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When Laminitis Strikes, What’s Your First Line Of Defense?

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Barbaro, Edgar Prado, and Dr. Dean Richardson at New Bolton during the Derby winner’s treatment for laminitis

The most important time to take action against laminitis is when a horse shows early signs or a high-risk event occurs that might trigger laminitis. Triggers for laminitis range from exposure to black walnuts to injury to physiological disruption from colic, high fever, retained placenta, or carbohydrate overload. In essence, anything that causes a horse significant trauma might set in motion a cascade that ends in laminitis.

Laminitis is regarded by many in the veterinary field as the most horrific disease to attack horses because in severe cases, it literally causes the hoof capsule to slough off when the laminae that make up the connective tissue between the interior structure of the hoof and the hoof wall die. Theories about what actually happens to the horse physiologically to cause laminitis are numerous, and researchers still seek answers to many questions about the disease.

Dr. Hannah Galantino-Homer is the director of the Laminitis Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center. The laboratory is part of the Laminitis Institute founded by the university after the tragic death of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The colt was euthanized after an eight-month battle against laminitis at New Bolton Center after fracturing his right hind leg at the beginning of the Preakness Stakes.

If you think laminitis is a threat, call your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence.

Galantino-Homer said several things can be done while waiting for the veterinarian to arrive. First, move the horse to a confined area with soft footing. This can be a round pen with a deep sand base or a stall with at least six inches of bedding, either shavings or several bales of scattered straw.

“This allows them to distribute the weight more, and it encourages them to lie down if their feet are really sore,” she said.

Next, ice the horse’s feet. Studies show that cryotherapy reduces pain and inflammation. This can be done by standing a horse in ice and water, using ice boots, packing crushed ice in a bag and securing it to the horse’s foot with bandage, or pulling pantyhose over the horse’s lower limb and filling it with ice. If you are fortunate to have a Game Ready system, this is an ideal use for it.

More importantly, icing can slow down the cascade of events.

“Any kind of damaged tissue tends to compound the damage by releasing more things that cause more damage, more inflammation,” Galantino-Homer said. “You’re slowing all that down. You’re slowing the metabolism of the white blood cells that have been activated by tissue damage going on. So you’re trying to slow all that down.”

Administering a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the next measure but be sure to get your veterinarian’s approval first. The horse’s history, current medical condition, and potential cause of laminitis must all be factored into what the horse should receive.

“Veterinarians have preferences for what they use,” Galantino-Homer said. “For a horse owner in a first-aid situation, it would be whatever you have on hand—Bute, Banamine. It’s medical management for painkilling and inflammation, and it is going to depend on other clinical aspects. Such as a horse with colitis, you have to worry more about kidney damage. So they may manage pain differently.”

When your veterinarian arrives, he or she will examine the horse to determine the best course of treatment. This commonly includes tubing the horse with mineral oil and activated charcoal to protect the intestinal mucosa, particularly in the case of carbohydrate overload. When colitis is a threat, your veterinarian may recommend Bio-Sponge to combat bacterial overgrowth, Galantino-Homer said. Developed by the late Dr. Doug Herthel’s Platinum Performance laboratory, Bio-Sponge oral paste is an intestinal adsorbent that grabs onto damaging agents and carries them out of the horse’s body when it defecates.

Because laminitis is a complex disease and every horse is an individual, no set plan of treatment can be applied to every horse. Long term, expect the horse to require the care of a farrier knowledgeable about laminitis and therapeutic shoeing. Your veterinarian also may recommend management changes for the horse, including a nutritionist to modify the horse’s diet.

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Does Your Overweight Horse Have An Insulin Problem?

by Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD

 

Easy keepers and overweight horses and ponies have been around forever. Laminitis has also always been with us, and it’s no secret that overweight animals are at high risk. We now know that the vast majority of laminitis cases are caused by high insulin levels – hyperinsulinemia. Does this mean being overweight/obese causes insulin problems?

 

It might seem that way superficially but the logic is faulty.

