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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Real Mustang Trim: AAEP Task Force Recommends Hoof Trimming for Captive Wild Horses in BLM Facilities



Wild Horses
Wild horse warning sign on a highway in Arizona. Photo by Gary Minniss.
Self-help expert Dr. Wayne Dyer has a saying that seems so critical to me that it has made the place of honor in my life: it's stuck with a magnet on my refrigerator.

It's been there a while, and it's faded and curled but I know it by heart: "When you change the way you look at things, the things you're looking at change."

It's there to remind me about analyzing difficult situations, but a press release I received today made me chuckle. What about when a difficult situation is analyzed by people with completely fresh eyes? When you read an article about your hometown written by an out-of-state journalist, do you think, "Wow, is that really where I live?"

That's the power of a fresh set of eyes on something you know so well; it sounds completely different. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but you stop and think about the way your little town looks to someone "from away", as they say in Maine.

So what would happen if one of the hot-button situations in the horse world was visited by a task force of veterinarians, most of whom live and work worlds away, either on another coast or in academic clinic settings? Would someone who may have little or no exposure to wild horses see them differently from someone who lives and works with them everyday? Is one vet's status quo another vet's no-no?

Dr. Ann Dwyer of New York
When a veterinarian like Dr. Ann Dwyer from upstate New York took a look behind and into the pens at the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse warehouse system in the United States western states, did she see things differently than the BLM's own staff veterinarians and stockmen?

Maybe she did, maybe she didn't, but today the American Association of Equine Practitioners' Bureau of Land Management Task Force released its evaluation--and some critical recommendations--designed to improve the care and handling of the nation's wild horses during gathers and captivity.

Palomino Valley Nat'l Wild Horse & Burro Center
Behold the Palomino Valley (NV) National Wild Horse and Burro Center, located north of Sparks, Nevada. The AAEP task force observed horses with active cases of strangles at this facility. Photo courtesey of Visit Reno Tahoe.
The AAEP report comes at the request of the Bureau of Land Management, which asked the AAEP in June 2010 to evaluate the handling, health care, and welfare of the horses and burros at BLM wild horse and burro gathers and holding facilities.  

Dr. John S. Mitchell of Florida
The AAEP agreed to lend its expertise and a task force was formed under John S. Mitchell DVM, AAEP president elect and Task Force chair, who is as removed from the west as Dwyer. Mitchell is a Standardbred racehorse specialist in Pompano Beach, Florida, and the task force he headed was a fascinating cross-section of the United States equine veterinary community. The report notes that one task force member "had visited a BLM facility previously" and another "is a member of a group practice that does contract work for a BLM short‐term facility."

Dr. William Moyer of Texas A&M
From the academic sector came Texas A&M's William Moyer (who is also currently AAEP president) and equine lameness specialist Professor Kent Carter. From the University of Georgia, Susan White, Professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine. From industry, the task force chose Rocky Bigbie, Senior Veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health. In addition to private vets Dwyer and Mitchell, the task force included some veterinarians from western states: Jacy Cook, private vet in Bozeman, Montana; Roger Rees, owner to a large animal clinic in Utah; Stuart Shoemaker, a surgeon who left Louisiana State University to start a sports medicine practice in Idaho and Beau David Whitaker, an equine lameness specialist vet in Texas with a penchant for humor writing.

Surely all or most of these veterinarians could be considered excellent judges of western horses. In their practices, they probably see well-bred and valuable cutting and reining horses, or tend to the needs of wealthy ranchers. The horses they would see in their work for the task force would be the other end of the spectrum, America's ultimate "Unwanted Horses".

If you need any proof of that: The United States Government can't even give these horses away lately. Adoption statistics have plummeted in spite of higher visible of mustangs in the show ring. Yet these horses have powerful friends in high places, like a Congress charged with upholding a federal law, Public Law 92-195, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which was designed to protect the horses.

They also have a few million fans who are happy to hold the BLM's feet to the fire, so to speak, over the care that the horses receive in captivity, and to question even if captivity should be employed. Enter the AAEP with the mission to take a fresh look around.

"One stallion jumped out of the corral at the Pine Nuts gather, even though the fence was six feet high. The horse did not appear to suffer any injury when he jumped out, and was allowed to return to the range..." (AAEP report)

According to the AAEP's statistics quoted in the report, as of June 2011, the BLM had 39,948 horses housed in a wide variety of temporary and permanent facilities or with contracted long-term holding ranches.

wild-horse-herd
AAEP task force veterinarians observed wild horse "gathers" and also inspected the temporary and permanent holding facilities for mustangs. Photo by Jeremy Hiebert.

How the Bureau of Land Management interprets the federal law is a hotly contested issue across the United States. Are government policies "protecting" the wild horses by keeping them in holding pens and farming them out for long-term warehousing? Was it the intent of the law to run these horses on ranches in the Midwest instead of the Western range? Are the gathers in western states that bring in thousands of wild horses each year in the best interest of the horses or of administrative policy? Are the gathers and gatherers guilty of cruel practices that threaten the health and welfare of the horses?

Task force members certainly must have known the issues before they agreed to serve. However, their marching orders clearly stated "It is not the charge of the Task Force to evaluate the BLM program with regard to moral, ethical or economic issues."

Selection of the task force members meant that a wide range of expertise and geographic perspectives were included. None of the veterinarians selected can be described specifically as an academic specialist in equine welfare or behavior or wild horse issues.
"Foot trimming schedules should be created and customized for each facility in accordance with environmental conditions and periodic inspections to reduce the likelihood of excessively long hooves." (AAEP report)

Beginning last fall, the task force visited multiple BLM sites during a six-month period to observe gathers and evaluate conditions at short-term holding and long-term pasture facilities. The task force's data collection was limited to the safety, health status, health management, care, handling and welfare of equids in the BLM program.

"The task force concluded that the care, handling and management practices utilized by the BLM are appropriate for this population of horses and generally support the safety, health status and welfare of the animals," said William Moyer, DVM, AAEP president and a member of the task force, in a press release provided by the AAEP. "However, the task force did see areas that can be improved."

In addition to key recommendations about helicopter herding, anesthesia, biosecurity and other concerns, the veterinarians made suggestions to solidify the footing in the pens at the short-term holding facilities, so that the horses would be able to lie down. 'The overcrowded and wet muddy conditions throughout the pens at Salt Lake Regional Wild Horse and Burro Center in Herriman, Utah, were unacceptable, according to the report. "The conditions posed a health risk for the horses, and did not meet the standard for horse welfare at the time of the task force team visit," the report noted.

An interesting note from the report is that the task force veterinarians thought that the horses in captivity were, in anything, too well fed. "...some horses were fed to excess as evidenced by body condition scores that reflected a substantial amount of body fat," the report explained.

"The BLM staff explained that (hoof) trimming is done on a rotation and that all horses that have long feet are on a waiting list for the trimmer." (AAEP report)

Of particular interest to Hoofcare and Lameness readers is the task force's recommendation that the horses have their hooves trimmed. "Foot trimming schedules should be created and customized for each facility in accordance with environmental conditions and periodic inspections to reduce the likelihood of excessively long hooves," the white paper report informs us.

"A few horses had long feet in need of trimming," the report tells us. "The BLM staff explained that trimming is done on a rotation and that all horses that have long feet are on a waiting list for the trimmer."

Carson River Wild Horses
The AAEP task force recommended that the BLM focus on population control. The US Government currently warehouses approximately 40,000 wild horses, according to the report. Photo by Scott Schrantz.

All the veterinarians would be able to pick out a horse whose hooves needed to be trimmed. Dr. Moyer in particular is experienced in hoofcare and would have been looking at the hooves with an experienced eye. The fine line between "long" and "too long" would be obvious to Dr. Moyer.

"The observed horses appeared healthy without evidence of chronic injuries, disease or congenital defects other than a small number with a unilateral club foot (about 1% noted at Adobe Town/Salt Wells Complex). Overall hoof condition of the captured horses was judged good."
(AAEP report)

How do you trim the hooves of a wild horse that has never been touched by human hands, much less had to stand on three legs while its feet are picked up? The report explains:

"The task force teams were told that the average length of stay at the short‐term holding facilities often exceeds 200 days, with a range of 90 to 300 days. Over this confinement period horses do not move enough to wear their feet to a healthy condition as they do on the range.

"Most horses undergo foot trimming during their stay in short‐term holding. The AAEP teams did not observe any hoof trimming but made close inspection of several padded hydraulic squeeze chutes that were used for this purpose.

"When a trim is scheduled, the horse is herded through an alleyway or chute into the squeeze chute. The entry door, sides, floor and exit door of the squeeze chute are hydraulically controlled. Once the horse is enclosed in and restrained with the padded squeeze panels, the chute is rotated 90 degrees onto its side with a separate hydraulic system.


Donkey BLM Freeze Brand
As part of the capture process, horses and burros are checked to see if any privately-branded horses are mixed in with the wild horses. All newcomers receive the BLM's freeze brand on the neck. Photo by Jean.

"The foot trimmer accesses the feet through the floor which opens once the horse is in lateral recumbency. Foot trimming is reported to be a quick procedure, accomplished either with hand tools or a special hoof trimming disc on a hand grinder. The squeeze chutes the task force examined were well designed and appeared safe for restraint.

"The foot condition of most horses was good. Less than 5% of the horses at Broken Arrow had long feet in need of trimming. The staff at the sites acknowledged this, saying these individuals were slated for the trimming process soon. The feet were not deemed to be an immediate health risk to the horses."

Dr. Mitchell concluded, "The AAEP will gladly continue if needed as a resource for equine medical expertise to the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program."

The complete AAEP BLM Task Force report is available for download here. For more information, contact Sally Baker, AAEP director of marketing and public relations, at (859) 233-0147 or sbaker@aaep.org.

 TO LEARN MORE

Wild horse hoof research links:

Where's My Brumby Now: Chris Pollitt Offers Donors a Chance to Ride Along for Hoof Research...by Satellite!

