Hunter Equine Centre is a team of world-class equine only ambulatory and hospital-based specialist vets servicing the Scone and Upper Hunter region. Our new, state of the art hospital boasts a purpose built surgery, intensive care unit, hospital boarding, diagnostic imaging services and dedicated in-house laboratory to provide a complete service to our clients and referring veterinarians alike. We pride ourselves on providing a comprehensive and personalised first opinion and referral service for all aspects of equine work, from reproductive management through foaling, yearling sales and all the way to racehorse and elite sports horses.
Hunter Equine Centre, through its founder Dr Bridget Bester, has a long established association with the breeding and racing enterprises around the Upper Hunter region, as well as an increasing sport horse clientele. Whatever your veterinary need, our steadily growing team of highly qualified and professional veterinary surgeons and support staff can assist you and your equine counterpart.
At Hunter Equine Centre we pride ourselves on being able to provide a world-class reproductive service including both intensive management of problem mares and stallions, as well as routine reproductive work, and we are able to claim excellent fertility rates for the mares under our care.
We service many of the top Thoroughbred stud farms in the Upper Hunter, as well as many boutique breeders in the area. In addition we offer artificial insemination including embryo collection for transfer, frozen and chilled semen AI packages.
A reproduction contract is available to allow regular monitoring and extensive treatment at a fixed cost. This enables us to work together intensively, enjoying good reproductive results without incurring ongoing costs.
Routine reproductive work incorporates regular monitoring of the ovaries to identify the optimum time for breeding, assessment of the uterus with regards to infectious or anatomical abnormalities to maintain optimum fertility rates, pregnancy diagnosis and monitoring of foetal development and placental health.
Additional work can be done to further investigate reproductive failure and placental dysfunction. At the time of foaling, any problems are attended as a matter of urgency; including internal examination of the mare and examination of the foal as well as close monitoring during its first days.
Ultrasound is a highly versatile, safe, non-invasive and extremely valuable tool in the assessment and management of a broad range of cases. Each member of the team at HEC carries a high-quality, portable ultrasound machine to facilitate reproductive, thoracic and abdominal examinations, in addition to the state of the art ultrasound multi-purpose ultrasound machines in the hospital that allow for in-depth examination of anything from cardiac function through to tendon and musculoskeletal examinations and everything in between.
Ultrasound has become an invaluable adjunct to examination whether it is for musculoskeletal workup (tendons, ligaments, pelvis, joint, bone surfaces), medical cases (colics, colitis, pneumonia including Rhodococcus infection, bladder rupture), reproduction (follicular activity, pregnancy including twin diagnosis, identification of endometritis and placental assessment) and the ability to perform these examinations on farm using our mobile units enables immediate and invaluable diagnostic and prognostic information during patient workup.
HEC runs a busy elective only surgery caseload including arthroscopic removal and repair of OCD lesions in weanlings and adults, and trans-physeal screw placement in foals.
In addition to these routine and somewhat seasonal surgeries we also regularly perform airway surgeries such as tie-backs, surgical curettage of sequestrums and other non-emergency surgeries.
At HEC we have several vets with a keen interest in the management of poor performance cases; from diagnosing the cause through to implementing a treatment plan to rectify the problem wherever possible.
The cause of poor performance can be varied, with possibilities including underlying orthopaedic and lameness issues (including tendon, bone and joint injuries as well as hoof and shoeing problems), myopathies or muscle diseases such as “tying up”, gastric ulceration, dental disease, airway disease including asthma, lower-airway bleeding and upper airway obstructions, and cardiac disease.
Lameness and conformation assessments and musculo-skeletal problems in young horses are a particular interest and area of expertise among the team at HEC. We pride ourselves in providing a complete service from early identification of problems that may be present, through to sales services. Radiography and endoscopy have become very important aspects of the sale of yearlings, and our team works closely with a specialist surgeon to offer advice to those both selling and buying horses.
Experience gained from Australian, European and American markets and from monitoring horses closely as foals, yearlings and racehorses enables us to provide up to date advice on management and prognosis of any issues identified. Survey radiographs are routinely taken of weanlings and yearlings between July and September on many farms to alert the owner to potential problems that can be managed or operated on prior to sale.
Radiographs are taken within 6 weeks prior to yearling sales. These are then available to other veterinarians, working on behalf of potential purchasers, in x-ray repositories at most yearling sales. Please be in touch for any yearling advice at any time of the year, or at the major yearling sales.
Our vets provide the utmost standard of care when it comes to dentistry because we understand that without this, there is no horse. Did you know that dental disease can lead to colic, weight loss and gastric diseases.
As such dental management is a critical component of routine health care for horses. Whether your horse is a high performing athlete such as a racehorse or performance horse, or a broodmare at pasture it is important to ensure their teeth and mouth are in good shape.
We offer an experienced dental service which ranges from a general performance or broodmare float through to more intensive dental health care. All of our procedures include a thorough examination of the whole mouth using a gag, light & palpation.
Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points in the body which have the ability to alter various biomechanical, neurological and physiological conditions. The horse has 361 acupunture points which are located along channels. These channels are associated with the local anatomical structures and also with a certain organ and its characteristics.
Microscopically, these points are seen to differ from surrounding tissue by altered nerve endings and blood vessels. These points are also shown to have lowered skin electrical resistance and energy is able to flow between them. It is this energy flow that is disrupted in many disease states.
Stimulation of these points has been shown to release numerous neurotransmitters and activate neurological pathways. Certain points can be seen to affect muscles, glands and immune cells. Detailed studies have shown alterations in organ function and biomarkers after treatment. Probably the most extensive use of acupuncture in the horse relates to its significant effect on muscle injury, reducing pain transmission and stimulating endorphin release.
