Equine Factsheets

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A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining up to 90% of its adult height in the first two years of life. Getting a foal’s growth rate and development right during this time is essential for providing the foal with the best possible start for an athletic career. There are many different factors that will affect a foal’s start in life, but the ones that we can control and manage include: appropriate diet for age and stage of growth de-worming preventive vaccination program farriery.

Radiographs - x-rays are taken by the veterinary surgeon to assist in diagnosing conditions relating to both the skeleton and soft tissue of the horse.

Why do we need to worm? Worms in excessive numbers cause many gastrointestinal problems in horses, ponies and donkeys. A combination of pasture management, worm egg counts (WECs) and targeted worming will ensure that these worm burdens are kept to a healthy level and minimise the risk of disease.

Wolf teeth are small peg-like teeth that sit just in front of the first cheek teeth of horses.

The white line is seen on the underside of the foot. It is where the unpigmented horn of the inner hoof wall joins the horn of the sole.

Urticaria is one of the most commonly encountered skin diseases in horses. It is an allergic reaction manifested in the appearance of soft raised skin nodules or plaques.

Dental problems such as tooth root abscesses, fractured teeth and periodontal disease will commonly require dental extraction as part of the treatment protocol. Dental extraction can be a time consuming and difficult process (even when the teeth feel loose!) and requires a wide range of surgical equipment. Dental extraction should only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon with experience in dental surgery.

A Tie-back and a Hobday are surgical procedures commonly performed together as treatment for recurrent laryngeal neuropathy (RLN), a condition causing paralysis of the nerve supplying the muscles of the larynx. This is the most common cause of abnormal respiratory noise in exercising horses and is often referred to as ‘whistling’ or ‘roaring’. It almost exclusively occurs in large horses, primarily Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods

Dorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP) is a performance-limiting condition of the upper respiratory tract which occurs during fast exercise when the soft palate moves above the epiglottis (part of the larynx), creating a functional obstruction within the airway. This restricts airflow to the lungs and causes a sudden loss of performance and often a choking or gurgling noise.

A rig is an entire male horse with no signs of external testicles so appears to be a gelding; but one or two testicles are still present, producing testosterone. A rig behaves like a stallion and, potentially, may be fertile. Their behaviour is unpredictable and they can be dangerous to handle so they should be castrated. Some geldings still show stallion-like behaviour despite being fully castrated; they are called “false rigs”. The only form of treatment in these cases is behavioural therapy.

After eleven months of waiting, when your bundle of joy finally arrives; it is worth knowing some facts about the newborn foal, especially about the first few hours of life.

Tetanus or 'lockjaw' is an acute, usually fatal disease caused by a bacterium Clostridium tetani found in soil.

Flexor tendon injuries are relatively common in horses. Superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) injuries are particularly common in eventers and racehorses, but can occur in any horse through field injury or over-exertion. The primary defect is a central rupture of tendon fibres resulting in bleeding and swelling. A tendon injury need not be career ending as most are treatable, but prompt diagnosis and early, appropriate treatment can prevent catastrophic breakdown and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Sweet itch is a hypersensitivity reaction to the bite of a midge which produces skin irritation that leads to rubbing, scartching and biting of the affected areas resulting in hair loss and skin damage.

The suspensory ligament (SL) runs down the back of the cannon bone from just below the hock/knee, between the splint bones and beneath the two flexor tendons, before dividing into two branches that insert on two small bones (sesamoid bones) immediately behind the fetlock joint. The main function of the SL is to prevent excessive extension of the fetlock joint; the two branches also contributing to joint stability. There are three regions of the SL that can be injured; proximal (top end), mid-body and the two branches. SL injury can follow a single traumatic event, be due to a repetitive strain or age related longer term degeneration.

Colic is a term used to describe a range of conditions associated with the gastrointestinal tract which present as abdominal pain. Colic can be classified into three general categories, including: Medical colic, false colic and surgical colic. Medical colic can be treated conservatively using drug therapies and other non-surgical means, without resorting to surgery. False colic refers to conditions which can appear similar to abdominal discomfort, but are conditions outside of the abdomen (e.g. tying up and laminitis). Surgical colic refers to those cases of colic which require surgical correction under general anaesthesia. This fact sheet will focus on surgical colic.

