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Author: Beth Lawler

A View 6-Feet from the Track

Dr. David Priest comments on veterinary life amid COVID-19 and specifically on its impacts in the Kentucky horseracing community.

keeneland racetrack coronavirus covid closures

Dr. David Priest is a PBEC veterinarian who treats horses in Florida during the fall and winter and operates in his home state of Kentucky during the spring and summer. Dr. Priest primarily focuses on high performance racehorses with a special interest in respiratory function and surgery. As Coronavirus closures swept the nation and all factions of horse sport, Dr. Priest has been a prime witness to the impacts on the racing community from the bluegrass state.


By the time I returned to my family’s farm and residence in Kentucky on March 26, the commonwealth had already issued a stay at home order. The normally incredibly busy Keeneland Racecourse April Sale had been cancelled with no horses being allowed to stable at that track. I wasn’t surprised by that decision, given the circumstances, but it certainly had a profound impact on the horse industry and racing in Kentucky.

My normal daily care of horses at Keeneland during April, which is typically my busiest month, was non-existent. However, as a veterinarian and farm owner, I consider myself incredibly fortunate during this challenging time. I have still been treating horses daily, primarily those with more pressing medical needs, as well as horses at my family’s farm, which includes thoroughbred lay-ups, mares with foals, and dressage horses. All in all, I feel incredibly lucky.

Tracks here and across the country have been hit hard. Trainers whose livelihood depends on racing have just been doing what they can to keep horses going and giving them time turned out if possible. Its still a waiting game on when live spectator racing will return to Kentucky.

keeneland racing track gate palm beach equine clinic veterinarian david priest

Churchill Downs began racing without spectators on May 16. Everyone that enters the track is required to have a negative COVID-19 test performed by Churchill Downs staff, and they’ve set in place required temperature checks and face masks. I work mainly at Keeneland, which is a bit more relaxed in their protocols and is now allowing stabling and training for a small number of horses.

In central Kentucky, breeding thoroughbreds is king. The yearling sales, beginning in July and peaking in September, are the lifeblood of the breeding industry. There is tremendous uncertainty about these sales and what impacts this recession will cause. People typically come from all over the world for these sales where yearlings can be bought for $500,000 to well over $1 million dollars. There may be hundreds of thousands of dollars ties up in stud fees and expenses for a single yearling, and those profits are essential to supporting the entire industry. To say there is still a lot of uncertainty is an understatement. Personally, the real saving grace is that we can all focus on what we can control, which is taking care of our horses every day. That part hasn’t changed much at all, thank goodness for that. The rest of it is just going to have to sort itself out with time. Racing in some form will survive this. What exactly it will look like, no one can be entirely sure.

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Taking a Chance on Madison

Palm Beach Equine Clinic helps one mini donkey survive a roller coaster of health concerns

The popular veterinary adage, “if only they could just tell us how they feel,” never rang more true than in the case of an 11-year-old miniature donkey mare named Madison. Owned by Sariah Hopkins, “Madi” came to Palm Beach Equine Clinic by referral and was diagnosed with hyperlipemia, a common issue in miniature donkeys. Madi’s case, however, was never exactly how it seemed.

Hopkin’s describes Madi as the “center of attention.” Rescued from an animal hoarding situation by Safe Harbor Sanctuary in Nashville, TN, where Hopkins serves on the Board of Directors, Madi was officially adopted by Sariah and her husband Joel in 2015.

“She was one of 40 horses and donkeys being kept on four acres of land,” said Sariah, who relocated to Juno Beach, FL, with Madi in tow in 2018. “She has always had a super sweet, calm personality, but likes to kick up her heels. We’ve done behavioral health therapy work with foster children and she makes everyone who meets her fall in love. She is so engaging.”

After trading Tennessee for Florida, Madi didn’t adjust to her change in environment with ease. According to Sariah, a systematic decline in her health started while the mare tried to adjust to a new barn, environment, farrier, and life. “She was depressed,” said Sariah. “She wasn’t her bright-eyed self. She’s a donkey and she will eat anything so when she went off her grain and refused alfalfa, I called a local vet to pull fluids and run blood work.

“I reviewed the results with my vet in Tennessee who knows Madi and her history,” continued Sariah. “They were catastrophically bad, and she told me I needed to get Madi to a clinic immediately. I was referred to Palm Beach Equine Clinic by my friend Nataliya Boyko. Within minutes, I was on the phone with her vet, Dr. Bryan Dubynsky, and soon after we were on our way.”

