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An improper saddle fit contributes to the problem. The rider might be comfortable with the saddle but the horse may not be, he says.

However, the best fit is obtained through trial and error. He shows me a horse with chronic saddle soreness and its middle part caving in. For this horse, the vet uses aquapuncture (see top sidebar) treatment - he injects homeopathic medicinealong the sides of the spine to desensitise the nerves to reduce the inflammation.

"This is a very painful process. But the horse is comfortable afterwards." he says, adding that he does 50 to 60 acupuncture sessions monthly.

Racing rules require all race horses to be stabled within the vicinity of the Turf Club and there are 6flfl-odd race horses here. Another 25 of the Agong's endurance horses are also housed at the STC I am told Dr Shri is responsible for their well-being, although he is tight-lippod.

Many horses are referred here for diagnosis as it's the sole equine hospital in the Klang Valley. With four vets, one intern and four vet assistants at the STC. Dr Shri and his team are constantly attending to their "patients".

Occasionally, he takes a walk around the stables to gaze at the beautiful creatures. If there's a horse that's convulsing, Dr Shri examines the horse and if necessary, puts it down immediately without consulting its trainer.

Tipitoe PonyHe argues, '1 have the right to do it. I must do what is humane as the welfare of the horses cannot be compromised. I consider myself their guardian and don't mind going to court to fight my case."

Likewise, ira horse is badly fractured or diseased and has no hope of recovery, Dr Shri is forced to put it down as a last resort. Yes, he has a licence to kill but he dreads the moment.
"When that happens, it is a very sad day for me," he says, eyes softening.

Once race horses are over their racing peak (from 2-6 years), some are sent to be retrained for other equestrian sports or given to selected farms. At least the mares stand a chance of breeding but for the gelded male horses, their life is literally over.

As Dr Shri says, horse racing is not an investment, but an indulgence.
He may be their guardian but Dr Shri has never ridden a race horse. He doesn't own one either, but rides for pleasure when time permits and usually it's once a month at most.

"I'm not fit enough to get onto a race horse. Plus. I'm too heavy!" he says, grinning.

Horse watch
There can be several ownors of one horse and one trainer for several horses. However, trainers, not owner,-, determine when to send the horse for acupuncture treatment. And usually, it's for cases of bad backs.

Selangor Turf Club trainer Malcolm Thwaites. 63. trains 40-odd horses and sends around five of them for a round of acupuncture before a race to alleviate pain.
"If the horse has gone for a few sessions and there is no improvement, then the underlying ailment is quite severe. In such cases, I send the horse back to rest for a month before resuming training."

Every trainer has a different strategy, says Thwaites. who races each horse 10 to 12 times a year. Fellow horse trainer Prakash Pereira. 5Z lets his horses rest for 21 days before racing them again.
Being a professional trainer who handles 20 horses. Pemira can immediately detect if a horse is in pain and whether it is a minor or major injury.

"Initially, we give them a hot water treatment, then massages and if that doesn't work. we send them for acupuncture. Horses can only win if they have no pain. They have no voice so we try ro help them. Horse racing is an extremely pressurised game and these horses are under a lot of stress, so they have to recharge their batteries to race again," says Pemira.

"Dr Shri is in the profession for the love of it and I constantly ask him for advice. He sees the horses, feels them and knows exactly what treatment to recommend."
Of course, the horse owners foot the medical bill. Each acupuncture session costs around RM84.
Says Pereira, "They (owners) are typical businessmen and will grumble, 'Why so high?' But when the horse wins. all is forgotten."

Needled to health
Equine acupuncture treatments consist of inserting sterile needles at certain points on the body. These points are determined by the body's flow of energy or chi, which was discovered by the ancient Chinese.
"When the body is disturbed by injury, stress or disease, the flow of chi is disturbed but can be altered by stimulating certain anatomical points," says Dr Shri Kanth.

A routine acupuncture treatment m includes insertion of fine needles at the points along the back and neck muscles, accompanied by treatment of various points on the lower legs.
"All horses tolerate fine needles well," he adds.

"The body releases different chemi- (Abe cals according to the placement of the needles. For example, if the horse is running awkwardly due to shoulder pain, correctly placed acupuncture needles can help release the blocked energy, as well as release painkilling hormones such as enkephlins and metenkephlins into the
central nervous system."

Acupuncture points can also be stimulated by injecting vitamins, saline or antibiotics under the skin - a procedure known as aquapuncture, For horses, these points usually run down either side of the spine. This treatment is believed to increase the potency of the treatment and increase the effects of the injected substance.

According to veterinary acupuncturist Dr Jenni Ahmat, acupuncture treatments also have a harmonising effect on the hormonal system of horses that are cranky or nervous.
A survey conducted in the US revealed there was a lower level of lower leg injury and breakdown in stables once the horses were receiving regular acupuncture treatment, The trainers noted their horses were calmer, had improved appetites and exhibited less aggression whilst in training.
* Equine acupuncture is recognised by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
* Source: http://www.uthletic-animals.com/acupuncture

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