While Racing Victoria’s Diagnostic Imaging Subsidy Program is currently in its initial six-month trial period, it has already served as a source of relief, support and assistance for Victorian trainers, owners and horses alike, including Wangaratta-based Renee Hoysted. Running a small-scale training stable with four horses in work, Renee found the subsidy program to be invaluable when Hellofahottie, an unraced, untrialled 2017 filly in her stable, presented with lameness.
“When our filly pulled up sore after galloping, there was no obvious cause; no swelling or heat or anything like that, she was just simply quite lame,” Renee explains. “After being assessed by our regular vet we were able to apply for the subsidy for further imaging, as it was the kind of lameness that was going to need scintigraphy, or bone scans, in order to determine what exactly was wrong.”
A lameness examination conducted by a regular veterinarian, or a Racing Victoria raceday veterinarian if lameness presents at the track, is a necessary step for trainers and owners to undertake as part of their eligibility for the subsidy program. If lameness is confirmed, further analysis of the lameness examination results and horse history will be conducted by the veterinarian to identify and recommend whether advanced imaging is required – and if so – which type.
Upon referral by the horse’s veterinarian to one of the three practices participating in Racing Victoria’s program – U-Vet Werribee Equine Centre, Ballarat Veterinary Practice Equine Clinic and Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital – the horse’s owner or trainer is eligible for a specialist assessment subsidy of up to $300, to help cover the cost of additional analysis. Following this further analysis, the owner or trainer of any horse that is accepted into the Diagnostic Imaging Subsidy Program is able to recoup up to 50% of the cost of scintigraphy (bone scanning), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), a potential saving of up to $1,600.
“We went through that process and ended up at Ballarat Veterinary Practice Equine Clinic for scintigraphy,” Renee explains. “They found a hot spot in the hock itself, then through further X-rays of the hock they determined that there was a greenstick fracture of one of the small bones that make up the hock joint.”
As Renee explains, receiving a specific diagnosis of Hellofahottie’s lameness gave her comfort, clarity and confidence about the path forward.
“Previously, if we had a horse in a similar situation, the horse was spelled, going off what our vet thought was the issue. That horse would still end up getting the same amount of time off training as one with a pinpoint-accurate diagnosis, but it’s really helpful to know exactly where and what the problem is. Assuming they do make a full recovery, as a trainer you’re then thinking about what you can do differently to build up more strength in that area once they return to work, or to give the horse more support and ongoing management with its past injury in mind,” Renee explains.
“Without the assistance Racing Victoria’s subsidy program has provided, advanced diagnostics of this kind just wouldn’t have been an option for us,” Renee adds. “We’re a family-run stable and these are our own horses, they’re not client’s horses, it’s more of a hobby for us. So we don’t really have the finances available for that sort of thing, or for a follow-up later on, we just wouldn’t have been able to justify it. We love our horses and give them the time they need, but we wouldn’t have known exactly what we were working with.”
For Hellofahottie, who is soon to graduate from yard rest to two months of paddock rest, the chances of returning to full race training are bright. She will be reassessed in December to ensure that the fracture has settled and healed before a steady return to race training commences.