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Category: Medical

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!”

Evaluate your Horse’s Respiratory Health by Contacting PBEC

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Back From The Brink

Dr. Santiago Demierre Gives Peachy a Second Chance


When two-year-old Quarter Horse filly Peachy decided to jump out of her paddock for a night-time stroll this past November, she got herself into some creative “young horse” trouble. After tipping over a garbage can containing bailing wire, she became entangled in the wire and her attempts to kick free resulted in the wire penetrating the wall of her right hind hoof and looped through the sole. The more the filly kicked, the deeper the wire went until it pierced the opposite side of the hoof wall and protruded out the other side.

The first call owner Corey Chilcutt made was to the clinic, and on-call veterinarian Dr. Santiago Demierre responded immediately.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. Santiago Demierre

Not So Peachy Anymore


peachy santiago demierre palm beach equine clinic success story puncture
The wire penetrating the wall of Peachy’s right hind hoof and looped through the sole.

“When I arrived, the two ends of wire that looped over the horse’s back had been cut down so it was only the wire penetrating the hoof,” said Dr. Demierre. “She was stressed and in a great deal of pain. I sedated the horse and blocked the foot so she would not feel any more pain.”

Once Peachy, who is in training to run barrels in Loxahatchee, FL, was comfortable, Dr. Demierre utilized portable radiograph technology to obtain x-ray images of the right hind foot and evaluate the injury. The images revealed that it was safe to remove the wire, and after disinfecting the area, Dr. Demierre removed the wire through the injury site.

peachy santiago demierre palm beach equine clinic success story puncture radiography wire
Dr. Demierre utilized portable radiograph technology to obtain x-ray images of the right hind foot and evaluate the injury.

“There were no fractures or synovial structures involved, but I did see on the radiograph that the coffin bone was compromised,” said Dr. Demierre. “There was a suspicious line through the coffin bone that could have led to chronic lameness, so the prognosis for performance was reserved. The prognosis for survival was very positive, and I told the owner there was a 50/50 chance she would return to training.”

Once Peachy’s hoof was free from the wire, Dr. Demierre soaked the foot in disinfectant, and began an aggressive course of antibiotic treatments, including regional distal limb perfusion and systemic antibiotics. Finally, the foot was wrapped while the treatments did their work.

Dr. Demierre returned to check on Peachy and continue the antibiotic treatments six times over the past two months. “I performed recheck radiographs of the hoof a month after the injury and there was no fracture where we saw the initial line that caused concern,” said Dr. Demierre. “The margins of the coffin bone had reabsorbed slightly, but overall the injury was healing well.”

peachy santiago demierre palm beach equine clinic success story puncture radiography
A view of Peachy’s healing hoof and therapeutic shoeing on January 11, 2020.
peachy santiago demierre palm beach equine clinic success story corrective therapeutic shoeing
Dr. Demierre worked with Chillcutt’s farrier, Juan Rivera, on a therapeutic shoeing plan.

Once the bandages were removed, Dr. Demierre worked with Chillcutt’s farrier, Juan Rivera, on a therapeutic shoeing plan. Rivera used a hospital plate with disinfectant on the injured hoof, and a bar shoe with a pour-in pad on the opposite hind hoof. At the first shoeing reset a month later, he transitioned the right hoof to a bar shoe with a pour-in pad.

Peachy’s recovery plan included stall rest until Dr. Demierre gave the green light for hand walking six weeks after the injury. At eight weeks, she was trotting on a lunge line, and earlier this month Peachy’s rider Kloey sat on her for the first time.

“The outcome was excellent,” said Dr. Demierre. “She is perfectly sound with no medication and will be back in normal shoes by the end of this month.”

peachy santiago demierre palm beach equine clinic success story
Peachy and Kloey back to work. Photo courtesy of Corey Chillcutt.

Chillcutt is hopeful that Peachy and Kloey will return to their training and will be running barrels in the future. “Dr. Demierre was amazing; his treatment plan was successful and Peachy was back to work much quicker than we ever thought. Words can’t describe the gratitude we have for Dr. Demierre, his technician Emma Sexton, and everyone at the clinic. Their dedication has been phenomenal.”

As of February 14, Peachy is back to her old self, according to Chillcutt, who noted, “She is happy to be back to work and she loves her job!”

