Horse Health

By: Horse Deals

Horse Health
A nationwide scheme will look into grass sickness

Grass sickness surveillance scheme plea

A project aiming to prevent equine grass sickness is appealing for information from vets and owners.
More than 100 years after it was first identified in Scotland, there is still a desperate lack of basic knowledge regarding the disease. Scientists at the Animal Health Trust (AHT), with Edinburgh and Liverpool Universities and the Equine Grass Sickness Fund, have launched the first nationwide surveillance scheme.
Funded by The Horse Trust, the scheme aims to analyse trends when cases occur across the UK. As well as giving an accurate picture of the welfare impact, the scheme will also play an important part in vaccine development.
Georgette Kluiters, grass sickness research assistant at the AHT, said: "April to June is predominantly the time when the number of cases peak in the UK. We’re appealing to owners whose horses have suffered with the illness or vets who have treated horses with it at any time throughout the year, to let us know. It’s never too late to submit a case - your information is vital."
To help, complete a short questionnaire at
All information submitted will remain confidential.

Blue Cross award winner announced

This year’s British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) welfare award, sponsored by the Blue Cross, was presented to Professor Josh Slater at the BEVA Annual Congress in Birmingham.
The award is a formal recognition of significant contributions made by veterinary surgeons and others to equine welfare. It was presented to Professor Slater in recognition of his role in developing the Emergency Services Protocol, now known as Safer Horse Rescues, which sets a national standard for all those involved in large animal rescue.
Josh Slater is professor of equine clinical studies at the Royal Veterinary College and director of the college’s equine referral hospital. Safer Horse Rescues is a nationwide initiative involving vets, the Highways Agency and Emergency Services. Professor Slater has also helped to develop training courses for vets and firefighters involved with horse rescue.

Navicular leaflet available

CEVA Animal Health has produced a leaflet to help horseowners understand the diagnosis and treatment of navicular disease.
This can be a complex and sometimes confusing condition because of its multiple causes and the leaflet helps owners get to grips with all aspects from the clinical signs to the procedures used to obtain a formal diagnosis.

It then covers the various treatment options available including corrective farriery, analgesia, bisphosphonates and surgery. Diagrams and photographs help to ensure the information is clear, concise and easy to follow.
Copies of the leaflet are available free of charge from your local
equine veterinary practice.

Grantham conference date

The next HORSESINSIDE OUT conference will be at the Ramada Hotel and Arena UK on 13-14 February.
The main speakers are Dr Hilary Clayton and Andy Thomas and the conference will focus on core stability, muscular imbalance, training and biomechanics.
For more information, visit

Managing Fractures

Last month, Ed Lyall BVetMed CertEM (StudMed) MRCVS answered a reader’s query about a horse with a broken leg. He now takes an in-depth look at how different types of fracture are treated

I thought it might help to look at how fractures happen and how we manage the problem.
Fractures can be incomplete, where the bone splits along part of its length but doesn’t snap. This can result in a split pastern or a condylar fracture of the canon bone. These fractures are often diagnosed by clinical examination and confirmed by X-rays.
Some are managed by applying a heavy Robert Jones bandage or fibreglass cast, but more typically screws are placed across the fracture line to pull the two parts together, followed by the application of a cast or bandage.

This is important because the fracture involves the joint surface. If the articular cartilage is damaged, inflammatory mediators are released from the fracture line into the joint and a secondary osteoarthritis develops. This will cause lameness long after the fracture has healed.
If detected quickly, most split fractures heal well and the prognosis for future performance is good. In most cases, the screws are left in place.
The short pastern can also be fractured. This bone tends to break into more than two pieces ("a comminuted fracture") and a fracture is complicated, often involving the pastern and coffin joints. Many such fractures are repaired surgically, but some result in euthanasia.

The pedal bone can be fractured in many different configurations. Simple sagittal fractures that split the bone in half show up well on X-ray. However, diagnosis can be challenging, as some fragments aren’t so obvious. Bone scans are then valuable diagnostic tools.
Some pedal bone fractures are repaired with screws, but most are dealt with by making use of the fact that the hoof acts as a cast. Farriers can apply shoes to help hold fracture fragments in place within the hoof and unless the coffin joint is affected most heal well with a good prognosis.

Long and small bones

Breaks in long bones such as the radius or humerus, other than stress fractures, tend to result in euthanasia. Surgical repair of complete fractures of the radius can be performed, but getting the horse up without further injury after surgery is very difficult. So is management due to the risk of infection, while the horse will also have to stand for a long period on three legs without any support for the fracture other than the internal fixators, as casts are difficult to apply to the upper limb.
Some fractures of the ulna, which runs down the back of the radius and is part of the elbow joint, can be managed conservatively, but most respond well to surgery. If all goes well, the prognosis is good.

The smaller bones of the forelimb such as the navicular bone, sesamoid bones in the fetlock joint and carpal bones in the knee can be broken in many different configurations. Some are managed with bandaging or casting in conjunction with rest. Others require surgical fixation.
Fragmentation or small fractures within joints ("chip fractures)" can be treated by arthroscopic removal and washing out the joint to prevent secondary osteoarthritis. The prognosis is often good.
Small fractures ("avulsion factures") where ligaments attach to bone can also occur. Again, some heal well with rest and some require surgery.
Catastrophic fractures where the sharp edge of the broken bone creates a skin wound invariably result in the horse being put down immediately. This is because the risk of infection due to contamination is so great.


As you can see, it’s important to know which bone has been injured and in what configuration. In general terms, most fractures heal with time, but a complication such as osteoarthritis or damage to a ligament may result in lameness.
A mare could possibly be used for breeding, but that would depend on how she copes with being turned out and she must not be at risk of exacerbated lameness due to the extra weight carried when in-foal. Having said that, most horses will cope with a low-grade chronic lameness, so each case is individual.

About Ed Lyall

Ed Lyall grew up at his parents’ North Yorkshire equestrian centre. He graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 1994 and was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies there. He is now a partner at Arundel Veterinary Hospital in West Sussex. He is an examiner in equine stud medicine and a treating vet at Hickstead and the South of England Show. His interests include competing in show jumping.