Pollitt Hoof Studies Group Hot on the Trail of Australian Wild Horses

Aboriginal Brumby Walkabout: Pollitt and Hampson Back from the Outback

The Environmental Hoof: Will Wild Horse Feet Adapt to a Sudden Change in Climate and Terrain? Australian Researchers Switch Brumbies, Observe Hooves

Australian Wild Horses at Risk for Laminitis After Floods Turn Scrubland to Pasture

Hoof Research Road Show Premieres This Weekend: Pollitt-Hampson Laminitis and Wild Horse Hooves Headline in Australia

 

 Learn all about it! 3-D anatomy of the hoof and lower limb in animated format for client education, academic studies, self-improvement, professional continuing education. Click for PayPal ordering!

 

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.  
Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofcareJournal
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Biomimetics in Vertical Action: Goat Hooves Confer Ninja-Like Climbing Abilities

While I am recovering from my surgery, some special contributors have stepped forward to offer some interesting content for Hoof Blog readers.  This is a post from one of my favorite blogs, called Core77. It's an industrial design journal, but the content is often fascinating and never boring. Imagine my surprise when I came upon an article about the engineering behind goat hooves one day...I think you'll enjoy this, too. Re-published with permission.


0goathooves01.jpg
If you were my boss at an animal design firm and I submitted you this proposal sketch for a climbing animal, you'd probably think about firing me. There's nothing in the structure of this animal that suggests it would be good at scaling things.

Well, maybe you've seen these photos that National Geographic ran last year by photographer Adriano Migliorati:
0goathooves02.jpg
0goathooves03.jpg
0goathooves04.jpg
Those are Alpine Ibex goats scaling a dam in Italy to lick the salt off of the rocks. Question is, how the heck do those guys get up there and stay up there? Why isn't the bottom of the dam covered in shattered goat carcasses?

The answer lies in the design of the goat hoof.

0goathooves05.jpg

Unlike horses, goats have hooves comprised of two split toes. The outer part of each toe, which is shaped like a parabola when seen from below and is labeled "Wall" in the diagram below, is hard; the part marked "Sole" on the diagram is soft and rubbery.

0goathooves06.jpg

The parabolic shape of the hoof wall adds strength, while the cushy sole provides traction on sloped surfaces and can deform inwards to absorb irregularities in the terrain. And because the toes can operate independently, the goat can use just one to gain purchase on extremely narrow surfaces, or splay the toes to gain more contact area.

Thanks to Core77 for permission to reprint this blog post. Read the original post here.

I used to live on a farm with a goat that probably could have won the goat-climbing Olympics and I never understood how he did it. This one's for you, Goaty-oats!

Click the ad image to order this amazing award-winning graphic anatomy reference from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Equine Foot Laboratory, thanks to Drs. Robert Bowker and Lisa Lancaster.


 © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.  
Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofcareJournal
Read this blog's headlines in your Facebook news feed when you "like" the Hoofcare + Lameness Facebook Page
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Travers: Shackleford Sticks with Glue-on Shoes for Summer's Biggest Thoroughbred Race; Horseshoe Technology Exciting Area of Track Safety, Health Innovation

