Monday, 31 August 2009

"Burning questions"

There was a great comment posted on a blog entry that I made a couple of days ago, and I hope the poster doesn't mind me using it here:

I can understand that you don't want to give advice on specific horses. But you have to understand that we are desperate out here! There are so few people that have seen many navicular horses. Here are my burning questions. They are general in nature though. As you see a horse recover do you begin under saddle exercise at the gait that they are sound in. Ex. if they are sound at the walk do you walk them under saddle even if they are not completely sound at trot? Do you give any palliative drugs such as bute or Adequan as you progress through recovery? How long (in general) is it for horses to recover...months? years?
I totally sympathise with the frustrations of wanting answers for your own horse - I was in exactly the same position myself, and its maddening, I know. I'm also aware that advice over the internet is usually disastrous, because its based on partial information, but I'll answer Ligeda's "burning questions" as far as I'm able to.

We work horses here only to the extent that they are sound. In practice that often means that "soundness" develops in gradual steps, so that a horse will be sound in a straight line in the field in walk before it becomes sound on a circle in trot on a concrete surface.

This mirrors how "navicular" horses become lame, so its not surprising that they become sounder in reverse, as it were. We always work with the horse's vet and we find that the horses' soundness generally improves as a result of correct work; its typically beneficial to work them within the limits of their soundness (but not beyond that!) as that limit then gradually increases.

We don't use analgesics and I can't really see circumstances when they would be useful in our set-up, although of course if the horse was prescribed drugs for a separate condition that would be another matter.

Some horses are already on bute when they arrive, but we ask owners to send horses here off bute, or else we stop it when they arrive. This is partly because we are able to use the different surfaces here to keep horse's comfortable and partly because we need to have a true picture of their soundness so that we can develop an effective rehab programme for them.

As to how long they take to recover, it is dependent to a large extent on how long they have been lame. A horse which has only developed soft tissue damage to the DDFT will recover more quickly than a horse who has damage which has progressed to the navicular bone itself.

However, as a rule we suggest owners need to send horses here for at least 8-12 weeks, as we need that length of time to make a difference to them. Normally they will be significantly sounder within that time period, and will make further progress at home over the next 8-12 weeks - so all in all, you should be able to see most of the benefit within 6 months or so, although sometimes horses carry on improving for longer.

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