Friday, March 31, 2006

Foal watching online

Many of our clients now use wireless video camera systems to monitor their foaling mares ( sure beats sitting by the stall late at night). With recent advances in computer wireless technology , you can put your camera feed on the internet and have someone else watch it for you. I have heard rumors that there are fee for service sites but I haven't found them yet ( any entrepreneurs out there that want to start one?) . The equipment is fairly inexpensive ~$200- $400 but you will need a DSL or cable internet hookup for a high speed connection.There are several sites that will help you host your web camera feed and there are even sites dedicated to those that just like to watch for the fun of it. "Foalnet"
This site is set up so that you can get an alert whenever a mare starts to foal...turn up the volume on your computer. There seems to be quite a following of foalings on the internet and people just like to watch them. Even if you don't want to web-cast it would still be a good idea to have the feed on your TV or laptop so you don't have to go outside all night or even worse leave them unattended. I realize that they have been doing this by themselves for a really long time, but waiting 11 months and puting the funds into breeding costs and mare care is a big investment. Trust me, you want to watch over it. I see several foals found dead each year because they were not observed and the mare had trouble with the delivery. Nothing beats a good pair of eyes.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Send in the Clones

It was bound to happen. As medical and scientific advances progress it was only a matter of time before someone cloned a horse. VetGen Inc. of Austin Tx was the first to sell a cloned horse , and now plans to sell 22 clones by 2008. They also project that they will sell 100 yearly for about $150,000 each. I'm still skeptical since several recent scientists have been exposed for faking alot of their data and others were unable to reproduce the experiment results. So if you have some spare cash lying around and really want to start over in training your horse( I know theres something you would do differently) heres your chance.

"MRLS"Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome...and Caterpillers

The first documented cases of MRLS have been reported in Florida (Alachua County). For those who were living in a cave in 2001 , there was an outbreak of abortions in Kentucky that devastated the Thoroughbred industry that year, about 3000 foals were lost. There were many Veterinarians and specifically Internists that were overwhelmed with the foals and mares affected. Besides the abortions , there were foals born that soon died with pericarditis (fluid in the sack around the heart) and uveitis (inflammation in the eye). Someone who definately thinks outside the box found a link with this syndrome and the Eastern tent caterpiller(ETC).
I for one was skeptical , leaning more towards the camp looking into mycotoxins ( fungal toxins).
The ETC feeds on wild cherry and crab apple trees and are cyanide accumulators as well as potentially ergotoxins . While the actual causative agent remains ellusive, several studies have shown that feeding ETC to pregnant mares reproduces the syndrome with about a 70% abortion rate. The fact that it has now shown up in our backyard does sound an alarm. While we do a significant amount of breeding in North Florida.....Ocala must be sweating bullets about now.
The good news is that the syndrome does lend itself to control with farm management changes.
These being spraying of any trees with ETC or caterpillers in general and feeding hay out in the field. The later being thought to keep the horses from grazing near trees that are infested.
The only diagnostic check so far is to do a fetal sonogram and look for an increased echogenicity in the amniotic and allantoic fluid, however, by this point it is to late. My suggestion is that you start "perimeter treatment" by throughly examining your farm and looking for catepillers and start spraying

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Methotrexate or "Trex"

I was recently asked about the use of Methotrexate in the horse by an owner. She had obtained some ( your guess is as good as mine where it came from) at the recommendation of her trainer( remember ,this is an injectable prescription drug). She was told that it would help her horse move "smoother". Methotrexate has been used for years in race horses as a supposed treatment for arthritis. This is because it's human use is as a chemotherapeutic agent and has been used to suppress the immune response in rhumatoid arthritis and certain cancers. It's use to "smooth" out the movement of the horse cannot be justified. A recent report stated the following

"Methotrexate is known to have a negative effect on reproduction. In fact, it is coupled with the drug RU-486, the morning-after pill that causes abortion in humans.
When administered as chemotherapy or to treat arthritis, the law requires patients to be informed: "Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or if you intend to have children. There is a good chance that this medicine may cause birth defects if either the male or female is taking it at the time of conception or if it is taken during pregnancy. Methotrexate may cause harm or even death of the fetus. In addition, many cancer medicines may cause sterility, which could be permanent."

Additional concerns about it's use in the horse are the potentially fatal interactions with other drugs commonly used in equine medicine such as Naproxen

Serious toxicity has occurred when NSAIDs have been used concomitantly with methotrexate; use together with extreme caution

as well as the freqently used Ketoprofen and Phenylbutazone

Medications that may interact with ketoprofen include warfarin, phenylbutazone, probenecid, methotrexate, aspirin, and corticosteroids. Notify your veterinarian or pharmacist if the animal receives any medications.

What frustrates me the most is the total amateur pharmacology that takes place in the horse barns ,showgrounds and racetracks. There seems to be no forthought at all as to what these drugs are doing in their horse. If someone says it might give you an edge....then just stick it in your horse. Hopefully sites like this will help spread some knowledge and owners and trainers will learn to just ask someone that knows........a phone call is cheap.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Horse Sense and Sensitivity

Now here's a worth while cause. I'm working on the board of Directors for this group that has put together a center where we can teach disabled kids to ride and to provide a Physical Therapist that uses horseback riding as therapy. It's called Horse sense and Sensitivity.Having a nephew with Down Syndrome this is also important to me. Since most of these kids have concurrent physical limitations as well, the actions and motions involved in horseback riding are a tremendous benefit to them physically. They can finally find themselves taller than everyone else, moving freely without a walker or wheelchair and having a sense of control . There are several programs working at the center including a physical therapist, a Certified Instructor in Handicap riding giving lessons and a program for emotionally and physically abused kids to learn horsemanship as well. There is a great deal of potential for growth with this organization and I would encourage all of you to look at their web site (Link here and above) and if possible to somehow get envolved. At the least spread this around so that more people are made aware of the program and hopefully the program can continue to grow.