Vet Services Hawkes Bay Ltd

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Mike Fitzgerald 

As many of you know, the foot is a common source of lameness; up to 90% of lameness can be located within the foot. The heel region of the foot can be blamed for up to 1/3 of chronic (long-term) lameness. This makes sense, as the hoof is the part of the body that receives and dampens a large amount of force during locomotion. It is estimated that the hooves bear 2-3 times the weight of the horse at a gallop in a straight line and between 5-10 times the body weight when cornering at a gallop. This means one hoof can be exposed to forces of up to 5000kg for an average sized horse. It is of no surprise that accurate trimming and shoeing of horses is one of the most important influences on the long-term soundness of a horse. Try going for a run in pair of shoes 3 sizes too big... or maybe even in a pair of heels!

When trimming or shoeing a horse, emphasis should be placed on maintaining natural balance, combined with optimum length of toe and correct angulation of the hoof wall and pedal bone, relative to the pastern.

The angle of the hoof capsule and coffin bone should ideally be parallel to the angle of the pastern (the Hoof-Pastern angle). This helps the horse to evenly distribute its weight in the forelimb. If the angle becomes too low, when the toe becomes too long and the heel too low (broken back), more stress will be put on the structures at the back of the leg. Including the navicular bone, coffin joint, suspensory ligament, and flexor tendons. This greatly increases the chances of sudden injury, or gradual overloading type injuries to any of these structures e.g. a bowed tendon, chronic heel pain. If the angle is too high, an up-right conformation (broken forward), the fetlock, coffin joint and knee have more strain put on them leading to arthritic changes and lameness??

To illustrate this; break-over is a word commonly used in the horse world. It is the phase of the stride when the horse’s heel lifts off the ground and the time the toe is lifted. During this phase, the toe acts as a pivot point around which the heel rotates. The break-over point is the point where the heel lifts off the ground. Changes in toe length, hoof-pastern axis and hoof angle all affect the break-over. A long toe and low hoof angle will delay break-over as more time and effort is required to rotate the heel over the long lever arm that is the long toe. Optimising break-over is important.

A good farrier will always do his/her best to get the angles correct. However, it is not always as easy as it seems. A hoof that looks more or less in balance from the outside, can often have angles that are not quite right.

The only way to know for sure what the pedal bone (bone in the foot) is doing in relation to the hoof and pastern, is by radiographs (x-rays). Generally two x-rays are taken, one from the side and one from the front. These radiographs can then be used by your vet and your farrier to ensure that your horse’s feet are in the best possible balance for his/her conformation.  Hoof balance x-rays are now standard for many top level horses throughout NZ.

Last season I dealt with a horse who was lame in both front feet. The horse looked to have reasonable hoof angles externally, however x-rays revealed a hoof pastern angle that was not perfect. We were able to work with the client’s usual farrier, to change the angles slightly. After two shoeings we had a sound horse!

We are now offering foot balance x-rays at a price of $290 for both front feet, sedation inclusive (if required) Please ring to discuss with one of our equine vets






Equine Annual Warrant of Fitness

Read more >Friday 27th of July 2018: With the equestrian season kicking off in most disciplines, Spring is a good time for your horse to have its annual “warrant of fitness”.


Read more >Wednesday 25th of July 2018: We have had a couple of interesting cases over the last few months where our Vets have been able to use the endoscope to help diagnose and address issues.

The endoscope is a flexible camera/video /light source that we can use to help investigate respiratory tract in horses as they allow us to gain access visually to some of the nooks and cranny’s that make up a horses upper and lower respiratory tract.

Arthritis, not just an old dog problem

Read more >Thursday 29th of March 2018: Arthritis will be in almost all our working dogs by the age of 5. The severity depends on breeding and size of the breed, previous injuries, nutrition and how well they have been looked after.

Medical Management of Arthritis

Read more >Thursday 29th of March 2018: To get the most out of your team, ensure you take measures to keep them comfortable.

Rat Bait

Read more >Thursday 29th of March 2018: Rat bait (rodenticide) poisoning is the most common poisoning we see in the clinic. It generally affects dogs as they are more readily ruled by their stomachs! Rat baits work by preventing the production of clotting factors (anticoagulants). This lack of clotting factors causes prolonged and uncontrolled bleeding which is often fatal if untreated.

Feeding Athletes

Read more >Thursday 29th of March 2018:


Read more >Thursday 8th of March 2018: The transportation of horse to events in NZ [such as HOY] is commonplace but in saying that it needs to be managed to maximise athletic performance, and minimise the risk of any negative impact on horse health. After all it is a long expensive and disappointing trip to an event to have your horse perform below their best.

Road transport can be detrimental to horse's lungs, muscles, gut function and weight


Read more >Thursday 8th of March 2018: Alfie is a 22 year old Kaimanawa gelding who had the misfortune of getting the wrong end of a stick during a wind-storm.

He presented with acute right eye pain – eyelids tightly closed with profuse tearing.

Attention all rabbit owners – are your rabbits up to date with their vaccination??

Read more >Friday 2nd of March 2018:

The Tetanus Grin

Read more >Friday 22nd of December 2017: Tetanus is a condition that is caused by bacteria called, Clostridium tetani. The bacteria infects wounds where there is little to no oxygen and produces a toxin that affects nerves (neurotoxin) in a way that prevents muscles from relaxing, thus causing stiffness.


Read more >Monday 18th of December 2017: Mycoplasma Bovis is a bacterial disease affecting cattle.
For more information on the outbreak in the Patoka area- click here. If you have any concerns with regards to your particular situation please get in touch with one of our Veterinarians

Be Aware of Algal Blooms this Summer

Read more >Monday 18th of December 2017: At this time of year care needs to be taken with dogs around streams, rivers and lakes due to the possibility of algal blooms.

Heat stroke in dogs

Read more >Monday 18th of December 2017: It's this time of year that we are concerned about our furry companions overheating. Any dog is at risk of heat stroke but particularly brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds and dogs with a long or thick hair coat.

That Christmas Ham - More Harmful Than We Thought

Read more >Monday 18th of December 2017: This year has raced with speed, and another Christmas is coming up soon. We all know what that means; ham, roast and all sorts to satisfy the taste buds.

Tail Docking and other legislation updates:

Read more >Thursday 5th of October 2017: As of October 2018, the non-therapeutic docking of dogs tails will be prohibited in New Zealand.

Derm Defense

Read more >Tuesday 3rd of October 2017: During the spring and summer months we see a high number of dogs with itchy skin.

In the past, the only way to manage atopy (itchy skin) was through medications such as antihistamines and steroids but Hill's nutritionists and veterinarians have developed a new Prescription Diet specially formulated to help manage environmental sensitivities in dogs.

Vaccinations – what you need to know to make the best decisions for your canine companion

Read more >Tuesday 3rd of October 2017: Vaccinations are designed to prevent your pet from contracting diseases. We have a few different vaccines available in NZ based on what diseases pose a risk to your dog.

Flea products – What’s out there now?

Read more >Wednesday 27th of September 2017: It seems like companies are bringing out new flea products every few months these days, and even we find it hard to keep up! Here is an overview of the products we have in store.

Drenching your horse

Read more >Thursday 27th of July 2017: Some horse owners are still drenching their animals on a six to eight weekly basis regardless of age or worm burden. This was a traditional approach which is outdated and possibly detrimental in terms of developing resistance to drenches.

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