Ruffian Equine Clinic Celebrates Successful First Year

Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists celebrated its first year in business on June 25 with an event held at the practice, located right across the street from Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Guests included Long Island-area owners, trainers, veterinarians, and other horse lovers.

The program featured talks by three Ruffian specialists and Scott Palmer, VMD, Dipl. ABVP, the equine medical director for the New York State Gaming Commission; all four are members of the faculty at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).

Dean Michael Kotlikoff, VMD, PhD, announced that the client entrance at hospital would be named the Dan and Jane Burke Foyer, in recognition of the couple’s support for equine programs at CVM. It’s a longstanding relationship: The dean noted that Dan Burke brought his first horse to Cornell in the early 1950s.

Hempstead, New York, Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney presented Kotlikoff and Chief Medical Officer Alan Nixon, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVS, with a certificate of recognition on behalf of the town board. The clinic “really is a gem,” said King Sweeney, who is a horse owner herself.

Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists opened on May 7, 2014 with Nixon; Lisa Fortier, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS; and Norm Ducharme, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, as the original medical team. The practice focuses on equine athletes, from Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses to sport horses that compete in dressage and jumping. Primary care veterinarians refer their patients for advanced diagnostic and medical care. Ruffian initially offered leading-edge orthopedic, respiratory, imaging, and regenerative medicine services. Kyla Ortved, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, and Samuel Hurcombe, BSc, BVMS, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVECC, joined Ruffian in August 2014, adding general surgery and emergency and critical care to the list.

In their first year, Ruffian specialists and staff served about a thousand horses, performing hundreds of procedures including bone scans, respiratory surgeries, and fracture repair. They also cared for a newborn colt whose dam died during his birth; he was named Sam I Am in Hurcombe’s honor.

The sophisticated imaging services at Ruffian expanded in June to include standing MRI unit. Older MRIs require anesthetizing the horse so it will lie still. Anesthesia and lying down for long periods of time can both lead to complications in horses. Nixon said a standing MRI provides excellent images of the lower limbs without anesthesia. Because there is a lower risk of complications, he said, it can be safely used more frequently, for example, to routinely scan a horse’s legs for weaknesses that could lead to a career-ending injury. Nixon cited the MRI, along with bone scans and serum biomarkers, as “new modalities” that will permit equine vets to “pick up on high-risk horses before there’s a breakdown.”

Looking ahead, Nixon described a robotic computed tomography scanner that can produce images of a horse’s entire body and an aquatread system for rehabilitation purposes. Both are currently in the planning stages.

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