A Laser That’s Therapeutic… and REGENERATIVE

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is the only equine veterinarian based in Wellington, FL, with the powerful SmartRLT Laser.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Natalia Novoa goes far beyond standard treatment by utilizing Regenerative Laser Therapy.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Natalia Novoa goes far beyond standard treatment by utilizing Regenerative Laser Therapy.

Dr. Natalia Novoa utilizes this revolutionary sport horse medicine tool to treat a variety of injuries and wounds with clinically documented success. The SmartRLT laser is a portable Class IV laser, the most potent and dynamic on the market, as an essential non-invasive therapy for use in the barn and at horseshows. Not only is Dr. Novoa’s regenerative laser extremely effective in treating injuries that were previously considered career-ending, but it is also especially beneficial for enhancing body condition and performance of the equine athlete. 

Clinical and scientific results of the SmartRLT include:


  • Repair of ligament and tendon lesions
  • Reduces scar tissue within and around injuries
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Increases collagen production
  • Increases blood circulation to bring nutrients to the site
  • Realigns muscle fibers for stronger healing
  • Provides analgesia (reduces pain)
  • Enhances tissue oxygenation
  • Increases cell proliferation (generates more cellular energy)

Regenerative Laser Therapy has successfully treated injuries to structures such as:


  • Cartilage/bone/joints
    • Neck and poll, stifles, temporo mandibular joint (TMJ), hocks, fetlocks, and coffin joint
  • Sore feet and laminitis
  • Sore muscles (especially back and gluteal)
  • Suspensory ligaments and branches
  • Superficial flexor tendons
  • Deep digital flexor tendon and its insertion inside the hoof
  • Inferior and superior check ligaments
  • Collateral ligaments
  • Summer sores and scratches
  • Scar tissue
  • Open wounds and punctures
  • Sub-dermal infections
  • Post-operative incisions
  • Sacroiliac joint and kissing spine
Left front suspensory ligament medial branch core lesion before and after regenerative laser therapy. Photo courtesy of SOUND.
Left front suspensory ligament medial branch core lesion before and after regenerative laser therapy. Photo courtesy of SOUND.
Deep digital flexor tendon before and after regenerative laser therapy. Photo courtesy of SOUND.
Deep digital flexor tendon before and after regenerative laser therapy. Photo courtesy of SOUND.

Regenerative Laser Therapy Case Study: Lameness

Patient Condition Grand Prix level show jumper with left front lameness.
EvaluationMagnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) showed intra-osseous fluid accumulation in the left front third metacarpal condyle.
Treatment 20 sessions of Dr. Novoa’s SmartRLT.
Result Fluid in the third metacarpal condyle was resolved.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Regenerative Laser Therapy Case Study: Lameness.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Regenerative Laser Therapy Case Study: Lameness.

Custom Treatment for Your Unique Horse


Dr. Novoa’s SmartRLT is a pioneering technology that has evidence-based settings and treatment protocols to optimize the effectiveness for each unique patient. Treatments are customized for the specific structure, acute or chronic conditions, deep to superficial and skin pigmentation to reach the best outcomes.

Regenerative Laser Therapy provides a warm, soothing sensation and does not require sedation. Treatments can be performed at the barn or horseshow. Be sure to share your competition schedule with your veterinarian so treatments can be done within a safe and legal timeframe.  

General Protocols for Regenerative Laser Treatments

Pre and Post Performance: 1-3 sessions
Acute Conditions: 6-10 sessions for the first two weeks
Chronic Conditions: 2-3 sessions per week for approximately 10 weeks

Laser Therapy 101


Laser therapy is beams of electromagnetic energy that interact chemically and biologically with the targeted tissue or injury. This creates photobiomodulation, allowing maximum penetration of tissue structures. Laser therapy releases endorphins while increasing cellular activity, blood flow and enhancing tissue oxygenation. Essentially, it enhances the body’s natural healing mechanisms and expedites the restorative process.

Regenerative Laser Therapy goes far beyond standard lasers.

Regenerative Laser Therapy releases greater energy per pulse to create a photomechanical effect at the cellular level. It can be directed to the target injury or lesion to regenerate, revitalize, remodel, repair and realign tissue. Therefore, it is essential for equine sports medicine, lameness, rehabilitation and optimizing performance.  

