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There is a regularly high proportion of x-ray findings indicating a pathological deterioration of the equine vertebral column which do not correlate with the clinical symptoms. Therefore, palpation remains one of the most important clinical examination methods to determine whether or not a horse is suffering from back pain. The aim of this study was to check the validity of palpation results of horses with an assumed back problem. The palpation results of 167 horses were evaluated in retrospect: If the palpation proceeds under following conditions, positive palpation results agree with an primary back problem in about 100% of cases: 1. Hind limb lameness, being the most likely reason for misleading positive palpation results, has to be ruled out. 2. Only reproducible painful behavior is allowed to be interpreted as positive. Under these conditions a negative palpation result is correct in about 72% of cases. For the examiner it is important to keep in mind that an apparent Kissing Spine-Syndrome can exist without being palpable. By means of clinical examination it is not always possible to distinguish between painful and normal reactions. In doubtful cases diagnosis can be made by a “diagnostic therapy”, or better by scintigraphy.


A horse hoof is a structure surrounding the distal phalanx of the 3rd digit (digit III of the basic pentadactyl limb of vertebrates, evolved into a single weight-bearing digit in equids) of each of the four limbs of Equus species, which is covered by complex soft tissue and keratinised (cornified) structures. Since a single digit must bear the full proportion of the animal’s weight that is borne by that limb, the hoof is of vital importance to the horse. The phrase “no hoof, no horse” underlines how much the health and the strength of the hoof is crucial for horse soundness.

Contracted heels in the horse is characterized by a shift of the hoof wall resulting in the narrowing of the foot. Primary cases of contracted heels result from unbalanced feet, either long toe/low heels (LTLH) or overgrown hooves. Trimming the feet and correcting the hoof angle result in expansion of the heels. Secondary contracted heels are caused by lameness and disuse of the limb, resulting in hoof atrophy.

Problems associated with contracted heels include disruption of the shock-absorption mechanism of the foot. The contracted hoof wall presses internal structures, a condition termed hoof bound. Crevices and grooves formed by the contracting hoof creates a favorable environment for thrush.

Some horses’ hooves tend to grow the toe at a faster rate than the heels. Expansion and contraction of the heels during motion increases their wear relative to the toe.

The hoof is made up by an outer part, the hoof capsule (composed of various cornified specialised structures) and an inner, living part, containing soft tissues and bone. The cornified material of the hoof capsule is different in structure and properties in different parts. Dorsally, it covers, protects and supports P3 (also known as the coffin bone, pedal bone, PIII). Palmarly/plantarly, it covers and protects specialised soft tissues (tendons, ligaments, fibro-fatty and/or fibrocartilaginous tissues and cartilage). The upper, almost circular limit of the hoof capsule is the coronet (coronary band), having an angle to the ground of roughly similar magnitude in each pair of feet (i.e. fronts and backs). These angles may differ slightly from one horse to another, but not markedly. The walls originate from the coronet band. Walls are longer in the dorsal portion of the hoof (toe), intermediate in length in the lateral portion (quarter) and very short in palmar/plantar portion (heel). Heels are separated by an elastic, resilient structure named the ‘frog’. In the palmar/plantar part of the foot, above the heels and the frog, there are two oval bulges named the ‘bulbs’.
When viewed from the lower surface, the hoof wall’s free margin encircles most of the hoof. The triangular frog occupies the center area. Lateral to the frog are two grooves, deeper in their posterior portion, named ‘collateral grooves’. At the heels, the palmar/plantar portion of the walls bend inward sharply, following the external surface of collateral grooves to form the bars. The lower surface of the hoof, from the outer walls and the inner frog and bars, is covered by an exfoliating keratinised material, called the ‘sole’.
Just below the coronet, the walls are covered for about an inch by a cornified, opaque ‘periople’ material. In the palmar/plantar part of the hoof, the periople is thicker and more rubbery over the heels, and it merges with frog material. Not all horses have the same amount of periople. Dry feet tend to lack this substance, which can be substituted with a hoof dressing.

