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Year: 2021

Summer Sores in Horses

Habronemiasis Treatment

summer sores in horses may originally start as a small superficial scratch.
Summer sore on a horse’s leg.

Hot, humid climates create the perfect environment for flies to thrive, and therefore, contribute to many irritating issues for horses. Summer sores, medically known as habronemiasis, are one of the most serious problems caused by flies. They may originally be spotted as a small, superficial scratch. However, they can fester into a serious condition and persist for weeks to months if not properly diagnosed and treated.

What are Summer Sores in Horses?

Summer sores are lesions on the skin caused by the larvae of certain stomach worms, called Habronema. These worms in the horse’s stomach produce eggs that pass through the digestive tract and are shed in the horse’s feces. Barn flies then gather on and around the manure, consequently collecting the parasite’s larvae on their extremities.  Summer sores will ensue when flies carrying the larvae lay their eggs onto an open wound or the mucous membranes of a horse (usually areas such as the prepuce, lower abdomen, corners of the eyes, and margins of the lips). The larvae cause an inflammatory reaction, typically with discharge and the production of granulation tissue infected with larvae.

Signs of summer sores in horses:

  • Non-healing skin lesions
  • Intense itching
  • Formation of exuberant granulation tissue (proud flesh)
  • Calcified necrosis (dead tissue) 

Identifying Summer Sores in Horses

“Firstly, it is incredibly important that the owner does not assume a lesion is a summer sore because of its appearance or their experience with summer sores,” said Dr. Meredith Mitchell, a Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian who often treats patients with this condition. “Granulation tissue can look like a summer sore but actually be the result of a different infection or skin issue. So, it is crucial to contact a veterinarian at the first sign of a potential summer sore before any treatment is administered.”

summer sore on the hind leg of a horse
Summer sore on a horse’s back leg.

Summer sores commonly appear as proud flesh with small, yellow-colored beads which are the larvae within the horse’s skin, and a mucopurulent (mucus or pus) discharge associated with the wound.

Treating Summer Sores in Horses

For treatment of the visible summer sore, corticosteroids are administered to reduce the inflammatory hypersensitivity reaction and antimicrobials to treat any secondary infection that may develop because of the open wound. If not treated quickly and appropriately by a veterinarian, summer sores can persist for months and possibly require a surgical procedure to remove the granulated tissue and larvae.

“The standard summer sore treatment is debridement of the wound and an injection of Ivermectin (Noromectin),” Dr. Mitchell said. “However, more medicine is not more effective with summer sores. The larvae and flies can develop a resistance to the treatment, so it is always best to consult with your veterinarian for dosage information. Also, this specific treatment does not include preservatives, so it is imperative than an unopened bottle is always used to prevent contamination that could lead to an abscess in the injection site.”

Additionally, there are local injections that can be administered directly around or into the lesion itself to promote healing. Dr. Mitchell also relies on oral treatments, such as Prednisolone and Dexamethasone tablets, depending on the patient’s case.

Summer Sore Prevention

Prevention strategies are key to controlling summer sore outbreaks and protecting horses. The most effective summer sore prevention methods include:

  • Fly control with automatic fly repellent spray systems, fly masks, sheets, boots, and a sheath protector.
  • Proper and timely manure removal from the stalls, stable, paddocks, and property. Removal of trash, wet straw, and other materials that could be breeding sites for flies and maggots is very important.
  • Appropriate wound care using topicals such as a silver nitrate stick (when not bleeding) and bandages to protect wounds from flies.
  • Implementing an effective de-worming program with your veterinarian. The de-wormer will disrupt the parasite’s life cycle internally, killing both adult worms in the stomach and the larvae formed in the skin tissue.
summer sore on a horse's ankle
Summer sores can be difficult to treat and must be diagnosed by a veterinarian.

Many owners also chose to actively prevent summer sores by supplementing their horse’s diet with immune boosting natural supplements. “Sometimes with patients that have stagnant, non-healing summer sores, they can really benefit from being prescribed herbal medicines. I’ve seen many horses do well on the Chinese Herb Wei Qi Booster in particular,” Dr. Mitchell mentioned.

If you suspect your horse may have a summer sore, contact your veterinarian at Palm Beach Equine Clinic by calling 561-793-1599 to discuss treatment and an effective de-wormer program for your horse.