The feet of a survivor: Shackleford ran in all three Triple Crown races in 2011, and provided some exciting memories. He won the Preakness in May wearing polyurethane glue-on Polyflex shoes, thus becoming the first Triple Crown winner to cross the finish line first in non-metal glue-shoes. The shoes appear rather amber-colored in this photo taken by Sarah K. Andrew (Rock n Racehorses) last week at Saratoga. The urethane is transparent, and shows a thin metal wire embedded in the plastic; the shoe also has a wear plate at the toe. Shackleford is shod by New York-based horseshoer Brad Dewey. The whitish patch on the colt's heel quarter is adhesive. Shackleford is a very large colt, an imposing equine specimen who could have a second career as a photo model. His face is marked by a wide white blaze with a triangle at the top, giving his face the appearance of a arrow pointing to the sky. He's easy to spot in a race. His namesake, an island off North Carolina populated by wild horses, is probably underwater right now.
News just in: That handsome Shackleford will race in today's Travers Stakes at Saratoga in his favorite high-tech run-a-red-streak horseshoes. Trainer Dale Romans confirmed this morning that his big red colt will stay in his Polyflex glue-on shoes, in which he won the Preakness Stakes in May. That was the first win of a Triple Crown race by a horse in plastic glue-on shoes. Let's look at it again:
2011 Preakness Stakes: first Triple Crown race won by a horse wearing glue-on and/or plastic horseshoes; Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with his aluminum shoes glued on.
There was some uncertainty, apparently, in the Roman camp that Hurricane Irene might arrive in time to turn the Spa to soup, but Irene is busy elsewhere and the rains aren't predicted to begin until long after the sun sets in upstate New York. A wet track, however, didn't impede Curlin when he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in the same type of glue shoes in 2008. I still miss that horse. Just for old times' sake, watch him win that race, which catapulted him into the #1 spot in all-time money-earning racehorses:
2008 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Belmont Park won by Curlin in plastic glue-on horseshoes over an off track; Curlin also wore the shoes when he won the Woodward that year.
The first stakes horse to run in glue shoes was Afleet, back in the 1980s; his trainer opted for the Mustad Easy-Glu. Since then, horseshoers at racetracks have had success with a variety of raceshoes adapted for glue, and in even directly gluing aluminum raceplates to the foot. Experimentation with glue shoes (rather than nails) goes back to the 1800s. Most experimentation has been done in Germany, which also gave rise to the newest era of glue shoes when the Glu-Strider emerged there in the 1980s. That shoe was developed by a creative engineer and horse owner named Peter Steubbe; the technology was quickly purchased and continued in research and development of a full line of shoes by hoofcare giant Mustad International.
Asmussen horseshoer David Hinton working on Curlin's foot, shod with a urethane Polyflex shoe. (photo courtesy of Polyflex)
Glu-Strider technology was based on a Super Glue type adhesive, while the current generation of shoes uses two-part PMMA-type adhesives. PMMA is the family of adhesives that includes the glue used by women to hold artificial fingernails to their nailbeds. The innovation and experimentation in footwear is one of the most exciting areas of developing health and safety innovations in racing today. At the same time, the Association of Racing Commissioners International is considering a model rule to allow horses to run without shoes. Currently, barefoot racing is outlawed in about half the jurisdictions in North America. The Grayson Jockey Club Foundation's Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit has kept shoeing and hoofcare in its sights since the consortium was founded in 2006. The Summit has an ongoing and active Shoeing and Hoof Care Committee that meets regularly and consults on shoeing-related matters affecting Thoroughbred racehorses. A sub-committee is tackling the possibility of a uniform, nationwide racetrack shoeing licensing program and test, and is currently seeking input from the industry. Mucho Macho Man and Nehro are two other Triple Crown contenders who ran in glue shoes in 2011. Top older stakes horse and candidate for Horse of the Year Tizway, winner of the Metropolitan and Whitney, also wears the Polyflex shoes.
Banker pony at Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The racehorse Shackleford has probably never been anywhere near the Shackleford Banks off the North Carolina coast. And with Hurricane Irene in the neighborhood, he wouldn't want to be there. The area is famous for the wild horses, called Banker Ponies, that freely roam the dunes there. Photo courtesy of Kurt Repanshek and NationalParksTraveler.com.
Glue-on shoes are now so ubiquitous  at the track that it's hard to find out when horses win in them. We found out about Shackleford in the Preakness, after the race was over; he was shod by Brad Dewey. Horseshoes aren't as visible as a tack change or new style of blinkers or Zenyatta's ear plugs, so the news of innovative horseshoes isn't always obvious.
Here's a partial list of stakes horses who won their races (some set track records) wearing the Polyflex glue shoes: Ambitious Cat, Bargain Baby, Big Booster, Brother Derek, Buzzards Bay, Charitable Man, Cry and Catch Me, Cowgirls Don't Cry, Cubera, Divine Park, Dream Play, Eldaafar, Essential Edge, Ever Elusive, Foxysox, Fredaville,Golden Yank, Greeley's Conquest, Hold the Salt, Hot Dixie Chick, Indian Blessing, J Be K, Kandar Du Falgas, Kensai, Lantana Mob, Little Belle, Lucky Island, Luna Vega, Major Rhythm, Malibu Mint, Mo Cuishle, Mr Fantasy, Nehantic Kat, Noonmark, Octave, Osidy, Pray for Action, Present Danger, Pyro, River's Prayer, Roses 'n' Wine, Secret Gypsy, Set Play, Seventh Street, Shaggy Mane, Silent Name, Sok Sok, Stormin Baghdad, Stream of Gold, Student Council, Total,  Teuflesberg, Uno Mas, Wow Me Free, and Zanjero. (Names harvested from the Polyflex web site.) Favorite little known fact about Polyflex glue-on shoes: Both Curlin and his beloved stable pony Pancho wore them! Nothing but the best for the champion's best friend! Watch Shackleford and all the top three-year-old Thoroughbreds entered in today's Travers Stakes at Saratoga on NBC Sports at 5 p.m. Lots of news about the race and the track on www.nyra.com. To learn more about Polyflex shoes, visit www.noanvil.com. Photo of Shackleford's feet courtesy of Sarah K. Andrew and Rock 'n Racehorses. Sarah is a frequent contributor to the Hoof Blog and keeps a key eye on the hooves at the track. Her track and sport horse photography is nothing short of phenomenal; Sarah is also a key ingredient in the success of Camelot Weekly, the all-volunteer program at the New Jersey horse auction that channels racehorses, sport/recreational horses, and companion horses into new homes instead of the killer pen--via Facebook! Sarah photographs the horses available each week, without compensation, and I wish a book publisher would make a coffee table book of these portraits of horses in need. They have saved thousands of horses from slaughter; not one horse from that auction has been re-routed to slaughter since they began.
Click on ad for easy ordering of this spectacular, award-winning graphic reference poster featuring image from the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Equine Foot Laboratory, Dr. Robert Bowker, and Dr. Lisa Lancaster.
 TO LEARN MORE
The Unshod Racehorse: Racing Commissioners Table Model Rule on Barefoot Racehorses
Click on this link to go to the licensing survey for racetrack horseshoers.
© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.  
Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofcareJournal
Read this blog's headlines in your Facebook news feed when you "like" the Hoofcare + Lameness Facebook Page
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

British Racehorse's Story Touches a Nerve: Illicit Neurectomy Revealed Only After Breakdown and Euthanasia

Nerves in the distal limb of the horse, shown in yellow in this image, are very specialized. It is possible to selectively de-sensitize only the heel area of the foot, a common location of foot pain, with a neurectomy, a relatively simple surgical procedure that is commonly used for many racehorses in the United States but banned in Great Britain on welfare grounds. Image from The Glass Horse: Elements of the Distal Limb.
Political scandals often draw a line in the sand for the accused. It comes down to: “What did they know and when did they know it?”

Sometimes, lame racehorses can make the same question a valid one. And the wrong answer can cost a trainer his career.

That’s what happened in England this week, when a trainer received a four-year ban, ostensibly for the off-season use of steroids. But what really earned him the ire of the public and the racing world was the post-mortem discovery that a horse in his stable had run eight races after having a chronic foot lameness caused by an ulcerated corn resolved by surgically severing the nerves to the back part of his foot.

The British racehorse suffered from a lameness problem stemming from an infected corn, which is a form of heel bruise in an area of the horse's foot known as the "seat of corn". Corns are common in so-called "thin-soled" horses. (Photo © 2011 Hoofcare Publishing, from the Wildenstein Photo Library.)

How did anyone come to know the horse had been secretly nerved? During the horse's eighth race since surgery, the horse ruptured the superficial flexor tendon in the same leg as the injured foot. The trainer ordered the horse to be euthanized on the track. A subsequent necropsy looked closely at the injured limb; the pathologists reported their finding, that the horse had been nerved in that foot, in violation of British racing rules.

The very same surgical procedure would have been legal in many racing jurisdictions in the United States.

It's not all bad news for lame horses in jump racing. Here's a horse who's been on the Hoof Blog before. This is Knowhere, one of the original poster colts for stem cell implantation in tendons. He suffered a serious tendon bow in 2005 but has managed to stay in training and racing since his return. He lost his rider somewhere at Cheltenham this year.

The procedure is known as a “low” palmar digital neurectomy (PDN). This minor surgery has traditionally been performed on many horses that have so-called incurable navicular disease. It is sometimes performed repeatedly in the same horse, since the nerves regenerate. And it is sometimes even performed on multiple limbs of the same horse.

The problem in America? Buyer beware: it is difficult to ascertain if a horse has been “nerved” or not. Nerved horses (sometimes called de-nerved horses) are suspected by some of being unsafe mounts.

The problem in Britain? No one knew the horse had been nerved until it broke down on the track and necropsy examination revealed the surgery.

Debates go on and on in the United States about both the safety of nerved horses and the ethics of performing the procedure. If you believe that it is best to relieve a horse’s chronic pain, neurectomy certainly achieves that goal.

The nerves of a horse’s distal limb are very specialized, and it is possible to selectively desensitize the palmar or plantar region of the front or hind foot. This is where heel pain and “navicular” type pain are centered. One snip and the horse’s pain is gone.

So is its ability to know if it stepped on a nail or not. The British and some US states—such as California and Arizona—think a horse shouldn’t race if it can’t feel its foot. In the show horse world, nerving is still a common and economical solution to the problem of a lame horse that has not responded to therapeutic shoeing. FEI rules prohibit a nerved horse from competing. But how would anyone know?

Nerving salvages the careers of laid-up show, performance and rodeo horses. Horses that I see nerved are usually older horses with chronic conditions and the owner understands that it is a salvage procedure to keep the horse comfortable. They ride with care It makes a less painful retirement for many geriatric horses with chronic foot pain.

But I don't live in the real world. In some cases, horses return to the show ring. In some states, neurectomy keeps a horse racing and earning money.

Jump racing horses are among the fittest equine athletes of the horse world. This is Neptune Collonges, one of the top horses in Great Britain. He's expected to race again this year, at age 11. (Charles Roffey photo)

And that was all British trainer Howard Johnson wanted: a horse that kept racing, so its owners would be happy.

On page 32 of the rules of British racing it says simply: "Neurectomy operation: horse may not start 152(iv)".

Compare this with most US states that require a nerved horse's surgery to be recorded on a list (Massachusetts), or added to his official registration records, as is the case with harness racing horses in the state of Kentucky.

In Britain, there is no list and apparently no official recording of the surgery. It's a Catch-22: the procedure makes it illegal for a horse to race so the horse would be removed from racing. But then again, there's no record so if the horse changed hands...how many trainers are savvy enough to really tell if a horse has sensation in his heel bulbs or not? How many actually feel their horses' feet?

