"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RESEARCH - The Auburn Study: Yes, Pads Are Bad

I finally found the Auburn Study! I’m really excited about this. I know that sounds kinda funny, but the reason I’ve been wanting to find it is that the industry continues to say this study states that pads are okay. In fact, I know of one person who posted on the Facebook page that the study states that pads are actually good for the horse!*

So let's take a look at the study for real and go over what it was done for and why.*

The Auburn Study: Thermography in Diagnosis of Inflammatory Processes in Horses in Response to Various Chemical and Physical Factors

Thanks, American Horse Defense Fund, for posting this study!

The Auburn Study is well known throughout the industry. Unfortunately, it’s pretty obvious that most people have never even read it, or they would know what it was really done for. The opening sentence states: "To study the effects of acute and chronic inflammatory responses of the horse’s thoracic (front) and pelvic (hind) limbs, several studies were done over a seven year period at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, Alabama." It says nothing about studying the effects of pads in this sentence at all. However, while they don't actually study the effects of pads, the conclusions they make after doing the work ends up showing us that pads are bad, and that they can cause problems for the horse.*

The study was done in a total of 18 phases. The phases can be read on the study itself, but overall, there is absolutely nothing in this study that talks about the pads themselves. The study itself is titled Thermography in Diagnosis of Inflammatory Processes in Horses in Response to Various Chemical and Physical Factors. This means that what they did was study the effects of using chemical irritants and different sized chains using thermography. Thermography itself is a pretty neat science. Here’s a great definition on how it works from Wikipedia.

Infrared thermography, thermal imaging, and thermal video are examples of infrared imaging science. Thermal imaging cameras detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum (roughly 9000–14,000 nanometers or 9–14 µm) and produce images of that radiation, called thermograms. Since infrared radiation is emitted by all objects above absolute zero according to the black body radiation law, thermography makes it possible to see one's environment with or without visible illumination. The amount of radiation emitted by an object increases with temperature; therefore, thermography allows one to see variations in temperature. When viewed through a thermal imaging camera, warm objects stand out well against cooler backgrounds; humans and other warm-blooded animals become easily visible against the environment, day or night. As a result, thermography is particularly useful to military and other users of surveillance cameras.

Inflammation in a horse’s limbs can easily be detected using a thermal imaging camera. So what the vets at the Auburn Study did was take a base reading of the horse at rest to show the level of heat that horse’s legs produce. Then they ran separate experiments with different types of chemicals and different chain weights to the pasterns and then worked each horse for a certain amount of time. Then they did new scans with the camera and recorded the results.

The results showed that chemical soring and pressure shoeing do cause pain, that chains combined with chemical soring does cause pain, and that 10 oz chains or heavier without chemicals caused pain. This study also pointed out that 2, 4 and 6 oz chains without chemical soring did not cause any detectible pain or tissue damage, with the exception "to some loss of hair from 6 oz. chains in the pastern areas." So hair loss is possible with 6 oz chains. Since this study, there is a rule that only chains up to 6 ozs are allowed in the ring, but I certainly don't see DQPs weighing chains when horses are being inspected.

One part of the study is particularly notable. This is Phase XV, as posted below.

Phase XV. Preliminary Studies to Evaluate the Effects of Change in the Heel to Toe Ratio
The objectives of this study were to determine if deviation of hoof angle will alter the gait of Tennessee Walking Horses and to determine if tendonitis or other inflammation were caused by deviation of hoof angle. Two horses, # 22 and # 23 were placed under observation on 4/9/81 and monitored before and after 15-20 minutes of exercise with thermography, pressure device, Micron, rectal thermometer and visually by rider, technician and veterinarian. Horse # 22 was shod from ‘barefoot status to wedges, pads and shoes on 4/13. Horse # 23 had been shod similarly before 4/9/81. On 4/29 the heels of both horses were raised 8 degrees, before exercise and monitoring. On 5/11 the heels were dropped 12 degrees by removing wedges and the horses exercised and monitored. Horses were then exercised and monitored on 10 separate days during the period of 5/12 - 6/1. No action devices or chemicals were applied to the feet or legs during the study.

Thermography study suggests that shoeing of the forefeet in pads and wedges from a barefoot status (horse # 20) causes a 1—2 degree rise in temperature in the superficial and deep flexor tendon area.

Similarly, inflammation in this area was observed on thermography when the angle of the hoof was raised or lowered (both horses). When the heels were lowered on 5/11 and observed until 6/1 there was a gradual decrease of inflammation in the f1exor tendon area.

Pressure readings taken at the usual 6 points on the foot fluctuated to a minor degree, reaching their lowest levels 2 days after the heels were elevated 8 degrees in both horses. Raising the heels 8 degrees caused both horses to stumble and tire easily. They did not regain a sound gait for about 7 days. When the heels were dropped 12 degrees the horses gaited more soundly although there was swelling in the flexor tendons for about 7 days. Raising or lowering the heels of Tennessee Walking Horses and shoeing one with wedges and pads from barefoot status causes thermal patterns in the flexor tendon area that can be distinguished on thermography. These changes cause less fluctuation in pressure readings than the use of action
devices or chemicals. Inflammation subsides about one week after the heels are raised or lowered 8 and 12 degrees respectively. Raising the heel causes a more observable change in the horses’ gait than lowering the heel after it has been raised.


If anything, this part shows that pads ARE bad for the horse. When raising the heel, it caused swelling in the flexor tendons. This can lead to tendonitis, which is a bowed tendon, which is very painful and takes a long time to heal. And over time, a bowed tendon that is not treated can lead to damage and tearing of the fibers of the tendon itself. Click here for more information. If anything, this should show us that horses should be off pads when he’s not being shown, and this means off pads after each show, to prevent the horse from getting tendonitis in the long run. If the horse shows this swelling after 7 days, imagine what kind of swelling could be present after wearing stacks for months on end during show season.

Plus, raising the heel in general caused the horses to “stumble and tire easily,” and "they did not regain a sound gait for about 7 days." Perhaps it’s because the tendons were swollen?

Now since this study, the industry has adopted a heel/toe ratio. The entire package cannot be taller than half of the length of the toe. But I certainly don't see DQPs measuring for the correct heel/toe ratio. They seem to be "eyeballing" it, and that doesn't seem to be a very reliable means to make sure the horse is being shown according to the rules.

Overall, Dr. R.S. Sharman included a letter to Dr. Schwindaman of the USDA APHIS with the findings of the study. Below is the text of the letter.

**********

February 19, 1982

Dear Dr. Schwindaman:

We have yet to carry out the formal steps to determine the effects of built-up pads on Tennessee Walking Horses. Over the years, however, we have experienced what the group considers a high rate of thrush in the horses we have shod with pads and used in tests. Although it is not readily apparent on clinical observation we have observed with thermovision varying degrees of abnormal inflammation on the posterior aspect of the metacarpal area where the flexor bundle is located. This usually occurs the day after a horse has been freshly shod, whether or not he is exercised daily, and lasts from a few days to two weeks.

Attached are some questions we asked of our farrier and four clinic veterinarians who devote their professional time almost exclusively to equines. They all answered 'yes' to the first two questions and suggested sheared heels, quarter cracks, and laminitis as other abnormalities of the forefeet of Tennessee Walking Horses shod with conventional pads. They all answered 'yes' to the fourth question, giving their reason that they could not adequately examine the feet unless the sole was exposed.

Sincerely,

R.S. Sharman, DVM

Assistant Professor

1. Do you associate , from your observation, increased incidence of thrush with pads covering the sole of horses hooves? [YES]

2. Contracted Heels? [YES]

3. Other abnormalities? [YES - sheared heels, quarter cracks and laminitis]

4. Would you consider it necessary to remove pads and shoes from a horse to do an adequate foot examination? Why? [YES - The foot cannot be adequately examined without the sole exposed.]

**********

Clearly, even without doing a specific study on the effects of pads,* the Auburn Study has a lot of evidence that pads are not good for the TWH. Hopefully we'll see more evidence in the future of the damage pads do. However, I don't think the industry can hinge their hopes that pads are okay by this study.


*Added for clarification 8/11/11

5 comments:

bbudafuko said...

Thank you for the link. I have heard it cited in arguments both for and against pads, but I had not read it until now. However, after reading it, I do not draw the same conclusions you did.

You state:
If anything, this part shows that pads ARE bad for the horse. When raising the heel, it caused swelling in the flexor tendons ... If anything, this should show us that horses should be off pads when he’s not being shown, and this means off pads after each show, to prevent the horse from getting tendonitis in the long run...

The study showed a rise in temperature in the flexor tendons when the horse (#22, later it says #20 but I believe this is a typo) is shod from barefoot to padded. The horse (#23) which had been on a package for for an unstated amount of time prior to the study showed normal readings. It was when 8 degrees of wedges were added to the packages of both horses that both showed signs of inflammation. Similarly, when 12 degrees of wedges were removed from the packages, both horses showed inflammation. But, the study states, "Inflammation subsides about one week after the heels are raised or lowered 8 and 12 degrees respectively." This shows that change causes short-term inflammation. Based on this information, your suggested regimen would result in more damage because of constant change.

You state:
Perhaps [the stumbling and faster fatigue was] because the tendons were swollen?

I don't think swollen tendons were the reason for this. If it were, why did they gait more soundly on a negative angle even though this too caused swollen tendons?

On chains, you state:
Since this study, there is a rule that only chains up to 6 ozs are allowed in the ring, but I certainly don't see DQPs weighing chains when horses are being inspected.

DQPs most definitely weigh chains. When the winners (or top 3) go back through inspection, the chains are removed in the inspection area, inspected, and weighed by the DQP. Tickets are written if the chain is over weight, even if only by 0.1 oz. No, not every chain is weighed and I suppose if you plan on not being near the top, you could get away with a slightly larger chain (excessively large chains would probably draw attention and inspection). One interesting thing I noticed with the study is they did not test (or at least did not publish) the effects of 8 oz chains on horses that were not chemically irritated or previously scarred. They showed 10 oz. chains can cause lesions and up to 6 oz chains do not. But, the only mention of an 8 oz chain is on previously scarred horses.

You state:
Auburn Study has a lot of evidence that pads are not good for the TWH.

This study showed that drastic changes in angle caused short-term inflammation. I see no evidence from this study, that after an adjustment period, pads harm the horse.

You state:
I don't think the industry can hinge their hopes that pads are okay by this study.

I don't think pads can be vilified based on this study either.

For the Tennessee Walking Horse said...

bbudafuko: The study showed a rise in temperature in the flexor tendons when the horse (#22, later it says #20 but I believe this is a typo) is shod from barefoot to padded. The horse (#23) which had been on a package for for an unstated amount of time prior to the study showed normal readings. It was when 8 degrees of wedges were added to the packages of both horses that both showed signs of inflammation. Similarly, when 12 degrees of wedges were removed from the packages, both horses showed inflammation. But, the study states, "Inflammation subsides about one week after the heels are raised or lowered 8 and 12 degrees respectively." This shows that change causes short-term inflammation. Based on this information, your suggested regimen would result in more damage because of constant change.

FTTWH: Short-term inflammation can still lead to tendonitis in the long run. My question is why risk tendonitis at all just for a show ring "look"? Why risk damaging the horse? Grand Prix horses, dressage horses, endurance horses--they don't compete on the top levels unless their horses are guaranteed fit--they are not ridden if they even show the slightest signs of issues. Why is this so different in the TWH world?

bbudafuko: I don't think swollen tendons were the reason for this. If it were, why did they gait more soundly on a negative angle even though this too caused swollen tendons?

FTTWH: Of course you don't think that was the reason because it goes against wanting the horse to be on pads. Plus, the horse should not gait "more soundly," he should gait completely sound and without gimmicks or gadgets, which pads are. The gait should be natural, not forced through fancy shoeing or pads.

bbudafuko: DQPs most definitely weigh chains. When the winners (or top 3) go back through inspection, the chains are removed in the inspection area, inspected, and weighed by the DQP. Tickets are written if the chain is over weight, even if only by 0.1 oz. No, not every chain is weighed and I suppose if you plan on not being near the top, you could get away with a slightly larger chain (excessively large chains would probably draw attention and inspection). One interesting thing I noticed with the study is they did not test (or at least did not publish) the effects of 8 oz chains on horses that were not chemically irritated or previously scarred. They showed 10 oz. chains can cause lesions and up to 6 oz chains do not. But, the only mention of an 8 oz chain is on previously scarred horses.

FTTWH: I have never, ever seen a DQP weigh chains after a class, or even before a class, when they should be weighed. A horse shouldn't even be allowed in a class until the chains or shoes are weighed so it won't have an unfair advantage in the class. However, I have also only been to shows where the USDA wasn't present, and the DQPs were obviously letting sore horses in and trainers were soring their horses before the class right in front of the DQP. Perhaps they weigh chains when the USDA is present, but I've never seen it.

bbudafuko: This study showed that drastic changes in angle caused short-term inflammation. I see no evidence from this study, that after an adjustment period, pads harm the horse.

FTTWH: Abnormal inflammation, such as inflammation in the tendons, for whatever reason or time period is potentially harmful. Again, why risk harming the horse just to win a ribbon? But I think we all know the answer to that question.

The whole point is that the study shows problems when the horse is on stacks, no matter how minor. These problems are directly related to being on stacks, not due to the amount of work the horse does or what the angles are. Overall, this is evidence that stacks can be bad for the horses, and IMHO, there is no logical reason to risk seriously harming a horse just for the sake of a blue ribbon.

bbudafuko said...

FTTWH: Short-term inflammation can still lead to tendonitis in the long run. My question is why risk tendonitis at all just for a show ring "look"? Why risk damaging the horse? Grand Prix horses, dressage horses, endurance horses--they don't compete on the top levels unless their horses are guaranteed fit--they are not ridden if they even show the slightest signs of issues. Why is this so different in the TWH world?

bbudafuko: I hesitate to bring other breed's problems into a discussion, as I have seen your response and agree that injustice in other breeds is not an excuse, however I will bite. Why do you think drug rules, particularly NSAIDs, were enacted? They were being overused in masking aliments so horses could show in less than the condition you described. Trainers of breeds falling under drug regulations have not stopped using these drugs. They know how far out the drugs can be administered and do it then. I doubt any walking horses are shown within a week after being shod from barefoot to padded, the period of time the study showed inflammation.

FTTWH: Of course you don't think that was the reason because it goes against wanting the horse to be on pads. Plus, the horse should not gait "more soundly," he should gait completely sound and without gimmicks or gadgets, which pads are. The gait should be natural, not forced through fancy shoeing or pads.

bbudafuko: My opinion and bias is no different than the one you expressed while pushing your agenda to remove pads. This study showed a horse gaiting sound wearing pads. Unsoundness was the result of drastic increase or decrease in angle. If tendons were equally swollen in both cases, and swollen tendons were the sole cause of the stumbling and fatigue, why was the horse gaiting better on a negative angle?

FTTWH: I have never, ever seen a DQP weigh chains after a class, or even before a class, when they should be weighed. A horse shouldn't even be allowed in a class until the chains or shoes are weighed so it won't have an unfair advantage in the class. However, I have also only been to shows where the USDA wasn't present, and the DQPs were obviously letting sore horses in and trainers were soring their horses before the class right in front of the DQP. Perhaps they weigh chains when the USDA is present, but I've never seen it.

bbudafuko: I do not know where or when you have been in the inspection area. At all sanctioned shows I have been to chains were weighed post show, as is the approved procedure, USDA present or not. There is no weight limit on the pads so a heavier package does not create an unfair advantage and pulling them to weighed is unnecessary.

FTTWH: Abnormal inflammation, such as inflammation in the tendons, for whatever reason or time period is potentially harmful. Again, why risk harming the horse just to win a ribbon? But I think we all know the answer to that question.

The whole point is that the study shows problems when the horse is on stacks, no matter how minor. These problems are directly related to being on stacks, not due to the amount of work the horse does or what the angles are. Overall, this is evidence that stacks can be bad for the horses, and IMHO, there is no logical reason to risk seriously harming a horse just for the sake of a blue ribbon.

bbudafuko: The study does not show problems directly related to horses being padded. The study only shows drastic changes in angle can be detrimental. Once Again, I hate to bring other breeds into it, but does this apply to jumping horses, rodeo horses, race horses? All of these risk serious injury to the horse.

I mainly ride flat shod horses but have ridden a few padded horses owned by other people. I came to your site because I was interested in the literature published on the effects of pads. Your snide comments to the facts make it clear to me that alternate view points and discussion are not welcome. I apologize for disrupting your propaganda. I will not post again.

For the Tennessee Walking Horse said...

bbudafuko: I hesitate to bring other breed's problems into a discussion, as I have seen your response and agree that injustice in other breeds is not an excuse, however I will bite. Why do you think drug rules, particularly NSAIDs, were enacted? They were being overused in masking aliments so horses could show in less than the condition you described. Trainers of breeds falling under drug regulations have not stopped using these drugs. They know how far out the drugs can be administered and do it then. I doubt any walking horses are shown within a week after being shod from barefoot to padded, the period of time the study showed inflammation.

