Sunday, November 7, 2010

Guest Blogger: Jan Scarbrough

I'd like to welcome guest blogger Jan Scarbrough. You can read Jan's bio at the bottom of this post.

NASA Technology Revolutionizes Horse Treatment

I’m no horse expert, just a horse lover. From reading the Black Stallion books in the fourth grade, to hunter/jumper lessons after school, to continuing my weekly riding lessons today—I’ve been horse crazy. My wildest dream came true in 1988 when I bought a pleasure pony from my eleven year old daughter. Mr. Too Little was a bay American Saddlebred, grandson of the famed champion Wing Commander.

In 2001, now on my third horse, a retired Saddlebred show horse nicknamed Harry, I face an owner’s worst nightmare. I was forced to put him down after treating him for lameness for a month. His right front hoof was infected, but it was his left leg that ultimately failed, causing him horrendous pain. My only recourse that terrible Sunday afternoon was to nod my assent to the veterinarian when he told me there was nothing he could do. My last memory of Harry was his retreating silhouette as the vet led him slowly down the aisle between stalls and out into the sunshine.

Therefore, when I attended The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Lexington, Kentucky, I was drawn to a display outside of the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital exhibition. Set up in the early October sun was the Enduro NEST (NASA Equine Support technology). Using the latest NASA technology, Enduro Medical Technology, a company based in Connecticut, has developed a support system for horses which allows them to remain in a standing position without bearing their weight.

You need to see the video to get a better idea.

As their website claims—“this equine support system fully and safely supports the horse, of any size, with a totally new approach to sling design which requires no more time to apply than a winter blanket. The Enduro equine support system, using patented NASA cable compliant joint technology, is used to precisely lift and safely support the equine patient during induction of anesthesia. As the patient regains consciousness, the system gradually releases until the horse is able to stand without assistance. This technique totally eliminates a horse’s anxiety and instability which exists in the protocols used today.”

The president of Enduro, Kenneth Messier, stood next to his NEST and talked to us about the product. What interested me the most was his claim that the NEST can help with the treatment of laminitis.

Rustin M. Moore, DVM, in an article “Barbaro Injury Highlights Need for Laminitis Research Funding” explains, “Laminitis, sometimes referred to as “founder,” is a severely debilitating, tremendously painful disease of the soft tissues (laminae) that connect the hoof wall (the outer part of the hoof that you see) to the coffin bone (the skeletal bone that exists inside the hoof). Laminitis typically develops in either both front feet (most common), all four feet, or in the foot opposite to a limb with a severe injury or infection.”

Remember Barbaro’s terrible accident in the 2006 Preakness? I watched it on television and like so many others, followed Barbaro’s recovery.

As Dr. Moore puts it, “from the outset of treatment, Barbaro’s doctors emphasized that the colt’s recovery would be dependent upon the successful healing of his bone fractures as well as the prevention of laminitis in his opposite healthy leg. This fear of laminitis was realized seven weeks later, when it was announced that Barbaro had developed the disease in his left hind foot. The silent killer that affects horses around the globe was now a severe complication in Barbaro’s otherwise excellent recovery.”

Barbaro was euthanized on January 29, 2007. Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of surgery at the New Bolton Center, said laminitis left Barbaro “with not a good leg to stand on.”

Enduro’s website quotes an anonymous professional, “I believe that if this piece of equipment had been available last year, Barbaro would be alive today.”

No one knows, but I can see the truth in that statement. If my Harry had been placed in this support system, his good left front leg would not have been forced to support all his weight. Perhaps his right hoof would have been given time to heal.

But Messier admitted that the NEST is expensive, out of the reach for regular horse owners. As with other new technologies, it will be cheaper in the future.

Let’s hope so—and we no longer need to fear this horrible disease that has taken the lives of backyard pleasure horses as well as Barbaro and the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

A technical writer by day and a romance writer by night, Jan Scarbrough is the author of several romance novels. She loves nothing better than to fit a horse into the plot. Jan gets her “horse fix” once a week by taking a riding lesson at Premier Stables in Simpsonville, Kentucky.


Maddie James said...

Very informative blog post, Jan. I know how much you love horses and how awful it must have been to lose Harry. Your post makes me wonder if all of this info --and the emotion that goes with something like this -- will turn up in one of your books one day. You know I love your horse books for big girls. :)

JM said...

Ah, Jan, I know how it is to lose a friend. I lost two last year, within a couple months of each other. I still tear up sometimes when I look in the field and they aren't there.
As interesting as the NEST is, it doesn't look very practical for the regular horse owner. I think it definitely would have helped Barbaro, though. It is a shame it wasn't on the market sooner.

Jan Scarbrough said...

I can see equine vet clinics using the NEST.

Tonya Kappes said...

Thank you for all the great information Jan! I'm sorry about Harry. I know it's hard to lose your beloved horse. My niece is a hunter-jumper and she ONLY wants to be in that barn and be all around her horse. I wish they had the equipment 'the nest' for Barbaro. Everytime I think about that race, it brings tears to my eyes.

Francesca Prescott said...

I'm sure the NEST will catch on very quickly in equine clinics all over the place. I wish the clinic where I took my horse recently had had one; it was really scary watching Kwint come out of his sedation and wobbling all over the place. Thanks for the info, Jan. I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your horse.