Monday, December 31, 2007

How to Avoid Frozen Pipes in the Barn - Full story

Don't let the cold weather leave your barn (and horse) high and dry this winter. Follow these simple tips for keeping the water on-tap.

By Sue Weakley

While several models of freeze-proof waterers are available, no waterer will work when the water supply freezes. Both metal and plastic pipes are susceptible to freezing, and when temperatures drop, it's hard to prevent the big chill. Unfortunately, frozen pipes often burst and can flood your barn. In fact, in one day, 250 gallons of water can spurt out of an 1/8-inch crack.

By taking a few simple precautions, you may be able to save yourself the mess, expense, and headaches of frozen pipes.

1. Insulate exposed pipes to help protect them from cold. Newspaper can provide a degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes. Even a 1/4-inch layer of newspaper can provide protection in areas that don't have frequent or prolonged below-freezing temperatures.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Successful Endurance Riding with Jill Thomas, Part 1 - Endurance video

Champion Jill Thomas presents a video series on endurance riding training.
Episode 1 begins an in depth introduction to set speed rides for beginners. Part 1 of 3.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Winter Hoof Care - Full story

Chill Out on Hoof Care Concerns
by: Sushil Dulai Wenholz
November 01 2006, Article # 8004

Whether winter means a well-deserved break for your horse or the start of the "snowbird circuit," your horse's hooves might need some special "seasonal" attention. Exactly what adjustments you'll want to make depends on the type of winter weather you endure, how much and where you ride, and, of course, your individual horse.

In this article, Certified Journeyman Farriers Tim Quinn of Jeddo, Mich., and Richard Duggan, owner of the Minnesota School of Horseshoeing in Ramsey, Minn., walk you through top points to consider as cooler days descend.

Wet Weather Worries

In many parts of the country, winter means wet weather, from snow and chilling rains to high humidity. That can set the stage for an increase in bacterial and fungal issues, including thrush. And those can lead to hoof deterioration and lameness.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Alfalfa Might Prevent Ulcers - Full story

Study Suggests Alfalfa Might Buffer Gastric Acid Production, Prevent Ulcers

by: Agricultural Communications, Texas A&M University System
December 19 2007, Article # 11008

A change in diet can be good for what ails you--even if you are a horse.

Research from Texas A&M University showed that feeding alfalfa to horses either prevented or was therapeutic in treating stomach ulcers.

"Something in alfalfa hay tends to buffer acid production," said Pete Gibbs, PhD, Extension horse specialist.

According to Gibbs, 30% of the one million horses in Texas are used in racing, showing, and competitive performance. Of these, up to 90% of racehorses and more than 50% of arena performance horses have ulcers of varying severity.

Feeding grain, confinement, exercise, and overall environmental stress factors are thought to cause ulcers, he said. It's commonly thought...


Friday, December 21, 2007

Musculoskeletal System: blog from Persian Horse

Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Equine Musculoskeletal System

Written By: Leslie Berro.

The Equine Musculoskeletal System

The horse is an athlete; some are more naturally gifted than others. But the common denominator between them all, is that the musculoskeletal system, pound for pound, is their largest bodily component; over 60%! When you buy a horse, you're buying motion. When a million dollar horse no longer moves like one, he isn't one! And this is the system mainly responsible for motion. Yet it is mostly overlooked because it does not reveal itself in radiographic and other testing mediums.

...More: View full blog

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Senate Bills Include Horses in USDA Emergency Disaster Programs - Dec 18 2007

American Horse Council Press Release

Contact: Sarah A. Chase

WASHINGTON, DC: The Senate is scheduled to consider the 2007 farm bill in the next two weeks. That bill, and another bill that is expected to be included within the farm bill package, include provisions that would make horse owners involved in production agriculture eligible for the various disaster programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The horse industry has been working to ensure that horses are eligible for the same federal assistance that other livestock is eligible for once a disaster is declared and funds appropriated. In 2005, Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) passed legislation making horses eligible for some federal emergency assistance programs. But the changes did not make horse breeders eligible for federal emergency loans.

On October 25th, the Senate Agriculture Committee reported out its farm bill. Through the efforts of Senators McConnell and John Thune (R-SD), this bill includes a provision making horse breeders eligible for emergency loans by including “equine farmers and ranchers” within the class of eligible farmers. Horse farms would have to comply with all other requirements imposed on other livestock producers in order to qualify for any available emergency loans.

Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee also reported out the Heartland, Habitat, Harvest and Horticulture Act of 2007. This bill would create and fund a permanent Agriculture Disaster Relief Trust Fund that would provide payments to farmers and ranchers who suffer losses in areas that are declared disaster areas by USDA. Through the efforts of Senator Bunning, this program includes “horses used for commercial production agriculture,” like stallions, mares, foals and yearlings, within the definition of eligible livestock.

These two bills are expected to be merged when they are considered by the full Senate, which could occur within the next few weeks. The industry has been working for some time to achieve parity for horse breeders with other livestock producers and supports these provisions.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Omega 3 Good for Joint Health, Even for Horses - Dec 17 2007

Writer(s): Edith Chenault, 979-845-2886 ,

Contact(s): Dr. Pete Gibbs, 979-845-3579,
Dr. Brett Scott, 979-845-3579,

COLLEGE STATION -- Joint health is important for any athlete, and arthritis is painful at any age – whether you’re a human or a horse.

Horses were the focus of two recent studies in the department of animal science at Texas A&M University.

One study indicated that supplemental dietary Omega 3 fatty acids reduced inflammation in younger horses that could become race or show horses, said Drs. Pete Gibbs and Brett Scott, both Texas Cooperative Extension horse specialists.

The other showed that Omega 3 “extends the utility of horses that have been around the block,” Gibbs said. In other words, it reduced inflammation in the joints of older horses.

It has long been thought that Omega 3 fatty acids could help reduce joint inflammation in mammals, Gibbs said.

Other mammals such as dogs have had a tremendous response to supplemental Omega 3 fatty acids, Scott added.

The first study was completed as part of Trinette Ross’s master of science degree. Animal science and medical researchers collaborated in the study.

Nine yearlings were separated by gender and age. The horses were given one of three dietary treatments containing varying amounts of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Blood samples were taken periodically to measure inflammation. The indicators of inflammatory response were lowest in horses fed naturally occurring Omega 3’s found in mechanically extracted soybean oil, Gibbs said.

The second study was part of Denise Manhart’s master’s degree, and animal science and veterinary medical researchers collaborated.

Sixteen mature horses with arthritis in the leg and foot joints were grouped by the severity of arthritis, affected joints and age, and then randomly divided into two groups.

Both groups were given the same feed for 90 days, but one group was given supplemental Omega 3 fatty acids daily. Blood samples and synovial, or joint, fluid were collected at periodic intervals, Gibbs said.

Horses that were fed the supplement Omega 3 fatty acids had lower synovial fluid white blood cell counts than those in the control group. Arthritic horses will typically have a much higher number of white blood cells than non-arthritic horses, Scott said.

However, horse owners don’t necessarily need to rush out and buy their horses Omega 3 supplements. Both specialists recommend calculated and balanced Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation for performance horses.

However, most old horses kept for recreation are generally not that active. These horses have many dietary considerations.

Scott said, “Further research is needed to determine if arthritic horses will have increased mobility” as a result of this feeding supplement.

Both studies were published in the 2007 Equine Science Society Symposium proceedings, and both specialists served on the academic research committees.

See Story

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How Will You Ride and Feed Your Horses in 2030? - Full story

Equestrian News Release by Alejandra Abella, Equestrian Services, LLC

In 2007 for the first time in human history, the bulk of the world’s population was expected to live in urban centers in greater numbers than in rural areas. The world’s urban population is expected to rise from 3 billion in 2003, to 5 billion by 2030, and the rural population will decline from 3.3 billion to 3.2 billion during that time, according to the U.N.’s Population Division report World Urbanization Prospects: the 2003 Revision.

According to the report, this “historic demographic shift” makes man a predominantly urban species for the first time in our history. And, these new population and demographic shifts among mankind have reached the equestrian industry.

For horse and land lovers, concerns for the availability of land for agricultural, recreational, and food-growing purposes are growing by the day. In fact, land loss is encroaching on the very basic need of horses and their owners – where to ride and where to grow grain and hay to feed the horses. Due to decreasing availability of hay, protecting and maintaining the land on which our beloved animals so dearly depend has become a new priority for the equestrian community.

Farmland is being developed at an alarming rate. Georgiana Hubbard McCabe, President of the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource says...


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Horses Need Special Winter Care Too
by: Press Release
December 28 2004, Article # 5321

From the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Extension/CEPS

Most animals that live outside need special care during cold months, and horses are no exception.

Maintenance of the hooves is as important during the winter months as it is the rest of the year. Many horses encounter problems with their feet in winter because the owner fails to stick to a regular schedule of maintenance with a farrier (horse shoer).

R. Dean Scoggins, DVM, formerly an equine Extension veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, says, "If the horse is not going to be ridden at all during the winter months, it may be advisable to remove the horse shoes completely." This provides more traction for the horse on slippery surfaces, and it prevents snow from balling up on the bottom of the foot.

Maintaining a deworming schedule is also important over the winter months because equine parasites are not easily killed by cold weather. Equine parasites can often withstand frigid temperatures much more easily than the hot dry climate of summer.

Because horses are naturally outdoor animals, it is fine for them to be out during the coldest parts of the year, as long as they have shelter to go to if the weather gets too bad. Scoggins says, "Frequently you will drive down the road and see horses standing out in a snow storm with an open shelter right there." This is because horses are somewhat claustrophobic by nature. They have to learn that it is safe to go into a shed and may prefer to stand out in the elements.

