If a horse launches a human like a lawn dart, it’s almost always the human’s fault.
–That’s one thing I have come to believe over the years. Horses live in the moment, and their reactions and responses are honest. Even the wrecks that are lightning-fast can be mulled over and dissected and the precipitating factor found, and it’s usually something the rider incorrectly did or did not do.
Or something they missed.
In my case, as I try to determine why my mare threw me with enough force to give me a concussion that landed me in the hospital, I am playing detective with present-day clues only, as I have no memory of what happened. But since I am pretty sure it was my fault, I reached out to some equine experts who could evaluate my mare physically and mentally. There were some physical factors I could already rule out:
Neela was obviously not lame. Her saddle fit well. Thanks to equine nutritionist Dr. Juliet Getty, her diet was excellent. She didn’t have any sharp wolf teeth that would make having a bit in her mouth painful, as I’d had her teeth floated six months before, and her feet are kept in a neat barefoot trim by Ruthie Thompson-Klein of Equine Balance Hoof Care, so it wasn’t a shoeing issue. Shortly after we drove Neela to Washington from Colorado, veterinarian Laura Waitt from Mount Vernon Veterinary Hospital checked her over and did an ultrasound, determing that the mare was still in foal and apparently none the worse for wear from her three-day move. And pregnancy is not known for making a mare act so unpredictable.
It had to be something else. But what?
The first person I called was Sus Kellogg, a natural horsemanship trainer here in Washington State whose specialties include conscious groundwork, working at liberty, and brideless riding. I had contacted Sus before we moved to Washington from Colorado since we were looking at living on an island–San Juan Island–and I wanted to make sure there was a strong horse community on the island before committing to living there. After several conversations with Sus, I was convinced it was a good fit. Not only were there other horse owners on SJI, as the residents refer to their island, but there was a strong following of natural horsemanship, which is how we live and train with our horses.Less than two weeks after we moved to SJI, my husband Matt and I abandoned the boxes for one morning to go watch Sus giving a clinic at her place, Free Horse Farm. We stayed for an hour, even though I saw what I was looking for in the first minute, which I whispered excitedly to Matt.
“She’s got feel!” I said with delight, recogning that coveted trait among horse folk that is a combination of sensitivity, timing and even intuition for communicating with a horse. You don’t see it every day. To know there was a natural horsemanship trainer on the island who had feel was as sweet as finding gold in our back yard.
Now, after I explained to Sus about my concussion and that I was at a loss to understand what happened, she agreed at once to help. Two days later, my head still aching horribly, I limped into the truck, Matt loaded up Neela and we drove down a shady country road to Sus’s farm.
Within a few minutes of working with the mare in her arena, Sus voiced a conclusion that was obvious to see.
“She is very tense,” she said of Neela, who was so wired that even the slightest touch could make her tremble. I didn’t recognize this side of my mare, and I wondered, had it been there that day, and I just missed it? Had I been so clueless?
For the next two hours, Sus focused on helping Neela find a place of trust and relaxation, talking while she worked. Her conclusions (and I agree with every one):
Neela was tight and holding herself together. Her signs can be subtle, but no less meaningful than more obvious ones. She can be light and responsive without being soft. She is open but insecure and has a dominant streak. She is overall still very green and uncertain. And she is a wonderful horse with a lot of heart.
Before the session was over, the mare, who started out flinching and braced, was standing hip-shot with a lowered head, licking and chewing with a sleepy expression in her eyes. This was a good start, and Sus and I scheduled another session.
A few days after that, equine massage therapist Karen Chadwick came to our farm to work on Neela. And my mare, who loves to be groomed and massaged, presented the same reactive way she did with Sus: Don’t touch me. Was it the pregnancy, I wondered, or something else?
Karen began with an all-over feel of the mare’s body, pressing lightly on every area to detect any discomfort. There was nothing swollen or obvious, so she continued with massage, pressure and squeezing, which Neela seemed to enjoy.
Then suddenly the mare reacted, backing away and pinning her ears: There was obvious discomfort on her spine around the withers, especially on the right side. So Karen gently massaged around the area, kneading and rubbing to increase blood flow and circulation and promote relaxation. She also performed a gentle tapotement to wake up the nervous system and to break up any possible lymph fluid.After watching Neela react during Karen’s massage session, I was convinced that something was physically wrong with my mare. At the start of our second session with Sus Kellogg, she checked the mare’s back, and also found that Neela seemed to be in pain alongside her withers. Once again Sus worked with Neela to help her relax, and before we left, Neela was yawning, licking and chewing with a lowered head and a peaceful look in her eye. So once again I made plans to bring Neela back.
Meanwhile, I had asked around for the name of a good equine chiropractor, as I’m a firm believer in word-of-mouth references. The following week, Robin Littlefield, described by several local horse owners as “the real deal,” drove up to our farm, and after she met our water buffalo, I introduced Robin to Neela. One of the first things Robin did was ask me to have Neela stand square–which the mare had trouble doing.
“This mare’s in a lot of pain,” Robin announced as she assessed her, deftly moving her hands over Neela, and then she stepped behind Neela and gently placed her hands on top of the mare’s rump and pressed. Suddenly, Neela exploded forward with such force that I was barely able to hold on to the lead rope.
“Ah, so that’s why you threw your mom,” Robin said in the mare’s direction, even as Neela tossed her head, clearly unhappy.“What?” I said with a combination of strong dread and overwhelming curiousity. “Her left hip is out of alignment,” Robin said matter-of-factly, “and her muscles are spasming.” I felt a sense of both horror and relief at the same time, thinking, You were riding that. But finally, an answer! As Robin continued to work her way around the mare, who now didn’t want to stand still, she was able to find out more: Neela’s L3 and L4 vertebrae were out of alignment, as were the corresponding ribs on her right side, causing the muscles surrounding those areas to spasm. That was why both Karen and Sus had detected something wrong near the mare’s withers. As Robin worked on the mare, one thing became clear: Neela was in a lot of pain. What had happened? “It could have been caused by a number of things,” Robin said. “It could have happened during the move, or she could have slipped while running in the pasture, or from turning a corner too fast.” There was no way to know how long it had been going on; if Neela had thrown me because she was wild with pain or if, in the process of bucking me off, she had thrown her hip out of alignment. One thing was certain: For the most part, she had hidden it. “When a horse gets hurt in the wild, they have to keep moving and be able to run, no matter what,” said Robin, who urged me to not feel guilty for missing what was wrong, because there was no way to know it until I sat down on Neela’s back. Easier said than done; later that day I would repeatedly lament about my obvious ignorance of my mare’s pain to my husband and friends.
At the end of the hour, after a lot of work, Karen had come to two conclusions: Neela was back in correct alignment, but her muscles were so tense that she stood a good chance of throwing her hip out again. The prescription: The mare should rest away from the other horses for 24 hours, so she wouldn’t be in danger of getting bumped, and then be hand walked for at least a week, maybe two, while her muscles relaxed and became stronger once again.So that’s where we are for now, walking laps around the pasture. I’m taking this opportunity to slowly start Neela on Jonathan Field’s Liberty Series. Since I can’t ride her for several months–not until well after she delivers next May–I figured this would be a way to keep up her fitness and also work on building our bond until I’m able to ride her again, which I am longing to do. Meanwhile, I need to help Neela learn to be soft, and I need to be able to recognize when she’s faking it. And since Sus Kellogg also does liberty work and more, I am lucky to have a kindred spirit guide us in person as we start on this new path.
How do you get a rescue horse ready for competition? A Home for Every Horse’s Equine Comeback Challenge trainer Erin Zellefrow shares her story with Horse&Rider and will provide us with updates about Ruby and her training progress in the days leading up to the October 14 event in Pennsylvania.
Here, she’s provided some insight about herself, her training philosophy, and her work with rescue horses.
First, tell us about yourself.
I grew up in a small town near Erie, Pennsylvania, where we owned riding and draft horses. I currently own and operate a boarding and training facility with my husband and daughter. It feels like we live in the barn, as there is always something that needs to be done. It pretty much defines who I am; it’s a lifestyle. It’s a blessing because the whole family is involved in my workday. I do lessons throughout the week and have training horses that come and go. My passion is to see the growth in the horses; but more importantly with the owners who learn to understand how their horses think, learn, and communicate. Building the communication between horse and owner is where the real journey begins for them, as they are able to better understand one another.
What/who influenced you to turn horse training into a career?
My parents had a lot to do with me choosing to do this as a career; however, my inspiration was from a good cowboy friend from Mississippi. He inspired me to want to learn more. He gave me confidence and taught me to use my gifts and abilities to help horses with their people problems by teaching owners to understand their horses.
Where do you foresee your training career going?
I currently get a lot of “problem” or second-chance horses; I actually love it. Horses can tell you a lot with their eyes and responses to different things. They tell their own story. I like to unwrap that story day-by-day, teach them to trust, and be a leader to them. Horses are looking for a leader; that’s how they’re made (a herd animal, always establishing a pecking order). I want to be at the top of that order out of respect, not fear. And that is earned with trust, confidence, and boundaries. So as far as my training goals, I get to live them daily. However, I would like to reach a wider audience to be able to help people better communicate with their horses. That’s what horsemanship is, and no matter the level or discipline, it is beneficial to the partnership both on the ground and under saddle.
What are your professional goals?
A major goal that I have for the future is to start a leadership-training program for horses with a gifted friend of mine. This friend has inspired me to use the horses and my background to teach people about self-awareness and leadership. When working with a horse, you can learn a lot about yourself. (You may ask yourself: Am I too soft, too passive, too barbaric, too quick, too assuming, etc.?) This relates to every relationship you have with others. Horses are honest; they respond to pressure and learn from release. They require leadership to get the response you are looking for, and if you’re not their leader, they’ll become yours. (It’s never a good idea to have 1,000- to 2,000-pound animal in charge.)
What encouraged you to get involved with training rescue horses (in particular, ANNA)?
The ANNA rescue is operated by one of my closest friends. She’s an amazing businesswoman, but more importantly has a genuine heart. Two years she asked me whether I thought a horse rescue should be added under the ANNA shelter umbrella, and if I would help her. It started small, and it took off a few short months later. We have such an amazing, knowledgeable team with diverse strengths and personalities, but with the same passion and goals. I love to work with the rescue horses because they represent so many different backgrounds and personalities. I enjoy establishing a relationship with them and then see them move onto a good future with the right home.
What is your favorite training tool and/or exercise?
My favorite training tool is the round pen. I start every horse in the round pen; it’s a natural way for them to learn and read me. I can add and release pressure from a safe distance, which is necessary for some horses, and from there we can establish an understanding.
How did you become involved with the Equine Comeback Challenge?
An ANNA team member submitted an application for me to be considered for the Equine Comeback Challenge. I received an email that said that I’d been chosen along with a picture of the horse that I’d be working with.
What do you hope to learn from the experience?
So far, I’ve learned a lot about myself. Ruby has a challenging, unique personality. Aside from her barn name, I have a few nicknames for her. I call her “Miss K” because she reminds me of my daughter’s friend Kaylin who is so smart and downright sweet, but who can’t keep her attention on anything for more than 30 seconds. Ruby is so herd-bound; I didn’t have her full attention at all for the first 30 days. I also call her “mare-be-go-round,” as she is really good at moving her feet—–constantly. We would make daily progress, but she didn’t retain the information from day to day, making it very hard for us to build a relationship and progress. She’s taught me more about patience, understanding, and how to look at the positive in situations. That’s what matters most: the growth and progress that has come thus far. Each horse learns at a different pace; comes from a different situation; and has different strengths and weaknesses, just like us. The trick is to capitalize on her strengths.
Look for more about Erin and Ruby in future blog posts. Follow Horse&Rider on Facebook to keep up with the pair.See more at: http://horseandrider.com/blog/equine-comeback-challenge-25041#sthash.ngA2h6gE.dpuf.
I’m in a hospital bed staring at a piece of paper with a sentence that makes no sense: “Fell off horse Neela who is pregnant by Litrik.”
That cursory line is in my husband’s bold print handwriting, and is the second of a dozen answers he wrote down for me because apparently I keep asking the same questions over and over.
Because apparently I have a concussion.
I have a concussion?
(See #10: “You have a concussion.”)
Altogether, the statements summarize what happened rather neatly:
- Helmet? -Yes
- Fell off horse Neela who is pregnant by Litrik
- Helmet not cracked
- Riding at home in roundpen
- Drove to hospital with Karen
- Why ride Neela?–You wanted to
- Bob & Karen are visiting w/ Matt & Rachel
- No sulfa
- Neela has been ridden before
- You have a concussion
- You did groundwork
- Had a CT scan–Ok
Coming around after a concussion is like struggling to wake up after a deep sleep and being told the alarming news that you really weren’t asleep at all, despite the fact you have no memory of what happened. It’s now been two weeks and my only recollection of that entire day is a snapshot of having lunch with our good friends Bob and Karen and their two kids, Matt and Rachel. That evening, I’m told, I went to ride my mare Neela, a 1,500 pound, 8-year-old blue roan Friesian/Quarter Horse cross who spent most of her life as a broodmare before she came to me and so is very green.
I had put a couple of rides on her in January and turned her over to Colorado-based natural horsemanship trainer Larry Fleming for 60 days of riding, and after that Neela was bred to a stunning Friesian stallion named Litrik for a spring 2015 foal before we finally moved her from Colorado to join us at our new farm in Washington state.
Six months had passed since she was ridden with any regularity, and now that we were settled into our new home on our farm I was trying to pick up her training again before she advanced too far in her pregnancy. That was the plan, anyway, before that day.
The reality was that Neela had other ideas and threw me with such force that our friend’s son remembers seeing my legs fly through the air, and his parents and my husband Matt all turned around when they heard me hit the ground. I was slow to get up, and began to ask what happened. Over and over.
Matt, who as a retired park ranger has experience as a medic, started to ask me simple questions: Who is the president? What year is it? What month is it?
I didn’t know. I also didn’t know Bob, Karen or their kids, and then I insisted that I had never ridden Neela before.
Fast forward to the hospital, where the CT scans showed I had no bleeding on my brain and no broken tail bone. I was very lucky. And very sore. And very curious as to what the heck had happened.
This wasn’t the first time Neela had thrown me, but it was by far the worst. A few weeks prior she threw me three times in a row–bam, bam, bam, the moment my butt hit the saddle. The first time, she spooked and then erupted into bucking from that, so I immediately climbed back on only to be unseated at once as she exploded across the round pen. I caught her, did some groundwork and got back on. Got thrown again. So then I took off her bridle, put her halter back on and spent the next hour doing ground work with her until I was sure she was in a better frame of mind. Then I climbed back on, slowly, carefully, suspended on her side at first as if she were a green colt. I then fully mounted and we walked around the round pen and I called it a day.
Since then I had ridden a half-dozen more times and we were making progress with each ride. Or so I thought. This latest agony inside my head and at the base of my spine clearly indicated that I was wrong, wrong, wrong, that Neela had been doing the equine equivalent of white-knuckling it through our rides until she finally exploded with enough force to really hurt me.
What was I going to do now?
Riding her was out, as my husband, who stalwartly saw me through a rough bout of breast cancer only two years before, made me promise I would not ride Neela again while she was pregnant. He wasn’t sure if raging hormones were the cause, but if they were a factor, it was a sure-fire way to keep me safe for the next eight months.
It hurt my heart more than my head to see him sitting in a hospital room chair, again, looking at me with that I’m-worried-sick-but-acting-cheery-for-you smoke screen in his eyes, again, so I agreed.
One good friend immediately urged me to sell Neela. I’m not doing that, either, because I’m clinging to the truth of what I knew about my mare before this happened: She’s basically a very sweet horse, and I love her for that. She’s also reluctant to move her feet and lacks confidence, an emotional state that I’m now familiar with when it comes to her. Not knowing what I did so wrong that day is incredibly unnerving.
We would work through this together, I decided, and do it from the ground. First I would have Neela checked from head to hoof for any physical problems that could have contributed to her blowups. After that, I would enlist the help of a natural horsemanship trainer here in Washington state who specializes in teaching horses at liberty.
I will be sharing all of it with you here in the weeks to come as I strive to peel away our layers of fear and create a new relationship with my horse.
Each summer, horse owners travel with their horses to explore different parts of North America. The summer heat and bugs create a melting pot for equine viruses to keep travelers from enjoying the summer and horse events. This year, equestrians are faced withEquine Vesicular Stomatitis. So far, the virus has been reported in Colorado and Texas with the first detections in southern Texas in early 2014.
In mid-July, the first case was reported in Colorado from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory.
Equine Vesicular Stomatitis afflicts not only horses, but any livestock, wildlife and even humans. It is a contagious disease, but rarely life threatening. Though not completely understood, the transmission of this virus is thought to be mainly through insects. Equine Vesicular Stomatitis can be painful as it causes oral blisters and sores making it hard for horses to eat or drink. Appearance of the virus can take up to eight days after contamination. Early symptoms are slight fever, excessive drooling, and small blisters that appear around nostrils, gums, tongue, lips and corners of the mouth. Some lesions may also appear around the coronary band which may cause some lameness.
