Firing article in H&H

Lucy_Ally

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I wonder if the editorial team have read the heated debates on the subject in this forum!!

Glad to see a balanced view and as always a good quote from my boss! Lol! It would have been nice to have more of an explanation as to why it doesn't work, i.e more about what actually happens in tendon healing and how firing is actually detrimental to the process.
 

Irishcobs

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You've just reminded me that I need to read that, I skimmed it briefly at work but will read it properly now.
The only experience I have with firing is a horse at work (2/3* eventer) was fired years ago. Both legs. I don't no what leg he did but I can't find any bumps etc on either tendon. He can't do 4* because of this tendon and he couldn't do the long format either. Other than that he is sound, fine, but I have no idea if the firing helped or not. And after seeing the pics on the article not something I ever what to see or have done.
 

vicijp

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I read that article and thought they didnt explain the good side properly. No mention of prevention of overcompensation etc. And it was great to see the most horrific bar and pin fired horse they could find - I havent seen a horse done like that in years.
 

Lucy_Ally

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The problem is the "good side" is all just anecdotal, there is actually no evidence that this process has any benefit. They have spoken to racecourse and orthopaedic vets - the experts in the field, if they couldn't find much good to say about it then I think that is all the evidence needed


I have seen horses at the abattoir with bar fire injuries as severe as those shown.
 

vicijp

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I dont agree with bar firing either.
The only evidence I have is what I have seen with my own eyes.
Done properly pin firing is a job well done. I have known hundreds of horses pin fired. Those treated properly have worked. Those given too much box rest and/or too little time off have gone wrong.
A lot of horses break down on one leg, come back into work, then break down on the other. I have never known that with pin firing - it makes them a perfect pair, same elasticity, same range of movement. I know the argument is the scar tissue is less elastic than tendon tissue, but surely a pair of legs that work the same is better?
I have no wish to argue, im not going to change your views and youre not going to change mine. Just saying what I know and have seen to work, and its not just a few, time and time again. Horses that have had problems on and off for years (and dont say the time did it - all ours get as much time as they need, sometimes not even for any reason).
My vet travels all around the country giving second opinions on tendons, and he is all for pin firing. He rang the main stem cell man up when he scanned my horses legs (area around stem cell injection jobby is one big black hole) and asked him what he thought. Blokes reply was 'its all a f#cking waste of time, but people love to spend money if they think somethings going to work' (not having a go at your area of expertise, but have yet to hear a good word said about it by a professional).
P.S, I dont understand why people dont use blister to get rid of the scars?
 

Lucy_Ally

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The thing is that there is no gaurantee about any of the current treatments hence why new ones are being developed and why so much money goes into understanding what happens inside the tendon during injury and healing. I am not trying to change your opinion, I respect that you are a very knowledgeable horse-woman, my problem is that I am a trained scientist so I find it hard to believe anything that doesn't have scientific evidence. I am a sceptic of most "back men" and homeopathy type treatments
I base my knowledge on what I have learned from the leading equine orthopaedic vet in the country and my understanding of basic anatomy and physiology.

If your vet spoke to Roger Smith (the vet that has pioneered the stem cell treatment) then I doubt he would have said the treatment was useless and for mugs, however he is not claiming to cure tendon injuries as there are still so many unknowns about the treatment - but for my mind the autologous stem cell implantation can't do any harm where as firing can lead to secondary infection and future complications. There are however good and bad vets out there doing the stem cell treatment (there was a case of a vet puncturing the heart of a horse whilst trying to extract bone marrow from the sternum
) so depending on how well the treatment is done will effect the outcome.

I have no wish to argue with you either.
 

vicijp

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TBH I think my horse was messed up by the aftercare (in Ireland, not by me) - put on a horsewalker for hour a day for 10 months then turned out in the field.
Out of interest, what do you think is the main cause of tendon injuries? Ground, conformation or muppet handling?
 

Lucy_Ally

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Lol!

Personally I think that poor training regimes combined with the genetics and history of the horse are the most likely causes of breaking down. There are differences between horse's tendons when tested mechanically and looked at biochemically, indicating individual variation not necessarily down to conformation.
The ground conditions must play a part but this doesn't account for horses that breakdown on the all weather and those that can plough through hock deep mud with no problem!
 

vicijp

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So what do you think about training a horse entirely on artificial surfaces, then expecting them to perform on grass?
Funny you say about the variation thing, there are a lot of horses about with odd tendons (one about 1/2 inch thicker than other, before any injury) - what do those look like biomewhatsit?
 