If a horse is not being worked regularly during the winter months, it is preferable to avoid using blankets to keep the horse warm. If blankets are used on a regular basis, then the horse will not grow a thick hair coat, which is important to protect the horse from the cold temperatures. If a blanket is used on a regular basis at the beginning of winter, then it must be used throughout the cold months to compensate for the thin hair coat.

However, if a horse is worked regularly a blanket is encouraged because the horse can become overheated during exercise if its hair coat is too thick. Another way to inhibit the hair growth is to provide 16 hours of daylight per day using a 60 to 100 watt bulb, followed by at least 6 hours of darkness per night. Scoggins says, "This method will trick the horse into thinking that it is summertime, and the hair coat will either not grow or will shed early."

After hard work, horses are often hot and sweaty. When it is very cold outside, it is very important that the horse be dried thoroughly and that the hair is brushed so that it stands up. This prevents the sweat from causing a chill, which can lead to illness. The brushed hair provides the horse with insulation against the cold.

Horses may need more calories to sustain them through the cold months as well. An all-you-can-eat, high-quality diet of hay should be provided. Not only is hay important for the normal functioning of the horse’s gastrointestinal system, but the digestion process generates heat. The horse may also need an increase in grain in its diet to ensure adequate calories.

Lastly, one of the most important factors in caring for your horse in winter is the availability of water. Not only is frozen water unavailable for drinking, but horses will also avoid drinking water if it is too cold. It is possible to increase a horse’s intake of water by 60% or more if water is maintained at around 65° F or higher.

By paying attention to the needs of your horse during winter months you can ensure that your horse stays healthy and ready for a productive spring. If you have questions about taking care of your horse during the winter, please contact your local equine veterinarian. -- Jennifer Browning-Stone

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's 'Sweet' in Sweet Feed? - Full article by: Nancy S. Loving, DVM

All the rage these days in human diets is to take the sugars out of food and keep the carbohydrates to a minimum. This same principle, that of feeding a diet low in nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC), is being applied to equine nutrition. [Many horses do not require a commercial concentrate feed at all, if they can maintain their weight on forage and a mineral supplement alone, equine nutritionists note. But some horses need more.] Considering that horses are herbivores designed to extract energy from a very different sort of diet than that consumed by humans or carnivorous small animals, let's look at what "the sweet in sweet feed" (and hay) is all about, and put how to feed sweets safely into a practical perspective.

Remember: the most important reason horses get fat is they get too many calories, not that they get too much sweet.

What's Sweet in the Feed?

Many knowledgeable equine nutrition experts work with feed companies to formulate the variety of products you find at the feed store and carry home in 50-pound sacks to your eager horse. Karen Davison, PhD, manages equine technical services for Purina Mills. She explains about sugars and starch: "NSC, or nonstructural carbohydrates, are sugars and starches present in plants..."


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Endurance athletes start seven-day challenge

TOP endurance athletes set off yesterday on one of the world’s most gruelling adventure races.

This year’s seven-day Adventure Race World Championship takes place in and near Fort William.

It involves nearly 200 of the globe’s fittest athletes careering virtually non-stop across 330 miles of Britain’s most rugged countryside.

One of the teams taking part had to be helicoptered onto the island of Rum in the Hebrides - the starting point for the race - because of ferry problems.

The event began with the 196 competitors diving into the water to swim through open seas, before trekking through the Cuillin mountains. The mixed teams of four will have to drag themselves up and down the equivalent of three Mount Everests (82,000ft), hurl themselves around on mountain bikes, kayak across windswept seas and swim freezing lochs - all with barely any sleep.

Top performers try to make do with an hour of sleep a day during the event - with some mavericks opting for none at all during the whole race.

[More ...]

Official Website!

A Guide to Fencing for Your Horse - Full article
Fencing is one of the most important investments you will make for your farm or ranch. Learn more about hiring a fence contractor and the variety of fencing available to horse owners.

Tips on Hiring a Fence Contractor

Good fences start with proper installation. While some horse owners install their own fences, most rely on a fence contractor for professional installation to ensure their valuable horses are safely enclosed. An experienced fence contractor also can help you select the best fencing materials for your land, budget and needs.

A properly constructed, professionally installed fence will last longer, look nicer and protect horses better than one that is not installed correctly. The American Fence Association (AFA) recommends those who hire a fence contractor should insist upon:

1. Product Samples: Reputable fence contractors have product samples available so consumers can see and feel the differences among materials.


Monday, December 10, 2007

NickerNetwork - December 2007 - Television for the Horse World

NickerNetwork Announces Initial Channel and Program LineUp for December 15th Launch

Houston, TX - Nicker Communications has set the initial program lineup for the December 15th launch of its online, on-demand equestrian television network. With 25+ channels scheduled for activation within the first 45 days of its online service, the company will go live with ten channels for its beta test launch.

Providing a wide selection of unique equestrian channels all dedicated to a variety of horse-oriented themes and subjects, NickerNetwork is the first Internet-based, on-demand multi-channel television network targeted to the horse world.

Initial channels include CowboyTV, DownTheStretchTV, Hunter/JumperTV, NaturalHorsemanshipTV, LongEarsTV, PegasusTV, PiaffeTV, TrainerTV, VetBarnTV and WorldOfHorsesTV, to be followed shortly by CrossCountryTV, NoviceHorsemanTV, StadiumJumpingTV, Blinkers&TugsTV, HorseCareTV, the indvidual trainer channels and more.

Some of the featured programming available on December 15 will include the reining competition from the FEI 2006 World Equestrian Games, the 2007 European Championships in Dressage, Eventing and Showjumping, and numerous original documentary and training series covering many aspects of the horse world. The variety of channels and programming will grow substantially during 2008 as the network creates its own original programs and series.

With program libraries representing hundreds of hours of high-quality television and video programming focused on the horseworld, and exclusive new program series being produced just for NickerNetwork, NickerTV presents a viable and potent alternative to traditional television networks for viewers.

Utilizing a single website that functions as the portal to a television distribution system, it mimics the structure of a cable or satellite company, yet with a worldwide -- not domestic -- customer base. The advertising structure is completely geo-specific; video ads are delivered according to the global location of the viewer.

Not only is the ad-supported NickerNetwork available at no cost to its viewers, rental and purchase download options are available for every program.

The founder of Nicker Communications, Sally Lasater, said, "According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the entertainment giants have proclaimed that the future lies online. Within the not so distant future, their vast libraries of television shows and movies will be available online, and on-demand. People will soon be able to watch on their own schedule. Today, Nicker is on the cutting edge of this technology and will provide access to the viewing public for producers of high-quality equestrian programming who have found themselves locked out or out-priced trying to get their shows on-air. It's now a whole new ball game."

Nicker Network will be available to anyone with a broadband connection anywhere in the world. Content providers, including producers specializing in all areas of equestrian lifestyles and disciplines, are invited to contact the company for program submission information.

Content provider and advertising information is now available on the Nicker website.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hay Prices Highest Since Records Began; Officials Warn of Scams
by: The Associated Press

November 30 2007, Article # 10899

Agriculture experts around the country are warning hay farmers and buyers to watch for scams amid a feed shortage and resulting high prices.

In Washington, hay prices have passed $200 per ton in some areas, and winter is still weeks away. The state Department of Agriculture has already fielded 42 complaints about hay quality or nonpayment, with the value of disputed hay sales topping more than $190,000 this year.

"Any time we see something like this we get concerned," said Kirk Robinson, manager of the department's Commission Merchants Program. "It fluctuates from year to year, but we're just seeing more this year."

U.S. hay prices are the highest since record keeping began in 1949, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, opening the door for scammers to try to make a quick buck.

Les Wentworth is a third-generator farmer...


Vaccination Schedules for Adult Horses - by: Marcia King
December 01 2005, Article # 6351

As desirable as it would be to have a national (or even regional) one-size-fits-all protocol for vaccinating adult horses, vaccination recommendations are best tailored to individual circumstances. These primarily include the areas of the country the horse lives in or travels to (the specific disease risks that abide in said area) and whether a horse is exposed to transient populations.

“Some vaccines are given based on specific geographical factors, a good example of which is the widespread advocacy for vaccination against West Nile encephalitis for horses in the USA during the past few years,” explains Philip J. Johnson, BVSc (Hons), MS, Dipl. ACVIM, MRCVS, professor of internal medicine in the Equine Medicine and Surgery department at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

When West Nile virus (WNV) first hit the United States, it was considered to be a regional problem, thus after the development of the WNV vaccine, recommendations were to vaccinate horses only in endemic areas. Since then, WNV has spread throughout North America, as have recommendations for protective measures against the disease.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Arthritis In Horses - By: Karen E.N. Hayes, DVM
What it is: Also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), it's
progressive joint inflammation due to trauma or wear and tear,
leading to erosion of articular joint cartilage, which becomes
frayed and thinned, causing pain and loss of function. Arthritis
mainly affects your horse's weight-bearing joints.

Why your senior horse is at risk: Regardless of how good his
conformation is, his risk of arthritis increases with every
passing year. That's because the longer he lives, the bigger a
target he becomes for injuries and wear and tear that lead to
joint degeneration. His joints almost never get a break. Even
standing at rest they're bearing his weight on tiny patches of

Plus, there's a metabolic shift that occurs around age 15,
leading to an escalation of cell death within bone, cartilage,
and fibrous tissue. Tendons and ligaments become less elastic,
more easily torn. Cartilage thins, absorbing less shock. Its
shape changes, too, due to a lifetime of pressure and torque,
causing joint bones to be less aligned and the cartilage,
ligaments, and tendons more susceptible to strain. And, your
horse's reactions slow down with age-especially if he's retired
to an inactive life- style-making him more prone to a misstep.