Regenerative Laser Therapy may only be administered by a veterinarian. Dr. Novoa is the only veterinarian based full-time in South Florida offering the SmartRLT treatments.

Understanding Energy Support for the Performance Horse

Dr. Marilyn Connor of Palm Beach Equine Clinic Discusses Balancing Your Horse’s Energy Sources for Performance

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Marilyn Connor

The modern equine athlete is asked to train and compete at far more demanding levels than horses in nature. Providing your horse with a diet that matches their metabolic needs, activity level, and training demands is key to success. To fuel our sport horses, we must first understand their nutrition and energy needs and give them the adequate support to succeed.

Physical Demands – Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Exercise


Exercise can be characterized into two general categories: anaerobic and aerobic. Anaerobic exercise is characterized by short bursts of maximal effort activity, while aerobic exercise includes low to moderate intensity activity that lasts for a longer duration.

Both anaerobic and aerobic exercise utilize glucose as the primary source of fuel. Anaerobic and aerobic exercise differ in their secondary source of energy utilized once circulating glucose is depleted. Anaerobic exercise utilizes glycogen stores after glucose is depleted, while aerobic exercise is fueled by fat sources.

Glucose is stored in the liver and muscle cells as Glycogen, or a complex carbohydrate. Glycogen is broken down into glucose to meet metabolic energy requirements and provides energy for short to medium duration physical activity. Additionally, fat can be broken down and converted into glucose through a longer and more complex process.

No equestrian sport is entirely anaerobic or aerobic. Most disciplines will have periods that require anaerobic and aerobic energy metabolism. Racehorses and western performance horses work at high intensity, fast speeds for short periods of time, requiring the body to utilize anerobic metabolism to produce energy. Show jumping and polo horses primarily use aerobic exercise yet will switch to anaerobic metabolism to keep up with energy demands of their sport. Eventing and endurance racing horses rely primarily on aerobic metabolism to support their energy needs over long periods of activity.

To support your horse during any type of sport, they must have a balanced nutrition program that sets them up for success.

Forage First


“Providing high quality forage is always my top focus for any nutrition program, regardless of the horse’s breed, age, gender, metabolic needs or athletic activity,” says Dr. Connor.

Horses are herbivores and evolved to survive by grazing on a steady supply of fresh grasses and plants. Research conducted on horses in nature shows that the average wild horse will spend 15 to 17 hours per day grazing and will travel 20 to 30 miles per day in their search for adequate food and water sources. To accommodate for the lifestyle of the modern sport horse, owners must provide high quality forage sources.

Fresh grass contains an optimal blend of key nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and fatty acids. Once grass is cut, dried and baled as hay, the nutritional benefits begin decreasing. A week after cutting, hay loses about 60% of its vitamin A, E, and Omega 3 fatty acid content. As a general rule, horses should consume 1 to 1.5% of their body weight in hay or forage per day, with some high performing equine athletes requiring 2 to 2.5% to meet their energy needs.

When hay and forage alone are not enough to support the intense metabolic needs of the equine athlete, grain, and concentrated feed become an important part of the nutritional plan.

Building Blocks of Energy Sources


Feeding your horse with the appropriate mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat is essential for fueling athletic performance.

Understanding Energy Support for the Performance Horse Palm Beach Equine Clinic

A horse whose training requires a high level of aerobic exercise, such as a dressage horse, should receive an adequate amount of fat and carbohydrates in their diet to fuel them through longer duration training sessions by providing extended, long-lasting energy sources. Racing and barrel horses, utilizing anaerobic exercise, require a higher percentage of carbohydrates in their diets to support them through maximal effort exercise for shorter periods of time.

Carbohydrates are sourced from forage, grains, and concentrated feeds. Forage sources provide a complex source of fibrous carbohydrates that require more time for the body to digest. Concentrated feeds and grains contain starchy carbohydrates that are easily digested and quickly converted into energy to fuel a horse through intense training. A well-balanced concentrated feed will also have an appropriate blend of fat, protein, and trace minerals.

Dr. Connor recommends the Platinum Performance Wellness and Performance Formula supplement which is available through the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Pharmacy.
Dr. Connor recommends the Platinum Performance Wellness and Performance Formula supplement which is available through the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Pharmacy.

