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USDA Has Positive Scar Rule Clinic in South Carolina

by Emma Lee Cannon

LEESVILLE, S.C. - Even though the day brought torrential rains, it didn’t stop over a hundred trainers, owners and exhibitors from attending the Scar Rule Clinic held at Martin Training Center on March 28, 2009. The South Carolina Walking Horse Association sponsored the clinic and coordinated events of the day including a barbecue and fried chicken lunch. SCWHA President Larry Kyte opened the session by welcoming everyone. Vice President Kerry DeArmond thanked everyone for their attendance and for bringing horses. Kyte then introduced the two USDA VMOs, Dr. Miava Binkley and Dr. Todd Behre, and thanked them for their time.

Dr. Binkley first stated that policies could not be discussed. She gave a history of how the scar rule came into existence. She explained that the walking horse industry in 1974 attempted to establish and enforce a scar rule. Unfortunately, this failed and in 1979 the Horse Protection Act made an amendment. It states, “Any horse born after 1975 should be free of granuloma, inflammation, noticeable hair loss on the anterior and anterior lateral pastern of the forelimbs, and no edema, moisture, granuloma, irritant or any sign of soring on the posterior. This is determined by visual and physical exam.” Dr. Binkley showed several slides of horses’ feet to explain what the USDA will be looking for this year. “We have marching orders from higher up… this practice must end and this is the year we will be looking harder than ever,” stated Dr. Binkley.

Dr. Todd Behre went on to explain that the USDA has looked at other breeds. “We spent a summer looking at the Saddlebreds and it was boring. Those horses are worked in chains and we found no visible problems,” said Dr. Behre. At the Saddlebred’s 2006 World Championship Horse Show, the USDA walked around in plain clothes and requested to go inside stalls on the grounds. They were well received and ushered in. So, they left the Saddlebreds alone and went back to the problem area of walking horses.

There were many questions asked from the audience and both vets answered to the best of their ability. Dr. Binkley and Dr. Behre gave some recommendations. They are as follows:
• Don’t use work grease. It picks up dirt and sand and becomes an irritant when the chain hits the foot.
• Use Vaseline or glycerin. These are legal.
• Use stockings to protect.

“If you want to know what we want to see on a show horse, then go pick a horse out of a pasture. Clean feet-no ridges,” said Dr. Behre. Dr. Binkley reported that the 2008 Sniffer results are not complete, but 50 percent were abnormal for foreign substance, including caines derivatives, camphor, menthol and hand detergent. She went on to explain the use of hoof testing and the concept of sheared heels.

After lunch, the crowd moved into the barn for inspection. Different trainers and amateurs brought horses to be checked. There were 44 horses examined and this was extremely helpful as spectators were encouraged to come and feel for themselves. Dr. Binkley pointed out specific findings. DQP Neal Byrd paid close attention to the findings and spent time inspecting with the vets. Dr. Binkley demonstrated the use of the Thermography machine. She took images of flat-shod and padded horses. There is some evidence that bands produced heat in the hoof above the band. This is a difference from the back hooves and hooves of flat-shod horses. They are not sure what this will entail. Trainers are encouraged to take wraps off for at least 30 minutes prior to inspection since wraps produces heat in the pastern and leg. Thermography images were viewed on a screen. Dr. Behre made the comment, “This is the best clinic we have done. The horses are walking up freely and I’m seeing good things.”

The SCHWA was especially happy that trainers and amateurs from all over the state attended, as well as some from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. Rae Martin and his son, Sam, were gracious hosts and the clinic was most beneficial. The trainers, owners and exhibitors came away with a better knowledge of the situation and a definite goal for the upcoming show season. Communication between the two entities was enhanced.  Everyone is looking forward to a positive show season.

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