Canada's Equine Guide 2020 - SAMPLE

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Ringo Star



SEASONS A Year-Long Horse Health Guide

RECONCILING TWO LOVES Motherhood and Horses

EC Unveils New COACH


Salute to SADDLE

MAKERS Creators of Functional Art


4-H Canada




Learn To Do


Middle-Age Horse Madness HORSE CRAZY FOR LIFE


HORSE WELFARE Equestrianism & Animal Rights


Equitation Science


May I?



Horse Care


By Margaret Evans and Kathy Smith


ach season brings with it certain needs for equine care, and an annual horse health care agenda can help with some of the planning as the months rapidly roll by. Horse owners are good at knowing the value of organizing and preparing ahead to help their horses stay healthy, and to budget for the more expensive seasonal needs ahead of time.


As crocuses push their way through slushy snow, horse owners breathe a sigh of relief that maybe the worst of winter is over and spring is on its way. In any horse barn, the coming of spring launches a flurry of activity in preparation for the coming season, and it’s the perfect opportunity to make sure 10

Canada’s Equine Guide 2020

your horse is healthy and ready to go back into regular work. The pre-season visit from your veterinarian is an important part of the horse’s overall health plan. “The spring horse health exam can be quite different from a mid-season exam,” says Steve Chiasson, DVM, CVMA. “During the riding season, veterinarians will often be called to investigate a specific problem that is occurring, such as respiratory difficulty at rest, or worsening lameness that is affecting performance. But the pre-season exam is generally focused on a broader view of your horse’s health. It is a snapshot in time that takes into account both medical history and potential future plans for your horse activities. And it is incredibly valuable.”


The spring checkup should start with a good history of everything that has happened over the winter season. “Nobody is more in tune with how things are going than the person who sees the horse every day — and that’s you,” says Chiasson. The basis of the spring health checkup is a thorough physical exam. This includes an evaluation of cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal function, as well as a musculoskeletal evaluation depending on the horse’s history and type of work he does. As part of this checkup, and before your spring conditioning program begins in earnest, a soundness evaluation by the veterinarian can detect subtle problems before they become more serious down the road. Depending on the horse’s


Your veterinarian will recommend the vaccinations your horse should receive, and help you design an effective parasite control program.



The spring checkup should include a thorough dental exam, and floating if needed.

history and the findings of the physical exam, the veterinarian may suggest diagnostic tests that would be of value to you and your horse. Chiasson explains the three levels of musculoskeletal evaluations that can be done:

• Casual performance horse — for pleasure horses with an above-average level of riding activity, and amateur competitors; • Performance horse — at this level, a full detailed exam is needed to establish an objective evaluation of baseline soundness, which is valuable if a problem develops later on.


• Pleasure and companion horse — every horse should have this level;




Saddle Makers



——————————————————————————————————————————— BY MARGARET EVANS Two of the most intriguing questions about our relationship with horses are when were they first domesticated, and when were they first ridden. We will never know for sure, but some of the most fascinating evidence comes from the ancient Botai culture in northern Kazakhstan. Almost 6,000 years ago, the people living in a community of villages were foragers and hunter/gatherers. While the abundant wild horses were a staple part of their diet, the Botai came to see the horses as valuable working stock. In the village of Krasnyi Yar, there is evidence the Botai were keeping horses in corrals. Mares’ milk was discovered soaked into pottery shards, evidence they were being milked. But most telling was that, of the thousands of animal bones found at the archaeological sites, 99 percent of them were horse bones. At first, riding would have been a bareback affair. The earliest known saddle-like equipment was used by Assyrian cavalry around 700 BC, and consisted of fringed cloths or animal hide held in place with a surcingle, which included breast straps and cruppers. Antique Japanese kura, from the “Samurai: Armor of the Warrior” exhibit 2011, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris France. “Kura” is the generic name for the Japanese saddle, and the word is most commonly associated with the saddle used by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Over time, the Japanese added elements of their own until the Japanese saddle became an identifiable style, also known as the samurai saddle.



Canada’s Equine Guide 2020


Franco Cloete of Cloete Saddles understands that as riders’ needs advance, the products they create must also evolve, and this inspires him to continually improve.






4-H Canada Learn to do by doing. BY MARGARET EVANS

For over 100 years, 4-H Canada has been one of the most highly respected and widely known youth organizations in the country, offering activities and projects to nurture members’ talents and abilities, and developing leaders who impact their communities. Its core values embodied in its pledge define the profile of 4-H at every level. At the national level, 4-H Canada (previously known as the Canadian 4-H Council) was created in 1933 to represent the 4-H movement. It is run by a volunteer board of directors who oversee the organization’s strategic direction. Age levels for membership in 4-H vary from province to province. Nationally, it is recognized as being from ages nine to twenty-five, while in many provinces the age range is from 40

Canada’s Equine Guide 2020

nine to twenty-one. In addition, some provinces offer the Cloverbud program for children from six to eight years of age. Young members enjoy hands-on activities and can choose projects from a wide variety of topics ranging from agriculture to crafts, life skills, and science. Cloverbud programs are noncompetitive and designed to foster a young child’s curiosity about the world around them.


The 4-H activities are all about projects that each member freely chooses and, as of January 1, 2020, there were 41,773 ongoing projects. They are topics each member is passionate about and typically the completion of the project takes the entire year, but can be longer. Projects are organized within the four leadership development pillars: sustainable agriculture and food security, community engagement and communication, environment and healthy living, and science and technology. And, of course, projects can be focused on horses. 4-H began as a simple creation at the rural level. It was 1913, just a year before the outbreak of World War I. Manitoba was a young, growing


THE 4-H PLEDGE: I pledge: My head to clearer thinking, My heart to greater loyalty, My hands to larger service, My health to better living, For my club, my community,


My country, and my world.

4-H boys with their prize heifers at a 4-H Club Fair at Charleston, West Virginia, in October 1921. CONNECT TO THE HORSE INDUSTRY





Equestrianism and Animal Rights BY ELYSE SCHENK

A Close Look at the Horse-Human Relationship 50

Canada’s Equine Guide 2020

Recently, animal rights activists have amplified conversations regarding the proper treatment of the precious animals with whom we share our planet and homes. While animal rights organizations have improved the welfare of animals within many industries, their focus has recently begun to shift towards the equestrian community. Many animal rights activists, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have announced arguments against the use of


horses for any and all riding purposes. Thus, now is the time to analyze the relationship we share with horses and ask ourselves the difficult questions: Do horses share our joy in riding? Or is our passion a one-sided arrangement that ought to be reconsidered? We must face the criticisms head-on in order to find a fair and honest answer that prioritizes the well-being of our beloved horses, and secondarily protects the horse industry from toxic, slanderous

“Horses deserve to live their lives as nature intended.”¹ Nature has become romanticized as an innocent, peaceful, and righteous place, representing the optimal state to live. Because nature is idealized, a current belief is trending that a “natural” way of life is inherently better in all respects, while its “adversary” (human civilization) is the source of all oppression and cruelty. However, we mustn’t forget that the purpose of human civilization is to protect us from nature. While nature should be respected and appreciated, the apathetic brutality of its mighty forces made necessary the protective shelter of human infrastructures and institutions. Thus, horses deserve better than to live as nature intended. Since nature is too unforgiving and harsh for most humans to voluntarily inhabit, how is it preferable to subject horses to the like? Domesticated horse breeds today would especially suffer in the wild after generations of genetic and environmental adaptation to human dependence. While horse care and living conditions certainly vary across the philosophically, socioeconomically, and ethically diverse horse industry, equine advocates should still take pride in the unique human ability to provide horses with a home — one free from predators, with reliable access to food and water, generous attention to health, and abundant affection. The reality is that domestication offers horses security and comfort, both luxurious accommodations compared to the struggles of living “as nature intended.”