Protein is an important part of the equine diet and is found in fresh grass, dried forage, and concentrated feeds in varying amounts. Protein is made of amino acids, which are the building blocks for growth, development, repair, and maintenance of body tissues. The modern equine athlete requires a substantial amount of dietary protein to support muscle growth and ongoing tissue repair.

Fat is a key component in most equine concentrated feeds and may be supplemented by adding flax seeds, flax oil, rice bran, and corn oil. These fat sources will provide slow burning calories for sustained energy release. Fat can be especially useful for supplementing a horse’s diet when they are a “hard keeper” or if they have an underlying metabolic condition that requires dietary carbohydrates to be limited.

It is important to remember that not all fats are created equal; as some fat sources can decrease or increase inflammation in the body. Flax seed and flax seed oil are rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids and can be an excellent source of energy. Corn oil is commonly used to add calories and fat; however, it is a less desirable supplement due to its higher percentage of omega 6 fatty acids, which contribute to inflammation. Concentrated feeds will have varying levels of added fats depending on the type of horse it is designed to feed.

Balancing Your Horse’s Energy Sources for Performance


Whatever equestrian discipline is your passion, your horse will need to be fueled by a balanced nutritional plan.

Establishing the proper balance of forage, starchy carbohydrates, fat sources, vitamins, and minerals will be different for each unique horse and the demands placed upon them.

Understanding Energy Support for the Performance Horse Palm Beach Equine Clinic polo

Understanding the nutritional demands of your horse can be very simple or very intricate, depending on your unique equine athlete. When designing a feeding program, it is important take into consideration your horse’s athletic discipline, performance level, metabolic needs, stage of life, and any underlying medical conditions. Furthermore, your horse’s nutritional needs will vary over time and as they age, so it is important to periodically assess your horse’s body condition and consult with a knowledgeable veterinarian.

“Feeding instructions provided on grains and concentrated feed products are designed by nutritional companies as guidelines; they are not rules and should be adjusted based on total sources of nutrition,” said Dr. Connor.

Speak with Dr. Marilyn Connor of Palm Beach Equine Clinic about your horse’s unique nutritional needs to ensure your horse is fully supported and on track to reach your competitive goals.

Electrolytes Explained

Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler Discusses the Role of Electrolytes in Performance

Intense training and hot climates can seriously impact any athlete’s hydration and electrolyte levels. Replenishing our equine athlete’s electrolyte levels can support them through training and recovery. A balanced electrolyte supplement may be one of your most valuable and understated tools to keep in your competition arsenal.

It’s Electric!

Electrolytes are chemicals that when dissolved in a polar solvent such as water, form electrically charged particles called ions. The body of an average, 1,000-pound horse consists of 65 percent water, making it the perfect environment for the electrolyte to perform its physiologic duties. Some of the physiologic functions electrolytes play a part in include but are not limited to: temperature control and fluid transport across cell membranes

  • muscle and heart contraction
  • respiration and digestion
  • ion transport and signal transduction
  • renal and neurological function
  • thought and memory processes
  • energy production and glucose metabolism
  • gathering information from all the senses and transporting those messages to the brain and muscles, enabling everyday function and the innate fight or flight responses of the horse
Intense training and hot climates can seriously impact any athlete’s hydration and electrolyte levels. Photo by Jump Media

Why are Electrolytes Important?

The horse’s body is a complex and carefully balanced system comprised of different types of cells, tissues and fluids that continuously direct an array of electrical impulses. The fuel for this fundamental life process lies within the electrolyte. When you think of a happy, healthy horse, he is one who is eating, drinking and passing manure appropriately. Electrolytes are essential to achieve and maintain this. The main electrolytes found in the horse’s body are sodium (Na), chloride (Cl), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42) and hydrogen carbonate (HCO3).

One of the main functions of electrolytes is to regulate nerve and muscle function by transmitting electrical impulses. Optimal muscle health and appropriate neuron communication increase the performance potential of all horses.

Replenishing our equine athlete’s electrolyte levels can support them through training and recovery.
Photo by Jump Media

With all the details of an electrolyte in mind, the key to maintaining a horse’s health and performance is achieving a balance. When there are imbalances, you run into trouble. Electrolytes are naturally excreted through sweating, feces and urine. However, if horses consistently excrete a high amount of electrolytes, there may be impacts on their health and performance.