Looking after a sick foal can be the most difficult but rewarding part of the breeding season. Neonatal medicine is complex and often very intensive, requiring hospitalisation.
Here at HEC we have a dedicated hospital and intensive care team including an internal medicine specialist to ensure that sick foals under our care received the gold standard of neonatal intensive care.
Likewise, our experienced and highly qualified team of stud vets can ensure gold standard diagnostics and care on-farm for minor illness or injuries.
The most rewarding and best approach to foal care is preventative medicine. In-depth advice can be provided regarding vaccination, worming, foaling and quarantine protocols. It is also routine on all farms serviced by HEC to check each foal after it is born for any signs of rib fracture, congenital abnormality, sepsis, maladjustment syndrome or any other sign of illness to ensure early intervention if necessary.
We also routinely perform a chest scan on each foal at approximately 4-6 weeks to monitor for signs of Rhodococcus equi so that infection, if present, can be identified early. Rhodococcus equi results in lung abscesses causing a condition known as ‘Rattles’ that can be difficult and expensive to treat, and even fatal in more severe cases. Early identification, monitoring of mild cases and treatment as needed generally results in both a quick and inexpensive recovery.
Endoscopy or ‘scoping’ allows visualisation of the upper respiratory and digestive tracts. This can be carried out routinely in the assessment of airway function for diagnosis of “roarers”, to evaluate a cause of nasal discharge, aid in diagnosis of allergic airway disorders or “bleeding” in racehorses as well as to diagnosis gastric ulceration.
Endoscopy is also performed as a condition of sale at yearling sales. Abnormalities of airway function can be identified both prior to sale as well as during training
Hospital & Intensive Care
HEC provides a full hospital and intensive care facility to provide varying degrees of supportive, nursing and intensive care to all equine patients from ponies through to thoroughbreds and foals through to adults, including intravenous and intra-gastric fluid therapy and oxygen therapy.
HEC has a fully equipped laboratory that enables on-site blood analysis, cytologicalevaluation of body-cavity fluids, synovial samples and airway samples, culture of diagnostic samples, including mare and stallion pre-breeding swabs and faecal analysis for parasite burden as well as some common causes of diarrhoea.
Blood analysis includes routine haematology (complete bloodcount), serum biochemistry, electrolyte measurement and evaluation of acute phase proteins (markers of inflammation).
In addition, all of our ambulatory vets have the capacity to measure serum amyloid A (acute phase protein/marker of inflammation) using patient-side analysers to rapidly identify the degree of systemic inflammation in a sick patient.
The team at HEC have extensive experience working alongside trainers to optimise racehorse performance in several countries around the world including Newmarket. In addition to general heath care, maintenance of soundness is a critical aspect of training racehorses. Diagnosing lameness issues requires a methodical and systematic approach. If obvious external signs do not point to individual anatomical structures, nerve and joint blocks with local anaesthetic are used to localise the lameness to an anatomical region. Radiology and ultrasound are then used to identify particular lesions in bones, joints and tendons. Treatment and training regimes can then be modified appropriately.
We also have a particular interest in respiratory medicine. Inflammatory airway disease (“equine asthma”) and exercise induced pulmonary haemorrhage are common problems and causes for reduced performance. Tracheal endoscopy and broncho-alveolar lavage (BAL, or lung washes) can provide important information as to the cause of airway disease and enable a tailored treatment and management plan for specific to the patient. The use of locally delivered anti-inflammatories through inhalers and nebulisers can help to directly target the source of inflammation whist minimising the potential for systemic effects.
In addition to lower airway dysfunction, upper airway obstruction is another common cause of poor performance in high-intensity performance horses such as racehorses. Evaluation of laryngeal function to identify conditions such as recurrent laryngeal neuropathy (“roarers”) or displacement of the soft palate can be performed via video-endoscopy. This can be performed during treadmill exercise to provide invaluable information about laryngeal function during exercise.
Gastric ulceration is another common cause of reduced performance in racing and ridden horses of all levels. The team at HEC have extensive experience at performing gastroscopy using our 3m video-endoscope which enables us to examine the stomach and identify the presence of gastric ulceration, which can have a prevalence of up to 90% in racehorses. If identified, we can provide you with advice on treatment of ulceration as well as dietary and management changes that can be implemented across the stables to reduce the recurrence of ulceration and help improve performance.
Lameness & Podiatry
Out clinic works in conjunction with some of the country’s best farriers to provide a two-pronged approach to podiatry; this includes general hoof care, conformational changes from foals to competition horses & chronic lameness.
Whatever the query, we are able to aid you and or your farriers in optimising the outcome of your horse, including using advanced techniques such as digital radiography including venogram techniques to guide corrective work and treatments.
At hunter Equine we recognise the importance of horse sales as a fundamental part of your business. For that reason, our veterinarians continue to be heavily involved and engaged in the market at all times, enabling us to provide honest and up-to-date advice from a veterinary standpoint on the prospective sales of your horse. Our vets are also able to provide the latest in radiography and video endoscopy, both on farm and at the sales, including preparation of radiographs and video endoscopy recordings for the sales repository.
We also strive to maintain a constant presence at all of the major Australian horse sales and as such are able to offer a complete sales service including clinical examinations, professional opinions and treatment at the complex.
Whether it be weanlings, yearlings, broodmares or breeze-ups, our comprehensive service extends right through from sales entry until the hammer drops.
Emma Seitz Cherner
BVSc, Diplomate ACVS-LA
BVMS, CertEm (StudMed), MANZCVS (Surgery of Horses), CertAVP
Clinical Lead and Senior Veterinarian
BVSc/BVetBio (Hons 1), DipECEIM European and Australian Specialist in Equine Internal Medicine
MVB, MS, DACVS-LA