If you are planning to travel with your horse, extreme precaution should be taken. Be aware that some equine shows have canceled or re-scheduled to prevent this virus from spreading. If you decide to travel, it is important that you keep up with fly spray and even disinfect your trailer before and after your trip. Avoid going to large horse shows and trail rides as riders come from all over the country. As previously stated, it can take up to eight days for the virus to surface, so you may be around horses that are infected without knowing.
Should you suspect your horse has been infected, you may want to place him in quarantine. To confirm if your horse has fallen to Equine Vesicular Stomatitis, you will need a blood test performed by your veterinarian. If you have a confirmed case, horses should not be moved or brought to your property.
If you are moving a horse across the country, there may be health certificate requirements for certain areas. Some horse shows may require health certificates performed within the previous 2-5 days. To learn more about these requirements, contact your state veterinarian for more information or visit usrider.org and click on travel safety > Transportation Info > Links to State Equine Info. NOTE: If you are moving your horse internationally, contact the USDA for any movement restrictions or testing requirements.
About them: USRider – in its 13th year of operation – is the only company to provide emergency roadside assistance for horse owners. Through the Equestrian Motor Plan, USRider provides nationwide roadside assistance and towing services along with other travel-related benefits to its Members. The plan includes standard features such as flat-tire repair, battery assistance, lockout services, and roadside repairs for tow vehicles and trailers with horses, plus towing up to 100 miles. As an additional service, USRider maintains a national database that includes emergency stabling, veterinary and farrier referrals.
For more information about the USRider Equestrian Motor Plan, visit www.usrider.org online or call (800) 844-1409. For additional safety and travel tips, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area on the USRider website at www.usrider.org.
About the Equine Network
The Equine Network provides, creates, and distributes relevant content and services to passionate horse enthusiasts while connecting them to each other and the marketplace. The Equine Network is the publisher of award-winning magazines: Horse & Rider, EQUUS, Dressage Today, The Trail Rider, Spin to Win Rodeo, American Cowboy, Practical Horseman, and Horse Journal. The Equine Network also publishes a proprietary line of books and DVDs for sale through its store, HorseBooksEtc.com. The Equine Network provides emergency roadside assistance through its acquisition of USRider, and is home to several websites including: EquiSearch.com, Equine.com, MyHorseDaily.com, DiscoverHorses.com, Horse-Journal.com, andAmericanCowboy.com
Let them have dinner together!
I came up with the idea out of necessity. I’ve been taking Quill the colt for walks every evening in order to spend a few minutes of training time with him away from his doting dam, Neela, who has finally stopped whinnying in protest when I lead him away.
In order for those two overly-joined-at-the-hip horses to be out of eyesight of each other (the colt is physically weaned, just not emotionally), I’m following the advice of Sus Kellogg of Free Horse Farm, who told me she takes her young horses on walks off property to get them used to being away from their dams.
So I’ve started leading Quill past the water buffalo paddock and around the corner of the barn to the front of the house where he and the mare can’t see each other, and I’ll have his evening feed waiting as a reward. My plan is to gradually increase the distance. Yet every time we would walk past the water buffalo, inevitably Lil Bit, the cow, would raise her head to get a good whiff of the colt and blow through her big nostrils, causing Quill to startle.
I’d walk him in circles in both directions so he could look at Lil Bit and Betty from each eye, but he never seemed to relax. And this is a colt who’s pretty confident, who handled the move like an old hand, and is used to everything from dogs to cats to kids.
Finally one evening I took his feed dish and set it on the other side of the fence from the water buffalo as they languidly ate their evening hay. Temptation! With a growth rate to match that of a baby dinosaur, that colt loves his feed. He’s also a ponderously slow eater, so much so that I often drop his lead rope and do something else nearby while he chews in slow motion and apparently contemplates life.
Would the colt be willing to eat near the snorty, horned beasts he regarded with such suspicion?
You betcha. He glanced at his dining companions and then calmly began to chew.
For the past three evenings, Quill has had dinner with Lil Bit and Betty, and they all seem to enjoy the arrangement. Now that he’s over his trepidation of the water buffalo, I will once again increase the distance on our walks.
Now to convince my mare, Neela…
If you like the kinder, gentler methods of horse training that are part of natural horsemanship, consider learning its tenets from one of the best: Bryan Neubert.
Neubert, a former Road to the Horse colt-starting judge, is a stellar horseman who demonstrates his natural horsemanship skills at every clinic he gives.
His schedule came to my attention as he prepares to visit Colorado in June, hosting a colt-starting and horsemanship clinic at horse trainer Larry Fleming‘s ranch in Hudson, Colo., June 6-9. Contact information for that clinic, and others, is at the bottom of this page.
If you want to know more about Bryan Neubert, here’s some information from his website:
Bryan was raised on his family’s ranch near Salinas, California. In his teen years he became friends with neighbor Bill Dorrance. He spent all the time he could with Bill, working with horses and braiding rawhide.
After college he worked with Bill steadily, starting and riding colts on Bill’s ranch. During this time Bryan met Bill’s friend Ray Hunt and Bill’s brother Tom Dorrance. He had many opportunities since those years to work for and with these gifted men. They have greatly influenced and helped him learn what he is able to accomplish with a horse and ultimately with parts of his life.
Bryan has spent 20 years cowboying and riding colts on some of the biggest ranches in Nevada and California. Thirteen of those years were spent as cowboss in charge of cattle, horses and the cowboy crew. He has had valuable experience working with wild horses in Nevada, as well as conducting demonstrations on wild horse handling across the country. He has a video titled Wild Horse Handling and was featured in Western Horseman. See the February ’96 issue, “Taking the Wild out of Mustangs” by Jim Overstreet.
Bryan and his wife Patty have been married for 27 years and are blessed with three children, Jim, Kate and Luke. They all make their living working with horses.
Since 1992, Bryan calls Alturas, California home. Alturas is located in the northeastern part of the state. He holds clinics at his home for part of the year and travels the United States and Canada the rest of the year helping people and their horses through his colt starting, horsemanship and cow working clinics.
Bryan is eager to share what he has learned. He believes that he is constantly learning and considers himself to be a continual student of horsemanship.
Here’s the rest of Bryan Neubert’s May schedule, followed by June through October. Find one near you and learn natural horsemanship skills from one of the best!22-26 Neubert Home Clinic
CS, H, CW
Alturas, CA Patty Neubert 530-233-3582 OR
firstname.lastname@example.org 5/29-6/2 Neubert Home Clinic
CS, H, CW
Alturas, CA Patty Neubert 530-233-3582 OR
email@example.com June 6-9 Hudson, CO
CS, H Ronda Nicoley 303-443-8550 cell
970-737-2505 home 13-15 Winterset, IA
CS, H Kara Muchow 608-334-3508 July 10-13 Bozeman, MT
CS, H/CW Jess Holloway 406-763-4113 17-20 Victor, ID
CS, H Bill/Jodi Seaton 208-7872382
firstname.lastname@example.org 25-27 Sheridan, WY
CS, RR Adam Gable 307-751-3938
email@example.com September 12-17 Special Problems, H
Limerick, ME Frannie Burridge 207-793-4101
firstname.lastname@example.org 19-20 Marion, MA
CS, H Jason Drass 508-946-9971
email@example.com 25-28 Pittstown, NJ
CS, H, CW 7 Springs Farm Lara 908-238-9589 cell firstname.lastname@example.org October 17-19 Junction City, OR
CW, H Scott DePaolo 541-607-1902 23-27 Neubert Home Clinic
CS, H, CW
Alturas, CA Patty Neubert 530-233-3582 OR
Research from Washington University in St Louis indicates that treating children who have autism in occupational therapy sessions using the movements of the horse, commonly called hippotherapy, may significantly improve balance, social responsiveness and other “life outcomes.”
The Horses and Humans Research Foundation provided funding to Washington University in St. Louis with the purpose of determining if using horse movement (hippotherapy) could improve balance and behavior in children with Autism.
The team measured outcomes from Occupational and Physical Therapy using horse movement (hippotherapy) for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The project was innovative because it used objective quantitative data collection in addition to qualitative standardized clinical scales.
The project followed thirteen children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as they participated in 12 weeks of 45-minute weekly hippotherapy sessions. These weekly treatments were conducted by an occupational therapist (OT) or OT Assistant who used horses, their movement and related activities as a primary part of the OT treatment.
“Hippotherapy is commonly used for children with ASD,” said Principal Investigator Tim L. Shurtleff, OTD, OTR/L. “However, up to this point no systematic evidence had been published on the impact of hippotherapy on children with ASD. No studies of hippotherapy have been reported about children with ASD but many children with ASD participate in hippotherapy. Evidence was needed to support treatment planning, and to support reimbursement for these interventions.”
