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