AAEP in Orlando

Continuing education, state-of-the-art advances in medicine, and a presentation by a football personality are highlights of 2002 AAEP convention Compiled by Bridget M. Kuehn
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courtesy of USDA
The AAEP convention in Orlando emphasized the importance of putting the latest research on equine medicine into practice. Research on equids has helped improve equine health worldwide.

More than 5,200 veterinarians, guests, and exhibitors converged on Orlando, Dec. 4-8, 2002, to participate in the American Association of Equine Practitioners' 48th annual convention. The record turnout shattered the previous total attendance record of 5,151, set by the 2001 convention in San Diego.

"The great turnout in Orlando is a testament to the quality scientific sessions and the loyalty of the membership," said David Foley, the executive director of AAEP, during the general membership meeting on Dec. 6.

Nearly one hundred scientific sessions were offered at the convention on topics ranging from West Nile virus to magnetic resonance imaging and dentistry. Sunrise sessions and lunchtime Table Topics helped busy convention goers fill every minute of their day with continuing education.

The AAEP's 3rd annual Horseman's Day, a daylong equine health seminar for horse owners was a popular program, with 266 horse owners participating, according to AAEP leaders.

From gridiron to greener pastures
NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Terry Bradshaw, the keynote speaker, kicked off the convention with a spirited presentation about his life as a football player, television personality, and horseman. "I've been in the horse business since I got into football," said Bradshaw, who is currently a co-host and analyst on Fox NFL Sunday, an Emmy-winning pregame show.

Bradshaw breeds and trains championship Quarter Horses in Louisiana and currently has more than 80 broodmares. He explained that, while his busy travel schedule leaves him little time to ride and he doesn't want show them himself, he still enjoys them.

"I want to breed them, love them, and take care of them," he said.

Bradshaw offered pithy advice to the audience between humorous anecdotes.

He also congratulated veterinarians for their dedication and advised them to enjoy their chosen profession, because life is short.

"You're making sure those animals have a long and healthy life," Bradshaw said. "It doesn't get any better than (that); it's your calling in life."

Recalling his days in football, Bradshaw, who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl victories, talked about the never-ending drive for success. He told a story about how after each Super Bowl victory, the team would celebrate with a parade, and even in the glow of victory, fans demanded another victory next year. He said it's important in any business, including veterinary medicine, to remember that the customer always demands success.

Bradshaw, a divorcé and father of two young daughters, wrapped up his speech by reminding veterinarians that, while their work is important, they should never forget that family is the most important thing in life.

"The one thing you want to know you've done a great job of is taking care of your family," he said.

Kester News Hour
Drs. John Madigan and Larry Bramlage returned to the convention to present the Kester News Hour, a rapid-fire and lighthearted showcase of the latest news in equine medicine. The news hour was named after the late Gen. Wayne O. Kester, a former AAEP president and pioneer in equine medicine.

An update on mare reproductive loss syndrome was one of the first features. As Dr. Bramlage proclaimed, "It's the caterpillars," explaining that new research has identified the Eastern tent caterpillar as the culprit in a mysterious string of abortions, stillbirths, and foal deaths in the upper Ohio Valley region that began in 2001.

Dr. Bramlage explained that recent studies suggest that mares become ill after eating caterpillars, not frass—caterpillar feces—as previously hypothesized. Although, he noted, the frass cannot completely be ruled out as a culprit yet. The toxic component of the caterpillar has not been identified, Dr. Madigan added. Controlling caterpillar populations will be important in preventing MRLS in the future, both speakers agreed.

"Biological control (of caterpillars) is going to be very important in eradication," Dr. Madigan said. "But the quest to determine what is in the caterpillars that is (causing MRLS) is going to be one of the more exciting (studies) that takes place (in 2003)."

The rapid spread of the West Nile virus from the East Coast to the West Coast was another topic highlighted at the session. Dr. Madigan quoted Dr. Peter J. Timoney, the director of the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky and an expert on infectious diseases: "The ease and speed with which the virus spread in the U.S. and Canada, and the human and equine morbidity statistics exceed anything that even the most experienced arbovirologist could have predicted."

"It took a number of people by surprise," Dr. Madigan said.

There has been a confirmed human case in an airport employee in California, which experts believe is the result of an infected mosquito arriving at the airport in luggage. Experts believe WNV will become established in California, however, because 10 species of mosquitoes in California are capable of transmitting the disease.

Some states were hit harder than others, in particular Nebraska. It's believed to be the presence of a strain of mosquito, Culix tarsalis, that is a particularly effective vector of the disease, Dr. Madigan said.

There's a vaccine available for horses, "It looks like it's pretty protective," Dr. Madigan said, explaining that, based on field data, "About nine out of 10 horses that get the vaccine are protected."

"Hopefully, the availability of vaccine will keep up with supply," he said.

A study on the transmission of equine monocytic ehrilichiosis (Potomac horse fever) also was discussed. Dr. Madigan mentioned a study that found horses contract the illness by eating caddis flies carrying a rickettsia, Ehrlichia risticii—now called Neorickettsia risticii. Previously, it was believed horses contracted the disease by eating freshwater snails infected with the rickettsia. In the past, horses were kept away from streams and ponds to prevent infection; however, on the basis of the new data, new control methods are necessary. One likely method mentioned by Dr. Madigan was treating ditch and channel water to kill the snails that release the infected cercariae that penetrate the larva of the caddis fly.

Dr. Madigan highlighted a cooperative effort between veterinarians and firefighters near Santa Cruz, Calif. The fire department gets training from veterinarians and horse handlers on what to do with a disabled horse. They also have a veterinarian on call to direct the medical aspect of the horse rescue.

"They're looking to make it uniform with all the fire departments in California," he said. "We're really excited about that."

Courtesy of AAEPTerry Bradshaw hams it up at the AAEP convention.

An update on the movement to develop a national system for equine identification was also provided. The Department of Agriculture is considering requiring permanent identification for all horses for several reasons, including to aid in foreign animal disease control, to improve the biosecurity of the national herd, and to provide official identification for interstate and international commerce in equids. The AAEP supports the concept of a national equine identification system; however it has not endorsed a specific modality at this time. The AAEP's public policy committee is addressing the issue.

Other topics that were discussed included the causes of distal limb fractures, the effectiveness of flare nasal strips, lameness scoring, the effect of coat clipping on thermoregulation, the use of recombinant growth hormone, dorsal displacement of the soft palate, and treatments to promote colonic hydration.

The state of the art in orthopedics
Dr. David M. Nunamaker, the Jacques Jenny Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, presented the Frank J. Milne State-of-the-Art Lecture, in which he emphasized new research in the field of equine orthopedics. The AAEP Foundation sponsored the presentation.

Dr. Nunamaker has been on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania since 1970 and has served as the chair of the Department of Clinical Studies' New Bolton Center since 1996. He has conducted research on a variety of topics, including fracture healing, internal and external fixation, bone remodeling, bone fatigue, and biomechanics. He has published his work in many peer-reviewed journals and has authored several chapters in veterinary text books.

The first part of his presentation featured an in-depth explanation of dorsal metacarpal disease, commonly known as bucked shins, and training methods that help decrease or eliminate the problem. The second part focused on bone and fracture treatment in the horse, specifically the problems caused by immediate full weight bearing.

"This lecture is designed to show how research can affect your practice," Dr. Nunamaker explained.

To help reduce or eliminate bucked shins, Dr. Nunamaker and many other researchers have been studying the biomechanics involved in racing. Dr. Nunamaker began to explain the research by giving the audience a primer in biomechanics.

Bucked shins are the response of the bone to high-stress cyclic loading and are often associated with training horses for racing, Dr. Nunamaker said. He added that the condition often occurs early in the training regimen as new bone forms on the outside of the third metacarpal bone. The condition is more common in Thoroughbreds than Standardbreds because their gaits differ, Dr. Nunamaker explained.

To understand these stresses, Dr. Nunamaker and his fellow researchers measured bone strain in horses undergoing training with professional trainers. They measured strain while running on the track and on the treadmill. The researchers concluded that treadmill training is not good for young horses because it reduces the stress on the bone, and in turn, reduces bone building.

He explained that understanding how bones react under stress can aid the development of safer training regimens.

Dr. Nunamaker also studied the effects of various track substrates on stress and concluded that it's best to train horses on a substrate that is similar to what they will race on. He also summarized studies that looked at various training methods and found that training regimens that emphasized galloping increased the risk of bucked shins, while regimens that emphasized breezing reduced the risk.

Courtesy of AAEPThe AAEP 2003 officers took office Dec. 7. From left, Dr. Thomas R. Lenz, president; Dr. Larry R. Bramlage, president-elect; Dr. Jerry B. Black, immediate past president; Dr. Scott Palmer, vice president; and Dr. John S. Mitchell, treasurer.

During the second portion of the lecture, Dr. Nunamaker discussed the state of the art in bone fracture repair. He gave a brief overview of the history of fracture repair and the problems associated with weight bearing during fracture healing in horses.

He discussed problems that have arisen with internal fixation and external fixation—screw failure, screw movement, and bone failure—and experimental attempts to solve the problems.

Board members elected
Four newly elected board members and the first international board member began their three-year terms on the AAEP board of directors immediately following the convention.

Dr. K. Josef Boening of Germany, the founder and senior partner of the Tierklinik Telgte Equine Hospital in Telgte, Germany, was appointed by the board of directors as the first international board member. During the 2001 annual convention in San Diego, the AAEP membership voted to add an international director to the board to better represent the AAEP's international membership.

"The AAEP's international membership consists of over 650 veterinarians in 55 countries outside of North America," said Dr. Jerry Black, the immediate past president of the AAEP in a statement. "Dr. Boening's appointment will provide an important link to the unique perspective and needs of these members."

The newly elected board members will represent four geographic regions within the United States. Dr. Robert Hillman, a retired practitioner from Ithaca, N.Y., was elected to represent District I, the North Atlantic region. Dr. Midge Leitch, who runs a referral practice in Kennett Square, Pa., was elected to represent District II, the Middle Atlantic region. Dr. Susan L. White, a professor at the University of Georgia, was elected to represent District III, the South Atlantic region. Dr. Warwick Bayly, dean of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, was elected to represent District IX, the Northwest region.

During a brief general membership meeting, Dec. 6, AAEP leaders gave year-end reports and detailed the organization's goals for the new year. No votes were taken.

Dr. Harry W. Werner, the treasurer, reported that, despite the poor economy, the AAEP is financially sound. In fact, the annual budget for 2003 will be $3 million, he said, the largest in the history of the association.

In the executive director's report, Foley also highlighted the growth and strength of the association. He said that membership in the AAEP has grown 5 percent to 7 percent each year and that there are now about 7,500 AAEP members.

Foley also outlined the major goals of the AAEP strategic plan:

  • Enhance continuing education offerings
  • Build AAEP brand awareness
  • Promote careers in equine practice
  • Address the changing needs of an increasingly diverse profession

Foley also noted the AAEP's continued commitment to equine welfare with continued involvement in issues such as equine welfare, dentistry, disaster relief and race day medication.