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I am in awe of the large animal veterinarian—no lie. I nursed vague dreams of entering the profession in my James-Herriot-loving youth, until someone told me vet school is more difficult than medical school. And that was that. Besides, I wanted time to ride.

It is clear from a glimpse into a day in the life of TSB author Dr. Bob Grisel that there certainly would not have been time to ride. In fact, we’re wondering how he managed to write his book EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN! As anyone who has written and published a book can attest, the process demands long hours and, at times, lightning-fast turnaround. This can be challenging to accommodate in the most-normal-of-horse-person schedules. Even more incredibly, Dr. Grisel edited and narrated over hundreds of sample videos from the field to help educate the reader’s eye, all viewable via easy-to-scan links in the book. And he did it all while somehow making it to his daily appointments on time and being part of a family.

Whoa.

If you need convincing of his superhero status, just read on.

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4:45 am I wake up to find a pair of warm, soft, two-year-old feet resting on my face. They would belong to our youngest son, who sometimes (always) sleeps in bed with his mom and me. Mom is already out of bed and has started brewing the coffee, which will comprise some (all) of my breakfast. Since they haven’t been able to make fruit and yogurt taste and act like coffee yet, the latter will have to do. In the meantime I jump in the shower and get dressed. My wife hands me a coffee cup the size of Rhode Island as I head out the door.
 
5:35 am I arrive at the office and fire up my computer. I quickly check the calendar to see what lies ahead for the day: surgery in the morning and lameness evaluations/treatments for the remainder of the day. Shouldn’t be too bad. I am hoping to make it back home before our young son goes down for the night.

A quick peek at my email reveals a message containing a photo from a new client who I’ll be meeting a little later in the day. Her mare recently developed a swollen knee and corresponding forelimb lameness. The owner is extremely worried, as the mare is apparently quite uncomfortable.

I also find a message from a client who is currently searching for a new horse in Holland. She’s found one she likes and wants a quick opinion. She’s already been waiting almost four hours for a reply (seeing as I’m based in Georgia, and they’re six hours ahead over there), so I figure I better take a look. The horse is displaying a mild combination lameness in the right front limb (looks like fetlock joint pain), so I suggest that she pay close attention to this limb during any potential forthcoming pre-purchase evaluation. I write down a few phone numbers and head for the door.

Janet (our Pharmacy Manager) has left my truck order of medications and supplies directly in front of the doorway in the hopes that if I don’t see it I’ll trip over it on my way out. Everything makes it into the truck, including some extra Advil for my (now) sore knee.
 
6:00 am  I was hoping to leave a little bit earlier, as it has gotten more difficult to beat Atlanta traffic in recent years. The first appointment is near the Alabama-Georgia state line and takes almost two hours of driving time to reach. Fortunately, I have enough coffee to last me the rest of the month.
 
7:00 am  While driving, I glance over at the passenger seat to find an egg sandwich that my wife made and placed there while I was in the shower almost two hours earlier. There’s nothing better than my wife! I begin to wonder which is more difficult for her: taking care of our two-year-old or taking care of me. But I quickly become distracted with the sandwich and stop thinking about it.

While eating, I receive a call from a farrier about a horse I saw the previous week in Raleigh, North Carolina, during an out-of-town work trip. We have a very productive conversation despite my inability to speak with a mouthful of egg sandwich. Perhaps it is my lack of talking that makes the conversation so productive(?)

Working with farriers has become one of the highlights of my job, although I doubt it is nearly as fun for them. Most farriers mitigate a menagerie of opinions on a daily basis: some from vets, some from owners, some from other farriers, and some from folks who have a cousin that is thinking about apprenticing with a farrier. I’m glad that farriers do what they do, because I certainly couldn’t do it. They are generally underrated and underappreciated in my opinion.
 
8:00 am I arrive at the first call to find the owner and attending veterinarian at the barn with our patient, a 27-year-old gelding requiring enucleation (eye removal). The horse is an extremely sweet and classy animal, and truly adored by his owner. I always feel an increased sense of responsibility when working with an animal that fully trusts me. I also worry about performing general anesthesia on a horse this age, as there are some aspects of induction and recovery that we can’t always control as veterinarians.

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Eye surgery. Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.

10:30 am  Fortunately, everything goes well with the surgery and anesthesia; the horse is back in his stall and looking for breakfast by the time I get my truck packed up to leave. I didn’t get much blood on my clothes, but I change them anyway so that the next client doesn’t think that I just came from a gang fight.

Thirty-five minutes to the next appointment, which is scheduled for 11:30 am. I have time to complete one follow-up phone call to a Raleigh client who informs me that his horse is doing much better since my visit last week. Always good to hear!
 
11:10 am  I arrive at the next barn, which is a frequent stop for my practice. I have two lameness evaluations there: the first is a horse “due” for hock and coffin joint injections; the second is a new horse that apparently can’t canter in either direction.

After examination, I decide that the farrier (a good friend of mine) can probably fix the second horse’s issue via some angle adjustments in the hind feet. The owner is very relieved to hear that “no needles are required.” I make a plan to call the farrier on my way to the next appointment, which is only 15 minutes away.

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Coffin joint injection. Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.

1:15 pm  I am fairly shocked to be driving to my 1:30 pm appointment and still on time. In addition to calling the farrier for the horse I just saw, I also call my wife to see what kind of mood our youngest is in: This will directly affect the way my wife’s day goes, which in turn directly affects the way my day goes. She informs me that he woke up in a great mood…Perfect! Apparently “face-warming” his feet overnight was helpful.
 
1:30 pm  I arrive at the next appointment to learn that the client was unable to be present for the evaluation. I call her to confirm that I had received her email with the photo of the swollen knee earlier in the day. I always try to connect with the client at some point(s) during the visit to make sure that we stay on the same page throughout the diagnostic and treatment processes. She says there has been some concern about both of her mare’s knees since she was purchased several years antecedent to this recent injury.

I confirm that the swelling is associated with the lateral digital extensor tendon along the top and outside aspect of the right carpus (knee). Although this type of injury can be ugly, it is rarely a cause of lameness in my experience. It is possible, however, that an affected horse might display mild non weight-bearing lameness if the damage is very severe.

The good news is that this horse exhibits purely weight-bearing gait deficits during active examination, telling me that the knee (and associated swelling) is not our problem. The bad news is that now I have to call the owner (whom I’ve never met) and explain that her horse has another issue altogether. Fortunately the conversation goes better than expected, and I’m able to leave for the next call 30 minutes early. Yeah! Ahead of schedule!
 
2:45 pm  The extra 30 minutes vanish like a magic trick as I find myself sitting in an Infamous Atlanta Traffic Jam (IATJ). The 50-minute drive turns into 75 minutes due to an accident on the opposite side of the highway (I try not to speculate how this could be, but it be). It’s times like this that my mind often drifts toward thinking about our oldest son, who is a Chinook helicopter pilot in the Army National Guard. I start crunching numbers with respect to how feasible and cost-effective it would be to slide my veterinary truck box into the back of that chopper and fly between appointments. I haven’t come up with a concrete solution yet, although it is not from a lack of working at it.

I finally force myself to stop thinking about “Equine Heli-Vet Services” and make a few more follow-up phone calls to clients. I also check in with the first client of the day to make sure that our old friend is still recovering well from surgery.

4:00 pm  I arrive to the next appointment (still on time), where there are two horses waiting on me. The first appointment is for a recheck evaluation and shock wave therapy on a chronic hind medial suspensory branch tear. Our clinical and ultrasonographic reexaminations suggest that the tissue is healing well, although this type of injury tends to be very stubborn. After some discussion, I am able to coax my client into waiting another six weeks prior to rechecking the horse and considering limited turnout/ exercise. The client asks me to relay the highlights of our examination to her farrier… something I will try my best not to forget to do while I’m driving.

I notice that the second horse has an enlarged right temporomandibular joint (between the skull and jaw bones). I often see this in conjunction with an ipsilateral lameness in the hind limb (on the same side of the horse). The theory is that a horse with a hind-limb lameness may be unwilling to bend in the direction toward the affected side, thereby forcing the rider to use more rein tension along the respective side. The latter action is often implicated as a common instigator for unilateral (one-sided) “TMJ.” In the case of this horse, we decide to treat both his right hind lameness and temporomandibular pain, the latter via intraarticular injection(s). I am expecting that he’ll feel much better pursuant to the treatment(s).

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TMJ injection. Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.

6:30 pm  On my way to the next appointment. Somewhere along this trek I decide to change my shirt again, as the last one is getting fairly damp and dirty. I also leave a voice message for the farrier of the horse with the suspensory branch issue (I didn’t forget!).
 
6:50 pm  Arrive at my 7:00 pm appointment, which involves a horse that has historically responded very well to Pro-Stride (i.e. IRAP and PRP) treatment for chronic arthritis in his neck. We decide to retreat him as preparation for a rigorous upcoming show schedule. The procedure entails ultrasound-guided injection of the articular facets, a technique that I developed as a young surgery resident 25 years ago and first presented at the AAEP Convention in 1996. It’s still very much fun to do after all of these years (perhaps a little like playing video games). All goes well and I’m back on the road within 90 minutes.
 
9:05 pm  I arrive at my last call only to learn that the client hasn’t made it to the barn yet (some excuse about getting stuck in traffic… go figure). While I wait, I am able to review and run the following day’s appointment schedule from my phone, with the hope that I can stay relatively punctual again. Ann, our office manager, has already filled in the schedule for me; I only have to organize it. Easy!

I also find enough time to respond to another client who sent some video footage of a horse that we treated the previous month…she wants to confirm that all is going as expected. I respond with a thumbs-up!

9:20 pm  The client eventually shows up and explains that he needs an “emergency pre-purchase” examination on a horse, who is otherwise being shipped back to Virginia first thing the following morning. I can’t say that these are my favorite cases. The horse is thin, debilitated, and quite lame in both the left front and right hind limbs.

The examination is cut short when we find a P1 subchondral cyst in the left front fetlock joint during initial radiographic examination (we imaged the left front limb first, suspecting a problem there). Fetlock cysts of this nature can be very challenging to manage over the long term, and my client judiciously bows out of the deal.

As a result of the abbreviated examination, I am on my way home by 10:30 pm. I’ve got 40 minutes to get there!
 
10:40 pm  While driving, I call my son (the helicopter pilot). We talk most evenings, and I find it very relaxing (“unwinding”) to speak with him after work. Our conversation is usually limited to dirt bikes, sports cars, and helicopters. He is the inventor of the term “Ketchup Day,” which has historically been used in our family to denote my first day home, following an extensive out-of-town work trip. The term has now been in use for well over 20 years.

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The Grisel kids! Photo courtesy of Dr. Bob Grisel.

11:15 pm  As I pull into the truck bay beneath our house, I am ecstatic to see my wife and youngest son walking though the door together…he is still awake and appears to have gotten taller since I last saw him! A quick dinner and shower for me and then straight to bed for the three of us. The rest of the texts, emails, etc. will have to wait another day. I’m hoping to sleep well tonight, as tomorrow is Monday and the start of a whole new week.
 
11:22 pm  My last thought as I drift off to sleep: “Rats! I got the feet again!

 

Dr. Grisel’s book EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

Be sure to read the other installments of TSB’s “Horseworld By the Hour” blog series:

TIK MAYNARD

JEC ARISTOTLE BALLOU

KENDRA GALE

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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FutureIsthePast-horseandriderbooks

In 2017 and together with Kenilworth Press in the UK, TSB released the book SPORT HORSE SOUNDNESS AND PERFORMANCE by Dr. Cecilia Lönnell. George Morris was an enthusiastic supporter of the premise of Dr. Lönnell’s book, and so wrote a detailed foreword that makes many points that are of great value to all of those within the horse industry who are striving to do better by the horses we ride, train, and love. Here, in its entirety, is George’s foreword:

I’ve known Cecilia Lönnell for a long time, having shown extensively in Sweden and taught many, many clinics there over the years. I’m very fond of her and fond of that country. To be asked to participate in a book that also features such an illustrious young group of equestrian superstars is a great honor.

