Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital

This week, I promised My Stable Life readers that I’d take y’all for tours of various equine facilities that I have traveled to over the last little while. Today, however, I’d like to share with you a facility that a friend of mine had the chance to tour (so not myself personally,) but I’m sure you will all agree, it is a facility worth seeing nonetheless!

Recently, Nancy Pratch had the opportunity to tour Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital near Lexington, Kentucky. She sent her pictures to me, so I thought I would share them all with you here…

Some breeding stocks.

Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital is a full-service equine hospital  established in 1986 as a referral center for horses requiring  specialized medical and surgical care. Today the center is known and respected throughout the world for innovative and highly skilled treatment of horses.

Various hoof xrays.

The hospital offers a full range of services including a focused podiatry center with advanced diagnostics including MRI and video gait analysis. This way, Rood & Riddle can provide optimum foot care from corrective shoeing to medical treatment and management of special conditions. This center possesses 2 treatment areas; 3 holding stalls, and a fully outfitted farrier shop. The treatment area is equipped with hoists to support severe laminitis cases in a sling, when necessary.

In this center of the clinic, farriers design and make therapeutic shoes, pads, and boots to fit changing foot conditions as well as custom-fit braces for surgical patients.

Rood & Riddle performs over 5,000 surgeries each year. The hospital has 2 surgery facilities and Surgery I in the main building houses 3 general anesthesia operating rooms, 2 prep areas and 5 recovery stalls.

Visitors are allowed to watch surgeries in progress from behind a window.

There is also a special procedures room for standing surgeries. Surgery II is available to support additional case load of the 5 surgeons and has 2 main operating areas with 3 recovery stalls.

Every case is handled by a surgical team headed by the chief surgeon, who is assisted by an anesthesiologist, a team of interns and a technical support staff that is responsible for monitoring every case from pre-op through follow-up care.

Following surgery, patients are then hoisted into a special recovery room:

In one area of the hospital, a treadmill endoscopy is also offered to clients. This innovative high speed treadmill allows clinicians to examine the upper airway of a horse while it is exercising at high speed. Certain types of abnormalities of the upper airway may only become evident during exercise and will not be seen during a resting endoscopic evaluation.

Rood & Riddle offers all this for the care of horses, plus much more. If you’d like to see for yourself, check out:



The University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine hosted an open house, “Vet-U-Can” on September 25th and 26th on the Spy Hill Campus. The open house was held at the brand new, state of the art Clinical Studies Building and featured interactive displays, scavenger hunts and organized tours by students.

Clinical Studies Building on the University of Calgary's Spy Hill Campus

The only veterinary college in Alberta welcomed the public into the site of hands-on clinical and diagnostic learning. There were several departments to explore, including Small Animal, Equine, Bovine and Anatomy.  In the Small Animal section, there was a glimpse into the new x-ray room and equipment, as well as the large surgery suite. Participants were able to try their hand at inserting an anaesthesia tube into the patient (in this case, a large and cuddly stuffed dog).

Small Animal Surgery

I spent the most time, obviously, in the Equine section of the open house. There were new stocks on display for treating the animals, as well as a bandaging display. Kids and parents alike were able to attempt a standing bandage; I however, thought I had too much practise from years of showing. Laptops were set up at each bandaging station with an equine x-ray, and the challenge of pointing out what was wrong with each horse.

X-Ray and Bandaging display in the Equine section

The surgery room was the highlight, with the operating table and anaesthesia machine out to inspect. There was a mock-surgery in progress, and participants were able to inspect the horse’s intestine in order to diagnose what the problem, and following solution, was.

Equine Surgery

On to the Bovine section, and by far the coolest interactive display was set up, and drawing a lot of attention. City slickers were lined up to try preg-checking some very realistic looking cows, one of which was pregnant, the challenge being determining which one. There was a milking station for the kids, and a new milking machine on display. When the calving chains were brought out, the looks on some of the mothers’ faces were priceless.

Mock Cows for pregnancy checks

The Anatomy display was also a large draw for the crowds, comprised mostly of families with children. I was amazed to see the difference between canine, bovine and equine stomachs, kidneys, intestines and hearts. There were also cross sections, both vertically and horizontally, of equine hooves.

Equine Lungs

Difference between a cow's stomach (left) and horse stomach (right)

Cross section of horse hoof

The open house was a huge success and an educational day trip for many families. It was also an exciting day for the current students to show off what they are learning in their program, and how much they enjoy the thought of becoming a practising veterinarian one day.

Mare Care

This year has absolutely flown by and nothing drew my attention to that fact more than when I realized we had 3 mares already due for their 5th month EHV-1 vaccinations. Could it really be? Are they seriously in their second trimesters already??

Guess so.

Organizing – and keeping up with – a vaccination schedule for a large group of horses is a big chore. There’s much more than just the annual doses of EEE / WEE / tetanus / influenza / Strangles / and West Nile Virus to look after. In southern Saskatchewan, Rabies is a big concern. And with each new crop of foals coming up every year, there are boosters to keep in mind. Not to mention the frequent rotational dewormings required for a herd of 40 horses (this year we got even more aggressive with parasites by collecting fecal samples from many of our herd – this allowed us to have fecal egg counts done by one of our veterinarians and really combat our farm’s parasites accordingly.)

All that aside, there are then the specific needs of our broodmares to keep in mind. Proper nutrition, dental care and farrier work are essential to the health of the broodmare. And in my opinion, it is absolutely vital to protect broodmares (and unborn foals) from Equine Herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1). According to, the “EHV-1 strain of Equine Herpesvirus is the leading cause of infectious viral abortions in mares. EHV-1 is typically associated with late-term abortions and the delivery of a well-preserved fetus and outwardly normal placenta. Most horses become infected with EHV-1 during the first year of life. In the majority of cases, the virus becomes latent, just waiting for stress-induced reactivation. Sources of infection for pregnant broodmares include: clinically ill horses shedding the virus in nasal secretions; asymptomatic horses experiencing reactivation of latent infection; or virus laden uterine secretions and placenta/fetus from mares aborting due to EHV-1.”

My 3 most important tools to protect the health of our broodmare herd.

There are 3 very important things that I keep in the barn to help us organize and safeguard the health of our broodmares. These include:

1) Breeding Management & Foal Development textbook from Equine Research. This book features 700 pages of vital information for anyone who is serious about equine breeding and production.

Pneumabort-k vaccines.

2) Equine Pneumabort-k Vaccines – This is a killed (or inactive) vaccine from Fort Dodge designed to prevent abortion in horses. It is given IM at the 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy and does not present any risk to the fetus.

My Mare Care wheel.

3) Mare Care Wheel – This handy little wheel is possibly one of the greatest things I’ve ever picked up! First off, it was free from Foal Care (an Intervet program) and it has been an aboslute lifesaver. With anywhere from 7-11 mares to care for every year, keeping all those vaccination dates on track has proven to be one of the trickiest aspects of herd management. This wheel literally, spells it out for me. I simply spin the wheel to the mare’s breeding date (we take careful notes every time an ultrasound is performed in our breeding lab, therefore there are no mistakes for discerning a last known breeding date) and this starts the vaccination process for each individual mare.

Next, the wheel will point out the dates for the mare’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd vaccinations for EHV-1. It also tells me a 15-day window to organize the mare for her pre-foaling booster vaccinations (which stimulate the mare to produce high levels of protective antibodies at a time during late pregnancy when she is also producing antibody-rich colostrum.)

Then I record the wheel’s dates and print up a document for each mare accordingly. These documents (as below) are then kept in the mare’s individual medical file at the barn, so I can record every time something is administered to her.

The great thing about my Mare Care wheel is that is also provides me with a 340-day guesstimate from the mare’s last known breeding date. Hence, I have a pretty good idea as to when the mare will foal out. Of course, there is no exact science to predicting a mare’s due date but we usually come pretty close. And because we watch each mare’s signs and behavior closely as the wheel’s predicted date approaches, we are usually present during her parturition.

Weaning Time

It’s that time of the year again. Last Thursday was Weaning Day. Needless to say, neither the foals nor the mares were incredibly thrilled about it but since our youngest foal is now 4 months of age and the oldest is 6 months, it was time for the weaning to be done.

With many of our mares bred back for the 2011 season, weaning at this point in their pregnancies gives the mares a chance to regain any condition lost during lactation. Plus, this also gives the mares time to put on some more weight before winter sets in.

However, please keep in mind that this doesn’t happen immediately…

Weaning is an extremely stressful time for both mares and foals. And for us, it means a loud three days at the farm… Since we choose to keep the foals in the pasture right behind our house, we can hear them whinnying to their mothers for at least a solid 48 hours afterwards.

In our circumstances, we wean as follows:

1. Bring all the mares and foals into the area where the foals will remain and quietly and carefully, slip halters on the mares.

2. Then we walk each mare outside of that penned area, ensuring that the foals stay behind in the fenced area. Since the foals are of an age where they have started to developed some independence anyways, sometimes it takes both the mare and the foal a minute to realize they have been separated.

3.  Walking 2 or 3 mares together at once (the buddy system is the only way to go with weaning), we take the mares to the pasture on our farm at the farthest location away from the babies. It’s hard for them to see each other in these locations, however when the wind has died down, unfortunately the mares and foals can still hear each other at times.

The foals take great comfort in each other during weaning time. We monitor them closely immediately following the separation, just in case somebody comes down with a temperature, runny nose or any injury. The foals spend a great amount of energy running around and calling, when they are taken away from their mothers and may appear depressed or sickly. So we need to be prepared for any loss of appetite that may occur, or medical treatments needed in the event of an injury. This is why we like to keep the babies very close to our house – where we can see everything.

As you can see, this little filly (on right) is taking her weaning anxiety out on some of the other colts around her.

Please note that prior to weaning, we also keep a close eye on the weather report. Weaning during extreme heat or cold, rainy days can cause the foals to become very ill, very fast. Since they run around so much, if it’s a +30 degree Celsius day, you can almost guarantee that you will be dealing with a heat stroke foal in a few hours time. And if it’s incredibly rainy, prepare for high body temperatures and snotty noses within a few days. The best day to wean is neither too hot of an ambient temperature, nor too cold. And if the weather does not co-operate with your weaning plan, you are best to wait a few days until Mother Nature smartens up.

Also long before we weaned, we dewormed each of our foals on 2 separate occasions with a Pyrantel dewormer. In our area this year, the hot/cold/hot/cold summer weather created an ideal environment for Parascaris equorum aka, equine Roundworms. Therefore, to ensure the foals and mares were in the best possible health they could be before enduring the stressful time of weaning, we dewormed them twice and fed them up to good body conditions. Since often during the first two days of weaning the foals refuse to eat, their body weights won’t drop too badly if they have healthy weights to start with.

We also feed our mares and foals a supplement called Frisky Foal, made by Masterfeeds during the time of lactation to help prepare the foals for weaning. Frisky Foal is a pelleted feed created especially for nursing foals, for weanlings and for horses up to one year of age. It encourages growth, development and improved immunity for the foals when they are weaned away from their mothers’ milk. Plus, the supplement is somewhat of a “comfort food” for the babies, since it’s something they’ve been eating alongside their dams since nearly the start of their lives.

Waging War on Bugs

While this may look like a commercial for bug repellent, this is simply what you'll find in my laundry room closet on any given summer day.

As I sit down to write this entry into My Stable Life, my heart rate has returned to a normal level. Finally. My palms are no longer clammy. But I am still paranoid – last night a cricket decided to crawl up my left pant leg. Don’t ask me how it happened. I have no idea. But now every time I feel something faint across my skin, I have to resist the urge to swat at it. And scream.

All I can tell you is, last night I went down to the barn to do barn check at around 10:40 pm and as I walked through the alleyway, I felt a weird sensation on my left knee. It was as though I had knelt on something hard like cement and the feeling was just returning to my knee-cap. As it was late, I chalked it all up to the fact that I was tired.