Signs that a horse may be deficient in electrolytes include:

  • poor performance and depression
  • dull coat and sunken eyes
  • eating dirt or other horses’ feces
  • tying up
  • weight loss or ulcers

Common causes of an electrolyte imbalance include:

  • dehydration
  • diarrhea
  • excessive sweating and strenuous exercise
  • insufficient consumption of bio-available minerals

With a proper, high-quality nutrition program, the majority of horses are able to replenish their routine electrolyte losses. However, this does not always hold true for the performance horse that has a more strenuous training schedule. Electrolytes are not easily replaced by diet alone and made readily accessible for the body to utilize as the performance horse’s training schedule demands. This is where electrolyte supplementation plays an imperative role.

Dr. Hustler’s recommended electrolyte supplement, Summer Games Electrolyte by Kentucky Performance Products, is available through the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Pharmacy.
Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Supplementing Electrolytes

Horses are creatures of habit and thrive on consistency. Ideally, when supplementing electrolytes, you should give the same amount of powder or paste orally on a daily basis. This enables the horse to utilize what it needs to maintain homeostasis, and what is not needed will naturally be excreted. Electrolytes should never be “loaded,” as you may create an excessive imbalance and will inadvertently create an osmotic pull of water in the body to “go the wrong way,” causing dehydration. This principle of the osmotic pulling of fluids is why it is imperative to always give electrolytes with water and provide your horse with free-choice water.

Electrolyte supplements are an easy and cost-effective way to provide balance within the body. When choosing a supplement, select one that contains the essential electrolytes, and has low sugar content. Additionally, providing a free-choice salt block allows horses to instinctively re-balance their sodium and chloride levels.

The veterinarians of Palm Beach Equine Clinic recommend the Summer Games Electrolytes by Kentucky Performance Products, which can be purchased directly from the Palm Beach Equine Clinic pharmacy in Wellington, FL. The value and impact electrolytes have on your horse’s health and potential for peak performance are huge – and often overlooked – details that horse owners can’t afford to miss.

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler.
Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

About Dr. Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler, of Ocean Grove, NJ, has grown up in the hunter/jumper community with a lifelong love for horses and equestrian sport. Dr. Hustler completed her undergraduate degree in Equine Science at Centenary University in Hackettstown, NJ. She then pursued her dream of becoming a veterinarian and graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. During her clinical years Colorado State University, she became acupuncture certified in small animal, exotics and large animals. Her main interests in veterinary medicine are sports medicine, lameness, rehabilitation, acupuncture and alternative therapies. Outside of Palm Beach Equine Clinic she enjoys spending time with her husband, family, friends, and her three dogs.

Horse Health Reminder: Hydration

Even in the winter months, it is important not to underestimate the heat, humidity, and sun. Palm Beach Equine Clinic stresses the importance of proper hydration and sun protection year-round, especially to Florida-based equestrians and winter season snowbirds.

There are many problems that can arise when temperatures climb, including overheating, dehydration, and colic. When the weather becomes chilly in Florida, horses often quit drinking as much water. This can lead to additional problems such as impaction. Your horse’s hydration is critically important for health and performance

Remember these 5 easy ways to protect your horse from sun and dehydration:

Your horse’s hydration is critically important for health and performance in all climates. Photo by Jump Media

1. During extended periods of turnout, and when competing, horses should always have access to shaded areas. Scheduled rides and extended turnout should take place when the temperatures are lower, usually early mornings or in the evening on hot days, so the horse is not in direct sunlight.

2. The average horse drinks between five and 10 gallons of water per day. Therefore, easy and frequent access to clean, fresh water is a necessity. Pay special attention to increased intake during particularly hot days and plan accordingly.

3. Sodium in a horse’s diet is crucial for maintaining proper hydration. Providing a salt block or supplementing with properly measured electrolytes in a horse’s feed or water can help ensure that sodium requirements are being met and that your horse is drinking a sufficient amount of water.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic stresses the importance of proper hydration and sun protection year-round, especially to Florida-based equestrians and winter season snowbirds.

4. Especially in the extreme summer heat, horse owners should pay attention to the amount of sweat their horse is producing. Anhidrosis, or the inability to sweat normally, can be a common challenge, particularly in hot, humid climates. In addition to lack of sweat, signs of anhidrosis can include increased respiratory rate, elevated temperature, areas of hair loss, or dry and flaky skin. If you notice any of these signs, contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic immediately.

