Dr. Raul Bras: Chrome’s injury “painful,” common

California Chrome's injured right foot, shown in this photo by Barbara Livingston, is considered to be very painful.

California Chrome’s injured right foot, shown in this photo by Barbara Livingston, is considered to be very painful.

The injury sustained by Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes bid is a very common racetrack injury, and one that typically does not aversely affect a racehorse’s future career, says Dr. Raul Bras, DVM, CJF of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital.

The laceration, which can occur when a horse grabs his own heels while exiting the starting gate, is very painful to a horse, says Dr. Bras, who notes that it’s impossible to say at this point whether such an injury would have affected the 4-1 favorite in his quest to win the Triple Crown.

“Is it painful? Yes, it’s very painful,” Dr. Bras says. “But I’m pretty sure that during the race, the adrenalin is pumping, so whether it affected him or whether the adrenalin affected (his pain response) is something we can’t know.”

Dr. Raul Bras

Dr. Raul Bras

The key right now in Chrome’s recovery is to prevent a secondary superficial bacterial infection from developing, or any other infection, says Dr. Bras, offering his professional opinion on how Chrome’s veterinarian team will likely approach the great horse’s care.

Dr. Bras is not part of Chrome’s team. However, he notes that he and other equine hoof-health experts are as concerned about  Chrome’s progress as the the fans who took to social media channels after the Belmont Stakes and offered opinions about the hoof condition.

Dr. Bras, who is among a handful of veterinarians in the United States to earn a Journeyman Farrier certification from the American Farrier Association, and is also a graduate of the Cornell University Farrier School, differs with opinions being expressed that Chrome’s injury is “like peeling off a fingernail.”

This is incorrect, he says. “The analogy of losing a fingernail is like saying the horse lost the entire hoof capsule, not just a small part of it, like Chrome did. It’s more accurate to say that Chrome’s injury is like having a cut over the cuticle that could involve part of the nail bed,” Dr. Bras says.

He further explains that doctors will need to determine just how serious it is by determining how deep the cut went, and whether or not it affected the hoof wall or the coronary band. In the days ahead, he surmises that Chrome’s team will closely monitor the tissue of the foot, looking for color changes and other indicators of infection. They will also seek to determine whether the injury was limited to the heel bulb area or whether it impacted the coronary band. Another key question will be whether surgery should be performed, he adds.

California Chrome exits the gate at Belmont Saturday. Photo courtesy of Sarah K. Andrew

California Chrome exits the gate at Belmont Saturday. Photo courtesy of Sarah K. Andrew

Having treated many racetrack-related injuries related to “hoof grabs,” he says the hardest call is determining whether surgical intervention is necessary, he says.  “That’s the tricky part,” he says. “I have to think about whether I have good attachment (of the skin flap) to the coronary band, and then determine whether I want to disturb it” through surgery.

His protocol for such injuries is to begin a regimen of foot soaking and topical treatments of antiseptic, and continuous monitoring.

Some veterinarians might also begin treating with broad-spectrum antibiotics, he adds.

In most cases he has treated, horses will experience pain on the foot for several days up to two weeks. But the good news is that it is an injury with a good prognosis, he says.

“Will this jeopardize (Chrome’s) racing career? I don’t think so. I think he will just heal from this, and the area will regrow,” Dr. Bras says.

15 responses to “Dr. Raul Bras: Chrome’s injury “painful,” common”

  1. Brenda Flinn

    I disagree that California Chrome’s stride was OK. He never reached that antelope-like skip over the ground that won races. Instead, he ran in a guarded manner. In the week before the race, a news report had trainer Art Sherman telling why he needed to re-shoe Chrome to give more height to his feet when running in the deep sandy Belmont track. It is my humble opinion that shoe change unbalanced Chrome. View it this way, if I was taken out of sneakers and put in high heels and trained for a few days before the race, on race day I would give you sore legs and blistered feet. Chrome’s connections were so superstitious they didn’t want to change anything about their horse from the past 6 races. There had to be a really pressing reason for the shoe change.

  2. Trey Anderson

    Common is right, and painful, and how would Jock know if his horse (adrenaline packed) never misses a step after the incident? I think that injury did kick in when he got leg weary going wide on the far turn.

  3. Susan Crane-Sundell

    It’s good to have this expert opinion from someone with Dr. Bras’s training. When I saw the hoof and how much flesh had been removed all I could think of was the amount of dirt, sand and track filler that could have been forced up into the wound during the race. It screamed possible infection to me.

    I hope Chrome will get a good rest and that he will be watched intently for infection and signs of tissue damage.
    He’s such a special horse and to think he ran that hard with this immediate injury makes him all the more a champion.

