by Fernando Cardenas, DVM
“It’s Complicated – Part 1” addressed the importance of team work and a multi-pronged approach for achieving optimal understanding and performance of our equines. It acknowledged saddle fit, nutrition, rider/equine compatibility as possible hidden culprits.
“It’s Complicated – Part 2” goes further. 3H Vets went in search of answers by attending days of short courses with veterinary experts from Australia, England, Ireland and the US, who even as they shared recent findings, reminded:
Typically, equine veterinarians are neither certified massage therapists nor professional saddle fitters or riders. Equine veterinarians are, however, very often the first line of defense for horse owners who are frustrated with performance issues.
So what did we learn in the short course work, and how can it help your horse?
- How to identify deep tissue muscle knots and how to loosen them with deep pressure. Without such relief of the pain of these “knots”, full and comfortable range of motion is limited.
- What exactly to look for in a proper saddle fit (position, stability and balance) as a cause for soreness. Problems of conformation often evolve over time into uneven shoulder development, irregular withers, and backs which are too flexible or too tight. While saddle fitting by a professional is optimal, trained veterinarians will know when to recommend one.
- When and how to evaluate “outside the box” for a lameness presenting itself in a limb but which may be caused by the neck, back, hip or sacroiliac. Diagnosis is difficult for three specific reasons:
- The signs are vague and far reaching
- Some horses appearing sensitive to palpitation or pressure over the back, are not necessarily “painful” in this area, nor is this the source of the problem.
- Some horses present alterations in gait or abnormalities in performance rather than overt thorocolumbar pain.
The best we can do?
Hone veterinary clinical evaluation skills, and get a very thorough past history.
- Is the horse difficult to catch in the field, unwilling to enter the ring, or stand still for mounting?
- Does he move sideways away from the mounting block, or initially move with a stiff gait?
- Has there been a recent trauma, fall, change in tack or rider?
- Consider the discipline: if the horse is a jumper, is he now unwilling to jump combinations or do grid work? If the horse does dressage, is he resistant during collection?
Yes, it’s complicated ….. certainly not impossible, but, yes ….. complicated.
The best we can do is keep learning, and love the challenge.
We must do it for the good of the horse.