Featured in The Plaid Horse, Pony Edition of August 2021 Issue
The old adage “no foot, no horse” is undeniably one of the truest statements when it comes to the horse. Many intricate structures compose this foundation, and the overall health of the hoof is paramount. So, what happens when a portion of your horse’s hoof is suddenly missing?
Owners Josh and Laura Gross found themselves in this predicament when their barn’s owner, Ayriel Italia, called them to say that their daughter’s Welsh pony had cut herself and needed immediate medical attention. While in the paddock, Blue Melody – known as Melody – had gotten her left hind hoof underneath the gate and suffered a serious laceration.
“We were initially frantic without more information,” recalled Josh. “We consider Melody a family member, and her rider is an eight-year-old.” The self-professed novice horse-owner parents had been learning the ropes of equine health and care through supporting their young daughter Saylor’s passion for horses. They turned to the expertise and guidance of Italia and trainer Shanna Sachenbacher, who immediately called veterinarian Dr. Kathleen Timmins of Palm Beach Equine Clinic.
Upon arriving at the barn, Dr. Timmins saw that Melody had an approximately two-inch-wide section of her hoof missing.
“A full thickness portion of the lateral hoof wall and the coronet band had been completely excised,” described Dr. Timmins. “It was a deep wound that exposed the sensitive laminae of the hoof. Thankfully, a thin section of the weight-bearing portion of the hoof distal to the laceration was spared, and the wound did not go deep enough to communicate with the distal interphalangeal joint or the coffin bone.”
The sensitive laminae are an interlaced network of connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels beneath the hoof wall. This highly-vascular layer attaches to and protects the coffin bone. Injuries to the coffin bone or joint structures can be devastating, often with long-term effects on the horse’s soundness and on the development of the hoof. In Melody’s case, Dr. Timmins found the laceration to be “more bark than bite,” as it did not affect those critical structures. Although Melody would likely have some degree of abnormal hoof growth from the damaged coronary band, Dr. Timmins had an encouraging prognosis for the pony.
“Dr. Timmins was so responsive that by the time we arrived at the barn to fully learn what had happened, the wound was already cleaned and wrapped, and we were told that Melody would make a full recovery,” explained Josh.
After an initial assessment and treatment of the wound at their barn, Melody was brought to Palm Beach Equine Clinic so that she could be observed and receive comprehensive medical care. Intravenous antibiotics were administered, and the laceration was thoroughly cleaned and bandaged with an added frog pad to support the hoof. Melody progressed well and was able to be discharged only 48 hours later. Along with a lesson in proper cleaning and wrapping of the wound, Dr. Timmins gave Melody’s owners and caretakers antibiotic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. She also recommended a biotin supplement to aid in healthy hoof growth and advised that Melody would benefit from a few weeks of shoes with clips, which would provide lateral support to the section of the hoof wall that lost integrity.
With a full team supporting Melody’s recovery, the injury and medical care become less daunting to the Gross family. Only two weeks after the laceration, the wound showed great improvement, and Melody was able to be shod and very lightly worked. Four weeks after the injury, Melody received the green light from Dr. Timmins to resume full work with Saylor in the saddle.
“Dr. Timmins’ responsiveness and calm demeanor made all the difference. She put our minds at ease, took great care of our extended family member, and helped her get back on her feet (hooves!) more quickly than we expected.”Josh Gross
Injuries to horses’ legs and hooves can be unnerving. Having a veterinarian immediately assess an injury and determine if it affects any vital structures is crucial for recovery. In case of an equine medical emergency, do not hesitate to call the veterinarians of Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599.
Several regions across the U.S. have reached the peak of the winter show season, and with the increase in equine travel, as well as large populations of horses in close contact with one another, proper vaccination protocols are as important as ever.
Dr. Kathleen Timmins of Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL, is often asked why proper equine vaccination protocols are imperative for all horses, and her answer voices directly to the welfare of the horse.
“You could save your horse’s life!” she said. “It is really important from an infectious disease standpoint, but also for mosquito-borne diseases or rabies; these are diseases that are life-threatening for lack of a $25 vaccine.”
Vaccinations: When, What, and How
According to Dr. Timmins, recommended vaccination protocols vary by vaccine and by the location of the horse, but the core group of vaccines is relatively standardized. As a rule, horses should receive vaccines to prevent mosquito-borne diseases like Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE), and West Nile Virus twice a year. Equine Encephalitis is characterized by the swelling of the brain in an infected horse, while West Nile Virus infects the central nervous system and may cause signs of Encephalitis, including those ranging from fever to weakness and paralysis of the hind limbs.
“Vaccinations against mosquito-borne diseases become very important in south Florida because we have mosquitoes year-round,” said Dr. Timmins. “As you go further north, owners may sometimes choose to only vaccinate against those once a year.”
Included in the twice-a-year vaccination program is a Flu/Rhino dose. Flu vaccination prevents the illness in horses much the same way it does in humans, while the Rhino vaccine is key in helping to prevent the Equine Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis). Equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) and Equine herpesvirus type 4 (EHV-4) most commonly result in respiratory disease in horses and can progress to neurological disease.
East and West Equine Encephalitis, West Nile, and Flu/Rhino can all be administered as a combination vaccine requiring only one injection.
In addition to vaccinations given twice a year, annual vaccinations include those to prevent Potomac horse fever, a potentially fatal illness that affects the digestive system and is caused by the intracellular bacterium Neorickettsia risticii; Strangles, a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract; and Tetanus, an acute, often fatal disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani found in soil.
Much like the vaccinations administered to humans, the companies that produce the vaccines are in constant transition, adapting each vaccine to the most common strains to ensure the most accurate prevention of disease.
The Role of the Horse Show
To combat the rise of infectious disease outbreaks, many horse show organizers have taken a proactive step to reduce the spread of disease by developing vaccination requirements for the show grounds. This is a step towards preventing disease as an organized community, according to Dr. Timmins.
“No one wants sick horses,” she said. “All horse show organizers can do is put the requirements out there and hope that people comply and that they understand why vaccinations are so important.
“When a horse pops with a fever at a show everyone is alarmed,” continued Dr. Timmins. “If proper vaccination protocols are followed, it is easier for us to figure out why that horse has a fever and treat them quickly and appropriately.”
There are occasional cases of horses reacting negatively to certain vaccinations, making a regular schedule difficult. After receiving a vaccine intramuscularly, some horses experience local muscular swelling and soreness or signs including fever, anorexia, and lethargy. Severe reactions such as anaphylaxis can also occur in rare, extreme cases.
According to Dr. Timmins, there are procedures in place to help keep horses that suffer reactions on a systematic vaccination plan without threatening their health or competition schedules.
“What I will do first is break up the vaccinations so we can figure out which one is bothering the horse,” said Dr. Timmins. “Then sometimes all it takes is a change in the vaccine company because the particular horse is reacting to their preservative or their carrier. Veterinarians can also pretreat with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug to avoid really bad reactions. Finally, there is always an option to administer intranasal vaccines rather than using an injectable.
“Very few horses have severe reactions to vaccines and for the most part, the horses traveling to shows are part of a young and healthy populations,” continued Dr. Timmins.
As the winter horse show season continues throughout the U.S., horse health must be a priority and vaccinations are a simple way for the equine community to do their part.
“Vaccinations are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to prevent infectious disease outbreaks, and keep our horses healthy and safe,” she said. “There’s just no reason not to vaccinate.”
More About Dr. Timmins
Dr. Kathleen A. Timmins is a 1993 graduate of the Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. She completed her internship in equine medicine and surgery at the Illinois Equine Hospital near Chicago. Prior to coming to Florida, Dr. Timmins practiced in Aiken, South Carolina, where she met her husband, John, who plays polo professionally. Growing up in Central Ohio, Dr. Timmins began her relationship with horses as a child on the hunter/jumper circuit. She continues to ride and show as much as possible. She and her husband are enjoying parenthood with their daughter Schuyler.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides experience, knowledge, availability, and the very best care for its clients. Make Palm Beach Equine Clinic a part of your team by calling 561-793-1599.
The veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL, caution horse owners of recent toxicity cases that have arisen in South Florida suspected by the low growing weed, Creeping Indigo. Although Creeping Indigo is not native to Florida and has been reportedly growing in the state since the 1920s, the plant has recently spread from the past summer’s humid conditions. Most toxic plants are not palatable to horses and therefore do not pose as much risk; however, it appears that horses are eating Creeping Indigo with suspected fatal effects. The only real treatment is to recognize and remove the poisonous plant from all grazing areas.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Kathleen Timmins explained that veterinarians in South Florida are suspecting Creeping Indigo cases more often and in more places than ever before. Many people are unaware of the problems this toxic plant can cause.
Signs and Symptoms
“Toxicity from Creeping Indigo can present itself through a number of different symptoms, which can make it difficult to recognize and definitively diagnose,” Dr. Timmins noted. “There is no test or treatment, and the damage that it causes can be irreversible. The only true treatment is limiting their exposure to it.”
The most important step to avoid illness is to eradicate the plant from all pastures and grazing areas. Horse owners should walk through their property and review grass areas for the plant. Creeping Indigo is a prostrate plant that is commonly found in high traffic areas of grass, such as parking lots, turf, roadsides, medians, and overgrazed pastures. Flowers arise from the base of the leaves and are pink to salmon in color. It often grows under the grass, and when it is not flowering, it can be difficult to see. It also has a very deep root, so it is not easy to pull up.
Both neurologic and non-neurologic signs are documented, and researchers are uncertain how much Creeping Indigo a horse needs to consume before clinical signs appear.
The most notable signs are neurologic; horses may seem lethargic or have less energy than usual. Head carriage is often low, and there may be rhythmic blinking and jerking eye movements. An abnormal gait may be noticed, characterized by incoordination and weakness in all limbs.
Non-neurologic signs may include high heart and respiratory rates, high temperature, watery discharge from the eyes, discoloration of the cornea or corneal ulceration, or ulceration of the tongue and gums.
“There are so many varied symptoms that it is often not the first diagnosis you would think of,” Dr. Timmins explained. “There are also many other toxic plants, but if horses have access to good quality feed or grazing, they will not usually eat the toxic plants. The best solution is to find the plant, get rid of it, and not have to find out if it has been consumed.”
Horses that are quickly removed from the plants may recover completely, but there is no effective treatment, and symptoms may persist. The best way to prevent poisoning is to stop access to paddocks where Creeping Indigo is present and to remove plants by physical means or herbicide application.
Learn More About Dr. Kathleen Timmins
Dr. Kathleen A. Timmins is a 1993 graduate of the Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. She completed her internship in equine medicine and surgery at the Illinois Equine Hospital near Chicago. Prior to coming to Florida, Dr. Timmins practiced in Aiken, South Carolina, where she met her husband, John Gobin, who plays polo professionally. Growing up in Central Ohio, Dr. Timmins began her relationship with horses as a child on the hunter/jumper circuit. She and her husband are enjoying parenthood with their daughter Schuyler.
Will you tell us more about your background riding on the hunter/jumper circuit?
I grew up in a family who was not involved with horses. At nine years old, I began showing in the hunters/ equitation locally in central Ohio and continued to ride until I went to college. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of nice junior Thoroughbred horses to show. I unfortunately don’t ride very much anymore. I have passed the reins over to my daughter, Schuyler. My daughter began riding at a young age on a medium pony that she has since outgrown. Schuyler is now 13 years old and rides a really nice green hunter. My husband is also a polo player, so she has been fortunate to have grown up with horses her entire life.
Were you involved with polo before you met your husband? How involved are you with the sport in Wellington?
I was working in Aiken when I met my husband. I came to Wellington with my husband in 1996 and that was also the year I started working for Palm Beach Equine Clinic. I currently have a nice mix of clientele in all disciplines located in both the Wellington/Virginia areas. My clients are mainly show horses; however, I do have many polo ponies as patients. I am also a member on the USPA (United States Polo Association) Equine Welfare Committee and Drugs & Medication sub-committee that authored the USPA Drugs & Medications Rules Book which was implemented a few years ago.
What do you enjoy about being part of the team at PBEC?
I love working at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. All the Doctors and staff are very supportive of each other and always willing to help. All the doctors have our own area of expertise and everyone is always willing to work as a team when necessary. There are many employees that have been there for many years. Additionally, I love having all of the technology available to help with all my veterinary cases. I have worked as an ambulatory tech practitioner in the past where I have had to refer cases to the local hospital. I like being on the referral end and receiving cases to help with rather than having to send clients off for various reasons.
When and why did you decide to become a veterinarian?
I was the kid following the vet around the barn when I was young. I was always seriously interested in the sciences and animals; combining the two passions seemed like a natural progression. I just came home one day and said to my mom, ‘I applied to vet school.’ I have never regretted my decision!
Do you have a specialty or main focus?
In my practice, I do a little bit of everything, but I enjoy the challenge of the difficult medical cases the best. I take many of the patients that enter the hospital, including the seriously ill ones such as pneumonias, colitis, kidney failures, or colics; the types of cases that require problem solving. At Palm Beach Equine Clinic Hospital, I can closely manage their care every day to hopefully recover successfully. I also like working with the geriatric animals. We have seen an increase in the senior performance animals and I enjoy working to keep them comfortable and happy.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life or career? What did they teach you?
It really hasn’t been any one person who influenced my career, it has been many. The truth is, you learn something or gain something from everyone, good, bad or otherwise. There are always lessons to be learned and you are always influenced a little bit by everybody in your life.
What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
During the summers when school lets out in Florida, my family travels to Middleburg, Virginia. My husband runs Great Meadow Polo Club and also has a polo school up there. I help him with the club when I’m there. I am licensed in VA so I can still work with my clients from the clinic there. We also travel to Aiken as we have a farm and clients there, but we don’t get there very often as we are so busy with the club in VA.
What is one of the most interesting cases you have worked on?
Recently, I had a racehorse filly with a case of multidrug-resistant pneumonia that was really tough to treat. Our team had to think outside the box from normal procedures to treat her, but it was successful! She recovered fully from her aggressive case of pneumonia and went home to her owners. In today’s veterinary world, horses, like people, are contracting these drug-resistant bacteria as well.
If you were not a vet, what would you be doing?
I would be a chef and run my own restaurant. I really love to cook, it is a passion of mine!
Is there anything else that people would like to know about you?
I am an FEI Veterinary Delegate for the past 10 years. I have many close contacts within the FEI and I am knowledgeable with all of their up to date rules. An FEI veterinarian is present at the shows to monitor the care of the horses.