Madison Miniature Donkey Palm Beach Equine Clinic Patient
Madison being treated by the team at Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Once Madison arrived at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, she was treated primarily by Dr. Abby Berzas and overseen by Dr. Dubynsky. They diagnosed her with hyperlipemia, and she remained at the clinic for two weeks.

Hyperlipemia is a common metabolic disease of ponies, miniature horses, and donkeys. In affected patients, an increase in serum triglyceride concentrations (hypertriglyceridemia) puts them at risk for liver failure, renal failure, and multiorgan dysfunction that can ultimately lead to death.

Genetically, donkeys are designed to live in harsh environments with poor-quality forage. As a result, they tend to put on weight and gain excess fat reserves when living on relatively lush pasture. Unfortunately, when they stop eating for any reason – usually stress induced –  hyperlipemia may develop due to a ‘negative energy balance’  where more energy is being used than is being taken in through eating. The essential organs of the body still require a food supply, so it uses the energy that has been stored as fat deposits. The result is that free fatty acids are circulated to the liver and converted to glucose for use by the body.

Madison Donkey Success Story Palm Beach Equine Clinic Abby Berzas success story equine hospital

However, donkeys are not able to efficiently turn off this fat release. The blood soon fills up with excess fat in circulation, causing them to become very sick and uncomfortable. This circulating fat is measured in the blood as triglycerides.

Madison’s case presented as a severe spike in triglycerides, which can be reduced by introducing sugars into the system. The sugar causes the body to release insulin and drive the triglycerides down.

“She responded well the first day, but we didn’t see the improvement that we would have liked or that she needed,” said Dr. Berzas. “We started more aggressive treatments the following day with insulin therapy and antibiotics. The dextrose caused a physiological increase in insulin, but it wasn’t enough. As soon as she had insulin therapy her triglyceride levels started coming down. They decreased significantly and she started eating again.”

Madison remained on insulin therapy for a week and was evaluated hourly by Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians to monitor the possibility of hypoglycemic shock. When Madison was able to eat regularly and maintain low triglyceride levels without any help, she was discharged.

“I had access to Madi daily, and we made the most of her time in the hospital with long hand walks, grazing, and relaxing in her stall,” said Sariah. “I got updates from the clinic every two to three hours when I wasn’t there, and without any more clinical signs, she appeared to be improving.

Madison Miniature Donkey Palm Beach Equine Clinic Patient

“But, when I got her home she still was not herself,” continued Sariah, who spent hours sitting in Madi’s stall with her. She moved home to Sariah and Joel’s private farm while they did all they could to eliminate the stress that had supposedly led to Madi’s condition. “She was good for 24 to 48 hours and then would slide backwards again. One afternoon, I was sitting in her stall and she had a coughing fit that I was able to video. I sent it to [Dr. Berzas] and she came out to the farm to check on Madi.”

Dr. Berzas performed a thoracic ultrasound and spotted comet tails in her lungs, leading to one thing: pneumonia.

“We were wracking our brains to figure out what the original stressor might have been that led to the hyperlipemia, but Madi did not display any signs of pneumonia at the clinic and did not cough once,” said Dr. Berzas. Then, there it was! Donkeys are stoic, tough animals, and sometimes they don’t give us traditional clinical signs.”

While hyperlipemia was the result, pneumonia was the cause.

“Cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’ has a vast array of effects within the body, and it is one of the first triggers for the body to recruit energy from the its peripheral stores,” explained Palm Beach Equine Clinic Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Peter Heidmann. “It minimizes discomfort and increases blood pressure and metabolic rate, basically saying, ‘Now is not the time to conserve energy for the future. I need energy now in order to survive.’ In Madison’s case, the infection prompted the body to need more than average energy – it needed extra fuel to fight the infection.” 

The typical diagnostic procedure for pneumonia is a tracheal wash procedure, but after consulting with Dr. Heidmann, Dr. Berzas elected to try and mitigate any further stress on Madison by choosing a less invasive procedure. Instead, Dr. Berzas used a special stylette that allowed them to go through the nasal sinuses and cleanly aspirate back cellular fluid for analysis. This option is called a Bronchoalveolar Lavage (BAL), and is most typically used for diagnosing cell types in the lungs.

