Synovial infection in a horse

Synovial Infection is discussed here by Dr Chris Baldwin BVetMed(hons) MRCVS, who is resident equine veterinary surgeon at the Sussex  Equine Hospital, Ashington.

Dr Chris Baldwin  Resident Veterinary Surgeon at Ashington Equine Hospital

The anatomy of a joint can be broken down into a few basic component parts, two opposing bones are encapsulated in a fibrous joint capsule which is lined with an active synovial membrane. At the end of each bone there is a layer of cartilage which facilitates the gliding motion of the bones over one another. Within the joint a fluid is produced by the synovial membrane which lubricates the articulating joints to reduce friction, provides a shock absorption, supplies oxygen and nutrients and removes metabolic wastes from the cells within the surrounding cartilage.

Surgery being conducted on a horse’s leg  Photo:John Simpson

Joints and the synovial fluids are sometimes referred to as immune privileged sites, this is to say they have a limited capacity to deal with infections. This is because the synovial fluid is a hyper-filtration of the blood produced by the synovial membrane. The synovial membrane produces a viscous, low cell, low protein fluid composed of hyaluronic acid, lubricin, proteinases, collagenases and phagocytic cells (removes the debris that results from normal wear and tear in the joint).

The fluid is an excellent medium of nutrients to allow bacteria to grow rapidly and the fluid is devoid of infection fighting antibodies and lymphocytes. This means the introduction of even a very small number of bacteria can result in a septic joint with an infection that cannot be fought off by the horse’s own immune system.

When bacteria enter a joint space, they reproduce rapidly releasing a multitude of toxins and waste products that results in the synovial membrane releasing a storm of inflammatory mediators to recruit infection fighting cells (neutrophils and lymphocytes). The neutrophils and lymphocytes produce bacteria destroying enzymes in order to tackle the infection, however if the host defences are overwhelmed, which in an immune privileged site they often are, then infection will set in.

Infection results in an extremely painful inflammatory response and synovial fluid production increases, which results in joint distension (which is also painful!) resulting in a severe lameness and an enlarged or swollen joint. Internally the process of the infection and the inflammation aimed at tackling the infection results in cartilage degradation, adhesion formation (tendon sheaths) and pannus/fibrin build up.

When determining if a synovial structure is infected or not your vet may take a sample of the fluid and analyse it for changes that may indicate an infection has established. Synovial fluid is normally a clear viscous fluid however when infected it becomes; turbid, less viscous and cell and protein concentrations increase.

If there is a wound close to a synovial structure then at the same time as taking a sample your vet may also inject sterile water into the joint and observe to see if the water comes out of the wound, if it confirms communication between the wound and the joint, if it doesn’t then the joint fluid sample will need to be analysed.

Once a septic synovial structure has been confirmed it is then important to treat the infection quickly and aggressively. Unfortunately, antibiotics alone have a very poor success rate because antibiotics given either into the muscle, vein or in feed have poor penetration into the synovial fluid.

The “gold standard” treatment is a combination of antibiotics and arthroscopy, this involves placing an arthroscope (camera) into the joint and flushing the joint fluid out with sterile saline, this flushing aims to relieve distension, remove bacteria, inflammatory mediators and restore normal synovial health.

The solution to pollution is dilution! This procedure can be done without the camera by placing multiple needles into the joint and performing what is called a “needle flush” however the benefit of using an arthroscope is that this allows removal of the built-up pannus/fibrin (which is heavily infected thick pus like-tissue).

Arthroscopy also allows visualisation of the joint to assess for any joint damage or contamination (dirt, thorns, hair), allowing an improved prognosis prediction. Arthroscopy has a much greater success rate than needle flushing alone because of all the above outlined benefits.

Although joint infections cause a severe lameness and can result in profound damage to a joint surface, if treated appropriately and promptly horses can make an excellent return to full athletic work. The key to success of fast veterinary intervention.

Dr. C. Baldwin, BVetMed, MRCVS

Vinnie Lewis wins Plumpton’s Sussex National in style


Vinnie Lewis and Harry Bannister on their way to victory Photo: John Simpson

Plumpton’s Sussex National meeting on Sunday fulfilled all expectations, with thrilling racing bringing top class action for a bumper crowd on a sharply cold but sunny day.

This is the most prestigious raceday of the year for the popular Sussex jumping track, and the three mile four and a half furlongs feature race provided a fine test of stamina and endurance over 16 chase fences for 11 runners this year.

The race boasts £30,000 in prize money and attracts potential Grand National contenders and top class racing. Despite overall heavy ground, which worsened in later stages of the day, the feature race attracted a quality field and competitive racing on an already attractive card for the day.

Harry Whittington’s Vinnie Lewis was a dominant and impressive  7-2 winner of this  2018 At The Races Sussex National at Plumpton .

Formerly trained in Ireland by Jimmy Mangan, the seven-year-old opened his account for Harry Whittington with an easy  win at Sedgefield in November and was the 7/2 favourite when he followed up  with a far more prestigious victory in this three-and-a-half-mile £30,000 contest.

Winning Sussex National jockey Harry Bannister Photo: John Simpson

Vinnie Lewis was never too far off the pace, well-ridden by Harry Bannister, and took the lead confidently four fences from home. While others around him were struggling in the testing conditions, Vinnie Lewis galloped on remorselessly and passed the post six lengths clear of Shanroe Santos, with Frank N Fair in third.

Harry Bannister told reporters afterwards: ” He did everything right and is basically a straightforward horse. He jumped well throughout and likes this soft ground, which gave him a great advantage in the race.”

He added: ” He is very nimble at his fences, and sure footed so generally I let him get on with it. I knew this was a big step up in grade from his good recent win at Sedgfield which had put him up in the handicap, but he is a young, improving horse and should keep going forward.”





Don’t miss good racing at Fontwell Park today

Gates are open at Fontwell Park racecourse for an excellent Boxing Day programme of jump racing at this popular Sussex track, where the first race is at at 12.10pm.

Boxing Day Racing at Fontwell Park
Image courtesy of Fontell Park Racecourse

The Southern Cranes and Access Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle opens a good card- and has attracted nine runners, headed by likely favourite Oskar Denarius trained by Jennifer Mason with Ben Hicks in the saddle.
Local trainer Nick Gifford has his string in fine form at present and sends out Alka Step with Conor Ring in the saddle, while Gary Moore’s Yuokon Delta, at 16-1 is ridden by William Clarke.

The juvenile hurdle has only four runners but Oxford Blu,trained by Olly Murphy and ridden by Ian Popham seems to be the one to beat-and is likely to be odds-on.
The two miles one furlong novice hurdle will be more of a competitive affair, but is headed by dual winner this season, Highway One O One, trained by Chris Gordon, which is a useful performer and likely to make this three wins on the trot.

The two mile one furlong handicap chase could see Nick Gifford’s Brown Bear gaining a  victory over course winner Bredon Hill Lad, trained by Sue Gardner.

Brown Bear, pictured by Michael Harris, being washed down following his Ascot victory.

This classy horse won in fine style at Ascot in September and if he handles the Fontwell track as well as he did Ascot, he has the class to take this in front of his local owners’ group.

Trainer Gary Moore and son Jamie ought to take the spoils in the
handicap hurdle with Knocknanuss.

Like Sully, trained by Richard Rowe at nearby Sullington has been running into form recently, and has the assistance of Leighton Aspell in the saddle here, helping to compensate for top weight.

He would be a popular local winner if able to overturn favourite and triple winner,Silent Man sent out by trainer Tom Weston with Sean Bowen up.

Taunton set for tomorrow

TODAY was the second day without a jumps meeting- but if weather conditions remain as expected overnight, Taunton will host the £50,000 Peterborough Chase tomorrow (Thursday)

Taunton Racecourse

After a blank two days, jump racing is set to resume at Taunton  with the Grade 2 Chase set to become the most valuable race to be staged at the track.

Yesterday, Taunton clerk of the course Jason Loosemore said :” It is a cracking race. We have a Listed race ourselves, but nothing of this calibre. It’s brilliant news for Taunton.

Taunton Racecourse

“We’ve five lovely runners and it should be a great race. The race was transferred from Huntingdon after its cancellation last Sunday – and it is the most valuable we’ve ever had.

“The going is good to soft, good in places, but that’s likely to ease a bit with some rain forecast.”

The Peterborough Chase restaging is great news for Taunton, whose planned £115,000 Betfair-backed raceday in January 2013 – which would have been their richest raceday ever – was lost due to snow.

Tomorrow’s eight-race card surpasses that total by £1,000.

Sussex RDA Group appeals for support

The Sussex-based  Long Furlong RDA group is thrilled to announce it is one of the three nominated charities in the Hove Waitrose store for the month of December.

The location of this Waitrose outlet is in Nevill Road. It is right next door to Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium and easy to find.

Thanks to an original idea last year, this worthy group had a successful similar event at Waitrose in Storrington and Waitrose in Worthing.

Now the group hopes everyone will support it with this latest Waitrose green token plea, in addition to  a similar fundraiser with blue tokens at Tesco in November and December.

