Lou Barton: We see a lot of horses competing at the highest levels such as the Nation’s Cup and the $1 Million Grand Prix, and I’m sure there are a lot of ongoing issues and concerns with injuries in these horses. So, could you start off by talking to us about the most common sports injury that you see?
Dr. Meeks: There are a wide variety of injuries that I see and it depends on the horse. In the HITs horse’s the jumpers, you see a lot of suspensory injuries that are common. Usually, the front end of the horse is affected, but we do see some hind injuries. We see horses going at high speeds, going over jumps, you tend to come down with a lot of force and put weight on their front end...so that’s probably one of the most common injuries that I see. But we also see a lot of bone bruising, also you have the various flexor tendon injuries, muscle soreness that goes along day in and day out training. These horses are in training and have a training regiment and they do what they're supposed to do, but it does put a lot of stress on the horse. So there’s a lot going on at the same time.
Lou Barton: Do you find that at this time of year, because of the high level of competing you get a lot more of these calls?
Dr. Meeks: I do. I work in a variety of disciplines so I tend to stay pretty busy with lameness issue throughout the year but around this time of year, I definitely see more of these types of injuries.
Lou Barton: When you talk to your clients about prevention, what kind of recommendations do you make and are you limited on what you can recommend?
Dr. Meeks: No, I feel like I can recommend everything and anything that I can think of. I think most importantly these horses are like athletes just like humans...having a good fitness schedule, a good trainer, working closely with a trainer and warming your horse up properly. Footing also plays a role.
Another speaker: Do you think that because horses are coming from different locations, that you see more suspensory issues due to footing and weather?
Dr. Meeks: Horses are used to training on whatever surface back home and they come here to Florida and it's different. And I see that in horses in general, with that the footing, comes the foot, and a close relationship with a farrier is part of it. Staying on top of your horse's feet is important.
Lou Barton: How difficult is it to decide what direction to go in when you are trying to diagnose what is going on with a horse that is lame due to some kind of sports injury?
Dr. Meeks: Sometimes is real easy and sometimes it's difficult. Sometimes it's not just one thing, but a lot of times it's a lot of things going on at once. It may have been a bad hock or a stifle that was bugging the horse and they’ve overloaded the front end and now you have suspensories so now you have to put the puzzle together.
Lou Barton: One thing I want to reemphasize before we finish this segment is conditioning, exercising, making sure the horse is warmed up. I like what you said about loose reins and allowing them to use their back. Preparing the horse for whatever sport it is involved in...and regular training...trying to get on your horse around 5-6 days a week to keep them on really really nice condition.