“We can and must challenge our old patterns of thinking if we want to treat animals ethically — not as subservient to us but as our equals.”¹ If horses preferred to be treated as equals, then they would choose to interact amongst each other with equal authority in a human-free, natural herd setting. Yet, anyone familiar with horses knows that this is far from reality, as hierarchical structures are a pillar of equine behaviour. Specifically, horse herds consist of a spectrum of dominance and submission. Even in the exceptional

cases when the pecking order isn’t perfectly linear or neatly organized, the presence of dominant horses remains extremely consistent within herds. In fact, not only are horses accustomed to having a dominant leader, they prefer this association, as a leader is a figure of reassurance to a horse. While individual horses vary in their willingness to forgo authority, they almost always accept a human leader to show them the way once the person offers clear guidance, purpose, and safety, all of which are precious gifts to a prey animal. This principle is what makes the horse-human relationship possible. The trust a horse grants a human is what motivates him to jump fences, to dance for his rider, or for a dancer to vault upon him. A trusted leader inspires their horse to gallop directly into a water bank; to venture for kilometers into rough, unexplored territory; to climb mountains; and to leap down steep inclines. The single fundamental act of a prey animal calmly accepting a rider aboard its back A wild mare with her foal at foot. Research has shown that horses in the wild live shorter lives and are at greater risk of disease and injury. Horses have survived and evolved from prehistoric times, because they learn from previous experiences and are able to habituate themselves to their environments. Adapting to lifestyles managed by humans has made it possible for horses to live longer, safer lives, and their trainability is what has made the horse/human partnership so successful.

“The decision to take part in horseback riding is made solely by one individual with little benefit to and no input from the other.”¹ Unlike toy horses, humans cannot physically overpower or outrun these animals in order to play the game desired. This leaves us with two options for approaches to riding — manipulative control, or communicative connection. First, as acknowledged, tyrannical control does indeed occur in the equestrian world through various methods of forceful submission, and ought to be criticized from all directions for inflicting distress upon horses. In most cases, however, true horsemen recognize that forceful domination only results in a tense and fearful horse, one that will never outperform an animal who trusts and understands his rider. Thus, the impracticality and cruelty of equine oppression means that working with


reputations and unreasonable regulations. The current objections to riding horses are evaluated below, followed by an opportunity to reflect upon the ethical challenges of the activities we engage in with our horses.

is a phenomenon made possible by a familiar and comforting leader-follower relationship. Essentially, a horse will do anything within his power for a leader he trusts, and he will do so not out of fear, but with a willing tranquility and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, and tragically, exceptions do exist, and horses are sometimes compelled to perform through force, discomfort, or fear of punishment. This dynamic almost always limits performance capability, is deservingly unsustainable, and calls for condemnation to avoid conflation between bullies and true horsemen. Animal rights advocates mustn’t confuse these ugly instances for the standard bonds between humans and horses that derive from trust and compassionate leadership.

horses is nearly impossible without their input and consent, leaving us with the preferred approach to riding: connection. Although horses cannot speak the language of humans, nor formally consent to be sat on by verbal permission or contractual agreement, humans have impressively learned to speak the language of horses, enabling us to understand their input and encourage their consent. Specifically, input and consent are achieved through a silent conversation. A rider suggests an action from their horse by applying gentle pressure, and the horse may reply in various fashions, but ideally consent is returned in the form of cooperation, for a horse communicates consent by willing cooperation. Otherwise, the alternative is a refusing




Equitation Science



iders train horses to act in ways they deem positive, whether it’s jumping a jump, walking down a trail, or performing movements in an arena. But to train horses effectively and safely, riders, trainers, and coaches must understand how they learn and react. Over the past 15 years, equine scientists have researched the learning theory of horses — how horses process, retain knowledge, and learn. Equitation science applies this evidence-based learning theory of horses to horse training, and explains horse behaviour based on horses being horses – without attributing human emotions, ways of thinking, or behaviour, to them. It’s a burgeoning field that is changing the way many riders and trainers think and act.


Canada’s Equine Guide 2020


What is it and how can it help horses and riders? Sara Sellmer is a British Columbiabased upper level three-day-eventing rider and coach who has discovered the benefits of equitation science. About five years ago, Sellmer went to a clinic with Andrew McLean, one of the most well-known researchers in the field of equitation science. “Basically (equine scientists) have done research and identified what works best (for training) in conjunction with how horses learn,” she explains. “It’s huge for horses. For so long, our training systems have been barbaric. But once you get into the brain of them, it’s so fun and easy for both of you. It was a pinnacle moment for me with horses because it described how they learn, and how they think, and how they react to things. It isn’t a method — it’s


just understanding the animal.” That understanding intrigues many professionals in the horse world. Tanya Bornmann, an equine scientist based in Ontario, is also a licensed international coach and academic member of the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES). “Horses are not born to naturally understand what humans want from them. Only through correct training will they eventually become reliable and safe riding, driving, working, or companion horses,” she says. “How can we achieve this? We have two choices: use undue force or unjustified punishment to ‘break’ the horse, perhaps creating a state of learned helplessness; or, apply the principles

LEFT: To effectively train horses we must understand how they learn and react.

