Friday, April 06, 2007

Neurectomy Ethics Rear Up Again in California

Digital neurectomy, or "nerving", is a controversial procedure in the horse world, and always has been. It seems to be much more accepted in the western USA than in other places, but many horses, particularly with navicular-type pain, are "nerved" as a salvage procedure to allow them relief from the pain.

The controversy is more over how safe it would be to ride the horse after it has been nerved. I remember Montana farrier instructor/author/legend Scott Simpson lecturing on this subject at a Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium years ago. I wonder if I still have his paper. He had no qualms about roping competitively on a nerved horse.

Around here, some people would like to see a nerved horse branded so that if it changes hands, an unsuspecting rider won't be hurt if the horse stumbles. That said, it is a pretty common procedure. The veterinarian simply severs the branch of the nerves that sensitize the heel part of the foot.

A lawsuit has been reported in California; the story is posted on today. Apparently an Arizona owner claimed a runner who turned out to be nerved and is suing the trainer (who is the son of a farrier) and veterinarian (who happens to be the veterinary officer for the state racing concerns and a former AAEP president). There are more familiar names in this story; the executive director of California's racing board is the wife of a well-known farrer.

The impetus for the lawsuit is not that the horse broke down or that an exercise rider was injured when the horse stumbled. Arizona has a law against nerved runners, so the horse was not allowed to enter a race. Period.

California has no such law. According to California law, the vet and trainer did nothing wrong; there is no law requiring disclosure of nerving on a sale horse or against allowing a nerved horse to race. (This is the same state that is banning toe grabs for welfare reasons.)

Read the full story by clicking here, and then come back to leave a comment (click on the comment button and type in the box) and let's here your two cents.