Wednesday, April 8, 2009

X-ray eyes, but no crystal ball

I've always considered pre-purchase exams, and radiographs, to be a necessary evil. But how useful are x-rays in predicting future performance? What do findings really mean?

Riley's pix
I admit to a personal interest in this. Pictured left is an x-ray of Riley's left foot, which is rather upright compared to his right. Look at the enlarged area -- there is an upturned tip called a ski tip, indicative of bone remodelling due to concussive forces. One vet told me that they're finding ski tips (and other things) more and more often in young warmbloods. Why?

  • because digital x-rays reveal so much more than traditional x-rays
  • because so many more young horses are having x-rays as part of the pre-purchase exam
I'm told the ski tip is considered an incidental finding, in other words "not to worry." When I pressed for more information, my vet suggested putting on shoes when he goes under saddle, then said "stop worrying and have fun with your horse!" I guess I'll just take every precaution to reduce stress to the front feet.

The vets at Atlanta Equine have a statement on their web site on radiographs. They don't necessarily recommend them in prepurchase exams, and cited only four instances where they advise getting x-rays:
  • When the resale value of the animal is important
  • If there is inflammation in a high motion joint
  • If OCD or DOD is suspected
  • When a baseline set of x-rays is desired
So make me feel better and tell me about your horses' crappy x-rays, especially if your horse is an elite athlete! What are your experiences?

1 comment:

  1. If you look hard enough you'll always find something: no horse is perfect. The purpose of PPE's is to have a sound basis for deciding what you can live with (and afford).

    Btw, my (retired) 31yo gelding has "ski tips" too. It never bothered him during his working years ... or now.


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