Archive for the ‘Horses’ Category

Unusual therapy animals make patients of all ages smile

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

According to the AVMA, therapy animals enhance people’s physical, social, cognitive and emotional function, but what’s important to the patients who encounter Napoleon the alpaca and Rojo the llama is that the animals make them smile. Lori Gregory of Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas in Vancouver, Wash., brings the pair to visit Providence Child Center in Oregon and other health care facilities, and she calls the outreach an “addiction.” Social worker Kelly Schmidt expressed gratitude: “I never realized the power animals have to bring healing and joy to people like this.” CBS News (4/9)

Therapy animals like dogs, cats and horses are sometimes brought into health care facilities to help people suffering from illnesses or physical conditions boost their health and happiness.

Llamas and alpacas: Portland’s fluffiest therapists

At least one Oregon children’s hospital is now employing two unique therapy animals to help patients smile: an alpaca named Napoleon, and a llama named Rojo (see slideshow to the left for more pictures).

CBS affiliate KOIN in Portland, Ore., reports the unique pair light up every room they enter at the hospital.

“I never realized the power animals have to bring healing and joy to people like this,” said Kelly Schmidt, a social worker at Providence Children’s Center in Oregon. “I truly believe they are given a purpose more than just entertainment.”

The animals even ride the elevators (as seen in the video above).

Rojo is an “old pro” at making children happier, according to Schmidt. His owner, Lori Gregory, operator of Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas in Vancouver, Wash., told the station that once at a local fair someone suggested her huggable llama become a therapy animal. The rest was history, and Gregory said like the patients, she too feels a rush when she introduces her animals — which are often dressed in funny hats and other silly outfits — at hospitals and other medical facilities.

“That’s why it started giving me chills and that’s when it kind of became an addiction,” she told KOIN 6 News. “When you realize that they have this amazing ability to create a natural response therapeutic-wise to get people to do things they normally wouldn’t do.”

Her stable also includes two other llamas named Smokey and Beni, and two more alpacas named Eduardo and Jean-Pierre.

On its website, Mtn Peaks says its animals have made more than 650 therapeutic visits to patients since the organization was founded in 2007.

Rojo has grown a following, even getting his own Facebook fan page.

 Therapy animals: Doggie docs, horse helpers, and more

Therapy animals, or animal-assisted therapy, is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Therapy can occur in a group setting or individually, and can benefit patient populations from the young to elderly, to those in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living homes and rehabilitation facilities.

Other examples of more unique therapy animals include miniature horses, elephants (which have been used in Thailand to help some children with autism), helper monkeys and animals with disabilities.

Scientists ID virus that causes Theiler’s disease in horses

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Horse head sticking out of holeU.S. scientists have used RNA analysis to identify the virus that causes Theiler’s disease, a type of equine hepatitis that has stumped veterinarians for nearly a century. The virus, called Theiler’s disease-associated virus, or TDAV, belongs to the same family of viruses that cause hepatitis C, yellow fever and dengue fever. Nature (free content)

Ed Yong

For almost 100 years, veterinarians have puzzled over the cause of Theiler’s disease, a mysterious type of equine hepatitis that is linked to blood products and causes liver failure in up to 90% of afflicted animals.

A team of US scientists has now discovered that the disease is caused by a virus that shares just 35% of its amino acid sequences with its closest-known relative. The team named it Theiler’s disease-associated virus (TDAV), and published the discovery in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.

Led by Amy Kistler at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Emeryville, California, the team responded to an outbreak of Theiler’s disease at a farm in which eight horses had suddenly developed hepatitis after being injected with an antitoxin to prevent them from developing botulism. The researchers used next-generation sequencing to analyse RNA samples from the antitoxin and from two of the horses, and assembled the complete genome of the new virus. The virus was found in every one of the eight horses, as well as in the animal (from a different farm) that was the source of the contaminated antitoxin.