Quantitatively, several variables studied indicated that participants had significant improvements in balance. Improving balance may enable these children to participate in many activities which may have previously been difficult for them. Qualitatively, interviews with parents to measure social responsiveness, sensory response, adaptive behaviors and outcomes at home, at school and on the playground were used to determine if treatments made a difference in the lives of the participants with ASD.
Several “life outcomes” were found to be significant. Parents reported the child learned to listen better, became less stubborn or sullen, showed higher levels of confidence during participation in leisure activities, played and interacted more appropriately with peers and they gained better body awareness.
Based upon these results, hippotherapy treatment may provide an alternative treatment that could enable children with ASD to participate more in typical activities of childhood with their peers.
Horses and Humans Research Foundation is the only organization dedicated solely to funding research to support the equine-assisted activities and therapies field. Since its founding, HHRF has awarded $400,000 in professional research efforts led by eight research teams in the United States, Canada and Germany. This is the second grant the Washington University in St Louis team has received from HHRF.
In the first study of its kind, researchers have determined that spending time with horses eases symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia.
A collaboration between The Ohio State University, an equine therapy center and an adult daycare center found that people with Alzheimer’s were able to safely groom, feed and walk horses under supervision—and the experience buoyed their mood and made them less likely to resist care or become upset later in the day.
The small pilot study, which appears in the journal Anthrozoös, suggests that equine therapy—a treatment used today for children and teens who have emotional and developmental disorders—could work for adults, too.
Holly Dabelko-Schoeny, associate professor of social work at Ohio State, said that equine therapy could supplement more common forms of animal therapy involving dogs or cats and provide a unique way to ease the symptoms of dementia without drugs.
“We wanted to test whether people with dementia could have positive interactions with horses, and we found that they can—absolutely,” Dabelko-Schoeny said. “The experience immediately lifted their mood, and we saw a connection to fewer incidents of negative behavior.”
In addition to memory loss, people with Alzheimer’s often experience personality changes, she explained. They can become depressed, withdrawn—even aggressive. As researchers look for a way to prevent or treat the disease, today’s therapies are becoming more focused on how to ease the emotional burden for patients and their families.
“Our focus is on the ‘now.’ What can we do to make them feel better and enjoy themselves right now? Even if they don’t remember it later, how can we help in this moment?” she said.
At the adult daycare center, a National Church Residences Center for Senior Health in downtown Columbus, clients normally partake in crafts, exercise and other activities to manage their dementia. For this study, sixteen of the center’s clients who had Alzheimer’s—nine women and seven men—volunteered to break with their regular routine.
Once a week, eight of the clients would remain at the center and pursue other activities while the other eight took a bus trip to the Field of Dreams Equine Education Center in Blacklick, Ohio. There, they visited with horses under the supervision of National Church Residences caretakers, as well as faculty and students from the College of Social Work and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State.
The clients visited the farm once a week for a month, so that every participant had four visits total. They groomed and bathed the horses, walked them, and fed them buckets of grass.
The four horses were chosen for their gentle dispositions and calmness when facing new people and new situations. All participate in therapeutic riding programs for children and teens at Field of Dreams.
The researchers saw obvious signs that the clients enjoyed their time on the farm: they smiled, laughed and talked to the horses. Even those who normally acted withdrawn became fully engaged in the experience.
There was a clear improvement in dementia-related behavior among the clients who visited the farm. To track behavior, the researchers used a scoring system called the Modified Nursing Home Behavior Problem Scale, in which staff at the center rated the frequency with which the participants fidgeted, resisted care, became upset or lost their temper on days they went to the farm or stayed at the center.
On a scale of zero to four—zero meaning the client never engaged in the problem behavior, and four meaning that they always engaged in it—scores for the participants who went to the farm were an average of one point lower than the scores for their peers who stayed at the center. So clients who visited the farm were, on average, better behaved throughout that day.
Through mouth swabs, the researchers also measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the patients’ saliva. For participants with less severe dementia, the researchers saw a rise in cortisol levels, possibly due to the “good stress” of being in a new situation.
There was one unexpected benefit, though: the therapy boosted physical activity. The clients all had physical limitations, but when presented with the horses, they were inspired to push the boundaries of those limitations.
Some clients who never wanted to leave their wheelchair asked for help in standing up; others who rarely wanted to walk stood up and walked unassisted, though a caretaker was always there to help them balance. The clients grew more physically active on each visit to the farm.
Family members reported that their loved one remained engaged with the experience even after returning home. One commented to researchers that her mother “would never remember what she did at the center during the day, but she always remembered what she did at the farm.”
While much study has gone into animal therapy as a treatment for dementia, that work has focused on dogs and cats, which can easily be brought to community-based care centers. This is the first study to examine equine therapy for the same population.
And while horses could possibly be brought to community centers for outdoor therapy, a situation where clients could periodically visit an equine therapy center might be the best option, Dabelko-Schoeny said. That way they get the full experience of being on the farm.
“I think another positive influence for these clients was the environment. They found the quietness and smells of the country very relaxing and restful. This was in contrast to their normal day care environment and their intercity dwelling,” Lorch said. “It is difficult to tell what factors made this successful, but we do know that it was most likely a combination of events.”
This study was funded by a private donor who wanted Ohio State to study the effectiveness of equine therapy for dementia. Now that the study is over, some of the clients’ families have elected to continue to visit the farm.
Coauthors on the paper included Gary Phillips, senior biostatistician at Ohio State’s Center for Biostatistics; Emily Darrough and Sara De Anna, both former master’s students in social work who have since graduated; and Marie Jarden and Denise Johnson, both doctoral students in veterinary medicine.
Ice storms, blizzards, floods, or tornadoes – it seems that over the past few years, horse owners have seen them all.
Disasters often strike without warning as demonstrated by the notable December ice storm that wreaked havoc on hundreds of thousands residents in Ontario, the Maritimes, and the northeastern U.S. with downed tree limbs and power lines. Many were without power for days, while for others it was weeks, which meant no heat, hydro or water.
No one is immune from the possible effects of a disaster, no matter what the season, but preparing ahead of time and having an emergency plan in place before disaster strikes will help to keep our horses safe and out of harm’s way.
To help horse owners be prepared, Barbara Sheridan of Equine Guelph put together the following advice:
Plan it Out
Being aware of the possible risks in your region is the first step toward preparing for any possible disaster that has the potential to cause a short term or long term disruption to you, your family and your animals. Is your area prone to flooding? What about tornadoes or blizzards? If the roads are closed, how do you get food to your horses?
The next step is to plan for any possible extended disruption of services. Authorities usually recommend having at least two weeks supply of feed/hay on hand, and kept stored in a dry area. Top off all water tanks and buckets before an impending storm, and store additional water in plastic trash cans secured with lids in a safe place. Consider having well-maintained generators on hand to provide emergency power, and have enough fuel to keep them running for several days. Always keep an up-to-date emergency care kit that includes vetwrap, bandages, medications, flashlights, batteries, etc. Having an envelope set aside with emergency cash, the amount depending on your budget and needs will also come in handy for times such as these.
In addition to Mother Nature’s list of natural disasters, you should also consider other potential dangers such as wildfires or the possibility of manmade emergencies including gas leaks or propane spills. Many times, these result in evacuation with very little notice.
In the case of an evacuation, while you might be able to take the family pet along with you to a hotel, it’s not the time to start calling around to find a safe location to move your horses. Prearrange an evacuation site for your horses and map out primary and secondary routes in advance. Develop a buddy system with friends and neighbouring barns. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when the time comes. Also, make sure your horses are trained to easily load and unload from a trailer. If evacuation is not possible, decide where on the property to safely store your horses. Micro chipping, branding, or tattooing, along with registration with online identification agencies, provides a permanent form of animal identification. As an alternative, ensure that your horses are equipped with some form of identification such as a halter tag, neck collar, or leg tag that contains your contact information, should you have to leave them behind.
Human Safety Comes First
In the case of a natural or man-made disaster, it’s important that the safety of humans come first, says District Chief Victor MacPherson of the Adjala-Tosorontio Fire Department. “Make sure that you and your family are safe before assisting your animals,” he says. “In the case of a fire, this is where emergency preparedness comes into play. If the barn is on fire, what do you do? What do you do with your livestock? My advice is, if it’s safe to do so, try to get them out. However, if you bring them out of the barn and just turn them loose, most likely the horses will try to run back into the barn. That’s where their haven is; what they consider to be their safe place. People should have a location in mind ahead of time to safely keep them together, such as a field or another barn far away from the fire.”
MacPherson recalls an incident with a large grass fire that claimed nearly 200 acres in the Adjala-Tosorontio area in July 2012. “The grass fire was moving aggressively towards a certain farm area, and was a heavy fuel load [had a lot to burn], with a lot of smoke,” he says. “Smoke can be just as dangerous as fire because it’ll spook the horses. With the help of the property owner, we were successful in moving them out to a safer place.”