Long Furlong RDA group in action

On behalf of this very deserving group, Pat Baker said: “Please could you help us boost our token fund – prizes will be awarded for the most green and most blue tokens collected by an individual (you will need to keep your own tally!).

“Thank you for your tokens of support and please tell your family and friends.”

Czech superstar in action today

Czech horse Subway Dancer, trained by Zdeno Koplik is in the line-up         Photo:



A high-class line-up includes Subway Dancer, trained in the Czech Republic by Zdeno Koplik and ridden by Christophe Soumillon, who stormed to victory in the 2016 G3 Prix Andre Baboin and was beaten a short-neck in the G2 Prix Dollar at Chantilly on September 30.

Royal Julius (Jerome Reynier/Clement Lecoeuvre) was edged out on his latest outing in the G3 Premio Ribot at Capannelle, Italy, while Silver Look (Satoshi Kobayashi/Fabrice Veron), a dual G2 winner in Argentina, makes her French debut for new connections.

Qatar Racing, who took the 2016 renewal of the Prix Lyphard with Mr Owen, aim for a repeat victory with this year’s G1 Deutsches Derby fifth Promise Of Peace (Andreas Wohler/Thierry Thulliez).

Four British-trained runners include recent Lingfield Park handicap fourth Utmost (John Gosden/Tony Piccone), classy Sinfonietta (David Menuisier/Franck Blondel) and four-time All-Weather winner Abareeq (Mark Johnston/Ioritz Mendizabal).

Prost, trained in Newmarket by Ed Vaughan, is unbeaten in two All-Weather appearances, having captured a Polytrack maiden at Deauville at the end of last year and stayed on well for a length victory in a mile handicap on Tapeta at Newcastle on October 10. Gregory Benoist partners the three-year-old son of Tin Horse.

Vaughan commented: “Prost was back on a surface that he liked at Newcastle. I had him ready for the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot but he missed the cut and hadn’t been working well through the summer.

“He started to really come into himself before Newcastle, so we were expecting a big run. We are going back to France because he is eligible for French premiums, even though he is German-bred, and we will see if he is a horse that we can travel with over the winter.

“I don’t think the step up to nine and a half furlongs will be a problem, especially as they tend to go steady early on in France. He wasn’t stopping at Newcastle, when he hit a little flat spot and then picked up again.

“I will keep him going over the winter and Good Friday could be among the plans. We might go pot hunting abroad at some point as he is as effective on turf once he gets a nice, flat track and good or faster ground.”

Also today, Listed Betway Churchill Stakes victor Master The Worldsteps up to a mile and a half for the £40,000 Listed 32Red Wild Flower Stakes (6.40pm) at Kempton Park.

The 10 runners also include Red Verdon (Ed Dunlop/PJ McDonald) and multiple Group race winner Western Hymn (John Gosden/Robert Havlin), who were second and fifth respectively behind Titi Makfi over the course and distance in the Listed 32Red Floodlit Stakes on November 6.

Mountain Bell (Ralph Beckett/Martin Harley), one of two runners for Qatar Racing, comes into the race on the back of one start this year when an encouraging fourth in the G3 St Simon Stakes at Newbury on October 28.

Her Majesty The Queen is represented by promising filly Daphne (William Haggas/Jim Crowley), who made her mark at Pattern level last time out with victory in the 32Red EBF Stallions River Eden Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield Park on November 2.


British Dressage board changes

British Dressage today announces some changes to the Board of Directors, with two members of the Board recently standing down from their positions. 

Newly appointed Finance Director Karen Wilson tendered her resignation after only six weeks in post at the end of last month.  Maggie Copus, who was previously BD’s Finance Director until September this year, has therefore been co-opted back on to the Board with immediate effect and a formal election for this position will take place in due course.

Jo Graham has also left her position of Judges Director after two years in office.  Jo’s deputy on the Judges Committee, Jane Peberdy, will take over as Chair of the committee on an interim basis and the Board will discuss a replacement Director appointment at their next meeting in December.  A formal announcement will then follow once the Board has fully considered the options available.

Penny Pollard, British Dressage

BD Chairman Penny Pollard commented; “It’s always disappointing to lose valued colleagues.  I wish Karen well in her professional role with the oil industry in Scotland and hope that she will stay involved with BD in the future. 

“We owe Jo an enormous debt of gratitude for her hard work and determination to modernise the Judges training and examination system.  With the help of the office team, technical committee and regional volunteers, BD has revolutionised its methods to the point that we’re now the envy of other countries.  She leaves judging in a healthy place and should be incredibly proud of her achievements.

“We wish Jo well in her future projects and thank her for giving her time as a volunteer over the past two years in what is a challenging role.