5. Clean water buckets often and always fill with fresh water before leaving the barn. Veterinarians often recommend placing one bucket of fresh water and one bucket of electrolytes. Usually, a horse will balance his electrolytes with the opportunity to drink from one or more of these buckets.

These are just a few of the important issues to be aware of during the temperature change in Florida. Contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic to learn more about precautions that can be taken to keep horses happy and healthy throughout the winter competition season.

A Link Between Neck Issues and Lameness

Typically, when a horse’s gait feels off or may be lacking usual impulsion, the rider often assumes it to be an issue of lameness associated with the forelimbs or hindlimbs. However, that may not always be the case. Utilizing advanced diagnostic imaging techniques, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is able to accurately pinpoint the specific area that is affecting overall performance. In many cases, the cervical vertebrae are often identified as the cause of lameness, asymmetry, and poor performance.

Vertebral Anatomy

A Link Between Neck Issues and Lameness. A computed tomography scan showing a normal sagittal view of the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae by Palm Beach Equine Clinic.
A computed tomography scan showing a normal sagittal view of the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

The neck is composed of seven articulating cervical vertebrae running from the head to the thorax, named C1 through C7. The neck allows movement of the head while protecting the spinal cord and providing an avenue for nerves to travel. Impingement on the spinal cord and nerves connected to the cervical vertebrae can exhibit neurologically as ataxia, neck pain, or lameness.

Signs of Lameness Related to the Neck

In a lameness exam, a veterinarian will perform flexion tests and palpate areas of the body looking for decreases in the horse’s range of motion or pain upon flexion. The rider may pick up on subtle lameness issues associated with the neck by feeling a change in the horse’s suppleness or resistance to yielding in a certain direction. Lameness may even present itself as a difference in the horse’s balance, such as being heavier on the forehand, or performance issues such as late lead changes. The tried-and-true “carrot test” can also show if a horse is resistant to flexing their neck.

Identifying Lameness through Diagnostic Imaging

Historically, neck issues related to performance are generally diagnosed through a process of ruling out other areas of the body. Diagnostic imaging can now be the most powerful and effective tool for identifying the cause of lameness related to cervical injury and hereditary malformation.

A Link Between Neck Issues and Lameness. Computed Tomography (CT) scans have revolutionized the ability to assess the entire neck and can be performed while the horse is standing and under light sedation. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Computed Tomography (CT) scans have revolutionized the ability to assess the entire neck and can be performed while the horse is standing and under light sedation. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Computed Tomography (CT) scans have revolutionized the ability to assess the entire neck and can be performed while the horse is standing and under light sedation. Computed Tomography images can be rendered into three-dimensional models and sliced in any orientation, allowing the veterinarian to evaluate the vertebrae in great detail that is incomparable to standard radiographs (x-rays). These comprehensive CT scans offer veterinarians a thorough profile so they can accurately diagnose and initiate an effective response.  

A standing CT scanner is the latest addition to Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s arsenal of diagnostic imaging modalities. Currently, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is the only equine hospital in South Florida offering this capability. Compared to other modalities such as MRI or Nuclear Scintigraphy, Computed Tomography offers a valuable return for its rapid acquisition of images. If you suspect there is an issue in your horse’s neck please, contact Becky at Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 to schedule an appointment.

Management of Thrush, Rainrot, and Scratches

Thrush, rainrot, and scratches are problems that most equestrians have probably encountered, but in the hot, often humid summer months, these issues can incessantly plague horses and their owners. While different in their presentation, thrush, rainrot, and scratches have a lot in common. For horse owners, there are several problems that arise due to environmental factors or predisposing conditions, but these issues can easily be prevented or treated with proper care and management.

This month, Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Bryan Dubynsky shared his expertise on the causes, treatment, and prevention of thrush, rainrot, and scratches.

Thrush

Thrush is an infection within the horse’s hoof most commonly caused by bacteria that invade the deep clefts or grooves (known as sulci) of the frog. Fusobacterium Necrophorum is the common bacterial culprit, which naturally occurs in the environment, especially in wet, muddy, or unsanitary areas. Thrush bacteria thrive where there is a lack of oxygen.