Minutes later, I returned to the house only to fire off an impromptu “happy dance” – and not in a good way – in front of my friend Nancy. The sensation resumed, only this time, I could feel it up the back of my thigh.

“Close your eyes!” I screamed at Nancy. My jeans were coming off, and fast.

Life on a farm in Saskatchewan means life with bugs. And I can handle them for the most part: as long as they’re not crawling up the inside of my jeans.

Where we’re located, we deal with a variety of insects but it’s the mosquitoes, horse flies and tiny black biting flies that wreak havoc on our horse operation. We take precautions against West Nile Disease. Horse Flies can turn a pleasure ride outside into an unexpected bucking nightmare. And right now, the biting flies are at their worst – the horses get little to no relief in the barn. Not to mention the fact that they keep me awake too… So forgive me PETA, but the war is on. I can’t simply just “swat” at anything that’s trying to eat me. I swat to kill.

If there was money in fly farming, I'd be rich!

The ridiculous thing is, over the course of the summer I’ve realized: I am somewhat of a bug spray connoisseur. I actually have my favorites when it comes to purchasing products that prevent pests. Hence, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you and if you have any better suggestions, I’d be happy to hear from you!

1. Fly Bags – There are many different varieties of these kinds of disposable fly traps on the market. Baggie types or milk jug types, either way they work pretty nicely. The worst part about them is taking them down once they’re full of flying bugs. But hey, if you leave ’em up until next year, you might get more for your money!

The OFF! Triple Wick citronella candle.

2. OFF! Citronella Candle – I love the ambiance the OFF! Triple Wick citronella candle gives off on my porch, especially at night. We also pack these babies into our horse trailer, in case we live out of the living quarters at a show. This outdoor use only product can burn for up to 50 hours – just don’t forget and leave it out in the sun.

OFF! Active Aerosol.

3. OFF! Active Aerosol – This non-greasy formula repels mosquitoes for up to 5 hours and is great for repelling black flies, stable flies and ticks. I think my only complaint about the Active spray is, I go through the can way too fast! However, it’s nice smelling formula and the fact that it won’t “sweat off” during activities outside, keeps me buying more.

Muskol® Insect Repellent is serious bug protection.

4. Muskol® Insect Repellent – Did you know that Muskol® was developed in 1951 by Col. T. Coll, an avid Canadian outdoorsman? Nope, I didn’t know that either. While Muskol is a product that most certainly “smells” like bugspray (it is guaranteed to have 23.5% DEET), it has been proven to offer protection against black flies, biting midges, deer flies, stable flies, ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers for up to 8 hours.

OFF!® familycare® family of products.

5. OFF!® familycare® – Okay, there is nothing better than bugspray that doesn’t smell like bugspray, which is why I’m a big fan of the Summer Splash® Spray, Tropical Fresh® Spray and OFF!® familycare® Smooth & Dry. As their names suggest, these products really smell great however, I do find myself reapplying them more frequently.

The Summer Splash® Spray is ideal for such outdoor activities as barbecues, gardening and backyard play. It can repel mosquitoes, black flies, biting midges, deer flies, stable flies, ticks, and chiggers for up to 3 hours. It contains aloe vera and 7% DEET plus related active toluamides.

The Tropical Fresh® Spray is specially formulated with a lower level of repellent ingredients and is great for kids during outdoor activities such as playing outside or taking a walk through the neighbourhood. It can repel mosquitoes and other bugs for up to 2 hours. Contains aloe vera and 5% DEET plus related active toluamides. Therefore, it is not recommended for use on infants or kids under 6 months of age.

OFF! Smooth & Dry has a unique powder formula that dries on contact, leaving your skin feeling smooth and dry, unlike ordinary repellents. It repels mosquitoes for up to 5 hours and goes on your skin feeling dry, non-greasy and comfortable. Guaranteed DEET plus related active toluamides – 15%.

Konk and Deep Woods OFF!

6. KONK & OFF!® Deep Woods® Aerosol – We go through a lot of KONK in the barn. The active ingredient in Konk is Pyrethrin, which is a natural extract from the chrysanthemum flower. Konk’s claim to fame is that it is “one of the safest and most effective insecticides known to man.” It is also one of the only approved insecticides for use in food areas. We use the Konk 418 Flying Insect Killer in electronically controlled dispensers in our barn – using a Battery Variable Timer (BVT) to operate a solenoid valve that emits metered micro doses of aerosol insecticides (or fragrances!) at regular intervals, we have 24-hour a day protection for the horses. Konk seems to work very well in the barn as it is proven to be very effective in areas of high infestations, but I still wouldn’t be willing to breath it in. KONK 418 contains 1.80% pyrethrins.

OFF!® Deep Woods® Aerosol is great for use during longer-term outdoor activities such as hiking, hunting and fishing and it’s proven to repel mosquitoes and other insects for up to 8 hours. However, the guaranteed DEET in this spray, plus related active toluamides is much higher than OFF!’s other products: 25%.

OFF! Active® Lotion

7. OFF!® Active Lotion – This is one of my absolute faves when it comes to bug protection! Not only does this lotion keep you protected from biting insects during outdoor activities, it is easily applied to the neck, ears and hands – without having to brave through a big spray by holding your breath. I have found this lotion to repel mosquitoes for up to 3 hours, without reapplication and it doesnt sweat off either. Plus, it smells like aloe vera or a nice hand cream.

OFF! Wipes

8. OFF!® Familycare® Towelettes – These convenient wipes are great for throwing in your purse, your living quarters or just for keeping around for kids. (Of course, this only applies to me when company comes to visit!) But I like them for my ears and neck as well – I’m not a big fan of directly spraying my face with an aerosol spray…

Ultra Shield

9. UltraShield Equine Fly Spray – I could probably write a whole long blog entry about equine sprays specifically, but I just want to leave one thought about UltraShield with you – while this spray works good on horses, it’s not safe for use on humans. I found this out recently when I told my vet that we would sometimes spray ourselves with it when our other fly sprays were out of reach… Not a good idea, she told me. It poses a hazard to humans and can be harmful if absorbed through the skin. Oh, and it is very toxic to fish – in case you were planning on spraying your fish tanks or nearby ponds.

My all-time favorite bug killer...

10. Electric Bug Swatter – And now for the pièce de résistance: here is my absolute pest preventer of choice! This electric bug swatter is powered by 2 AA Batteries and literally, shocks flying insects when contact is made. It’s pretty fun, just be careful not to touch the racket wires when the product is turned on – the shock hurts – as my husband tells me. <grin>

Horses Excluded From Aid

Superb Stall Mats

One of my newest, favorite pieces of equipment for traveling to shows with are EquiMat Stable Matting. And even if our trailer is packed to the max, EquiMats are my Never-Leave-Home-Without-Them item of the year.

In any given year, our horses may spend as many as 10 weeks on the road for various reining and cow horse events throughout Canada and the US. Therefore, maintaining their health and soundness during travel, has become priority #1 for Clay and I. Since we are subject to different types of stabling in each place we go, EquiMats allow us keep a standard comfort level for our show mounts – especially when we are stabled on cement.

Clay pieces the mats together by interlocking the edges.

Each mat is lightweight, making it easier than you think to cart them around for show travel. They offer protection from concrete by supporting horses with cushioned comfort and thermal insulation, plus they reduce the occurrence of capped hocks and other injuries. Equimat’s interlocking non-porous rubber sections are also equipped with a textured surface, to provide a non-slip area for your horse to rest. And if the horse so chooses, this can translate into more time for the animal to lie down which means more vital deep sleep periods.

An entire show stall with mats pieced together.

These characteristically green mats are additionally non-toxic, non-absorbent and not affected by urine or concentrated disinfectants. At the end of a show, sometimes pulling the interlocking edges apart and giving each mat a rinse can be a bit of chore. However, the difference these mats have made to increase the soundness of our horses from the start to finish of a particular event has been incredible. They virtually eliminate body soreness and leg pain caused by extensive standing on cement. And to me, that’s worth any amount of elbow grease!

For more info, check out:

Mustard is Not My Friend

The culprit.

Every good horse person knows that alsike clover in a pasture can cause photosensitization in horses. But did you also know that mustard growing in your pasture can be just as bad? Photosensitization is the presence of a photoactivating substance in the skin, exposure to UV light and lack of skin pigment enabling more light to penetrate the skin.

The mustard plant family is made up of a large group of herbaceous plants, most of which are annuals, winter annuals, or biennials. Flowers, with four sepals, four petals, and six stamens (two short and four long) are yellow or white, and arranged in racemes. Fruits are borne in two-chambered, flat-round, or beaked tubular capsules.

Since mustard is one of our farm’s important crops, it’s easy for plants to pop up here and there in our horse fields. The seeds are sometimes carried by the wind or possibly, birds. And when it does, we are ready with a herbicide and action plan (of course, this can only happen if we are able to take the horses off the field first).

Many mustards are harmless when young and are grazed without incident. However, seeds and vegetative parts (fresh and dry) may contain the toxic principle glucosinolate (isothiocyanate). And if horses eat too much mustard, signs of poisoning can include acute/chronic anorexia, severe gastroenteritis, salivation, diarrhea, paralysis, hemoglobinuria and photosensitization.

A sunburned muzzle can appear bright pink and scabby.

In our herd, we have only ever had a problem with sunburns which we cure with zinc applied directly to the affected skin and by removing the horses from direct sunlight. In this case, our horses are typically not happy to be placed inside a  barn during the day but the alternative is not an option. Sunburned muzzles or white socks can be pretty painful for horses.

To cure the sunburn, we would bring affected horses inside during the day and turn them back out at night.

Usually within a couple of days, the sunburn starts to fade away if proper care with zinc cream and shade is given to a photosensitive horse. And from one year to the next, it’s easier to control mustard plants because you have a vague idea where they’ll pop up again. As the old saying goes, “Take care of your pastures and they will take care of you.”

And by that I’m sure it means, “ensure those beautiful yellow mustard flowers are not present where your horses roam.”

Clearwaters Come to Visit

Dale Clearwater performs a fence turn.

This past Wednesday, Clay and I had the opportunity to visit with friends of ours, Dale and Teri Clearwater of Hanley, SK. Based out of their Justabouta Ranch, the Clearwaters own and operate their own professional horse training operation. They have worked very hard to gain the reputation as honest, down to earth,  hard working people, who provide quality training and reliable customer service.

Dale is a highly respected trainer with a long list of credentials in cow horse and cutting arenas. In 2008, he was the Circle Y Derby Champion Ltd. Open and Int. Open Champion in Stephenville, TX. He has also holds such titles as the Agribition Ranch Horse Champion, Calgary Stampede Ltd. Open Hackamore Champion, and Canadian Supreme Open Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion – to name but a few.

Caleb and good ol' gray, Ace.

Dale and Teri have 2 young boys, the oldest of which has taken to horses with a passion that mirrors his father’s. Caleb loves to ride alongside his dad and enjoys “schooling” his horse, “Ace.”

While Teri has her hands full, no doubt, with young two young boys in the house, she also plays a major role in the daily operations of Justabouta Ranch.

Teri & youngest son, Westin.

And even at such a tender age, Caleb takes great pride in assisting with the daily chores as well:

Caleb in the middle of a making a "sand angel" for his mom.

Not surprisingly, Teri is extensively well versed in Dale’s training program. This past Wednesday, she relayed to me just how much Dale believes in a consistent maintenance program for his training horses.

This means, Dale has an incredible team of allies comprised of trusted professionals who perform regular dentistry, hoof care and veterinary maintenance for his mounts.

Dale says, “I can’t make a horse look as good as it possibly can be if I don’t have a great maintenance program behind them.

And dentistry work is something Dale is a fanatic about. He regularly has his horses checked every 4-6 months. This is because the Hanley, SK, trainer wants to ensure no baby caps or sharp edges can impede on the training, or cause the horse pain during formative years and formative days in their education.

For more information about Dale Clearwater, check out: