Equine Science: Weekly News and Trivia Question - November 20, 2009

Good morning Barnmice readers and welcome to this week’s jam-packed Equine Science News blog; today I’ll be chatting about Fell Pony Syndrome, Laminitis awareness and the problems that endurance horses can suffer with.

But first, it can’t have escaped many owners notice that this week has seen the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) meeting in Denmark to discuss the future of horse sport with Bute and Rollkur being top of their current agendas. Yesterday it was announced on Horse & Hound Online that small amounts of the painkiller Bute can be used on horses competing in FEI competitions from next year without their owners being accused of doping. The vote to adopt this “progressive list” of drugs has sent shockwaves through the equestrian industry.

The new rules mean that owners or riders can administer small doses of one of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including Bute, up to 24hour before a competition. The FEI have purposely set the dosage limit so that the drugs can help ease muscle stiffness, but will not hide an injury or disease such as arthritis. Nevertheless, many people are sceptical and are concerned that the new laws could be open to abuse.


Rollkur, or hyperflexion, is the other big controversy creating storms in the horse industry following the “blue-tongue” row that was exposed several weeks ago. Now the FEI, who are opposed to any training methods that clash with horse welfare, have declared that they are working with World Horse Welfare to investigate hyperflexion training methods that are seen across a wide range of disciplines.

I’ve discussed before on here about Mark Andrews’ great Equine Science Update blog which often covers stories not mentioned elsewhere and this week is no exception. Fell Pony Syndrome is a rare, but fatal condition which affects the immune system of young foals of the Fell pony breed and is similar to anaemia. New research has now found that Dales ponies can now suffer a similar condition.

This condition has been found in Fell ponies in both Britain, the Netherlands and the USA, but until recently had never been seen in other breeds. Now a Dales pony has sadly lost its life after suffering with similar symptoms and there are concerns the disease might not just be restricted to Fell ponies.

The Syndrome which is thought to be carried by a defective gene causes diarrhoea, coughing, weight loss and anaemia and usually kills foals suffering with the disease before they reach the age of 3 months. Researchers at the Animal Health Trust and the Liverpool Veterinary School are keen to carry out further research to discover the prevalence of Fell Pony Syndrome and would like owners who suspect their young equines to suffer with the condition to get in touch. For detailed information about Fell Pony Syndrome I recommend checking out the rest of Mark Andrews’ blog post here.

In the Northern Hemisphere, Laminitis isn’t generally something at the forefront of most owners minds at this time of the year as the grass becomes more sparse, but owners in the UK now have the opportunity to prepare themselves.... Leading British vet schools and the feed company Dodson & Horrell are holding Laminitis Awareness talks giving owners the opportunity to hear more about the latest research and what they can do to help their own horses. They’ll be the chance to hear about Cushings Disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome and also includes hands-on practical sessions. There are currently three talks planned at various UK locations; for more information see this article on the Dodson & Horrell website.

Finally, Horsetalk.co.nz have reported on a study looking at horses that had been withdrawn from endurance competition for emergency veterinary treatment.

An endurance competition. Image owned by Haras nationaux


The Californian investigation looked at a total of 30 horses withdrawn from competitions in 2005-2006 for metabolic abnormalities. They found that the horses were suffering with a variety of problems including colic, muscle problems and oesophageal obstruction. These sick horses had lower levels of chloride and potassium in their blood plasma but higher concentrations of protein, but were successfully treated and discharged to their owners. The research shows that horses removed from competition under the criteria used in the study went on to recover well and that none of the horses suffered serious illness or complications.

Now it’s time for this week’s trivia question:
Do horses have monocular or binocular vision?

Click here to visit my profile page to find out the answer.

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