Sedating Your Horse

Sedation is something that is often needed in the autumn for clipping but also for the farrier, travelling or for rasping teeth.
There are 3 main ways in which horses can be sedated – 2 of these are via an oral syringe that the owner can administer themselves (Domosedan and Sedalin/Relaquin) and the third is through intravenous sedation administered by the vet.

Sedalin or Relaquin
The active ingredient of sedalin is ACP, which is a mild sedative and reduces anxiety. For this reason, sedalin is often used for horses that do not require as deep a level of sedation. Sedalin has the huge advantage in that it can be can be administered by the owner with a prescription from your vet. The only caveat is that the vet must have seen the horse in the last 6 months to comply with DEFRA medicine dispensing regulations. An additional advantage of sedalin is that it is given orally like a wormer. The sedation will take approximately 30 – 40 minutes to fully develop, and last for up to a couple of hours, so it is key that you enable enough time for the sedation to take effect before any procedure is initiated.

Domosedan Gel
The active ingredient in domosedan is detomidine, which gives a higher level of sedation than ACP. Therefore, we recommend domosedan for those horses that require a medium level of sedation. Domosedan is very advantageous in that it can be can be administered by the owner with a prescription from your vet. The only caveat is that the vet must have seen the horse in the last 6 months to comply with DEFRA medicine dispensing regulations. One difficulty in giving Domosedan is that it must be given under the tongue on the gum / oral mucosa – not just into the mouth like a wormer, therefore this can be difficult in horses that are difficult to worm. The sedation will take approximately 30 – 40 minutes to fully develop, so it is key that you enable enough time for the sedation to take effect before any procedure is initiated. Sedation would typically last for an hour or so.

I/V sedation
I/V sedation is sedation given into the vein and is used in those horses that require a high level of sedation to enable procedures to be performed, when oral sedation is not adequate. The dose / type of sedation used depends on many different things – including duration of sedation required, procedure being completed, depth of sedation of required, how sensitive the horse is to sedation. I/V sedation requires a visit from the vet, and can be done on our zone visit scheme. The advantages of I/V sedation is that it gives a much greater depth of sedation, therefore it is very useful in horses that are exceptionally sensitive to procedures being performed. Additionally, with I/V sedation the vet will wait for up to 15 minutes to enable a ‘top up’ if the horse starts to come round from sedation. I/V sedation typically uses a mixture of a sedative drug and a opioid which usually produces a more profound sedation with less sensitivity to touch.

Foot Balance

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.