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Palm Beach Equine Clinic Success Story: Beatrix

Any horse owner’s worst nightmare is realized when their mount begins to show the dreaded signs of colic. For Jody Stoudenmier, a Wellington, FL, resident and avid dressage rider, she knows the symptoms all too well.

Beatrix success story palm beach equine clinic colic surgery
Beatrix looking happy and fully recovered from her surgery.

Patient History

Stoudenmier owns an 11-year-old American-bred Dutch Warmblood mare that joined her string of horses at the end of 2016 and has competed through the Intermediate II level. Sidelined by a suspensory injury last year, Beatrix was prescribed stall rest to aid in her recovery by Dr. Robert Scott of Scott Equine Services based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. An unfortunate but common side effect of the necessary stall rest was colic. Beatrix suffered from six bouts of colic that were resolved without surgery when Dr. Scott referred Stoudenmier and Beatrix to Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

“She is such a wonderful mare; a nice mover, very athletic, sweet, sensitive, and easy to handle in the barn,” said Stoudenmier of the mare that regularly competes at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival during the winter season. “When she was recovering from her injury we tried everything to prevent her from colicking – diet, medications, hand walking – but, nothing seemed to be working.”

It was then that Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s board-certified surgeon, Dr. Weston Davis, suggested a laparoscopic surgical approach.

“Her colic had never progressed so far that we needed to do surgery before,” explained Stoudenmier. “But, at that point, I was open to anything! After speaking with Dr. Davis, I immediately had a positive feeling about it.”

Dr. Davis’ Surgical Procedure

The procedure that Dr. Davis suggested was an endoscopic ablation of nephrosplenic space. In layman’s terms, as a result of Beatrix’s colic, her colon was essentially getting caught or entrapped over the nephrosplenic ligament, which connects the left kidney to the spleen. When the colon is entrapped in this position, its contents cannot move through it and the colon becomes distended, causing the horse considerable pain, and the inevitable colic.

Dr. Weston Davis surgery palm beach equine clinic

Dr. Davis’ solution was to close or perform an ablation of the nephrosplenic space to prevent further entrapment. The procedure can be conducted endoscopically where the horse does not have to be anesthetized, but undergoes a standing surgery with sedation and local anesthesia. A small incision is made in the left flank and the laparoscope is inserted through a smaller incision close by. The nephrosplenic space is then sutured closed so that the trough that forms the space between the kidney and spleen is obliterated and can no longer entrap the colon.

On October 9, 2017, Beatrix underwent a successful ablation of the nephrosplenic space at the hands of Dr. Davis.

“In the past, I have had several horses undergo surgery where they had to be anesthetized and it was very difficult to get them standing again after surgery,” said Stoudenmier. “We did not have that worry with Beatrix and the approach absolutely made a difference in her recovery.”

Post-Surgery Care and Recovery

Beatrix remained at Palm Beach Equine Clinic for a week and a half after surgery to jump-start her recovery before returning home to Stoudenmier, who has managed her post-surgery care with the help of both Dr. Davis and Dr. Scott.

“Dr. Davis was absolutely wonderful to work with,” said Stoudenmier of her experience at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. “He listened to my concerns, was patient, and kept his mind open.”

Dr. Davis paid a visit to Beatrix in mid-November to perform an ultrasound and together with Dr. Scott approved the mare to return to work. Stoudenmier has begun to introduce trot work into Beatrix’s routine and is optimistically expecting a full recovery, saying, “She looks super and everything looks good for the next two months. My goal by the end of the season is to get her back in the show ring!”

Meet PBEC Veterinarian Dr. Natalia Novoa

Dr. Natalia Navoa
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Natalia Navoa

Dr. Natalia Novoa was born in Nashville, TN, and raised in Colombia, where she graduated from the University of La SalleUpon returning to the United States, Novoa validated her degree in both the U.S. and Canada and received her chiropractic adjustments qualifications in Kansas and studied acupuncture in Florida. Novoa joined the Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) team for a short period in 2000, before spending several years following the hunter/jumper horse show circuit in Canada, Colorado, and Ocala, FL. She then re-joined the PBEC staff in 2011, and, with her veterinary license in Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Canada, Novoa has been a valued member of their team ever since.

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to pursue veterinary medicine?

