Category Archives: Health

Medical Monday: Suspensory Injuries

The suspensory ligament is one of the collateral ligaments that holds the group of bones together that make up the fetlock joint. This group is also known as the suspensory apparatus and functions as a shock absorber for the leg.  A suspensory injury can mean one of three things: a strain, a sprain or a rupture.  In the case of a strain, the ligaments are stressed and become sore and inflamed.  A strain is more severe than a sprain in that some of the fibers of the ligament are actually torn.  And in a rupture, a section of the fibers of the ligament is completely torn.


  • Excessive flexion/overextension of the fetlock joint
    • Landing on uneven ground
    • Violent twisting of the hoof


  • Swelling
  • Lameness
  • Sore to the touch


  • Rest (extended periods of rest are required as this ligament does not have a large blood supply)
    • 6-12 months for a strain
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Ice/cold hosing
  • Electromagnetic machines (ex. Therascope)
  • For a rupture may include
    • Cast
    • Stall rest
    • Minimal turnout (ie. small paddock)
    • Year long rest from work


  • There isn’t much you can do to prevent an initial injury to the suspensory ligament.  However, in some cases a veterinarian will recommend supportive bandages to help prevent re-injury
  • Proper hoof balance can contribute to preventing suspensory injuries
  • Working a horse in deep footing can contribute to overextending the soft tissue structures
  • Improperly conditioned horses are more likely to sustain this type of injury

*photo taken from the below article

Great, in depth, article on suspensory injuries:

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Health


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Medical Monday: The Common Cold

The Common Cold: No one is immune! (literally!)  It doesn’t pass from species to species, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as common in horses as it is in humans.


  • The cold passes from horse to horse through contact
  • Horses that have immune deficiencies are more susceptible (ie. lots of travel, poor living conditions, poor ventilation, etc can all contribute to a poor immune system)
  • Lots of travel also increases the risk that the horse will come in contact with another horse that already has a cold (and when the horse goes home he may in turn infect horses he lives with)

Symptoms (can be very similar to those seen in humans and will vary from case to case)

  • Runny nose (clear or yellowish in color)
  • Cough
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Runny eyes
  • Fever (which may cause heart and respiratory rates to increase)


  • Be sure to keep your horse warm
  • Let them have some time off from work (rest)


  • Quarantine new horses coming onto your property
  • Stress can compromise the immune system, so try to reduce stress levels
  • Don’t share water or feed buckets among horses

The cold in horses has symptoms that are similar to other viruses.  If you at all suspect your horse may be suffering from more than a common cold, contact your veterinarian.  It doesn’t hurt to give them a call and ask a few questions!

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Health


Tags: , , , ,

Jaw Conformation

Horse Resource Network will be doing a series on conformational flaws to look out for when buying or breeding horses.  Our goal with this series is to explain what each flaw is and how it can affect the horse’s rideability.

We’re going to work our way systematically through the parts of the horse, starting with the conformation of the jaw.

There are a few different malformations of the jaw to look out for, including: parrot mouth (overbite), sow mouth (underbite) and shear mouth (narrow lower jaw).  Each of these flaws are hereditary. As such, horses with jaw issues are generally advised against for breeding.

Parrot Mouth: Lower jaw is too short, upper teeth protrude forward

Sow Mouth: (aka monkey mouth) is the opposite of parrot mouth, with the lower jaw protruding past the upper.

Shear Mouth: Lower jaw is narrower than upper – molars do not meet squarely.

Each of these malformations prevents the horses teeth from lining up properly (malocclusion) which may cause ridges/ledges to develop on the misaligned teeth.  These ridges/ledges can cut the tongue or the inside of the mouth which may lead to infection and/or abscesses. 

Malocclusions may also lead to interference with the natural movement of the horse’s jawbone which, in turn, may cause pain in the temporomandibular joint.  Because of the way horses are built, pain in this area may cause flexion problems.

The negative effects of these flaws can be mitigated through proper and regular dental care (which for most horses, even without these issues, should be done at least annually).  This is especially important in the case of shear mouth wherein, if left unattended, continual grinding will wear the teeth at an angle until eventually they just slide off each other, making it impossible for the horse to properly chew his food.

If you’ve owned or leased a horse with any of these issues, please comment and let us know how you dealt with it and how it affected your horses performance.


Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Conformation


Tags: , , , , , ,

Medical Monday: Seedy Toe aka White Line Disease

This week on Medical Monday we’re going to examine Seedy Toe: a disease of the hoof wall wherein the wall separates from the white line.


  • Improper hoof care – allowing the wall to grow too long or cracks in the wall.  The weight of the horse can actually push the hoof wall outwards and may allow gravel, dirt and other debris to enter the newly created hole and make it bigger.
  • May be a result of chronic laminitis – the sensitive and insensitive laminae are already separated.
  • An injury to the coronet band can cause seedy toe.


  • Horse may appear lame (or may not, depending on the severity)
  • Inner surface of the toe will have a “seedy” appearance (dry, crumbly texture)
  • If you tap the area in question it may make a hollow sound


  • The diseased part is hollowed out and then packed to make sure no debris gets in
  • The hole needs to be kept clean and, when seedy toe is not a result of chronic lameness, horse should make a full recovery as the hoof grows out.


  • Proper, regular hoof care by a qualified farrier
  • Management of chronic laminitis
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Health


Tags: , , , , , ,

Medical Monday: Choke

Photo from

Choke occurs when a horse gets something lodged in their esophagus which prevents them from getting enough food and water to their digestive system.


  • Medications – tablets and bolets (large pills) can become lodged in the esophagus
  • Feeds such as grains, dry hay and lush grass can become impacted within the esophagus.  Especially problematic with horses that bolt their feed.
  • Poor teeth – if horse swallows food without sufficiently moistening it, it may then become lodged in the esophagus.
  • Abnormal growths in the esophagus
  • Spasms of the esophagus

Symptoms (Will vary from horse to horse)

  • Horse may appear distressed and/or anxious (pacing, head shaking, etc.)
  • May extend head/neck outwards and then bring chin back towards chest repeatedly
  • Horses typically drool saliva, nasal discharge of a mixture of saliva and food (this symptom may be mistaken for strangles – a vet should be consulted before any home remedy administered)


  • Veterinarian may try to push a stomach tube past the obstruction
    • If the tube passes through to the stomach, it usually indicates that the obstruction is most likely due to a foreign body, growth or spasm, all of which usually require surgery
  • If it’s a food blockage, it may become loosened/dislodged while trying to push the stomach tube in, or it may be moistened/dissolved by pumping in water
  • If choke caused by a spasm, veterinarian may administer muscle relaxants and/or sedatives


  • Medications – if horse is prone to choke, do not feed tablets or bolets
  • Feeds – soak hay, spread feed out or add smooth rocks to slow down horses with a tendency to bolt feed
  • Make sure fresh water is available at all times
  • Teeth should be kept in good condition
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Health


Tags: , , , ,

Stable Vices Overview

Stables vices are bad habits typically found in stabled horses.  They are usually due to stress, boredom, isolation and/or excess energy.  Vices are destructive behaviors that can be bad for the barn (damage to stalls), bad for the horse (see below for examples) and result in additional costs and expenditures (including anything from the purchase of additional bedding to exorbitant vet bills).

Vices Include:

  • Bedding eating
  • Biting
  • Blanket chewing
  • Bolting feed
  • Chewing
    • Can cause abnormal wear on the teeth and may result in the ingestion of splinters
  • Cribbing
    • Can cause abnormal wear on the teeth
  • Pawing
    • Can cause abnormal wear on the hooves and may loosen/dislodge a shoe
  • Stall kicking
    • Can cause injury to hoof/leg
  • Weaving/Circling
    • Can cause abnormal wear on the hooves


  • Providing a toy (in the stall and/or paddock) such as a ball, traffic cone, or hanging an empty milk jug, can help to reduce boredom
  • If your horse is kicking the stall, considering padding the walls to prevent/reduce risk of injury
  • Providing a companion for your horse – goats, chickens and donkeys, oh my!
  • Move your horse to a different stall – may like the location better, more/less hullabaloo (obscure word FTW!)
  • Move your horse to a calmer, smaller barn
  • Providing more feed – if you’re worried about your horse gaining weight, you can substitute a lower quality hay
  • Ensure that your horses feed is meeting its daily nutritional requirements – some of these behaviors may be indicative that something is missing.
  • Feeding more frequently – maybe feed less at each feeding but more frequently throughout the day
  • If the bad habit is from excess/nervous energy the solution is quite simple – your horse needs more exercise! (an outlet for the energy)  I feel like adding a “duh” here.  I’m going to go for it: Duh.  This can be achieved through increased workouts, by being turned out longer and/or in a larger area, allowing them to wander about more freely.  You may also try turning your horse out with other horses to allow them to interact and play, this way they can exercise themselves a bit and it may also help reduce stress.

It may even be the case that it’s not just one cause that’s resulting in the “vice” behavior.  There may be a number of causes and you may need to try a number of combinations to see what produces the best results and leave you with the happiest horse possible.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 1, 2011 in General, Health


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Medical Monday: Equine Infectious Anemia (aka Swamp Fever)

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is an infection of the blood spread by biting insects such as mosquito’s and various biting flies.  Pregnant mares that become infected are automatically assumed to have transmitted the disease to the foal and both mare and foal (once birthed) should be kept in isolation until the foal is weaned and can be tested.  The foal should not be tested prior to weaning as it may give a false positive due to ingesting antibodies from the mare’s colostrum.

There are three “levels” of EIA;

  • Acute
    • Symptoms appear within 1-4 weeks of first exposure
    • Sudden fever, often reaching upwards of 105°F
    • Rapid weight loss, anemia (in EIA the horse’s own white blood cells may attack its red blood cells) and hemorrhages of the mucous membranes
  • Subacute
    • Horse may have several bouts of fever, with normal periods in between
    • Weight loss is more pronounced in this level since it is more due to its longer duration
    • Horse may become depressed and stop eating altogether
    • Anemia may be more severe
    • Swelling of the legs and lower abdomen
  • Chronic
    • Horse may experience periods of fever, anemia and weight loss.

Any “level” of EIA can occur without any outward signs of the disease.


  • There, unfortunately, is no effective treatment at this time.
  • Once a horse contracts this virus it is impossible to eliminate it from the body.  If the horse survives the virus it will be a carrier for as long as it lives.


  • Fly and mosquito population control
  • Sterilization of medical equipment (including dental equipment)
  • Test all new horses (including new purchases and new boarders)

In my research for this article I found a few conflicting facts on the virus and so have included links to a few different sources for your own edification.  My primary source for this article comes from the “Horseman’s Veterinary Encyclopedia, Revised and Updated” published by The Lyons Press in 2005.  If you have any questions about this disease or suspect your horse may have come in contact with it, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Health


Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: