Alan Dufur of Dufur Quarter Horses in Caddo, Okla., has been bringing his registered Hereford cattle and quarter horses to OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital for 15 years.
“Our first time up here was a referral from our local veterinarian,” said Dufur. “It was such a positive experience, we make a pretty steady pathway up here from the ranch. It’s about three hours. We pass a lot of vets but the positive experiences we’ve had here keep us coming back.
“I really enjoy bringing odd cases for the students to see first-hand,” continued Dufur. “It’s rewarding to see the students follow up. We’ve actually had students continue to text us and email us months after a patient leaves just to see how the animal is doing. You know, that’s meaningful and shows the commitment of those students.”
According to Mr. Dufur, OSU veterinarians have treated a myriad of issues.
“All the way from eye issues with cattle to something that was detected in our feed that Dr. Holbrook personally worked on,” recalled Dufur. “They actually brought a team down to the ranch and did research on the affected animals and the environment that they were in. I think we had 23 animals here in one day that came down with this pea pod incident where their nervous system was altered and they couldn’t walk. Lots of lameness issues, reproductive issues and respiratory issues (in horses) like we’ll be exploring today. I believe it’s three animals that we’re going to have Jane ride and they are going to be scoped to see their breathing techniques.”
Jane Melby is a two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier and barrel racing clinician who co-manages the quarter horse operation at Dufur Ranch.
“I don’t believe a horse can perform at its top if it has a breathing issue,” said Melby. “The first horse (Roxy Dual) is really nervous. I felt that after a short amount of time, she breathes heavy and makes a rattling noise where there must be a restriction into the airway and that would also cause the nervousness and it would cause her to panic.
“When I competed on the second horse (Cindy) and she came out of the arena, she coughed. Well, any horse can cough so I gave it the benefit of the doubt,” continued Melby. “The second day I competed on her, when she came out of the arena, she coughed. There was a vet on staff so I had the horse scoped. I found that it had ulcers or like a herpes in its throat. Its airway would be large and then enclose and go small, wait a minute and then open back up. Well, that in itself, if you’re thinking about choking, you would cough.
The third horse (Uno) has been an outstanding horse. She’s won a lot on the pro circuit. When I started riding her, I decided she’s not in shape. I could hear a little rattle in her. As I’ve gotten her in better shape and when I go to compete on her, she gets really nervous in the alley way and on the back side of the turn, she wants to elevate her head. I feel like she doesn’t want to finish the turn. And when she comes out of the arena, she is short on breath. So I would just like to see if you find something that can help me to make her better so we can get her back in the winning circle,” concluded Melby.
Dr. Mike Schoonover, an equine surgeon also board certified in sports medicine and rehabilitation, coordinated the examination of all three horses. OSU’s Dynamic Respiratory System is a portable system worn across the horse’s back. A scope is placed up the horse’s nostril. A transmitter projects images from the horse’s throat onto a portable monitor so veterinarians can observe how the respiratory system functions while the horse is ridden. The system records the respiratory track activity even as you watch it live on the screen allowing veterinarians to review it many times if necessary.
“We did not see any abnormal function of the respiratory tract on Roxy Dual, but she did not make the respiratory noise she usually does. Cindy had a moderate degree of pharyngeal collapse possibly secondary to some pharyngeal lymphoid hyperplasia (blisters) she displayed,” explained Schoonover. “Uno was diagnosed with axial deviation of the aryepiglottic folds which is the source of her abnormal noise and possible exercise intolerance.
“The upper respiratory tract is mostly comprised of soft tissue that is supported by muscles rather than ridged bone. When the horse inhales, a large amount of negative pressure is created in the airway,” continued Schoonover. “If the muscles supporting the airway are not functioning correctly, these tissues collapse and narrow or completely occlude the airway. This causes noise (turbulent airflow) and/or exercise intolerance because oxygen is decreased to the lungs and thus to tissues like the brain and muscles for locomotion. Cindy and Uno had different parts of their airway collapsing causing their clinical signs. This collapse does not always occur at rest. The dynamic scope lets us see the airway during exercise, which is when the large negative pressure occurs.”
And what is the prognosis for these horses?
Roxy will return to her normal routine with the hope that her nervousness is behavioral and will improve with more training. If the noise persists, reevaluation of her respiratory tract may be indicated.
“For Uno, it was unclear if the issue was causing exercise intolerance or just noise,” reported Schoonover. “They are going to continue her training and ignore the noise and see how she handles an increase in training or level of exercise. If she starts to become exercise intolerant, then we will have to discuss surgical options. The prognosis is good with surgery. For Cindy, we are hoping rest and anti-inflammatory medications will resolve the lymphoid hyperplasia and resolve her pharyngeal collapse.”
For more information on the services available for performance horses of a variety of equine disciplines including barrel racers, cutting horses, western performance horses, dressage, English and racing horses, visit the Veterinary Medical Hospital’s Gaylord Center for Excellence in Equine Health.