What Cecilia has done here is she’s gone back to the past and at the same time shown how knowledge from solid experience is supported by modern equine veterinary research. Nothing here is new, and that, with horses, is always better. I never in my life spent in equestrian sport pretended to reinvent the wheel. I was a copier. I copied Bert de Némethy. I copied Gordon Wright as a teacher. I copied Bill Steinkraus. To this day my whole day is spent trying to understand old, classic principles. Be it teaching, be it riding, be it training, be it care of the horse – that is all I try to do, every day of my life. Gordon Wright used to say, “Nothing is new, we just do it better and quicker than we used to.” And that’s what we get from the best horsemen – it isn’t new, it just might be better and quicker.

Here, Cecilia has encapsulated all the points it takes to produce a horse – be it a pleasure horse or an Olympic horse, it doesn’t matter. The points laid out on these pages are about what is best for the horse. Often in competitive riding, in all disciplines, we go off on tangents that are contrary to the best interests of the horse. Artificial devices, artificial footing – this is not what’s best for the horse.

 

When you talk about horses and you talk about horse sport as Cecilia is, your first consideration is the management of the horse. If you buy a Hickstead or an Azur and send him to a third-rate boarding house, in about two seconds, you’re going to have a third-rate horse. The most important thing is what the great old Virginia horsewoman and trainer of Conrad Homfeld and Joe Fargis Frances Rowe used to call “beautiful care”: how the barn is set up, the bedding of the stall, the feed programme, the vet, the equine dentist, the farrier, the quality of the grooming – it all should be  beautiful care. Many of the riders quoted in this book are more hands-on in terms of stable management than I ever was, but our mission is the same: to give our horses  beautiful care.

The greatest horsemen in the world – and I’m not necessarily talking about riding here – are the English. They always have been. Now I’m not saying the French, the Germans, the Swedes, the Dutch aren’t good horsemen – they’re all great and each is different – but I’ve traveled just about every country in the world and as far as the care and management of the horse, the greatest horsemen in the world are the English. That’s why all the continental riders get English grooms to take care of their horses – horse care is in their blood. Being an American from the Northeast part of the country, I grew up with an offshoot of English horsemanship, and the whole thing is based on  natural: turning horses out, riding through the country. Carl Hester revolutionized dressage because he approached it from a technical, scientific point of view, but allowed his English horsemanship to take it to a different level. We all know he is, yes, a very talented rider, but what really “woke up” the dressage world is that he hacks his horses out, turns his horses out, shows that dressage horses should not be circus animals confined in stalls. He, and many other contributors to this book, assert that this should be the standard.

Bert de Némethy, who was a Hungarian trained in Germany, managed the US equestrian team beautifully during his tenure, and he always had us work our horses on different surfaces – something that Beezie Madden notes as key in this book and is also supported by scientists. We would base at Aachen and Bert would have us ride gymnastics on the turf fields (which are now some of the warm-up rings) but often we also rode in the old dressage ring where the footing was quite deep. I would cheat with my hot horses that were above the bit – I would get them on the bit by tiring them out in that deep sand. But we rode on the roads, we rode on the turf, we rode in sand. Today too many horses are always worked on the same artificial “perfect” footing, as some call it.

After management of the horse, the next most important consideration is selection of a horse for his rider and for his “job.” And this is just as applicable to a school horse as it is to Big Star. The school horse is just as valuable as Big Star. Actually, everyone knows there’s nothing as valuable as a top school horse! Selecting the right horse for a particular rider and a particular job depends on a mix of experience and instinct – some people, even laymen who maybe aren’t so experienced, they have an eye for a horse, whether the best fit for an amateur hunter rider, a top dressage rider, a four-star eventer, whatever. The great thing about this book is that Cecilia has included this kind of information, and it is dispensed by individuals who are current, they are champions, people know them. They’re not people like myself, out of the dark ages. Their advice is all very relevant, and they are all saying the same thing.

Next you get to my pet peeve: the way people ride their horses. The United States historically has always been very weak in dressage. It is an afterthought. In the early days we had Thoroughbred horses that were so courageous and so special that we fudged dressage. Now we’ve finally caught up, and England has caught up, but “fudging dressage” is still haunting the world, because I go all over the world and people are faking it everywhere. Faking it and tying horses down is crippling horses. There was a great about-face five  or six years ago because of Rollkur. Overflexing horses is very damaging to the horse, and luckily, it has taken a swing for the better. However, it is not good enough, especially in the jumpers – event horses and dressage horses have to more or less stay to the correct line because they are judged, but jumpers, they just strap them down, tie them down, put this on them, that on them, and away they go. The sport community – jumpers, eventers, dressage riders, and I mean in every country – must address how we work the horse, that whatever the discipline, it should be according to classical principles. The dressage work for sport horses has been a weak link, probably throughout history. And it still is a weak link. And I will speak up about it. It’s not rocket science. There are books hundreds of years old that tell you how to work a horse!

ARHORS

Like this one!

In addition to not fudging dressage, great riders don’t overjump. The two cripplers of a horse are footing and jumping. Knowing this, all the great riders don’t overjump. We work a horse every day for condition, for discipline, for rideability. A friend of mine, Peder Fredricson (a Swede), he works the horse beautifully, so I will pick him out. He works a horse without auxiliary reins, he’s had a vast background in correct dressage, and I watched him at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where his quality of work was rewarded as he won individual silver. I am closely aligned to Beezie Madden – I know she’s not an overjumper. Laura Kraut is definitely not an overjumper. John Whitaker, my idol of all the people I’ve ever seen, since I started riding – he’s my idol of idols – he hacks out, he walks on roads, he doesn’t overjump his horses. I was a driller when I was young. I drilled horses and was a culprit of overjumping. That’s how I know that overjumping is the kiss of the death. At best a horse gets stale, at worst he gets sore or lame.

These three important points – management, selection, and how we ride – are the topics Cecilia has pulled together in this book under the auspices of the superstars and scientists of today, giving old information credibility. And in some ways it’s all old news…but it’s forgotten news. Lots of young people today, they’re so competition-oriented, they forgot the whole point. Horse show horse show horse show. Ranking ranking ranking. I wouldn’t still be doing this sport the way I still do it, teaching and riding, if that was all it was. That is very, very limited. These “desperate housewives” and “weekend warriors,” as I call them, have not yet been influenced to understand the point. And that is the point of this book. When I was under the tutelage of Bert de Némethy, we were a very classy group of young guys – we could afford to live well. But we learned from him and our other trainers in those days, the point was the daily work, the dressage, the beautiful care. The horse show was just an occasional test that showed us where we were in relation to the other people; then we went home and took care of our horses, schooled our horses. But a lot of people at horse shows today, all over the world – it’s not just one country – they’ve lost the plot of what this is about. It’s not just about rankings, points, and selection for championships – that’s the icing on the cake.

Cecilia has done a great service to the sport: What she has gathered here is so correct, all going back to the past, but couched in modern perspective. People say about me, “Oh, he’s old fashioned. The sport has passed him.” Well, the greatest compliment I can get as a horseman is that I’m old-fashioned. The sport has not passed me; there’s nothing different about working a horse the classical way, about caring for him as suits his nature. The future is the past.

–George H. Morris

 

SportHorseSoundnessFinal-horseandriderbooksSPORT HORSE SOUNDNESS AND PERFORMANCE is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. 

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

And if you are interested in more from George Morris, UNRELENTING, his bestselling autobiography, is also available.

CLICK HERE to read more George. 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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