“In the span of a few months, we were able to sequence and validate a virus that had gone undetected for almost a century,” says Kistler. She thinks that traditional virus-hunting techniques failed to find TDAV because they rely on strong similarities to known viruses, or on the ability to culture the mystery culprit. By contrast, her team sequenced everything in their samples — an approach “that meant we didn’t have to know what we were looking for”, she says.

Progress check

To better understand the role of the virus, the team inoculated four healthy horses with the contaminated antitoxin. Within ten weeks, all of them carried TDAV in their bloodstream, and one later showed rising levels of liver enzymes that suggested liver disease.

Although the researchers did not purify the virus before injecting it into the horses, Pablo Murcia, a virologist from the University of Glasgow, UK, says that “they have a strong case: I will be very surprised if TDAV turns out not to be the cause of equine serum hepatitis”. “Now, a new question arises,” he says, “where does this virus come from?”.

It is also possible that there is another unknown virus behind Theiler’s disease. After all, human hepatitis can be caused by at least five viruses.

TDAV belongs to the family Flaviviridae, which includes the viruses behind yellow fever, dengue fever and hepatitis C. It is most closely associated with a genus of newly discovered viruses called Pegivirus, and is the first of these to be convincingly linked to disease.

“The challenges in culturing [pegiviruses] mean that we’re only now getting an understanding of how widely distributed and significant they are,” says James Wood, who studies animal infections at the University of Cambridge, UK. He hints that some studies on new pegiviruses may be published in the future.

“Dr. Google” is not an expert on pet cancer

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

It’s not uncommon for owners to search online for answers to their heart-wrenching questions when a pet is diagnosed with cancer, but they should proceed with caution, writes veterinary oncologist Joanne Intile. A trained veterinary oncologist is the best resource for owners with pets who have cancer, notes Dr. Intile, but she says veterinarians must approach all communication regarding cancer diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and even Internet research with patience and compassion. Daily Vet blog

The Internet can be a dangerous place for owners of pets with cancer. The sheer amount of virtual information available immediately at one’s fingertips is astonishing; bordering on overwhelming.
As an example, a quick search of the phrase “canine cancer” in a popular search engine returns over 3,240,000 hits. “Canine lymphoma” yields over 1,050,000 hits, while “feline lymphoma” reveals a mere 565,000 hits. How can an owner sift through all those pages and discern the “good from the bad” when it comes to learning more about their pet’s diagnosis?

When a diagnosis of cancer is made, owners are often placed in the difficult position of having to make decisions regarding diagnostic tests and treatments for their pet, frequently with limited information. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and depression, or even defensiveness at times. I think it’s natural to turn to the Internet as a source of information, self-comfort, and self-education.

What I’m not so sure of is when exactly did entering phrases or words into a search engine begin qualifying as “research?” Having endured many years of rigorous academic training, when I think of actively researching a topic, it conjures up images of pouring over textbooks and critically reviewing clinical studies. To me, it means learning objective facts and studying information for accuracy of content, not clicking on random websites and reading unsubstantiated opinions backed typically by emotion rather than truth.

It is not unusual for owners to come to their first appointment armed with notes, printouts, suggestions, and/or questions they have garnered from searching their pets’ diagnoses on the Internet. My visceral reaction is typically one of tempered insult. I’m the one who endured many years of education and training and have several years of experience working as a clinical medical oncologist, yet I often joke in some cases that the (in)famous “Dr. Google,” who never went to vet school, once again has managed to usurp my recommendations. It’s challenging for me to remember that the intentions behind my clients’ questions or suggestions are typically pure. Owners simply lack the medical knowledge to review the Internet information accurately, but they really only want the best care and best treatment options for their pets.

I’ve discussed before how I understand that a diagnosis of cancer can be emotionally provoking for owners, and a common frustration many will express is their complete lack of control over the situation. Owners cannot alter progression of the disease once it occurs, they are simply told, “Here are the facts and here are the recommendations.”

An example would be an owner focusing on nutrition and diet after a diagnosis is obtained. What food their pet ingests is one of the few things pet owners can control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. It is also one of the most Internet-searched topics owners will discuss with me during an appointment. Unfortunately, the lack of evidence-based information supporting nutrition as playing a role in the outcome for animals with cancer makes it difficult to make solid recommendations.
This isn’t to say I can’t relate to the need to try to learn as much as possible about a diagnosis, and I’m aware of how daunting terminology related to science and health and medicine can be for individuals not trained specifically within those subjects. The vocabulary is unfamiliar, anxiety provoking, and even uncomfortable for some. Equally as challenging on my end is determining how to present complicated diagnoses and treatment options in terms the average non-medically inclined individual can understand. Despite my best efforts, even with the most medically educated clientele, I know the emotional aspects surrounding a diagnosis can create barriers to truly understanding the technicalities.

Following initial consults, I provide owners with an in-depth written summary of all the points discussed during the appointment. I believe this is something unique to the veterinary profession. Think about the last time your human MD counterpart provided you with a written summary of any aspect of your visit. Even with the information literally in hand, it’s not uncommon for owners to specifically ask for websites they could use to better understand all the topics I’ve discussed. I’m not sure I will ever understand the need to turn to non-validated sources of information when it comes to learning about health and disease, but I do understand my obligation to being able to point people in the right direction.

Therefore, I generally recommend websites directly affiliated with veterinary schools, professional veterinary organizations, and websites run by respected and prominent veterinarians and advocate such pages as resources for owners seeking additional information. I also have no problem discussing the pros of seeing another medical oncologist for a second opinion when appropriate.

I think one of the main reasons I enjoy being able to write weekly articles for petMD is because I feel it is my small way of contributing factual information about veterinary oncology on the Internet. Though I’m still frequently challenged by owners about something they read on a website or through an online forum, I try to maintain patience when these topics come up.
I take comfort in knowing there are good resources for pet owners, and that I play an active role in keeping truthful information available to a large-scale audience, one week at a time.

Green household products may not be entirely safe for animals

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Green cleaning products are gaining popularity, but owners should know that even environmentally friendly products may pose threats to pet health. “People expose their animals without even realizing the risk,” said Karl Jandrey, an emergency and critical care veterinarian at the University of California, Davis’ Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Veterinarian Camille DeClementi, a senior toxicologist with the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, said any product with a warning for children isn’t appropriate for pets and recommended keeping animals away from any cleaning activity. San Jose Mercury News (Calif.) (free registration)/The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES—As the time nears for spring cleaning and companies offer more environmentally friendly alternatives to toxic cleaners, veterinarians say pet owners should keep in mind that what’s green to a human can be dangerous—even deadly—to animals.

“People expose their animals without even realizing the risk,” said Dr. Karl Jandrey, who works in the emergency and critical care units at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis. “That’s the most common thing that happens when you come to our emergency room—the clients put their pets at risk because they were unaware of how significant the damage could be.”

Most household cleaners are safe if used as directed on labels, but pet owners who make their own cleansers using natural ingredients don’t have the warnings or instructions that come with commercial products.

Cats, for example, can get stomachaches from essential oils added for orange, lemon or peppermint scents in cleaners, said Dr. Camille DeClementi, a senior toxicologist at the Animal Poison Control Center run by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Urbana, Ill.

Most commercial green products are safe for animals, DeClementi said, but owners should still exercise the same precautions as with chemical alternatives, such as keeping pets away from an area being cleaned, not using sprays directly on a pet and making sure that dogs don’t chew on the



If a product says “Keep out of reach of children,” keep it away from pets too, DeClementi said.

Caroline Golon, an Ohio mother of two children under 5 and owner of two Persian cats, said she became concerned about cleaning products before her children were born, when she noticed how often the cats jumped between floors and counters. The Columbus resident uses only unscented green products or vinegar and water to clean, a water-only steam mop on floors and washes the cats’ dishes and litter boxes with hot water and green dish soap.

“There are varying degrees of green, and there are a lot of mainstream brands now that have a green version. You have to do a little research to see what you like best,” said Golon, a pet blogger.

The “green” label on products can be misleading because it still can be dangerous, Jandrey added. “Some still have their own toxicities. In general, they probably are a little less toxic, but not free of toxic potential. They just have a need for a larger dose to cause the same kind of symptoms,” he said.

He cited antifreeze as an example. The pet-friendly version of antifreeze, propylene glycol, is “still an antifreeze product. It’s still intoxicating to patients, our dogs and cats. It’s just not as intoxicating as ethylene glycol.”

It takes more of the propylene glycol to be as deadly as the ethylene glycol, “but it is still intoxicating though it might say pet-friendly in the ads or on the bottle,” Jandrey said.

Labels can’t always account for every reaction, Jandrey said. “Each intoxicating product has different concentrations and each dog or cat, each species, has a different sensitivity to that product. So what might be intoxicating to a dog is really, really intoxicating to a cat because cats might be more sensitive,” he said.

Nancy Guberti, a New York City nutritionist and healthy lifestyle coach for the past 15 years, said some products will say green when they are not.

“Natural means nothing. The consumer has to be educated. It’s all about awareness,” she said.

Extra care also should be taken when cleaning around a pet’s area, such as its toys or bedding, the experts say. Don’t use fabric softener sheets that contain cationic detergents because they will give your pet—especially cats—stomach distress, DeClementi said, referring to a type of chemical soap that kills bacteria.

Such detergents and soaps, normally associated with helping to get clothes clean and fresh-smelling, can have chemicals that can sicken humans and pets alike.

Guberti switched to green cleaners out of necessity when her youngest son developed a liver disorder and many allergies. Guberti said the whole family became green—even their family’s 6-year-old Shih Tzu, Flower, because her son can’t hold Flower “if she is full of toxic chemicals or perfumes.”

She recalled how she took the dog to a groomer for the first time, and Flower came out covered in perfume. Guberti washed her again at home, and now she brings her own bottles to the groomer.

“I have a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of conditioner with her name on it. I always remind them: ‘No perfumes whatsoever,'” Guberti said.

Golon, who uses a maid service once a month, said she had the same problem when they brought their own products when they first started cleaning the house.

“I hadn’t thought about it but the smell was so overpowering, it really bothered me. I can just imagine what it was doing to the cats with their sensitivity to scents,” she said.


Common equine eye emergencies

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
Veterinarian Anna O’Brien explains the causes and treatment of two common equine eye emergencies: corneal ulcers and eyelid lacerations. Items commonly found in the barn are often the culprit behind these traumatic injuries, Dr. O’Brien writes, but timely and appropriate veterinary care is usually enough to treat them effectively.

Unlike cattle, sheep, and goats, where the majority of eye issues are infectious, the majority of equine eye problems I see are trauma-related and result in corneal ulcerations.
It is my scientific opinion that horse eyes seem predisposed to getting poked out. This is most likely due to their anatomical location, which is namely right on the corners of the head, sticking out like headlights on an old VW Bug. Sharp objects apparently roam the Earth searching for horse eyes.


One of the most common culprits is, unfairly, the very food they eat. Long wiry pieces of hay shooting out of the trough or hay net are almost always in the “Usual Suspect” lineup when we play the game, “Who Poked Out My Horse’s Eye?”
As with cattle and small ruminants with inflamed and infected eyes, horses with corneal ulcerations exhibit similar signs. Horse owners will observe a forcefully closed eye, excessive tearing, with perhaps some head shyness or avoidance of light, depending on the disposition of the horse. As hours pass, the cornea may become cloudy, and white or yellowish discharge instead of tears may weep from the eye.
The beginning of any emergency equine exam starts with sedation and a nerve block of the upper eyelid to allow me to open the eye wide. Then, if I suspect trauma and corneal damage, I’ll apply a special stain to the eye. This stain will glow neon green if the delicate tissue underneath the outer layer of the cornea is exposed due to ulceration. Sometimes the area of ulceration is literally the size of a needlepoint. But no matter what the size, ulceration is ulceration and requires treatment.
Most mild corneal ulcerations can be treated with topical antibiotic ointment and some pain medication. Others are more complicated. If the ulcer is large, healthy epithelial tissue sometimes has difficulty adhering to the cornea, and healing is non-productive. If this is the case, we sometimes have to scrape the eye to remove the old tissue, giving the new tissue something to adhere to.
Other times, the ulceration has allowed bacteria inside the eye, setting up what is called a stromal abscess. These can be very difficult to treat, requiring intensely frequent applications of multiple types of medications. At the very worst, an ulcer can be deep enough to rupture the eye. This is why eye issues are always an emergency, since you can never be sure at first exactly how deep the problem really is.
Eyelid lacerations are another extremely common equine eye problem. Like the ubiquitous hay stalk waiting to cause a corneal ulcer, another common barn object is frequently the cause of dangling eyelids: the hooks at the ends of water bucket handles. These curved metal pieces on the sides of hanging buckets just seem to jump out at horse eyes and grab on to upper eyelids for dear life, resulting in a gruesome find for the owner the next morning.
Luckily, eyelid lacerations usually look much worse than they really are. They bleed a lot and swell a lot, making the horse look like he’s been in a bar fight involving brass knuckles and a switchblade. However, after sedation and nerve blocks and a little careful stitching with very fine suture material and a teeny tiny needle, the horse usually comes out of it looking much better. The only challenge is not letting the horse rub his head once the stitches become itchy a few days later.
Sometimes with an eyelid laceration, the owner will ask why I don’t just trim off the lacerated portion rather than sew it back on. The answer is that horse’s eyes are so big, they need all the lid they can get. Eyelids are the best protection the eyeball has against the pokey world and even a small missing portion can sometimes result in chronic eye irritation.
Although we’ve covered the traumatic cases of equine eye emergencies, we haven’t even touched on things like cancer of the eye and a weird thing only horses get called “moon blindness.” Shall we say, stay tuned?

Determining necessary vaccines for a horse

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

When it’s time to decide what vaccines are necessary for horses, veterinarian Jennifer Coates revisits the American Association of Equine Practitioners guidelines for core and risk-based vaccines. The core vaccines are necessary for every horse, while the risk-based vaccines are recommended for some horses under certain circumstances. Factors including age, sex and geographical location influence risk, Dr. Coates writes. Vetted blog

I’ve moved my horse Atticus to another barn … again. I added it up. In the last six years, he’s moved six times – poor guy. I have to admit my sympathy is a bit tempered by the fact that this last change was precipitated by his bone-headed behavior towards another horse at his last facility. I was relieved to see that when I introduced him to his new herd mates, a couple of them immediately made it clear they, and not he, were in charge. Despite what his recent behavior might imply, he is actually happier not being at the top of the herd’s pecking order, so it looks like this should work out. Fingers crossed.

As part of this move, I had to dig out his vaccination records to make sure he was up-to-date on everything. This made me realize that as much as I’ve talked about vaccination protocols for dogs and cats in this blog, I’ve never done the same for horses. My bad. Let me use Atticus in an example of how veterinarians determine which vaccines an individual horse should get.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) divides equine vaccines into “core” — those that the majority of horses should get, and “risk based” — those that should be given after a risk-benefit analysis is performed. The AAEP’s guidelines list the following as core vaccines for horses:


Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis

West Nile Virus


Atticus got all of those last year. Check.
According to the AAEP, the risk based vaccines for horses are

  • Anthrax
  • Botulism
  • Equine Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis)
  • Equine Viral Arteritis
  • Equine Influenza
  • Potomac Horse Fever
  • Rotaviral Diarrhea
  • Snake Bite
  • Strangles


Atticus’s primary risk factor is exposure to a large number of horses as he and other horses that he has contact with move in and out of boarding facilities, show grounds, etc. Therefore, I also gave him boosters for equine herpesvirus, influenza, and strangles last year. Looking over the rest of the list, I can discount the majority based on his age and lifestyle. He does not need to be vaccinated against rotavirus (he’s not a foal or pregnant mare), Potomac Horse Fever (we don’t see much of it around here, and the vaccine has questionable efficacy), equine viral arteritis (he’s not going to be bred), or anthrax (he’s not pastured in an endemic area).
I’d consider the snake bite vaccine if we did more trail riding in the foothills near us (home to the western diamondback rattlesnake), but those outings are exceedingly rare so we’ll pass on that. The one vaccine I haven’t given Atticus in the past that I now need to consider is botulism. At his new barn, the horses on pasture are sometimes fed from large round bales of hay. This increases his risk for botulism because Clostridium botulinum bacteria can produce their deadly toxin in spoiling hay or dead critters trapped inside bales.


This exercise is a good reminder as to why an animal’s vaccination protocol needs to be reassessed on a regular basis. Things change. Last week botulism wasn’t on my radar screen; now it is.




Veterinarian shares the toughest part of her job

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Veterinarian Julianne Miller writes that seeing the pain of pet owners who must euthanize a pet because they can’t afford emergency medical care is the toughest part of her job. Dr. Miller points out that good medical care inevitably carries a cost, and veterinarians can’t render services for free, so owners should be mentally and financially prepared for a pet before they commit to ownership. One way owners can be prepared is to purchase pet insurance, Dr. Miller writes. The Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff)

As I think about my life as a veterinarian here is Flagstaff, first and foremost, I feel incredibly lucky to be part of such a diverse and wonderful profession in which I get to meet terrific people who love animals. It is also fulfilling to be able to support the local animal charities.

The hardest part of my job is watching the emotional suffering of pet owners as they try to deal with an emergency with their pet. My clinic deals with a large number of animal emergencies and these are highly charged, emotional situations that no owner can possibly be mentally prepared for.

The hardest part of my job is watching the emotional suffering of pet owners as they try to deal with an emergency with their pet. My clinic deals with a large number of animal emergencies and these are highly charged, emotional situations that no owner can possibly be mentally prepared for.

It is the financial toll, however, of these situations that are the most devastating for most owners. Speaking for the profession, most of us did not enter this field to make money but rather to fulfill some deeper need to help and treat animals. Unfortunately, medical care is not free and we must charge for our services, and in an emergency situation, this can be devastating.

If I could give all pet owners one piece of advice it would be that when they adopt a pet they need to be mentally and monetarily prepared for the possibility of an emergency medical situation with their pet. This could mean getting pet insurance or putting money in their budget every month for pet expenses.

Emergencies never happen when you are expecting them and to have to euthanize a pet because of financial reasons is devastating. Trying to emotionally support an owner through this horrible decision is the worst part of my job.

Veterinary care is not free and good veterinary care is not cheap. Make sure you’re prepared for emergency care by budgeting or purchasing pet insurance now and not regretting it later when you need it. Contact your veterinarian to find out more about pet insurance.

Research may provide support for horse therapy

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

New software may capture the data needed to support claims that horse therapy provides tangible therapeutic benefits to children with developmental and cognitive disorders, according to the makers of the Orbis Biomechanical System Integration Suite. Research that quantifies the benefits of horse therapy may help convince insurance companies to cover the treatment, said senior research engineer Cameron Nott. Longview News-Journal (Texas)

By Glenn Evans gevans@news-journal.comLongview News-Journal

Insurance companies live by numbers, so it’s not enough to hear from an army of parents saying their children with developmental or cognitive disorders are helped by horse therapy.

That might change if research that’s in a high gait at Windridge Equestrian Therapeutic Center of East Texas pans out. Executive Director Margo Dewkett has long said the movements of a walking horse stimulate muscle groups the rider would use while walking if his or her brain were more in control.

This past week, a researcher for a company that developed software to quantify Dewkett’s claim was at the therapy ranch west of the Diana area to train the staff on how to complete that mission.

“Quantifying the improvements in the riders over a period of time while exposed to this therapy will validate it,” said Cameron Nott, senior research engineer for Orbis, maker of the Orbis Biomechanical System Integration Suite.

OBSIS, as researchers call it, uses motion-capture sensors on the horse and rider to produce a digital image of what’s going on with both.

“Our software takes that information and calculates different biomechanical measures,” said Nott, a doctor of mechanical engineering from South Africa. “We calculate the joint angles. We calculate the joint power, and then our software collects the data and processes the data. And then it generates a report on the data.”

It’s the kind of hard data that the growing hippotherapy movement can show insurers who typically deny customer requests they cover sessions of horse therapy. (The “hippo” comes from Greek roots of the word “horse,” but that probably hasn’t kept insurance claims officers from scratching their heads).

“It has not been accepted as a formalized form of therapy that insurance companies are willing to pay out,” Nott said. “We need to show that it works. They say it works, but you really need to show scientific improvement, that there is improvement in the mobility and performance of the subject.”

A second goal of quantifying the horse and rider relationship is it will set measurable marks that horses must achieve to get their own certification.

“This is sound research, and people are doing it — we are not the only ones,” Nott said. “But, Margo has the equipment and facilities to be at the forefront of hippotherapy research. We’ll keep working with them in the future, but they are training themselves to be completely independent and do this thing.”

Berries resolve lower stomach ulcers in horses, study finds

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Louisiana State University veterinarian Frank Andrews has found that sea-buckthorn berry products fed to horses with stomach ulcers resolved the condition in the lower portion of the stomach. Ulcers that form in the upper part of the stomach, an area lined with esophageal cells, aren’t affected by the berries and must be treated with medication, Dr. Andrews noted.

A University professor took horses back to the basics last year, using natural berries rather than pharmaceuticals to heal their stomach ulcers.

Veterinary medicine professor Frank Andrews studied the effects of horse stomach ulcer treatment, finding seabuckthorn berries healed some parts of the stomach just as well as prescribed medication.

Andrews said some horses, especially those in performance, develop equine gastric ulcer syndrome, or stomach ulcers, causing a deduction in performance, a roughening of the hair coat and ongoing stomach pain for the horse.

“What I wanted to do was find a natural product that would prevent those ulcers from recurring,” Andrews said.

Andrews tested the use of a natural product called SeaBuck Gastro Plus, a feed additive made from berries from the seabuckthorn shrub.

Andrews used two groups of eight horses from the University Vet School and fed each group the same type and quantity of food. He said he added four ounces of the natural treatment to each horse’s food in one group while leaving the other group without the treatment.

They inserted a 9-foot endoscope through each horse’s nose to reach the stomach for periodic examination, he said.

After 35 days, Andrews said the glandular ulcers in the lower two-thirds of the stomach of the treated group were gone, but the ulcers in the squamous mucosa, the upper one-third of the stomach, did not go away.

The natural treatment resembled a treatment used to help stomach problems in humans, he said. A horse’s lower stomach is similar to that of a human stomach, so the medication had a similar effect on eliminating the ulcers.

Andrews concluded a horse owner would have to use a prescription to take care of the remaining ulcers in the upper part of the stomach.

While some horses tend to be more likely to develop ulcers than others, Andrews said the ulcers may be caused in part by nature and nurture. He said owners feed horses differently from the way they are fed in a “wild

horse lifestyle.”

Many horses eat sweet feed, which contains corn and molasses. The horses enjoy it, but Andrews said sweet feed does not necessarily promote the best health for the stomach.

Andrews also said esophageal tissue lines the upper one-third of the stomach. When the horse engages in activities like racing, the stomach acid splashes onto the upper stomach area and can cause ulcers.

“The problem is in the anatomy of the stomach,” he said. “The whole horse’s digestive tract was made to walk around in the pasture and eat.”

Bruce McMullin, CEO and founder of Seabuck, said using natural products saves money and prevents the side effects that come with taking prescribed products.

Though a natural diet in horses surpasses prescribed products, McMullin said implementing this diet in horses has not yet caught on with many people.

“Typically, people get a level of comfort with something they’ve used in the past, and it’s hard for them to try something new,” McMullin said.

Horses provide respite for injured soldiers

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Wounded veterans are getting some much-needed physical therapy and emotional support at the Spirithorse Chisholm Trail Therapy Center in Oklahoma. About 45 soldiers from Fort Sill visit the ranch weekly to work with the horses. Some have been so inspired by their time with the horses that they volunteer to return to help with therapy sessions the center holds for children with special needs. The Duncan Banner (Okla.) (10/14)

October 14, 2012


Equine therapy helping wounded warriors

Ted HarbinThe Duncan BannerThe Duncan BannerSun Oct 14, 2012, 12:00 PM CDT

DUNCAN — There is a passion burning deep inside Jan Smith, and the inferno is spreading.
More importantly, it’s reaching those that need it the most.
Smith owns Spirithorse Chisholm Trail Therapy Center in Comanche, and she is reaching out to those that have served and sacrificed for our country, those that have been part of the United States military.
Primarily that involves soldiers from Fort Sill, just 55 miles from the Spirithorse complex near Comanche Lake.
“We work with the soldiers who have been injured or who have suffered while serving our country,” Smith said. “We are not under the Wounded Warrior project; we are our own private organization, but we do work with wounded soldiers.
“We try to do as much as we can to build the core muscles for those with injuries. We work in mental and physical capacities, and lately, we’ve had more on the mental side.”
The Wounded Warriors Equine Therapy is designed to provide the soldiers with an outlet, a muscle training regimen and an opportunity to find much needed solace.
“Since August, we’ve had about 45 soldiers come over every week, and we tend to get the same three or four each time,” she said. “The suicide rate of the soldiers who have fought for our country is so high, and that’s why I always stress to them that only another soldier, another veteran will know how they feel. All I try to do is have a good, steady program for them to come enjoy the time they’re away from there.”
The project seems to be working.
The key is using horses to help assist in relieving the pain soldiers have suffered, both physical and mental.
A horse’s gait helps the soldiers with balance and core strength and develops muscle tone and self-confidence.
Horse therapy relaxes those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and provides therapy that can’t be found in a hospital setting.
“The first time I ever went to Fort Sill and saw the passion these guys have for our country, it became our passion to give back just a little bit,” said Smith, who operates Spirithorse with her husband, J.P. “It’s not much of time for them to come over to our ranch for four to five hours a day once a week, but it’s something we can do.”
Spirithorse also reaches out to children with special needs, and only recently has it been working with soldiers. But people have seen the work and have recognized just how important the equine therapy is.
The Wounded Warriors Equine Therapy has been adopted by the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo committee as its charitable beneficiary.
The rodeo, set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18 through Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center, and will feature the top contestants in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region.
“The committee took this project under their wings that this will be the charity for the circuit finals,” Smith said. “We’ve been able to use the county’s indoor arena on the cold and windy days, so that’s great. Mike Anderson has opened his arms, and the county commission has donated the building for us to use like that, so we really appreciate it.
“I’m also involved in the rodeo, and Spirithorse is sponsoring the opening each night.”
There fans will see a large military presence, which is important to those associated with the rodeo and the community.
That’s why the soldiers’ involvement in the program is so special to Smith.
“”These soldiers are having the best time,” she said. “They want to learn. They want to learn about the horse and how they’re used in the different events. It opens a door to these soldiers that, in a hospital, they’d never have this kind of setting.”
What the therapy provides goes far beyond just spending time with the animals.
“It’s impacted the soldiers’ lives and our lives,” Smith said. “Some of them even come to help with our special needs children’s programs. They take the time to help out. Even though they’re mentally and physically beat up, they help out. They’re reaching out again.”
That’s the sign of true success.