 

There is an important principle in science which states, “Correlation (or association) is not causation”. Observing that things occur together does not mean one causes the other. Let’s say that the native horses of the country Muropa are observed to regularly consume the leaves of the Bajunga plant, which only grows in Muropa. It has also been observed that Muropa horses never develop sweet itch. Does this mean Bajunga protects from sweet itch? While there could be a link, this doesn’t prove it. It could be a genetic factor protecting them – or simply that there are no Culicoides midges in Muropa!

 

Many horses that develop laminitis are overweight or obese. We know that the vast majority of laminitis cases are caused by high insulin levels. The correlation has always been obvious and it didn’t take long for an assumption to arise that obesity is a laminitis risk factor and causes elevated insulin. There’s just one thing: It’s not true.

 

A study (Bamford) published in the Equine Veterinary Journal in 2015, fed horses and ponies a control diet or one designed to cause obesity, by feeding either excess fat or excess fat and glucose. The weight gain did not reduce insulin sensitivity in either group. Dr. Bamford has also clearly shown that insulin responses to oral or intravenous glucose have marked variation by breed in horses of normal weight. You can read all of Dr. Bamford’s work in detail in his thesis here: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/148423/Bamford%20PhD%20Thesis.pdf?sequence=1.

 

Selim, et al., 2015, followed two groups of Finnhorse mares on either native pasture or intensively managed improved pasture. At the end of 98 days of grazing, the mares on improved pasture went from a body condition score of 5.5 to 7 and gained 145 pounds; but this was not associated with insulin resistance.

 

If obesity isn’t a cause, why is more insulin resistance seen in obese horses – 25 to 50% IR depending on the study versus 10 to 15% of horses in general? The answer is simple. The IR increases appetite and weight gain. Yes, there is an association between obesity and high insulin but obesity is the result, not the cause.

 

This is more than just splitting hairs. If you think obesity is a cause, then weight control becomes a treatment — even possibly a cure. When you realize it is a consequence, not a cause, expectations for results of weight loss become more realistic. There are many benefits to weight loss and it should be aggressively pursued, but it won’t make insulin resistance go away.  Approximately 50% of IR horses are normal weight.

 

 

About ECIR Group Inc.

Started in 1999, the ECIR Group is the largest field-trial database for PPID and IR in the world and provides the latest research, diagnosis, and treatment information, in addition to dietary recommendations, for horses with these conditions. Even universities do not and cannot compile and follow long term as many in-depth case histories of PPID/IR horses as the ECIR Group.

 

In 2013 the Equine Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance Group Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation, was approved as a 501(c)3 public charity. Tax deductible contributions and grants support ongoing research, education, and awareness of Equine Cushing’s Disease/PPID and Insulin Resistance.

 

THE MISSION of the ECIR Group Inc. is to improve the welfare of equines with metabolic disorders via a unique interface between basic research, and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. The ECIR Group serves the scientific community, practicing clinicians, and owners by focusing on investigations most likely to quickly, immediately, and significantly benefit the welfare of the horse.

 

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Ask Your Veterinarian: How Much Does Environment Influence OCD Lesions?

by | 07.09.2018 | 2:38pm

Question: What do we know about environmental factors that could make a horse more or less likely to get OCD?

Answer: Osteochondrosis (OC) is widely understood to be a disturbance of endochondral ossification (the formation of bone from cartilage) and is arguably one of the most clinically relevant developmental orthopedic diseases in the equine patient. Although it was once thought that OC lesions were static, sequential radiographic studies on foals, weanlings, and yearlings revealed that the characteristic lesions of OC could increase in size or completely regress (“heal”) up to 12 months of age. The timeline of this lesion formation and regression is different for each joint, and has supported the idea that there are number of environmental factors, in addition to genetics, that play a role in the progression of osteochondrosis.

Although no definitive cause of osteochondrosis has been determined, factors such as nutrition and exercise have been shown to play a role in the development and progression of OC lesions. Of these possible etiologies, the role of nutrition has been most closely investigated. Initial research into the effect of diet on OC focused largely on dietary energy level, usually in relation to a high growth rate.  Although the results of many of these studies seem to be conflicting, many support the conclusion that high growth rate (a combination of genetics and diet) is associated with an increase in the severity of OC lesions. It is important to note, however, that this is a combined effect: decreasing nutritional plane below maintenance levels will not decrease the incidence or severity of OC lesions and can lead to other dietary imbalances.