Some horses are predisposed to developing thrush due to conformation, such as a rather high heel or deep sulci, or a narrow or contracted heel. The bacteria will manifest in horse’s feet that are not picked out regularly, or standing in muddy, wet environments, including paddocks or stalls that have not been cleaned properly. Thrush can typically be first identified by the odor. The frog will have a strong, rotten odor and become spongy. Visually, the frog can even exudate (ooze) pus.

The treatment for thrush is fairly simple as it is very sensitive to oxygen. The most important thing is to have your vet or farrier trim or debride the frog to expose affected areas to the air. It is best to keep the hoof clean and dry. Adding a common detergent to the thrush areas, such as Betadine or any commercial product (Thrush Buster, Coppertox, etc.) will help to kill the bacteria. Most importantly, if the horse is not removed from those predisposing environmental factors, treatments can be ineffective.

Maintaining a level of activity for our equine partners will increase blood flow to the feet and promote health in the area. Horses found in dry environments with ample space to move typically do not suffer from thrush. The activity of horses moving keeps the frogs healthier. The more blood flow you have in the foot, the less chance there is for infection to manifest. Thrush does not always cause lameness. In extremely rare cases, thrush can penetrate deeper and cause an infection in deeper tissue or even in the coffin bone. When in doubt, always contact your veterinarian.

Rainrot (Dermotophilus Congolensis)

Rainrot is caused by a naturally occurring bacteria named Dermotophilus, which produces spores. The condition is recognized as scabby, scaly, crusty spots on areas of the horse that have been exposed to rain. It is commonly seen on the neck or across the back (dorsum). Rainrot is not typically apparent on the legs or under the belly. A surplus of rain on the skin washes away the natural protective oils. Once the skin is stripped of the natural protective layer or any sort of trauma to the skin barrier occurs, which can be even as simple as an insect bite, the Dermotophilus spores are able to invade the deeper dermis skin layers. The spores penetrate into the deeper layers of the dermis, and the body reacts by sending white blood cells and proteins to fight the invaders.

This reactive response causes small pustules, scabs, and bumps to form. Similar to thrush, rainrot is an environmental issue. It is most commonly seen in warm areas with high humidity, excess rain, and insects. The most important prevention is to keep horses out of prolonged periods of rain. A horse can be out in the rain for short periods of a day or two, but if it is constantly in hot and rainy conditions with biting insects, more than likely the horse will develop rainrot.

DR. BRYAN DUBYNSKY Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian
Dr. Bryan Dubynsky of Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

Dr. Dubynsky emphasizes that topical products are not worth anything if the horse is not removed from the environmental factors. Once you remove the environmental factors, a keratolytic agent (something that exfoliates keratin), such as benzoyl peroxide or an antibacterial shampoo, will help the skin heal. He also cautions that if the horse does have scabs, you do not necessarily want to pick the scabs off because then you are leaving open skin without protection for more bacteria to invade. The most important tip to healing is to keep the area dry.

In very rare, severe cases of rainrot, it is best to contact your veterinarian to put the horse on antibiotics. If left untreated, and the horse is not removed from the environmental causative factors, the infestation can lead to Staphylococcal Folliculitis; a type of Staph bacteria that will invade the hair follicles and cause a more serious situation.

Scratches

Scratches is a generic term for many different ailments. The definition of scratches can be a bacterial, fungal, or viral dermatitis or inflammatory condition of the pastern or fetlock. It is defined as a chronic Seborrheic Dermatitis (flaking of the skin), characterized by hypertrophy (enlargement of tissue from an increase in cells) and exudation (escape of liquid from blood vessels through pores or breaks in the cell membranes) on the rear (palmar plantar) surface of the pastern and fetlock.

There are certainly predisposing factors for scratches, including the same environmental factors that cause thrush or rainrot. Predisposing factors for scratches include horses that are bathed often or stand in wet conditions all the time. Horses that have an excess amount of hair on their legs, especially draft horses, also develop scratches easily because the hair traps dirt and moisture on the skin. Scratches can develop in horses that are bathed too often, such as the intensely managed show horse. Frequent bathing of the horse can strip away the natural protective oils and barrier of the dermis, which allows bacteria or fungi to invade. When moisture penetrates the skin, it causes an inflammatory reaction, with heat, redness, pain, and loss of protection to keep bacteria out.

