Horse Health

By: Horse Deals

Horse Health
Horse Health

Help stamp out vices

CEVA Animal Health is asking horseowners to help with tests to find a possible cure for vices such as crib biting, weaving or box walking. The pharmaceutical manufacturer is working in partnership with the University of Nottingham’s Veterinary School to carry out initial research in the UK. They are asking owners of horses that display such stereotypical behaviour to complete a simple online survey about their horse and management regime. CEVA currently markets two synthetic pheromone-based products for small animals. Both reproduce natural pheromones that help prevent or reduce stress-related behaviours such as urine spraying in cats and firework fears in dogs. Vet Liz Mossop from Nottingham Vet School said: "Equine stereotypical behaviour is a difficult problem to manage. We’re delighted to be involved with this project, which should help provide new ideas and answers for owners and vets." Visit and click on the survey link. It should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

Briton takes up FEI role

British vet Graeme Cooke has been appointed FEI veterinary director. Northern Ireland-born Graeme worked for six years as a senior policy adviser to Defra. Having studied at Cambridge and with an earlier extensive background in equine clinical practice, he became the UK government lead on all matters relating to equine health. He competed himself and also acted as vet at international eventing competitions and as an escorting vet for large shipments of horses in air transport to the USA and Middle East. "I’m very happy to be taking up my new role. I’m a firm believer in the values of sport and the importance of clean and fair competition. Ensuring the welfare of the horse is my highest priority," he said.

Measure your horse’s body mass

After 10 years of research, Equistat Ltd has launched the Equistat Pro® and Equistat Lite®, which measure body mass, body fat, hydration status and cellular health in horses. Based on human science, the devices work through electrode straps on the horse’s forearm and hock. They will then deliver an accurate prediction of body mass, which was previously calculated through a weightape. The Equistat Lite is designed for the private user, while the Pro is aimed at professionals such as vets. For more information, visit

Scottish practice gains hospital status

The equine division of Lanarkshire’s Clyde Veterinary Group recently obtained Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons equine hospital status, making it the only private equine hospital in Scotland. The team comprises six full-time and one part-time equine vets and four. The hospital is a BEVA recognised practice to receive emergencies and undertake artificial insemination. Its facilities include 10 stables, a bone-scanning suite, loading bank, playpen and turnout paddock. It has a digital X-ray machine, digital endoscopes and ultrasound scanners. Since opening in 2005 the group has received equine referrals from over 80 other veterinary practices, mostly for orthopaedic and lameness problems. Facilities to assist with this include a gantry mounted X-ray machine, fluoroscopy, shock therapy, scintigraphy, facilities for remedial farriery and full operating facilities. The hospital is also an equine veterinary nurse training centre. For more information, visit

Understanding fractures

In the first of a two-part series, Ed Lyall BVetMed CertEM(StudMed) MRCVS weighs up the chances of a horse with a broken leg making a full recovery

A reader recently contacted me after her mare suffered a freak accident in the field and fractured a bone in her foreleg. Would she make a full recovery? This is a difficult question to answer without knowing which bone the mare has broken in the forelimb. It’s quite common for fractures to occur in horses’ limbs and these can be in the form of stress fractures or broken bones. A stress fracture is basically a hairline crack in the bone that is not displaced. This is difficult to detect radiographically, but does cause significant pain and lameness for a period of time. If they go undetected and the horse is not rested carefully until fully healed, stress fractures can go on to become more catastrophic complete fractures due to loading of the limb as the pain starts to diminish. This is often why nasty fractures happen on the racecourse or at competitions. It’s because the unidentified stress fracture has become pain-free and then destabalised. All bones can suffer from stress fractures, but in the forelimb the most common would be the radius, canon bone and the long pastern. Occasionally, a stress fracture can occur in the humerus after a fall or concussive blow such as a kick from another horse.

Bone scans and X-rays

The best way to detect a stress fracture is to perform a bone scan, which picks up the increased rate of bone removal and replacement — bone turn over — at the site of the fracture. Injecting the horse with a gamma radiation emitting bone tracer and then scanning the limb three hours later with a gamma camera that detects the amount of radiation emitted allows us to produce an image of the bones of the limb and thus identify "hot spots" where there is more bone turn over. Bone scans are usually performed about 10 days after the onset of lameness. It isn’t worth performing the scan sooner as there’s a lag phase before the bone starts the repair process and the increase in bone turn over begins to occur. Stress fractures can be detected radiographically several weeks after injury. X-rays taken at this time may show a lucent line in the affected bone, which is where the bone has demineralised either side of the stress fracture line as part of the repair process. These lines aren’t always visible, as the x-ray beam has to shoot directly through the crack for it to show up on the image. It may require more images to achieve exact positioning than is acceptable from a radiation safety point of view. Images taken a few weeks later may show evidence of callus formation on the bone surface (periosteal callus) or on the inside of the bone cortex (endosteal callus). X-rays can be used to monitor fracture healing, but in the case of a stress fracture a follow-up bone scan may be more useful. This then allows us to time when a horse can come back into work without risk of exacerbating the original injury.


The prognosis for most stress fractures that are detected and managed properly is usually very good. In many cases, the patient is box rested for a relatively short period and then starts gentle hand walking to load the bone and stimulate repair. It is now common practice for horses suffering severe, acute onset, unexplained lameness to undergo a bone scan and as such this diagnostic technique remains an invaluable tool to aid in the investigation of lameness. Many horses undergo scans and nothing is detected. This should, from an owner’s point of view, be a positive finding, as it rules out a fracture as a cause of lameness as long as the scan is performed at the correct time following injury. The fractures we are all more familiar with is where the bone in question is broken. There are many configurations of fractures depending on the bone and how the injury occurred. These fractures occur due to concussive blows, a fall where the bodyweight of the horse lands on a limb or due to abnormal loading of the limb during motion.

Next month: Managing fractures

About Ed Lyall

North Yorkshire-born Ed Lyall grew up at his parents’ equestrian centre. He graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 1994 and was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies at Potters Bar. He joined Arundel Veterinary Hospital in West Sussex in 1995 and became a partner in 2002. He is an examiner in equine stud medicine and a treating vet at Hickstead and the South of England Show. Ed’s interests include owning and riding a grade B show jumper.