Meet PBEC Veterinary Dr. Michael Myhre

Dr. Michael Myhre was born into the equine veterinary field. His father, Dr. Grant Myhre, has led his own referral practice called Myhre Equine Clinic in Rochester, NH, since 1978. After working alongside his father since middle school, Michael, who hails from Milton, NH, believes he was always destined to be a veterinarian. Michael graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine based in Ithaca, NY, in 2016, and he joined the Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) team thereafter as their surgical resident to work under the direction of Dr. Weston Davis and Dr. Robert Brusie.

Learn more about Dr. Myhre:

What is your background with horses?

I grew up in my father’s practice. He would bring me along to see outpatients and cut colics at 2 a.m. When I was in high school and college, I would work there during the summers as a technician. I kept learning from him and when it was time to decide what I would do, I applied to vet school.

We had some lesson horses at home and taught some therapeutic riding, so I rode on the trails occasionally, but I knew I was always supposed to be a veterinarian.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

I attended Ithaca College in New York and studied computer science. It is a pretty unusual undergraduate degree for a veterinarian, but I did not want to go the traditional route of getting a biology degree. Computer technology is now involved in a lot of veterinary medicine – so much of what we do is going through computers, so it is an asset to have that degree.

I still took all the biology and chemistry classes at the same time, and I finished in three years. At that point, I applied to Cornell University and was accepted.

What led you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC)?

I came here because it is the best residency program in the country. I have a big case load and get to work on the best horses in the world. I started on July 1 and what I like the most is the diversity in cases. We have seen hunters, jumpers, dressage horses, and race horses. I have done everything from condylar fracture repairs to MRIs, nuclear scintigraphy, x-rays, and even colic surgery on a miniature horse. PBEC stays at the forefront of technology with a new standing surgery pit, standing MRI machine, and paperless medical records.

What goals do you have for your veterinary career?

After my three-year residency at PBEC, I plan to move back to New Hampshire and work at my father’s practice.

What can we find you doing when you’re not working?

I am pretty much always working, but my girlfriend is a neurology resident in Manhattan, so I try to visit her as much as I can, or I take advantage of living in Florida and go swimming.

Name one thing most people wouldn’t know about you? 

I rowed for the Ithaca College crew team and while I was in vet school, I was an assistant coach for the Cornell University team.

 

Understanding the Equine Neck With Dr. Richard Wheeler

In the past, when a horse’s gait has felt off or lacking in its usual impulsion, it was often assumed to be an issue of lameness. Now however, thanks to the improved diagnostics readily available at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) and other top clinics around the world, veterinarians are able to more accurately pinpoint the problem area. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not always in the legs or hooves. With increasing frequency, the horse’s neck is being diagnosed as the root of the issue.

The Anatomy of a Neck and What Can Go Wrong

In order to understand the problems that can arise in association with the horse’s neck, it’s important to first understand the anatomy.

The neck is composed of seven cervical vertebrae running from the head to the thorax, named C1 through C7, and each articulating with each other. The primary purposes of the neck are to move the head and to protect and transport the spinal cord and nerves, which run through the middle of the vertebrae.

Such a major role as the protection of the nerves and spinal cord can also come with some major risks and complications, with clinical signs of these problems generally presenting themselves either neurologically, as neck pain, or as lameness in the front legs. These more specific symptoms may include:

  • Ataxia or clumsiness – Ataxia is defined as the “lack of control of bodily movements”. In the case of an ataxic horse, you may begin to notice staggering, sudden loss of balance, or even an inability to remain upright. Ataxia is generally an indicator of a neurological condition or damage to the spinal cord itself, caused by either developmental issues, trauma, or an infectious disease such as equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). Such neurological cases can often be the most debilitating.
  • Lameness – You can think of the spinal cord and the nerves in the neck like an interstate, with the spinal cord itself acting as the major highway. As you are “driving” along the interstate, every so often there are little exits, which is where the other nerves come out. Should there be any impingement on the interstate or spinal cord itself, you’re likely looking at more severe complications – much like an accident on the highway. Should there be impingement on the nerves coming off of the spinal cord, it will more likely present itself like an accident a little way off an exit – not affecting the interstate itself, but possibly causing problems that spread elsewhere. That is where we see lameness issues arise.