Strangles is a very common but unpleasant bacterial disease that can affect horses, ponies and even donkeys. Signs vary between individuals and can range from very mild to dramatic in appearance. The disease is caused by bacteria called Streptococcus equi subspecies equi (Strep. equi) and is highly contagious being spread by direct contact with infected discharges or with contaminated clothing or equipment. Horses can be silent carriers of the bacteria displaying no outward signs but being capable of infecting others.

The term 'sidebone' describes a condition where calcium deposits are laid down within the lateral cartilages, in a process called mineralisation.

Extra-corporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) provides a non-invasive approach to the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders in the horse. Shockwaves are energy-laden sound waves which are directed at the affected area and trigger the body’s own repair and healing mechanisms.

The sheath of a gelding or stallion protects the penis when it is not extruded for urination or breeding.

The equine veterinary surgeon investigating causes of poor performance, lameness and back problems has a number of tools available, including thorough clinical examination, local anaesthetic nerve blocks, radiography (x-ray), ultrasound, MRI, CT and bone scanning. A bone scan makes use of low level radiation, injected into the patient, which then concentrates in areas of inflammation within the body. The patient is scanned a couple of hours after injection with a large camera, which detects the radiation being emitted from the body. Where there is inflammation, there is more radiation, so the camera detects a “hot spot”. Bone scanning is most useful for injuries or disease of bones, joints, teeth and some ligament injuries.

Equine sarcoids are spontaneous, locally invasive tumours of the skin of horses, mules, and donkeys affecting all breeds, ages, colours and sexes and are the most commonly encountered of all the equine tumours. They are variable in appearance, location and rate of growth and although they seldom affect a horse’s usefulness unless they are in a position likely to be abraded by tack. They are however unsightly and may cause considerable discomfort to the horse. They are commonly seen in moist areas of skin such as the groin, chest, neck and face and particularly in younger animals (one-six years old) and geldings; they are frequently associated with wound sites and often multiply. Transfer and spread by flies has been implicated. Familial tendencies have been identified and a genetic susceptibility has been suggested.

Castration involves the surgical removal of both testicles. This is carried out to prevent unwanted breeding and behaviour associated with some stallions.

Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection of the skin. It is spread either directly from horse to horse by contact, or indirectly via tack, grooming aids, infected rugs or clothing. Other species in particular cattle can also be a source of infection. Good hygiene is essential to control the spread of infection. The spores can survive in the environment so once one case is seen on a yard other cases often appear. The incubation period is 4-30 days so by the time a horse shows symptoms the disease may have spread to other horses on the yard.

Ultrasound imaging has been commonly used to assist with equine reproduction for over thirty years. Advances in technology and image quality have meant that high quality, portable imaging is affordable to most veterinary practices. Ultrasound is relatively non-invasive and can be performed in many horses without sedation especially where stocks are available to provide restraint. It is most commonly used for assessing the reproductive tract prior to breeding or in mares with behavioural problems and for the detection and monitoring of the progress of pregnancy.

Mechanically the foot has three main functions; shock absorption, support and grip when the limb is bearing weight. It also provides propulsion when the limb leaves the ground. The effects of abnormal conformation or inappropriate foot trimming and farriery can lead to uneven loading, poor biomechanics, resulting in an increased risk of injury to structures in the foot and higher up the limb.

Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) is an environmentally induced, non-infectious, non-contagious, inflammatory airway disease of horses.

Rain scald is a condition generally during autumn and winter months and affects the skin of the horse, usually on the back and the flanks.

Ragwort is a very common plant with yellow flowers. It is often seen growing on rough land and on the roadside verges.

Biosecurity is a set of management practices that reduces the potential for the introduction or spread of disease-causing agents. Setting up a yard plan and maintaining good biosecurity practices will: - help prevent the introduction and spread of contagious diseases such as equine influenza and Strangles; - assist in keeping the horses healthy and performing well; - help prevent unnecessary disruption to equine activities and the operation of an equine business and the considerable associated costs.

Breeding your own foal from a beloved mare can be immensely rewarding, but remember it is a long term project requiring a lot of commitment in terms of time, energy and money.

After an injury or illness physiotherapy can be used to optimise the conditions for healing, promote mobility and restore function. Current legislation only permits the use of ‘physiotherapy’ (including chiropractic and osteopathy) under the direction of a registered veterinary surgeon i.e. by referral. Physiotherapy is a science based profession that is assessment driven and thus requires regular reviews.

Penetrating foot wounds in horses are relativley common, most usually caused by stepping on a nail, but any sharp object could cause significant damage.

Pastern dermatitis means inflammation of the skin of the pastern between the fetlock and the hoof. It is a description of a clinical appearance rather than a specific diagnosis. There are a large number of causes of pastern dermatitis. Effective treatment will depend on accurate diagnosis of the inciting factors, although this can be difficult as the skin inflammation may look fairly similar irrespective of the cause.

There has been a lot of media attention regarding human obesity and it is no surprise that being overweight is not good for horses or ponies either. Overweight horses are seen far too often and despite efforts being made in the showing world by judges and exhibitors, it continues to be a big problem throughout the horse population in this country. Obesity in horses and ponies can be a serious welfare problem; there is a greatly increased risk of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) which commonly leads to laminitis.

Lameness accounts for a large proportion of any equine vet’s caseload. The actual cause of lameness may be determined following physical examination if there is an obvious swelling or area of pain, but often further investigation is necessary to localise the problem and identify the cause. Orthopaedic investigations often involve the use of nerve and joint blocks. Nerve blocks refer to the injection of local anaesthetic around the nerves in your horse’s limb. These differ from joint blocks where the local anaesthetic is injected directly into a joint or tendon canal.

Navicular syndrome describes a condition where pain arises from the navicular bone in the foot and the surrounding soft tissue structures. It is a common cause of forelimb lameness in horses. Poor foot conformation (especially long toes and low heels) predisposes the horse to developing navicular syndrome as extra biomechanical strain is placed on the heel area.

Advances in reproductive technology over the past decade have greatly improved Artificial Insemination (AI) pregnancy rates. It is now practised widely throughout the UK in many different breeds, the most notable exception being the racing Thoroughbred (TB). Natural service remains the best option in some situations, though, depending on the type of mare, and has proved successful since Eohippus roamed the earth 50 million years ago!

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is an imaging technique that involves placing the horse within a strong magnetic field. Radio waves are applied to the area to be examined and the signal produced is analysed by a computer to produce an image. The high tissue contrast achieved allows assessment of cartilage, ligament, tendons, joint capsule and bone; all on one image. MRI can image deep inside structures and in three dimensions so changes can be found that may not be seen using other imaging e.g. x-ray. MRI is most commonly used for lameness investigations.

Laminitis, in its simplest form, is inflammation of the sensitive layers (laminae) of the hoof resulting in pain, inflammation and, in some cases, permanent damage to the laminae.

A Keratoma is a type of bengin tumor that grows inside the foot. It orginates from the horn producing cells, usually underneath the coronet, and grows down the foot with the normal hoof.

irap® (interleukin receptor antagonist protein) is a natural anti-inflammatory product that can be used to treat a variety of joint injuries. irap® is produced from your horse’s own blood and injected into the affected joint to treat inflammation and lameness and to encourage joint healing.

Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) is a common cause of coughing, nasal discharge and poor performance in many stabled horses. Whilst several therapies exist, the use of inhaled drugs plays an important role in the long term treatment of affected horses.

All horses, ponies, donkeys, zebras and their crosses must have an equine passport. The only exceptions are listed wild and semi wild ponies in designated areas of Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest.

Hoof cracks can occur in all breeds of horses and ponies and can be a significant cause of foot problems and lameness. Once formed, the cracks can take many months to grow out and in severe cases can cause recurrent problems. Recognising when your horse has a crack and getting suitable, prompt treatment, can help to significantly reduce the time and interventions needed to enable a crack to heal.

A heart murmur is a sound produced in the heart by the turbulent flow of blood. Due to the large size of the horse’s heart, this turbulence can be normal (physiological or flow murmurs) e.g. from a fast flowing large volume of blood, or from a high blood flow rate during exercise or in cases of anaemia. Murmurs also result from abnormal blood flow through the heart e.g. back flow through a leaking valve or flow through a hole in the heart.

Headshaking sounds such an innocuous term but it can make the affected horse’s life a misery and render them un-rideable. Horses may shake their heads for a variety of reasons: for example due to pain in the mouth or back. In some, it may be a response to stress or in anticipation of food or exercise. All of these are voluntary actions; the horse is choosing to toss his head. Headshaking syndrome is different, it is an involuntary action thought to be caused by pain in a nerve supplying the face.

Equine grass sickness (EGS) has been recognised in this country since the early 1900’s. It is found in countries around the world but is most common in the UK. It does not affect humans and is not contagious i.e. it is not passed from horse to horse. Disease occurrence around the UK varies, being more common in the drier eastern counties and in Scotland. The incidence peaks in the spring and early summer. There are three forms of EGS: Acute, Sub-acute and Chronic. All are very serious and usually fatal. Occasionally, with good nursing and specialist care, chronic cases can recover.

