Welcome to this week’s equine science blog. Research news is a bit quiet this week, what with many scientists enjoying their summer holidays. However, there’s still plenty to talk about in this week’s edition with reports on the latest equine diseases in the US, new veterinary equipment in New Zealand and some handy information sheets for our British followers.
Firstly, more bad news for the integrity of equestrian sport. With top dressage rider Isabell Werth & British show jumper Michael Whitaker recently having their horses give positive drug tests, there is now news that an American event horse has tested positive for an anabolic steroid. Horsetalk.co.nz
have reported that Michael Pollard's horse Icarus has been found to have the chemical Winstrol in his system after a second test confirmed the drug's presence. Pollard has claimed that Icarus was given Winstrol back in January by a vet as an appetite booster after the horse had suffered gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and small intestine).
According to Horsetalk.co.nz
Pollard has confirmed that he was suspended by the FEI on July 1st. However, this case is slightly concerning. The medication should have only remained in the horse's system for 45 days, according to Pollard, but the horse tested positive 120 days later. The FEI's Tribunal have yet to make a final ruling on the case and will be going ahead shortly after Pollard has prepared a statement.
Following my reports on July 17th that the first 2009 case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) had struck in Virginia, US there are now reports of another contagious disease in America.
According to the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania
, three horses have tested positive for the neurological form of Equine Herpesvirus, known as EHV-1. All of the 100 horses at Rolling Hills Ranch stable in Bridgeville, Allegheny County have been quarantined as a result and must remain on the premises until a period of 21 days has elapsed without any clinical signs being observed in the horses.
EHV-1 is not harmful to humans, but in horses, the neurological form is considered a dangerous transmissible disease. It can cause a loss of coordination, weakness or paralysis of the hind limbs and incontinence.
Sadly this isn't the only quarantine currently in affect, according to reports on Horsetalk.co.nz.
In Texas and New Mexico, three properties are under quarantine after a total of seven equine cases of vesicular stomatitis were diagnosed. This has resulted in many states imposing movement restrictions on livestock from the effected areas.
Vesicular stomatitis is fairly common in the US. It occurs sporadically on an annual basis in the western states, usually in summer near waterways and in valleys. The disease is not just limited to horses either - it can affect pigs, cattle, sheep and sometimes humans. It isn't known with a 100% certainty what causes the spread of the disease, but it's believed to be due to biting insects and animal movement. The disease causes extensive blister-like legions on the lips, tongue, coronary band, gums and teats amongst other places. Lesions on or near the mouth cause excess saliva to be produced and as a result the infected animal may be off their food or reluctant to drink water. If the surface of the lesions breaks, raw sores are left which can cause lameness. However, in humans the disease causes only flu-like symptoms without the lesions suffered by animals.
After all these negative stories, there is some good news for horse owners in New Zealand. Massey University, recently acquired a CT scanner, and earlier this week the computer technology scanner was used for its ... when Sydney an eight-year old gelding was presented with persistent foot problems.
The horse, which stands over 17.2hh (180cm), was found to have a cyst in the pedal bone of his foot. By using the CT scanner, they could determine whether keyhole surgery was an appropriate form of treatment for Sydney and whether the cyst was impacting upon his joint.
The scanning facility cost $1.1million (NZ dollars) and includes a special area to anaesthetise the patient, a hoist capable of lifting up to 1.5tonnes and a $740,000 CT scanner - the only type in New Zealand which is capable of scanning large animals such as horses, cattle and even whales.
Finally, with the current economic climate hitting many horse owners hard, the UK’s National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) have produced some handy leaflets to provide advice for horse owners who are currently struggling financially.
“Responsible Re-homing” and “Cutting Cost without Compromising on Welfare” are the first leaflets to have been produced by NEWC and are available to download from the Horse Trust’s website
That's the end of another weekly equine science round-up, but as always, here's a little trivia question to help you expand your horsey-know-how:
Are horses colour blind?
1. Yes, they can only see in black and white
2. No, they can see the full range of colours that we see
3. No, but they do see a more limited range of colours than humans
The answer can be found on my profile page by clicking here