Lucy_Ally

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There is a study currently being performed to look at the effect of surface on leg injuries (fractures as well), which should help answer your question. I think that training on an all weather is probably good as you limit the uneveness of the ground and so reduce the risk of a catastrophic injury (i.e. sudden snapping of the tendon due to putting foot in a hole etc) however I am not sure the effect of continous training on one surface and then swapping to another.
Horses do seem to have differences between legs, it may be due to them racing more in one direction than another (i.e left and right handed tracks), also horses are known to be sided so many will preferentially select left or right canter lead, as a tendon takes more strain it will increase its cross sectional area to compensate. However when looking at the collagen content, there is an inverse relationship with cross-sectional area - i.e. a fatter tendon doesn't necessarily mean a stronger one!
 

vicijp

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Ive always found that the fatter tendon will be the one to go. Not sure one sidedness can be to blame in all cases, have seen plenty of unbroken horses like this.
How about training up a steep hill, day in day out? Im sure you know as well as I do who the 'killer' trainers are, they are up and down a hill on the AW every day. I think training on AW is good for flat horses which are likely to run on firmish ground, saves them for the day.
However, I am sure that the reason so many jumpers break down is because the AW at home is just to easy for them. Most horses (when you work them at home) are very different horses when on either grass or AW. Ive worked in a few yards where they have worked on both, the grass is that much harder work for them. Although im talking fitness wise, surely it has an effect on the legs?
 

Lucy_Ally

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The fatter tendon may also have undergone some sub-clinical injury (microdamage) this will cause hypertrophy of the tendon and pose more of a risk of breaking down. Unfortunately there is still a lot that we don't know and research is ongoing to find out more to help select the most injury-resistant horses and help develop training regimes to prevent injury.
Its interesting about training regimes as there was a study at the RVC but looking at bone rather than tendon and they found quite a difference between trainers, although I don't know which trainers were used they were grouped into categories where they either did no fast work or did regular fast work. Those that did some fast work had horses that showed decreased amount of bone biomarkers associated with bone breakdown and increased numbers of those associated with bone repair and remodelling. This would indicate then that horses do need the fast work and probably work on a "tougher" surface to increase the strength of bone and probably also tendon (we know that horses with stronger bones usually have stronger tendons). Obviously one could go over board and cause damage, but a happy medium can be achieved if the fast work and increased distances are built up over time.
Hill work is also controversial, when working up hill you can get the horse working at a higher heart rate and oxygen consumption at lower speeds than you can on the flat, however down hill exercise leads to eccentric muscle contraction which will place extra strain on the legs. Again the research is limited as studies of this kind are expensive to run.

Most good trainers seem to know this instinctively and we certainly have more horses come in for stem cell treatment from certain trainers. This may be because they have more injured horses (quite likely
) or could be because they have faith in the treatment, as to who they are - I couldn't possibley comment!
 

vicijp

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I think the danger with hill work ties in with the artificial surfaces. With an AW being that much easier, some are simply working up hills faster than their bodies are designed to go.
Ive always found that if the pelvis doesnt go first, the legs end up going later.
Here we have capacity for 25 in training,however my dad doesnt work to the conventional seasons and is very dual purpose, so we have a lot of horses through the yard (that doesnt mean we get rid, most will be roughed off for 6months out of 12).
The work we do is generally either steady or fast. Steady cantering is done on a bank (barely out of a trot), fast work on the gallop 2/3 times a week (we have a bit of a hill, but is more a gradual rise than a pull).
We have never had any kind of fracture, no pelvis problems, and I cant remember the last time one broke down proper (as in pulled up race or gallop hopping lame, have had a couple of bruises the last year but nothing major).
If you compare that to the routine of the major players, which would be 3 times, flat out, up a steep hill on the AW, every day. The ones which are documented in the press are the good horses, think how the bad ones fare. We hear of a lot more accidents, and im sure there are many more that dont get about.
Id love to see a study on the top 10 in the trainers table. How many horses, to how many fractures, legs and pelvis'. I think even I would be shocked.
 

Lucy_Ally

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Yes sadly we see a lot of really knackered horses through the abattoir, some with fairly decent racing history or that have come from good trainers.
If you have a regime which works and your injury rates are low then it sounds like you have the balance right. I guess the big guns do have pressure on them to get the winners out time and again and what sets apart a successful trainer from an excellent one is not just the number of winners but the number of horses coming back sound from each race.
I think you are probably right about the all weather, whilst dreassage riders strive to reduce the concussion on their horses legs with every fancy surface imagineable, racers do need to have legs that will stand up to poor ground.

Whilst trainers have not been named there have been a few studies looking at fracture rate in training (EVJ, 2004 I think) as well as on racecourses. I suppose the general and racing public would all be a bit shocked and it probably wouldn't do the sport any favours if high profile trainers were named and shamed!
 

vicijp

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We are always amazed at the perceptions of the top trainers by the general racing public. Yes they are very succesful, yes their horses are very fit, but no one knows how many horses didnt make it out of the other end. I know of 3 trainers in the top 10 who have 3 - 5 splinter yards each, for recuperation. One local to us has the meat wagon there weekly.
It wouldnt do the industry any favours in the long run, but I think the long term implications would be good if there was a major shake up.
 

PapaFrita

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Very interesting thread
I know SJing is rather different, but I do try to work PF on all sorts of terrain/surfaces and aside from her little splints she has very clean/non puffy legs and is very sound.
What are splinter yards if you don't mind me asking?
 

vicijp

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They are smaller, unlicensed yards. Usually run independently and used for pre training and injured horses. The horses in these yards are not on the trainers 'books' with the Jockey Club, so they sort of cease to exist.
 

vicijp

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Not really, everyone knows they exist and there are no rules against them. Just gives an untrue impression when a trainer only has 130 horses on his in training list, and probably 70 elsewhere.
 

sallyf

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Fascinating disscusion , i think that there as many big bad flat trainers about as well.
All credit to you not having any problems , dont you think it could be the more varied excercise you give them.
We never had any problems with any of our competition horses but they all did road work, galloped on grass and stubble and rotavated ground.
A bit of everything if you like perhaps they learn to adjust better .
 

puddicat

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"Out of interest, what do you think is the main cause of tendon injuries? Ground, conformation or muppet handling?"

No evidence for any of the above to any significant degree. The number of possible contributory factors is massive so if you have horses doing an activity which puts it's tendons close to the failure point, such as racing, inevitably a proportion will fail due to any number of reasons.

An analogy would be to say "why to people have car accidents is it the road is it the car or how they drive it?" That's another situation where the number of variables is so many that there isn't a single good answer. Of course you can say drive more carefully and that would reduce accidents and you can say don't push animals to their limit and they won't break but that isn't very helpful if you want to know where the limit is because you want to drive fast/win a horserace.

At this stage what is more interesting than the actual answer is how you answer that type of question. For all sorts of reasons vet/med research is not very good at dealing with situations where the causes of a disease are complex. Laminitis, navicular, lower airway disease, grass sickness, tendon injury are all conspicuous examples and there are others. An answer, which would serve the purposes of sports medicine in humans and animals is to take a different approach and try to predict when things are going to break rather than trying to understand why they break.
 

judymoon

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vicijp

glad you made the point about the top trainers, being in the same field as you i'm all to well aware that the top end trainers have a massive massive amount of horses, with only the horses that shine making into the no. 1 yard. It is surely impossible to train 100+ horses individually therefore the weaker ones fall by the wayside and never really get the opportunity to fill their potential unless they end up with smaller yards that have the time to spend on the individual.

Also with regard to firing there is i think only one condition that does benefit from firing (im racking my memory from my vet nurse days in the U.S.) oscillates in the ankles i think. We did it for one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. any other firing is fairly pointless and tends to be treating the owner more than anything. If a horse has no clinical / visual problem then they tend to get pushed back into work alot sooner than they should, firing forces complete rest, sad i know.
 

KateStartin

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Fascinating discussion! I work on a splinter yard and we are just about to get some broken horses from one of the top trainers in the country to rest and bring back into work so i will be looking at their legs with interest!
 
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