Fractures can occur as a result of stress due to repeated forces exerted over time, or from an immediate impact which can occur with a kick or a fall.

With many new born animals, for example dairy calves, it would be common for them to be bucket reared on artificial milk powder. Orphan foals however benefit hugely from being reared by a foster mare, both in terms of behaviour and social development, as well as meeting their nutritional needs. In the early weeks of life foals feed very frequently and bucket, or bottle rearing a foal is very time consuming. In contrast, fostered foals can live a more normal life with their new mother; they benefit from feeding when they need to and being able to be turned out as part of a herd.

Also known as pus in the foot, this condition is very commonly seen in horses, ponies and donkeys. Foot abscesses are generally very painful with a sudden onset. They result from a localised bacterial infection developing inside the hoof wall or under the sole, which typically develops after a penetrating injury through the sole, or by tracking up the white line (the seam between the sole and the hoof wall). Recurrent abscesses at the same location can reflect either the presence of a deep seated unresolved infection, a foot tumour called a keratoma, infection of the pedal bone within the foot or chronic laminitis.

Wounds are very common injuries in equines and it is vital for the horse owner to be able to evaluate the severity of a cut. Some wounds can be managed without veterinary assistance but many will require professional attention. It may be possible to provide important first aid before the vet arrives. Innocuous-looking wounds can be the most dangerous, so if you are in any doubt as to the significance of a wound it is best to contact your vet for advice.

The decision to euthanase a horse may be the most difficult faced by an owner. In addition to the emotional stress, the situation is further complicated by the practical arrangements necessary. While the decision can never be made easy, considering the options available in advance can help to prevent further distress both during, and after the procedure. It can be useful to leave a plan of your arrangements with your yard owner or temporary carer, so that if you are unavailable in an emergency situation, your wishes can still be respected.

Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) is caused by equine arteritis virus. The virus occurs worldwide. Infection can be transmitted between horses during mating or teasing, via infected semen used in artificial insemination, by contact with aborted foetuses or placentas or via the respiratory route.

Broadly speaking, muscle diseases (myopathies) are either present from birth (genetic disorders) or develop spontaneously during adulthood (acquired disorders). Those present from birth may not be obvious until adulthood. The medical term for the most common muscular disorder is recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER), resulting in a syndrome of muscle cramping that occurs during exercise. RER is also known as tying up, setfast, Monday morning disease and azoturia. Horses that experience RER either have an underlying myopathy or have been physically overexerted.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) is a condition which has only become recognised in recent years. EMS is usually seen in overweight horses and ponies. Fat which is laid down around the body becomes hormonally active and excretes hormone-like chemicals which interfere with normal sugar and fat metabolism. The result is an individual that continues to put on weight and will, eventually, show signs of laminitis. It has similarities to Type 2 diabetes in humans. EMS in natural living, wild, native ponies is normal. It allows them to put on weight in the summer and then use these fat reserves in the winter months when food is in shorter supply. Our domestication of horse and ponies – rugging up and liberal feeding all year round – interferes with this natural mechanism.

LASER is the acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser generates an intense beam of light that for surgical purposes can be used to cut, seal or vaporise tissue. There are three different types of laser used: CO2, diode and Nd:YAG. The CO2 laser heats up water within the tissue and vaporises it. This laser has the advantages of sparing surrounding tissue from heat damage and precise cutting capability. Both diode and Nd:YAG deliver the laser down a fibre allowing it to be passed down a video-endoscope and used for endoscopic guided surgery. The laser energy is more easily absorbed by tissue than CO2 laser, resulting in increased risk of heat damage to tissue. The diode laser is becoming increasingly popular in large animal practice as it is small, portable and efficient.

Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) also called 'swamp fever' is a viral disease transmitted from infected to non-infected horses by biting flies e.g. horse flies and via infected blood and blood products including contaminated needles and syringes. The disease is not currently in the UK but is circulating in Europe in particular Italy and Romania. There was a significant outbreak of EIA in Ireland in 2006 following the introduction of the virus in imported blood products. More recently in England in 2010 and 2012 cases were identified in horses that had been imported previously.

There are three main types of herpes virus in horses: Equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1); which causes respiratory disease and also occasionally abortions and neurological disease. Equine herpesvirus 4 (EHV-4); causes respiratory disease (generally mild). Equine herpesvirus 3 (EHV-3); which is less commonly seen but may cause venereal disease in breeding mares and stallions.

Dentistry is an essential and important part of the health care of your horse. Your horse's teeth should be examined at least once a year.

All horses should receive dental care at least once a year to prevent sharp enamel points forming which can cause trauma to the soft tissues of the mouth.

Endoscopes are instruments which can be used to look inside a horse’s body. They are long, tubular, and generally flexible. They have a light and a camera at their far end. The tip is manipulated by dials on a hand piece. Your vet will be able to view the image either through an eyepiece, or on a computer screen. Endoscopes have many uses in equine practice, but the most common endoscopes are between one and 1.5 metres in length and are used to view the horse’s respiratory tract.

When an infectious disease such as 'Strangles' is suspected; people often hope there is a less serious cause and carry on as normal to avoid any associated panic. If you are unlucky enough to have an infectious disease, ignoring the problem in the early stages will only increase the number of horses affected and prolong the length of time the yard is affected.

Diarrhoea is an increase in the volume, fluidity and frequency of droppings and can vary in severity from mild to severe. The horse’s large intestine (colon), acts as a fermenting vat containing numerous bacteria and large volumes of fluid for the digestion of fibrous feeds. In most cases of diarrhoea there is disruption of the normal bacterial population in the gut which can impair digestion. In severe cases of diarrhoea the fluid losses can be rapid, leading to marked dehydration and electrolyte losses. Without prompt veterinary treatment diarrhoea can be a life threatening condition.

Equine Cushing’s is now termed PPID (Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction). This means that an area of the pituitary gland at the base of the brain overproduces several hormones. This results in raised ACTH1 which circulates in the blood to the adrenal glands and causes excess cortisol (a steroid hormone) to be produced. It is a gradual age-related change so primarily affects ponies and horses over 15 years of age but recent studies have shown it to be evident in some 10-15 year olds. A significant proportion of horses with laminitis have PPID.

Colic simply means 'pain in the abdomen' and therefore has many different causes. It may be serious or even life-threatening, but most horses with colic recover fully and uneventfully.

Choke is a relatively common condition seen in horses and ponies and is typically caused by obstruction of the oesophagus (food pipe) with food; occasionally a foreign body can be involved e.g. wood or plastic. Fortunately many cases of choke resolve quickly and spontaneously and only cases in which the obstruction lasts for longer than 30 minutes are likely to require veterinary assistance. It is important to note that this is not the same as the life-threatening condition in humans, where the term “choke” refers to blockage of the windpipe rather than the oesophagus. This difference means that unlike humans, horses with choke can still breathe.

The life span of our horses is increasing: - approximately 29% of the UK horse population are older than 15 years of age; - many older horses continue to have a useful working life and still participate in regular athletic activity; - a recent study showed that older horses received less preventive health care measures, such as vaccination, farriery and routine veterinary care, when in fact they often need an increased level of care in these areas.

The pregnant mare needs special managemnet considerations in order to optimise the chance of the successful delivery of a healthy foal.

This is a condition that affects the frog of the foot. It used to be seen primarily in heavy horses, but we now see it in all breeds.

A bruised sole is one of the most common causes of lameness in horses. Direct trauma or injury to the underside of the foot can result in haemorrhage and inflammation beneath the sole, involving the sensitive horn producing tissues, leading to the typical dark red appearance of a bruise. A bruised sole may be caused by accidental injury to the sole of the foot by treading on a stone or un-even ground, pressure from poorly fitting shoes or excessive work on hard ground.

Bone spavin is the term used for osteoarthritis of the lower joints within the hock, most commonly the distal intertarsal and tarsometatarsal joints. These joints are all low movement joints unlike the upper joint about which the vast majority of flexion and extension of the hock occurs. Bone spavin is one of the most common forms of hind limb lameness seen in the horse. It is most frequently seen in mature performance and pleasure horses but can also be seen in young racehorses. It is thought to be caused by repeated compression and rotation of the small bones within the hock; although in some breeds e.g. Icelandic there may also be a hereditary component. Horses with poor hock conformation e.g. sickle or cow hocks are more prone to develop the condition.