Takeaways from Tokyo: The Olympic Experience from a Veterinarian’s Perspective

Dr. Jorge Gomez and Dr. Christopher Elliott were amongst the over 100 veterinarians on the ground supporting the equine athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Jorge Gomez, MVZ, MS, DACVS, served as the Official Veterinarian for the Mexican Show Jumping Team and is a surgeon with Palm Beach Equine Clinic, and Chris Elliott, BVSC, MRCVS, MANZCVS, DACVSMR, served as Veterinary Services Supervisor and is an associate veterinarian for Palm Beach Equine Clinic. We spoke with each of them about their experiences at this unprecedented international event.


What were your expectations for Tokyo, and did the Games live up to those expectations?

CE: Tokyo 2020 reached far beyond my expectations. The ability to achieve such an elite level of equestrian competition in the face of COVID-19 restrictions is remarkable. The whole Olympic organizing committee should be proud of this achievement.

JG: We all knew of the existing restrictions in place for COVID-19. There were mobility limitations in place to decrease the chances of spreading the virus, however, the Games were very well organized. The competition and training arenas were state-of-the-art facilities, and the stables were all under air conditioning, so those amenities couldn’t have been better.

What did you enjoy most about your time at the Olympics?

CE: Having a front row seat to the Olympic Games has been an honor and a privilege. I have most enjoyed working alongside my veterinary colleagues from across the globe. The Games spirit was strong among all the vets at Tokyo 2020.

JG: Most definitely the level of competition. We had the opportunity to watch the best athletes in all three disciplines dressage, eventing and show jumping.

What was the experience like of working with such a diverse group of veterinarians?

CE: It’s always great working alongside veterinarians from all over the world. Veterinary medicine transcends language and cultural barriers and bonds us all in the goal of preserving equine health and welfare. In the face of many extreme challenges surrounding these Olympic Games, the professionalism, dedication, and efficiency of all vets at the event rose to the fore to ensure the very best in equine health, welfare, and performance.

JG: The experience is always nice and an honor to be a part of. There’s a group of us that have been at many of the international competitions and Olympic Games for years. Then, there are also new faces, and this is a wonderful opportunity for us all to meet. We share difficult cases from our practices as well as talk about new techniques and treatments.


Palm Beach Equine Clinic extends congratulations to all of the athletes that represented their respective countries at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. While challenges were abundant, the events were awe-inspiring and the best of equestrian sport was on display.

PBEC also extends a special congratulations to our friends Dr. Mike Heitmann and Alice Womble, the owners of Sanceo, ridden by Sabine Schut-Kery. Sanceo was a part of the U.S. dressage team that won silver and had two personal best scores at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Understanding Anhidrosis in Horses

Check out the August 2021 issue of POLO Players Edition and flip to the Equine Athlete section to read about anhidrosis. Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians describe what a diagnosis of non-sweating entails for the sport horse, signs/symptoms, and best management practices to keep anhidrotic horses comfortable. Read about anhidrosis in horses by clicking here or on the image below.

For future educational resources on horse health, subscribe to the United States Polo Association official magazine POLO Players Edition, and follow Palm Beach Equine Clinic on Facebook, Instagram @pbequineclinic, and Twitter @palmbeachequine.

Hoofbeats of Blue Melody: Pony Bounces Back After Foot Laceration

Blue Melody hoof laceration progression of healing through three weeks.
Featured in The Plaid Horse, Pony Edition of August 2021 Issue

The old adage “no foot, no horse” is undeniably one of the truest statements when it comes to the horse. Many intricate structures compose this foundation, and the overall health of the hoof is paramount. So, what happens when a portion of your horse’s hoof is suddenly missing?

Owners Josh and Laura Gross found themselves in this predicament when their barn’s owner, Ayriel Italia, called them to say that their daughter’s Welsh pony had cut herself and needed immediate medical attention. While in the paddock, Blue Melody – known as Melody – had gotten her left hind hoof underneath the gate and suffered a serious laceration.

“We were initially frantic without more information,” recalled Josh. “We consider Melody a family member, and her rider is an eight-year-old.” The self-professed novice horse-owner parents had been learning the ropes of equine health and care through supporting their young daughter Saylor’s passion for horses. They turned to the expertise and guidance of Italia and trainer Shanna Sachenbacher, who immediately called veterinarian Dr. Kathleen Timmins of Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

Upon arriving at the barn, Dr. Timmins saw that Melody had an approximately two-inch-wide section of her hoof missing.

“A full thickness portion of the lateral hoof wall and the coronet band had been completely excised,” described Dr. Timmins. “It was a deep wound that exposed the sensitive laminae of the hoof. Thankfully, a thin section of the weight-bearing portion of the hoof distal to the laceration was spared, and the wound did not go deep enough to communicate with the distal interphalangeal joint or the coffin bone.”

Blue Melody's initial hoof laceration being cleaned at Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, Florida.