As is often the case in an emergency when people call 911, firefighters are usually the first responders to the scene. Because of this, many firefighters are now receiving training in how to handle animals in emergency situations.
Last year, the Adjala-Tosorontio Fire Department held a Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue (TLAER) course for first responders and animals owners. Deborah Chute, owner and operator of Laurenwood Stables and a volunteer firefighter with the Adjala-Tosorontio Fire Department, helped co-ordinate this course after seeing the need for such a training program.
“I first started thinking about the need for a course such as this one after the grass fire in June 2012,” she says. “It was necessary to evacuate people, but there were over 50 horses that were also at risk, as well as other large animals and livestock. Thankfully, the fire was brought under control, but contemplating the logistics of moving that many animals made me realize we needed some additional training.”
Preparedness is Essential
While it’s impossible to prepare for all conditions, don’t let an emergency situation catch you off guard. Having a basic plan in place ahead of time for either the evacuation or sheltering of your horses allows you to handle an emergency with less stress and a clearer head.
“Pre-incident planning is crucial for any farm owner,” says Chute. “Farms by their very nature contain many hazards to humans, animals and the environment, and careful planning before the event of an emergency can save lives and property. Local fire departments are usually quite happy to assist in developing pre-incident plans and can give further advice on fire detection and suppression systems that can be retrofitted or installed in new buildings. Regular inspection and repair of all human and animal housing and fencing will go a long way to keep you and your animals safe.”
Sign up for our free e-newsletter at EquineGuelph.ca which will deliver monthly welfare tips throughout 2014 and announce tools to aid all horse owners in carrying out their ‘Full-Circle-Responsibility’ to our beloved horses.
Visit Equine Guelph’s Welfare Education page for more information http://www.equineguelph.ca/education/welfare.php
In partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Equine Guelph is developing a ‘Full-Circle-Responsibility’ equine welfare educational initiative which stands to benefit the welfare of horses in both the racing and non-racing sectors.
Equine Guelph will be hosting an Emergency Preparedness course for horse owners Sept 18 (tentative date) followed by a Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Awareness and Operations Level course Sept 19, 20, 21 (tentative dates). Contact Susan Raymond email@example.com for more details.
About them: Equine Guelph is the horse owners’ and care givers’ Centre at the University of Guelph. It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups. Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government – for the good of the equine industry as a whole. For further information, visit www.EquineGuelph.ca.
Two recent equine rabies cases in Tennessee and one in New York serve as reminders that rabies is a real threat to the lives of horses, and that the disease can surface at any time.
While the total number of equine cases is still being tallied for 2013, the number of confirmed equine cases in 2012 reached 47.
“We know there were dozens of cases of equine rabies throughout the country in 2013, including cases from as far east as Vermont, as far south as Texas, as far north as Minnesota and as far west as Colorado,” says Megan Green, DVM, Manager, Large Animal Veterinary Services, Merial. “It is heartbreaking to see a horse suffering from rabies, especially since there are relatively low-cost vaccines widely available. Rabies is completely preventable if the proper steps are taken, but it is 100 percent fatal if preemptive action is ignored.”
Besides the cases in horses, in the past several years, there have been thousands of incidents of animals with confirmed rabies, 92 percent of which were in wildlife:
2010 – 6,155
2011 – 6,037
2012 – 6,162
“The numbers of rabid animals in the wild should be concerning to horse owners because all it takes is one bite from an infected animal for a horse to contract the fatal disease,” says Green. “Most horses are kept in areas where it’s impossible to prevent every skunk, fox or raccoon from wandering near enough to come into contact with the horse.”
The onset of rabies is marked by variable clinical signs, which may include aggressive behavior, colic, lack of coordination, hyperexcitability, depression, convulsions or paralysis. The incubation period can take anywhere from two weeks up to 15 months, but once clinical signs appear, death can occur in less than one day.
Because there is no way to diagnose rabies in live animals, horse owners and the treating veterinarians who suspect rabies face the gut-wrenching task of sending the horse’s brain to a diagnostic laboratory where it is examined for the presence of lesions that are characteristic with rabies.
The only surefire way to help protect your horse against the disease is to vaccinate with a product like the IMRAB® rabies vaccine from Merial.
“As spring approaches and horse owners start thinking about vaccinating, they need to keep in mind the risk of exposing their horses to rabies,” says Green. “Horse owners invest significant time and resources into their horses and consider them to be part of the family. The minimal cost to vaccinate is worth so much more in peace of mind knowing a horse is protected from a tragic and preventable death.”
Outbreak-Alert Keeps Horse Owners Informed
While the best way to prevent equine diseases like rabies is to vaccinate, horse owners can also take advantage of the free Outbreak-Alert program created by Merial. This tool is available to horse owners and veterinarians to help evaluate the risk of diseases such as rabies in their area or areas to which they might be traveling.
The program includes a website with maps indicating the presence of confirmed cases in all species, including the carriers of rabies, West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, influenza, Potomac horse fever and Equine Herpes Virus. Free, printable information about each of the diseases, their clinical signs and treatments is also available on the site.
Horse owners and veterinarians can also sign up for free text or email alerts, which are sent when diseases are identified within a certain radius of their geographic location.
For more information about MERIAL branded vaccines, visit www.equinewnv.com.
For more information about or to sign up for Outbreak-Alert, visit www.outbreak-alert.com.
Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 6,000 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2012 sales were $2.8 billion.
It’s hard to see the good side of a horse who bites or kicks.
Horse rescue advocate Cate Lamm continues her story of seeing a better side to Max, her latest project horse from Colorado Horse Rescue:
In my last blog entry, I began telling the story of Max, my project horse from the Colorado Horse Rescue. He was a comedian, with a dark side. Specifically, he liked to scare and bite people.
All the staff members at the rescue were afraid to handle Max, so when it came time for me to take him to my barn, I had to halter him and load him into the trailer. Our first meeting turned out to be important.
My method of training horses is based on seeing the horse as an equal and a partner in the process. I work with horses through love and trust, not violence and fear. So, how was I going to communicate to Max that he was loved and safe, but that his dangerous behavior wasn’t acceptable?
My own rescue horse, Banjo, had also been deemed dangerous. His dangerous behavior was driven by fear. He needed to gain confidence through patient work.
But Max’s story was different. His behavior had a certain amount of premeditation to it. I decided that when I met Max, I’d do my best to keep things pleasant. But if he tried to bite me I’d have to defend myself. (I’m not a fan of hitting horses, but when it comes to a biting horse, you have to protect yourself.)
On the day I went to get Max, the weather was cool and sunny. When I entered the big, dry pasture, he left the large herd and started coming toward me. That was how he approached most of his “victims.”
I was stuck by how handsome he was—this big, solid-black Quarter Horse with a devious twinkle in his eye.
When we reached each other, I began to stroke him and tell him how handsome he was. He seemed relaxed and ready to go. No sign of viciousness.
I slowly moved around to his left side to put on the halter. Then, with no change in his expression or any type of warning, he swung his head around, teeth bared, coming for my shoulder with tremendous force!
I was ready for him. I brought my hand down hard on his nose. He stopped short with a surprised expression in his face. Shock actually. Then he calmly turned his head around and waited patiently while I haltered him.
As I walked him quietly to the trailer, I could see the wheels turning in his head. Was he was plotting his next move? I easily loaded him into the trailer, and off we went.
Round one goes to Cate. But what would happen in the coming weeks?
This project helps find homes for America’s 170,000 to 200,000 horses in need of care and shelter.
Here’s how it works:
• Begin the search for your next equine partner atAHomeForEveryHorse.com. You can search horses waiting for homes at nonprofit shelters across the country. Browse by rescue horse, or find rescue organizations in your area.
• Visit the site’s “Services” section to learn about your local rescue organizations. Find out how you can volunteer, donate, or simply spread the word.
• Look for upcoming stories on EquiSearch.com related to horse rescue.
If your 501(c)(3) rescue organization would like to join the Home For Every Horse Project, call (866) 467-7323, ext. 100. Equine.com is a part of Active Interest Media Equine Network.
The idea of owning our own small farm was appealing in every way except one: Our beloved farrier and friend was declining to move with us.
Keith Jacobson has been trimming our horse’s hooves and dispensing invaluable advice for years, so when I realized we were faced with the sad outcome of moving out of his driving range (O.K, hundreds of miles away) I didn’t know how we would manage without him.
So Keith, in his typical sage way, suggested to my husband Matt that he learn to trim our horse’s hooves himself, sort of like the “teach a man to fish” theory. It would be easy, Keith said, if Matt trimmed the horses about every three weeks and used an electric grinder designed to gradually grind down a horse’s hoof.
So Matt gave it a try, and that worked pretty well, although the grinder was rather cumbersome and very noisy, which our horses did not appreciate.
Then we heard about the Electric Hoof Knife. It’s small, efficient and quieter than the grinder. The Electric Hoof Knife and its discs duplicate the actions of a hoof knife, rasp and nippers and can be used for nearly all hoof care tasks. Each Equine set comes with two patented trimming discs. The first is the four-tooth chainsaw disc with tungsten-carbide-coated teeth, used to precisely remove hoof material in eggshell-thin slivers. The second is the power rasp disc, used to put an extra-fine finish on hooves after trimming with the chainsaw disc. The set also includes a diamond-coated chainsaw file, a carrying case, safety glasses and a tail tie.
Keith advised we give it a try, and he was on hand for the review, as well.
The overwhelming consenus? An enthusiastic thumb’s up.
“It’s lightweight and easy to use,” Matt said. “And it didn’t bother the horses as much as the grinder did.”
The Electric Hoof Knife is a good match for a do-it-yourself horse owner who is willing to trim frequently, Keith said.
“I would say it is an excellent tool for the horse owner who wants to trim their own horses, provided they are frequent trimmers,” Keith said. “This way they could trim every 7 to 10 days, just the slightest amount.”
Keith and Matt found that for their purposes, the sandpaper head worked better than the chainsaw head.
“The cutter teeth are great for doing bars,” Keith noted. “But if you trim the horse weekly, the sandpaper head would do everything and be excellent for that.”
And with the way it’s designed, the Electric Hoof Knife is not likely to get a novice hoof trimmer into trouble.
“It’s the safest of all the trimming tools you could use,” Keith said.
If the name is not familiar, perhaps it’s because it used to be known as the Merlin Hoof Trimming Set, and was rebranded, redesigned and renamed the Electric Hoof Knife. Updates to internal and external components have made it more suitable for performing hoof trimming tasks including preparing, trimming and finishing hooves. Using customer feedback, the newly-improved model has been redesigned by DeWolf & Associates, LLC to be more durable, effective and efficient.
Internally, the new Electric Hoof Knife utilizes spiral-bevel gears which are stronger, operate more quietly and efficiently, and produce less vibration than its predecessor. Through the addition of a powerful, high-capacity fan and extra air vents on both the neck and bottom of the Electric Hoof Knife, the new model stays cooler and works harder, so it can run for longer periods of time.
The new model runs off of a fixed-speed motor that rotates effortlessly at 13,000 RPMs, which has been determined the optimal speed for hoof trimming. The updated circuit board and electrical components are made from eco-friendly materials and are RoHS compliant.
On the outside, the Electric Hoof Knife now comes with a one piece cast aluminum safety guard, created to be more durable and to better protect the operator from flying debris. A newly designed switch guard significantly reduces accidental starting of the tool, and more resilient materials make the Electric Hoof Knife less susceptible to damage. The new lightweight exterior and grittier texture provide comfort and control, so users can trim longer with less hand and wrist fatigue.
Weighing 1.3 pounds and measuring 11.5 inches long, this lightweight tool can trim through the driest and toughest hooves in seconds without requiring the physical exertion and strain normally associated with traditional hand tools. It is especially useful for those who suffer from joint and muscular ailments or women who find traditional tools too cumbersome.
People who have limited access to electrical power can easily run the Electric Hoof Knife off of a generator or an automobile’s DC/AC power converter, so the tool is accessible anywhere, anytime.
I know we will be packing it with us when we go.
For more information, or to watch videos of the Electric Hoof Knife in action, visit www.ElectricHoofKnife.com or call 877-320-8203.
About them: DeWolf & Associates, LLC is a small business established in 2011 in Tallahassee, Fla. Allen DeWolf, President of DeWolf & Associates, LLC, began working with Arthur Aveling of King Arthur’s Tools in 1993 and in 2011 became jointly responsible for R&D and marketing of products manufactured exclusively by King Arthur’s Tools. In 2012, DeWolf began the process of redesigning the power unit (the main component in the Merlin Hoof Trimming Set sold by King Arthur’s Tools) to make it better suited for hoof trimming.
The Electric Hoof Knife is a power tool that utilizes chainsaw disc technology to duplicate the action of a traditional hoof knife, rasp and nippers. Used by farriers, hoof trimmers, dairymen, herdsmen, horse owners, zoos, animal preserves and veterinarians in the United States and around the world, the Electric Hoof Knife is the first of its kind in the hoof trimming industry. The Electric Hoof Knife and its patented discs are specifically designed for trimming, preparing and finishing hoofs. The Electric Hoof Knife brand is solely owned by DeWolf & Associates, LLC and has no connection to King Arthur’s Tools.
How do you teach a young or green horse how to jump cross country?
Horse Journal performance editor John Strassburger put together a guide called “Get Ready To Jump ‘Cross-Country,’” advising riders on how to prepare for riding a cross-country course without having solid cross-country jumps over which to school:
The graphic here depicts three exercises that we at Phoenix Farm like to use with young horses and inexperienced riders, exercises that prepare them for the challenges they’ll meet when cross-country schooling. We like them because they encourage, even require, horses and riders to concentrate on moving their feet, looking for the next jump, and going there without relying on the rein aids. But there really isn’t any limit to the exercises like this that you can build to accomplish these goals.
Exercises A and B are what we call footwork exercises. They teach a horse to be aware of and to move his feet (and, thus, his body) correctly in between and over jumps. They also encourage a horse to jump straight and to push off evenly with his hind legs.
Exercise C combines a footwork line with additional jumps to teach him to focus on the obstacle in front of him, not on things around it, while encouraging straightness.
Exercise A is a straightforward, one-way gymnastic line (crossrail, to vertical, to oxer) with rails added between the jumps. The
rails should be raised to about 6” on Bloks or other similar devices, and their placement requires horses to land inside them, take a stride over the raised rails, and then jump. This exercise is especially useful for horses who overjump fences and land unbalanced, but it can also be useful for overly cautious or lazy horses, in both cases because the rails force them to get the distances right.
Begin with the just step rail before the crossrail and the step rail after it. When your horse is jumping smoothly through this first part of the exercise, add the vertical. Then add the step rail after the vertical, and then add the oxer.
Keep these jumps small—this exercise is not about jumping big fences. It’s about jumping relatively small fences correctly because they’re moving their feet. If you want to trot in, place the first rail 8 feet from the crossrail; if you want to canter, place it at 9 feet.
Exercise B puts a bounce in the middle of two low, wide oxers, with step rails at the beginning and end. You should do this exercise at the canter, and you can jump it in both directions, off either lead. The oxers should be about 2’3” to 3’ high and about as wide as they are high, depending on the level of the horse and rider. The cavaletti should be about 18”, the normal highest setting for them.
Exercise B teaches the horse how to expand his frame over the first oxer, balance himself for the bounce, and then expand his frame again for the second oxer. The first step rail sets him up for the first oxer; the last step rail requires him to finish the exercise in balance.
To introduce your horse to this exercise, start without the second oxer and step rail. Add them when the horse is jumping confidently and smoothly.
You can jump Exercise C in both directions, and you can make a small course using the oxers and the vertical set to the side. Jumping one of the verticals in the line to one of the oxers (or oxer to vertical) practices focus and straightness, and turning between the fences of the gymnastic line to jump the vertical in the center practices focus and turning.
This is a very useful group of jumps, and, again, they’re not meant to be tests of scope. The fences in the line could be set anywhere from 2’ to 3’3” for most horses—the objective is to encourage horse and rider to look adown the line of jumps and adjust or hold their balance.
Making the jumps big and causing them to hit them and knock them down is distracting. The other three jumps could be 3 or 4 inches bigger than the line jumps to encourage them to focus on finding them amongst the line of jumps.
- We like to use exercises like these to teach our horses how to jump on their own and how to take care of themselves when they’re jumping—a very important skill to have, especially on a cross-country course.
Thanks to my long experience of foxhunting and steeplechase racing, I’ve always believed that horses shouldn’t rely on their riders to “hold them up” when they jump. So I’ve always used gymnastic exercises to teach them that skill, and I’ve always highly valued horses who have a strong survival instinct, who refuse to fall.
I value that skill even more highly now, since I’m 53 and Heather and I have a 3-year-old son. Heather can actually watch me ride my two mares, Alba and Amani, at intermediate and preliminary levels, in an almost-calm state, because she knows they have that survival instinct and training. Alba won’t let herself fall, because falling would mean she didn’t do her job, and that can’t happen. And Amani simply will not the body beautiful be found in the horizontal position. She’d stop before she fell.