I have enjoyed having animals in my life since I was very young, but what was key to me deciding to pursue veterinary medicine was having a farm where I was able to gain skills and real-world experience that would prove handy down the road. I was able to practice with real medical cases and acquire knowledge in operational management, and it was an introduction to the lifestyle because it requires patience, hard work, commitment, determination, and accountability. It was a valuable opportunity to work hands-on in the environment with the veterinarian of my farm, absorbing, assimilating, and getting familiarized with the vet skills that were the building blocks for my future. He made me realize that veterinary medicine would fit me perfectly. That helped me set the foundation for my career, and since then, I didn’t have to look any further!

Q: What led you to PBEC?

I think of it like this: if I want to become the best at what I do then I have to work with the best, and I picked PBEC. They say, “Leadership is not about a title or designation. It’s about impact, influences, and inspiration.” Palm Beach Equine assumes the leadership role, chases the latest trends, and evolves continuously. In addition, we have a great team of skilled vets and staff who try to expand their vision and abilities to achieve success. 

I have to say I have had seven great horse show seasons with Palm Beach Equine, and I’m looking forward to an eighth one. When you are doing what you love and you are working with great horses, time flies.

Q: What is your primary area of focus?

I focus on sports medicine and lameness, combining conventional medicine with alternative medicine; this includes chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and herbal therapy. To me those are great alternative tools for diagnosis and treatment. I have to say, they help you to look at a horse or a dog in a different way, and you have more tools and options. Regardless of the case – lameness, pain management, internal medicine, etc. – I have different choices to achieve results in those situations.

I perform chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture therapy, and laser treatments to small animals as well. Most horse people have dogs, so I’m able to take care of their companions too.

Q: What is a typical day like for you at PBEC?

It’s a busy agenda every day with continuous juggling. I’m usually dealing with lameness (involving diagnosis and treatment), doing pre-purchase exams, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture therapies on horses and dogs, performing laser treatments, and at the end of the day, doing paperwork. Depending on the day, I could be doing FEI treatments, vet shift at the horse show, donating vet work at Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center, or dealing with an emergency. We’re a very mobile practice able to go from farm to farm and horse show to horse show (Kentucky; Tryon, NC; Ocala, FL), so I’m moving around a lot.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

There are so many aspects that I enjoy: working outdoors, closely with animals on a daily basis, and diagnosing and dealing with different issues to overcome problems; the privilege of working as a team with the clients and trainers and creating a great, close relationship with them; the connection with the animals and how they show you how grateful they are, and being able to see the improved outcome. There’s great satisfaction in successfully applying my knowledge and skills to a make a difference in someone’s life.

Palm-Beach-Equine-Clinic-Acupuncture-Alternative-Medicine-Therapy-Natalia-Novoa-1

Q: Have you had any standout, favorite moments since beginning to work at PBEC?

When I had double success treating a ‘mystery’ case of a horse in which the owner was losing hope because other treatments were not showing good outcomes, and also treating her dog that was crying and unable to get in the car. The animals and owners were both happy and thankful. “For it is in giving that we receive” – having a positive impact on someone is correlated with high levels of overall job satisfaction.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy traveling with my daughter, Lola, and visiting my parents and siblings that live in different countries. I also love dancing to Latin music, running, playing tennis and squash. I’m a pretty competitive squash player, so I welcome any challengers!

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Provides the Best in Emergency Colic Care

Fear of colic is in the back of many horse owners’ minds, but with the expert care of Palm Beach Equine Clinic, owners can rest easy knowing that they have some of the world’s best surgeons and veterinarians at their disposal in the event of an emergency.

Colic 101

Characterized by abdominal pain or problems with the gastrointestinal tract, colic is something that often arises unexpectedly and from many different origins. Spoiled feed, abrupt changes in feed, parasite infestation, sand ingestion, lack of water consumption, and even excess stress or changes in the weather are among the numerous causes generally related to colic.

Colic Symptoms

Whatever the cause may be, the most important step any owner can take is to recognize the symptoms as early as possible and immediately call their veterinarian. Pawing, rolling, looking at abdomen, sweating, loss of interest in food and water, and absence of gut sounds in any of the four abdominal quadrants are some of the telltale signs of colic development. Unfortunately, colic can be fatal, but the proper knowledge and care may save your horse’s life. The sooner your veterinarian gets involved in treatment, the better your horse’s chance of survival.

Dr. Weston Davis surgery palm beach equine clinic

Emergency Colic Care

In the event of an emergency, the veterinarians and surgeons of Palm Beach Equine Clinic are available 24/7 to offer the very best care for your equine partner. Palm Beach Equine Clinic is renowned for its referral full-service surgical center and intensive care hospital located in the heart of Wellington, Florida. Board-Certified surgeons, primary care veterinarians, and skilled hospital technicians are available to treat, monitor, and care for critical cases. With world-class veterinarians and a full staff of highly trained technicians, both clients and patients of Palm Beach Equine Clinic are in the best hands possible.

Surgical Capabilities

Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers the latest in technology as the surgical techniques are less invasive and result in faster recovery times for your horse. The surgical team leader, Dr. Robert Brusie, is a nationally renowned, Board-Certified surgeon. Dr. Brusie’s surgical specialties include orthopedic, arthroscopic, and emergency cases. Dr. Brusie has been the head surgeon with PBEC for the past 20 years.

“In the last ten years, colic surgery has come a long, remarkable way,” Dr. Brusie stated. “With our clients, if the horse needs to go to surgery, we get an approximately 95% success rate. We attribute that to the client’s excellent care of their horses, as well as their knowledge to contact us immediately. That being said, colic surgery is always the last resort. We try to help all horses improve medically first.”

Palm Beach Equine’s surgical suite and staff is prepared to handle all types of emergencies, day and night. The large team of 40 veterinarians includes three Board-Certified Surgeons who rotate on-call duties so every day is covered. This aids Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians and all of Southeast Florida with the ability to treat their emergencies requiring surgical assistance as quickly as possible. The state-of-the-art intensive care hospital is equipped with top-of-the-line medical equipment, including digital video cameras for the clinicians to easily monitor their patients from any location, at any time.

Meet Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Robert Brusie

Need Emergency Colic Care?

For more information on the Palm Beach Equine Clinic facility or in case of an emergency, please call (561) 793-1599 to contact an on-call veterinarian.

Meet Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian
Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler is one of the newest additions to Palm Beach Equine Clinic, having joined the team in June of 2017. Originally hailing from New Jersey, Hustler completed her undergraduate degree in Equine Science at Centenary College while simultaneously riding as a member of their Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) team. Hustler then graduated from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2016.

What is your background with horses?

Both of my parents are ministers, so I come from a non-horse family, but I begged my mom for riding lessons as a kid. From there, I got involved in the showjumping community in the Ocean Grove, NJ, area where I was growing up. I stayed in the showjumping world up until I became a veterinarian. I worked as a rider and an FEI groom for various professionals, including about seven years with Gabriella Salick, a showjumper from the West Coast. With Gabby, I had the opportunity to take care of her horses at World Cup Finals, the Olympic trials, Spruce Meadows, and top horse shows all over the country. She really taught me how to be a good horseman too, which I think has been really invaluable to me now as a veterinarian.

How did you then decide to pursue veterinary medicine?

I’ve always been quite interested in science, as well as the horse. I’ve always loved animals, and I wanted to be able to help horses, as well as the professionals and owners, involved in the industry. You do that as a groom and rider to some extent, but it’s different being a veterinarian. I’ve always felt like it was my mission in life to help horses and the people involved with them, especially in this capacity.

What led you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

I knew Dr. Richard Wheeler and Dr. Bryan Dubynsky and knew of Palm Beach Equine from my involvement in showjumping, so when it came time to do an externship when I was in vet school, I did it at Palm Beach Equine. Then, while I was extern-ing, I applied for the clinic’s internship position, and I got the internship position. Then, during my internship, they offered me an associate position. I got the externship, and I was able to make my way up from there. During the externship, I remember thinking, ‘I really want to intern here,’ and then when I was interning, I was thinking ‘I don’t really want to leave.’ I love the practice. I like the demographics of the horses that we get to work on, the people that are involved, and the sense of community. You’re surrounded by colleagues that you can work with; you can always ‘phone a friend.’ It’s a really inviting and helpful atmosphere to learn and work in.

What is your favorite part of the job?

I mentioned the demographics of the horses that we’re working on – the caliber of them is really just incredible, and getting to work on the horses that we do is such a privilege. Outside of that, I focus a lot on lameness, alternative therapies, internal medicine, and I’m acupuncture certified, which I really enjoy. I’m a big advocate of acupuncture as a non-invasive way for the horse’s body to heal itself, as well as a nice addition to other kinds of treatments to promote overall well-being and health.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy?

I’m married to a great guy named Samuel, and we spend a lot of time outdoors and with our three dogs. We’re big beach people, and we love the ocean, paddle-boarding, yoga, hiking, biking – just getting out and enjoying being outside.

Meet Surgical Resident Dr. Michael Myhre

Dr. Michael Myhre Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Surgeon

Dr. Michael Myhre was born to be a veterinarian. In 1978 his father, Dr. Grant Myhre, developed a referral practice, Myhre Equine Clinic in Rochester, NH. After working alongside his father since middle school, Dr. Myhre, who hails from Milton, NH, believes he was always destined to be a veterinarian. Dr. Myhre graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine based in Ithaca, NY, in 2016, and he joined Palm Beach Equine Clinic thereafter as a surgical resident to work under the direction of board-certifed surgeons Dr. Robert Brusie, Dr. Jorge Gomez, and Dr. Weston Davis.

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.

Dr. Michael Myhre Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Surgeon

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?

I came here because it is the best residency program in the country. I have a big caseload 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 racehorses. I have done everything from condylar fracture repairs to MRIs, nuclear scintigraphy, x-rays, and even colic surgery on a miniature horse. Palm Beach Equine Clinic 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 Palm Beach Equine Clinic, I plan to move back to New Hampshire and work at my father’s practice.

Michael Myhre surgery palm beach equine clinic standing

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.

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.

Emergency Veterinary Care

Recognizing the extreme peril facing Freeman, Pine Hollow immediately called for help from Palm Beach Equine Clinic, 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. “Palm Beach Equine Clinic 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 Palm Beach Equine Clinic were able to free Freeman from the trailer door.

At the Equine Hospital

From there, Freeman was transported to the nearby Equine Hospital, where he spent a few days recovering 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 Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Dr. Weston Davis of Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

Dr. Weston Davis performed the surgery, after which Freeman remained in Palm Beach Equine Clinic’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.

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 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 the Equine 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.

A Link Between Neck Issues and Lameness

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 Palm Beach Equine Clinic 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 Palm Beach Equine Clinic 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.

Meet Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood

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

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood

What brought you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

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 Palm Beach Equine Clinic? 

In addition to general, preventative and sport medicine, I will be focusing on Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s reproductive work. I did an internship and a fellowship in reproduction and realized that it is what I am most interested in. I will be working on breeding mares, performing frozen and fresh semen inseminations, 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 by on their horses. We do not have any other veterinarians in my family, but when I was five years old I realized that I wanted to work with animals. During my undergraduate studies in Animal Science at Berry College in Rome, GA, a professor named Dr. Martin Goldberg really pushed me to pursue veterinary 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, diving or paddleboarding at the beach and spending time by the pool

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing veterinary school?

Do it! It will be the most difficult time of your life, but if you have a passion for it, it will be 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. 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.

Success Story: Diligent Pre-Purchase Practices Put “Mater” in the Winner’s Circle

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 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Nuclear Scintigraphy (bone scan) modalities to locate a flat piece of separated bone known as a slab fracture.

The process began with a bone scan where 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. Davis 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 Nuclear Scintigraphy Department Manager Brittany Cain

Originally hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Brittany Cain attended Southern Illinois University before moving to Florida and joining the staff of Palm Beach Equine Clinic as the manager of the Nuclear Scintigraphy department.

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.

When I was 18 years old and had my first paying job, I was able to afford actual riding lessons and it 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. Many of those yearlings went on to be 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 always obsessed with horses. I volunteered all of my free time to be at the barn. 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 Department in particular?

I’ve always had a strong interest in the anatomy of horses. I knew a lot of equine anatomy from college where I took many courses that covered the musculature anatomy as well as skeletal. In addition, working with all of the Standardbred yearlings was great experience for working with the two and three-year-old racehorse patients that see here at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

nuclear scintigraphy bone scan palm beach equine clinic diagnostic medical imaging services

What is your typical day like at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

As the manager of the Nuclear Scintigraphy Department, I have the patients in the scanning area for bone scans. Myself and technicians will bring the horse into the area, I will take their temperature, pulse, and respiration checks, and then I will 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 bone 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 a full body scan, anywhere from two to four hours. It’s a lot of keeping the horse comfortable, getting all of the images that are needed, and making sure that the images are high quality. Usually during the busy winter season, we have anywhere from two to three horses a day so it keeps me very busy.

What do you enjoy most about working at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

I love the variety of patients that we see. We get cases of racehorses, polo ponies, barrel racers, top show jumpers, hunters and dressage. It’s really neat seeing all of these talented and often very expensive horses.

Have you had any standout or favorite moments since you joined the Palm Beach Equine Clinic team in 2015?

We went down to Miami for the Longines Global Champions Tour to assist in taking the arriving horses off the airplanes. I helped by taking temperatures, pulse, and respiration checks on all of the competition horses. It was really cool seeing the caravan from the airport to the show grounds and just how it’s set up on Miami Beach.

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.

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