“We have a great deal of experience on the Board and we will now continue to build on the excellent progress that has already been achieved this year.  To have Maggie back will give us stability and continuity, so we can further our plans to develop a modern, vibrant and successful sport.”

Nicole wins again at HOYS

Nicole Pavitt continued her recent domination of the Connolly’s Red Mills Senior Newcomers Championship with a stylish performance at the Horse of the Year Show. Just two combinations – Sussex-based Nicole on her mother Sandra’s HC Cornet and Adam Botham, riding Jerome Du Luot – went clear in round one from 22 starters.

Nicole then set a time of 48.51 seconds, but although Adam jumped more than a second quicker, he agonisingly had the final fence down. Mark Edwards and Montreuxs Tale, one of seven four-faulters, finished third.

Nicole’s latest triumph followed victories in 2012 and 2014, and she has predicted a bright future for the seven-year-old bay gelding.

Nicole Pavitt riding Connollys Red Mills to victory at HOYS Photo: 1st Class Images

“I have been very lucky in this class,” she said. “This one (victory) was probably the most stressful; with just the two of us through to the jump off, I was determined to jump clear and put the pressure on Adam, and luckily it worked in my favour. It feels different in a two horse jump-off, but I have previously been in a similar position and jumped first then went on to win, so it must be my lucky spot!

“I think he [HC Cornet] is going to be a superstar, a Grand Prix horse for sure. I got him in April – he had only jumped two 1.10 metre classes beforehand – so he is very green in terms of his career. Coming here I didn’t really know what to expect, but he has so much talent that I knew if I could get him relaxed, he was going to jump clear.

“The first horse I won it on I ended up jumping four-star Grand Prix, and the second one I won it on is jumping five-star Grand Prix with me, and I have still got her. Hopefully, HC Cornet follows in her footsteps.”




WHW Nutkin is Burghley superstar

World Horse Welfare Nutkin has been awarded the title of ‘Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials People’s Choice Rehomed Superstar’ after taking part in a finalists’ parade at the prestigious event.

The competition was a closely fought contest between six rehomed World Horse Welfare horses and ponies who made it to the final and paraded at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, before the winner was announced by event rider, Piggy French.

The public had been voting in their hundreds for which horse or pony should be chosen to receive the Rehomed Superstar accolade and welsh pony Nutkin’s story from nervous youngster to confidence-giving child’s pony helped him take the top spot.

Nutkin at Burghley

12.3hh, eight year old Nutkin came into World Horse Welfare’s care in 2009 with a group of other horses and ponies from a ‘rescue’ centre where the owner had become unable to care for the animals any longer. Nutkin was underweight, listless and suffering from a lice infestation.

After undergoing rehabilitation, Nutkin was backed and rehomed to a family where he was ridden by two young children. He recently returned to World Horse Welfare and was rehomed earlier this year to Leah Fowler and her five year old daughter, Darcy, who has formed an inseparable partnership with him and together the pair compete at all Pony Club activities.

Eventer, Piggy French, who helped present the winner’s sash and pair of Fairfax & Favor boots, kindly donated by Fairfax & Favor, said:“So much hard work from the World Horse Welfare has gone in to get them to this point.“The six who got to the final are amazing and a credit to all those concerned.

“It means so much to everyone who has looked after these ponies so well, Darcy had tears in her eyes, and it’s great to see.

“To see them so happy and loved is everything, they’ve got such life and they’re so wanted, “I’ve been on the back of one of them to do a lap of honour and that’s got my adrenaline up for the weekend.”

Nutkin’s rehomer, Leah Fowler, said:

“He has his cheeky tendencies like any pony, but he is a superstar.

“He is Darcy’s pony, that’s what I love about him, when he’s with me or anyone else he gets pulled about and is a jitterbug, but when he’s with Darcy he is a completely different character.

“He looks after her, enjoys her company and they just love each other – that’s what makes it so special.

“We’ve only had him since February, but they’re a match made in heaven.”

The winning announcement also marks the start of World Horse Welfare’s annual Rehome a Horse Month which this year takes place in September. The month of activity will showcase the many benefits of rehoming by highlighting case studies of rehomed horses and ponies as well as raising awareness of those currently searching for a new home. World Horse Welfare has over 1,700 horses and ponies out in homes across the country, but there are always more looking to find a new partner or family where they can fulfil their potential.

World Horse Welfare Deputy Chief Executive, Tony Tyler, said:“We are so grateful to the finalists who paraded at Burghley today but also to everyone who entered our 2017 Rehomed Horse of the Year competition throughout the four categories, with winners in the other three categories yet to be announced.