But, because of lack of confidence or because of a belief that they should be micro-managing every single footfall, some riders never allow their horses (or their students’ horses) to jump by themselves. So what happens if the rider is “wrong” to a fence, if he or she doesn’t see the correct stride on sloping ground or if the horse slips on wet grass or mud? If a horse doesn’t know how to use his feet and his body, he’ll likely refuse and lose confidence, or he could fall.
These or similar exercises are important stepping stones to jumping cross-country, but the cold, hard truth is that, to be fully prepared, you’ll have to include some actual cross-country schooling in your routine. You’ll want to school over a cross-country course before your first event, if you want to move up a level, or if you develop a problem in competition.
And our most important advice for actual cross-country schooling sessions is this: Put the jumps together.
That is, jump the jumps in a series—not just one jump at a time—to develop a galloping rhythm and to teach your horse to look for the next fence. A cross-country round should feel and look rhythmic. It shouldn’t look like a lot of speeding up and slowing down—it should look and feel as if you’re able to adjust your horse within a rhythm, similar to a dressage test. You can’t develop that feeling if you just school one jump five or six times and then walk to the next jump.
Congress moved one step closer to protecting horses from the cruel practice of “soring” when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1406/H.R. 1518) on April 9 by voice vote. The PAST Act will end the decades-long abusive training method of soring, which involves the use of chemicals and devices on the legs and feet of Tennessee walking horses to force them to perform the high-stepping “Big Lick” gait.
Keith Dane, vice president of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, said, “Horse soring is a disgrace, but growing momentum for the PAST Act means that reform is within reach. Today’s committee action was a significant step forward. Congress should ensure a sound future for Tennessee walking horses by passing this legislation on the Senate floor without delay.”
The HSUS and Humane Society Legislative Fund expressed their thanks to Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., for their leadership on S. 1406, and to Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Ranking Member John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., for their support during today’s committee markup.
The PAST Act will fortify the federal Horse Protection Act, which was passed in 1970 but contained loopholes that have allowed soring to thrive in factions of the Tennessee walking horse industry. The bill’s needed reforms include eliminating the failed industry self-policing system, banning devices used in the soring process from the show ring, and strengthening penalties to provide a meaningful deterrent against abusing horses to cheat at horse shows.
The PAST Act is co-sponsored by 51 Senators and 269 Representatives. It is endorsed by the American Horse Council and more than 50 other national and state horse groups, the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and state veterinary groups in all 50 states, key individuals in the Tennessee walking horse show world, and many others.
Then you need to read the following tips from HorseSafetyUSA.com:
Remember, your child’s safety and well-being is placed under the guidance and supervision of their riding instructor and the instructor’s assistants. So, set a realistic horseback riding goal for your child. Understand the horseback riding experience provides a child the opportunity to build self-esteem while participating in a physically demanding sport requiring physical balance, coordination and strength, in addition to learning decision making through discipline and dedication, along with the development of a partnership with a powerful animal.
Horseback riding is a fun and rewarding activity. So, allow the child enjoy their riding experience as they learn the basics of the sport before their introduction to the competitive aspect of the sport. As a parent, do not live your dreams to ride through your child’s life experiences. So, consider a non-competitive riding lesson program as the place to start, where the pressure to perform in ‘horse shows’ is not the ultimate goal. Keep it fun, positive.
Years of observation and experience have taught us that men view horses and their uses differently than women. Therefore, we would be remiss not to address the gender difference between young boys and girls in their personal attraction to developing a relationship with horses. The natural affinity of females to the sport of horseback riding over males is significant. So, if your child is a young boy, give him a chance to develop his level of confidence through fun activities that cultivate his athletic abilities and curiosities about the unique opportunities that horses provide. Perhaps he needs to experience the feeling of being a ‘cowboy’ after learning the basics to safely ride and control a horse, introducing him to the non-competitive experience of trail riding. The key is to recognize the differences in how each gender views horses differently.
12 factors to consider before choosing that “just right” lesson program for your child are:
1. Introductory Lesson
Give some thought to allowing your child to take a ‘first lesson’ just to introduce them to the sport of horseback riding. And, during this introductory process, let them seek their level of comfort in riding style, English or Western. So, this might take a couple of different stable visits which will serve as great introductions to local riding stables, as well as the instructors and the quality of horses being used in their teaching programs.
2. Location of Riding Stables
Develop a list of farms in your area and call each to get an idea of what programs are offered for children. Your state Horse Council can serve as a resource.
3. Observe the Riding Lesson Program
Ask if you may stop by “sometime” to observe the program. Best times are weekday afternoons after 4 p.m. and Saturday mornings or afternoons. Observe the overall condition of the property, including barns, stables, paddocks, etc., as well as the condition of the horses. The property does not have to be fancy. Some very good programs are offered in modest facilities – and the cost may be lower.
a. Inspect the tack, looking for worn leather and buckles that do not fasten correctly.
b. How does the instructor speak to the students? Is the instructor’s full attention given to the lesson? Is the instructor on a cell phone at any time?
c. Is the area large enough for the student(s) in the lesson?
d. Are there sufficient number of instructors and assistants to monitor all the mounted students?
e. Are all the students wearing protective riding helmets?
f. Are multi-performance levels of horses available to students so they can advance to higher levels of riding competency?
Get references, including contacts for current students, for the riding instructor and the farm owner, and then check them out through links on the internet such as Facebook and website searches. It is feasible to contact your local Better Business Bureau for additional information on their past business practices. Check to see if registered sex offenders are associated with the stable which can be done discreetly on the internet.
5. Certification and Insurance
Be sure to inquire if the riding instructor(s) and/or stable have any certifications or specialized licensing, such as first aid, CPR, riding accreditations. Learn about their professional background for teaching horseback riding, and their experience in teaching horseback riding. And, inquire about the instructor’s and stable’s professional insurance for the operation of a lesson program.
6. Legal Documents
Obtain a copy of the waiver the parent and/or guardian must sign before their child commits to the riding lesson program, making sure there is adequate protection for your child’s well-being.
7. Introductory Lessons vs. Long-term Package
Provide your child with an introductory lesson before making a commitment to a series of lessons or some form of a lesson package.
8. Decision of Riding Instructor
After visiting the stables and observing their lesson programs, mutually decide with your child that discipline to pursue (Western or English, which includes huntseat, saddleseat, and dressage).
9. Observe and Encourage
Parents should be encouraged to remain on the site during the introductory lessons. Sitting quietly, observing the progress of their child and their child’s interaction with the instructor and horse or pony.
10. Safety Equipment and Attire
Make sure your child has the proper riding apparel: shoes or boots with a heel (no sneakers or sandals), long pants or (preferably) jodhpurs, leather riding gloves, and a new properly fitted riding safety helmet approved for equestrian use (never substitute with a bike or skateboard helmet). Make inquiries where clothing can be acquired to prevent the expensive new purchases until the child has advanced in her riding experience. The purchase of a new approved riding safety helmet is recommended unless the riding stable is providing an approved riding safety helmet.
11. The Schoolmaster – Lesson Horse
Remember, your child might not necessarily be placed on a pony as a beginner rider. The key is not the size of the horse or pony, but the ability and level of training of the animal to provide the rider a controllable, safe ride. The well trained and behaved lesson horse is referred to as a ‘schoolmaster’, meaning the horse will teach the child.
12. The Compulsion To Own A Horse
As a parent be aware of the fact there is a bonding process between the child and their favorite lesson horse. So, be prepared to hear, “Can we buy Jingles, so I can have a horse of my own?” It will happen, so recognize a competent lesson program can be the gateway to horse or pony ownership and a new lifestyle.
Remember, riding instructors are not like sending your child to middle school, not all riding instructors are formally educated in teaching horseback riding. It is worth the effort to do your homework for selecting the most affordable, competent horseback riding program.
“Just a little homework and effort,” advises Hipsley “can lead to a lifetime of equestrian enjoyment for your child – and for you.”
A recognized national and international equine safety professional for nearly 25 years, Hipsley is the lead author along with of the upcoming publication Equine Risk Management & Safety. The manual is the first volume in The Equine Safety Library to be offered by HorseSafetyUSA.com in both e-book and softbound editions.
HorseSafetyUSA, founded in 2011, is dedicated to improving the safety of all aspects of the professional and amateur levels of the equine industry and equestrian sports through education, training, certification, and accreditation.
“Plan 4 Progress,” is a year-long course that will help increase the adoption success rates for horses who have been through traumatic experiences. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 11, and 25 rescues around the country will be chosen.Participants receive access to nine training videos for staff and volunteers with equine safety tips, knots and tool handling and equine behavior. They also receive six videos for trainers with tips and techniques in the areas of catching, yielding the hindquarters/forequarters/ leading and backing, tying, trailer loading, farrier prep and veterinary prep. Monthly phone and video conferences with Carter Ranch Horse networking opportunities with leading, like-minded rescues and trainers who are implementing standards for rehoming horses humanely are also part of the program. As the nation’s most influential advocate for local rescue standards, evaluations and training programs to ensure animal welfare, The Humane Society of the United States and the Doris Day Equine Center will work with Carter Ranch Horse and Trevor Carter for the second year in a row to host this virtual training. The DDEC at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch is operated by The Fund for Animals, an affiliate of The HSUS. About them: The Fund for Animals operates the nation’s largest and most diverse network of animal care centers. An affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, The Fund for Animals provides hands-on care and safe haven for more than 3,000 animals representing 150 species each year, including those rescued from cruelty and neglect, victims of the exotic pet trade, injured and orphaned wildlife, refugees from research labs, and many more, and works to prevent cruelty through advocacy and education. For more information visit fundforanimals.org.
The Fund for Animals’ animal care centers include : Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas · Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in California · Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts · Duchess Sanctuary in Oregon.
Horse Journal Performance Editor John Strassburger is a lifelong three-day event rider and a professional trainer in California. His review of Phillip Dutton’s outstanding book, Modern Eventing with Phillip Dutton, gives you an inside look at why this book is destined to become the bible of three-day eventing:
If you’re an event rider, big names don’t get much bigger than Phillip Dutton. (And even if you aren’t an eventer, unless you’ve been living in isolation for 15 years, you’ve probably heard of him.) He’s got the quintessentially American story of a young man from overseas coming to the United States and rising to the top of his sport, including winning two Olympic team gold medals.
But just as impressive as his personal success has been the long line of students that have moved through Dutton’s True Prospect Farm and gone on to glory of their own. Clearly, the system developed by Dutton and passed on to his protégés is incredibly successful.
This book is the bible of the Dutton system, the guidebook of his program. From feeding programs and saddle choice, to schooling exercises and horse selection, every piece of what the True Prospect Farm juggernaut has created is carefully cataloged here.
For an interested student, this book is a comprehensive how-to guide, even if it’s not terrifically creative. But that’s the trick. The level of detail here is so intense that it’s hard to envision anyone other than a dedicated student of the sport picking it up for a bit of light reading.
As a trainer, it’s a fantastic guide, and implementation of at least parts of the Dutton program can only help any competitor or serious student of horse training.
We have no technical complaint of the book—it is well-written, well-organized, and truly comprehensive. It’s also filled with excellent, illustrative photos of Dutton, his students, and his equipment and barn workings. But the level of detail—an intrinsic factor in Dutton’s training and competitive success—may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
There are a few exceptions to the technical framework: One is a small section at the end, in which Dutton discusses many of his top horses and their careers—at turns funny, enlightening, and sad.
The other exception is a healthy dose of sport psychology sprinkled throughout the book. Anyone who has seen Dutton perform with ice water in his veins time and again can see the inordinate value in his insight here. He also has segments in the various chapters called Personal Stories, which illustrate his points with real-life experience.
Since we’re eventers and trainers, we loved this book. But a more general audience might not find it so compelling.
Bottom Line: If you want to know every tip, trick and guideline from one the most successful eventing program in American history, then this book is for you. It’s a comprehensive guide to the system that has made Dutton, and his pantheon of students, the vanguard of American eventing. From feeding, to training, to tack and more, it’s all here—a blueprint for success.
Best Suited For: People with enough of a knowledge base to absorb an in-depth, comprehensive guide to the care, selection and management of event horses, and to the sport of eventing.
You’ll Be Disappointed If: You aren’t an eventer (or at least interested in their management techniques) or you’re looking for a basic guide.
Early spring is the ideal time to overseed pastures, according to Laurie Cerny, editor and publisher of good-horsekeeping.com.
“After the hard winter we have had with heavy snow pack there has been some winter-kill. Pastures are really going to need some TLC, including overseeding to get them back in shape,” said Cerny, who’s recently release Good-Horsekeeping’s Guide To Pasture Management.
Here are some tips for pasture overseeding:
- Walk fields as early in spring as possible. This is the best way to see where there has been winterkill, mold, bare spots, and dirt tunnels made by field mice while underneath the snow.
- March and early April are generally a good time to overseed as long as you have several days of thawing and freezing. It also gives you a couple of weeks before spreading manure and fertilizing
- Pick the right seed for your soil. Orchard grass does well on most soils. Timothy does better in damper, heavier soils. Brome does OK on sandy soils but it’s very drought tolerant. Alfalfa is very drought tolerant but is difficult to overseed because it will not grow within a certain radius of another alfalfa plant.
- Buying seed by the pound from a bonafide forage dealer is the best source for seed. When you buy it individually by the pound you get just that seed and not filler grasses.
- If you buy bagged pasture/hay seed understand the language of a seed tag. The percentage of a certain seed by the weight. Because some seeds are very small and light – 20% of the seed in a mix could actually result in more like 40% of your stand. Be wary of hay mix blends that say *VNS* * this stands for variety not stated* and could mean any type of seed is included.
- While you can use a seeder – including a hand seeder or even a fertilizer spreader, hand broadcasting tends to work best and you can control how much goes where – more in bare spots and less or none where there is a thick turf.
- Make sure if seed is treated to wear plastic gloves and to wash clothes after seeding.
- Pay attention to the wind. It can be difficult to overseed if it’s extremely windy. A little bit of wind, however, can actually help you broadcast the seed.
- Do not overseed on the snow if you have problems with wildlife like birds and deer. They will eat the seed. Watch for flocks of birds in your fields after you overseed. If they become a problem scare them off using deterrents like a scarecrow or by making a loud noise.
- Keep a pasture journal where you can make notes about when you overseeded, which pastures were seeded, and what seed you used.
- Keep horses off overseeded fields for 6-8 weeks. If they are really small pastures you may want to keep the field out of rotation for one season.
The guide, which covers pasture overseeding, also includes pasture rotation, dry lots, winter management, and more. It is available through www.good-horsekeeping.com for $3.95 for electronic copies.
Do you stay on top of news in the horse industry? An undercover investigation into the ongoing behind-the-scenes abuses of racehorses by a major trainer in the Thoroughbred industry confirms that the industry continues to be plagued by corruption and animal cruelty, relating to doping and the running of injured horses, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
The HSUS believes there is tolerance for a high rate of injuries and horse deaths on the track – with the New York Times revealing that 24 horses die a week on American race tracks. The investigation was conducted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and reported by the New York Times.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement:
“This is yet another scathing expose of unacceptable abuses of horses, reckless use of performance-enhancing drugs and disregard for any meaningful ethical standards in the industry. It’s apparent a blend of self-regulation and meager state regulation has been a colossal failure. If racing is to be cleaned up and the public’s confidence restored, independent, national oversight–with meaningful penalties for violators—is the only pathway. Congress should act now to pass legislation to rein in the abuses and finally hold the horseracing industry accountable.”
Currently, each state’s racing commission sets its own rules, allowing trainers to escape oversight by simply moving to another state. With no national governing body for the sport, there is no consistency across the country.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, H.R. 2012/S. 973, introduced by Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., would designate the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as the independent anti-doping organization for interstate horseraces. The agency would create universal rules on the use of drugs, prohibiting race day medication of horses with performance-enhancing drugs. Any racetrack that wanted to offer “simulcast” wagering would be required to participate.
The bill includes stiff penalties for cheating, a lifetime ban for the most severe types of doping, and suspensions for rules violations that would apply nationwide. Pacelle testified in favor of the bill at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade on Nov. 21, 2013.
When was the last time you went on a “virtual ride” with a horse trainer?
Internationally recognized horse whisperer Missy Wryn provides comprehensive horse management, horsetraining, and effective communication workshops, clinics, and presentations across the country and at her Zen Barn in Estacada, Oregon. Now she shares some of what she knows by wearing a helment cam and taking her horse Paco on a series of adventurous rides.
It’s very fun to watch; it’s as if you’re riding the horse. Here’s how Missy describes her sense of being one with her horse:
To describe the feeling when a horse follows you, dances with you and engages you in play, is a moment that is awe-inspiring, breathtaking and deeply emotional. Some describe it as magical, others say it’s simply herd instinct – I would describe it as an etheric, energetic moment of engagement between two beings, the invisible tether.
When we as humans set aside our expectations of performance and don the behavior of a compassionate herd leader, suddenly the horse steps into a trusting awareness where the invisible tether is able to intertwine between human and horse.
Sure we can train our horses to mimic our movements, perform particular behaviors through means of reward or discipline, but to be together, truly intertwined in a communication that transcends words and cues is a moment of energetic beings intertwining sharing thought and emotion.
You can now see and feel the invisible tether virtually as captured through my helmet cam by visiting The Invisible Tether playlist on YouTube: