AAEP Table Topic: Sport Horse Practice

A diverse group of practitioners discussed a variety of subjects related to treating and managing jumpers during the Sport Horse Practice (Jumpers) Table Topic, which was held at the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif. Approximately 125 participants attended this program.

An important aspect of the discussion was about communication and information sharing between veterinarians in an effort to provide optimum service and prevent duplication of treatments for horses that are traveling the show circuit. A method of direct contact between treating veterinarians was considered the optimal approach. Providing clients with specific veterinary contacts at competitions where the regular practitioner is not able to attend is another way to provide service to clients, according to veterinarians in the session. Also, they suggested establishing regional alliances with certain practices or individual veterinarians during seasonal travel to supply service to clients and flexibility to practitioners.

The topic of "maintenance" therapy of regularly scheduled joint injections was discussed. Most all participants agreed that a veterinarian should first conduct a diagnostic musculoskeletal examination to delineate areas of concern for treatment on each individual horse. There was a consensus that many jumpers have concurrent and compensatory issues to a primary problem, and that these issues might need to be treated at the same time or might resolve once the primary problem is dealt with adequately. Some practitioners elected to treat concurrently and some elected to follow the progress post-treatment and follow up if needed. Negative concerns that veterinarians expressed about same-time multiple treatments included: cost to clients that might not be needed; liability of treating a joint/area that does not have a specific problem, but develops a problem due to treatment (i.e., sepsis, or systemic infection); suppression of the immune system; and possible laminitis with certain medications.

Veterinarians discussed axial (neck, back, sacroiliac) musculoskeletal issues, and most agreed that this is an important area of consideration for jumpers that requires further investigation if they are to sort out many of the clinical conditions. Presently, most veterinarians are using a combination of clinical history, physical palpation, radiographs, ultrasound, and/or nuclear scintigraphy to isolate problems. Many felt that chronic lower leg problems could cause secondary upper body pain, and they agreed this concern needs to be addressed clinically. Treatment and management changes seemed to be effective to varying degrees among clinicians. Ultrasound-guided injections, shock wave therapy, medications, exercise management changes, and acupuncture/chiropractic were offered as effective strategies by some in attendance.

Other items of discussion included bits and the importance of good oral examinations, as well as the veterinarian's role/place in "advising" on daily training methods employed by their clients.

This table topic was facilitated by Duncan Peters DVM, MS, Certified in Equine Locomotor Pathology, of the Sport Horse Division, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, Lexington, Ky. He also wrote this report.

About the Author

Duncan Peters, DVM, MS

Duncan Peters, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVSMR, ISELP, is an associate professor in Large Animal Clinical Sciences focusing on equine lameness and sports medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. A University of California, Davis, graduate, Peters worked at sport-horse practices in California, Montana, and Kentucky. An FEI veterinarian, he was member of the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games' veterinary commission. Peters is an active horse owner and competes hunter-jumpers.

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