IDDSP Surgery Type’s Impact on Race Performance

Racing performance was unaltered regardless of which technique was used to correct soft palate displacement.

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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,” he said. It happens when the epiglottis, which is in its normal position on top of the soft palate—shifts below it. When the horse exhales, air gets under the now-exposed soft palate and it floats upward, like a sail, blocking or partially blocking the airway. This can create a choking sound, though Carmalt said a subset of affected horses have been reported to be silent when they displace. Noisy or not, IDDSP can ruin a race and, if it continues, eventually cut short a racing career

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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