RIGHT: Sara Sellmer competing at the Woodside International Horse Trials in 2019. She believes that with knowledge of how horses learn, training is easier, safer, and fairer for the horse.

According to a one-hour online course by Equitation Science International (ESI), horses learn through desensitizing (habituation, overshadowing), negative reinforcement (pressure-release), positive reinforcement (rewards), and classical conditioning (cues). The way horses learn is due to how they think: they form associations between things, have a highly developed fear response, an almost photographic memory, and are good at learning through trial and error. High quality training involves utilizing

this knowledge of how horses learn and think, to teach horses what we want from them. This, in turn, ensures that the horse’s welfare is not compromised, and both horse and trainer remain safe. The course further notes that, unlike humans, horses cannot think about a previous action, so they don’t do anything with motive or intent. Additionally, punishing horses inhibits their learning, and may result in the horse associating fear with the handler or environment. Minimizing horses’ fear and stress, and


of learning theory to modify their behaviour,” she explains. “Knowledge of the correct application of learning theory is extremely important when interacting with horses, regardless of whether it’s from the ground, or in competition. Every horse learns the same way and it’s the trainers’ and riders’ responsibility to become educated about learning theory. We owe this to our horses.” Bornmann isn’t alone in her thinking. In the early 2000s, concerns arose about the detrimental effects of hyperflexion or rollkur on horses during training and competition. These concerns evolved and some horse industry professionals became highly interested in preventing mental distress and physical harm to horses, which can then compromise horse welfare or rider safety. As riders and trainers became more engaged, the concept of equitation science evolved and ISES was born. The mission of the organization is to support research into how horses learn, plus promote and encourage training practices that utilize the findings of current learning theory research. So, what is learning theory for horses?


Because every horse learns the same way, trainers and riders owe it to their horses to educate themselves about learning theory, says equine scientist Tanja Bornmann.


May I?



The Role of Consent and Permission with Horses BY ALEXA LINTON, EQUINE SPORTS THERAPIST

I decided to veer off my geeky track for this article, partially because of the rising awareness around consent in human beings and where the line is, and partially because very little has been shared about this subject when it comes to horses. Writing this article was not easy. The world of consent, defined as the permission to do something, is nuanced, subjective, and can feel very personal. In an industry where our beliefs can vary extensively, this article felt important, albeit scary to write! So here goes, an attempt to unpack a tricky, sensitive subject, to shed light on some shadowy spaces of the horse world, and to open up some possibilities for growth. In an effort to narrow down the conversation, as the topic of consent applies to countless aspects of our horse-human relationship, I decided to focus on consent around touch, because horses are one of our mosttouched domesticated animals. This is a fascinating thing, given that in a feral or wild setting, horses might rarely ever touch each other, and would typically not do so without first either giving or receiving permission in the form of 58

Canada’s Equine Guide 2020

behavioural cues. In domestication, we touch horses to halter, groom, saddle, bridle, ride, train, bathe, treat, and often just to feed them. For most horses this happens numerous times every day and is often combined with a restraint of some kind, like a halter, meaning they are not able to move away from this touch. Years ago, with my mare Diva, when she would shy away from me touching her head and face, I forced her into accepting touch, deciding that I should


be able to touch every part of my horse. I would do this while she was restrained with a halter, because she would never have stayed with me if she hadn’t been held, convincing myself that this was a required part of “building a strong relationship,” an irony not lost on me today. The reality is, like many of us, I was conditioned to force touch, riding, and work on horses without thinking of asking for their permission, since my journey with horses began as a young girl. Thinking back over my 30 years of interaction with horses, there have been countless times when I did not ask or even think of permission or consent, and when I received a “no” or resistance from a horse, I met that answer with harshness and dominance. I see now that this action was driven by beliefs and conditioning learned at a young age. Only after I started my work as an Equine Sport Therapist at age 23 did I learn that horses could and should have an opinion about what happens with