Moisture content in the hoof is maintained by circulation and is influenced by the environment. Dynamic movement of the hoof during exercise increases the circulation within the foot. The elasticity of the hoof is dependent on the moisture content of its keratinized structures, and lack of moisture reduces resiliency of the hoof, affecting shock absorption. Lack of exercise, prolonged stabling in dry stalls, hoof dressings, sand and urine tend to dry the hoof.

Most treatment regimens for contracted heels are aimed at treating the symptoms and not the cause. Treatment principles include trimming and balancing the feet and assisting heel expansion. Primary contracted heels have to be differentiated from secondary contracted heels, caused by a painful condition in the foot or disuse of the limb. The clinical signs were similar to navicular disease, but after trimming and expanding the hooves, the horses became sound.

Numerous treatment methods appear in the literature. Some can aid in the expansion of the heels, while others can be harmful. Methods include: lowering the heels to increase frog pressure (Simpson 1968); special steel shoes for contracted heels (Russel 1882); springs applied against the bars and special spreading devices (Lungwitz 1966); mushroom shoes, tips, bar shoes and pads; beveled horseshoes (The Horseshoer1966); grooving or rasping the hoof wall (Stashak 1987); Jenny et al 1965 recommend the use of acrylics to treat contracted heels.

Increasing frog pressure has no effect on heel expansion, and lowering the heels can lead to further contraction. Tip shoes are more natural to the hoof but tend to concentrate pressure on the toe, separating the hoof wall at the white line. Beveling the horseshoe hoof surface can aid in heel expansion, but rasping and grooving the hoof wall can cause loss of moisture from the hoof. Spreading devices and springs should be used with caution or avoided.

Overgrown hooves should be trimmed short, and the horse exercised daily. Some animals may have sore feet following trimming, but will improve gradually. Berns 1918 recommends pine tar and oakum held by a leather pad. Leaving the horse barefoot and exercising it is another method. Acrylics can be used to reconstruct underrun heels; a new product that uses rubber particles that are glued to the bottom of the hoof wall may aid in heel reconstruction.

Horses with LTLH should be trimmed every 3-4 weeks to maintain a constant hoof angle. These figures are higher and more correct when compared to figures measured randomly on modern-day horses. Breed, function, conformation, gait and individual pattern of hoof growth has to be considered when balancing the horse’s hooves.

Increasing the hoof angle can resolve the condition for some of the cases, sometimes in one treatment. Once the heels expand, the groove formed between the bulbs of the heels opens.

Hoof moisture can be increased by dampening the paddock with water or applying a commercial poultice, especially following trimming. Hooves afflicted with thrush are trimmed until healthy tissue is reached and pine tar is applied to the exposed areas.
If shoeing is required, the horseshoe nails are driven anterior to the midquarters, and the horseshoe is fit gradually wider at the quarters and heels, extending about two centimeters backwards to support the heels.


In an ideal situation, the vet check is attended by the prospective buyer, so the vet can talk with that person while discovering things about the horse. The buyer can ask questions, and the vet can good an idea about how well the buyer and horse might match. It’s perfectly respectable for a vet to veto a horse because he or she feels it won’t be the right horse for the buyer: especially new horse owners are not only buying the checkup, but the expertise of the vet in making an important choice. If you’re about to buy a horse whose temperament or training (or lack of training) may spell trouble for you, a good vet won’t be afraid to offer an opinion. Although some people believe that the question of a proper match isn’t the vet’s business, it’s safer for the horse and the owner if the vet takes a serious interest in the potential pairing. Sometimes a vet will recommend not to buy a horse unless a professional trainer is to be engaged; it’s always best to listen.

The seller will usually attend the vet check, but most vets wish that sellers wouldn’t talk about the horse during the check, as it can influence their perceptions and probably won’t add to the buyer’s confidence.

