Rehabilitating horses following throat surgery. A new concept.

In the 20th century it was assumed that an appropriate throat surgery would usually ‘fix’ a horses breathing problem. Fortunately in the 21st century we are a little wiser. It has become apparent that horses with throat problems ( upper airways) invariably  have concurrent lower airways (lungs)problems. This is due firstly to the increasing pressures applied to the lungs as preoperatively they attempt to compensate for reduced air supply by ‘sucking harder’ ! In addition contamination of the lungs can occur when horses elect to use their emergency oxygen supply (mouth breathe). Other significant side effects involve the affected horses psychology . Altered behaviour  characterised by training and or race day nervousness and reluctance to perform is common.

Realising the significance of these other factors means that surgery is now the first step in a rehabilitation process.

Stage 1 :  Appropriate surgical procedure.

Stage 2 :  An adequate period of time for the lungs to settle. Usually 5-6 weeks if a horse has been in heavy training.  Shorter if the horse had already been rested and longer if lungs are in a bad way ( bleeding).

Stage 3 : Training programs with associated lung monitoring ( Tracheal washes) and strategically positioned ‘lung rest’ periods. Often 7 - 14 days of walking only.

Stage 4 :  Attention to appropriate riding and racing tactics particularly during early races when  recovery of ‘confidence’ can be aided or hindered.    


Originally published in Pacemaker UK