This can be more difficult to pin down, but can often be due to pressure on the smaller nerves that pass through the openings in the vertebrae and supply the front legs. Arthritis of the articular facet joints of the vertebrae is another common reason for lameness, as anytime these joints become arthritic or inflamed, it can easily translate to the forelimbs.

  • Neck Pain – This will often go hand-in-hand with lameness, as factors such as arthritis of the articular facet joints can lead to both symptoms. Other possible reasons for neck pain include trauma or inflammatory diseases.

Diagnosing the Problem

Neck problems, particularly those related to lameness, are generally diagnosed through a process of exclusion, first performing nerve blocks to or ruling out lower regions of the horse’s body. Palpation of the neck, testing of the neck’s movement, and full neurological exams may also be performed in addition to a full lameness exam, depending on the horse’s symptoms.

Once other regions of the horse are ruled out as the location of the problem, veterinarians are now able to use diagnostic images such as radiographs, nuclear scintigraphy and standing CT scans to specifically locate problems in the neck like never before.

In years past, those diagnostic resources were left for last-ditch cases when veterinarians really could not pinpoint any other problems. Today, with the advent of more modern technology, better radiographs, better ultrasound machines, and the more advanced imaging of nuclear scintigraphy and CT scans, veterinarians are able to readily utilize advanced diagnostics to save time and money, and to find the root of the problem more quickly and accurately.

The neck is one of the areas that has most clearly benefited from the progression in advanced imaging. While neck problems have likely been prevalent for some time, veterinarians are now finding those diagnoses more common, as they are able to more accurately locate the issue – particularly at clinics like Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Often these issues will go undiscovered or undiagnosed in the field, but they can be identified at PBEC, thanks to the readily available imaging tools.

As an example, if arthritic factors are suspected, nuclear scintigraphy can be used to look for areas of increased bone turnover. On the resulting bone scan, veterinarians are looking for areas where there is an increased calcium uptake because the bone is actively remodeling. These areas will appear darker on the scan and are generally a good indicator of a boney injury or arthritis, with the darker “hot spots” often appearing above the articular facet joints.

Also new and groundbreaking for the diagnosis of equine neck problems is the use of a Computerized Tomography or CT scan, with the ability to scan a standing horse with light sedation on the near horizon which will be available at the clinic this upcoming winter season.

Treatment

Once a solid diagnosis is arrived upon, the proper treatment protocols can be prescribed. Depending on the root of the problem, possible treatments may include shockwave therapy, regenerative therapies such as interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP) therapy or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, or one of the most common treatments, injections of the facet joints.

In the case of facet joint injections, veterinarians at PBEC are able to medicate under ultrasound guidance, guiding a needle into the joints and delivering corticosteroids or similar medication. Surgery is also an option as a final approach to severe complications.

In milder cases, treatments may also just call for increased time off, chiropractic treatments, or the administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications.

If you suspect any issues with your horse’s neck, contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic any time by calling (561) 793-1599 to schedule an appointment.

 

Success Story: Freeman

In January 2016, the Pine Hollow team noticed something seemed off just before driving out of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) with their horses. Stopping to check the horses before continuing off the showgrounds, Pine Hollow discovered Freeman, a promising and successful Dutch Warmblood, had swung his hind leg over the back of the trailer. Freeman’s stifle had ended up squarely on one of the hooks used to secure the back door, lodging the hook into his stifle and into the femoropatellar joint.

Recognizing the extreme peril facing Freeman, Pine Hollow immediately called for help from Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC), the official veterinarians of WEF.

“It took tremendous effort, creative thinking, and exceptional teamwork to free Freeman from the hook impaling his leg,” said David Blake, Pine Hollow’s internationally acclaimed rider and trainer. “PBEC sent several of their top vets to help us rescue Freeman. The team of vets is truly great.”

Thanks in very large part to the help and determination of the vets, Pine Hollow and PBEC were able to free Freeman from the trailer door.

From there, Freeman was transported to the nearby Palm Beach Equine Clinic, where he spent a few days trying to recover before it was agreed to pursue arthroscopic surgery on his femoropatellar joint.

“To be honest, it wasn’t looking good at all for the first day or so Freeman was there,” said Blake. “The joint was so severely damaged we didn’t know if it could be fixed. Our only chance of fixing the joint was surgery, so we agreed we would try everything possible.”