The faster you identify arthritis in your horse, the quicker you
can attack it. There are two kinds of equine arthritis: the
sneaky kind and the obvious kind. In the obvious kind, the
joint's been traumatized or infected, so is sore enough to cause
lameness. Your horse is lame-you call the vet. In the sneaky
kind, the joint isn't sore at first, so there's little or no
lameness. But that doesn't mean that arthritis isn't marching
forward. The first signpost will be a little joint puffiness. If
you don't look for it, you'll likely miss it-and miss out on your
chance to help minimize future joint damage. Watch for these
subtle but telltale signposts:

Slight puffiness in lower-leg joints.
Stiff, choppy gait when you first begin work, which improves when
he warms up.
Reluctance and/or resistance to perform maneuvers that previously
came easily for him, such as stops and collection. He may raise
his head and hollow his back.



Thursday, November 29, 2007

Riding in the mud - Easyboot Grips with studs

From Karen Chaton's EasyCare & Endurance Musings

It's getting to be that time of year - where the trails get mushy and wet! I find my horses slip less with boots on than they do barefoot, so usually use boots on them when we are going to be going up and down hills in mud or snow. Tigger is going to need a lot of work over the winter in these conditions, he wasn't very graceful in the mud this year at Fort Schellbourne. I always hate to ride inexperienced horses in slippery stuff. I feel really confident on Chief, because I know that even when he slips, he tends to at least stay upright, even if we do some skating around.

I often hear from riders that their horses slip more in mud because of the boots. Well - that may be the case for some boots, and some horses, and some mud. (there are so many variables when it comes to horses) I really think that in some conditions horses will slip no matter what is on their hooves. I also think that experience has a lot to do with it too - some of the riders blaming boots for their horses slipping have not ridden their horses in mud before. Some mud is so slick that it is going to cause slipping no matter what but it is a big difference to be on a horse that has done it a few times, versus one that hasn't. No matter what conditions you ride in, be careful out there! One nice thing about boots and boots with studs in them is that you can take them on or off when needed. Keep a pair of boots with studs for those really muddy or slick days, and another pair or set for the dryer less slick footing times.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vets for Equine Welfare Visit Capitol Hill to Support Ban on Horse Slaughter - Nov 28 2007 - Full Story


Washington, DC (November 28, 2007) - Members of Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW) traveled to Washington, D.C. recently to meet with Members of Congress in support of a ban on horse slaughter were taken aback by the apparent spread of misinformation on the issue.

“It is astonishing that opponents of a ban on horse slaughter have spread absolute mistruths about horse slaughter to Members of Congress and their staff. From the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) claim that ending horse slaughter will result in increased animal cruelty to the fantastic notion that horse slaughter provides a humane end for ‘unwanted’ horses, there is no data to support such positions – quite the opposite. This campaign of misinformation is contributing to the continued suffering of tens of thousands of American horses and as a veterinarian I object,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman.

Dr. Dodman and his group, Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW)...


Australia Flu Inquiry - Nov 27 2007 - Full story
Australia Flu Inquiry: Groom Says Officials Not Concerned by Sick Horse
by: Ric Chapman
November 26 2007, Article # 10873

The outbreak of equine influenza in Australia came about from an apparent lack of concern about horses with elevated temperatures and poor record keeping, according to a groom who worked at the Eastern Creek quarantine facility. The cost of the influenza outbreak in New South Wales and Queensland is estimated to be about Aus$3.94 million a day, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

The spread of influenza out of Eastern Creek has been attributed by Australian officials to people not following disinfection guidelines.

Coolmore groom James Carey told an inquiry headed by Retired High Court Judge Ian Callinan that at 7 a.m. on the morning the Coolmore stallions had arrived at Eastern Creek, Encosta de Lago (the index case) had "an elevated temperature of 38.6 degrees Celsius (101.5 F), a slight cough, and a nasal discharge."


Pass the salt: electrolyte replacement for horses article

Summer is here! Forget about rugging and breaking ice and begging farriers for borium. Short winter days have given way to the long, lazy days of summer. Spring and summer represent the height of riding season, and with the delicious warmth of the days, nutritional strategies for a winning season must begin anew.

Horses have adapted well to demands placed on them by humans. Sweating allows horses to cool themselves after sustained bouts of exercise. For the most part, this mechanism works well. The exception may be in hot, humid weather, according to Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist and endurance enthusiast Kathleen Crandell.

"Endurance horses have the most problems in humid weather because the sweat does not evaporate, which delays cooling. Instead, the sweat stays wet on the coat. As long as horses are trotting or cantering, it is not a concern because the wind cools them. But, as the horses slow to a walk or stop, humidity can present major cooling problems because the wet coat acts as insulation, holding the heat in."

Full Article

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Riding and Fitness - Nov 27 2007

Greyhorsematters - Full story

Riding and Fitness

Rider fitness is something that should concern all of us who ride. We make sure our horses are fit, but what about our level of fitness. Once you make the commitment to ride you must make the commitment to achieve a certain level of fitness in order to be a good rider.

As we are heading into the cold miserable winter months, there may be less riding and more down time. It does not take long to pack on a few extra pound as we hibernate. Everyone knows we should eat healthy and maintain a close to normal weight. While it would not be appropriate for me to tell you what to eat or how much, if you have trouble in this area a good nutritionist can be helpful. Some of you may enjoy a group atmosphere like Weight Watchers or prefer to address this on your own if you think you need to. If you are still the perfect weight, congratulations you are one of the lucky ones.


The Timeline of Laminitis - Nov 27 2007 - Full Story
by: Christy West, Webmaster
November 23 2007, Article # 10856

What happens within the foot of a laminitic horse? We know that the coffin bone can sink or rotate within the foot of a horse with severe laminitis, but that's fairly late in the game. Researchers are very interested in what happens earlier than that--in what microscopic changes take place before there is enough damage to destabilize the coffin bone. Understanding these changes can help researchers investigate how to prevent those changes and hopefully prevent this painful disease.

At the 52nd annual American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held in San Antonio, Texas, Andrew van Eps, BVSc, MACVSc, a resident at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed a study of findings in this area. Presenting a paper authored by Emma L. Croser, BSc, BVM&S, MVSt, of the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, and Christopher Pollitt, BVSc, PhD, director of the Australian Equine Research Laminitis Unit at UQ (who were unable to attend the convention), he described what changes researchers saw in serial hoof biopsies taken from horses in which laminitis had been induced.


More Recent Advances in Managing Musculoskeletal Injuries and Arthritis

by: Nancy S. Loving, DVM
November 25 2007,

David Frisbie, DVM, PhD, of the Gail Holmes Equine Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State University, continued the discussion on new therapeutics at the AAEP Focus meeting in Ft. Collins, Colo., on July 29.

He discussed the use of autologous conditioned serum (ACS), also known as Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP). Whole blood is cultured with glass beads to upregulate interleukin-1. This material is injected directly back into a horse’s ailing joint for a series of three injections, followed up at monthly intervals with another dose or two. In nonsurgical joints that are at least partially responsive to HA and steroids, IRAP treatment elicits less lameness and less synovitis up to 40 days following treatment.

Another therapy discussed by Frisbie was stem cells injected either directly into damaged tissue or peripherally (IV). There seems to be some trophic properties to the stem cells to increase mitotic activity in surrounding cells and to recruit and mobilize other stem cells from other areas o the body to the injured tissue site. Currently there are two sources of stem cells: bone-marrow-derived or fat-derived. Bone marrow comes from an aspirate of a horse’s sternum or ileum (hip bone), while adipose tissue is harvested from the fat of the tailhead or peritoneum (abdominal lining). The source from which these tissues are taken has an effect on the results, i.e., sternum-derived bone marrow gives better results than ileum-derived. In addition, bone marrow stem cells are more effective in treatment than using adipose-derived stem cells.

[More ...]


Friday, November 23, 2007

Living in Egypt: Coming Back Into Focus

Maryanne's Blog

.... It's amazing what a passion will persuade people to do. I'd been asked to cover the endurance race being held at Sakkara Country Club under the auspices of the Pan Arab games. Teams from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE were to race 120 km in the desert in a series of five loops with vet checks at the club. Unfortunately, the start of the race was scheduled for 5:45 am, necessitating a 5 am wake up. Happily, there was excellent catering at the race and once the teams of riders got underway, we were able to find a good breakfast while waiting for them to finish the first loop. Endurance racing really is not a spectator sport. There isn't much to see of the racing part because the riders are very quickly usually stretched out over miles of trail, each essentially riding alone. Once they get back to the vet check area, the horse is checked to see that its pulse and respiration have dropped to normal, and then there is a half hour hold for the horse and rider to eat and drink something before setting out again. Exciting, right? I overheard one nicely dressed woman remarking to a friend that this was the first endurance race she'd ever seen and probably the last too. She'd never spent so much time in her life "watching horses get bathed." A major part of the preparation for the vet check is to cool the horse from its exertions in the desert to the point where its heart rate is low enough to pass muster.

Maryanne's Full Blog

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Excerpt from Revised Understanding Equine Nutrition: Fats

Original Article: TheHorse.Com
by: Karen Briggs
November 20 2007, Article # 10848

Feeding Fats

If there's a nutritional buzzword for the 21st century, it's fat. We humans still might not understand fully the differences between saturated and unsaturated fats, let alone "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol--but we all know how to count our fat grams! While we struggle to keep our diets as low-fat as possible, fat has a different focus when it comes to the horse... because only in recent years have we recognized the value of raising the fat levels in an equine athlete's diet.

Of course, the average human diet (at least in North America) contains far more than the maximum 30% fat recommended for good health. In contrast, the horse's natural diet contains almost no fat at all. Forages and fibers contribute none, and most grains fed to horses only contain between 2% and 3.5% fat overall. While this leaves the horse at low risk for cardiovascular clogging, it does mean that, traditionally, carbohydrates have been considered the obvious and "natural" energy source for performance horses, and fat has rarely been considered, beyond that little splash of corn oil that's considered good for a shiny coat. Only in the last couple of decades have we begun to realize that fat is also a valuable energy source -one with many advantages.

High-fat diets (anything over and above the 2% to 3.5% supplied by a standard grain-plus-forage diet) provide several perks, most notably in terms of energy production for high-level equine performance. Pound for pound, fat supplies almost two and a half times as much energy as the equivalent weight of carbohydrates or starches (traditionally supplied by grains such as oats, corn, or barley). If you wish to supply more energy to your horse without significantly increasing his overall feed intake, supplementing the fat in his diet can be an excellent way to accomplish that.

Also, horses easily metabolize fat despite the fact that their digestive systems (best adapted for the processing of fiber) didn't really evolve to deal with it. Studies have shown that as much as 20% overall fat in the diet is well tolerated by horses, with no ill effects noted. Indeed, fat might well be easier for horses to digest than carbohydrates. It has been demonstrated that a fat-supplemented diet, unlike a high-carbohydrate diet, has no effect on the pH of the cecum (and thus no detrimental effect on the beneficial microflora inhabiting the large intestine). Fat appears to be absorbed almost exclusively in the small intestine.

Another interesting fat digestion fact is that horses can use fats well despite the fact that they have no gall bladder. In most mammals the gall bladder excretes bile and salts to help break down fats, but in horses the liver seems to take over that function, with no fat digestion problems that research has been able to identify.

Fat-supplemented diets also have been shown to decrease the amount of energy used for heat production in the horse's body. This decreases the horse's heat load and increases the amount of energy available for physical activity. In one study, where horses ate a fat-supplemented diet, the horse's total body heat production decreased by 14%, and the diet had no effect on the amount of energy needed for maintenance metabolism, therefore leaving more energy available for performance requirements (or for energy storage in the form of glycogen or fat). The end result was that over 60% more energy was available for physical activity (regardless of what the ambient temperature was or how skinny or plump the horse was at the time).

Some of the most compelling research behind fat is that which demonstrates a fat-supplemented diet's benefits for high-performance horses (in sports such as three-day eventing, racing, polo, endurance racing, and cutting). But to understand how fat acts as a performance enhancer, we first have to understand some exercise physiology basics.

Dietary Fat for Athletic Performance

Grains, the "traditional" feed for high-level physical activity, supply carbohydrates and starches--versatile energy substrates that fuel the horse's muscles for athletic endeavors of all kinds. Fat is also an energy substrate, which while not as flexible as carbohydrates in terms of the types of activities it can fuel, might in many ways help the horse's body use itself with more efficiency and less fatigue.

Two main energy pathways fuel a horse's muscle cells to do work. (A third pathway, called "anaerobic alactic" metabolism, is a "start-up" system that only comes into play for bursts of hundredths of a second.) The predominant energy pathway is aerobic metabolism, which the muscles use whenever they can, for all low-intensity and endurance activities, especially those requiring a continuous effort of longer than two minutes (and possibly lasting many hours). Blood glucose, derived from carbohydrates and starches when they are broken down in the gut, is the main energy substrate for aerobic metabolism, and muscle cells will draw on blood glucose as needed. Oxygen, from the lungs, is the "fuel" used to burn the glucose in order to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the "energy molecule") along with the non-toxic byproducts, water and carbon dioxide.

Blood glucose levels are regulated by insulin, which responds to high blood glucose levels (as happens two to three hours after a high-carbohydrate meal) by increasing and converting excess glucose to glycogen, the form in which it is stored in muscle, fat, and liver cells. Another hormone, glucagon, can reverse the process, converting glycogen back into glucose and releasing it into the blood. This mechanism, while efficient, is not foolproof--sometimes insulin might "spike" in response to a large load of carbohydrates being introduced, causing large amounts of blood glucose to be converted to glycogen and stored away. This can leave a horse hypoglycemic (low in blood sugar) and feeling weak and fatigued.

As long as a horse stays below a certain performance threshold (which can vary somewhat depending on the horse's activity, his conformation and muscle bulk, and his degree of fitness), he can work aerobically. It's essentially a "clean-burning" system that horses can maintain indefinitely, as long as fuel continues to come in on a regular basis. Thus, it's the least taxing to the system--but as blood glucose drops and as glycogen is drawn upon and then depleted, fatigue can set in and force the horse's body to switch to another energy pathway.

During high-intensity exercise of short duration, or when glycogen depletion no longer allows a horse to work aerobically, his muscles will use anaerobic lactic metabolism. "Sprint" type activities of about ten seconds to two minutes in length are typical "anaerobic" activities; barrel racing is a good example. When the aerobic system is working close to its full capacity, the anaerobic system also will "kick in" like a supercharger, augmenting rather than replacing the aerobic metabolism.

The anaerobic lactic system is entirely dependent on stored glycogen in the muscles as an energy source. It is a far less efficient system than aerobic metabolism in terms of the ATP produced per molecule of glycogen, and so it depletes glycogen rapidly.

Here's where fat (finally!) comes in. Fat broken down in the digestive tract becomes fatty acids--which can fuel aerobic metabolism but not anaerobic. Adding fat to the diet provides a second source with which the body can continue to work aerobically, delaying the switchover to anaerobic metabolism, and thus postponing fatigue and performance deficits.

Studies have indicated that if the horse's system has supplemental levels of fat available as an energy source, it can "learn" to use it in preference to glycogen, thus increasing the amount of muscle glycogen the horse maintains. That's good, because while glycogen stores in the body are limited, fat (in the form of stored short-chain volatile fatty acids, or VFAs) is the most abundant energy source in the body. Horses fed a high-fat diet also appear to have better muscle glycogen utilization during anaerobic (sprint-type) activities and no change in their blood glucose concentration (and thus their insulin concentration) while working anaerobically. During aerobic (endurance-type) activity, the same horses showed less decrease in their blood glucose concentration than did horses fed a traditional grain diet, and there was muscle glycogen sparing (less utilization of stored glycogen). This glycogen sparing helps delay fatigue, an important factor in performance enhancement. As a racing sage once observed, it isn't so much which horse is going the fastest at the end of the race--it's more about which horse is slowing down the least!

Pros and Cons

Horses fed high-fat diets (15% added soy oil) appear to perform better than those fed either a high-starch diet (40%) or a high-protein (25%) diet for both high-speed (racing) activities, and moderate-speed activities (fast trot/slow canter speeds of about five meters a second). Their blood glucose levels decreased less, and for a shorter duration, than did those horses on high-carb diets. These benefits might produce only subtle results--but even a gain of a few feet on a racetrack might result in a Derby win. Even at lower levels of performance, the change can be valuable. For example, a low-goal polo player might find that his horse can recover more quickly and perhaps be able to play one more chukker, than before.

That's not to say that fat is a miracle ingredient. For reasons we don't yet fully understand, the horse's body must "learn" to use fat as an energy source, a process requiring considerable metabolic adaptation on the part of the muscle cells. It can take three to four weeks, and the blood chemistry might continue to adapt for up to six weeks. What this means is that you can't just start feeding fat the day of the big race and see results. Not only do you have to put your horse on the fat-supplemented diet a good month in advance, but you also have to challenge his system so that it begins to adapt. For a racehorse, that means you have to race him on the new diet, not just train him conservatively, in order to help him begin to assimilate the new energy source.

And as nice as it might be to contemplate improving further on the benefits of feeding fat by feeding greater amounts--perhaps eliminating grain altogether--unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way. Remember that only carbohydrates can fuel the anaerobic system of metabolism, which all horses use to some degree in their work--and that forages alone provide a minimum of carbohydrate. (Fed by itself, forages provide plenty of fuel for maintenance metabolism but not enough for the vast majority of horses to do the work we ask.) Grain in the diet is an important fuel source for any performance horse, and study after study has confirmed that high-fat diets work best in conjunction with fairly high grain diets, for maximum benefit in hard-working horses (such as 100-mile endurance racers, Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses, and upper-level three-day-event horses). The exception is horses with a genetic defect called equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM), which have difficulty using carbohydrates as an energy substrate; a prescribed diet in which fats almost completely replace grains usually allows these horses to continue to perform.

So what level of fat is optimum for a performance benefit? That number is still under some debate. Some researchers now recommend a level of 10% (by weight) of the total daily diet for horses working at the extreme end of the athletic spectrum, though slightly lower levels (about 8%) might be more appropriate for horses working at a lower level of intensity. The level of fat you choose might depend somewhat on the activity you're asking your horse to perform. Some studies have indicated that levels up to 15% are beneficial for horses involved in intense, long-term endurance activities (chiefly competitive trail and endurance racing, and upper-level three-day-eventing). However, even a level of 6% to 8% will result in some performance benefit for horses involved in more moderate activity.

Feeding fat can also be well worth considering for reasons other than performance enhancement--good news for the vast majority of us, who are dealing with horses NOT at the cutting-edge of high performance.

First, it's true that supplemental levels of fat can enhance the quality and shine of the hair coat, giving your horse a healthy glow that reflects particularly well in the show ring. Supplemental fat can also help put or keep weight on a "hard keeper," provided he is not in heavy work. Just as we do (far too efficiently, sometimes!), horses will store excess fat in the adipose tissues--so for plumping up a skinny horse, added fat is an excellent solution that carries far less risk of stomach upset and other complications than does a switch to a high-carbohydrate diet.

Older horses might benefit from a high-fat diet, too. As the condition of their teeth starts to deteriorate and their digestive efficiency wanes, easily digested fat can help prevent them from losing condition and becoming ribby.

By the same token, broodmares can reap the rewards of added fat. Studies have indicated that a mare that has recently "gained some condition" (easily achieved by feeding added fat for a month or two before breeding) might catch more easily and maintain her pregnancy with less difficulty. In addition, a high fat diet can help her deal with the stress of lactation, which can be considerable. A third perk is that her milk will be higher in fat (mare's milk being fairly low to begin with), and as a result, her foal will tend to gain weight and condition more easily.

Fat is often touted as an ingredient that provides energy without the "hotness" that carbohydrates provide--so it is sometimes recommended in an effort to calm a hot horse. Unfortunately, this one is a myth. As experts in both human and equine research have noted, carbohydrates are falsely accused of causing a "sugar high," and so substituting fat for a portion of the grain being fed will make no difference to a horse's temperament or attitude. The idea of horses getting "hot" from high-grain diets has more to do with their being in hard training at the same time their grain ration is increased, than it does with any physiological effects on a horse's manners. As most trainers know, when you're exercising vigorously, you feel good and you have more energy. The fact that you're getting more groceries is coincidental.

How to Feed Fat

Adding fat to your horse's diet can be done in a number of ways. Practically any digestible source of fat, either vegetable or animal, might be used. The only source to avoid is the rumen-protectant variety of fat designed for cattle, which horses will find at best indigestible and at worst, toxic. (You won't run into this one unless you ask for it specifically at the feed store.) It's interesting to note that horses actually can digest fat from animal sources (such as tallow) very well, despite their vegetarian innards. From an economic standpoint, animal-fat products are generally much less expensive than comparable vegetable fats or oils. But animal fats are seldom used in horse rations for two reasons: First, they are usually solids at room temperature, so they must be heated to liquid in order to mix with a grain ration; and second, their palatability is generally low (try to get a horse to eat something that smells like bacon grease!).

Of the vegetable sources of fats (which usually come in the form of oils), corn and soy oil are traditional favorites, and readily available at most feed mills as well as at many supermarkets. Other vegetable oils are just as suitable, however, although many horse owners avoid canola oil as its palatability isn't as good. Top-dressing your horse's grain ration with oil is a simple process of measuring and pouring--but like any feed additive, it should be introduced gradually, over a period of two to three weeks.

Other feed additives that are relatively high-fat, most notably rice bran, have gained considerable popularity in parts of the United States. Rice bran products, which come either as a powder or as an extruded pellet, are approximately 22% fat, which means you have to feed considerably more of it to get the same benefits as you would from a 100% fat product such as vegetable oil. Rice bran has the advantage of being much more stable, however, and is often preferred in warm, humid climates where oils and animal fats tend to go rancid very quickly. Extruded soybeans, another high-fat product, are good for young growing horses because they are also a good protein source. for that same reason,they're not as appropriate for mature animals. Then there's flax seed (30% fat), which because of its omega-3 content (see sidebar) is an increasingly popular option, although its small, hard seed coat means it needs to be processed immediately with a coffee-grinder before feeding to make the fats available for digestion. Or you can provide some extra fat with black-oil sunflower seeds (the unstriped kind), which many horses relish as a treat. Sunflower seeds contain between 25% and 40% fat.

One of the simplest ways to add fat to your horse's diet is to choose a commercial grain ration that is fat-supplemented. Many feed companies now offer these products, usually as part of their premium line. Fat-supplemented feeds are often equipped with extra anti-oxidants to prevent spoilage, a management perk, and have camouflaged the fats with other ingredients so there is no loss of palatability. Any feed that contains more than about 3.5% fat is considered to be fat-supplemented. Look for a crude fat level of 8% to 10% on the label (and if your horse is a mature animal not being used for breeding, a protein content of 10% to 12% at most), and introduce it gradually to your horse's diet. If your horse objects to top-dressed oil or rice bran, a fat-supplemented sweetfeed or pellet might be the best way to go.

Whatever way you decide to add fat to your horse's diet, you must consider how it will affect the overall nutrient balance of his daily ration. If you add fat to your horse's routine but don't increase his exercise level or cut down on his grain, he's likely to get fat. However, if you cut back on your horse's grain, you also reduce the concentration of vitamins and minerals he receives. In contrast to other feeds, oils contribute no incidental nutrient value--that is, they contain no protein, calcium, phosphorus, or any other nutrients to speak of beyond the fat calories, though other fat sources such as rice bran are sometimes supplemented. For this reason, it's important to work with an equine nutritionist (whom you can contact through your feed dealer, local veterinary college, or state extension service) to help you make the necessary adjustments so that your horse doesn't get cheated out of essential vitamins and minerals. You might have to consider adding a supplement to compensate for these losses.

If you're feeding a commercial ration that is a "premium" product, you might not have to worry about deficiencies of vitamins and minerals as many of these are deliberately designed with an excess of most nutrients. And if you decide to go with an all-inclusive high-fat feed, the feed company has likely already done the ration balancing for you. Consult with your equine nutritionist to be sure.

One thing fat is not going to do is make feeding any cheaper. Pound for pound, it usually works out to be nearly as expensive, if not a little more so, than a comparable quantity of carbohydrates. Is it cost-effective? That's hard to say. But as one researcher points out--if you can move a racehorse up six feet in a mile and a half, it doesn't really matter what it costs, does it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gaston Mercier Development

See videos of Advice about horse saddles, Persik Land and the Cevennes National Park, Florac country, and riding with Gaston Mercier.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Psychology of Horses - Full article

By Donald McMiken, PhD

Donald McMiken has combined a passion for riding with the study of physiology and evolutionary psychology. Donald holds a masters degree and a doctorate in exercise physiology from The Universityof Texas at Austin. Dr McMiken was then invited to Sweden as director of research in equine physiology at the Swedish Veterinary University in Uppsala from 1980-1982. Donald taught for many years at Cumberland College, which is now part of Sydney University. He also worked with Professor Ruben Rose at that time in establishing an equine muscle laboratory at the veterinary school. He has taught Horse Management -including horse psychology- at TAFE colleges in Australia and at Humber College in Canada. He has published widely and has been an editor of scientific journals including the Australian Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (USA). Donald has published many articles in equestrian magazines abroad.

He has put scientific information into practice at his Speedtest-Thoroughbreds training centre in Ontario, Canada where he trained racehorses and developed new interval-training and Fartlek methods for conditioning horses. Don has ridden in Horse Trials and other events in Canada and Australia. He was a member of the Australian Modern Pentathlon Team for many years competing at the Tokyo Olympics 1964 (where he won maximum bonus points in the cross-country riding). He also competed in the 1968 Mexico Olympics (where he won the pistol shooting event). Dr McMiken has coached several Australian teams including the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He has travelled extensively and has lived for extended periods overseas. Recently returned to Australia Donald now lives on the Central Coast of NSW.

Like the Horse Whisperer you need to understand the psychology of horses to be able to relate to them. As a rider you need to be able to think like horses do and anticipate their reactions. To do this you must look at the world from their point of view. This is empathy, most important to horse handling. It also happens to be a particular facility of the human species-useful when hunting to anticipate prey. Empathy enables you to read the horse and anticipate his actions. To understand horses it's crucial to examine the nature of their intelligence and their natural behaviour, wrought by evolution.

Are Horses Intelligent?

The short answer is yes...

More ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No magic bullet in helping horses recover from exercise

There's no substitute for good, old fashioned rest when it comes to restoring muscle glycogen in horses after exercise, a study has found.

The research found that extract carbohydrates or fat in the diet had no influence on the process.

For his thesis, Licentiate in Veterinary Medicine Seppo Hyyppä, from MTT Agrifood Research in Finland, investigated post-exercise muscle glycogen repletion in horses.

Glycogens are the carbohydrate stores in muscle. They are the most important nutrient during exercise. If glycogen stores are depleted the horse makes use of its own muscle protein stores as raw material for energy.

This has a detrimental effect on muscle and on muscle performance. Over a longer period the improvement in fitness of the horse may decelerate or even come to a halt.

If the diet is normal and the horse consumes the feed provided, neither extra carbohydrate nor extra fat will enhance the repletion of muscle glycogen stores.

Dietary supplements may actually inhibit repletion, says Hyyppä.

Maintaining horses in a good state of hydration seems to have a moderate positive effect on repletion of muscle glycogen stores.

Providing horses with an isotonic glucose-electrolyte rehydration solution soon after exercise helps to overcome dehydration significantly better than providing them with plain water.

Positive anabolic hormonal balance within the body aids the repletion of muscle glycogen stores; the trainer therefore needs to ensure exercise is suitable for the horse, with sufficient recovery time between intense training periods.

During the most recent research project a horse was given anabolic steroids to ensure anabolic hormonal balance. This had a clear, positive effect on the repletion of muscle glycogen stores. Hyyppä emphasizes that anabolic steroids were administered solely for the purpose of establishing the significance of hormonal balance.

A rigorous training programme, for example, in trotting, may lead to progressive depletion of muscle glycogen stores, to the probable detriment of the horse's condition in the long run.

Weighing the horse before and after exercise provides a reasonably accurate picture of repletion.

If scales are unavailable, recording the horse's chest measurement will indicate changes in weight. Obviously this will not be the case, Hyyppä points out, if the horse is already too thin.

Hyyppä stresses that the well-being and condition of the horse may be monitored, in addition to weight measurement, by observing the horse's general alertness and, for example, suppleness or stiffness when initiating movement.

A healthy appetite, too, reveals a good condition. Other good indicators are resting heart rate and body temperature; increases in these measurements are a sign that the training programme is in need of revision.

