Ever since researchers developed a novel way to correct intermittent dorsal displacement of the soft palate (IDDSP), a condition that can limit or end a horse’s racing career, there hasn’t been much argument over the surgical method to use. The procedure, called “tie-forward,” introduced a little more than a decade ago, has a proven success rate. But a new study casts doubt on whether this method is truly superior to older techniques.

Scientists had not compared like-to-like racing results to see if one IDDSP surgical approach gave better success rates than another and, ultimately, the competitive edge. So James Carmalt, MA, VetMB, MVetSc, FRCVS, Dipl. ABVP, AVDC, ACVS, a professor of surgery at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), in Canada, and a colleague from U of S and Halland Animal Hospital, in Sweden, compared race speed of Swedish Standardbred trotting horses that had undergone either a staphylectomy or a “tie-forward” procedure. He presented their results at the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas.

“We know there are multiple treatment options for IDDSP, and that the ‘tie-forward’ has the highest success rate” he said, but, “sit tight, because the truth of the matter is that we may not.

“Palatal dysfunction is the No. 1 upper respiratory tract obstruction, and dorsal displacement of the palate is No. 1 among these,