their bodies, and about how they like to be touched, or not touched. I learned that a horse is not “bad” or “disrespectful” because they express a no. When no is received with grace, you can work with the feedback that is being offered in a way that makes your relationship far stronger, to change the touch or the training strategy for the better. When I began to ask permission to work with every horse, I noticed a considerable change in willingness and involvement from the horse, and in the effectiveness of the session. I now ask Diva’s permission to halter her, to groom (listening to which brushes she would prefer), to ride, and to do

horses, live within a horsemanship culture based in negative reinforcement training, and our horses often experience punishment for attempts to resist this kind of training and the high levels of non-consensual touch it involves. For many people, it has not been well received to say no to others who come into our space or touch us, so we stop sharing early on, usually in childhood, that we feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Horses are the same — early on, many experience the conditioning that if they don’t allow touch or if they resist human contact or requests, there will be consequences. This can cause, as it does in many people, a shutdown of natural expression. Without a voice, our horses rely on us to be advocates for them, and to learn ways to work with them that allow them to feel safe and relaxed. That kind of rapport takes a long while to build, especially with certain horses, my mare Diva being one of them.


Most horses very much enjoy connection and time with their humans.

healing work. Not surprisingly, she is happier and more relaxed when I take the time to make sure she’s on board. If I take a moment to ask her permission, her entire body posture and mood changes. Here’s what’s cool about this process: She almost never expresses a no, and when she does, it’s usually because she needs assistance with saddle fit, or she is in pain and requires support. Trust is earned — it takes time and commitment to build rapport and a sense of safety in our horses. Permission and consent are an integral part of trustbuilding, as foundational as fairness, consistency, and communication. If our horse is forced into touch and expresses a strong no, in the form of externalized flight/fight behaviour, physical tension, or internalized stress behaviours, we can unknowingly push them into a state of learned helplessness where their nervous system causes them to shut down as a survival mechanism. Many of us, and consequently our



Kathy Fremes with the latest horse to join the herd of “schoolies” at Country Hill Farm. “At 62, I’m as young as the legs underneath me, and this handsome crossbred just turned 12,” she says.


Canada’s Equine Guide 2020



Preaching to the



BY KATHY FREMES, EC CERTIFIED COMPETITION COACH There are always new trends in business, and the horse industry is no exception. Some people say that no one needs a horse in the 21st century, and many worry that soon there won’t be a future for horses. But after 30 years of owning and operating Country Hill Farm in Stouffville, Ontario, I disagree. In recent years, more and more mature riders have contacted me wanting to get back into the sport or asking if we take beginners of a “certain age” — and the answer is yes! Statistics support this observation. The 2010 Canadian Equine Industry Profile Study, conducted by Vel Evans of Strategic Equine Inc., highlights the shift to the majority of horse owners being adult as opposed to youth. Most of the people who buy horses from me are female, well-educated baby boomers. They are buying their first horse, or an additional horse to add to their herd. Data from the 2010 Study supports this observation. There are a few reasons for this, and they have nothing to do with bucket lists. At this stage of life, these horse lovers finally have the time and the money to start riding, or to return to riding after careers and raising families, or to buy the horse they’ve always wanted. They also enjoy spending time with like-minded people in their age group at the barn. A significant number are horse-sharing, using part-boarding or leasing animals owned by others. Some are riding older school masters and are dedicated to these animals in a way I seldom see in younger students. Improvements in instruction/coaching and equipment make the idea of riding less ominous. One of the biggest challenges is just getting started, but after that, most adult beginners (or restarters) find the momentum that carries them along. Even mounting from the ground can be a challenge for an older rider, but the large mounting block at our barn makes getting on a snap. The environment is safer than it was in the past, and more conducive to learning. For example, like many instructors, I use a microphone to amplify my voice, so my students can hear me clearly CONNECT TO THE HORSE INDUSTRY



Robert Gielen, one of Canada’s top endurance athletes, scheduled his knee replacements between competitions.

