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Equine Insurance Seminar: Bio of Russell Crawford

A little back round information on Russell Crawford…

I am a third generation equine specialty agent.

My grandfather was a large insurance industry professional starting in the 1920’s.  His brother was the head trainer for Calumet Farms from Lexington Kentucky.  My grandfather founded Thoroughbred Service Corp. and during his career helped create many of the coverages that are the basis of the mortality insurance contract of today.

Both my parents were equine insurance agents, with my father also having been a fire engineer for the Royal Globe Liverpool Insurance Group.  They operated their own specialty Equine Insurance Agency for over 30 years, handling many celebrity clients before finally selling their business.

For over ten years I ran the equine division for the purchaser, building up that agency to one of the largest equine based divisions in the US, outside of Kentucky.

In October 1998, I formed Equine Brokerage.   I have run Equine Brokerage as a niche insurance agency, only handling a select clientele.  I am now going into my 17th year.  I handle all breeds; thoroughbreds, standardbreds, hunter jumpers, equitation, and dressage.  We provide all risks for mortality and breeding covers, as well as farm structure and liability coverage.  I am one of two or three agents in the country who is appointed by the only two insurance companies that provide workers compensation coverage for farms and training stables.

We have a broad range of market accessibility, and can design the exact policy that will work for each client.

Navicular Syndrome (Caudal Heel Pain)

Horse owners dread the diagnosis of navicular syndrome. Much new research has focused on this disease. To help understand whether there is a cause for concern, this month’s blog post will help clear up some myths and illuminate the facts surrounding this disease.

The most common sign of this syndrome is lameness. Sometimes there is an obvious lameness in one limb or, when both front limbs are affected, a general shortening of the stride. The front limbs are the most commonly affected.

To diagnose this disease, our veterinarians will observe the horse’s gait in-hand in a straight line and on circles, often on different footings, and sometimes under saddle. Careful palpation of the limb, hoof testers (metal instruments used to squeeze on the hoof) and flexion tests are also used to localize the lameness. When diagnosing any lameness, nerve blocks (numbing the nerve that innervates a particular region) provide our veterinarians with more conclusive evidence to localize the pain of lameness. Horses with navicular syndrome will improve when their heel is numbed.


We can’t talk about this disease without discussing anatomy. Navicular syndrome refers to pain coming from the heel region. Hence, the technical term for this disease is caudal (scientific term for towards the tail) heel pain. There are many important structures in the heel region that can contribute to this disease. The navicular bone is a small boat shaped bone (“navicu” means small boat in Latin) and has a small fluid filled pocket, the navicular bursa, which provides lubrication for the deep digital flexor tendon to glide over the bone. The deep digital flexor tendon runs down the back of the horse’s leg, around the navicular bone, and inserts on the largest bone in the horse’s hoof, the coffin bone. The navicular bone also has several ligaments that hold it in place. Any inflammation, tears, or scar tissue to these tendons, ligaments, or bursa can cause heel pain. Changes to the navicular bone – spurs, bruising, fractures, damage to the cartilage, or holes in the bone also cause pain. Long term prognosis is depends on which structure is affected.

Navicular disease used to be attributed to bony changes in the navicular bone seen on radiographs. Now we know many of the soft tissue structures in the heel can cause the pain of this disease and the name has changed from “disease” to “syndrome.” As with any therapy, treatment is most successful when we know exactly what structure is painful. The challenge with navicular syndrome is determining which structure is painful. This area is located in the hoof capsule and difficult to image. Changes to the bone can be visible on radiographs, but the only way to visualize the many soft tissue structures is with ultrasound (fairly inaccurate) or MRI.  MRI is the best modality to image this area, but is expensive and requires general anesthesia for the best images.

One type of therapeutic shoe. Note the rounded shape of this rocker shoe.

One type of therapeutic shoe. Note the rounded shape of this rocker shoe.

Treatment is based on the source of pain. The most common treatment is shoeing changes, which are based on the horse’s conformation and radiographs. It can take up to two weeks to see the full effect of any new shoes, so be patient. Sometimes anti-inflammatories, such as bute, are also used, though if you are showing, be aware of USEF rules. Injecting anti-inflammatories (steroids) directly into an inflamed navicular bursa or the coffin joint (a nearby joint) also affords relief to some horses. Bisphosphonates (Osphos and Tildren) are a class of drugs that alter bone metabolism and are also used for some types of navicular syndrome. For horses with chronic pain, a surgical procedure where the nerves that innervate the heel are severed, may be recommended. This procedure is also known as “nerving”. This isn’t a permanent solution – the nerves may grow back, and requires daily monitoring to make sure there isn’t a wound on the now numb heel region.

Quarter horses, thoroughbreds and warmbloods are the mostly common affected breeds, but any horse with a long toe/ low heel, disproportionally small feet, contracted or sheared heels conformation is also predisposed.

There are some horses that navicular syndrome is athletic career ending, but with the right management, many horses perform for a long time with this disease. If you think your horse might have navicular syndrome or have any questions, please contact us.


Sand Colic in Horses

In areas with sandy soil, horses are inevitably prone to ingesting sand. They may pull up grass by the roots while grazing or munch on hay directly off the ground in their paddock. When the amount of sand in the horse’s digestive tract becomes excessive, it can irritate the intestinal lining, causing problems with motility and the absorption of nutrients.  Sand can also accumulate in the horse’s large intestine enough to cause a complete blockage, leading to symptoms of colic. Below, methods for detection, treatment and prevention of sand ingestion in horses are described.

Signs that your horse may be ingesting too much sand:
If your horse has diarrhea, either loose feces or expulsion of fluid along with formed manure, this could be due to excessive sand in the digestive tract. Sand can be very irritating to the lining of a horse’s intestine, causing this malabsorptive condition.
Weight Loss
A horse may be chronically underweight and/or failing to gain weight despite increased amounts of feed offered.
Dull hair coat
Signs can range from intermittent and mild due to the weight of sand pulling on the intestine to severe pain caused by a complete blockage, a true “sand impaction”.
Diagnostic Tests
My horse has a “beach in his belly ! “
Often, your horse will show no outward signs of having an excessive amount of sand in their large intestine. The discovery is not made until your veterinarian hears sand moving through the large intestine as they listen for gut sounds with a stethoscope. The sound has often been described as waves on a beach
Fecal Sand Test
Sand can often be detected in the manFecal Sand Testure. As an easy test to perform right on the farm, place a few balls of manure in a bucket with water. If sand dissolves out into the bottom of your bucket once the water is dumped out, your horse is ingesting too much.
A horse’s abdomen can be radiographed to look for the presence of sand.  However, usually a powerful xray machine, more commonly used in referral veterinary clinics, would be required.

Treatment and prevention strategies

Because sand may be so prevalent in a horse’s environment, especially in coastal areas, treatment strategies must go hand-in-hand with prevention measures to truly protect your horse.

  • Psyllium

Giving your horse this fibrous supplement, usually available in either a powder or pelleted form, can aid in the expulsion of sand from the digestive tract.  The psyllium tends to swell once ingested, picking up sand as it moves through and out of the horse with the manure.  It is important to note that dosage recommendations listed on the product label you choose may only be appropriate in a maintenance situation.  Therefore, it is always safer to check with your veterinarian if you suspect a problem of excessive sand in your horse and/or notice any of the above mentioned clinical signs. Your veterinarian can help you decide how much psyllium to give and how often based on an individual horse’s needs.

  • Surgery

Occasionally, when a horse has ingested enough sand to cause symptoms of colic, surgery is required to physically remove sand from the large colon where it is most likely to settle.

Managing your horse’s environment, in particular the area where they spend most of their time eating, is an important part of the prevention program. Consider the following strategies for keeping food off the ground, purposely decreasing a horse’s most important exposure site for sand ingestion.

  • Placing hay in a hay rack or hay net, safely secured to a fence post so that a horse cannot become tangled.
  • Hay FeederIf grain and/or hay is fed outdoors, placing a large rubber mat beneath the feeding area so fallen food can be salvaged without mixing directly with the sandy soil below.
  • For horses at pasture, paddock rotation and general pasture management to prevent erosion and overgrazing, preserving grass to help decrease a horse’s chances of ingesting sand clumped to the roots.

In parts of the country where sandy soil is most prevalent, horses may be at increased risk of sand ingestion for at least part of the year.  As owners, it is important to recognize symptoms of excessive sand build-up in your horse. With a little help from your veterinarian, a treatment and prevention plan can be implemented to offer your horse the best protection possible.

Chiropractic for Horses

The word chiropractic is derived from the Greek words “cheir” meaning “hand” and praktike” meaning “business or to practice”.  Chiropractic focuses primarily on the relationship of the vertebral column and the nervous system, and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health.  A chiropractic adjustment is a very specific high-velocity, low force controlled thrust by a hand which is directed in a specific direction on a specific joint.  This restores the full range of mobility and neurological function.

COLTS HEAD26Horses have a high prevalence of neck and back problems which can be presented as a lameness, stiffness, lack of impulsion, poor mental attitude, gait abnormalities, cold-backed, cinchy or unwillingness to perform.  Limb lameness, poor saddle fit, rider’s ability, conformation or shoeing affects changes in body carriage which can cause body pain.  Chiropractic manipulation of the spine and associated musculature can resolve the pain and reduce mobility in the joints and associated muscles.  Chiropractic is not a “cure all” for all neck / body problems and is contra-indicated for fractures, infections, cancers and non-mechanical joint problems.  It will not reverse degenerative joint disease (arthritis).

COLTS HEAD25An initial chiropractic evaluation involves an oral exam, saddle fit, gait and shoeing evaluation, acupuncture sensitivity and range of motion in the vertebral segments.  It takes forty-five minutes to an hour and is not painful to the horse.