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Breathing Operations

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  • #7199
    carvillshill
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    • Total Posts 2778

    Reading Paul Nicholls column this season it seems there’s hardly a horse in his yard that hasn’t had its wind done, including Denman before he ever raced. It seems these operations are becoming more and more common. Is this because the breed is becoming more unsound, or is there a case for saying that there’s an advantage to operating on marginal cases and it’s a result of the increased money being spent on jumps horses? Are there welfare issues arising from so many horses going under the knife?

    #153359
    robert99
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    • Total Posts 899

    The operation for "roaring" has been available for about 30 years but has recently been modified with increased success. Some vets do up to 80 horses a year.

    A respiratory condition heard even in the winner’s circle, can show the classic signs of laryngeal hemiplegia, breathing noisily as the horse struggles for air.
    The condition is caused by a nerve dysfunction affecting the left side of throat. The nerve dysfunction results in a muscle that fatigues easily and can’t hold the throat open when the horse exerts itself. The left side of the throat collapses, restricting the airway and causing the telltale "roar."

    Tieback surgery pulls the one side of the throat into a fixed, open position so it doesn’t ‘suck down’ or collapse when horse breathes," "This is an unnatural position for the throat, giving horse the advantage of air, but if the tieback (sutured into the muscle) is not positioned just right, it makes it impossible for the horse to protect its airway from food or water."
    The result has been a lot of failures.

    A UK study showed that even when the surgery appeared to succeed, 30% to 40% of horses lost a significant amount of abduction (opening) after the operation.

    Parente’s (USA) modification is performed when the surgeon reaches the larynx. The surgeon cuts through the muscle over the joint, opens the joint, and debrides the cartilage. Then, under videoendoscopic guidance, he puts the sutures in the joint to pull the left side open.
    This better positions the sutures, the joint fuses, and it provides a more stable, long-term fix for the horse.

    Horses generally go home the day after the hour long procedure, with about a month of stall rest and hand-walking before they can return to work.

    #153362
    TheCheekster
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    • Total Posts 329

    I don’t think it is down to the breed becoming more unsound, more due to easier diagnosis and advances in the surgery.
    A wind operation used to be a very costly exercise, with a long recovery period.
    Nowadays you can get a diagnosis via a treadmill and video scope for £500 ish. Cauterisation will cost the same, a tie forward a bit more, and a tie back and hobday a bit more than that.
    The recovery periods go in the same order: Cauterisation a week, tie forward 3 weeks, tie back/hobday 6 weeks.
    As they have got cheaper and more succesfull it has become more economical to operate on a maginal case. Sometimes it makes all the difference. Personally, I think that they are only more succesful as the initial problems are now being properly diagnosed – a lot of vets will still operate on a less than definate diagnosis from a standing scope.
    What I don’t agree with is people trying them to turn a bad horse into a good one. If the horse does not have winning form (if it has won or not, if you know what I mean), then an op is not going to transform it into a good horse, however well it goes at home.
    If you go to the sales you will learn that most of the ‘top’ yards have a similar policy to Nicholls. Barely any will go through the ring from the large consignments without some sort of modifcation declared (they rarely puyt them in the catalogue).

    #153379
    Venusian
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    • Total Posts 1665

    I don’t think it is down to the breed becoming more unsound, more due to easier diagnosis and advances in the surgery.
    A wind operation used to be a very costly exercise, with a long recovery period.

    I’m sure that’s right, this unsoundness has been present in the breed almost since its inception.

    Big horses seem to be more susceptible to it than small ones. Some stallions are notorious for getting afflicted progeny, Strong Gale, otherwise the perfect jumps sire, being a notable example. I believe that over-hyped sire, Oscar, was retired due to breathing problems.

    It would be a good idea for information about when a horse has undergone this kind of "reconstuctive" surgery to be made public.

    Even better, adopt the German approach, where potential stallions have to be deemed free of exhibiting symptoms of roaring or bleeding before being allowed to stand at stud.

    #9185
    carvillshill
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    • Total Posts 2778

    In his recent stable tour in the Post, Paul Nicholls candidly admitted to 25 of his inmates having had breathing operations this Summer alone (by my count).
    In some cases he admitted to doing this more or less on a hunch because he thought it might help. The mind boggles as to the percentage of horses in his yard which will have had the surgeon’s knife at some stage.
    Several questions arise
    Is he right that this operation really improves them as much as he thinks? Mark Johnston for one is far from convinced that doing tiebacks "blind" or just because you hear a noise is of any real benefit.
    Is the breed becoming more unsound if all these horses really have wind problems?
    Is there a benefit to a horse with no real problem to having a tieback? If so should every owner that can afford it have all their older horses done?
    What are the welfare implications to operating on so many horses and does the surgery have any negative effects on normal living afterwards? Not sure I’d want my laryngeal cartilages tied into one position for life myself.