Hyyppä feels that people must get to know their horses and develop an eye for such changes. If one person trains a horse and another person looks after it, a wealth of equine information will fall by the wayside, Hyyppä says.

The horses in the test performed the physical tests at the Ypäjä trotting track and on MTT's equine research treadmill.

MTT's own horses and horses from the Equine College were employed in the research. The treadmill was designed and built through co-operation involving MTT's Equine Research, the Tampere University of Technology, and local enterprises. The treadmill has achieved notable success as an export product.

The treadmill is a useful method for exercising horses under controlled conditions. Horses perform exercise by walking, trotting and galloping, from between half-an-hour and an hour-and-a-half at a time, Hyyppä says.

Analysis of the research was carried out at the MTT laboratory in Ypäjä, and at the University of Helsinki's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Basic Veterinary Sciences.

FOOTNOTE: Licentiate in Veterinary Medicine Seppo Hyyppä's thesis in Basic Veterinary Sciences, "Post-exercise Muscle Glycogen Repletion in Horses", was examined at the University of Helsinki on 12 November 2007. Professor Birgitta Essen-Gustavsson from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences acted as opponent and Professor Reeta Pösö from the University of Helsinki as custodian.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A bit of Akhal-Teke history

Akhal Teke Horse Canada

The Turkoman horse became known as the Akhal-Teke after the annexation of Turkmenia to the Russian Empire in l88l. The name combines the name of the Teke Turkmen tribe and the Akhal oasis in the foothills of the Kopet-Dag mountains. The Akhal-Teke’s original homeland lay throughout modern Turkmenistan and northern Iran, as well as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaidzhan. The history of the Turan Flats area of Central Asia is a history of continual conquest, occasionally from the west but usually from the Altai region of Mongolia. First by the Scythians, then the Ywati or Yüeh-Chih, then the Parthians, the Huns, the Turks, the Mongols, and the Turks again. Teke tribes then controlled their territory for over a thousand years with these amazing horses. Foreign raids were undertaken on them with the intent of obtaining their magnificent horses.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Unbridled history

InForum News
Patrick Springer, The Forum
Published Saturday, November 03, 2007

Descendants of wild horses roam the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora, N.D. Many agree that the horses, which number about 125, are much tamer now than they were in the past. Patrick Springer / The Forum

Wild horses roaming what’s now Theodore Roosevelt National Park have been linked for years to three of the area’s most noteworthy historic figures: Sitting Bull, the Marquis de Mores and Old Four Eyes himself.

A trail of written accounts connects war ponies that were confiscated from Sitting Bull and his followers to horses used by ranchers during the open-range era around Medora, N.D. But the National Park Service has taken the position that airtight proof is lacking to officially acknowledge any ties.

If the link were recognized, wild horse advocates say, it would force the park service to work actively to preserve an important historic legacy, and stop what they say is the systematic removal of descendant horses.

The park’s horse herd, culled every few years in roundups to avoid overgrazing, is exempt from federal laws to protect horses from mistreatment.

Years ago, horses were routinely sold for slaughter, including as food for zoo animals, and horse advocates say cavalier treatment continues, as evidenced by a helicopter crash during a roundup last month.

That incident, which injured the pilot and a park biologist, remains under investigation. The roundup was the first on record without using horseback riders, horse advocates said.

Now two noted historians – both former National Park Service officials – say compelling historic evidence shows that horses in the park are descended from Sitting Bull and his followers, and therefore should be carefully preserved as living history.

Robert Utley, a Sitting Bull biographer and former chief historian for the park service, said historic evidence amassed by Castle McLaughlin, a Harvard anthropologist hired years ago to study the horses at the park, is convincing.

“I think Castle McLaughlin has proved it beyond reasonable doubt that those horses out there are descendants of horses from the Marquis that were purchased from traders who got them after Sitting Bull surrendered,” said Utley, author of “The Lance and the Shield,” a 1993 biography of Sitting Bull,

In May, Utley wrote to the regional manager of the National Park Service to urge park officials to restore descendant horses to the park, now home to an estimated 125 horses.

From 1947, when the park was formed, until 1970, the park service’s official policy was to completely eliminate wild horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Current policy calls for maintaining a herd of about 50 horses.

“I judge the horses to have represented two important heritages of the park: the cowboy heritage of Theodore Roosevelt and the Marquis de Mores, the basis of the park’s creation in the first place, and the heritage of the Northern Plains Indians, particularly Sitting Bull’s Lakotas, who ranged over and fought other tribes in this area for generations,” Utley wrote.

Paul Hedren, a historian and retired National Parks Service administrator, said McLaughlin and others have made a strong case tying horses alive today to Sitting Bull’s ponies.

“I absolutely accept everything Castle is saying about these horses,” Hedren said. “I think it’s absolutely dead-on.”

No genetic proof

McLaughlin, associate curator of North American ethnography at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, teamed up with Leo and Frank Kuntz, horse ranchers from Linton, N.D., to help save wild horses removed from the park.

“There’s more to the story than we care to acknowledge,” Hedren said.

But Ernie Quintanna, Midwest regional director for the National Park Service, said the government needs ironclad proof to link the park’s horses to Sitting Bull’s – genetic testing.

“We’ve not found any scientific evidence that would suggest this view,” he said. “We rely heavily on science.”

Quintanna, based in Omaha, Neb., acknowledges that photographs of horses owned by the Marquis and those at the park bear a striking resemblance. But he said horses elsewhere also have the distinctive mustang look.

If proved by a “logical, undisputable connection,” a link between horses today at the park and Sitting Bull would be a huge draw for the park, Quintanna said.

“Would that be wonderful? Boy, what a story to tell,” he said.

But, he added, conclusive evidence is needed to withstand attacks from skeptics.

“This is a case made on circumstantial evidence,” Hedren said. “But hercircumstantial case is powerful.”

The chain of ownership of horses passing from Sitting Bull and his followers, who surrendered at Fort Buford, near present-day Williston, N.D., in 1881, to post traders, then the Marquis, and later to A.C. Huidekoper, an early ranch baron, has long been documented in histories of the area.

Soldiers at Fort Buford seized 350 horses when Sitting Bull’s band surrendered. Several post traders bought the horses, and sold 250 head to the Marquis, in 1883.

The next year the Marquis, who founded Medora, abandoned his ambitions of operating a large horse-breeding ranch, and he sold his horses, including 60 purchased by Huidekoper.

Park ignored report

Theodore Roosevelt, who ran a cattle ranch in the badlands during the 1880s, noted his frequent sightings of wild horses in the area in a remembrance he wrote in 1888.

“In a great many – indeed, most – localities there are wild horses to be found, which, although invariably of domestic descent, being either themselves runaways from some ranch or Indian outfit, or else claiming such for their sires and dams, yet are quite as wild as the antelope on whose domain they have intruded,” Roosevelt wrote.

As a park service employee in 1986 and 1987, McLaughlin was commissioned to study the history and origins of the wild horses at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

She had been an interpreter at the Knife River Indian Villages, near Stanley, N.D., and the park service dispatched her to take part in a 1986 horse roundup at Theodore Roosevelt National Park because she could ride horseback.

What McLaughlin saw appalled her: a callous disregard for the horses, witnessed by a stallion that was driven to death during the roundup and the deaths of three other horses confined at a Dickinson, N.D., livestock sales barn. The horses, she said, were trampled or otherwise wounded when crammed into inadequate space with stallions of mixed bands.

In her 250-page report, submitted to the park in 1989, McLaughlin catalogued the systematic removal of horses from the park – often sold for slaughter, including to a zoo in the 1960s as food for large cats.

The wild horses in the park were largely intact from their roots as hybrids of Indian ponies and early ranch horses from the 1880s when the park was first established in 1947, she determined.

In the 1980s, McLaughlin wrote, the park began to introduce other domestic horse breeds, including Thoroughbreds and American Quarter Horses, because offspring of those horses would be sold at auction for higher prices when culled from the herd.

Local ranchers, whose hired help was needed in roundups to remove surplus horses, held great influence with park administrators, McLaughlin wrote, who allowed them to target for removal horses bearing Indian pony or mustang characteristics.

In researching the origin of the park’s once-free-roaming horses, McLaughlin’s report compiled references to the horses in letters, journals, memoirs and other sources. Many writers made references to badlands horses once belonging to Sitting Bull, and their offspring.

Wallis Huidekoper, A.C.’s brother, wrote in his memoirs about the connection between their ranch stock and the great Lakota Sioux warrior.

“Many were war ponies and had been in the battle of the Little Big Horn,” Huidekoper wrote, “for they carried scars from the rifles of Custer’s troopers.”

McLaughlin’s report, though commissioned by the park service, was filed away and forgotten, McLaughlin said. “They didn’t like my conclusions and they just ignored it.”

Plight of the horses

Utley and Hedren said park officials should give McLaughlin an audience, and work with the Kuntz brothers and their supporters with the nonprofit Nokota Horse Conservancy, which advocates for the horses and owns foundation breeding stock.

“People, their jaws just drop when they hear the story,” she said. “It’s just so disillusioning.”

Beginning in the late 1970s and escalating in the 1980s, Leo Kuntz bought many of the horses removed from the park to keep as breeding stock to preserve the lines descended from Indian ponies and early ranch stock, including horses introduced by Huidekoper.

Frank Kuntz said he and his brother, who lobbied to have the Nokota horse named the state equine in 1993, found themselves accidentally thrust in the advocacy role. Leo bought his first park horse for long-distance endurance horse racing.

“We’ve become spokesmen for the horses,” Frank Kuntz said. “They can’t speak for themselves.”

Theodore Roosevelt, remembered as the father of the modern conservation movement, wouldn’t approve of how the park that bears his name has looked after the horses he once watched roam the range, Frank Kuntz said.

“I don’t think he’d be saying bully about what’s happened,” he said. “I think he’d be turning over in his grave.”

Meanwhile, Quintanna said park officials remain open to new information or evidence about the horse herd.

What about Roosevelt’s own writings about the wild horses, with references to runaway Indian and ranch stock?

“It’s compelling,” Quintanna said. “It helps build the case. But it’s not enough. Unfortunately, it’s still the standard that science sets.”

Saga of the historic Badlands wild horses

- July 19, 1881: Sitting Bull returns from exile in Canada and surrenders with followers at Fort Buford, near present-day Williston, N.D. Soldiers confiscate their rifles and an estimated 350 horses. Post traders buy the horses and later resell many.

- 1883: The Marquis de Mores buys 250 of the horses seized from Sitting Bull and his followers, including all the mares, with intentions of breeding horses on a large scale at his ranch near Medora, N.D.

- 1884: A.C. Huidekoper, the earliest big cattle baron in the Little Missouri Badlands, buys 60 of De Mores’ Sioux mares for his sprawling open-range ranch. Huidekoper breeds the Indian ponies with larger breeds to use as ranch saddle horses.

- 1888: Theodore Roosevelt writes of seeing wild horses during his ranching days.

- 1947: Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park is established, with north and south units. For years, local ranchers allow some horses to trespass and graze.

- 1955: Wallis Huidekoper, A.C.’s brother, publishes his memoirs, recalling the hot-blooded mustangs once ridden by Sitting Bull’s band.

- 1970: Park policy shifts to accommodate a demonstration horse herd “in the interest of historic accuracy” to depict the open range era.

- 1977: A horse expert from the Bureau of Land Management disagrees with park officials that the herd has a problem with inbreeding.

- 1978: Still citing inbreeding problems, the park hires cowboys for a roundup. Extreme heat contributes to the deaths of seven horses driven miles in 105-degree temperatures. Rancher Leo Kuntz buys one of the horses to use for endurance races.

- 1986: Two helicopters and 25 riders round up 60 horses. The herd’s dominant stallion collapses and dies while being chased. A mare later breaks out of a sale barn pen and dies from her wounds, but other horses escape. Two other horses die from injuries. Kuntz buys 51 of 54 horses sold at auction.

- 1993: The North Dakota Legislature designates the Nokota horse as the official state equine, declaring: “The Nokota breed may well be those distinct horses descended from Sioux Chief Sitting Bull’s war ponies.”

- Oct. 18, 2007: A helicopter crashes while rounding up horses in the park, injuring the pilot and a biologist; 54 horses already captured were released. The accident remains under investigation.

Sources: The History and Status of the Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park by Castle McLaughlin, Forum files

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

Saturday, October 06, 2007

France: Young Horse program

Get two French endurance riders together and, when talk comes round to their youngstock there is only one question: 'Uzes?'

These four letters (actually a town in the heart of the Languedoc Roussilon area) are the culmination of a season of qualifying rides held by the Society Hippique Francais who are the body dedicated to nurturing, furthering and proving the quality of young French bred sports horses.

There are three classes at the Uzes final:

* four year olds who are attempting their first 40k (41 entries)
* six year olds tomorrow who are trying their first 90k (186 entries)
* five year olds who doing their first ever 60k (over 200 entries)

According to Leonard Liesens of Belgium, France has a funded, comprehensive Young Horse program:

"For the 4 years-40km and 5 years-60km, there is a maximum speed imposed on Young Horse competitions.

For 6 years on 90km, there are two competitions, one with a max set speed and one with free speed.

But this is not the most important item in the equation:
In the 6 years final, horses are ranked according to a point system ( 0, 1.. up to 4 points if I remember well)

- 1 point for recovering to 56BPM in less than 10min
- 1 point for the gaits (attitude at the trotting, energy, quality, etc...)
- 1 point for the speed in the 5% (not sure) of the winner
- 1 point for the sped in the 10% (not sure neither but I will check) of the winner

4 points earns an 'elite', 3 'excellent, 2 ' very good', 1 'good', 0 qualified

Several of the french champions came from the young horse finals.

The young horse events are organized all year round across France to give everyone the chance to compete without trailering horses too far away. These regional events are at the same time qualifying event for the finals in Uzes.

Also every time your horse complete a qulifying race, the owner receives incentive money (something like 100 euros for a successful 60km) which helps to cover expenses."

For coverage and photos of the 2007 Uzes Young Horse Finals, go to EnduranceEurope.Net coverage

Official event website is

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Spirit of the AERC?

I see a different AERC than you are describing, Truman, with your misleading quote: "Oh, if your horse goes down - don't worry we'll just plug him in to an IV."

That is not the message being sent, nor it's intent, and you are well aware of that. I see an AERC that says: "We care enough about your horse that we certify our head vets. We have educational materials galore, available on our website and in our Endurance News publication regarding the safe conditioning and campaigning of the endurance horse, as well as veterinary articles and newsletters addressing common health concerns. We require our vets to inspect your horse before, throughout and after every ride to assure his continuing health and safety.

We will not sanction a ride that does not require these inspections to be done. Our vets are prepared to offer heroic life saving treatment when emergent situations arise, and we advocate early treament to all our members when those unfortunate circumstances present themselves, for whatever reason.

Our motto is "To Finish is to Win," and we are a peculiar sport in that while endurance riding is a timed event, we encourage conservative riding, long, high mileage careers, and offer coveted Turtle Awards, all in the interest of the welfare of the horse.

We have rules against animal abuse, with a fully developed Protest and Grievance committee to rule on protests against abuse and mete out appropriate punishment for offenders. We have our Veterinary Committee investigate and report on every horse death that occurs at or as a result of a ride, and our Welfare of the Horse Committee attempts to gather and collate as much useful information as possible and make it available to our constituency.

Our most coveted award is the Best Condition award, which focuses primarily on good horsemanship and riding within the healthy parameters of the horse. We recognize that horse deaths most often offer a degree of mystery, and we provide funding for post-mortem studies to turn each tragic death into a learning opportunity so that other horses and riders do not suffer the same fate."

I could go on, but clearly, AERC is not conveying the flippancy contained in the your sentence above, Truman. Bruce Weary

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

APEX - A Partnership for Endurance Xcellence

Partnering in training and academic advancement to achieve the highest performance levels in endurance horses, riders, and teams.


1. To provide continuing education, training and encouragement for horses and riders to enable increasingly higher levels of success in national and international competition.
2. To enhance racing proficiency by sharing experiences and engaging in teamwork.
3. To established a stepped program of academic study and certification in equine knowledge.
4. To utilize the latest scientific information to improve horse and rider performance.
5. To create individualized training programs for both horse and rider.
6. To field teams for national and international competition.
7. To financially support horses and riders for international competition.

APEX Web Site

Friday, August 17, 2007

Leaving Messages for Ride Managers

Hey folks.

This is half in jest, but half serious too.

The vast majority of the riders at the Allegany Shut Up and Ride are emailers like me. They email me, they download their entry form off the internet, they email questions, etc. Groovy! I have a return email, I can take my time responding after checking on something, and I can track them down again if something comes up. I love technology!

But I realize not everyone is into computers, and I do get phone calls with questions, or requests for entry forms, and like most horse people, I'm rarely in the house and rely heavily on my dreaded answering machine.

Like everyone, I hate talking on answering machines ... but at the moment I'm in a quandary because I got two totally unintelligible messages and no way to figure out who sent them!

If you leave a message for a Ride Manager (or hell, anyone), please:

1.) Speak slowly and clearly. You know your name and your address and your phone number and can pe el it off faster than they read those legalese disclaimers on the pharmaceutical ads saying that you might experience oily discharge and seizures, but I don't, and when you say it four hundred MPH, I end up rewinding the tape 12 times to try to catch it, and end up guessing at half of it anyway. You're allowed to repeat it too, to make sure I got it the first time.

2.) Enunciate. If you have a mouthful of Cheerios, please chew and swallow before leaving a message on my answering machine. Likewise, if you're drinking heavily, you may want to call back when you're a bit sobered up.

3.) If you hear an odd beep while leaving your message, and mind you, I'm no mechanical genius, something probably went wrong. Maybe the message went through, maybe it didn't, but please call back and leave the message again. I can easily delete a repeat message, or can use it to try to interpret your phone number because you messed up #1, but if I only got your area code and then a dial tone, it's hard to call you back.

4.) If you don't hear from me, either with an entry in the mail or a call back, within a few days, please call me back. Something went wrong and my Catholic guilt will be great relieved if you don't think I'm just ignoring you because I'm mean. Actually, I am mean, but I am good about returning phone calls.

Thank you.

--Patti Stedman (NE)

P.S. If you are "Debbie" and have a 585 area code, or you left a message and were a little confused about which answering machine mailbox to use and therefore mumbled into the one you chose, and haven't heard back from me, please call me back.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Excerpt from Riding for Life: Preparing to Buy a Horse
by: Rallie McAllister, MD
August 14 2007 Article # 10182

If you've loved horses for as long as you can remember, having one of your own may be the realization of a lifelong goal. As a child, and even as an adult, you may have spent countless hours dreaming about the "perfect" horse, but in reality there's just no such thing. Fortunately, you don't need a flawless horse to be happy and successful as an equestrian--all you need is a good horse that fits you well.

Riding is a team sport, pairing horse and human. Neither is more critical than the other. As with any other team sport, successful riding depends on a number of factors, including mutual respect, cooperation, and compatibility. While you're building your own two-member team, remember that no matter how new you are to riding, you're not starting from scratch. Half of your team is already established, and that half is you. Your physical and mental characteristics dictate the physical and mental characteristics of the ideal teammate.