“After culturing her fluid aspirate, she went back on antibiotics and responded well,” said Dr. Berzas. “She also had nebulizer treatments that delivered antibiotics directly to the lungs, which is the best way to treat the infection.”

happy healthy Madison miniature donkey

One month after the pneumonia diagnosis, Sariah was proud to report that Madi had made a full recovery. “When we brought her in that first day, we frankly were getting ready to say goodbye,” said Sariah. “We were devastated, and Dr. Dubynsky agreed to try and save Madi. Thank goodness he did!”

Once the pneumonia was cleared, Madi’s routine returned to normal and the hyperlipemia was no longer an issue. Today, Madi is happily running Sariah and Joel’s farm.

“Palm Beach Equine Clinic treats some of the top sport horses in the world, but I feel that Madi – a very special donkey – received the same treatment. Dr. Berzas was 100% available to me, and she championed Madi. I could not be more thankful to her and the entire team of veterinarians and staff who rallied around our Madi.”

Sariah Hopkins

“When we have a case that’s particularly challenging to diagnose,” Dr. Berzas remarked, “it just reminds us of how fortunate we are to be part of a team of specialists. At Palm Beach Equine Clinic, we are able to tap into the knowledge and experience of our fellow veterinarians from different specialties, and really deliver that value for the patient.”

Madison, happy and healthy sunbathing.

Sariah chronicled Madi’s condition and recovery on her Facebook page, developing quite a fan base for the little donkey. Madi’s story is far from over, but now she’s telling it herself and can be followed on Facebook as @MadisonJoelleDonk.

Care for Our Horses and Equestrians Amid COVID-19

The following information was requested by the Village of Wellington and posted at https://www.wellingtonfl.gov/767/Equestrian-Information

By Dr. Scott Swerdlin, President of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

For the health and safety of ourselves, our loved ones and the horse community, we must adhere to the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We are fortunate that Wellington, specifically the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District, is not a high-density area. The Village offers picturesque idyllic weather beautiful horse farms and an abundance of expertise in all facets of the equine industry. Now is a unique opportunity for those who had been occupied by hectic schedules to take a step back, de-stress and even enjoy social distancing while saddling up.

Let’s make the most of this time while awaiting the demise of the novel coronavirus by continuing to ride and train our horses. Let’s try to keep a degree of normalcy in our daily routines at the farm and use this time wisely by improving our skills as horsemen. Let’s use this time to ensure that our horses and riders are healthy, fit and ready to resume competition when the appropriate time arrives.

Adjusting to Riding and Horse Care While Staying Healthy and Safe

Spending time riding and caring for your horse is a productive use of time. However, it is imperative that we proceed safely. Suggestions that I would make to help equestrians adhere to local, state and national health recommendations include:

flatten the curve village of wellington coronavirus covid19
  • Make Social Distancing mandatory at the barn. Everyone at the barn, including riders, parents, trainers and grooms, must practice Social Distancing by keeping six feet away from others. No exceptions! Do not permit individuals to congregate in the tack room or aisle ways. While in the saddle, please keep a safe distance away from fellow riders. Many facilities are limiting the number of people allowed at the barn or in the riding ring at any one time. Establishing scheduled riding times may help to streamline this while allowing everyone to participate with their horses. In addition, riders should severely limit the number of guests that they bring onto the property.
  • Be vigilant with cleaning and sanitizing protocols by including surfaces and everyday objects often overlooked, such as whiteboard markers, doorknobs, stall latches, grooming brush handles, and crossties. Be mindful of disinfecting reins, saddles, and stirrups and washing brushes, polos, wraps and saddle pads. Barn staff should implement a routine of wiping down barn cleaning tools, such as pitch forks, wheelbarrows, etc.

  • Make sanitizers, alcohol spray bottles or disinfecting wipes available throughout the barn. Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of this disease, so try to wash your hands upon arrival at the barn, before leaving, and insist that your staff wash their hands between handling different horses.
  • Make suitable arrangements for reliable backup care in the event that you or your horse’s caretakers become sick. Organize detailed written instructions on feeding, medications and general care of your horse and provide these written instructions to the barn manager.
  • Meet with your staff and grooms regularly to make sure everyone is being consistent in safety and cleaning protocols and has the most up to date information. Have them self-monitor for any signs of fever, coughing or sickness. If anyone experiences any signs of COVID-19, they should be required to remain in their homes and self-isolate to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Work with your staff to ensure they are taken care of and compensated, if possible, during sick time. Likewise, if anyone suspects that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or has travelled to areas where the virus is active within the past month, then they should not go to the barn for 14 days.

