Horseman's Day at the AAEP Convention

The second annual Horseman's Day held in conjunction with the annual American Association of Equine Practitioner's (AAEP) Convention was an extreme success for all attendees. “We’re ecstatic,” said Lori Roberts, AAEP's Owner Education Director.

More than 350 people turned out to hear six speakers and in almost every case, were still raising their hands with questions when Moderator Eleanor Green, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ABVP, Dean of the University of Florida's Veterinary School, was forced to halt the discussion to introduce the next speaker. The speakers agreed to stay at the session so they could field questions during breaks in the program.

Horseman’s Day was held for the first time last year during the AAEP convention in San Antonio, Texas. It was considered to be an auspicious start with 90 horse enthusiasts attending. Most of the people in attendance at San Antonio appeared to be either from that area or were delegates to the National Arabian Horse Convention which was being held in the city. Many of this year’s attendees were from southern California, but they also came from places like Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Canada.

It is a program that will be continued next year at the AAEP convention in Orlando, Florida, and on into the future, says Roberts. “We are in this long-term,” she said.

Green asked attendees if they felt the program should remain with the one-day format or if it should be expanded to two days. The vote by raised hands was about even.

Following is a synopsis of the talks presented:

Brett Scott, PhD, professor and extension horse specialist at Texas A&M University, who jokingly told his listeners that he was going to cover the topic of nutrition for the lifetime of a horse in 45 minutes, was the leadoff speaker.

He divided his talk into three segments—pregnant and lactating mares, young horses, and performance horses. He explained how nutritional needs vary in the three categories and then outlined feeding programs to meet these needs.

The nutritional requirements of a non-lactating pregnant mare in the first eight months of gestation, he said, are much the same as the requirements for any normal, mature, idle horse. However, he told his listeners, in the last trimester, the mare’s nutritional needs become much greater and must be met with an upgraded feeding program.

After the foal is born, he said, problems sometimes arise because the youngsters eat the same feed as that provided for their dams. Foals, he said, have different nutritional requirements than their dams and creep feeding might be required to meet these needs.

The horse at work also has different nutritional needs, Scott said, and often requires a high-energy diet. He suggested the use of fat as an energy source.

Next on the program was Jack Snyder, DVM, PhD, chief of equine surgery and lameness at the University of California, Davis. His topic was “Colic, California Style”.

He drew a laugh when he began his video with a scene of a “California Horse” wearing dark glasses and riding a surf board, accompanied by music from The Beach Boys.

There are many things that can cause colic, he said, and every horse owner should have a plan as to how to handle the situation when it occurs. This includes, he said, deciding in advance whether expensive surgery is an option. The owner should also designate someone to make these decisions in his or her absence, he said.

Snyder said that when colic occurs, all food and water should be removed from the horse, a veterinarian should be notified, and the horse should be kept calm and as comfortable as possible. If the horse is behaving violently, he said, it should be walked slowly. Snyder told his listeners that it is okay to allow the horse to roll unless the rolling poses a danger to the horse or the handler.

He also offered tips for preventing colic, such as providing a constant source of fresh water, maintaining at least 60 percent forage in a horse’s diet, avoiding rapid changes in a feeding program, providing regular and routine exercise, minimizing transportation stress, developing a feeding program to aid in the prevention of enteroliths, controlling sand problems, using necessary medication to manage horses with gastric ulcers, and feeding grain only as needed for weight and performance.

Next on the program was K. Gary Magdesian, DVM, also of University of California, Davis, who discussed emergency first aid for the horse.

He defined emergency first aid as, “The emergency care and treatment of an injured or ill horse until the veterinarian arrives to provide needed medical and/or surgical treatment, or until the horse can be moved to an appropriate facility."

Magdesian recommended the following items for a horseman’s first aid kit: thermometer, flashlight, bandage material, easy boot, antibacterial soap, ivory soap, antiseptic, water soluble wound dressing, fly spray or ointment, hoof pick and hoof knife, shoe pullers and rasp, splint, bottles of sterile saline, and a veterinarian’s phone number.

He then described a series of emergencies that might arise and offered suggestions of how to cope with them until professional help can be summoned.

Leading off the afternoon session was Bill Moyer, DVM, head of the Department of Large Animal Medicine and Surgery at Texas A&M University. His topic was laminitis, which he described as an ailment that has touched the lives of a great many horses and horse owners and that will continue to do so.

Part of the problem involves horse owners who treat their horses as “apartment dwellers” instead of outdoor animals that need exercise, Moyer said. Far too many horses, he said, are grossly overweight and lacking in exercise. When horses like this are asked to perform laminitis can be the result.

By the time a horse owner realizes that the horse has foundered there often has been irreversible damage to the laminae, the soft tissue structures that exist between the hoof wall and the underlying coffin bone. After a bout with laminitis, he said, it is rare that the horse's feet will return to their previous condition.

When laminitis is suspected, he said, a veterinarian should be called immediately.

Addressing a problem that confronts many horse owners was G.F. Anderson, DVM, of Equine Veterinary Associates of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The title of his talk was “Trailer Loading Made Easy.”

Too many horse owners, he said, teach a horse how not to load instead of how to load because of the tactics they employ.

His prime tool when loading a problem horse is a six-foot stiff fishing rod with a plastic bag tied to the end. The object, he said, is to aggravate the horse with the rod and bag until he seeks escape from the aggravation inside the trailer.

Anderson showed a video that demonstrated his technique on a hard-to-load young horse. In a short time, the horse readily entered the trailer.

Closing out the program was Barrie Grant, DVM, MS, of San Luis Rey Equine Hospital, Bonsall, Calif.

He discussed diagnostics methods used to determine whether a horse is lame or whether it is suffering from neurological damage. If the tests indicate that there is neurological damage, he said, the next step involves taking a series of radiographs. The next diagnostic procedure, depending on radiographic results, might be a myelogram.

At the conclusion of his talk, Grant showed a film of perhaps his most famous patient—Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew who is now in his mid-20s. The horse was suffering from spinal cord compression that made it impossible for him to cover mares. Grant and members of his staff traveled to Kentucky where Grant successfully performed surgery that allowed Seattle Slew to return to the breeding barn.

A touching moment in the film came when Grant and a young assistant aided the magnificent stallion in getting to his feet after recovering from anesthesia.

About the Author

Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow is a free-lance writer based near Riverton, Wyo. He specializes in articles on equine research, and operates a ranch where he raises horses and livestock. He has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse, published by Eclipse Press and available at or by calling 800/582-5604.

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