Dr. Weston Davis performed the surgery, after which Freeman remained in PBEC’s care while he regained use of the leg.

“The team did a fantastic job there and kept Freeman until he was ready to begin long-term rehab with James Keogh,” said Blake.

When Freeman was finally ready to return home to Pine Hollow, Blake hoped at best Freeman would eventually be able to do light work and perform at a low level.

12/07/2017 ; Tryon NC ; Tryon Summer VII ; 50, FREEMAN, DAVID BLAKE ; 1m40 ; Sportfot

Freeman, however, continued to defy all the odds. Following the successful arthroscopic surgery and a very gradual return to work, Freeman is not only doing ‘little stuff,’ but has returned to jumping at the 1.40m level. On Saturday, August 27, at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, he jumped his first grand prix since the injury.

“He definitely defied all odds and expectations and came back to his level!” said Blake. “Regina Daniels, who works for me, did all the rehab riding with him, and she did a great job. She took him from walking and hand-walking, right back up to jumping little jumps. Regina spent a long time doing it, about a year, which I think was the key. When Freeman came back to me, we continued to build him up slowly back to the level he was at before.”

Throughout his recovery and gradual return to work, Freeman was carefully and routinely monitored by the Palm Beach Equine team including Dr. Weston Davis and Dr. Richard Wheeler. The vets evaluated Freeman every couple of months and took periodic x-rays to assess if, or by how much, he was improving and what might be the appropriate level of work at the time for the gelding.

“It was important to make sure that we weren’t pushing anything too soon,” explained Blake. “What was really incredible to see develop and return over time was his muscle. After the injury, the muscle of his whole left side was like looking at a different horse from his right side. Now you look at him or stand behind him, and you wouldn’t even pick a side.

“I think he wanted to come back, because his recovery has truly been remarkable,” concluded Blake. “Touch wood, it’s been a pretty quiet injury. I think the horse knows he was lucky. I can feel it. Funny, when he came back he was almost a different horse in his personality a little bit. I can feel that he’s appreciative to be home, and he knows he’s lucky. He’s really trying to do everything that he can now to be good. I think he’s found a new respect for life.”

 

Hurricane Irma Animal Travel Regulations

Palm Beach Equine Clinic would like to give you the latest update on horse and livestock transportation requirements for evacuation of expected impacted areas by Hurricane Irma. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Animal Industry, has temporarily suspended the intrastate movement requirements for the transportation of animals from these areas. Please click the link below to read the full details.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

 

Healthcare Reminder: Equine Dentistry is More Than Just Floating

According to a study conducted by North Carolina State University, approximately 40% of horses have significant dental problems. What’s the answer to many of those problems? Dr. Tyler Davis of Palm Beach Equine Clinic states that routine and thorough dental exams may prevent many issues from ever becoming problems.

On a basic level, dentistry in horses is important because the mouth is the first part of the horse that is taking in and processing food. Horses must grind their food into a finely masticated bolus before swallowing. The combination of a horse’s upper jaw being larger than the lower and the fact that a horse chews by moving the jaw from side to side results in uneven wear of the teeth. This uneven wear may cause sharp edges, which hinder efficient chewing and may ulcerate or lacerate the cheeks and tongue thus causing incomplete mastication, sometimes leading to problems like colic.

What is floating?
Floating is the term for rasping or filing a horse’s teeth to ensure an even, properly aligned bite plane. While floating is the physical process, the scope of equine dentistry is much broader and examines the horse’s overall health as influenced by the mouth.

“You can get a rasp and without even looking in the horse’s mouth float the points off, and you may be getting the vast majority of the work done,” said Dr. Davis. “But, a really good dental exam with a speculum, a very good light source, and a dental mirror allows you to see possible problems and prevent those problems from becoming painful and affecting your horse’s overall health.”

The most common signs of dental discomfort in horses include:

  • head-tilting and tossing
  • difficulty chewing
  • bit-chewing and tongue lolling
  • tail-wringing and bucking
  • drooling and bad breath
  • (sometimes) weight loss and spillage of grain

The above symptoms require the attention of an equine dentist, but prevention is key to avoiding these signs altogether. The general goals of equine dentistry include improving the chewing of food by helping to maintain even tooth wear, relieving pain, treating or curing infection and disease, and promoting general health, productivity, and longevity.

The most common dental problems in horses are:

  • Malocclusions: Periodontal pockets caused by gum disease making a pocket around the tooth. Food gets caught in these pockets and causes even more decay. The disease progresses as the horse is unable to chew properly. It can lead to infection, abscesses in the mouth, and tooth loss.
  • Fractured tooth from weakness or caused by a foreign object picked up by while eating. These most commonly cause lacerations to the gums and tongue.
  • Tooth root infections that can cause a tooth to die.
  • Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis in geriatric horses: The buildup of a calcified area around the root of a horse’s incisor and canine teeth. When identified, radiographs can be performed to assess damage below the surface of the mouth.

For sport horses, dental care becomes even more important. Much of the connection between horse and rider comes by way of the horse’s mouth. If there are problems or discomfort within the mouth, it will be evident in the horse’s performance and disposition under tack. According to Dr. Davis, having a horse’s mouth perfect allows one to immediately rule out dental issues when trying to troubleshoot a performance problem.

How often should you have a veterinarian perform a routine dental exam on your horse? Dr. Davis recommends every 12 months at the very minimum. In many sport horses, the fact that they are working at such a high level may require bi-yearly exams to prevent any problems that could sideline them from training or competition. Lastly, horses with known dental problems may require exams every three to four months.

Contact your veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic for more information on equine dentistry, or to schedule a dental exam, at 561-793-1599.

 

 

Meet PBEC Veterinary Technician Morgan Cooley

Originally hailing from Plymouth, MA, Morgan Cooley graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2013 before beginning to manage a competitive show barn. Then, when an opportunity with Palm Beach Equine Clinic presented itself in early 2016, Cooley made the move to Florida to pursue a career as a veterinary technician. Since then, she’s made herself a valuable asset to the PBEC team, working alongside Dr. Jorge Gomez.

What is your background with horses?

I’ve been riding horses for as long as I can remember, and there are pictures of me riding from before I can remember! I grew up on my great-grandmother’s farm, called Little Forge, in Plymouth, MA. My favorite memories are taking the horses swimming in the pond and racing bareback around the hay fields. I owe my horsemanship skills to my time at Little Forge. I rode and competed in Pony Club during middle school and high school in all of the disciplines with borrowed ponies and my off-the-track Thoroughbred. In college, I rode competitively on the equestrian team at Mount Holyoke College.

What led you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) and a career as a veterinary technician?

My first job out of college was as a manager for an A-circuit show stable. We were based out of Massachusetts and wintered in Wellington, FL. Dr. Brusie was our veterinarian, so I got to know him and his technician Sarah very well. After season, I pursued an internship in animal health sales, and when my internship ended I was on the job hunt.

The following winter, just before the start of season, Dr. Brusie happened to ask a friend of mine at the barn how I was, and she mentioned I was looking for employment. Dr. Brusie knew PBEC had a position open. I applied, and three days later, I was driving from Massachusetts to Florida!

Ironically, I wasn’t necessarily looking for a vet tech position. Dr. Gomez needed a technician and Dr. Brusie happened to ask about me at the right time. Funny how life happens. With my passion for horses and my organizational skills, they thought I would be a good fit. That was a year and a half ago!

What is your typical day like at PBEC?

I usually refer to myself as Dr. Gomez’s “right hand (wo)man.” I organize our daily schedule and am in constant contact with our clients. I keep our truck fully stocked and operational. Dr. Gomez specializes in Sport Horse Medicine and Lameness, so we do many lameness evaluations and pre-purchase exams. I assist by jogging/lunging horses, preparing joints for injections, formalizing the pre-purchase reports, and documenting all the work done throughout the day. Dr. Gomez has three associates that work for him, so I organize and delegate client scheduling and needs between them as well.

What do you enjoy most about working for PBEC?

I can honestly say I have learned something new and continue to further my veterinary knowledge every day I work with Dr. Gomez. His experience and knowledge of horses never ceases to amaze me. He’s not only a fantastic veterinarian, but also a great horseman. It makes learning from him a pleasure.  And of course, the horses – I genuinely love working with them each day. It’s really rewarding to work on a horse and then watch it compete and be successful in the show ring.

Have you had any standout or favorite moments since you joined the PBEC team?

Dr. Gomez has a client based in Ocala, FL, who he visits regularly. Last summer, I accompanied Dr. Gomez on one of his trips. The farm sent their private plane to pick us up in West Palm Beach, flew us to Ocala, and then flew us back to Wellington at the end of the day. I will always remember commuting to work on a private plane!

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I tend to be a bit of a health nut. I enjoy staying active, cooking, and baking. I like to be outdoors as much as possible whether that be going for a hike or enjoying the Florida beaches. I enjoy attending concerts and staying up-to-date on all my New England sports teams. I try to find time to ride, though it’s not nearly as much as I would like!

Success Story: Amazing Grace

On the morning of December 30, 2015, Laurie Waggoner, director of rescue operations and founder of the South Florida SPCA, got a call that she gets all too often. Agriculture patrol had received reports of three emaciated horses in Miami Gardens, FL, that needed immediate care. Waggoner took action and hooked up her truck and trailer to make the drive to pick up the three horses.

Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA

When she arrived, she found an Arabian and a Quarter Horse, both severely underweight, and a pony she estimated to be two years old laying in the mud, too weak and malnourished to even stand. The pony, who was quickly named Amazing Grace or “Grace” had been down for more than 24 hours. Despite Waggoner’s best efforts, her team was unable to get Grace on her feet and decided the most humane option was to end Grace’s suffering. Calls went out to local veterinarians, but were met with a slow response the day before New Year’s Eve.

While they waited for a veterinarian to become available, Waggoner and her team rolled Grace onto a blanket and carried her onto a trailer to make the trip back to the South Florida SPCA.

“When we pulled her off the trailer, she immediately started grazing,” said Waggoner. “The vet was on the way to euthanize her, but I saw that there was fight still left in her. We were able to pick her up and she stood with help. She was not ready to go.”

Grace was made comfortable in a stall at the South Florida SPCA and stood with assistance over the next day. But, on the second day, she was no longer willing or able to make an effort to stand.

“I knew we were going to need help, but it was a holiday and locally everything was closed,” said Waggoner. “I called Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) and they told me to bring her right in.”

Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA

Grace arrived at PBEC on New Year’s Day and was greeted by a team of veterinarians led by Dr. Scott Swerdlin, president of PBEC. She was treated for extreme starvation and neglect, which included constant blood work to monitor organ function, the administration of fluids, several meals of senior feed and alfalfa each day, and a lot of compassion from PBEC veterinarians.

“She spent eight days at PBEC and returned to the South Florida SPCA ranch with the same will to live,” said Waggoner. “Five days later, I came out in the morning and she was standing on her own.”

Grace was completely rehabbed in four months and put up for adoption at the end of 2016. On December 31, 2016, one year after she was found on the brink of death, Grace made her way across the U.S.-Canadian border to her new home at Sherwood Farm in St. Catharines, Ontario, with adopter Marilyn Lee.

Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA

“I knew she would need special handling to give her the chance to succeed, which we were fully prepared to do,” said Lee, who also adopted a Thoroughbred from the South Florida SPCA in 2012. “I saw her current photo on South Florida SPCA’s Facebook page and thought, ‘Now there is a lovely pony’. Then I saw the photo of her laying in the dirt, and that was that.”

One of Lee’s young riders, Abby Banis, had also learned of Grace’s story on social media and was waiting for the pony in the early morning hours the day she arrived at Sherwood Farm. The two have been inseparable ever since.

Grace’s training began immediately under the direction of Lee’s daughter, Robin Hannah-Carlton. Impressed by the pony’s love for jumping, Lee made plans to start showing Grace, who won a reserve championship in the pony hunter division at the very first show she competed at with Banis in the irons.

Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA

Today, Grace is happy and healthy with the care of Lee and her staff, and the love of a little girl. The South Florida SPCA operates under the motto, “Your next champion just might be a rescue”, and for Grace, nothing could be closer to the truth.

Meet PBEC Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood

This month, Palm Beach Equine Clinic welcomed a new face to their team. Dr. Katie Atwood, 30, hails from Jacksonville, FL, and attended vet school at the University of Florida, making her return to south Florida from Lexington, KY, a special homecoming.

What brought you to PBEC?

I grew up in Florida, so I wanted to be closer to family and the ocean! But, I was also looking for an opportunity to grow and become a better veterinarian. This is a difficult industry to get into, but it is especially difficult to find the right practices. This is a chance for me to work with some of the best doctors in the country.

What would you say is your specialty at PBEC? 

In addition to general medicine, including colic cases, simply dentistry, and new foal exams, I will be focusing on PBEC’s reproductive work. I did an internship and a fellowship in repro and realized that it is what I am most interested in specializing in. I will be working up mares, doing frozen and fresh semen breeding, as well as breeding management and embryo flushes for transfers to recipient mares.

What inspired you to be a veterinarian?

When I was a little kid we had a trail behind our house that was really popular and I would sit on the back wall and watch everybody ride their horses by. We do not have any other veterinarians in the family, but I was five years old when I realized that I wanted to work with animals. Then, during my undergraduate studies in Animal Science at Berry College in Rome, GA, a professor named Dr. Martin Goldberg really pushed me to pursue vet school. I wake up every morning so excited to go to work and if I don’t come home exhausted and filthy then I have done something wrong. It is an “every minute of every day” commitment, but very rewarding.

When you aren’t working, where can we find you?

I like to spend as much time as possible in the water. I can usually be found swimming or paddle boarding at the beach and spending time by the pool

What advice would you give to someone considering vet school?

Do it! It will be the most difficult time in your life, but if you have a passion for it, it is so rewarding. Dedication is so important; take advantage of every wet lab you can, go to any conference that is available, and take advantage of opportunities to meet new people and gain mentors. The best practices are going to take the best people and if you’re the best at what you do, you will be fine. Who wouldn’t want to do what they love for a living?

Name one thing most people wouldn’t know about you? 

I am a pretty open book at this point. But, when I retire, my fiancé Mackenzie and I want to sail around the world!

 

Shes Packin Fame: Back in Winning Form

Nearly eight months ago, Shes Packin Fame, a 2012 Quarter Horse mare owned by Margo Crowther of Fort Myers, FL, suffered a rare slab fracture to the central tarsal bone in her left hock while competing in a barrel racing competition. After a diagnosis aided by Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s (PBEC) state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging equipment and a surgery performed by PBEC’s own Dr. Weston Davis, Shes Packin Fame has not only returned to running barrels, the five-year-old mare is back to winning.

Crowther purchased Shes Packin Fame, affectionately known as Sissy, as a three-year-old after the mare reminded her of a horse she ran in college. Crowther trained Sissy herself and won or placed in nearly every barrel futurity she entered during the horse’s four-year-old year, accumulating $100,000 in prize money.

In November of 2016, Crowther and Sissy were competing at the No Bull Finals in Asheville, NC, when Sissy went down at the first barrel on the final day. The fall fractured the horse’s central tarsal bone, which was not easily diagnosed. Crowther met with a veterinarian in North Carolina who was unable to locate the fracture via x-ray before contacting Dr. Davis, who had managed Sissy’s healthcare since she joined Crowther’s string.

Dr. Davis utilized PBEC’s Equine Standing MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and Nuclear Scintigraphy camera to locate a flat piece of separated bone known as a slab fracture.

The process began with a Nuclear Scintigraphy scan – a bone scan. Sissy was injected with a radioactive isotope named Technetium 99. The isotope attached to the phosphorous proteins localized within the bone and was absorbed. A specialized nuclear isotope gamma ray camera was used to capture images of the skeletal anatomy with a 360-degree view. Points of interest lit up on the image to indicate increased metabolic activity and was able to locate the site of the injury.

Following the identification of the injured area, a Standing MRI produced highly detailed images in several different planes to capture a compete view of the injury and further define the issue.

After Dr. Davis located and identified the fracture, he surgically inserted a screw into the central tarsal bone to stabilize the fracture. Sissy was discharged from the clinic on six months of recovery with follow-up diagnostic imaging every month to monitor the injury’s repair. During the fourth month of recovery, Dr. Weston removed the screw. At the end of March, Sissy was cleared to begin exercise and Crowther began by hand walking the mare slowly progressing to trotting her under tack. They started with ten minutes of exercise and worked up to 45 minutes.

“Weston was a huge part of Sissy’s recovery,” said Crowther, who set her sights on entering Sissy in the Old Fort Days Derby, held over Memorial Weekend in Fort Smith, AR. “It is the biggest derby of the year for five-year-olds. When it came time to enter, Weston rechecked the leg, did flexion tests, cleared her to run, and wished me good luck.”

When they arrived in Fort Smith, Sissy had not seen a barrel since the day of the injury. Crowther and Sissy posted a time of 16.405 seconds, the fastest time of the event, to win the 25-horse final and collect a $23,469 prize money check.

“She just came back so confident and so strong, like she never missed a beat,” said Crowther. “She always ran like an older horse, but I was surprised at her time. I knew she would be in the top ten, but I was surprised just how strong she was. Weston told me to let her set her own pace and that is what I did. I did not push her. So, when I called Weston to tell him we had won, he was very surprised.

“She feels like her hock is maybe even stronger than it was before the injury,” continued Crowther. “I am so thankful to Weston and Palm Beach Equine Clinic, and feel blessed that she has come back strong and healthy.”

With Sissy back in top form, Crowther’s next goal is a lofty one. Her hope is to qualify for and compete at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV, this December.

 

Meet PBEC Veterinary Technician Brittany Cain

Originally hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Brittany Cain, 25, attended Southern Illinois University before moving south and joining the staff at Palm Beach Equine Clinic as the manager of the nuclear scintigraphy lab.

What is your background with horses?

Growing up, my parents actually had nothing to do with horses; we’re from the city of Chicago, so they were not horse people at all. I was just always the horse obsessed little girl – you know, the one horse girl in the class! When I was about 13, I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, so I got a lot of hands on experience there. I learned to ride a little bit and worked with the special needs kids. That was great. Once I got a job when I was 18, I started paying for actual riding lessons and just went from there!

I did a lot of work on Standardbred breeding farms up in Illinois. I foaled out a lot of babies and trained a lot of weanlings and a lot of yearlings that are now Standardbred race horses. I did that for three years during college, and that was a really neat experience.

What led you to pursue a career as veterinary technician?

Throughout high school, I was really always obsessed with horses. I volunteered with any of my free time. I knew I wanted to do something that I loved, so I found Southern Illinois University, and they had a bachelor’s degree in equine science. I applied to one school, got in, and it was perfect. I didn’t have to find a bunch of schools; I just went to the one that I wanted right away, and I knew what I wanted to do!

What led to your focus on the nuclear scintigraphy lab in particular?

I’ve always had a strong interest in the anatomy of horses. I knew a lot of the anatomy from college of course. We had a lot of courses that covered the musculature anatomy as well as skeletal. In addition, working with all of the Standardbred yearlings is really good experience for working with the two and three-year-old race babies that we get here. Just that extra horse handling really comes in handy.

What is your typical day like at PBEC?

As the manager of the nuclear scintigraphy lab, I have the horses in here for bone scans. They’ll come in, I’ll do a temperature, pulse, and respiration check on them, and then I place a catheter and inject the radioactive isotopes.

It takes two hours for the isotope to settle into the bones, and then I can begin the scan. I usually inject the isotope, and then I do a lot of paperwork in between the two hours since there’s a lot of tracking and recording for dealing with radioactive materials. Then the scan begins. The horse comes into the room; they’re lightly sedated. The scans usually take from one to two hours or, for full body scan, anywhere from two to four hours. It’s a lot of keeping the horse sedated and keeping him quiet, getting all of the images that are needed, and making sure that the images turn out well. That’s pretty much my ideal day. Usually during season, we have anywhere from two to three horses a day so it keeps you busy.

What do you enjoy most about working for PBEC?

I love the variety of horses that we get here. We get everything from race horses to polo ponies to barrel ponies to top show jumpers and hunters. It’s really neat seeing all of these talented and often expensive horses.

Have you had any standout or favorite moments since you joined the PBEC team in 2015?

We went down to Miami for the Longines Global Champions Tour for when they took the horses off the plane. We were able to help out with that – doing temperatures, pulse, and respiration checks on all of them. It was really cool seeing the caravan from the airport to the show grounds and just how it’s set up on the beach. That was a pretty neat experience.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

My fiancé and I go fishing a lot usually at the beach or off a pier; we definitely enjoy spending our free time fishing.