The effects of a neurectomy gradually wear off but the timeframe varies from horse to horse. Some horses might benefit from the surgery, such as the case of the British horse, who suffered from an infected corn and went on to race successfully in the tough sport of National Hunt racing.

But the flip side is also true: an infection could go deeper into the foot and cause more damage...but the horse might gallop on until the infection spreads to an area served by other nerves or until a structural rupture or fracture occurs.

Neurectomy surgery is performed at the site of the nerve branch that the surgeon wishes to sever. (Modesto Bee photo of surgery at Pioneer Equine Hospital as published previously on The Hoof Blog.)

Johnson's hearing before the British Horseracing Authority conflicted with the testimony of his veterinarian. It was vague whether the vet knew that the trainer planned to race the horse again; the vet testified that he hadn't ever heard of a neurectomy being done on a racehorse before.

When interviewed, Johnson gave the following explanation when questioned as to what was his understanding of the denerving operation: “…Well, when you de-nerve something like say in the foot he said the horse would become sound, and I just wanted the horse to run.…you have to try every corner to get a horse to win a race.”

The Panel received expert evidence from (veterinary surgeon) David Ellis from the Newmarket Equine Hospital. He explained that a neurectomy removes sensation from the painful area, masking the signs of pain but not curing any pathology which gives rise to the pain.

Following a palmar neurectomy, such as undergone by the horse in question, Mr Ellis explained that the gelding was at risk that an injury, such as a fracture of the heel or navicular region or a penetration or infection, would go undetected.

As to the welfare aspects of equine care, Mr Ellis noted that it cannot be in the best interests of a racehorse’s welfare that in order for it to be sound enough to be trained and raced it has to have an operation to permanently desensitize the area which is giving rise to pain and lameness. The Panel accepted this evidence.

Racehorses of all types are under scrutiny for how their welfare is being protected. What seems like an act in the best interest of the horse is sometimes disputable.

Hoofcare and Lameness originally learned of the judgment against Howard Johnson when word came from the British charity World Horse Welfare that it welcomed the British Horseracing Authority’s decision to impose a four-year ban from training on Johnson, who subsequently announced his retirement. The charity’s Chief Executive Roly Owers said: “We welcome the BHA’s verdict and sentence of Howard Johnson which is proportionate to the seriousness of his crime.

“When we use horses in sport, that places a significant burden of responsibility on our shoulders for their welfare, and Howard Johnson simply did not live up to that responsibility. He showed a callous disregard for the well-being of the horse when he made the decision – not once but eight times – to run Striking Article without any feeling in one of his forefeet.

"This was a reprehensible act that clearly crossed the line between the acceptable and unacceptable use of horses in sport.

“We are also dismayed that a trainer of Johnson’s experience and stature is pleading ignorance of the rules. Ignorance is no excuse for not knowing the rules but more importantly it’s no excuse for cruelty. Looked at it another way, we just need to apply a little simple common sense: how could anyone think it was acceptable to race a horse that was in so much pain it needed a neurectomy in the first place?

“This case should send out a clear message to everyone involved in racing that the welfare of the horse has to come first, not the need to win at any cost.”

There are plenty of ways for a jump racing horse to go lame. (Pablo Camera image)

Remember the old saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"? We're learning that equine welfare is in the mind of the owner (or trainer). What seems like the kind thing to do in one country is seen as the antithesis in another.

The moral of this story: Remember what you say and when you say it. And to whom. Most of all: know the rules...and follow them. Work to change them if you don't think they're in the best interest of the horse.

Maybe that's what Howard Johnson will do in his retirement.

 TO LEARN MORE

Hoof Blog: Neurectomy Ethics Rear Up Again in California (October 2007): What happens when you buy a horse in a state where nerving does not have to be disclosed but you intend to run it in a different state...where nerved horses are prohibited from racing? That's what happened in California a few years ago. The following year, running nerved horses was banned in California.

Hoof Blog: Watch a horse undergo a neurectomy procedure at California's Pioneer Equine Hospital in a special video.


Hoof Blog: Cobra Venom Raises Its Numbing Head at Racetracks (Cobra venom use has been described as creating a "chemical neurectomy" when injected into a horse's foot)

Watch a detailed procedural video of a neurectomy at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Thanks to Charles Roffey for the photo of Neptune Collonges, to Pablo Camera for the action photos and to Carine06 for the photo of Knowhere.





 © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.  
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Since It's Sunday...

What does a farrier do? Shoe a horse? Farriers of days gone by did a lot more than that. Even if they specialized in horses, they did plenty of other work, like fitting iron rims on tires, or working on farm equipment, sharpening the tines of a harrow, or making all sorts of metal implements and tools for use in the workplace and the home.

One of the things that has always fascinated me is that blacksmiths were also locksmiths. They made the locks. They made the keys to fit the locks they made.

Handmade church keys from Gary Huston's forge

Gary Huston recently shared some photos of two keys that he made for his local church in England. When the key was lost, the vicar turned to Gary to make a new one. Smart Gary: he made them a spare at the same time.

Wouldn't you love to see the door that this key opens!



This is a close-up of what Gary calls the "business end" of the key

Thanks very much to Gary for sharing these photos.

Gary has a terrific YouTube channel with lots of videos showing how he makes things in his forge, in addition to shoeing horses. There's no video on how he can make keys to fit pre-existing locks. But the end result is impressive!

The ultimate equine anatomy book--from the fetlock down only!


 © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions about this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.  
Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofcareJournal
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tell Us About This Shoe...

Not much information was passed along with this photo. Is this a Quix shoe? That was my first guess, what's yours? It looks like it's a big shoe on a big foot, but maybe it's a tiny foot and it's actually an Imprint and just looks yellow? Thanks for your help! (Photo courtesy of Nottingham Vet School, Great Britain)



© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.  
 
Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofcareJournal
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dogs in Motion: An X-Ray Video With a Cold Nose





Here's some eye candy for a summer's day: video x-rays of a dog...share this with your friends who love Dachshunds! Thanks to New Scientist for this video.

Be sure to bookmark the Hoof Blog. You can also sign up to receive an email when a new post is published, or read the blog via the RSS feed. If you have a web site or blog, you can embed The Hoof Blog news headline widget too. Have you seen the smart-phone version of The Hoof Blog? Please get in touch if you need help connecting to the blog!

 © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.  
 
Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofcareJournal 
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Hoofcare World Landmark: Edgar's E. P. Stern & Co. in Yalding, England


On the map of an old village called Yalding in Kent, England, it just says "The Forge".

Farriers all over the world recognize this building. It is a landmark in its village and it is a landmark in the world of farriers. For more than 60 years, farriers have passed through this place, whether for a day or two or a year or two or more, in the case of the dozens of apprentices who were trained here.

 This is the home and forge of "E.P. Stern Co., Farrier and General Smith", the Stern family of farriers in Yalding, a village in Kent, England, just south of London. This amazing photo of the ancient building is by British photographer Elsie Bell, who sells prints and cards of this image. Visit http://www.elsiebell.co.uk/ to order this beautiful photo for your own.

In marketing, they call it "top of mind" recognition. Think: Goodyear rubber...GE nippers...Farriers Formula hoof supplement...Rolex watches. When a brand name defines a class of products -- iPhone, iPad, Ariat, Jeep, Kleenex, Equilox, Hoofjack -- that's when you know it's "top of mind".

And it's where you want to be in the minds of potential customers. Getting "top of mind" status isn't something you can buy or rent or put on your Wish List. You have to earn it. And in the case of people, you have to be a little larger than life, and have a name to match. Or, maybe being "top of mind" makes you that way.

It's a funny thing about first names. In the context of rock 'n roll, all you have to say is "Bruce", and Springsteen starts singing Born in the USA in your head.  But say "Bruce" to an American event rider, and they see Bruce Davidson.

Say it to a farrier and they'll hear Bruce Daniels winding up to tell a story.

The farrier world has had only one Bruce. There was only ever one Edward. One Burney. One Seamus, One Buster. One Emil. One Jack. And today we have only one Doug. One Grant. One Danny. One Ada. One Billy. One Myron. One Victor. One Simon. One Gunnar. One Austin.

A lace curtain. A sign with old-fashioned lettering. What photographer could pass up this photo opportunity? (Josephine Clark photo)

Are there other farriers with these first names? Of course, and many of them have reputations of greatness as well, but they'll also have last names until the legends fade, and some never will.

When icons have common first names like Steve or Jim or Bob, it can mean they earn a nickname to make a one-word designation possible, or people use the last name. You only need to say "Pethick", "Duckett", "Teichman", "Trnka" or "Skraz" at a hoofcare event and people are tuned into the conversation. These well-known farriers lost their common first names when they went top-of-mind.

Plenty of farriers named Edgar are hard at work around the world as I write this, but it will be a while before one can go by only his first name. And if I'm successful at my mission of keeping some legends alive, they might want to think about changing their names.

The Sterns' home and forge sits right on the street in Yalding. It's on the Grade II Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest in Great Britain. That means it's old. Very old. And important.

Today's photos show the imprint of the farrier world's "Edgar" not on the profession, but on his own forge and the village that seems to be built around it. Edgar died in 2006, but I'd say he's quite alive in his town and in his forge, where it looks like little has changed since his passing.

Actually, little has changed since I was there 25 years ago, come to think of it. I'm sure a lot has changed but the stage was set a long time ago, and it's as if things were nailed permanently into place, even if they're not.

Just as first-name-only "Edward" did in Scotland, Edgar brought the world to his tiny town and, in turn, put it on the map--the world map of farriery, that is (which I intend to draw someday). In the case of both men, they could have been just as famous, perhaps, if they'd stayed home and let the world come to them, because the world did seek them out.

But the late 20th century opened the gates to international travel, and like all curious people with the means and time to do it, they went out to see what was going on. And before they knew it, they had frequent flyer accounts and bulging mileage totals and a waiting list of houseguests.

I'll never forget Edgar saying, "When you come to England, you will stay with us." He must have said that to thousands of people. And a lot of us took him up on it. Maybe, like me, they were just doing as they were told, with no idea what lay ahead of them when they arrived.

When I tumbled into Yalding for the first time, I joined visiting farriers from South Africa and New Zealand. I immediately noticed that Edgar became "Mr. Stern" in most situations. I remember how his clients deferred to his judgment and that we could drive into a stableyard without anyone interrupting him except to give a wave or a nod.

Have you ever smelled hops? Hops are grown in Kent, and Edgar made sure I had a good whiff of the basic ingredient of beer and ale. I can smell it now but remember his tales of the impoverished Londoners who had trekked to Kent in the old days to have a few weeks of fresh air as they worked as hop-pickers. Years later I discovered Alfred Munnings' series of paintings of hop-pickers. I immediately recognized the scenes, as they'd already been painted in my mind by Edgar Stern. Munnings filled in the colors. (Image: Hop Pickers; the Costume Picture by Alfred J. Munnings, circa 1930. He painted much more than just racehorses.)

That's right: A man who had his sons lined up back at the forge with dozens of horses to shoe and farm calls to make and half a dozen apprentices needing guidance could stop what he was doing to be my tourguide.

On my visit, he wanted to erase how impressed I'd been by the Clydesdales in Scotland and I think he took me to see every Shire horse south of London, including the magnificent team of the Whitbread brewery. And, at many farms, he drove right up to the stable, walked right into the stall, and lifted a foot for me to see the shoe. Even on farms where he wasn't the farrier. That's clout.

Through the marvel of the Internet, I'm able to create for you a slide show of the forge, post-Edgar. These photos were taken by a local photographer, Josephine Clark and feature Edgar's grandson, Dan, whose dedication to his family's heritage, and the memory of his grandfather, inspired me to write this post.

Click the "play" icon (triangle) to start the slide show.

One of my favorite moments in my farrier life took place in this forge. I was standing in the forge, horses and farriers were doing their dance around me as I watched, wide-eyed. I'd never been in a forge with so many farriers working. And then the strangest thing happened.

Mrs. Stern appeared at the doorway. Hammers stopped in mid-air. Bent backs straightened. Apprentices and ponies breathed sighs of relief. The men clustered around Mrs. Stern and for a few moments there was silence. Silence, except for the gentle tinkling of teaspoons against china cups. They stood there, sipping tea.

For a few minutes, the forge had gone from what was surely orchestrated group labor (but looked and sounded like chaos) to a refined moment of civilized behavior. Big fingers barely fit through the handles of the cups. I wondered if each had his own cup--they were all different. Was a new apprentice assigned a cup? Was one of them for guests? What if you took the wrong cup?

Up until that moment, I had been a coffee drinker. I was traveling around with a jar of instant coffee and politely refused the tea offered me from one end of the United Kingdom to the other, explaining that I was an American and Americans drink coffee, not tea. Thanks, but no thanks.

But at that moment, had I refused a cup of tea, I would have missed being part of that scene (or worse, offended Mrs. Stern), so I took a cup tenuously, hoping I could feign its merits politely to my wonderful hostess.

To my surprise, it tasted wonderful, like no tea I'd ever had in America.

After that day, the jar of instant coffee stayed in my suitcase, and when I left, Mrs. Stern packed some of her teabags in a little envelope for me. And I've been drinking tea every since.

Mrs. Stern is quoted in a town history article as describing her family's lifestyle this way: “Here we live and breathe horses. The only holidays we have are when Edgar is competing in events in other parts of the country. Days off are spent at race meetings.”


Edgar Stern at work, courtesey of the Yalding historical web site
What that article failed to mention is that some people can stay home, and the world will come to them. Mrs. Stern made sure they'd come back, too, by making people feel at home in an ancient house with a staircase so steep, every American who has ever visited has a tale to tell of navigating it with suitcase in tow.

It has been said that, in England, whenever you see a farrier in his forge, the chances are that Edgar Stern in one way or another has imprinted the techniques of that man's profession.

They don't say anything about journalists who were influenced by him, but I do, every chance I get.

--Fran Jurga

 Thanks and more information about this article:

Slide show photos kindly loaned by Josephine Clark

Edgar had references on his resume as local as a little girl with a pony in his little village and as global as the Queen of England, who awarded him the British Empire Medal for his service to Thoroughbred racehorses. He did everything a farrier of his generation could do, and was often either the first to do it or on the committee that governed it.  Please read the Yalding village's historical biography of Edgar Stern.

Click here to read Hoofcare & Lameness's farewell on learning of the death of Mr. Edgar Stern MBE, FWCF in 2006.

Special thanks to Josephine Clark, Tony Kremer of Yalding History, Elsie Bell and Dan Stern. Many thanks to the entire Stern family for their hospitality and friendship over the years.

Click on banner to go to conference web site; conference is Oct 29-31, 2011


 © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.  
Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofcareJournal
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any direct compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned, other than Hoofcare Publishing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.