No horse is perfect, and your vet may see something that only an expert might notice. If there seems to be a physical problem, the vet may use X-rays to check on a diagnosis. Even in the case where there is something wrong, it may just be something that needs to be watched, or treated in a particular way. A lot depends on what the horse is to be used for. Your vet may make recommendations about the weight a horse or pony can bear, about training issues or temperament. And for someone who isn’t an expert, having an expert vet who’s not afraid to tell the truth can make the difference between buying a horse you’ll love and enjoy and one that you wind up having to sell.

If you ask a vet to check a horse whose problems are already known to that person, chances are that the vet will either decline to do the check or will inform you of the problems before moving on to anything else. A lot of the vet check has to do with professional ethics; vets often won’t report on horses belonging to regular clients because of the potential for conflict of interest.

Talking about a vet check is an interesting conundrum because people who don’t want to take someone else’s advice probably won’t have a pre-purchase vet check, but nearly everyone else will. But for people new to the world of horses, it may be enough to tell them what a vet check entails and what it can do for them. Most people understand immediately that paying for a vet check will save thousands or tens of thousands of euros if it keeps them from buying the wrong horse.


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Equine nasal cysts are epithelium lined, single or loculated cavities filled with fluid or pus. They normally form in the ventral concha, maxillary sinuses, and can extend down the nasal passages into the frontal sinuses.
Congenital forms have been previously described. Cysts in the sinus can be found in horses less than a year old, although rarely, but can also be seen in those 9 years and older. The clinical signs normally present as nasal discharge, facial swelling and in major cases, partial or total obstruction of the nasal airway can result.

Radiographs generally provide better results than endoscopic examination when diagnosing these problems; multiloculated densities and fluid lines show up more readily in the sinuses, occasionally with dental displacement and also dental & jaw line distortion, flattened roots in the teeth, mineralization & soft tissue calcification, and major deviation of the septum and vomer bones.

If head is placed in a downward position, Cyst will shift and liquids may come out and cause throat to close up which stops breathing. If this occurs press on frontal cord in troat form neck with 2 fingers. Also very powerful stinging.

Treatment involves radical surgical removal of the cyst and any of the involved lining of the concha - this would normally be tested by a laboratory, since there is a risk that some nasal cysts may be cancerous. In cases where such cancer shows in a removed nasal cyst, treatment can follow two courses. Radiotherapy is one, where the cancerous area is subjected to moderate doses of radiation, over a period of several weeks, with tissue testing being undertaken during the treatment. The other is via the administration of cytotoxic drugs, to travel through the bloodstream and attack the cancer cells.

If the cyst is benign, the prognosis for a complete recovery is extremely good, and the rate of any recurrence is minimal. Some horses may have a mild mucous discharge after surgery, which can be permanent, but this does not generally seem to cause problems. However, if the cyst does transpire to be malignant, the prognosis becomes worse, with roughly 70% survival, as opposed to a norm of 95% plus with benign cysts.


A horse is said to be cribbing when it grasps a solid object like a fence rail, tree stump, or even its own foreleg with its front teeth, arches its neck, and then gulps to force air into its throat. The horse may follow the gulp with licking or chewing and sometimes removes bits of fence with each bite. The horse will brace itself with its forelegs and the throat will expand it gulps. There is usually a distinctive ‘glug’ sound with each gulp. Research suggests that horses receive a hit of endorphins when they crib, and become addicted to the habit. Cribbing is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorders in humans. The scientific name for wind sucking is aerophagia.

It has long been believed that cribbers are more prone to colic. This has not been substantiated. Cribbers do wear their teeth at an unnatural angle that may cause problems with grazing and chewing. Horses unable to chew properly may be prone to nutritional deficiencies and can ingest sharp slivers of wood. The muscles on the underside of their necks can appear thicker, and stomachs can look distended although this is more cosmetic than a health risk. Foals born to mares that crib may be more likely to become cribbers themselves. Some horses seem to crib constantly and are difficult to keep weight on, while others crib very infrequently.

Cribbers can cause substantial damage. Some horses will grasp fence rails so aggressively as to pull them down. Others will take a bite of wood with each gulp, and chew through wood. Trees can be damaged, as well as stall doors and walls. For this reason many boarding stables will refuse to board a cribber or require the use of a cribbing collar.