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Equine Athletes Require Special Care to Ensure a Long & Rewarding Performance Career

Performance horses require specific medical care to prolong their special athletic abilities and to ensure that they function at optimal levels throughout their performance career. While lameness is the most common affliction of equine athletes, there are also many other medical conditions that can hinder their performance and quality of life. The veterinarians at Columbia Equine Hospital are highly trained and fully equipped to provide the very best care for your performance horse.


Sport Horse Medicine at Columbia Equine HospitalThis diagnostic technique is available for the evaluation of upper airways of performance horses and airway abnormalities in the general population. Standing sinoscopy is occasionally used to evaluate sinus conditions that are difficult to diagnosis with radiographs and endoscopy alone.

IRAP Joint Therapy

Orthokine IRAP (Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein), a natural product harvested from the horse and amplified in vitro, has been proven to slow the progression of early mild to moderate joint disease. This innovative procedure, used successfully for years in Europe, has recently become available in the United States. Interleukin-1 is the precursor of the inflammatory cascade that results in degenerative joint disease (DJD). Injured cartilage cells produce this agent, and its presence in joints triggers the production of other inflammatory mediators that exacerbate joint disease. IRAP blocks Interleukin-1 from binding to its receptors, thereby halting the inflammatory cascade. Blood drawn from the patient is conditioned in vitro to enhance the production of the IRAP. The blood is incubated for 24 hours in a sterile syringe filled with glass beads. The beads increase the surface area for the horse’s white blood cells to adhere. The white blood cells secrete natural anti-inflammatory compounds including IRAP that are harvested and injected back into the affected joints. While existing damage is not reversed, IRAP reduces further degenerative changes. As IRAP is a natural product and not a drug, it does not possess the potential side effects of conventional joint injection products.

Autologous Conditioned Plasma

Autologous blood products have created a growing interest for use in a number of orthopedic therapies. The healing effects of plasma are supported by growth factors released by platelets. These growth factors induce a healing process wherever they are applied. Outside the bloodstream, platelets become activated and release proliferative and morphogenic proteins. These growth factors are known to be relevant for healing in a variety of tissue types including bone, tendon, cartilage, and skin. Their main actions are:

  • Induce proliferation and differentiation of various cell types (e.g., stem cell, osteoblast, epidermal cells)
  • Enhance/modulate production of collagen, proteoglycan, and Tissue Inhibitor of Metallo Proteinases (TIMP)
  • Stimulate angiogenesis
  • Chemotaxis

Extracorporal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT)

Columbia Equine Hospital’s portable Sanuwave VersaTron® shockwave unit employs an electrohydraulic method to convert electricity generated outside the body (extracorporal) into focal pressure waves. When these waves reach the targeted tissue interface, energy is released. On a biochemical level, this energy increases cellular permeability, stimulates cellular division and cytokine production, induces neovascularization at the targeted tissue, and improves tissue regeneration and healing. In short, ESWT reduces the convalescent period and improves overall healing of certain types of injuries. Shockwave is a non-invasive way to stimulate healing and relieve pain associated with certain chronic injuries.

Shockwave has been implemented for:

  • Insertional desmitis and tendonitis
  • Osteoarthritis of the hock
  • Navicular syndrome
  • Stress fractures of the third metacarpal bone
  • Stimulation of bone formation and/or remodeling

Research is underway to determine the benefit of ESWT for subchondral bone cysts, body tendonitis, and sore backs.

Shockwave is performed as a standing procedure on an outpatient basis. The horse is mildly sedated and receives 1,000–2,000 pulses (at 100 times atmospheric pressure) per 10–20 minute session. The number of sessions is dictated by the location and extent of the injury.

As anatomical specificity is imperative to avoid damaging adjacent structures, concurrent ultrasonography or radiography may be necessary to properly direct the waves. It is important to restrict the horse’s activity after each treatment session as a brief period of analgesia (pain relief) lasting four days occurs due to nerve inflammation. Some regulatory bodies dictate that ESWT may not be performed within a specified time frame prior to competition to avoid overworking of horses with reduced pain perception.


“Competent and helpful.”

“Professional and compassionate.”

“I have been using CEH for years, and I have 100% faith in them.”

“I always have a great experience with them.”

“I recommend them for all your horses medical needs.”

“We always have a good visit when we take our horses to Columbia Equine!”

“Columbia Equine has a wonderful staff of professionals & state of the art equipment.”

“They're focused on the well being of the animals more than anything else. They educate the customer and are helpful in many aspects, I recommend them all the time!”

– Marlene

“Blessed am I to have this great vet team behind me and my pony thank you Columbia Equine Hospital! You rock!”

– Lauren

“Thank you for the great addition to your already top notch staff at Columbia Equine. We love you guys!”

“Amazing vets and beautiful facility. I've had my horses under their care before and they do an awesome job! I would recommend any of my fellow horse friends to take their horses there.”

“I can not begin thank Dr. Hanson and staff for the amazing care they gave my horse...”

“My initial conversation was with Alexis, me asking a lot of questions, she providing a lot of professional answers and setting up an appointment for a farm visit later that day, to Dr. Rioux-Forker showing up on time, listening to the problems we are having with our OTTB, Leon, asking thoughtful questions, and suggesting helpful solutions, we were very happy with every interaction we had with the staff at Columbia Equine Hospital. Very helpful. Very professional. Very experienced. And reasonably priced. Thank you!”