Monday, April 09, 2007

Absorbing horse sense at Stanford's School of Medicine

On the first day of course No. 252 at the Stanford University School of Medicine, a pack of horses will be brought down from pasture near Portola Valley and herded into a corral, so the students can lean against the fence like wranglers and study at the stock.

They are looking for both leadership and followership in the horse hierarchy, as indicated by ear pinning, tail swishing, nudging and nipping. After observations, five horses will be culled from the herd and walked up to a sand arena where the medical students will get inside the fence and either hug the rails or tiptoe in among them.

They are not here to diagnose what might be bothering the animals. Medicine and Horses, an interdisciplinary course, is not that kind of class. The students are here to learn how to deal with humans. Clinical Instructor Dr. Beverley Kane's job is to help them find the clues.

"Horses are not socially repressed like human patients are," Kane says. "They are superb at nonverbal communication." So are people, if the doctor knows where to look. That is the theory behind this spring quarter elective. Horsemanship isn't a prerequisite. It is more of a hindrance.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Online Equine Education from Michigan State

My Horse University is a national online program for horse enthusiasts based at Michigan State University, one of the top U.S. universities in equine science and management. This program offers equine education courses and resources that you can tailor to achieve your horse-management goals.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Veterinary Research: Biochemical, haematological and bodyweight

Main Divide - endurance challenge

I want to thank Kat Swigart for taking on the challenge of managing a 100 mile ride where the ride logistics were as difficult as the trail course itself. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this course would have been impossible to complete if Kat had not provided the enormous amount of ride support in regards to water drops, manned aid stations for horse/rider and a large vet check volunteer staff. There is no doubt that the logistics of getting to these aid stations and vet checks was more difficult for the volunteers than the course was for the horses and riders. After the ride, I learned about all the flat tires, broken transmissions, damaged trailers, etc that the volunteers and crew had to endure to help give support to the riders. The horses definitely faired better than the ride help/volunteers for this event.

This ride was probably the most difficult and challenging ride I have ever completed. To me, this kind of ride is what endurance is all about, the challenge of the trail. There was no guarantee that this course could be completed in 24 hours and 11 riders accepted the challenge to find out if it was possible. Six riders proved that it was possible. The interesting “facts” about this ride are that five out of the six horses that finished were FIRST TIME 100 mile horses and four out of the six riders were FIRST TIME 100 mile riders. One of these FIRST TIME 100 mile riders on their FIRST TIME 100 mile horse was riding a NON ARAB. These FIRST TIME horses and riders were able to complete a true 100 mile course with about 18,000 feet of elevation change with footing that would not be considered ideal. I think that a ride like this and statistics like this prove that using common sense, doing your homework, and practicing good horsemanship will result in success. The team effort between the ride support staff (including crews), great veterinarians, and riders who listened to the advice of the vets definitely added to the high completion rate. All the horses, even the ones that pulled early, looked great! Let this ride prove that being prepared, good horsemanship, and a team effort between ride staff and the rider will overcome many of the perceived obstacles that can keep riders away from 100 mile rides.

You know, every rider that considers themselves an “endurance” rider should accept a challenge like the one offered through Main Divide every so often. You will learn many things about yourself and your horse by riding a ride like this whether you complete or pull early. The things that so many of us seem to value in endurance rides today like # of completions, mileage milestones, wins, placings, points, doable courses, manicured trails or trimmed trails, awards, frills, courses that can be finished in X # of hours, etc. just loose their significance when you ride a challenge like this and are successful. It is really a neat feeling when the “competition” is really the trail. It puts endurance riding/racing into perspective and redefines accomplishment.

Kim Fuess

AERC #6648