Joint Replacements Keep Riders Astride

As the riding population ages, joint replacements have become commonplace. Unable to resist the lure of horses, many riders with artificial joints return to the saddle mere months after joint replacement surgery. According to the Canadian Joint Replacement Registry, the number of Canadians having joint replacements has increased 17 percent over the past five years, with 130,000 surgeries now performed annually. In 2017-2018, that included almost 59,000 hip replacements and more than 70,000 knee replacements. Riders are part of those numbers, and with six artificial joints between them, dressage rider Gina Smith, former reining trainer Candace Cameron, and endurance rider Robert Gielen share the benefits and challenges of their joint replacements.

Becoming Pain Free BY TANIA MILLEN


Canada’s Equine Guide 2020

Almost a decade ago when she was in her early fifties, Gina Smith started getting arthritis in her hips. Smith is a Canadian dressage rider who has represented Canada internationally many times, including at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics. She admits, “I could ride, but it involved a fair bit of stretching since the width of the horse was a challenge. It wasn’t comfortable. I CANADA’S HORSE INDUSTRY AT YOUR FINGERTIPS


Bionic Riders


was waking up at night due to the pain.” So, in 2012, Smith had both hips replaced. She says, “My surgery was bilateral so both (hips) were replaced at the same time. After two years, it was discovered that one did not grow in properly for some reason, so it was redone. This happens in less than two percent of replacements. [Because of that] the physiotherapy was more extensive to get my body symmetrical again and I continue to work on that.” Smith’s new joints made an amazing difference. “I was immediately pain-free. When I first started back, it took a while for my brain to figure out that straddling an exercise ball or getting on and off a horse would not cause pain.” After her recovery, Smith has continued to ride and compete, bringing along young horses and aiming for the FEI levels while coaching students of all ages. “It’s surprising how many people have (joint) replacements and live very active, full lives. The technology improves all the time,” she says.

For more than 15 years, former reining trainer Candace Cameron had been plagued by pain and decreasing hip mobility, which increasingly limited her riding. After two hip replacements, she is now pain free and able to enjoy her riding passion.

Determined to Ride


Candace Cameron took a while to decide that hip replacements were the right choice. Cameron is a former reining trainer in British Columbia who was plagued by diminishing hip mobility and increasing pain for over 15 years. Although her physician suggested joint replacement, Cameron put it off, unsure whether the whole ordeal would be worth the effort.

“I was incredibly skeptical. I was a doubter,” says Cameron. “It’s major surgery. At one point your leg is detached from your body. I was scared to go under anesthetic. “But I was really tired of being the weakest link. When we went out with the kids, they had to wait for me. I couldn’t ride anymore. I was lucky if I got 15 minutes in the saddle and then I was a cripple the next day. I thought: Why am I putting this off? I may not be here in ten years, or five years. So I went back to the doctor, booked an appointment, and a week later I had a surgery date.” Cameron had both hips replaced but at separate times — the left hip was worse, so it was done first in June 2019, and once it had healed, the right hip was replaced in September. “Between 10 and 11 weeks after the second surgery, I was back in the saddle.” In November 2019, Cameron’s surgeon and physiotherapist gave her permission to do any activities she had previously enjoyed. She felt total relief. “It’s unbelievable. I would have done this a lot sooner if I’d known. I don’t remember feeling this good in probably 15 or 20 years. More energy. Literally no pain anymore. I had no idea [I was in so much pain],” she says. “To me, riding is an addiction,” she admits. “I couldn’t conceive of never riding again. But the fact that I was so limited, it hurt a lot [emotionally] not to be able to go for a ride. I just can’t say enough good about it.” There has been one challenge, says Cameron. “The biggest thing now is that I’m expecting a bolt of pain and for my hips to lock up like they used to. I’m expecting that, and they’re not doing it, so it’s a real learning curve for me.” Cameron is overjoyed with the results. “It absolutely is a life changer. I’m 50 going on 20 now.” After having both hips replaced in 2012, Canadian Olympian Gina Smith was immediately pain-free, and now continues to ride, compete, coach, and train young horses. CONNECT TO THE HORSE INDUSTRY





Middle-Age Horse Madness

Canada’s Equine Guide 2020


Horse fever, horse crazy, bitten by the horse bug, horse madness: A condition usually associated with pre-teen and young teen girls, characterized by an obsessive love of horses.

Symptoms: Incessantly talking, reading, writing, drawing, and daydreaming about horses; collecting horse posters, magazines, models and horse art in excess; living for the moments when horses can be touched, smelled, ridden, or simply in close proximity.

