California Riding Magazine • November, 2013

Free For All!
Full day of learning at Circle Oak Equine's Horse Health Fair.

by Kim F. Miller

Circle Oak Equine, the world-class sporthorse rehabilitation facility in Petaluma, attracts mainly elite athletes as clients. But during its third annual Horse Health Fair, Sat. Oct. 5, owners of any and every kind of horse had free access to the wealth of knowledge that makes this place tick. Top veterinarians, body workers, farriers and other experts, from the Bay Area and well beyond, gave great presentations and the COE staff demonstrated the facility's cutting edge equipment. The fact that presenters came for free speaks volumes about Circle Oak's role in the Bay Area equestrian community.

Organized by Circle Oak's medical director Carrie Schlachter, VMD, the fair also included hands-on "wet labs" during which attendees tried their hand at body work and palpation techniques.

The privately-owned state-licensed veterinary facility had some big news, too. Renowned sporthorse vet and UC Davis professor Dr. Jack Snyder, and fellow UC Davis professor Dr. Sarah Puchalski, a boarded radiologist, will join the Circle Oak team in the new year. Their arrival coincides with the construction of a new clinic and the addition of a standing MRI machine, one of very few anywhere and the only one in the Bay Area.

Straighten Up & Ride Right: "If you do straightness training, you'll have all of us vets on food stamps," pronounced the ever-colorful Dr. Kerry Ridgway in his Laterality In The Sporthorse presentation. A longtime advocate of integrative veterinary care, Dr. Ridgway and his FEI dressage rider wife, Christine, became big believers in Klaus Schöneich's straightness teachings four years ago. Training horses to track their feet in true straightness isn't quick or easy, Dr. Ridgway admitted, but the payoff is big. It can address what is often referred to as "left or right handedness" in a horse, and, thus, resolve a shocking amount of lameness issues, he said. It's also a powerful tool in getting the horse, which was built heavy on the forehand as a grazing animal, to shift its weight to its hindquarters, a key to success in almost every discipline. Dr. Ridgway visited from his Institute for Equine Therapy Options in South Carolina. Photo: Kim F. Miller

MRI Madness: Dr. Sarah Puchalski explained how the use of magnetic resonance imaging brought about a sea change in how lamenesses are diagnosed and, as a result, treated. Introduced for horses in the late 90s, the technology reveals all the internal structures, bones and soft tissue, of the lower leg. The more accurate diagnosis it provides often mean the difference between a horse that can be returned to work and one that previously would have been put out to pasture. Photo: MJ Wickham Photography.

Star In Residence: Six-time Olympic vet Dr. Jack Snyder shared insights and anecdotes with a rapt audience during his Lameness in Sporthorses presentation. Photo: MJ Wickham Photography.

Painted Pony: Equinology founder Debranne Pattillo, right, brings equine anatomy to life by using skeletal structures and her trademark "painted horse," which illustrates where muscles and bone are and what they do in motion. Equine sports therapist Nicole Rombach assists with the demo. Photo: MJ Wickham Photography.

Walk This Way: A Circle Oak staffer and patient demonstrate the Hydro Horse underwater treadmill. The device allows horses to exercise their muscles without putting their full weight on their joints. It's ideal for horses coming back from injuries or surgeries and some clients bring their healthy horses in regularly for ongoing conditioning. Visitors from the Marin County Pony Club loved the demo, but were dismayed to learn that the 4' water level meant most ponies were too short to use it. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Taking The Gym To The Horse: Equine sports therapist Nicole Rombach introduced bands designed to activate hindquarter or core muscles. Circle Oak Equine founder Ron Malone tried the Equiband on his cutting star, Cash, and said the horse felt more underneath him, and also a "little choppy in front." Available for use with western and english saddles, the Equiband takes some getting used to and the right fit and placement requires some tweaking, Nicole noted. The new product has received many positive reviews. Photo: Kim F. Miller