The most effective first step for prevention and treatment should be to eliminate environmental predisposing factors. Removing excess hair during humid months and keeping horses clean and dry to the best of your ability will reduce the probability of developing an infection. Bathing horses once a day with Betadine or antifungal/antibacterial shampoo will help to clear the infection. Be sure to leave the shampoo on for 20 minutes for all of the medicine to penetrate, rinse thoroughly, and make sure the horse is completely dry. In order to effectively treat the bacteria, horses, especially their legs, should be completely towel- or air-dried before being returned to their stalls or paddocks.

As always, contact your veterinarian immediately if there appears to be a deeper infection present, or you would like more detailed information on how to treat and prevent these bacterial infections. To contact your Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian, call 561-793-1599 or visit www.equineclinic.com.

Healthcare Reminder: Equine Summer Sores

The summer weather is here! With the humid weather, pesky flies are at their worst, which creates problems for many horse owners often leading to summer sores, medically known as Habronemiasis.

What are Summer Sores?

Summer sores are lesions on the skin caused by the larvae of equine stomach worms 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 typically gather around manure and ultimately collect the parasite’s larvae on their extremities. Summer sores will occur when flies carrying the larvae deposit the eggs onto an open wound or the mucous membranes of a horse. The larvae infect the open wound or mucous membranes, causing an inflammatory reaction including symptoms of inflammation, discharge, and the production of granulation tissue infected with larvae.

Detecting Summer Sores

One way to detect a summer sore is the visible granulation of tissue containing small yellow, rice-like larvae within the skin and a mucopurulent (mucus or pus-like) discharge associated with the wound. Prevention is the most effective way of controlling summer sore outbreaks and the best way to protect horses is to implement effective methods for:

Healthcare Reminder: Equine Summer Sores
Healthcare Reminder: Equine Summer Sores
  • fly control
  • manure removal
  • proper wound care
  • an effective de-worming program

A diligent de-worming program is the most important element of prevention because effective de-wormer disrupts the parasite’s life cycle internally. The key is to kill both adult worms in the stomach and the larvae that form in the skin tissue.

Treating Summer Sores

For treatment of summer sores themselves, corticosteroids are administered to reduce the inflammatory hypersensitivity reaction, and antimicrobials treat any secondary infections that may develop as the result of an open wound. If not treated properly, summer sores can last up to several months and possibly require a costly surgical procedure to remove the granulated tissue and larvae. At the first sign of a summer sore, contact your veterinarian at Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 to discuss treatment and develop an effective fly-management program for your barn.

Featured Service: The Equine Standing MRI

Palm Beach Equine Clinic has the most advanced state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging equipment available. More specifically, Equine Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) allows Palm Beach Equine Clinic to quickly and accurately diagnose injuries for their clients.

equine standing mri palm beach equine clinic
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Every horse owner dreads seeing signs of lameness or discomfort in any horse, whether it is a backyard companion or a top-caliber sport horse. For performance horses, however, one of the first questions many owners ask upon contacting a veterinarian about a problem is, “Can the horse safely and comfortably return to work?” Using Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s cutting-edge equine standing MRI technology, the clinic veterinarians are best equipped to answer that question.

The equine standing MRI produces highly detailed images in several different planes to capture a complete image of the desired area. An MRI is best used to further define a specific area of bony or soft tissue that has been pinpointed as the origin of lameness. The process can be completed while the horse is in a standing position and requires only light sedation.

equine standing MRI horse palm beach equine clinic

Lameness or performance problems are most frequently approached through routine x-rays and ultrasounds, which can come back normal. Thus, it is difficult to diagnose subtle problems because the most common tools are not sensitive enough to pick them up. At Palm Beach Equine Clinic, the Equine Standing MRI gives veterinarians an advantage when troubleshooting a lameness issue and helps them to determine a correct diagnosis in a timely manner.

Hundreds of MRIs are read each year at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. In addition to being a state-of-the-art diagnostic tool, the equine standing MRI technology also affords economic benefits to owners by having their horse’s problem diagnosed and treated safely, effectively, and quickly.

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Palm Beach Equine Clinic
  • Phone
    (561) 793-1599
  • Fax
    (561) 793-2492
  • Address
    13125 Southfields Road
    Wellington, FL, 33414
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