Cus­tomize Their Care Case by Case

Spin to Win Rodeo - - Departments - By Ken­dra San­tos

Equine prac­ti­tioner Colter Ne­granti earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in an­i­mal science at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-Davis, and his ve­teri­nary de­gree at Colorado State in Fort Collins. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from vet school, Ne­granti in­terned and worked two years along­side renowned equine lame­ness spe­cial­ist Dr. Marty Gard­ner in Gard­nerville, Ne­vada. A life­long cow­boy, Ne­granti re­turned to his na­tive Cen­tral Coast of Cal­i­for­nia, where his Paso Robles Equine prac­tice com­bines the prac­ti­cal, com­mon-sense ap­proach of his ranch-raised roots with ev­ery ad­van­tage of cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy and mod­ern medicine.

Dr. Ne­granti spe­cial­izes in lame­ness is­sues re­lated to per­for­mance horses—equine sports medicine—and has a num­ber of team rop­ing clients. He’s well-versed in the event, which is use­ful when help­ing his cow­boy friends get the most out of their four-footed team rop­ing part­ners, in terms of ev­ery­thing from preven­tion to cure. In fact, Dr. Gard­ner’s

cow­boy clien­tele in Gard­nerville dur­ing Ne­granti’s tenure there in­cluded the likes of Clay O’Brien Cooper and Jade Corkill.

Ne­granti’s only 35, but has al­ready seen an equine evo­lu­tion in terms of team rop­ing horses.

“We used to see a lot of ranch horses be­come team rop­ing horses,” he said. “With all the money to be won at the World Se­ries events and oth­ers, the horse mar­ket has been driven up sub­stan­tially. We’re now see­ing low-num­bered rop­ers, who are by far the ma­jor­ity in the rop­ing in­dus­try, buy­ing $30,000-$40,000 horses. That, in turn, pro­vides a much dif­fer­ent treat­ment op­por­tu­nity and chal­lenge to keep­ing th­ese horses go­ing.

“It used to be that a lot of rop­ers were no­to­ri­ous for us­ing a lit­tle bute and go­ing on with it. But now, with the value of th­ese horses, it’s re­ally changed how we ap­proach treat­ment. Given their in­vest­ment, it’s worth­while for rope-horse own­ers to in­vest in more ad­vanced ther­a­pies that maybe weren’t jus­ti­fied in the past— when horses weren’t as ex­pen­sive and there wasn’t as much money to be won—such as stem-cell ther­apy; rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive, new drugs, such as OSPHOS (clo­dronate dis­odium); and cor­rec­tive shoe­ing. There are a lot more main­te­nance op­tions avail­able to­day than ever be­fore.”

Ne­granti smiles when so many of his cow­boy cus­tomers say that it seems like there didn’t used to be so many lame horses to con­tend with.

“We’ve se­lected prospects for a more re­fined end prod­uct, so we’re deal­ing with some of the sub­se­quent lame­ness is­sues that go with that,” he said. “As per­for­mance horses are bred to be more ath­letic, we’re get­ting away from the big-boned ranch horses that used to be a lot more com­mon. Each event—whether it’s cut­ting, rein­ing, rope horses, or bar­rel horses—has got­ten so com­pet­i­tive. So be­sides the phys­i­cal re­fine­ments, we’re also ask­ing a lot more of th­ese equine ath­letes than ever be­fore.

“Take team rop­ing. Times are get­ting faster, and the pre­ci­sion we now ex­pect out of th­ese horses is pretty stress­ful phys­i­cally. Horses aren’t nat­u­rally made to do the things we’re ask­ing them to do re­peat­edly now. As the de­mands be­come greater, so do the in­juries.”

Ne­granti’s no­ticed the stepped-up par­tic­i­pa­tion at ev­ery level of the game, and the ob­vi­ous cor­re­la­tion be­tween that and de­mand for bet­ter-than-ever-be­fore horse­power.

“You go to a #8 or #9 rop­ing at a World Se­ries event, and the num­ber of en­tries is

sub­stan­tially more than the higher-num­bered rop­ings,” Ne­granti noted. “So nat­u­rally, vet­eri­nar­i­ans are be­ing asked to do a lot of pre-pur­chase ex­ams, and to de­sign main­te­nance pro­grams for high-cal­iber horses for all lev­els of rop­ers. The big money in the sport to­day is driv­ing peo­ple to buy bet­ter horses and take bet­ter care of them. It’s a sub­stan­tial in­vest­ment, so it just makes fi­nan­cial sense.”

It also di­rectly af­fects a roper’s odds of win­ning. Rop­ers will be money and hap­pi­ness ahead if they go out of their road to pre­vent in­juries in the first place.

“That goes a lot fur­ther than com­ing to me or an­other vet, and hav­ing to treat a prob­lem af­ter the fact,” Ne­granti said. “Things as sim­ple as proper shoe­ing and nu­tri­tion, and keep­ing horses in shape go a long way to­ward keep­ing them healthy and sound. Pay­ing at­ten­tion to horses is re­ally im­por­tant, too. Lis­ten to them, and they’ll tell you a lot about what’s go­ing on. If a horse is all of a sud­den do­ing some­thing out of the or­di­nary—not act­ing right or limp­ing—get it checked out. The ear­lier you iden­tify a prob­lem, the bet­ter.

“If out of nowhere your horse doesn’t want to go into the box, or gets anx­ious in the box, for ex­am­ple, it might be be­cause he’s hurt­ing. I’ve seen a lot of horses like that. We fig­ured out they were a lit­tle sore, and in some cases their box is­sues were im­me­di­ately re­solved by, say, in­ject­ing their hocks, which for a lot of per­for­mance horses is a pretty rou­tine part of their main­te­nance pro­gram.”

Ne­granti notes that the ear­lier you re­lieve hock in­flam­ma­tion, the bet­ter prog­no­sis for a horse to stay on his game in the long run.

“A horse that’s com­fort­able will per­form bet­ter,” he said. “That’s just com­mon sense. And ev­ery horse is dif­fer­ent. I know plenty of rope horses that don’t need hock in­jec­tions, and hardly ever need any main­te­nance. Some need it ev­ery five or six years; oth­ers more of­ten. It de­pends on a va­ri­ety of fac­tors, in­clud­ing con­for­ma­tion, how they use them­selves, and the de­gree of change in that joint.”

The value of com­mon sense can­not be overem­pha­sized here.

“Keep them on a reg­u­lar shoe­ing in­ter­val to keep their an­gles right, keep them legged up, and don’t overuse them,” Ne­granti said. “Rope five or 10, and put them away. Younger horses tend to get a lit­tle more use, and a lit­tle more stress put on them, but most horses don’t need to run 30 steers a day.

“Have your vet and far­rier work to­gether to keep your horse at his best. I some­times take ra­dio­graphs, go over the an­gles, and cre­ate a pre­scrip­tion for each par­tic­u­lar horse with the horse­shoer. The an­gles in­side the hoof cap­sule don’t al­ways cor­re­spond with what you see on the out­side. To­day’s rope horses are high-level ath­letes, and should be treated as such. No two horses are the same or have the same needs, so treat­ing them on a caseby-case ba­sis is the best way to help max­i­mize their per­for­mance.”

Dr. Ne­granti, right, dis­cusses the best course of ac­tion on an­gles and pos­si­ble cor­rec­tive shoe­ing on a case-by-case ba­sis with a horse’s far­rier, in this case Brian Hunts­berger.

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