Our horses are blissfully oblivious of the pandemic, and we must remember that they still need daily attentive care. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we must adjust to help flatten the curve while remaining dedicated to the health, training and care and of all our horses. Should anyone have any questions or need assistance with caring for their horse’s health, please call Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599.

Coronavirus & Veterinary Medicine on Horse Radio Network

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Horse Radio Network Podcast Radio Interview

Dr. Scott Swerdlin talks COVID-19, equine veterinary medicine, and horse industry impacts with The Horse Radio Network host Glenn the Geek.

Listen to the Horse Radio Network’s interview with Palm Beach Equine Clinic President Dr. Scott Swerdlin. At about 4:30 into the video, Dr. Swerdlin talks about how veterinary clinics and equestrians are adjusting to life amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Horse Radio Network is the leading online radio (podcast) network for horse lovers worldwide. 

Dr. Swerdlin is a Florida native whose family raised cattle and horses. After attending Tulane University, he pursued a master’s degree in equine reproduction at the University of Florida, and graduated from Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1976. Dr. Swerdlin was then appointed Chief of Clinical Services at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Following his tour in the military, he started a private practice in south Florida. He served on the state Board of Veterinary Medicine from 1981-1987, and received the Gold Star Award for outstanding contributions to veterinary medicine in the state of Florida. In 1999, he became a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and is licensed to practice in Great Britain.

More Coronavirus News & Updates

A View 6-Feet from the Track
Dr. David Priest comments on veterinary life amid COVID-19 and specifically on …
Care for Our Horses and Equestrians Amid COVID-19
The following information was requested by the Village of Wellington and posted …
Hunkering Down? We’re Here for You & Your Pets
No matter what life may bring, our pets are here for us. …
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Remains Open Amid COVID-19
Updated April 24, 2020 In an executive order issued March 20, 2020, …

Happy Birthday Belle: Recovering Geriatric Colic Case Turns 34

When Jennifer Penn learned that her horse Belle was in the beginning stages of a bout with colic in February, she knew she was not ready to say goodbye to her beloved horse. The 33-year-old American Quarter Horse named “Wagners Mint Joker”, but known to Penn and her family as Belle, was the horse of a lifetime.

Penn’s mother, Becky Seton, and late grandfather, Bob Lowery, both of Vero Beach, FL, purchased a then 12-year-old Belle for Penn in 1998. “We were both 12-years-old and it was a match made in heaven,” recalled Penn. “I had outgrown my show pony, so it was time to look for an all-around horse that I could show and have fun with. I am an only child, so she is like a sister to me. As I grew up, I experienced life right alongside her.”

Belle quickly lived up to her reputation as an all-around horse, actively competing with Penn at AQHA breed shows, open and 4-H circuits throughout Florida, show jumping events, and they excelled in western trail competitions. Belle even pulled a cart for a time!

When Penn was 18, she started her own lesson program with Belle at the helm. “Belle provided a solid foundation for many riders, both young and old,” she said. “She not only taught me how to become a horsewoman, but she has also impacted so many young people’s lives and taught them showmanship skills. She’s special to me and my mother Becky, but also to so many people who have gone on to become very successful horsemen and women.”

While Belle was partially retired in 2018, the same year she was the guest of honor and Penn’s wedding, the mare gave her last lesson about six months ago. She was still being ridden once a week with the occasional trail or pony ride for yet another up-and-coming rider.

Jennifer Penn Geriatric Colic Case Palm Beach Equine Clinic Surgery

Belle was thriving in retirement until colic threatened to disrupt her life of luxury.

On Saturday morning, February 1, Belle had not been drinking from her water buckets, did not finish her breakfast, and had only passed manure twice throughout the night before; abnormal signs that Penn took very seriously. “She’s tough as nails, so she was not showing any signs of discomfort; she was just standing there quietly in her stall. By knowing her habits we were able to identify a problem and make early decisions.”

Belle was initially treated by her primary veterinarian, Dr. Kelly Alderman of Alderman Veterinary Services based in Fellsmere, FL. Based on Dr. Alderman’s recommendation, Belle was transported to Dr. Karie Vander Werf’s Treasure Coast Equine Emergency Services in Palm City, FL, where an ultrasound on Sunday showed a displacement of her large colon.

