Malcolm J. Borthwick, VMD, practiced on Standardbreds in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for 30 years, and in his retirement continues to enjoy owning and driving racehorses. In his introduction to the Lameness in the Racehorse Table Topic presented at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners Annual Meeting, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas, he emphasized the importance of the foot and felt that it is overlooked as a common seat of lameness in the racehorse. He also asserted the importance of the veterinarian having a good relationship with the trainer and groom, which facilitates reaching a diagnosis and ensures more effective follow-up care.
Melissa McKee, DVM, is a partner at McKee-Pownall Equine Services in Toronto, Canada. Her caseload is 70% Standardbred and 30% Thoroughbred/racing Quarter Horse, and she focuses primarily on lameness diagnosis and advanced imaging, including MRI. She also believes that a good relationship with the trainer and groom is vital, because a detailed history from those working closely with the animal provides important clues to the underlying problem. She also mentioned several subtle findings such as abrasions in the mouth, shoe wear, and various areas where a horse might interfere with himself while trotting or galloping, that are important details to notice during a workout. Both veterinarians agreed that a very thorough physical exam was essential before moving toward any type of imaging or treatment.
Attendees addressed several issues concerning the foot. Horses without a notable lameness or respiratory issue, but that were unwilling to pass other horses or finish the race strongly, often have bilateral (affecting both limbs) foot pain that saps their desire to be competitive on the track. Both Thoroughbred and Standardbred veterinarians in attendance commented on the long toe/low heel conformation as contributing to deep-seated foot soreness despite reasonably normal radiographs (X rays). Al