Studies investigating the role of trace elements (copper, zinc, calcium, and phosphorus) have determined that low copper levels (which can be induced by increased zinc) are linked to decreased resolution of OC lesions, and copper supplementation, to a certain extent, was able to reduce the severity of cartilage lesions. Investigations into the role of calcium and phosphorus in OC have determined that high calcium diets failed to produce OC lesions, whereas high phosphorus diets (five times NRC) reliably produced lesions in foals.

The role of exercise in the formation of OC lesions seems intuitive; it is well known that exercise is vital to the formation of a functional articular cartilage surface and OC is a developmental defect in articular cartilage. Investigations into the exact role of exercise in OC however, have yielded conflicting results.  In some studies, increased exercise was correlated with decreased incidence in OC, whereas other research was unable to find decreased incidence in OC lesions with exercised horses but did notice a decrease in severity of existing lesions. As with nutrition, it is clear that although exercise can play a supporting role in decreasing the incidence or severity of OC, no single factor is responsible for the course of the disease.

Since the process of cartilage metabolism and bone formation is highly dynamic, especially during the first year of age, it is widely thought that there are certain periods of times (“windows of susceptibility”) during which environmental factors can play a pivotal role in the severity of OC lesions. Research investigating these developmental periods, as well as the exact pathogenesis of osteochondrosis, will yield more answers and recommendations in the future.

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Ask Your Veterinarian: What Heart Scans Can Tell You, And What They Can’t

by | 05.21.2018 | 6:34pm

Secretariat, who was known for having an abnormally large heart

QUESTION: Some buyers at the upper end of the auction market are now including heart scans as part of their pre-sale vetting process. What can these scans tell buyers, and what don’t they tell us?

ANSWER: Heart scans, also known as echocardiograms, are used to create ultrasonographic images of the heart. Echocardiography allows visualization of the entirety of the heart. This includes the cardiac walls and interventricular septum (composed of cardiac muscle), the valves and chambers within the heart, and the large vessels that carry blood to and away from the heart.  Ultrasound facilitates accurate measurement of these cardiac structures and can be performed at different phases of the cardiac cycle (such as systole and diastole). By examining the heart throughout the cardiac cycle, determination of cardiac function indicators can be made. Some of these indicators of cardiac function include stroke volume, cardiac output, fractional shortening, and end-diastolic volume.

Many of us are familiar with racehorses storied to have famously large hearts—Secretariat and Eclipse being two primary examples. It has been theorized that the successes of these two legendary horses can be credited to the size of this organ. And there is reason to conclude that this is the case. The left ventricle is the most muscular cardiac chamber and is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood coming directly from the lungs out through the aorta to be delivered to the rest of the body. In human athletes that are trained for either endurance or strength, there is evidence that thickening (hypertrophy) of the left ventricular wall can occur with training. This structural change can lead to increases in stroke volume and cardiac output, which ultimately enhance a person’s oxygen carrying capacity. Studies have also demonstrated that these structural changes can occur in equine athletes in response to training. Electrocardiography was used in the 1970s to demonstrate that increased cardiac size is related to enhanced athletic performance.

Heart scans have become an important component of the sales process. The veterinarians who perform these scans have measured a large number of equine hearts and have as such amassed a large database of information. This information can be used to make recommendations on both the athletic and breeding potential for a horse. Because much of this data is proprietary information, there is a paucity of recent peer-reviewed literature available on the subject. However, many who have pursued this purchasing strategy have encountered success in using it. It must be emphasized that evaluating the heart in isolation from the rest of the body is really just “one piece of the puzzle”. The athletic potential of a sales horse often includes analysis of other factors, including genetics and musculoskeletal conformation, before a recommendation is made.