As you work through the process of choosing and buying a horse, you'll need to consider dozens of factors. Ultimately, you should always come back to the most important consideration: whether the horse is a good fit for you. No matter how "perfect" a horse may seem, he's not the right one if he's the wrong teammate for you.

To ensure you end up buying the right horse, it's wise to do your homework and plan your purchase carefully and as far in advance as possible. When you approach the process in logical steps, you're more likely to be happy with the result. Satisfaction comes from knowing not only exactly what you want but also exactly what you need and then searching until you find it. You should never allow yourself to settle for an unsafe or unsuitable horse.

Your experience with your first horse will impact your desire--and perhaps even your ability--to continue riding. A safe, pleasurable experience will deepen your love of horses and enhance your skills as an equestrian, but a bad experience may cause you to quit before you reap the rewards of horse ownership.

The decision to buy a horse is a big one, and like all major decisions, it should be made with a great deal of thought, consideration, and planning. Because owning a horse will change your life in ways you might never have imagined, you should approach the process as carefully and as cautiously as you might if you were deciding to buy a house, start a new career, or get married.

In the school of hard knocks, most of us have learned reality far differs from expectations. If you're a wife and a mother, you've learned that marriage doesn't even remotely resemble dating and motherhood is vastly different from baby-sitting or being an aunt or a godparent.

It's only natural to focus on the most exciting and glamorous aspects of any project we undertake--that's what drives us to succeed. It's also natural to turn a blind eye to those aspects that promise to be less than wonderful.

If owning a home was once your dream, for example, you undoubtedly focused on the countless positive attributes of home ownership, ranging from decorating your new kitchen to relaxing with friends and family in your spacious, well-appointed living room. You probably didn't spend much time fantasizing about the harsher realities of homesteading, including risking life and limb to clean the gutters or hiring a plumber to fix a perpetually backed-up toilet. By the same token, owning a horse is far more complex and complicated than taking riding lessons or even caring for someone else's horse.

Regardless of your financial status, horse ownership involves a significant cash outlay. In addition to the initial purchase price of your horse, you'll also be shelling out a substantial amount of your hard-earned cash to cover the cost of boarding and feeding your horse. Your horse will likely require a veterinarian's services at least once or twice a year and a farrier's attention every four to six weeks. Any experienced horse owner will tell you dozens of ways in which a horse can help you spend your money.

While horse ownership requires a major financial commitment, there are also the commitments of time, energy, and emotion to consider. Your horse will end up becoming an important part of your family--and an integral part of your life. Even if you don't bat an eye at the purchase price, and even if the monthly expenses don't strain your budget, you'll still need to schedule enough time with your horse.

If you're responsible for every aspect of your horse's care, you can probably count on spending at least an hour a day feeding, watering, and grooming your horse. If you plan on riding, mucking stalls, or giving your horse some turnout time, you're looking at spending two or three hours at the barn. You'll regularly need to replenish feed, hay, bedding, and various supplies.

If you're not going to have these items delivered, you'll need to pick them up, so don't forget to consider the time involved in maintaining a well-stocked stable. If you're planning on boarding your horse at a barn that's not within easy walking distance of your house, you've also got to account for travel time.

Taking responsibility for your horse's daily upkeep can be a rich and rewarding experience, but it may cut into your riding time. If your primary goal is to care for your horse and to enjoy his companionship, this isn't a major problem. If, however, you're on a tight deadline to achieve a specific level of training, or if your goal is to compete in specific events or equestrian classes, assuming full care of your horse may not be your best option.

If you're planning to board your horse at a facility that provides full care, you won't need to spend quite so much time at the barn. Your role may be limited simply to riding and enjoying your horse. The trade-off for this type of full-service care is, of course, a higher monthly boarding bill.

Like all other relationships, the one you develop with your horse will be fraught with emotions, both good and bad. These emotions are often intensified if your schedule and your life are already full. If you buy a horse that you grow to love and cherish, you'll likely suffer a great deal of guilt if you're so busy that you aren't able to spend enough time with him or ride him regularly. If you end up with a horse that you're not entirely crazy about, you'll probably start to feel resentful about the amount of time that you're obligated to spend with him, and, eventually, you may have a hard time dragging yourself to the barn.

Regardless of your feelings toward your horse, you'll be bound to him by a sense of responsibility for as long as you own him. At one time or another you may face trading your nice, warm bed for a freezing barn in the dead of winter. Or you may find yourself fighting flies and fatigue as you ride or care for your horse in the sweltering summer heat. The horse that is right for you is the one that will inspire you to make these sacrifices willingly.

If the realities of horse ownership don't deter you in the least, and if you're convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that owning a horse is your destiny, then hold on, because you're about to embark on an adventure that will be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of your life.

The Ideal Teammate

Whether you realize it, you have certain expectations-- and maybe even a fantasy or two-- about the horse you will call your own. You already know a few things about this horse. You may know, for example, that he's a gentle gelding that is kind, quiet, and willing to work.

This is an excellent place to start, but at some point you'll need to begin filling in the blanks. What breed is your future teammate? How old is he? What level of training has he achieved? Is he a show horse or a pleasure horse? The more you know about the horse ahead of time, the simpler your search will be, and the less likely you'll be to get sidetracked by horses that aren't right for you.

Because it's easy to get carried away by your emotions, it's important to guard yourself against impulse buying ahead of time. Before you start your search, it's wise to sit down and write a detailed description of the ideal teammate.

Using your written description, make a list of all the qualities your horse must have.

Next, make a list of the qualities you'd like your horse to have but you could live without or you'd be willing to compromise for a more essential quality. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to find the right horse.

Take Your Time

In your search for the ideal teammate, it's perfectly acceptable to be picky and to take your time. There's no shortage of horses for sale, so there's no need to rush and settle for an unsatisfactory mount. It's not uncommon for sellers to inform you that there are "several interested parties" and "this horse will go fast." It may be true. On the other hand, it could be that the seller is being a good salesperson, trying to create a sense of urgency and an "act now, before it's too late" mentality in you, the potential buyer. If you're prepared for this kind of pressure ahead of time, you'll be less likely to succumb to it.

While finding a horse that is the perfect match for you can be time consuming and even downright tedious on occasion, it's far less tedious than owning a horse that is wrong for you. As the saying goes, chance favors the prepared mind. There's no way to foresee every challenge you and your horse will face in the short term, much less in the long term, but the chances of a favorable outcome are much greater if you're well prepared.

If you're patient and diligent in your search, chances are excellent you'll find the right horse. Sometimes it's very easy to cross a horse off your list. If he has a dangerous habit such as kicking or bolting, or if you feel that he's just too small for you, it's easy enough to walk away. At other times you may not be able to put your finger on the problem quite so easily.

You may not understand why you're not enthusiastic about a particular horse that seems like a suitable candidate. It could be there's just no chemistry. If something doesn't feel right about a particular horse--even if you're not sure exactly what it is--trust your instincts an keep looking.

Purpose of the Horse

Before embarking on your search for a horse, you need to understand fully your motives for doing so. Why do you want a horse? The answer may seem obvious to you, but you need to be able to verbalize a response to this question, not only for yourself, but also for others.

You must be capable of clearly communicating your reasons for owning a horse so that sellers, breeders, trainers, veterinarians, and even your friends can help you find the right one. What are your goals? What purpose will your horse serve? Do you want to compete in horse shows, endurance rides, or other equestrian events, or do you want to trail ride? Is your primary goal to enjoy the companionship of a horse without

competing or, even, riding?

Your Panel of Experts

Once you've defined why you want a horse, it's a good idea to assemble a panel of knowledgeable horse people whom you'll be able to consult prior to making your final decision.

This group of professionals should be headed by your riding instructor and the equine veterinarian who will be caring for your horse.

It's also a good idea to include a horse trainer and the farrier you intend to hire. When you've narrowed your list of horses to a few finalists, you'll want to critique each horse with the members of your panel before making your final decision. Each of these experts can provide valuable insights, information, and advice that will go a long way toward ensuring the horse you buy is the best possible teammate for you.

Your riding instructor, for example, knows your strengths and weaknesses as an equestrian and can help you determine whether the horse in question will be a good match. The ideal horse will have strengths that complement your weaknesses and vice versa. If you tend to be a timid rider, you don't want a horse that spooks every time the wind blows.

If you've got arthritis in your knees and have a little trouble climbing into the saddle, you don't want a horse that dances around in circles while being mounted. Your riding instructor can spot these kinds of mismatches early on and can help you determine whether they can be corrected easily, and if not, whether you can live with them.

A skilled and experienced horse trainer can offer a qualified opinion about the horse's potential to reach a particular level of training, or to compete in specific disciplines, based on the horse's attitude and conformation. Ideally, the horse you buy will be doing what you want him to do already, but if he's not, how can you tell if he's mentally and physically capable?

There's no way to know for sure, of course, but a good horse trainer's educated guess may be the next best thing.

After performing a pre-purchase examination, an equine veterinarian can evaluate the horse's health and soundness. It's helpful to know whether the horse has any conditions that will prevent him from fulfilling your goals. Likewise, a good farrier's opinion is worth having.

Along with the horse trainer and the vet, the farrier can provide you with a great deal of useful information after evaluating the horse's feet, legs, and gaits. The farrier also can determine how the horse behaves while his feet are being handled. For instance, if you knew ahead of time the horse you're considering buying requires a tranquilizer to have his back feet shod would you still buy him?

Ultimately, the final decision about whether to buy the horse is yours alone, but you'll be more likely to make the right decision with the input of qualified professionals.