Ask Horse Journal: 01/99

Drawbacks To One Caulk Hole Outweigh Benefits
I am an experienced farrier and read your article on caulks and studs (August 1998). For many years I have been shoeing for a trainer who is Pony Club-trained and shows preliminary and intermediate horse trials. She prefers to have only one stud hole per shoe, on the outside heel branch. This works well for her, but she is hesitant to suggest such use to her students. The students don’t really know, and I wish only to provide what is requested. I would appreciate your thoughts on the use of one hole per shoe so that I can discuss this with the trainer to the benefit of my clients.

-Nancy Zwicker

We find the drawbacks to one stud hole on a shoe outweigh the benefits. We also consulted with Steve Teichman of Chester County Farrier Associates and farrier for the U.S. Equestrian Team Three-Day Event squad, who said in a very specialized circumstance you might consider using one stud hole, but agreed that normally you should use two.

One advantage of having a single stud hole on the outside branch of the horse’s shoe, instead of two holes drilled in the heels of the shoe, as we described in our article, is elimination of the risk of the horse catching himself with an inside stud. One stud on the outside will also make the horse travel with his feet wider apart.

However, one stud per shoe also results in an uneven lateral landing surface for the hoof. If the hoof is not level when it hits the ground, the horse will absorb extra impact with the tendons and ligaments in his legs. Uneven concussion, especially on hard ground, can result in undue strain on soft tissues. Therefore, we recommend using two stud holes because it is easier to adapt to different footing conditions while maximizing the hoof’s natural balance.


EPSM Parallel Research
As the owner of a horse with a history of recurrent tying up (suspected EPSM), I appreciate the attention Horse Journal has paid to the problem (July 1996, October 1998). I wrote an article on the subject, in the course of which I interviewed Dr. Stephanie Valberg and Dr. Beth Valentine.

Valberg and Valentine are conducting “parallel” research on EPSM. While they seem to generally agree on the features of the defect and the benefits of altered diet and exercise regimens for EPSM horses, they disagree sharply on certain details.

Valberg thinks Valentine’s broader definition of EPSM, which in effect includes virtually every breed of horse, does a disservice to the goal of developing specific therapies to target the specific genetic defect that causes polysaccharide storage myopathy. Valberg identified the defect in Quarter Horses — she has identified the specific genetic defect in a particular line of Quarter Horses — Appaloosas, Paints, drafts and warmbloods. She believes Thoroughbreds tie up for different reasons.

They also disagree sharply on dietary recommendations, although both advocate a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, and disagree on the relative importance of diet and exercise in managing EPSM horses. Valentine believes that the high-fat diet pretty much cures the defect. Valberg says diet alone won’t prevent further episodes of tying up, without turnout and daily exercise. Valberg seems to feel that fat doesn’t work any particular magic, but it is a way to bypass the metabolic defect that prevents EPSM horses from properly processing carbohydrate. It’s complicated, and it’ll be awhile before all the answers are in, and much longer before the knowledge is widely accepted by vets and horse owners.

-Kay Frydenborg

We agree the idea that there is only one explanation/defect behind tying-up is too simplistic. However, we may eventually learn there is a common thread through many different breeds or a number of related genetic defects that are at the root of the problem and can be compounded/complicated by other defects or external factors.

Cutting back on grain and being religious about daily exercise and turn out are the cornerstones of tying-up management. However, feeding fat per se serves two purposes: It helps fill the energy/calorie void left when the grain is cut and may also, in time, push the metabolism of the muscle cell away from using carbohydrates/glycogen and toward a better utilization of fats.

The problem in tying-up — at least in horses that habitually tie-up and probably in those that only tie-up at specific points in their training (classically just as they are getting the most fit) — is an exaggerated storage of carbohydrate and more than likely an exaggerated breakdown when exercise starts. The same thing can happen in normal people if they load their muscles up with carbohydrate. The enzyme systems switch over from an emphasis on storing up the glycogen to one of breaking it down. It is not surprising that horses selectively bred over the years for power (draft) and speed (Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Quarter Horse) and possibly endurance (Arabian) have developed metabolic problems of this kind.

We are inching our way to a fuller understanding of tying-up. There may be varying degrees of a metabolic defect, more than one metabolic defect and various complicating/compounding factors that either worsen the problem or push the horse “over the edge.” For now, it is important to examine each case on an individual basis to formulate the best approach to treatment and prevention.


Healing Broken Bone
My 17.3-hand 13-year-old American sport horse (7/8 Thoroughbred, 1/8 Clydesdale) was found in the paddock on three legs last April, and X-rays revealed a Y-shaped fracture in a radius. He was kept on limited hand walking and stall rest. A third X-ray 1 ?? months ago showed the bone healed. When he was turned out, he ran, kicked and bucked, and later began to limp and walk stiffly. The vet said it was probably bruising of the new bone, so we are continuing turnout. My question now is: How will I know when he can be ridden’

-Jane Schaberg

As you can imagine, the problem of healing a fracture in a 17.3-hand horse, which probably weighs about 1,300 pounds, is a big one — especially when you haven’t put any plates or screws in the bone and couldn’t even use a cast to help limit movement. Bone heals slowly, and any forces that pull the broken edges apart even slightly can break apart the newly bridging bone.

He may have what is called a “malunion” or “nonunion.” In a malunion, the bone is partially healed by new bone but not completely. In a nonunion, the only thing holding the bone together is thick scar tissue, not bone. Neither will take punishment.

X-rays may make the diagnosis, but we suggest a bone scan. A bone may look healed on routine X-rays when it really is not, but the bone scan will pick up the increased activity of the bone cells that are trying to close the fracture. Call around to veterinary schools and large private equine clinics in your area to locate a place this can be done.

If the bone has not properly healed, you will need the advice of a top-notch orthopedic surgeon. Surgery may or may not be an option. Pulsed magnetic field therapy has been of help in humans and could be tried here (see September 1998).

Since the horse is 13, nutrition may also play a greater role than it would in a younger horse. Older horses have problems with mineral absorption, notably phosphorus — a key mineral to bone formation.

Make sure the horse’s total calcium and phosphorus levels in the diet at least meet, and preferably exceed, the NRC guidelines. It is also important to keep the ratio of calcium:phosphorus as close to the ideal (about 1.5:1) as you can (e.g. alfalfa is overloaded with calcium; switch to a mixed hay).

Vitamin D is absolutely necessary for bone healing. Vitamin D is manufactured in the horse’s body when he is exposed to adequate sunlig ht. With stall rest/confinement over months, a vitamin D deficiency is possible. Vitamin D can be supplemented orally but you might consider monthly vitamin D injections — they work more reliably since the vitamin actually gets into the horse.


Traction Devices And Leg Problems
If you have a horse with leg problems you know how important finding the correct shoes can be. The question of whether or not to use traction devices is a loaded one. If you don’t, you run the risk of aggravating a problem if the horse is slipping. If you do, too much grab can cause wrenching, twisting and overflexion. Grabs and studs may also make the horse more uncomfortable by forcing him to stay longer than he would like with the problem leg(s) bearing weight or might force him to break over in a way that is not the most comfortable for him.

The ideal compromise is to use only screw-in studs and only when necessary and remove them as soon as exercise is over. What works well for other horses you know might spell disaster for yours, so discuss your decisions with your veterinarian and farrier. As a general rule, you should go for caulks that provide the minimal amount of grab needed to get the job done. Materials must be carefully centered around the horse’s natural point of breakover and extend for the same distance on either side of that point. Not all horses will break over directly in the center of the shoe and this is especially true of a horse with a leg problem. If shoes are old enough, the wear at breakover point will be obvious. If shoes have not been on long enough to show that clearly, your farrier will probably be able to make the determination by studying the wear patterns.


Cold: Simple, Safe And Effective
Applying cold to injuries or inflamed joints is a common recommendation. However, few realize exactly how much you can accomplish with cold.

Cold applied to joints or tendons blocks the enzymes that break down cartilage and collagen. In fact, inflammatory processes in general are stopped “cold” — to the point an injury that would otherwise result in heat and swelling shows little or no external signs, if cooling is accomplished quickly enough.

Local application of cold to a joint causes a dramatic drop in the temperature of the interior of the joint. Ice packs for 30 minutes can cause a drop of 6?° centigrade deep inside the joint. Use of super-cold packs or immersion in ice water may cause drops of as much as 20?°. Gentle movement of joints during ice therapy helps to mix the super-cooled fluid throughout the entirety of the joint and gives the best results. Pain relief from cryotherapy is profound and lasts for up to 30 minutes after the ice is removed.

When ice is removed, temperatures continue to drop for about 10 minutes then gradual rewarming ensues, taking from 10 to 60 minutes to return to normal. Cold can be used throughout the course of treatment/rest of an injury (not just the first few days) and as a preventative measure after exercise. Of all the treatments available for sports injuries, nothing is as effective on as many symptoms and damaging inflammatory processes as cold.

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