The use of echocardiography in horses is not limited to assessing athletic potential. Echocardiography is a critical tool in evaluating a horse’s heart for cardiac pathology. When performed for this reason, a heart scan is typically completed by a cardiologist or internal medicine specialist. The aim of an echocardiographic examination in this scenario is to gather information that will allow for diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Common indications for this type of heart scan include valvular leakage, stretching of the cardiac walls, and congenital defects. While any of these abnormalities can certainly affect athletic potential, they can also interfere with a horse’s longevity and even a horse’s safety to ride due to a potential for collapse. Just as in heart scans performed in a sales setting, the echocardiogram can be used by a specialist as “one piece of the puzzle”. Other diagnostic tools, such as physical examination, electrocardiography, and exercise testing, will aid a veterinarian in tracking progression of disease and formulation of a treatment plan.

Dr. Bill Gilsenan received his veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. Following an internship at Colorado State University, he completed a residency in large animal internal medicine at the New Bolton Center—University of Pennsylvania. He became board certified in large animal internal medicine in 2012. He held a faculty position at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine until joining the staff at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital as an internal medicine specialist in 2015.

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Ask Your Veterinarian: Recovery Time After Long Hauls

by | 05.02.2018 | 11:40am

Kentucky Derby Champion Nyquist is escorted off the van by groom Elias Anaya after arriving at Monmouth Park July 27 ahead of the Haskell

QUESTION: When a horse ships long distances to race, why do some lose so much weight…and how long does it take them to recover fully?

DR. PETER MORRESEY: Transportation causes stress in horses. Many things are done to minimize this, but stress cannot be eliminated completely and like people, horses respond individually. Many studies have been performed to assess metabolic and physical changes in transported horses.

During transport, heart and respiratory rates increase. The stress hormone cortisol is released, promoting breakdown of body tissue and energy stores. The levels of other hormones involved in metabolism (e.g. thyroid hormone) are also altered.

Transportation also results in the horse constantly needing to preserve balance, requiring energy from his muscles. This is most needed during acceleration and deceleration of the transport vehicle, so the skill of the driver also affects body condition.

All of these alterations to the daily needs of the horse over and above maintenance consume energy. In addition to this, exposure to new horses and novel environments provide an infectious challenge; this, too, has an energy cost to defend against.

During transportation, horses vary in their water and food intake. If the horse eats and drinks adequately, losses will be comparatively small and easily made up. When the horse cannot or will not eat enough due to circumstance or personality, these reductions compound the loss of energy stores and body condition (muscle, fat).

Recovery time varies between individuals. Time taken to recoup losses depends upon the ability of the horse to resume intake adequate to replace losses and meet ongoing needs. For some horses this is not difficult and they rapidly adjust with minimal outward signs. For others, situations of stress resulting from a new environment, altered social setting, and variations in the food offered due to different hay/concentrates and water source (which can greatly affect taste) mean many days may be needed to regain body condition and energy stores depleted on their journey. There is no set period over which this may occur. Special attention should be paid in the days following transportation to the vital signs of the horse, with alterations in respiratory rate or effort, or elevations in rectal temperature, requiring prompt veterinary attention.

Opportunities to ease the stress and resulting losses due to transportation include acclimating the horse to trailers or stalls well in advance of the time of transport, progressively altering food offered to match that available during their journey, and ensuring in the initial period after arrival that routine and feedstuffs to as great of a degree as possible do not deviate any more than necessary from that which the horse might expect.

Dr. Morresey began his career in New Zealand as a mixed animal practitioner following graduation from Massey University in 1988. He completed a theriogenology residence at the University of Florida and spent time as part of clinical faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. Areas of interest include reproduction, internal medicine, neonatal medicine, veterinary business and Chinese medicine.

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Possible Link Between Selenium and Cribbing In Horses

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Stereotypic behaviors such as weaving, cribbing, and stall-walking occur commonly in high-performance horses as well as many companion horses. In addition to being unsightly, potentially damaging to the barn, and raising welfare concerns, stereotypic behaviors also result in important health issues such as dental disorders, temporohyoid joint damage, poor performance, weight loss, and colic.

“Cribbing is the most troublesome of these compulsive behaviors. It involves grasping a fixed object with the incisor teeth and aspirating air with an audible grunt,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research.

