What a wonderful week of abundance! First was the International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology (ICEEP) in Lorne. Only held once every 4 years and at locations all around the world, to have it in Australia and just before Equitana in Melbourne was so great – saving on airfares to faraway places, but also because many of the ICEEP international speakers spoke at Equitana too.
At ICEEP veterinary researchers spoke on a whole range of topics including endurance, effects of head and neck position on back muscles, eventing, exercise physiology, genetics, injuries, lamenesses, nutrition, physiotherapy, polocrosse, pre-exercise strategies, stress, technology, tying-up and welfare. Added to this were the human sports physicians and researchers who extend their knowledge and equipment to equine studies. Technology from aeronautical engineering has revealed that during high intensity the horses limbs experience a loading of nearly two tonnes; just before the point of breakover the horses leg experiences forces of 200g – an aeroplanes wings fall off at 17g! At the point of breakover, the hoof travels at 6000 degrees per second.
Many more astounding facts were delivered that help us understand locomotion and lameness. Other work from Iceland showed that in cold weather horses drink 35% more water if it is 22ºC than if it is 10ºC – an important thing to know even in warmer Australia to help horses keep hydrated, especially after exercise. A lecture on endurance horse lameness – always a difficult diagnosis explained that if a horse is lame in one leg, the leg on the same side can appear lame when it hits the ground, whereas the limb on the opposite side can appear lame during the push-off phase of the stride. Technology has produced some clever ways of diagnosing obscure lamenesses using force plates – which were much better than people at detecting uneven strides.
Equitana, as always was 4 days of horse heaven – bliss to be gifted with so many fabulous examples of horsemanship and to see the leaders in their fields educate and guide on training and equitation. Andrew McLean spoke to a packed, standing-room only classroom and it is so comforting to see so many people concerned and proactive in understanding equine behaviour – not just for injury prevention, but to reduce the stress our horses can experience. I’ve just written an article in Hoofbeats magazine (available in January) in which I drew heavily on the work of Andrew and fellow Australian Paul McGreevy to help spread the word on the importance of equitation science for decreasing stress and increasing safety for horses and their owners and riders.
The presentations by the Double Dans always inspire and with all demonstrations from all equestrian disciplines there were so many offerings. The classroom sessions and arena lectures brought so much information that would be otherwise difficult to access. Highlights for me included veterinarians Drs Melanie Quick, Luke Wells-Smith and Ian Bidstrup. Ian’s description on how to successfully manage kissing spines without surgery (which is by necessity very invasive with a long and painful convalescence) was much appreciated. Speakers from the ICEEP Professors Pat Harris and Brian Nielsen gave us their knowledge and experience and many questions were generated. Check out all the speakers as they can be contacted and have lots of good and helpful advice.
Equine Veterinarians Australia had their usual stand with fresh anatomical specimens, vets and veterinary students. In constant demand, many people ‘enjoyed’ the chance to see what’s under the skin and inside the head and hoof – others not so enchanted by the inside of horses! Lots of young would-be vets visited too. It was especially rewarding being on the stand when people had questions about their own horses and the brochures and poster on emergency care were all depleted by Sunday afternoon.
Four days of everything to do with horses should be on everyone’s bucket list and it never disappoints – in fact a 6 day-Equitana would still not be enough time to see everything. A big congratulations and thanks to all involved. (Pictued above Drs Meredith Flash and Jennifer Stewart at the EVA stand at Equitana)
EQUINE CLINICAL NUTRITION
Dr Jennifer Stewart