Bog spavin is fluid distension of the high mobility joint in the hock called the tibiotarsal or tarsocrural joint. The swelling can be seen and felt at the two superficial outpouchings of the joint capsule; at the front towards the inside and on the outside just below and infront of the point of hock. If one swelling is compressed this usually causes the other swelling to enlarge temporarily and vice versa. Bog spavin can occur in one or both hind legs.

Analysis of blood has long been a standard part of the investigation of a large number of illnesses, diseases and injuries. The number of available tests, along with their accuracy, is continuously expanding, as researchers and laboratories endeavour to make ever greater use of blood testing as a diagnostic tool. The procedure is generally very safe and well-tolerated by most horses and the results can yield important information about the health of a patient. Along with aiding in the diagnosis of disease, blood testing has a number of other uses, as described below.

Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (ERM) is also known as Azoturia, Tying-up, Set-Fast and Monday Morning Disease. ERM is a disturbance of the normal functioning of the muscles in the horse that causes painful cramps and muscle damage. ERM is most often seen when there is an imbalance between exercise and feeding, for example maintaining a high energy diet while suddenly reducing the exercise levels. In some cases, it is caused by a genetic disease: polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM).

Atypical or sycamore myopathy is an uncommon, sudden onset, severe muscle disease, which is rapidly fatal in about 75% of cases. This disease is seen most commonly in the autumn, in horses and ponies kept at pasture and is associated with the ingestion of sycamore seeds. It should not be confused with exertional rhabdomyolysis (ERM) commonly known as tying up which is a relatively common muscle condition occurring during or shortly after exercise.

Arthroscopy (commonly known as keyhole surgery) has been available since the 1980s for the treatment of joint injuries in humans, horses and occasionally dogs. The procedure allows the examination and treatment of many joint and tendon canal injuries whilst causing minimal trauma during the procedure itself. Patients generally recover relatively quickly following keyhole surgery with little scarring and low risks of wound complications.

Arthritis is a disorder of the joints, characterised by the degeneration and loss of the cartilage covering the joint surface and the development of new bone on joint surfaces and margins.

Antibiotics are pharmaceutical products which kill or prevent the replication of bacteria. Veterinary surgeons use them in equine practice for the treatment of bacterial disease. Antibiotics are broadly classified into two categories – they are either bacteriostatic, whereby they inhibit bacteria from growing, allowing the animal’s own immune system to deal with them, or bacteriocidal, where the antibiotic itself kills the bacteria. Bacteria can also be classified as either Gram positive or Gram negative depending on how they appear when stained and examined under a microscope. Different antibiotics are good at targeting different bacteria. Those with the widest range of activity are known as broad spectrum antibiotics.

Angular limb deformities (ALDs) , often referred to as bent legs, are a relatively common condition, most frequently affecting new born or relatively young, growing foals during the first few months of life

Where possible in an equine patient, investigation and treatment is carried out under sedation or local anaesthesia, but general anaesthesia is necessary in order to carry out certain procedures painlessly, safely and effectively. Some short operations can be undertaken in a stable or field but many types of surgery require hospital or clinic facilities.

An allergic reaction is the excessive response of an individual’s immune system to something that would be relatively harmless to most animals of the same species. The ‘allergen’ is the substance causing the reaction. The most common example in horses in sweet itch, but allergies can also be caused by a number of other factors. Diagnosis of the cause can be difficult, making prevention tricky.

Horses' eyes are easily damaged as their position on the head means they are at risk when the horse grazes near hedges or brushes past trees.

Acorns are poisonous to horses. This is because they contain toxic substances called Gallic Acid and Tannic Acid. These acids can cause liver, kidney and intestinal damage to horses eating acorns, oak leaves or branches. Acorn poisoning is rare but can be a particular problem in the autumn for horses allowed to graze near oak trees.

Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) describes the erosion of the horse’s stomach lining due to prolonged or excessive exposure to acid produced by the stomach. Any horse can suffer from gastric ulceration, from elite performance horses to pleasure horses and ponies.

Ultrasound is a non-invasive diagnostic technique that uses high frequency sound waves to image soft tissue structures in the body. The sound waves are translated into a black and white picture. With this technique it is therefore possible from the outside to investigate several disease processes in organs that are in the belly and the chest of the horse. Evaluation usually includes assessment of the location and size of an organ and changes in its tissue structure. In addition, in several organs (e.g. heart and kidney) blood flow can be visualised in a coloured picture using a technique called colour-Doppler ultrasound. Ultrasound can be used as an aid to pinpoint the location and depth of biopsy sites and needles.