Treatment: Later teen years (boys!), school, marriage, children, career, lack of money, and lack of time.

Cure: None.



Mary Comstock and Stormy.



Judi Mendryk and Porsch.


orse fever” can never really be cured, it simply lies dormant until the conditions are right for the madness to return. A growing number of middle-aged women are taking up horsemanship and riding for the second time in their lives, proving that once you are bitten by the horse bug, it will always be in your blood. Different catalysts prompt the resurgence of the fever, but the result is almost always the same — a fulfilled, life-embracing, happy, and healthy older woman. Mary Comstock was bitten by the horse bug when she was nine years old and saw the Mounted Police patrolling Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She became so obsessed that she even pretended to be a horse for a while! When she was 11 years old, she started taking lessons with the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers. She rode with them for two years until a riding accident left her with a serious head injury and badly shaken confidence. Her love of horses didn’t go away, but it would be

Doris Struck Quinn and Ricky.

Finding people who share your crazy is always a good thing. almost four decades later, after university, marriage, children, and moving out west, before she would make it back into the saddle. In 2009, she found a patient instructor who helped her to gradually regain her confidence and rediscover the joy of riding. At age 53, she purchased a Gypsy Vanner gelding named Stormy. The pair has been getting out of the arena and onto the trails together, even trying their hand at competitive trail riding. Horse fever has again taken Comstock by full force now, and she loves every minute of it. As a child, Doris Struck Quinn learned to ride on rented horses. At ten years old, with full-blown horse madness, no helmet, no lessons, alone in a field… she learned the feeling of flying for the first time and was hooked for life. She attended two weeks of lessons each year for three summers, but after her parents were in a serious car accident, 15-year-old Quinn had to grow up quickly and horses were put on the back burner. CONNECT TO THE HORSE INDUSTRY


For more than 30 years, Wayne Sawchuk has spent his summers riding three-month pack trips through the rugged Muskwa-Kechika area of northeast BC.

BY TANIA MILLEN Many Canadian riders are throwing their leg over horses well beyond the age when others are pursuing more sedentary activities. For example, about 19 percent of Alberta Equestrian Federation members were over the age of 56 from 2015 to 2018. In British Columbia, approximately 19 percent of active Horse Council BC members were over age 60 in 2018. Meanwhile, in Quebec last year, about 12 percent of Cheval Quebec members were age 60 and over. Nationally, approximately 22 percent of Equestrian Canada sport licence holders were older than 50 in 2018, and 10 percent were older than 60. So how can riders delay hanging up their spurs and maximize riding enjoyment into their golden years? What challenges do aging riders face, and how do they address them? To find out, I asked two over-60 riders to share their experiences, and also sought guidance from an international three-day eventing coach, and a physiotherapist with equestrian clients. Here’s what they said. 76

Canada’s Equine Guide 2020





When she turned 70, three-day-eventer Grit High decided to stop competing and enjoy horses in a different way. She still rides regularly, but her motivation now is to stay healthy and have fun.


Enjoying Horses Differently British Columbia-based Grit High got serious about eventing in her late 40s, subsequently qualifying for the 1988 Olympics. She rode her last CCI*** three-day event when she was 57, and after retiring her event horse, bought a four-year old warmblood prospect. In her 60s, High rode dressage with Leslie Reid and jumped with Eddie Macken. She says, “I never thought of myself as being old. I could do as much as anybody else when I was competing, so I don’t think age was an issue then.” By her late 60s, High had developed her youngster into a competitive powerhouse, dabbling in 1.2 m jumper classes and pursing dressage to Prix St Georges level. But when she turned 70, High admits, “You become aware of your body not playing fair with you anymore. When you’re 70, you know you’re in there with the seniors. Right?” Now in her late 70s, High says it wasn’t until her 70th birthday that she decided to give up competing and enjoy horses differently. “Part of the reason I quit competing when I was 70 was because I realized that I wasn’t getting any better, and it felt a lot more like hard work than fun. I could have gone to Grand Prix (dressage), but I just ran out of energy. I’d been doing it long enough.” After retiring from competition, High struggled. “You give up competing and it’s like retiring. You have to find something CONNECT TO THE HORSE INDUSTRY


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