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Thursday 21st January evening talk blog


Another great informative evening with a pretty near full house!

Jess on lameness: Our own vet Jess Rees gave a fantastic overview of lameness investigation, with videos and audience participation (but phoning a friend was not allowed!!) and lots of pictures to accompany a great clear and logical explanation of how we go about investigating the lame horse.


It really made clear how important knowing the full history of the animal is; all those little niggles like jumping to the right, landing on a particular leg, suddenly becoming resistant to the aids or to being tacked up, going disunited in canter – so helpful to us when putting the pieces of the jigsaw together.

A jigsaw is a great analogy: we just have to get all the pieces to fit. Thoroughly examining the horse, particularly the limbs, feet and back give us vital clues about what bits may or may not be involved in the problem.


The next step is seeing the horse move, ideally in walk, trot, on hard and soft lunges, in tight circles and reversing, cantering and in some cases ridden.
We need to identify a clear and consistent problem in order to go on and perform nerve blocks to help us focus in on areas which are definitely involved.


Jess showed great pictures and videos of the importance of intimately knowing the anatomy of the limbs and carrying out blocks into and close to joints under sterile conditions.

We then had a great overview of diagnostic imaging procedures:
• X-ray
• Ultrasound
• Nuclear scintigraphy (bone scanning)
• Arhtroscopy

And finally a few of the many solutions to lameness issues in horses. I particularly liked the pictures of Jess carrying out a PrP (platelet rich plasma) injection into a horse with damage to its patellar ligament in the stifle. The PrP is harvested from a blood sample taken from the horse which is run through a special filter …while you wait! Now you wouldn’t get that on the NHS !!

PrP1 PrP2

Rob Jackson on back dysfunction and pain – Jess then handed over to Rob, an equine orthopaedic surgeon with 20 years experience of looking at and treating lame and poorly performing horses. Rob now only treats horses with back issues. He gave a detailed talk about the skeletal and soft tissue anatomy of the horse, and described brilliantly how the joints of the vertebrae (called facet joints) get stuck sometimes and prevent the horse from moving properly. His treatments focus on manipulations which encourage the horse to free these joints up themselves by placing them in positions where the body has to release the “stuck” joints.


There were many ACPAT physiotherapists in the room and the Q and A session was fascinating. The take home message was about the importance of vets working together with good physiotherapists to keep horses in work and functioning properly through the spine.


Rob also described how he is surprised how many horses he sees with gastric ulceration that also have back pain. He posed some very interesting questions about the way the nervous system works and told us to “watch this space …”


Safer Horse Rescue and Equine First Aid – Take home messages

Cheltenham Equine Safer Horse Rescue and Equine First Aid Cheltenham Horse Rescue

Thank you to all who came along to support our evening of talks on 3rd November 2015. Despite a real November evening (read dark, wet and cold!!) we had a fantastic turnout and raised over £350 towards specialist equine rescue equipment for the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue team. Michael Keel is a fantastic speaker, thank you so much Michael for coming to share your passion with us.

Here we summarise some of Michael’s take home messages, with the emphasis being on SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY!!

1.Are there any people who are trapped, hurt or injured?

Injured people have to be the primary concern. The animal rescue team and veterinary surgeon can of course be contacted at the same time as an ambulance.

2. Is the horse trapped or stuck?

A trapped or stuck horse is a dangerous situation requiring skilled and trained people to assess and address the situation. Your vet and the fire brigade should both be contacted immediately. That does not mean that there is nothing for you to do. As a bystander your time is best spent ensuring that everything is in place for a fast and safe rescue.

Assume that the trapped horse is unsafe to approach.

Trapped horses often appear calm, especially if they are unable to move. However they are often unpredictable and may struggle and explode. Owners often want to get close to their trapped horse to try to calm them, however the trapped horse is not the horse that you know on a day to day basis. In such situations they are likely to rely on fight or flight instincts and as such can be very dangerous. The best advice is NOT TO APPROACH the trapped horse until skilled help arrives. If the horse is calm and quiet your approach may upset him. If the horse is struggling this is an extremely dangerous situation and should be avoided.

If you do approach the horse:

  • make certain that you have called for veterinary and animal rescue assistance first.
  • consider your own safety and exit route
  • ensure that someone is with you who can get help if necessary
  • wear a riding hat or other approved head protection
  • consider the “safer zone” and “head butt zone” before you approach (see diagram)

safer zone

For a horse found on its side: approach from the spine side of the horse away from the legs and the head which can be very mobile.  Sudden violent kicking and head and neck movement  can still occur which can cause serious injury to personnel.

Control of the head

One of the first things that a trained animal rescue team will do is ensure that they have adequate control of the horse’s head. With this in mind it is very helpful to ensure that you have a good headcollar and lead rope and if possible lunge line or long length of rope prepared for when the rescue team arrive.

Natural sedatives

If it is safe to approach the horse, a coat or towel placed over the horses eye(s) can often help, as can placing cotton wool in the horse’s ears. These simple measures can act as a natural sedatives to reduce stimuli whilst the rescue team arrive and assess the situation. It is important to stay very calm, as horses will often struggle if stimulated by bystanders or the rescue team. Do not remove other horses from the scene as a trapped horse will often panic if it feels isolated. However other horses should be adequately restrained and loose horses should be separated from the area where the horse is trapped.

Consider access for rescue team

Is there a locked gait or obstacles which could be moved before the rescue team arrive? Some vets don’t have 4 wheel drive vehicles so if fields have to be crossed to reach the horse someone with a suitable vehicle to cross them and carry equipment will be helpful.

Consider whether lifting equipment will be required

Some fire and rescue services (including Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service) do not have “off road” capability, so if the horse is stuck somewhere away from the road or hard standing and lifting equipment may be required, then you should consider seeking help from a local farmer with a front loader. They should be on hand but kept away from the horse until instructed by the skilled rescue team who will have appropriate strops and hoists.

Consider where the horse is going to go once rescued

Is additional transport needed? The aim will be to get the horse to a safe place separate from other animals and the highway, ideally with light, power and water.



A colourful evening with Horses Inside Out


There were times when the hours spent scrubbing chairs (mainly Ali, thank you Ali, is there anything you won’t do for this practice?) and filling in outlines of trapezius and hamstrings and quads muscles felt a long way from the average day at Cheltenham Equine Vets …and a lot further from the kettle too!!


The day at the Cotswold RDA started at 7.30 am for all involved, including those wonderful horses and their owners, Fo Burton with Martin and and Lydia with Herbie (I don’t even want to think about what time their alarms went off !!) Why the early start for an evening do? Well such a polished performance isn’t possible without practice under the careful guidance of Gillian Higgins and the Horses Inside Out Team, who are so experienced at getting it just right on the night for their events. Lydia was given instructions for her ridden work, Ali had to practice canter poles and jumping Mart on the lunge (glad I didn’t get that job!! I don’t think I’d have got Mart anywhere near the poles!!) and the most high pressure job of all …Jess and I had to practice getting the distances right on walk, trot and canter poles !!!

3 4

We had to practice early to be out of the arena by 9.30 for the Cotswold RDA to get on with their lessons. It was an added bonus being around all day whilst their lessons were underway; what incredible work they do with such a range of disabilities, so humbling to see. And the whole team at the RDA were so accommodating of our Cheltenham Equine Vets team as we got in the way, lost their keys (not once but twice!!) rummaged here, there and everywhere for extra chairs, used the wrong sink ….the list is endless …so thank you so much team RDA for your patience!

Eventually, after hours tucked away behind the scenes madly painting and plaiting (and ok we did manage the odd cuppa) 2 beautifully painted horses showcasing incredible soft tissue and bony anatomy emerged. It was like a metamorphosis …quite mesmerising even when you’d been looking at it all day.
There was just time for a sneaky glass of Prosecco (Dutch courage for Lindsay and Jess’s poles responsibility!) and some fish and chips (genius idea Emma) before people started to arrive.


The evening seemed to whizz by, despite being a little chilly and having to pause briefly for the loudest hailstorm in history. Those horses were wonderful. Not only did they stand in the first half whilst Gillian Higgins of Horses Inside talked us through the anatomy of the horse’s spine and the importance of posture, but they didn’t flinch during the storm, and then went on to show us how the anatomy works throughout the different paces and whilst jumping.


The changes in shape of the spine and pelvis during the carrot stretches were so impressive; the movements were slow enough to really see how the back becomes convex and concave as the horse adopts different head and neck positions. I was also interested to see how the skeleton and the saddle frame really demonstrated the changes that take place with tack and a rider on, and what we need to think about as riders, trainers, body workers and vets every time we work with these incredible animals.

8 9 10

We will certainly repeat this evening and we might invite Gillian to come and hold a small group workshop such as pilates for horses …so watch this space.

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