Tag Archives: lameness

Caring For Older Horses

More and more horses and ponies are living for longer and becoming geriatrics (defined as aged 20 years and over). As a horse ages it is important to monitor for certain health problems which are commonly seen in an ageing population.

Dental problems– These are common and may manifest as difficulty with the bit, reduced appetite, weight loss or headshaking. Six monthly dental checks are recommended for horses over 15 years old. Milbourn Equine can check teeth as part of the health check at your horse’s annual vaccination and we are happy to perform any dental work required.

Lameness – Low grade lameness is to be expected as osteoarthritis sets in; this is often put down to ‘stiffness’. Most of these conditions can be improved with treatment after the lameness is localised to a particular joint or area.

PPID/Cushings – Older horses (especially ponies) commonly develop PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction) also known as Equine Cushing’s disease. The clinical signs include a curly coat, recurrent laminitis, a ‘pot bellied’ appearance, lethargy and recurrent infections. This condition is treatable once it has been definitively diagnosed with a blood test. More information can be found at www.talkaboutlaminitis.co.uk.

Condition– Many older horses struggle to maintain their condition, especially over the winter months. If weight loss is sudden or dramatic we will investigate to rule out concurrent disease. However often a change in diet is all that is necessary. Horses become less efficient at extracting nutrients from their feed as they age. It is important to maintain fibre content even if the horse is struggling to eat hay or haylage. A hay replacement diet can be created with chaff, sugar beet and soaked pony nuts. We can advise you or put you in touch with nutritionist if you feel your horse would benefit from a dietary change.
Older horses and ponies struggle more with extremes of weather than their younger friends. However they generally benefit from the low grade exercise that turnout provides and would stiffen up if kept indoors for long periods. Therefore we recommend that they remain turned out but with the benefit of good rugs and a field shelter, in all but the most extreme weather conditions.

This time of year you should also be on the lookout for Mud Fever and Colic in horses of any age.

Mud Fever– Is a condition of the skin on the lower legs which typically occurs during wet weather in horses who are turned out. It is a bacterial infection caused by a particular bacteria called Dermatophilus which live within the mud. As with many things, prevention is better than cure! Removing mud from the horse’s legs is important. The best way to remove mud is to allow the legs to dry and then to brush the mud away with a dandy brush. An oil based barrier cream such as Vaseline can be applied to legs before turn out. Checking your horse’s legs on a daily basis can allow you to intervene and instigate treatment of mud fever at the first sign.

Colic-At this time of year colic signs are common, especially when there is snow on the ground and the horses are suddenly exposed to a dramatic change in management. Prevention is not always possible however trying to keep the horses management similar regardless of weather conditions helps. Making a gradual change to hay or haylage in the autumn and maintaining the horse on the same brand or batch of long stem forage is helpful.  If snow curtails your exercise plans be sure to reduce the hard food that you are providing to the horse, continuing on high levels of hard feed when the horse is doing no exercise will often lead to tying up.
Don’t forget Worming! – Every horse should receive a larvicidal dose of roundwormer such as moxidectin in the late autumn/early winter. Most other wormers will not kill encysted roundworms and therefore the horse can colic as a result of encysted larvae despite having received a wormer. Please contact us for advice. Our Equine Healthcare Plan includes our worming programme as standard.

Make sure your horse is in tip top condition this winter. Winter Healthchecks – Only £97.50 inc VAT

Foot Balance – How do X-Rays help?

Hoof imbalance is one of the most common problems associated with lameness in a horse’s foot. It can be attributed to a variety of causes including conformation, the type of shoes fitted and how regularly the horse is shod.

Ideally the horse’s foot should strike the ground as a unit, with the entire weight-bearing surface hitting the ground together. In the case of side-to-side imbalance (lateral-medial imbalance) the outside toe strikes the ground before the heel, with the inside heel landing first. This leads to uneven forces across the hoof and uneven loading of the lower limb joints.

Many horses tolerate a large degree of foot balance, remain sound and are able to compete to a high level. Others are more sensitive, with a minimal discrepancy adversely affecting performance.

X-rays are a tool that we are using more and more in conjunction with farriers to evaluate & correct foot balance….. Essentially a side to side (Lateromedial – side view) and front to back (Dorsopalmar – front/back view) x-ray is taken of each foot to show the position of the pedal bone and the rest of the bony column in relation to the external hoof wall. These images can then be used by the farrier to trim to optimise foot conformation and correct any underlying imbalance. Severe imbalance is often evident without an x-ray but mild to moderate imbalance can be present in a “normal” looking foot.

Foot balance x-rays are particularly useful in horses with poor foot shape or sensitive feet as well as those suffering from foot related lameness. Many elite sports horses have this procedure on a regular basis to pre-empt any problems. The stage of the shoeing cycle must be considered when interpreting the images, it is unreasonable to expect the feet to look as good when they are due for re-shoeing as when they are freshly shod.

Foot balance x-rays can be performed at the clinic or on your yard providing there is an area of level concrete under cover and mains electricity.

We are offering a special promotion during MAY & JUNE of £150 (plus callout and sedation if required) for foot balance x-rays of all four feet. We can then email the images to your farrier and discuss the findings to formulate a shoeing plan for your horse.

Remember if your horse is a member of our Equine Healthcare Plan you will also receive an additional 10% discount on the cost of the Foot Balance X-rays.