    Though I admire his candour, it does worry me a bit that either we are breeding a huge proportion of unsound horses or that PN is somehow deluded by the wonder operation. The way forward is surely what Mark Johnston is doing- live scoping of the horse at exercise, to see what’s really happening under pressure with surgery only considered in the light of that evidence.

    #186957
    Aidan
    Member
    • Total Posts 1198

    Literally just mentioned this on Talking Horses. Reading it this evening it was quite remarkable how many have been operated on. Their vet was pretty busy this summer!!

    It will be interesting to see how they get on. Any high profile successful breathing operations in this yard previously?

    #186959
    Love Divine
    Member
    • Total Posts 198

    I am half way through reading this and it seems some have had a wind operation even though not proven they have/had a breathing problem? Wouldn’t mind being his vet. A retired racehorse I know well was given a wind op by his last trainer, but he had no record of breathing problems previously being recorded or voiced by his previous trainers, and it made no difference at all. I think by that stage of his career his owners were ‘clutching’.

    #186960
    moehat
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    • Total Posts 7922

    surely any horse having an operation is at risk from the operation itself [didn’t Coome Hill die after a routine operation ?]…so you’d have to be pretty sure that it was neccessary to do it in the first place..if Kauto runs in a tongue tie then surely he should have been the first one to have it done.

    #186968
    Tuffers
    Member
    • Total Posts 1402

    We had a horse last year with a breathing problem – two operations failed to do the trick and in the end we sent him down to Bristol to be assessed. The vet there said it was just about as bad a breathing problem as she had seen. Amazingly, he had finished second twice during the season. None of the operations currently available seem to be able to rectify a serious breathing problem. Interestingly, there is a piece of equipment used in the US (but not authorised for use here) that seems very effective (last month’s Owner & Breeder had an article about it). It does seem crazy that painful and expensive operations are deemed acceptable but a piece of equipment that holds the soft palate in place while a horse is racing is not.

    #186978
    Venusian
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    • Total Posts 1665

    Breathing problems were more common 100 years or so ago, especially with stallions like Hermit, Gallinule and Ormonde knocking around.

    Improved stable management has most likely helped to improve matters.

    Big horses seem to be more prone to this sort of problem.

    Strong Gale is probably the worst offender among leading NH stallions in recent years.

    #186983
    TheCheekster
    Member
    • Total Posts 329

    A wind operation will improve a good horse slightly, if it needs it in the first place, but it will not turn a bad horse into a good one – which is where a lot of people go wrong.
    I don’t get the RP, so haven’t read the article, but does he specifically say ‘tie-back’? I’d heard he was pretty keen on the tie forward, and both treat different ailments.
    If he’s doing it on a hunch i’d be more likely to think he was cauterising or hobdaying?
    There is a risk with the tie back that your horse may be left with a permanent cough, or unable to eat properly (will come back through the nose), so its never a good idea to do that willy nilly. In any case, you can diagnose paralysis with a standing scope(which I would assume every horse in the yard has as routine at some point), which costs pennies.
    We’ve got a horse here that makes a horrendous noise and lost his form last year, he went on the treadmill and they could’nt find anything wrong with him – so £400 saved the £1000 of a tie forward.

    #187000
    Wallace
    Participant
    • Total Posts 862

    Large horses are particularly prone to wind problems as a result of a partially paralysed larynx. This often happens to the nerve on the near side as this nerve does not follow a similar course to the corresponding nerve on the other side. The nerve has an extra loop close to the jaw and this is easily damaged, causing the roar from the larynx during work.

    A few years ago I bought a nice big (17.3hh) horse with this condition and was amazed how well he did physically following the surgery. He was in training for a career pointing and doing superbly well until he died from a brain hemorrhage.

    #187013
    carvillshill
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    • Total Posts 2778

    I don’t get the RP, so haven’t read the article, but does he specifically say ‘tie-back’? I’d heard he was pretty keen on the tie forward, and both treat different ailments.
    If he’s doing it on a hunch i’d be more likely to think he was cauterising or hobdaying?

    I must admit to plucking the tieback reference out of thin air- I had some vague idea that that was Geoff Lane’s favourite but that could be totally wrong. He may well do different procedures for different cases but PN seemed to imply a "one size fits all" type of approach to the problem.

    #187017
    Raffingora
    Member
    • Total Posts 58

    As I read the stable tour, I became more and more gobsmacked at the number of horses that had been operated on recently. Add that to the horses already previously operated on and the total percentage must be high. Perhaps Mr Nicholls is just extremely unlucky to have so many horses with breathing problems!!

    #187023
    Ten Plus
    Member
    • Total Posts 812

    Wonder what the vet bill is …??????

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