The exact reason horses crib remains unknown. Some suggest that cribbing horses have unmet dietary or management needs. Others believe that altered biological functions are the culprits, such as decreased antioxidant levels or increased oxidative stress.

Because trace elements such as selenium, zinc, manganese, and copper protect the body from oxidative stress, one research group* recently explored the hypothesis that oxidation status may contribute to cribbing. To test this theory, blood samples were collected from horses during or immediately after an episode of cribbing and when cribbers were resting. Control horses with no known history of cribbing were also tested. Samples were analyzed for various markers of oxidation.

“The most important finding in this study was that serum selenium concentration was significantly lower in cribbing horses than in controls, with the lowest levels measured while horses were actually cribbing,” Crandell said.

Based on these data, the researchers concluded “that alterations in serum selenium, an important component of the antioxidant system, may play a role in the pathophysiology of cribbing behavior in horses, adding further evidence to the theory that cribbing may be related to increased oxidative stress and alterations in essential trace elements.”

Micronutrients imbalances can affect many physiological processes, which is one reason why Kentucky Equine Research nutrition advisors are available for consultation. They can help with feed analysis, recommend ration fortifiers containing vitamins and minerals such as Micro-Max (Gold Pellet in Australia), and antioxidants such as Nano•E, a water-soluble, natural-source of vitamin E, and Preserve PS (Preserve in Australia) to provide natural-source vitamin E, vitamin C, and other antioxidants.

“Management also plays an important part in minimizing stereotypic behaviors. Strategies such as providing environmental enrichment tools, offering free-choice hay or prolonged grazing, and allowing direct visual contact or prolonged turnout time in groups are thought to improve the welfare of affected horses,” Crandell mentioned.

*Omidi, A., R. Jafari, N. Saeed, et al. 2018. Potential role for selenium in the pathophysiology of crib-biting behavior in horses. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 23:10-14.

Article reprinted courtesy of Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Visit equinews.com for the latest in equine nutrition and management, and subscribe to The Weekly Feed to receive these articles directly (equinews.com/newsletters).   

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Dr. Getty’s February Tip: Hay Before Grain, or Vice-versa?

Which should be fed first – hay or grain?  If you’re feeding correctly, this issue is truly a moot point because the horse should have access to forage (hay and/or pasture) 24/7 with no gaps. Therefore, when fed concentrates, the horse’s digestive tract should already have hay flowing through it.

If fed starchy cereal grains (oats, corn, barley, etc.) on an empty stomach, the horse will produce even more acid (potentially leading to ulcers) and it will be leave the stomach quickly. When this happens, there is a risk that it will not be fully digested in the small intestine (especially if large amounts are fed), and end up in the hindgut where starch can be fermented by the bacterial population. This can lead to endotoxin-related laminitis.

If hay is present in the stomach first, it creates a physical barrier for the grain to move out of the stomach as quickly. Since starch does not get digested in the stomach, the grain is simply mixed and churned into a semi-liquid mass, which enters the small intestine where it can be digested down to glucose. If there is hay present, fiber mixes with the starch and the whole mass enters the small intestine. Fiber is not digested until it reaches the hind gut, but its presence slows down the digestion of starch, and obstructs the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, leading to a less dramatic rise in insulin.

One thing to note – there is more water involved when hay is present (from increased drinking and saliva production). This is a good thing since digestion within the small intestine cannot take place without water.

 

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horseperson with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs.

Dr. Getty’s fundamental resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is available in paperback as well as in hardcover, searchable CD and Kindle versions. All except the Kindle version are available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com — buy the book there and have it inscribed by the author. Print and Kindle versions are also available at Amazon (www.Amazon.com); find print versions at other online retail bookstores. The seven individual volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered “Spotlight on Equine Nutrition” series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts for equestrians!

Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum archives; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars and interviews. Find top-quality supplements, feeders, and other equine-related items, at her online Free Shipping Supplement Store[i]. Reach Dr. Getty directly at gettyequinenutrition@gmail.com.

 

[i] http://horsesupplements.gettyequinenutrition.biz

 

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Lasix Study Backs Four-Hour Administration Time

Pair of Lasix studies of interest outline results.

A study that has some potential to reshape the timing of Salix administration ahead of racing determined that the current four-hour timeframe is more effective than administering 24 hours out in reducing the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

The study, led by Dr. Heather Knych, was one of two studies on Salix (furosemide, commonly referred to as Lasix) with results outlined at the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention in late November. The other study, led by Dr. Warwick Bayly, found some potential for a low dosage of Salix 24 hours out combined with controlled access to water in reducing EIPH in racing.

The Paulick Report first posted a story on the results of both studies Jan. 30.

According to the AAEP’s 2017 Convention Proceedings document, the study by Dr. Knych of the Ken L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory looked at the efficacy of administering Lasix 24 hours out, instead of the current four hours out called for in racing’s model rules. The study concluded that administering furosemide four hours before a race was more effective in reducing the severity of EIPH than going to 24 hours out.

The Knych study saw 15 Thoroughbreds administered furosemide either four or 24 hours prior to a five-furlong simulated race. Blood samples were collected before and after the simulated race for determination of furosemide, lactate, hemoglobin, and electrolyte concentrations.

One hour after the race, an endoscopic exam and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed. Horses were assigned an EIPH score based on previously published criteria. The number of red blood cells in in BAL fluid was also determined.

“There was a statistically significant difference in EIPH scores between the four-hour and 24-hour furosemide administrations,” the study determined. The study noted that none of the treatments prevented EIPH in the horses but that reducted red blood cell counts in bronchoalveolar fluid post-race indicated that administering furesomide four hours before a race was the most effective.

According to its introduction, the study came together following anecdotal reports that suggested furosemide administration 24 hours prior to strenuous exercise could be equally effective at decreasing EIPH.

The United States is one of the few countries that allows the raceday administration of Lasix. A study showing efficacy in preventing EIPH at 24 hours or beyond had potential to reshape current raceday policy of administration four hours before the race.

In the study led by Bayly, it was determined that a 0.5 mg/kg administration of furosemide 24 hours before strenuous exercise combined with controlled access to water shows potential for reducing the severity of EIPH.

The study used six horses who underwent treadmill exercise to fatigue after seven different protocols that adjusted the dosage amount of the Lasix and timing of the administration. The study concluded that, “Furosemide, 0.5 mg/kg, combined with controlled access to water, significantly reduced the severity of EIPH,” adding that, “No ill effects were detected in the horses.”

In its AAEP presentation outline, the study noted that “Although the findings were promising, the number of horses used was small. The effects of furosemide on water and ion excretion were evident for 24 hours but did not adversely affect the horses, likely because of increased absorption of wager and ions from the colon.”

In September 2015, Grayson Jockey Club Foundation announced it had launched funding of the two projects. The AAEP also played a prominent role in funding the projects, along with a number of racetracks.

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Free Online Course Offered on Colic Prevention

Three-week online course will run this winter from Jan. 22-Feb. 11.

Health & Colic Prevention’ online course to the first 50 grooms and trainers to register from each racing sector in Ontario: Standardbred, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing. The three-week online course will run this winter from January 22 – February 11, 2018 on Equine Guelph’s new online training platform, The Horse Portal.

According to the 2016 Equine Guelph Horse Racing Industry Survey, gut issues were ranked as the number three health issue behind respiratory issues and injuries. Not only is colic the number one killer of horses, but it is a major issue facing the horse racing industry. Excessive amounts of grain in the diet and forage variation are thought to contribute to an increased risk of colic and other gut issues. Changes in stabling, exercise level and stress may also cause an increased risk of colic.

“Educating the horse racing community on how to reduce the risk of colic and gut issues will be extremely valuable to grooms and trainers,” says Hugh Mitchell, Chair of Ontario Racing. He adds, “This training will also benefit the health and well-being of the elite equine athletes as well.”

The three-week online short course will be flexible and practical with content appropriate for the racing industry. The course will be delivered from respected experts from the horse racing community. For the first time, trainers and grooms from the three sectors will come together in discussion groups to share expertise and experience with each other.

“Offering the ‘Gut Health & Colic Prevention’ course at no charge will be an appealing way to engage the racing community to try out flexible, online learning on The Horse Portal,” says Gayle Ecker, director of Equine Guelph.

To register, go to www.TheHorsePortal.ca/OntarioRacing and apply the appropriate coupon code for the free course valued at $95. Registration for the 150 free courses will be administered on a first-come-first-served basis to the first 50 trainers and grooms from each sector.

This program is an online training partnership between Ontario Racing and Equine Guelph, with funding provided by Grand River Agricultural Society. Project partners include: Central Ontario Standardbred Association, The Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario, Ontario Harness Horse Association, Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario Inc. and Standardbred Canada. The online course is sponsored by Intercity Insurance Services Inc. and Capri Insurance Services Ltd.

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Study Of Inflammatory Markers Leaves Researchers With More Questions About Predicting Racehorse Injury

by | 09.14.2017 | 6:59pm

For years now, researchers have been searching for some kind of agent detectable in horses’ blood to warn them of an impending injury. Research presented by Dr. David Horohov of the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky at a recent Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council meeting shows the quest has continued to be a challenging one.

“The theory has been advanced that in fact, visible injury is a result of chronic accumulation of damage that exceeds the healing capacity of the tissue. And indeed, the whole process of conditioning an animal is actually one of breaking down and rebuilding tissue so that it’s stronger,” said Horohov. “If we could identify techniques to tell when that process has become imbalanced, where there is weakness rather than strength, we could begin identifying horses in advance.”

Initially, Horohov said scientists wanted to look for cytokines – biological message-carriers – associated with damage to bone and cartilage. This proved challenging because bones are constantly in a cycle of breaking down and building up in response to exercise. It is the remodeling process that prepares an equine (or human) skeleton to hold up to future impacts, based on past experience. This approach also did not seem sensitive enough and might miss other types of stress in the body, so Horohov set out to study the behavior of cytokines related to inflammation.

These messengers would be aware the body was recruiting inflammatory cells to deal with an injury but would not be involved in the inflammatory process themselves. Theoretically, he thought, low levels of inflammatory cytokines should indicate some degree of normal response to training, while high amounts might be a sign the body was not adjusting to the stress of training, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Between 2015 and 2016, Horohov and his team studied two groups with a total of 130 horses over two years: one group, scattered across different trainers, at Keeneland‘s synthetic training track, and another group on a lighter workout program (working on turf once per week) on a nearby farm. The results were somewhat surprising.

Immediately after exercise, horses typically have an increase in inflammatory biomarkers, which come back down over time and usually go below their original level – thought to be a sign the horses’ tissues were adjusting to exercise. Horohov’s group did find a difference between the horses at the track and those trained on the farm – over time, horses training on the track saw their base level inflammatory index increase, rather than decrease.

“To us, this raises more questions than it answers,” he said.

Horohov said it was impossible to tell whether the increase in inflammatory index was a sign of an increased risk for injury, or if it was simply a normal response to training. Both groups of horses had just begun the process of breezing.

Horohov also hopes in the future, the study of inflammatory cytokines could be finessed to predict specific types of injuries.

Besides the somewhat puzzling results, studies like this one are challenging because in order to get a group of horses in a true racetrack setting, scientists must give up control of the horses’ environments. Across the group of 130 horses studied, many were with different trainers and different feeding programs (including different supplements); those on the farm were getting turnout, while those at the track were not. It’s difficult to draw broad conclusions when variables like these place horses in mini sub-groups.

“One of the problems, too, about sampling horses is they leave,” said Horohov. “You get something you’re really interested in, you go back and they’re not there anymore.”

Horohov estimated about 25 percent of horses came up with some kind of lameness during the study period, but they were split between so many different trainers and programs it was impossible to say with certainty whether their cytokine levels rose before their lamenesses, or when.

From here, Horohov’s team hopes to expand the study to try to minimize some of these variables and to see whether an exaggerated inflammatory response does, indeed, preempt injuries.

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