The sensitive laminae are an interlaced network of connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels beneath the hoof wall. This highly-vascular layer attaches to and protects the coffin bone. Injuries to the coffin bone or joint structures can be devastating, often with long-term effects on the horse’s soundness and on the development of the hoof. In Melody’s case, Dr. Timmins found the laceration to be “more bark than bite,” as it did not affect those critical structures. Although Melody would likely have some degree of abnormal hoof growth from the damaged coronary band, Dr. Timmins had an encouraging prognosis for the pony.

“Dr. Timmins was so responsive that by the time we arrived at the barn to fully learn what had happened, the wound was already cleaned and wrapped, and we were told that Melody would make a full recovery,” explained Josh.

Blue Melody hoof laceration healing
Melody’s hoof as of April 1, 2021.

After an initial assessment and treatment of the wound at their barn, Melody was brought to Palm Beach Equine Clinic so that she could be observed and receive comprehensive medical care. Intravenous antibiotics were administered, and the laceration was thoroughly cleaned and bandaged with an added frog pad to support the hoof. Melody progressed well and was able to be discharged only 48 hours later. Along with a lesson in proper cleaning and wrapping of the wound, Dr. Timmins gave Melody’s owners and caretakers antibiotic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. She also recommended a biotin supplement to aid in healthy hoof growth and advised that Melody would benefit from a few weeks of shoes with clips, which would provide lateral support to the section of the hoof wall that lost integrity.

With a full team supporting Melody’s recovery, the injury and medical care become less daunting to the Gross family. Only two weeks after the laceration, the wound showed great improvement, and Melody was able to be shod and very lightly worked. Four weeks after the injury, Melody received the green light from Dr. Timmins to resume full work with Saylor in the saddle.

Blue Melody with rider Saylor Gross
Saylor and Blue Melody.

“Dr. Timmins’ responsiveness and calm demeanor made all the difference. She put our minds at ease, took great care of our extended family member, and helped her get back on her feet (hooves!) more quickly than we expected.”

Josh Gross

Injuries to horses’ legs and hooves can be unnerving. Having a veterinarian immediately assess an injury and determine if it affects any vital structures is crucial for recovery. In case of an equine medical emergency, do not hesitate to call the veterinarians of Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599.

Blue Melody's hoof laceration healed well.
Melody’s hoof as of June 4, 2021.

Combating the Heat at Equestrian Park with Tokyo Olympics Veterinary Services Supervisor Dr. Christopher Elliott

Olympic rings in Tokyo
Dr. Elliot hanging with the Olympic rings in Tokyo.

Dr. Christopher Elliott, BVSC, MRCVS, MANZCVS, DACVSMR, is an associate sports medicine veterinarian with Palm Beach Equine Clinic who has served as an FEI Official Veterinarian for elite international events across disciplines. Most notably, he has worked for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio, 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, as well as numerous 3-day events including Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide in Australia, and Badminton and Burghley in the United Kingdom. Dr. Elliott has been in Tokyo since early May making preparations for the Olympics as the Veterinary Services Supervisor, and he has given us an inside look into the heat and humidity safety measures for equine athletes.

Tokyo temperatures in July and August can reach as high as 105º Fahrenheit (41º Celsius), so cooling measures are crucial to preventing overheating for all athletes, both equine and human.

Safety measures include:

  • Cooling tents have been made easily accessible throughout Equestrian Park. The cooling tents are well stocked with water troughs, which are monitored by a team of volunteers who use ice blocks to keep the water at 59º Fahrenheit (15º Celsius).
  • Misting fans in cooling tents are on for the duration of training and competition times.
  • Training is halted from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. which are the hottest times of the day.

This is not the first time extreme heat has caused concern for equestrian athletes at the Olympic Games, and significant research has been conducted to increase athlete safety when temperatures are high. Dr. Elliott published clinical insights regarding research studies between the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Tokyo Time: Veterinary Care for Olympic Equine Athletes by Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Dr. Jorge Gomez is the official veterinarian for the Mexico Show Jumping Team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Dr. Jorge Gomez to Serve as Official Veterinarian for Mexico Show Jumping Team

Dr. Jorge Gomez, MVZ, MS, DACVS, is the Official Veterinarian for the Mexico Show Jumping Team at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Dr. Gomez, originally from Colombia, joined PBEC in 2011 and has since served as an Official Veterinarian at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

“It is an honor to have been chosen for this responsibility,” said Dr. Gomez. “I have had the fortune of serving in two previous occasions and am grateful for the opportunity to return as a veterinarian for the Olympics.”

