Fred in action at a three-day eventing competition.
Fred in action at a three-day eventing competition.

Sports Medicine Specialists Help Horse Reach Peak Performance

"Case of the Month" – February 2020

Fred, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding, had a successful 2019 show season in three-day eventing at the “preliminary” level. With the goal of moving up to the “intermediate” and then the “advanced” levels next season, Fred’s owner proactively sought to have him evaluated by the specialists in the Equine Integrative Sports Medicine Service (EISM) at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

“Let’s make sure he’ll be able to play football next year,” Fred’s owner quipped.

EISM provides a wide variety of diagnostic and treatment procedures for equine athletes and horses that may benefit from an integrative approach to certain ailments.

At his first performance evaluation, Fred showed mild sensitivity on palpation of his back, as well as strong sensitivity on palpation of his jaw and poll on both sides. A dynamic examination revealed a mild and inconsistent bilateral forelimb lameness on hard ground, which was abolished after numbing the nerves of his feet, suggesting that Fred’s mild lameness indeed came from his front feet.

Radiographs of his front feet were taken which revealed mild trimming and shoeing imbalances without any significant boney abnormalities. The EISM specialists—working with the UC Davis farrier—recommended a trimming and shoeing plan to help Fred’s farrier address these imbalances and help resolve Fred’s foot pain. To investigate Fred’s back pain, the EISM evaluated Fred’s saddles. His jumping and dressage saddle were evaluated and seemed to fit properly.

To address the jaw pain, the Equine Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service examined Fred’s mouth and diagnosed sharp points associated with mucosal abrasions which were addressed with teeth floating.

Three weeks later, Fred returned for his second visit. His hoof imbalance had been successfully addressed by his farrier, and he was no longer lame, but the poll and back pain was still present. This was addressed with chiropractic, acupuncture and therapeutic laser therapy. After the treatment, Fred was relaxed, and his pain was significantly reduced.

Fred returned to UC Davis for a recheck appointment three weeks later, and his owner was happy to report that Fred felt great under saddle and could finally work in relaxation. Fred is “ready to play ball.”

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