“It was very obvious to us that if we were going to consider surgery, we would have to do it sooner rather than later,” said Penn. “The decision was made to preserve her strength and transport her to Palm Beach Equine Clinic for Dr. Weston Davis to operate on her.

“It was because of his confidence in the surgery despite her age, that I had a peace in the decision to proceed with surgery,” continued Penn.

One of three board-certified surgeons at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, Dr. Weston Davis performed the emergency colic surgery to remove a right dorsal impaction in the large colon and correct a severe displacement caused by the altered motility within the intestines.

“Her primary veterinarian had done everything that she could medically do for the horse before referring the case to Palm Beach Equine Clinic,” said Dr. Davis. “In some colic cases, a prolonged course of medical treatments might result in the horse no longer being a surgical candidate. When things were not improving quickly enough, the horse was sent to us. Our main concern was to determine if Belle was as healthy a surgical candidate that she could possibly be.”

According to Dr. Davis, Belle’s physical examination and blood work revealed her to be a very healthy, albeit geriatric, colic case. “She is the oldest horse that I have performed colic surgery on. At the time of her arrival, Belle was well-hydrated with balanced electrolytes levels and stable organ systems. She was an overall good candidate for colic surgery, even at 33-years-old,” he said.

While not every geriatric colic case is well-suited for surgical intervention, Dr. Davis considers two factors before moving forward with any surgery. “The surgery has to make sense for the horse, meaning that they are a healthy candidate with the ability to recover, and they have the will to live,” said Dr. Davis, who noticed how resilient Belle was from the moment he saw her. “The other point is that the surgery needs to be financially reasonable for the client. In Belle’s case, there was a will to live, and a strong emotional connection with this horse.”

After a successful colic surgery, Belle was moved to recover in the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Hospital where she was cared for round-the-clock by Dr. Candelaria Chunco and hospital staff.

“Dr. Davis was great, and Candelaria was fantastic,” said Penn. “They were both so kind, and I received regular text updates. I knew that they were invested in her recovery. When she stood up after anesthesia, I remember Dr. Davis saying to me, ‘this horse is a badass’, and she really is!”

Belle returned home to Vero Beach, FL, on February 19, and celebrated her 34th birthday on March 27. “Her recovery was slow, but she is doing well, regaining an appetite, working her way back to regular turnout, and starting to act like her old self again,” said Penn. “She is an incredibly special horse to not only me and my mother, but to my husband, family, friends, and the horse community here. It’s so wonderful to have her back home.”

Hunkering Down? We’re Here for You & Your Pets

No matter what life may bring, our pets are here for us.
And Palm Beach Equine Clinic is here for them.

Small Animal Veterinary Care Palm Beach Equine Clinic

In our commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of our patients, clients and community, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is expanding to treat all four-legged members of your family.

Whether you are concerned for the health of yourself, your loved ones, or simply doing your part to flatten the curve, our team of veterinarians is here to help by prioritizing the the health of your animals.

Save yourself from the stress and risks associated with taking your pet to the veterinarian. Please contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic for your small animal veterinary needs. A team of Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians is able to care for your pets through select small animal veterinary services during this unsettling time.

blood draw small animal

Here for the Health of All Barn Critters

Whether at Your Farm or at the Clinic

  • Vaccinations
  • Bloodwork & Fecal Testing
  • Select Medications (such as heartworm or flea and tick treatments)
  • Physical Exams
  • Acupuncture

Don’t hesitate to ask your Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian about the care of your pets. We are here to support you and your animals, and can provide accommodations to safely tend to your pets.

Call Palm Beach Equine Clinic for questions regarding your pets at 561-793-1599.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Remains Open Amid COVID-19

Updated April 24, 2020

In an executive order issued March 20, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has directed all non-essential businesses in Palm Beach County to close. As a veterinary hospital, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is an essential business and will remain open.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is committed to the care of equine patients and will continue providing care. Our equine hospital, laboratory, and diagnostic departments are fully functioning, expertly staffed, and equipped to treat any type of equine health condition. A Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian is always available in the event of an emergency, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While our doors remain open to support clients through this distressing time, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Coronavirus safety protocols

We greatly appreciate the cooperation and encourage those with concerns to call ahead so our team can safely accommodate you and your animals. Preventative measures such as curbside pickup/dropoff, digital paperwork, limited physical interactions, and other safety protocols are being implemented.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Coronavirus Safety Protocols

  • We ask that all visitors wear a protective mask/covering. Anyone on the property, whether in the lobby or hospital, must wear a mask to protect themselves and our staff.
  • Hand sanitizers have been posted to our main doors and we encourage all clients to take a pump before entering the clinic.
  • Hospital visiting hours have been limited to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please speak with your PBEC veterinarian or call 561-793-1599 for any questions or clarification regarding visiting your horse at the hospital.
  • Hospital access is restricted to owners of intensive care patients only.
  • Owners are only permitted in the hospital for patient pick up and drop off. Please wait for patient admittance and discharge so a technician can safely assist you.
  • As standard medical practice, Palm Beach Equine Clinic continues to implement high-level disinfection and sterilization of medical equipment and devices. To ensure our staff and clients are kept safe, stricter cleaning protocols have been implemented throughout the Clinic and will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
  • Please limit the number of individuals present during your horse’s appointment. Our veterinarians are equipped with skilled technicians to handle your horse.
  • Please be cognizant of social distancing measures even if you have no signs of illness. Please practice social distancing while at the clinic by keeping at least 6 feet apart from others. We have posted signs, laid down boundary lines from our front desk, and our staff is doing their part to physically separate from clients as best as possible.
  • If you or a family member are not feeling well, suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, or have recently traveled to areas with active COVID-19 transmission, please call the front desk at 561-793-1599 to reschedule your horse’s appointment or arrange for another person to be present at the appointment.
  • We encourage horse owners and barn managers to be prepared in the event that they or their staff becomes ill and cannot care for their horse. Having a dependable backup caretaker for your horse and organizing clear instructions on feed, medications, exercise and general care is crucial to preparedness planning.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic continues to stay up to date on COVID-19 developments and will update our clients, partners and fellow equestrians as the situation progresses. Contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 for questions or to speak with a veterinarian.

Additional Coronavirus Resources & News for Veterinary Clients

Take Advantage of Your Time Outside the Show Ring

Dr. Scott Swerdlin Discusses His Thoughts on Being Strategic About Your Horse’s Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As we all know, the United States Equestrian Federation has suspended all points and ratings for the immediate future as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This unfortunately resulted in the cancellation of the Winter Equestrian Festival, Adequan Global Dressage Festival, and major equestrian competitions around the world. However, this does not mean that all riding and training must come to a halt.

For the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones, we must follow recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We are fortunate that Wellington, specifically the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District, is not a high-density area. Wellington offers picturesque bridle paths, idyllic weather and an abundance of expertise in all facets of the equine industry. Now is a unique opportunity for those who have been occupied by hectic schedules to take a step back, de-stress and even enjoy social distancing by saddling up and exploring the endless miles of excellent bridle paths.

Let’s make the most of our time in Wellington while awaiting the unclear future of the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing to ride and train our horses. Let’s try to keep a degree of normalcy in our daily routines and use this time wisely by improving both horse and rider health and well-being. Let’s use this time to ensure our horses remain in peak performance and ready to resume competition schedules when that time arrives.


Avenues for Enhancing and Maintaining Optimal Equine Health

It is vital for teams to have a veterinarian by their side keeping a close eye on the equine athlete’s health, performance and well-being. Closely monitoring a horse’s condition is key to catching potential injuries before they progress into issues that require more serious treatments. Here are some recommendations to consider incorporating during this break in competition that may benefit your horse when its time to step back into the show ring.

Preventive Medicine

Now is a perfect time to update your horse’s vaccinations and make sure your horse is ready to step back onto the showgrounds when competition resumes. Spring equine vaccinations to consider include:

  • Encephalomyelitis, Eastern (EEE) and Western (WEE)
  • Influenza
  • Rhinopneumonitis (Herpesvirus)
  • West Nile Virus
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Strangles

For horses returning to areas where Potomac Horse Fever exists, a booster for that disease is highly recommended. Ensuring your Coggins test and records are up to date is always beneficial. For questions regarding equine vaccinations, please call Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 to speak with a veterinarian.

Maintenance & Regenerative Medicine

Allowing our equine athletes to thrive while extending their performance careers may require Sport Horse Medicine to improve their comfort, well-being and performance. Many horses benefit from having their hocks, stifles, and/or coffin joints injected. Horses must be thoroughly evaluated by a sport horse veterinarian to determine the necessity and potential benefit of maintenance medicine before any corticosteroid injection is administered.  

An injection being administered by use of a guided ultrasound. Palm Beach Equine Clinic

To further address the wear and tear incurred from intense training and competition, Regenerative Medicine is a non-steroidal option for activating and enhancing the horse’s innate bodily healing process. Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers advanced regenerative therapies for treating musculoskeletal injuries, osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.

  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
  • Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein (IRAP)
  • Autologous Conditioned Serum
  • Pro-Stride Autologous Protein Solution

Alternative Therapies

5 Steps to a Chiropractic Adjustments with Dr. Natalia Novoa

Employing a holistic approach to treating patients, Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers veterinarians with a wealth of expertise in Alternative Medicine. Alternative therapies are often used in conjunction with traditional medicine and can be uniquely tailored to enhance a horse’s performance and overall health.

Reproduction & Fertility

Now may be the perfect time to plan for a future competition partner by breeding your horse.  Palm Beach Equine Clinic is proud to offer highly successful Embryo Transfer program. Utilize this time to begin the breeding process by having your mare safely bred through artificial insemination, with the embryo collected 7-8 days after pregnancy. A detailed Breeding Soundness and Fertility Evaluation can jumpstart your future show ring champion. Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides veterinarians with expertise in Advanced Reproductive Services and Fertility Solutions, including:

Cutting Edge Breeding at Palm Beach Equine Clinic Dr. Katie Atwood
  • Stallion or Mare Breeding Soundness and Fertility
  • Embryo transfer: an ideal option for mares with busy competition schedules
  • Genetic cloning (geldings, mares or stallions)
  • Artificial insemination and semen collection, freezing, storage and shipping

Palm Beach Equine Clinic remains open and fully equipped with a team of 40 veterinarians, 60 technicians, fully stocked pharmacy, all-inclusive equine hospital and surgical suites. Speak with a PBEC veterinarian about your horse’s health and performance by calling 561-793-1599.

Equine Coronavirus Vs. COVID-19: Two Distinctly Different Diseases

To Address Raised Concerns

The spread of the novel coronavirus has raised serious concerns as the status of the virus continues to evolve. As equine veterinarians, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is here to clarify questions raised regarding the potential impact of this disease in the equine industry.

Coronaviruses include a large group of RNA viruses that cause respiratory and enteric symptoms and have been reported in domestic and wild animals. Equine Enteric Coronavirus and COVID-19 are both coronaviruses, however, they are distinctly different viruses.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infectious disease experts, and multiple international and national human and animal health organizations have stated that at this time there is NO EVIDENCE to indicate that horses could contract COVID-19 or that horses would be able to spread the disease to other animals or humans. Equine enteric coronavirus and COVID-19 are NOT the same strains and there is no indication that either are transmissible between species.

Therefore, it is important to concentrate on the health of our equestrians by being precautious and following recommendations from public health officials. Palm Beach Equine Clinic will continue to make every effort to stay informed of developments with COVID-19, and will continue to provide veterinary care to all horses regardless of the status of this disease.

A Profile of Equine Enteric Coronavirus

Equine coronavirus is an enteric, or gastrointestinal, disease in the horse. There is NO EVIDENCE that equine enteric coronavirus poses a threat to humans or other species of animals.

  • Transmission: Equine coronavirus is transmitted between horses when manure from an infected horse is ingested by another horse (fecal-oral transmission), or if a horse makes oral contact with items or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected manure.
  • Common Clinical Signs: Typically mild signs that may include anorexia, lethargy, fever, colic or diarrhea.
  • Diagnosis: Veterinarians diagnose equine enteric coronavirus by testing fecal samples, and the frequency of this disease is low.
  • Treatment and Prevention: If diagnosed, treatment is supportive care, such as fluid therapy and anti-inflammatories, and establishing good biosecurity precautions of quarantining the infected horse. Keeping facilities as clean as possible by properly disposing of manure will help decrease the chances of horses contracting the virus.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Isolation Stalls Quarantine
Palm Beach Equine Clinic is equipped with secure isolation stalls and follows strict biosecurity measures.