    I add this just as a really interesting point of interest and an observation.
    Just a note:one of the best-trained homeopathic vets I ever met would make calendula poultices and soaks for this kind of injury. She was French and had learned this in a veterinary homeopathic training clinic there. She said that it would draw any foreign materials out of the wound. I saw it work on a horse that had a severe tissue injury that everyone else had given up on. The horse had developed laminitis in addition. She moved the horse to her barn and everyday-three times a day she applied poultices and soaked the foot.It took nine months of dedication, but the horse that three vets had said to put down went back to training and show jumping. Never saw anything so gratifying in a horse’s recovery!

    I know Chrome will be OK! He will get the very best care.

  4. Cris

    This kind of injury and ones similar to it (horses striking their own legs with their other hooves) are indeed very common…our own horse has kicked his silly old self with his own foot, lost his own shoes, etc….it happens.

    There is indeed a lot of reason to feel sad for these horses but I wouldn’t put this kind of injury into the list…even a happy horse in a field can hurt his own heel without anybody asking anything of him! Heck, a friend came out to find her mare had broken her leg in two places in her perfectly safe pasture because she tried to kick another horse…had to be put down. This was a horse who was treated like a queen (without being pampered…she had a fine life living with other horses and was almost 29 years old) so overuse and abuse wasn’t an issue.

    1. HoofHugs

      Thanks for making the point that horses are perfectly capable of finding ways to injur themselves—all be themselves. Sometimes animal lovers that are not familiar with the behavior or the fragility of horses (despite their strength) assume that any time a horse is injurred it is due to human neglect, misuse, or abuse.

      The horse did not look “off” in terms of his movement during the race; he looked like he just didn’t have the gas in his tank that day. Human athletes have played games, run races, without noticing that they have an injury, particularly if it something like a cut. Adrenalin, emotion, hyper-focus can “numb” the body during the competition for both the equine and human athlete. Chrome’s gallop didn’t look off from a spectatotor’s point of view, and if it didn’t look off, it probably didn’t feel off.

  5. Esther Douglas

    I know there is a lot of talk about the jockey and wether he shouldhave/ did notice something wrong. But you also have to realize that the jockey has a job to do and that is to finish race. He has to have a really good reson to pull up. Or throw the race. If he did pull up there would be an official inquiry into why. There is no way he could have known that the horse had grabbed his heel. The injury was hust to l

  6. Rebecca Fetterman Vensel

    Thank you Susan, for sharing Dr. Bras’ expert opinion with us. It is good to know that Chrome should not be adversely effected by the injury. He will always be a champion in our hearts.

  7. Jennifer Quail

    Lucky grabbed one April the last year he was racing coming out of the gate. He was back in a couple weeks with a wedge shoe and ran probably eight-ten more times before he retired at the end of the year (he was seven when he finished and ran fourteen times his last year, if I’m counting correctly. Doesn’t miss a step and has only ever hurt himself playing in deep snow.) Never bothered him any. I wouldn’t worry especially-Chrome doesn’t have to earn his keep for a while so he can have a month or two off to grow some foot back and take it easy. I was more concerned for Ride On Curlin who sounds like he’s exhausted and bled through the Lasix. He needs a good long layup and some races where he’s not running into traffic that shouldn’t be there in the first place. (I get entering a Peter Pan winner in the Belmont, or a Kid Cruz in the Preakness–they clearly like the track, whether they bomb against G1s or not. I don’t see why anyone wastes the money or overfaces horses like Ria Antonia, Matterhorn, and Matuzsak. Given the filly got trounced two races in a row at this rate I’ll be mildly surprised if she races again.)

  8. LL

    Horses with “heart” will run in pain. I hope the public becomes aware of the problem. He didn’t lose by that much and certainly didn’t disgrace his connections. I felt sorry for Art Sherman to have come that close and then to have your owner rant like he did. They say that Steve speaks his mind but when you’re on the big stage maybe you need to temper your remarks while being disappointed. Still thinks he’s great and hope this heals quickly for him. Now he needs a rest.

  9. Valerie

    I also read Art Sherman’s comments after the race, he said Chromes tendon was also hit by the other horse but thankfully the tendon was okay. I know anything around the coronary band is quite painful and I agree adrenaline was a factor during the race but I can’t help but think… would he have run better without any injury? All horses are different just like people are when it comes to pain. I guess we’ll never know. One thing I do know he’s big hearted as they come…

  10. Always Nell

    Acutally, Callie1983, the jockey DID notice that California Chrome was “off” and not running like he did in the Derby and Preakness.

  11. Callie1983

    The viewers were not aware that the Colt had injured himself. This explains a lot and it is odd that the Jockey did not notice it. I feel sad for these horses as so much is asked of them and it usually ends badly.

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