Ask Horse Journal: 12/05

Separation Anxiety
I was recently given a mare and a gelding, both 18 years old. They’ve??been living together, with no other horses, for the past 12 years. I need to separate them, as someone wants to buy the mare. I’ve tried to get them used to being apart without success. They go nuts when they’re not together. The mare is sweet-natured otherwise, fun to ride, and a great little trail horse (hence selling her).?? The gelding has no manners, is extremely pushy, has no concepts of backing off and, hence, potentially dangerous.??

So now my question is this: I want to “drug” both of them for turnout, preferably something herbal and mild. Soon, I have to leave the farm for a week, and I’m a bit worried about them.

It’s highly unlikely anything herbal would work in this situation. Individual horses vary so much in their response to them that you would have to do a good bit of experimenting first to find one that had a reliable result, but even then there’s every likelihood that in the kind of stressful situation you’re talking about it wouldn’t work.?? On the pharmacological end of things, it’s possible that a short-acting benzodiazpine (like Valium) or low-dose Acepromazine (less than 10 mg, 1 cc) might relieve some anxiety but, again, probably not be totally preventative. You really don’t have time to spend playing with different drugs or dosages in this situation.

For the short term, while you’re away, the best approach would be to have them managed in whatever arrangement was reasonably well tolerated before, either turnout in paddocks near each other or even together again, if necessary. They’re obviously still closely attached to each other, so even putting them back in the same paddock for a week won’t be a step backward, since they haven’t really taken any major steps forward in terms of independence.

For the long term, you essentially need to “wean” them and should try to accomplish this before considering selling the mare, because her behavior in a new place after the separation can be unpredictable.??

Do you know someone with sufficient experience to deal with an anxious horse who could take one of them for a few weeks’?? Although mares are usually more strongly social, it does sound like between the two of them she would be the one to handle the separation better, as long as she didn’t have to deal with the stress of trying to incorporate herself into a new group at the same time.??

The gelding needs to transfer his attention/attachment more to you and is much more likely to do that if the mare isn’t around.?? Talk to your vet about the advisability of having a few days worth of low-dose “drugging” on hand to help deal with any excessive agitation.?? Otherwise, we’d give them some time to adjust to the separation, checking in on them frequently to verbally reassure, groom if they’re not too distracted, handwalk or turnout close to other horses but not put into a group yet.?? Once the initial anxiety lessens you can get on with trying to socialize them into a new group.


Alternatives For Sidebone Pain
Four years ago, my eight-year-old Hanoverian dressage horse damaged her coronary band, and the inside of her hoof grows poorly as a result. We’ve always made sure her foot was balanced and had the support of a bar shoe. She did well until last year when she began to show soundness problems.

We experimented with changing her shoeing but couldn’t get her sound. Radiographs revealed a large calcification above the damaged coronet band. This antler-like piece has broken off at the top. A temporary nerve block gave her significant relief. Several veterinarians recommend a neurectomy or retirement. I have reservations about completely nerving my horse, but I also hate to retire her. How long would freeze nerving last’ Will her sidebone worsen’

A wise first step is a bone scan to confirm the sidebone is actually the cause of the problem. It may be, but unless the radiographs have been progressive over time, you can’t be certain that’s the problem, because the history of trauma to that area of her hoof may be what caused the calcifications in your mare’s sidebone.

If there is no increased uptake in the area on bone scan, we’d next suggest an ultrasound of her foot to look for soft-tissue problems that might be causing her pain and would respond to local anesthesia, such as a problem with the suspensory ligament of the navicular or with the insertion of the deep digital flexor tendon. If she has an area of active inflammation and remodeling, continuing to work her could worsen the problem — even if she was nerved.

If the sidebone is the problem, you could try giving her an extended period of time off from formal work to see if the area would quiet down and become painfree. We’d recommend she was barefoot and kept on relatively soft footing during this time to minimize any type of concussion.

Transcutaneous freeze nerving is worth a try as the next step (it will leave white hairs in the area). With transcutaneous freezing, the nerve isn’t actually destroyed because there isn’t sufficient freezing at the level of the nerve to do that. The horse will still be able to feel sharp pain,but would have less sensation of chronic dull pain. Effects last about six months.

Your vets may be recommending surgical neurectomy because they believe she needs more pain relief than freezing would provide. You need to discuss this with them. An alternative freezing procedure is done through a small incision in the skin that allows the nerve to be more efficiently frozen. These procedures may last longer and provide a better effect. Otherwise, actually removing a section of the nerve is the surest way to block the pain, although nerves can regrow or develop painful growths at the cut end. If it does come down to a neurectomy, remember that she would only need nerve supply interrupted to the area of the sidebone on one side. Most of her foot will still have sensation.


Sinus Infections
We have an eight-year-old horse that developed a sinus infection two years ago.?? At first we thought she just had a bit of a snotty nose, maybe a cold, but was only in one nostril (the right).?? It ended up staying so we called the vet to come and check it. This was in the month of February.??

She diagnosed it as a sinus infection and started out with antibiotics.?? This didn’t work, so our next step was to take her to Guelph University in Ontario and have her flushed out. This was now in the month of May. ??She was there for 10 days, and she lost a lot of weight in that time.??

Two weeks to the day of bringing her home, she got it right back in the same nostril.??Now we had to take the next step:?? flap surgery. She spent three weeks back at the clinic, with more weight loss and being stall bound.

We gave her the season off from eventing and got back on her in September for some slow muscle-conditioning walks.?? By October she was getting back to being slightly conditioned and kept this up all winter.?? Unfortunately the sinus infection returned by February.?? We continued to work her, and my daughter decided to event her and then we’d see how she went before we decided to make any decision on what to do next.?? She’s ready for prelim. The cooler weather has helped, but a lot of times she had big globs of whitish/yellow in her nose.?? Most of the time she is forward and willing to jump anything.?? Her breathing is heavier at times but does not slow her down.

It has been suggested to take her back for another flap surgery, but I just don’t think we can put her through this again.??However, we don’t know how far we could take her with this condition.

There are multiple possible causes and also secondary influences that would determine i f the horse is actually symptomatic or not. With this case specifically, we would be most suspicious of poor sinus drainage on that side, quite possibly because of an anatomical variation such as a smaller than normal drainage opening somewhere within the sinus system.

When in moderate to heavy work, the combined effects of more turbulent airflow (a mechanical irritation) and possibly some on-and-off weakening of the immune response due to conditioning and heavy exercise, put her at increased risk of developing a bacterial or fungal colonization in the backed-up fluids. Sinus infections are most commonly related to problem teeth, but at her age, and with it coming and going that is less likely.

Your best course of action would likely be to find a facility that can do a CAT scan of her sinuses to see if they can determine any differences from side to side. If your mare’s problem is related to poor drainage, surgery specifically to provide her with adequate drainage is far more likely to actually solve the problem than the flap procedure and flushing.??Unfortunately, appreciation of drainage problems and surgical options for correcting them are nowhere near as advanced for horses as they are for humans, but with the help of a CAT scan, a little prodding and a surgeon willing to take a different approach you should be able to get better results.


Air Injections
Have you ever heard of injecting air into a horse’s shoulder’ I was amazed to hear of this process and wondered if it was a legitimate procedure. Is it worth trying in the right circumstance’

Injection of air under the skin is an old treatment for shoulder-area pain. Some feel it works by relieving pressure on inflamed tissues/nerves, but if you think about it pressure is actually increased when air is injected. The treatment has its roots in acupuncture, where air injection is used to apply continuous low-grade pressure to local acupuncture points.?? Still others hypothesize that the air is mild counterirritant. Whatever the explanation, it’s often successful.


West Nile And Hormones
My mare had West Nile virus when she was in foal three years ago, but produced a healthy colt. I don’t know if I should rebreed her or not. She’s 18 years old, and if I don’t breed her (since she had West Nile) she goes bonkers. I’m thinking it’s some type of West Nile virus hormonal problem. My veterinarian isn’t so sure.

As far as we know, WNV doesn’t cause any hormonal problems. However, any nervous-system infection can cause personality/behavior changes. Fortunately, this is rare. If the mare’s behavoir seems linked to her cycles, consider a full reproductive work-up, including an ultrasound of the ovaries, before making a decision.


Strangles Quarantine
What is the quarantine time for strangles’ We board about 100 horses, and 46 horses got strangles, with different symptoms.

It should be four to six weeks after the last horse is well. Any horse with an unresolved abscess should be in strict isolation. However, with so many horses involved, there’s a high possibility you may be dealing with some shedders. That is, the horses appear well but are continuing to shed the bacteria. In fact, an inapparent shedder is probably how the problem got started on your farm.

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