly injured, you’re facing a series of serious decisions. But how well your horse will accept being managed during treatments, surgery and recovery goes a long way toward whether or not you get a positive outcome. The word “temperament” was only a bullet point on a list of things affecting injury outcomes presented by Dr. Adam Biedrzycki, UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine during a recent seminar on first aid for horses.

But Biedzycki's bullet point set up an entire afternoon talking about equine temperament based on conditioning your horse to a wide range of activities and events that can payoff in emergency and injury treatment situations. And yes, exposing horses to a wide range of hoses, buckets, noises, flapping, flying things can produce a better and safer ride, said Lori Wegner, Interlace LLC, Springfield, IL.

The relationship between humans and horse starts out uneasy; horses have the instinctual mind of a prey animal and humans have as a foundation the mind of a predator. A horse has to overcome its instincts and learn to trust its human in a wide range of situations.

“Resistance (by the horse) is usually found in some kind of physical or mental restriction,” Wegner said. A classic example of resistance is loading horses into a trailer. Many horses don’t want to load and overcoming that resistance requires uncovering the mental restrictions the horse may have to loading.

“Dr. Biedzyski spoke about how temperament can affect your decisions about what you’re going to do with an injured horse,” she said. “He’s right. So isn’t the time to start working on your horse’s temperament when there isn’t an emergency?”

For example, some hoof injuries can require soaking the hoof in a solution. If your horse will willingly put its hoof in a bucket or barrel, you’re ahead of the healing process because you can make the horse step in the bucket without a struggle to begin with.

If your horse is likely to fight every phase of every treatment because it’s frightened of being handled, it’s going to be hard to do everything that’s needed. A horse that rejects handling has a poorer prognosis than an animal that accepts the treatments.

“And what about an emergency?” Wegner asked. “How your horse acts if it gets its leg stuck in a fence can determine how badly it’s hurt or if it’s hurt at all.”

The instinctive reaction for a horse with its hoof stuck in a fence is to start pulling and thrashing around to get loose. Training your horse to not panic if its foot is stuck means actually working with the animal while everything is calm and normal.

“Get out and play with your horse,” she said. “Put a rope loop around its hoof and tighten it up. Work slowly. When the horse gives you the behavior you’re looking for release it. Keep going a little at a time.”

“Play” can help you with any number of practical horse chores. Deworming involves sticking a threatening-looking tube in the horse’s mouth and administering something that doesn’t taste good. Start getting your horse used to the applicator by holding it in your hand and letting the horse smell it.

Gradually begin to put the applicator syringe near the horse’s mouth. Once that’s okay with the horse take it away. Next, go a little more into the mouth. Leave the applicator in one place until the animal accepts it there and then remove it. Keep gradually introducing the deworming applicator until your horse lets you put it in and take it out.

“If you get your horse used to the syringe when you don’t have to give them dewormer, then when the day come for you to give them the dewormer it should go a lot better,” Wegner said.

Training a horse for the unusual is different from training for a discipline such as barrel racing, jumping or other equine athletic activity. Wegner may call it “playing” with your horse but the investment can be as rewarding as clearing any hurdle.