Despite their size and strength, almost all horses will have a lameness issue at some point in their lives. When our veterinarians are called out to check your sore horse, the first thing we do is listen to your description of the problem. We need to know how long your horse has been lame and what you have observed. Then our actual exam begins with us quickly running our hands over the entire horse, checking for swelling or pain. Watching the horse move at a walk and trot in hand is the next step. You may be asked to lunge the horse in both directions at all of the gaits. Flexion tests of the joints to put stress on each, further narrows the problem area. Occasionally “blocking” may be required. Blocking is injecting the nerves over specific locations with a numbing solution just like your dentist uses. After the block has had time to work, you will be asked to move the horse again. If he goes sound, we have found the site of the problem. Once we have that, we will use ultrasound and/or digital X rays to image the joint, bone, or muscle to get our diagnosis. Only after a thorough soundness exam is done can we recommend what we should do to for treatment.
Our digital machine has been an invaluable tool for us. It enables us to “see” the fine details of the bones of your horse’s leg in real time. These are literally stall side radiographs. What that means is that when we take an image, within 5 seconds it appears on our laptop screen in your barn. We can show you any problem areas and discuss different treatments. This is very helpful when we are trying to assess your horse’s feet. If your farrier is present, we can discuss with him or her what steps can be taken to balance the foot. We can also send the pictures to your computer or a referral hospital by email.
We use our diagnostic ultrasound to visualize soft tissue structures in your horse. Over the past few decades ultrasound technology has improved dramatically. In lameness exams we use it to identify lameness causing lesions in muscles, tendons and ligaments. In conjunction with radiographs we are better able to determine exactly what the underlying issue is. Another use of the machine is to guide our needle in difficult to inject areas such as the sacroiliac joint. With the ultrasound we are able to monitor progress as your horse recovers from injury. We have another ultrasound dedicated to reproduction. It enables pregnancy diagnosis at about 15 days, and it is always exciting to see the fetal heart beat a couple of weeks later. By regular ultrasound exam of the ovaries we can determine best breeding times. The machine is also helpful in monitoring fetal growth.