“These finalists are fantastic advocates for the many benefits of rehoming and also demonstrate the wide range of talents that our rehomed horses and ponies possess. I hope that anyone who has watched today’s parade or voted online will now be motivated to find out more about rehoming and who knows, they could be next year’s Rehomed Horse of the Year Superstars.

“We would also like to thank the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials for sponsoring this category and hosting the final.”

Find out more about rehoming at:

British 1,2, 3 at Burghley Horse Trials


It was a British 1, 2, 3 at this year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, with Oliver Townend taking the coveted title riding Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val
Ryan’s 10-year-old gelding Ballaghmor Class.

“It’s very, very special,” smiled an emotional Oliver, who last won a four star in 2009 – here at Burghley. “We’ve had Ballaghmor Class from the word go and he’s a top class horse. I looked around the collecting ring and I honestly wouldn’t swap him for any other horse in there. This win means the world to me.”

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul at the Cottesmore Leap Photo: Kngswood Associates

It has been six years since a Brit won the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
and this year, despite pressure from American and New Zealand riders, the
home country enjoyed a clean sweep, with a further British rider finishing in
fourth place. Oliver Townend, who last won here in 2009, took the spoils with
the exciting 10-year old Ballaghmor Class owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela
Hislop and Val Ryan.

In second was Piggy French riding the Trevor Dickens-owned Vanir
Kamira, a mare her rider thinks highly of, with Horsham based Gemma
Tattersall on her mighty campaigner, Arctic Soul, owned by the Soul Syndicate
in third.

Fourth was Tom McEwan with Toledo de Kerser. West Sussex was well
represented with Tina Cook finishing seventh with Star Witness and 17th with
Calvino II. And Harry Dzenis finished just outside the top ten with Xam and 25th
with Dromgurrihy Blue.

Harry Dzenis and Xan clear the Fairfax Saddles Table : Photo: Kingswood Associates

Gemma had finished the first day of dressage in second place with a four-star
personal best penalty score (43.0), just over four penalties behind the mighty
Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW (Sam) of Germany.

She and Arctic Soul only dropped six places on the second day, well in touch
with the new overnight leader Sir MarkTodd and Leonidas II; Michael Jung
had dropped to third place while Tina had a great test with her second horse,
Calvino II to lie fifth.

Her first ride, Star Witness –and first into the arena on day one -languished in 40th with Harry Dzenis and Xam one place above her. Olivia Craddock from Kirdford and Billy Liffy, competing at their first four star event,had put on a polished performance to lie
in tenth place.

With all to play for over Mark Phillips’s course on cross-country
day, first out Tina and Star Witness stormed round clear and inside the time
to make it all look a bit easy. However, only two other riders
emulated the pair, Gemma Tattersall with Arctic Soul and Izzy Taylor with
Trevidden. Tina had a glance off at Fence 27 at Discovery Valley with Calvino II
while Harry jumped clear and added just 4.3 time penalties to his score with
Xam; his round on Dromgurrihy Blue was much slower, accruing 26.8 time

Sadly Olivia’s campaign ended abruptly at Fence 4 (Lion Bridge) where
Billy Liffy refused twice and she sensibly retired. The remaining West Sussex rider,
Nana Dalton, retired Elite Syncopation at Fence 21, the Captain’s Log.

Shocks and spills came in the form of Michael Jung who pulled up Sam after a
glance off at Discovery Valley and Mark Todd hit the ground after a mis-timed
jump by Leonidas II at the same fence. Gemma held the lead right up until
last man out, Oliver Townend, pulled out all the stops on Ballaghmor Class to
jump clear with just 0.4 time penalty to add to his score, putting him in the lead
with Gemma second before the show jumping.

Tina Cook and Star Witness show jump clear to finish seventh: Photo: Kingswood Associates

The final phase produced only three clear rounds inside the time, one being Tina and Star Witness which propelled them up the leader board. Piggy French was another to go clear and sit hard on Gemma’s heels. With less than one fence dividing Gemma and
Oliver the pressure really was on and Arctic Soul – never the easiest of rides
as he is so feisty – tapped a pole out at the penultimate fence, dropping them
behind Piggy by the merest fraction, 0.1,of a penalty. Now with a fence in hand,
Oliver used it up as his horse took Fence 5, the gate, out by its roots.

But the pair retained their composure to jump the rest of the course clear and run out the winners.

Full results from Burghley 2017 can be found on:
This year’s Burghley was one of the tightest results for some time and
enjoyed beautiful weather throughout making for record crowds on the
Saturday. It will be a hard act to follow for the hard working organising crew led by
Event Director Liz Inman.