There is a tremendous amount of work and attention to detail required in preparing and maintaining an Olympic-caliber equine athlete. Over the past six months, Dr. Gomez has been working closely with the Mexico Show Jumping Team horses and riders. The Team just concluded a European tour, competing in three highly renowned Nations Cup competitions in Rome, Italy, St. Gallen, Switzerland, and La Baule, France. During these events, Dr. Gomez pays very close attention to the horses by examining them each morning, evening, and observing them during training. The horses’ veterinary care and overall health will remain Dr. Gomez’s utmost priority well after the Olympic cauldron is lit as competition begins at the Equestrian Park.  

Dr. Jorge Gomez of PBEC pictured with Mexican Show Jumping Team member Eugenio Garza Perez. Photo courtesy of Eugenio Garza Perez on Instagram
Dr. Jorge Gomez of PBEC pictured with Mexican Show Jumping Team member Eugenio Garza Perez. Photo courtesy of Eugenio Garza Perez on Instagram

“The Olympic Games bring together the best athletes in the sport. In our case, the best horses and the best riders. It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to watch and learn from the top combinations in the world. For myself, it is also a unique opportunity to share time with fellow team veterinarians from around the world,” said Dr. Gomez.

For updates from Dr. Gomez at Olympic Village, follow Palm Beach Equine Clinic on Instagram @pbequineclinic, Facebook, or Twitter @PalmBeachEquine.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Dr. Bob Brusie examining the leg of a horse - summer hoof health from Dr. Stephen O'Grady at Palm Beach Equine Clinic

How to Keep Horses’ Hooves Strong Through Summer

Read this article on The Plaid Horse

Proper hoof health is hard to achieve any time of year, but during the hot summer months, a solid, healthy hoof is even more difficult to attain due to an increase in moisture in the environment. Each July, the American Farriers Journal dedicates a week of the calendar to recognize farriers for their dedicated commitment to delivering hoof care to horses. To honor our hoof care experts, we spoke with veterinarian and farrier Dr. Stephen O’Grady on how moisture contributes to a weaker hoof infrastructure and offers steps owners and managers can take to help keep moisture away and strengthen horses’ hooves.

Summer can bring scorching temperatures, so we tend to use more water to keep horses cool, both at competitions and at home. In many areas of the country, the humidity levels also increase during this time of year, adding moisture to the air and preventing hooves from drying as quickly. What happens to a hoof with excess water is similar to what would happen to a wooden plank that’s placed in a water trough: it becomes waterlogged, then softens and becomes weaker as a result.

Within a horse’s hoof, there is an exchange of fluids between the outer hoof wall and the inner section of the foot which consists of the bone, blood, and soft tissue structure. This fluid gradient helps keep the hoof wall healthy and promotes overall hoof health. When there is excessive moisture on the outside of the foot, the fluid gradient shifts toward the hoof wall and becomes overloaded with moisture, thus, the foot becomes saturated and the interchange of fluids is no longer effective, affecting a hoof’s mechanical properties.

The lack of flexibility caused by excess moisture creates a softer foot, which ultimately, as the weight of the horse presses down on the hoof, leads to issues such as flattening of the sole, flaring of the hoof wall and hoof wall cracks. A soft foot is also prone to losing shoes, due to its inability to hold nails well. The hoof structure was not designed to withstand as much water as we often subject it to during the summer months. However, there are ways to limit exposure to moisture, even in the hottest temperatures.

It is best to tackle issues that accompany moisture by going straight to the source and minimizing the amount of water that comes in contact with the hooves. This can be accomplished in several ways:

horse being bathed at palm beach equine clinic wet hooves - summer hoof health summer hoof health from Dr. Stephen O'Grady at Palm Beach Equine Clinic

1. Give your horse fewer baths.

Cutting down on how many times per day a horse is hosed can be difficult with competition horses that need to stay clean and that may be exercised, ridden, or shown several times per day. Still, it is important to be strategic about using water, especially on the legs. At home, try to occasionally let your horse air dry in front of the fan if a bath isn’t entirely necessary. Body clipping will help your horse’s heat tolerance this time of year and you may not have to use the hose after every ride.

2. Avoid standing water

If you must bathe, be sure the horse isn’t standing in excess water that rises over the hoof capsule. Try to shower off the horse in a dry area so the surface underneath the horse does not contribute to the moisture level. After being bathed, move the horse to a dry surface so their hooves can thoroughly dry.

3. Use hoof shields to direct water away from the hoof.

A good preventative tool to use while hosing is tight-fitting bell boots that cover the hoof and prevent external water from running down onto the hoof. The same effect can be accomplished with a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Simply cut the bottom of the bag, place the horse’s foot inside, and seal the bag just below the fetlock to prevent excess water from sliding down the hoof.

4. Stand the horse in sawdust.

Sawdust and similar materials have a drying effect on hooves. If hooves become saturated for any reason, let the horse stand in deep sawdust to extract the moisture. Shavings would work also, but sawdust is the most effective for absorbing moisture.

Juan Martinez Hoof Polishing by Jump Media - summer hoof health from Dr. Stephen O'Grady at Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Photo courtesy of Jump Media

5. A shellac-type hoof dressing product can help prevent the hoof from absorbing too much water if applied before baths or turnout.

The majority of hoof dressings are intended for this purpose, however.  Ask your farrier or veterinarian to recommend options that will do the job when used one to two times per week. Boric acid powder can also be applied to horses’ feet once or twice a week, serving as an astringent for the hoof.

6. Avoid turning out early in the morning.

When humidity is high, the grass at dawn will have a high dew level, meaning horses will be standing on wet surfaces during the first hours spent outside. Though temperatures are cooler as the sun is still rising, for overall hoof health it’s best to wait until the grass has dried.

7. Farriery may need to be changed during the summer months to compensate for the increase in moisture.

Open the lines of communication between veterinarian and farrier. Veterinarians and farriers often do not communicate regarding a particular horse. This is a crucial step to ultimate hoof care. Each professional has a reason behind their decisions, and if the two work together as a team, the horse has a much higher chance of achieving optimal hoof health than if they each operated on their own agenda.

tips for keeping hooves strong through the summer from Dr. Stephen O'Grady at Palm Beach Equine Clinic - summer hoof health

Achieving a healthy hoof is not solely a farrier’s job; it is a whole team effort and requires dedication and attention. By implementing these recommendations into your horse care routine, you can play a role in how moisture affects your horse’s hooves. When considering the effects of excessive moisture on the hoof wall, it’s important to understand there are other factors involved, including the age of horse, breed, genetic makeup, foot conformation, and current farriery practices. With open communication and implementing these measures as a team, you are on the right track to achieving a stronger and overall healthier hoof.

The Benefits of Biologics: Regenerative Medicine for the Equine Athlete

Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. Bryan Dubynsky examining the horse's front leg before administering a self-derived biologic treatment.

Veterinarians Help Horses Self-Heal to Maintain Optimal Health and Performance

When horses are not performing up to their usual standards, regardless of discipline, the signs can be subtle. Usually, it is the rider who first picks up on a slight feeling and questions whether something is off. A horse may suddenly be lacking impulsion, be uneven in its stride, or tripping more than usual. In the jumper ring, a horse’s discomfort can present itself as rails down. Riders can easily attribute these issues to their own shortcomings, but the veterinarian is able to understand if, and decide when, there may be an underlying issue. Helping equine athletes reach their full potential and maintain optimal health is the goal of sport horse medicine.

Sebastian, a 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding, had garnered accolades in the jumper ring at competitions around the world. While competing at the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, Florida, his performance was waning. He was not jumping the clear rounds he had cranked out consistently through his career, knocking down rails while jumping off his right lead in particular. Although owner Serena Marron had just purchased Sebastian in the fall of 2020, she knew that something was not right. She was aware of Sebastian’s capabilities and conferred with her veterinarian, Dr. Bryan Dubynsky of Palm Beach Equine Clinic, to get to the root of his performance issue.

Sebastian - Serena Marron - Sportfot photo from Winter Equestrian Festival 2021 in Wellington Florida 2
Serena Marron and Sebastian competing at WEF 2021 (Photo by Sportfot).

“Sebastian had a super clean vetting with no previous injuries, but his right-side fetlocks would often get a little sore,” said Marron. “My trainer and I decided to have Dr. Dubynsky evaluate Sebastian, and he opted for a self-derived biologic treatment in all four fetlocks and hocks. I’ve had horses respond well to this type of treatment in the past, so I knew it was a reliable option.”

Self-derived biologic treatments are a form of regenerative medicine, which encourage the body to self-heal through stimulating naturally occurring biological processes. Regenerative medicine is used to treat or prevent joint disease and soft tissue injuries and works to decrease some of the detrimental biologic processes that can inhibit or slow recovery. By promoting healing and a healthy joint environment, veterinarians are better able to support horses throughout their athletic careers. 

regenerative self-derived biologic therapy for horses

“Biologic agents found in the horse’s own blood can be harvested, concentrated, and returned to the affected area of that same horse,” explained Dr. Dubynsky. “This self-derived serum combines naturally occurring growth factors and anti-inflammatory mediators, among other agents, that can improve the structure, strength, and speed of healing. In equine sports medicine, we commonly use regenerative therapies to treat musculoskeletal injuries and as a preventative therapy to proactively preserve joint health.”

Some regenerative therapies, like the biologic treatment used for Sebastian, can be prepared stall-side and administered during one appointment. Autologous (self-derived) serums are natural and steroid-free with no drug-withholding times for horses competing in FEI or recognized competitions.

“As with many horses performing at the top of their respective sports, Sebastian had obvious synovitis in his joints,” noted Dr. Dubynsky. “Opting to treat this inflammation with a self-derived biologic as opposed to a corticosteroid promotes better long-term joint health instead of a quick fix.”

Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. Bryan Dubynsky performing a flexion on the horse's hind leg before administering a self-derived biologic treatment.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. Bryan Dubynsky performance evaluation on the lunge line before administering a self-derived biologic treatment.

After the injections, Sebastian was given a couple of weeks off from jumping to let the regenerative treatment do its job. Upon returning to full work, the difference in Sebastian was very apparent to Marron.

“I could tell the treatment worked right off the bat,” said Marron. “I could feel a difference in his body by the way he propelled off the ground and how he felt in training the day after a big class. He felt all around more balanced and even on each lead, which was a noticeable improvement.”

Sebastian soon regained his reputation for agile, clear rounds. The pair was able to successfully resume competition plans by jumping in the FEI two- and three-star divisions for the remainder of the WEF circuit. They now plan to continue competing at that level throughout the summer, along with national grand prix classes. “Sebastian has spent years jumping at the five-star level,” added Marron, “so we do whatever we can that will help him continue feeling his best.”

Sebastian - Serena Marron - Sportfot photo from Winter Equestrian Festival 2021 in Wellington Florida
Serena Marron and Sebastian competing at WEF 2021 (Photo by Sportfot).

Horses can reap the benefits of self-derived biologic treatments well before a serious injury occurs that could derail training or require a lengthy recovery. Different forms of regenerative therapy, such as stem cells, platelet rich plasma (PRP), and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP), are actively being researched and improved upon. This evolving facet of equine medicine is now a common component of the competitive horse’s comprehensive, long-term care. 

“Traditional medicine tends to focus on treating the symptoms of health problems while regenerative medicine targets the root causes,” explained Dr. Dubynsky. “Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids can diminish the body’s healing response over time, and they do not address the underlying condition. In contrast, self-derived biologics stimulate normal, healthy tissue production instead of weaker scar tissue that is prone to re-injury.”  

Although Sebastian only underwent the self-derived biologic treatment, regenerative therapies can often be used in conjunction with other medications or alternative therapies. Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s veterinary team carefully assesses each horse to determine which treatments would be the most beneficial for the individual horse. To speak with a Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian about your horse’s performance or regenerative therapy options, call 561-793-1599 or visit www.equineclinic.com.

Spring Flowers Bring Pollen Showers: How to Help Your Horse Cope with Allergies

A PBEC patient with a swollen eye due to allergies or a bug bite.

Got allergies?  Well, chances are, your horses do, too.

With warmer temperatures and spring blooms pushing up pollen levels, it seems like everyone at the barn – human and animal – is coughing and congested. If you have ever wondered what you can do to help a horse suffering from allergies, Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. David Priest shares his knowledge on addressing allergies and helping horses breathe easy. In his daily veterinary work, Dr. Priest primarily focuses on equine respiratory health. He is experienced in treating conditions ranging from concerning coughs to obstructive or mechanical issues affecting airway function, such as recurrent laryngeal neuropathy (commonly known as “roaring”).

Types and Triggers of Equine Allergies

An allergy is an immune system response to a typically harmless substance, called an allergen. Allergic reactions can range from mild, gradual annoyances to sudden and severe. Generally, allergies manifest two ways in horses; in the respiratory tract or as topical skin allergies.

2. Respiratory Allergies

Respiratory allergies are somewhat similar to asthma in humans and are most commonly referred to as inflammatory airway disease. These respiratory allergies are most often caused by environmental allergens, such as dust, mold, and pollen. Nasal discharge, tearing eyes, and coughing can also be linked to respiratory allergies.

An increase in respiratory rate or an increase in respiratory effort – such as labored breathing or exercise intolerance – are two classic signs. Also, when a horse has a thick mucus-like discharge from its nasal passages, it is concerning to veterinarians as it could indicate an infectious type of respiratory illness. A veterinarian can distinguish whether the culprit is an allergen or if there is an underlying mechanical cause of the respiratory issue. Additionally, horses that experience a dramatic change in their environment may be affected. For example, those traveling from New York to Florida may suffer from completely different allergens such as tree pollens or smoke caused by the burning of sugarcane fields.

2. Skin Reactions

Allergies affecting the skin commonly appear as hives, dermatitis, or hair loss. The administration of topical products as well as a change in the type of stall bedding can trigger such reactions. Topical skin reactions can occur in a specific area or cover the horse’s entire body. Allergies to the common bacteria Dermatophilosis can occur resulting in a painful skin condition. Oftentimes, antifungal or bacterial shampoos can help alleviate this reaction. Consulting your veterinarian is key to determining if your horse suffers from allergies that may undermine your horse’s health or future.

The same allergens that cause respiratory symptoms can also cause skin reactions, but veterinarians tend to approach treatments differently for the two types of reactions.

Pictures: Upon arriving in Florida, this horse was hit with a allergic reaction causing hives all over its body accompanied by severe itching. The patient was initially treated with tripelennamine (injectable antihistamine) and dexamethasone, and then prescribed oral antihistamines and given an allergy and skin supplement to allow the horse to more comfortably adjust to its new environment.

Diagnosing Equine Allergies

Like most conditions, your veterinarian will start by getting a history of the problem, when it first appeared, and any changes that may have occurred recently in the horse’s diet or environment. They will follow with a physical examination, noting the site or region of the horse’s body where there is a flare up. Specific tests such as a biopsy and culture can be performed to rule out other skin conditions or causes – parasites, bacteria, or tumors. A bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) or a tracheal wash where the veterinarian collects respiratory secretions and then performs a cytology of that fluid can determine if there are abnormalities or specific types of bacteria causing an infection. Serum (blood) allergy testing or imaging, such as an ultrasound of their chest, may be utilized to assess airway health and function and determine if the cause is allergy related.

Treatment and Taking Action Against Allergens

As in a visit to the human allergist, horses can undergo intradermal (skin) allergy testing to pinpoint the source of a horse’s reaction. For this procedure, the horse has a large patch of hair clipped down on their neck so that tiny amounts of various allergens can be injected into a grid pattern. The veterinarian will examine this grid during different time intervals for signs of an allergic response and determine if a targeted treatment can be taken against those specific allergens.

Photos: A PBEC patient with a swollen, tearing eye aggravated by itching, and its improvement after treatment with prescribed Neo-Poly-Bac-HC (eye medication), flunixin meglumine (Banamine), and protection by a fly mask.

Once the veterinarian determines your horse is suffering from allergies and not another condition, the first thing you can do is try to identify and eliminate the allergen. Figuring out what may have been associated with the onset of the allergic reaction is an inexpensive solution, and often the most effective approach.

From a stable-wide perspective, the most important thing you can do is try to minimize dust and flies, two of the most common allergens. While horses are not generally allergic to flies, some can be allergic to fly bites or specific fly species. Insect bites also increase the horse’s stress level, which can further contribute to the immune system’s response.  While eliminating insects and environmental allergens is impossible, there are several tactics barn managers can take to mitigate both problems.

A good manure disposal system can cut the population of insects in the barn, as will a reduction in any standing water, especially in the springtime when flies and mosquitoes start to reemerge. Owners can protect their horse from insects by using fly sprays, masks, sheets, and boots, and keeping horses inside during times of the days when bugs are most active. Dust- and pollen-related allergic reactions tend to occur when horses are in the barn because it is a closed-air environment. Dust control tactics, such as wetting hay and shavings, keeping barn aisles clean and swept, and managing fresh airflow in the barn with fans and open doors and windows all contribute to better airflow.

Veterinary treatment is the next line of defense in treating allergies. For acute reactions, some horses benefit from short-term treatment with corticosteroids or antihistamines. Those treatments, however, can have side effects and are prescribed when other interventions, such as modifying the environment to reduce the allergen, are ineffective. Immunomodulatory therapy (allergy shots) is another option that may be effective and can be discussed with your veterinarian.

Knowing how to identify allergies affecting your horse and taking steps to eliminate the allergens will lead to easier breathing and happier horses in your stable. For more information, contact Dr. David Priest at Palm Beach Equine Clinic by calling 561-793-1599.

Walking on Wire

Zeke was rescued from a life of neglect and was in extreme discomfort caused by a wire wrapped around his left front pastern.

In February of 2021, Baby Girl Horse Rescue and Veteran Therapy Ranch in Fellsmere, Florida, rescued six Belgian Draft Horses that were headed for slaughter after a life of neglect. Ezekiel, known as “Zeke”, was one of the gentle giants who rescue organizer Van DeMars described as still having spirit in his eyes despite his desperate condition. “When I found out about Zeke, I insisted on buying him even if it was only to give him some care and then have to put him down humanely,” DeMars reflected. “I just did not want him to have to make the long, hard trip past the border to die a scary death.”

Zeke was suffering from a severely swollen, actively infected, and draining wound on his left front leg. He was lame at the walk and in evident pain and discomfort. Once Zeke arrived at the rescue, their veterinarian Dr. Karie Vander Werf took radiographs that painted a grim picture. The radiographs showed a metal wire had been wrapped around Zeke’s pastern bone, deeply embedded through the soft tissue and into the bone. She then immediately referred Zeke to board-certified surgeon Dr. Weston Davis for surgery at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

Once Zeke arrived at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, Dr. Weston Davis, assisted by Dr. Sidney Chanutin, took additional radiographs to thoroughly assess the location and depth of the wire. “The radiographs confirmed a metal object was circumferentially wrapped around the mid-pastern bone, embedded into the soft tissue and remodeled the bone itself,” Dr. Chanutin revealed. On February 24, Zeke was put under standing sedation, given a local nerve block, and the wire was carefully extracted by Dr. Davis.

Radiograph of Zeke by Palm Beach Equine Clinic showing wire deeply embedded into pastern bone.
Radiograph showing the wire wrapped and imbedded into the bone.
Posterior radiograph view of Zeke by Palm Beach Equine Clinic showing wire deeply embedded into pastern bone.
A posterior view of the pastern.

“Had the wire not been removed when it was, the infection would have continued to proliferate,” said Dr. Chanutin. “The infection and invasion of the wire into the soft tissue and pastern bone could have potentially cut Zeke’s life short.”

wire removal by Dr. Weston Davis. Palm Beach Equine Clinic Rescue Patient Success Story
Dr. Weston Davis removing the wire from Zeke’s leg.

While neither the rescue nor the veterinarians could tell with certainty how this had happened to Zeke, it was apparent by the location and way the wire was twisted that it was likely placed there intentionally. It was clear the wire had been embedded into Zeke’s pastern for months, based on the level of bone remodeling that had taken place.

Reflecting on how he felt dropping Zeke off for surgery, DeMars said, “I was afraid but was very confident in Dr. Davis. I knew that if anyone could get that wire out and give Zeke a chance to have a normal life, it would be him. Later that evening, I got a text of a picture of the wire and I was in shock that they had already gotten it out so fast. I was elated beyond belief.”

Wire removed from zekes leg post-surgery. Palm Beach Equine Clinic Rescue Patient Success Story
The picture Van DeMars received showing the cause of Zeke’s pain.

Remarkably, Zeke’s stay at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic hospital was less than 48 hours. He was then transferred to Dr. Vander Werf’s farm for aftercare, which included daily bandage changes, antibiotics, and wound care.

It only took a few weeks post-surgery for Zeke to finally experience pain-free days at Dr. Vander Werf’s facility. “He’s been a sweet boy through all of this, but only a day or two after the surgery, we really got to see his personality,” DeMars said. “He’s just a mischievous boy who even busted into Dr. Vander Werf’s feed room and is best friends with a little mini pony. We know he must have been in intense pain because he has become a completely different horse now.”

Zeke sneaking into the feed room. Palm Beach Equine Clinic Rescue Patient Success Story

In early April, Zeke was able to arrive at his new home of Baby Girl Horse Rescue and Veteran Therapy Ranch. The group of Belgian Draft Horses rescued alongside Zeke have come to be known as the “Titans.” They are destined to be part of the Titan Project, an endeavor to provide equine assisted therapy for veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other related issues.

“Zeke is quite famous now, especially among the veterans,” explained DeMars. “People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are able to derive strength through Zeke’s story and many have been reaching out through social media asking when he’s coming home so they can come see him. So, his future job is just to be groomed and taken care of. He’s going into retirement to be spoiled.”

The veterinary team at Palm Beach Equine Clinic is dedicated to protecting and providing the best possible outcome for every patient. Through swift action by the rescue and expert veterinary and surgical care, Zeke now has a new purpose and will live out his days in a safe, healthy environment. In the wake of Zeke’s immense suffering, he is now miraculously on the path to paying it forward by providing veterans and first responders the relief and support they need.

zeke in the sunrise at baby girl horse rescue

For more information or to support Zeke by donating to Baby Girl Horse Rescue and Veteran Therapy Ranch, go to https://www.facebook.com/Babygirlhorserescueranch.

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