Communication and Collaboration are Key
The International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot brings together all the great veterinary and farrier minds that have dedicated themselves to furthering the understanding of the devastating syndrome of laminitis in the hopes that finding a cure is to be found any day. The intricacies of the hoof and its mechanics bring merit to the familiar saying; “No Foot No Horse."
The Director Dr. James Orsini comes in from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center to spearhead the event; this year the event was co-chaired by Dr Rustin Moore of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
There are actually three conferences going on at once, with a few sideshows. One lecture hall is reserved for covering new scientific research on laminitis, while a second is devoted to the clinical treatment of laminitis and a third reserved strictly for equine foot science and biomechanics. The third lecture hall’s program chair was Fran Jurga, a consulting advisor to Holistic Horse.
Interesting fact: speakers came from five continents, countries included Japan, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Austria, and a five-person delegation from the Royal Veterinary College of London. The attendees were equally international!
Science conferences often have posters, but not vet conferences. Fran Jurga was the chair of the “Future Forward” Poster Session, which is open to conference attendees, trade show exhibitors and the conference faculty. There was also a set of posters made by vet students who competed for scholarships to attend the conference.
The group’s mission is “to engage veterinarians, farriers, caretakers and the greater equine community in a collaborative effort to advance, expand and disseminate knowledge through research and collective experiences to effectively prevent and treat equine laminitis and diseases of the foot.”
Collaboration efforts are exhibited by their interactive “Future Forward Poster Session" that was instituted in 2011. Each registered attendee, whether student or professional, is encouraged to submit an accomplishment with the faculty and each other. The topics and their research must pertain to laminitis, foot disease, science and biomechanics. The studies are to be displayed on a large poster board that can be reviewed by a panel of judges and viewed by all that amble the hallways from lecture to lecture. The author of each board must be present to defend the content during it evaluation. “The goals are to stimulate informal discussions in a collaborative setting and to offer attendees a more participatory role in the conference.”
OWNER’S PROGRAM: Understanding laminitis from beginning to end
It is unusual and exciting to see non-professionals invited to a professional conference. There was much to cover at the conference, but time and space was dedicated to including an important partner in the process; the caregiver. Kudos are to be extended here. This conference team recognizes that the horse owner needs to learn more about these syndromes so the animal can get the best care. Hopefully, these proactive and committed caregivers can take valuable and possibly new information back to their practitioners at home. Some disconcerting feedback was that many farriers and vets still do not know enough about the diseases to handle it appropriately at its onset for their patient. It is all about the sharing of correct information and encouraging those practitioners who have not been involved to get involved.
1. Owners came from as far as Tucson Arizona and Quebec Canada (to name two) to inform themselves about caring for their horses with laminitis
2. The owner’s session was sort of like a “greatest hits” album of information from the bigger conference. Many of the same speakers, shorter lectures, they just talked faster!
3. Owners had the chance to ask questions of leading vets and researchers about their own horses and caregiving systems
4. Speakers included vet nurse Jennifer Wrigley of New Bolton Center who is a cornerstone of the Equi Assist “visiting nurse” program for laminitis homecare
5. Chairman of the owners session was Margaret Hamilton Duprey of Cherry Knoll Farm, well known as owner of many Team USA horses. Laminitis touches us all.
The Conference Abstract and Workshop Topics ranged from:
Using stem cells in clinical cases of laminitis Vernon Dryden
Treatment options for hyperinsulinemiamedications: medications and supplements Nick Frank
Lunging on soft and hard ground: Differences between sound and mildly lame horses Thilo Pfau
The effect of shoe material on foot slip during impact on concrete and tarmacadam roadways C.H. Pardoe
Regenerative medicine and laminitis: Where are we? John Peroni
Regenerative Medicine: PRP and stem cells - stall-side treatments Workshop Sponsored by: Equine Partners America, LLC
Other interesting info: Saturday night “Paddock Pub” party centered around a hard-fought ping pong championship that came down to Australia vs. Great Britain; the Royal Vet College’s Dr Renate Weller took home the championship over the University of Queensland’s Dr Chris Pollitt. Behind them, a 12-foot television screen showed the Breeders Cup races live. As the Classic approach, people cheered for Paynter, a laminitis survivor who had been cared for by some of the New Bolton Center staff present, and Mucho Macho Man, who wears special glue-on “Polyflex” shoes, designed by regular conference attendee Curtis Burns.
Everyone in the room was aware that the Conference lives on through their work to help horses, whether in the clinic, the research lab or the forge, and that the Conference is a two way street. People don't just come and absorb knowledge, they bring it with them and spread it around in a way that other conferences haven’t attempted to do. Perhaps it is because laminitis is so often a matter of life and death. If the energy and dedication of this conference are any indication of what the future holds, this disease will soon be conquered.