Information for this notice was compiled using the following sources:

Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/animal-health-diagnostic-center/veterinary-support/disease-information/equine-enteric-coronavirus

American Association of Equine Practitioners, Equine Disease Communication Center: https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Outside%20Linked%20Documents/DiseaseFactsheet_Coronavirus.pdf


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Standardbred Gelding Back to the Track with Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Dr. David Priest Utilizes Dynamic Endoscope and Performs Surgery to Help Four-Year-Old Harness Racer Get Back in Action

For equine athletes to perform their best, optimal respiratory health is crucial, and particularly paramount for harness racehorses. According to Dr. David Priest, Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian with a keen interest in respiratory health, a racehorse moves roughly 70 liters of air through its lungs over the duration of one second while exercising. To simulate the movement of that amount of air outside the anatomy of a horse’s body, it would require two industrial ShopVacs on full power.

David Priest Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian

A colloquial condition known as “roaring”, or recurrent laryngeal neuropathy, is a fairly common issue among horses, and it restricts the amount of air able to reach the lungs through the horse’s upper respiratory system. The condition usually affects the left side of the larynx – the equine left recurrent laryngeal nerve is longer than the right – with paralysis that does not allow for an adequate amount of air to travel to the lungs.

According to Dr. Priest, equine anatomy plays a factor in the prevalence of this condition. There is a correlation with the length and size of the neck to the nerve pathways that travel from the brain to the chest, around the heart, and back up to the throat. Although mild cases of recurrent laryngeal neuropathy can be tolerated, the condition becomes particularly serious when a horse’s work involves high-intensity aerobic exercise.

“We often see recurrent laryngeal neuropathy described as a paralyzed flapper,” said Dr. Priest. “If you imagine the flaps of the larynx as cabinet doors, then the horse should be able to hold the doors open without problem while at rest. Yet, when the airflow picks up during exercise, that muscle is sometimes not strong enough to hold the doors open, and it collapses into the airway.”

Just before the start of 2019, Dr. Priest received a call from Stephanie Reames, the trainer of a four-year-old harness racehorse with symptoms pointing to recurrent laryngeal neuropathy. During his diagnostic process, Dr. Priest performed an endoscopy while the horse was resting to provide a baseline observation.

“I saw what I thought was a minor abnormality, but I did not know what amount of laryngeal strength this horse had,” said Dr. Priest. “The roaring noise usually occurs when the disease is progressive, and this horse was making a little bit of noise.


Palm Beach Equine Clinic - Dynamic endoscope showcasing the collapse of the left larynx flap
Dynamic endoscope showcasing the collapse of the left larynx flap.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic - Dynamic endoscope of the larynx with clear air flow at exercise after tie-back surgery
Dynamic endoscope of the larynx with clear air flow at exercise after tie-back surgery.

“This particular horse was in training for the harness racing season, so the owners and trainer wanted to figure out the root of the issue as swiftly as possible,” continued Dr. Priest. “The most effective way to accomplish that is to utilize a dynamic endoscope.”

A dynamic endoscope is a video recording device worn by the horse during exercise. It allows veterinarians to see the larynx, and therefore view signs of recurrent laryngeal neuropathy in real-time. Dr. Priest observed the disease as a grade C on the universal grading system for rating the disease, which translates to a full collapse of the left larynx flap.

Once diagnosed, Dr. Priest recommended an aptly-named laryngeal tie-back surgery, which involves stitching the larynx flap to surrounding cartilage in order to hold it open for optimal airflow. He performed the surgery at Palm Beach Equine Clinic a couple of days after making the diagnosis, and the horse returned home to its training base at South Florida Training Center in Lake Worth, FL, the same day.


The dynamic endoscope on a harness racehorse ready for exercise
A view of the dynamic endoscope on a harness racehorse.
The dynamic endoscope on a harness racehorse ready for exercise.

The suggested recovery time is 30 days to allow for the surgical incisions to heal. Once healed, this horse immediately returned to full harness racing training.

“The horse is doing fantastic and we are hoping to qualify for racing in the next three weeks, and we will most likely head north to Pennsylvania to race,” said Reames. “Dr. Priest is absolutely amazing and was extremely professional from start to finish. There is always a hesitation when you learn that a horse needs surgery, but Dr. Priest was so prompt with the diagnosis and procedure, and the horse healed so quickly. We have high hopes for another successful racing season!”

In February of 2020, Dr. Priest performed a second dynamic endoscopy to observe the condition and effectiveness of the tie-back surgery. “The disease usually results in a 20-30% reduction in airflow, which causes a small performance decline resulting in a speed reduction of maybe one second. This horse’s particular case was perfect at the one-year check, which is key because that one second can be the difference between winning and losing!”

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