FTTWH: You didn't answer the question: WHY RISK DAMAGING THE HORSE?

And yes, the drug rules were enacted to stop those things, and those rules have actually been followed. There didn't need to be a federal law to stop what's going on, and drug use is not nearly as rampant in other breeds as soring is in the TWH breed. Plus, when a horse is found drugged, the trainer is diciplined, given a hefty fine, the horse stripped of the title, and in some instances the horse is not allowed to be shown again. They actually take violations of their rules seriously, unlike the TWH industry that merely gives a slap on the hand and allows the trainer to show again two weeks later.

bbudafuko: My opinion and bias is no different than the one you expressed while pushing your agenda to remove pads. This study showed a horse gaiting sound wearing pads. Unsoundness was the result of drastic increase or decrease in angle. If tendons were equally swollen in both cases, and swollen tendons were the sole cause of the stumbling and fatigue, why was the horse gaiting better on a negative angle?

FTTWH: I am pushing for the ending of soring, and since 90% of all horses that were found sore in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were stacked horses, then I believe stacks should be eliminated. There is no logical reason to stack a horse other than personal gain. The horse doesn't need to be stacked to be a quality animal.

Angles should not come into play when it comes to a horse's natural way of going. When a horse is trimmed and shod correct to its conformation and not according to the shoe size the owner/trainer/exhibitor wants, then the horse will gait sound. The gait should never be forced. To me, there is nothing sound about forcing the gait through shoeing methods.

For the Tennessee Walking Horse said...

bbudafuko: I do not know where or when you have been in the inspection area. At all sanctioned shows I have been to chains were weighed post show, as is the approved procedure, USDA present or not. There is no weight limit on the pads so a heavier package does not create an unfair advantage and pulling them to weighed is unnecessary.

FTTWH: I've been to several shows on the West Coast where I watched soring happen right before my eyes, and in front of the DQP.

How is weight NOT an unfair advantage? The logic is that a horse that carries more weight in front will step higher and crouch more. That's what the judges reward. So if I were a person who could not afford the giant heavy tungsten shoes that are being used, or maybe I try to show sound and don't add lead to my horse's stacks after he's been through the DQP and before he goes in the class (yes, I've witnessed this), then why is it okay for everyone else to use them and I not get that advantage? If I were an exhibitor, I'd be outraged that there aren't weight limits in some of the HIO rulebooks. And in that vein, why aren't exhibitors demanding chains be weighed before the class? That also will give someone an unfair advantage if they have chains that are over the weight limit. But then again, when a horse is found sore after a class or chains are too heavy, the HIOs don't strip the horse of the title or discipline the trainer, so it doesn't really matter anyway.

bbudafuko: The study does not show problems directly related to horses being padded. The study only shows drastic changes in angle can be detrimental. Once Again, I hate to bring other breeds into it, but does this apply to jumping horses, rodeo horses, race horses? All of these risk serious injury to the horse.

FTTWH: AGAIN, you didn't answer the question. The majority of other breeds are conditioned before shown for months, riding for hours every day, and they are not purposely injured to force them to move certain ways. This is unlike BL horses that are ridden up and down an aisle or around an arena for a few minutes so they can figure out how much more juice to use or if the horse "needs" more pain to force the gait. There is no complex training involved in showing TWHs, only complex shoeing and chemistry to force the horse to move the way they want.

bbudafuko: I mainly ride flat shod horses but have ridden a few padded horses owned by other people. I came to your site because I was interested in the literature published on the effects of pads. Your snide comments to the facts make it clear to me that alternate view points and discussion are not welcome. I apologize for disrupting your propaganda. I will not post again.

FTTWH: I'm not spreading propaganda--I'm pointing out the truths. This blog only propaganda to those who are all for stacking and/or soring. If you have ridden a few BL horses, then you probably realize the torture they go through just to win a blue ribbon. I've been involved in this industry for a very long time and used to be involved with sore horse trainers. I have seen what they do to these horses to win. It's sick and twisted and needs to stop, not just for the horse's sake, but so that we can see America actually uphold one of the laws they have enacted to stop animal abuse. And if continuing to expose the industry and point out the truths is what needs to be done to stop it, then I will.

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