When you need professional experience with a personal touch.
1. I noticed that my horse is limping this morning and is moving like his shoulder hurts. What are some of the things it could be?
The most common location of lameness in the horse is the foot. Because they don't want to walk on it, they roll their shoulder so many people make the mistake of thinking it is a shoulder injury. The most common reason for lameness in the foot is an abscess which can come on quickly. The horse may be fine one day, and the next day doesn't want to walk to the point that it can look like they have a broken leg. Always pick up the horse's foot and look though, because there can also be a nail in the foot. The work up in this case involves checking for an increased pulse in the foot, feeling for heat in the hoof, and applying hoof testers to see where the most painful area is located. The foot can also be "blocked" or made numb by putting lidocaine around the nerves of the heel so that the horse can't feel the foot. If the pain is coming from the foot, he walks off fine because he can't feel it. Most abscesses can be dug out with a hoof knife, but some deeper ones need to be brought to the surface with poultices and foot soaks for a few days.
2. My horse is pawing and wanting to roll on the ground. As soon as she gets up, she goes back down again. What's going on and what should I do until you get here?
Uncharacteristic pawing the ground, rolling, and kicking at the abdomen are common signs of colic or abdominal pain. These signs can come on rapidly and should be addressed early since some causes of colic can be due to problems that will escalate if not treated as soon as possible. Most horses will resolve their problem with medical therapy including tubing them with mineral oil and water, and anti-spasmotic drugs such as buscopan, and pain meds such as Banamine. A rectal exam is also helpful to pinpoint the problem. Causes of abdominal pain include an impaction in the large intestine due to food, sand, or an enterolith, gas or spasmotic colic, displacement of the intestine causing a kink in the flow of feed and gas, and the most severe form is a twist which significantly compromises blood supply. Most horses do not require surgery but if the pain escalates in the presence of repeated pain medications, or if diagnostic tests point toward a twist surgery is indicated. Until the vet arrives, it is fine to walk your horse and keep them moving since walking will help get motility going and also keeps the horse from injuring itself further by rolling. However, if your horse becomes violently painful, then it is probably better to leave them alone because you might be injured by a horse that is thrashing and not aware of where you are standing.
3. I think my horse has ulcers. How do I rule that out and how do I know?
Gastric ulceration in horses can manifest in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is more obvious with teeth grinding, exhibiting signs of discomfort associated with eating, and colic. More frequently the signs may be more discrete such as loss of conditioning, poor coat and ill thrift, not willing to work and displaying irritable behavior associated with exercise such as tail wringing, bucking, and a reluctance to move. The diagnostic tool of choice is to pass an endoscope (camera) through the horse's nose and into the stomach to look at the lining directly. Ulcers are usually evident along the glandular and squamous parts of the stomach if they are present. In order to visualize the stomach, it's important that the horse be fasted so that the less feed there is in the stomach, the better. Ulcers can be treated with oral medications such as Ulcergard/Gastrogard, or managed with other oral supplements such as U-Gard.
4. I am thinking of buying a horse and want to know if I should get a prepurchase. Is that a good idea?
Generally speaking, the purchase price of a horse is the cheapest part of keeping one. People take for granted that it can be expensive to take care of a horse between the boarding, feeding, supplements, tack, training, shoeing, and veterinary care. Therefore, it is always important to choose wisely when acquiring a horse to make sure you are not inheriting someone else's problem. A basic prepurchase exam involves a thorough physical examination to check out the heart, eyes, and rule out any obvious problem. The next step is to put the horse in motion with flexion tests and watching the horse walk and trot in a straight line and in a small circle. I prefer to jog them on hard and soft ground to reveal any subtle lameness that may be hidden in the softer footing. If the horse is sound, some potential buyers want xrays to rule out any underlying bony abnormality. This is especially important in young horses which have not been put into training yet since they may have problems like OCD which can be clinically silent until they are put into work. This is also important if the horse is a resale prospect since it is vital to make sure you do not have a horse with a problem that will be a red flag for the next buyer. These types of exams are basically taylored to the particular needs of the potential buyer, the history of the horse, and the purchase price.