Canadian Horse Journal - SAMPLE - Summer 2022

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By Katy White, DVM, BSc., Burwash Equine Services

One of the most common conditions affecting soundness and performance lifespan of horses is osteoarthritis (OA), with some reports suggesting 60 percent of lameness issues in horses is attributable to OA¹. OA is known across animal and human populations to cause stiff and creaky joint movement. It can make getting up in the morning difficult or slow you down the day after a long run. 14




OA is a slow, progressive disease of the joint including damage to the articular cartilage, the bone underneath the cartilage, and local soft tissue structures including the joint capsule and supporting ligaments. OA does not affect all horses equally, with genetics, environment, diet, and type of stress/ strain on the joint each playing a role in both the progression and severity of the joint disease. From acute injury to general wear and tear, OA can differ in its severity and the speed of progression. With the cause varying from joint-to-joint and

Dr. Crystal Lee, DVM, DACVS at Burwash Equine Services performing a lameness exam on a horse. She is flexing the upper right forelimb in this photo to assess for joint pain.

horse-to-horse, complete understanding and, therefore, prevention of the disease has been limited. In addition, every individual horse has a different pain tolerance, some exercising through OA and others showing performancelimiting lameness. The difficult thing about OA compared to other diseases is that once the process has started it cannot be reversed, meaning it cannot be cured and we are instead limited to management. The good news is that advances in veterinary diagnosis and management of joint disease have


progressed significantly in recent years, allowing us to identify OA earlier and better support our patients and clients to keep them doing what they love for longer while minimizing any associated discomfort. Being a common condition of aging horses, OA may be the first thing one considers when dealing with lameness or performance issues. Even so, the importance of an accurate diagnosis cannot be overstated. The critical first step in identifying and managing OA is clinical examination to identify the signs,

including heat, swelling, lameness, excess joint fluid, or decreased range of motion. Diagnosis may be aided by diagnostic nerve blocks or imaging such as x-ray, ultrasound, nuclear scintigraphy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) to help localize the cause of the lameness and the severity of the joint disease. It is important to rule out other potential causes of lameness so that treatment can be directed towards the primary source of the issue and have the best effect. For example, joint SUMMER 2022





An Inside Look



UC Davis Center for Equine Health Soft tissue and skeletal injuries are of significant concern in sport horses. Fortunately, veterinary knowledge and technology are rapidly advancing to quickly and accurately diagnose and treat such issues. Medical imaging technologies have become powerful diagnostic tools. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses, but the modalities are often successfully used in combination with one another to accurately facilitate diagnosis and direct appropriate treatment. Radiography (x-rays) and ultrasound have historically been the main diagnostic imaging tools available in equine veterinary practice. As the technologies evolved, image processing became more advanced and systems have become easily portable, changing the way imaging is performed in the field. Advanced imaging systems such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging 22




(MRI) are commonly used in veterinary hospital settings, along with nuclear scintigraphy (bone scan). Most recently, positron emission tomography (PET) has become available for horses. Radiography, ultrasound, and CT scans generally reflect changes to form or structure (morphologic changes). Nuclear scintigraphy and PET, on the other hand, reflect changes in the functions and mechanisms at work within an organism (physiologic changes). MRI captures both morphologic and physiologic information.

Radiography (X-Rays) Radiography is commonly used for the diagnosis of skeletal injury. It is generally an affordable, portable approach that is easy for the veterinarian to use. With digital radiography, images can be captured, assessed, and additional images obtained immediately on site if

needed without having to return to the clinic to process film. Radiography is not as sensitive as some of the more advanced systems, but it has a long history of successful use in diagnosing bone injuries. IMAGE: Digital or film, two-dimensional, reflects morphologic changes. BEST FOR: Bone. USES: Evaluate causes of lameness, detect and characterize fractures, identify arthritis, diagnose lung disease, investigate teeth and sinuses, look for ingested sand or enteroliths as causes of colic. HOW IT WORKS: Radiography uses a very short burst of x-rays to create an image of the body. A beam of x-rays interacts with the body and produces an image. Dense materials (like bone) absorb the radiation and show up as white areas whereas soft tissues, where the x-rays pass through, are gray or black.

HOW LONG IT TAKES: 5 to 15 minutes depending on the region and the number of views required. PROS: Affordable, portable, easy to use, does not require anesthesia. CONS: Limited sensitivity, not good for diagnosing soft tissue injury.


Ultrasound is commonly used to diagnose soft tissue injuries in horses. Similar to radiography, it is an affordable, portable approach that can be used in the field. First used in the field for reproductive exams, its uses have greatly expanded. Ultrasound is now used to cover a wide range of applications including the diagnosis of tendon, ligament, or joint injuries and assessment of the gastrointestinal tract in cases of acute or chronic colic. Ultrasound can be used to identify foreign bodies or fracture fragments and assist with minimally invasive removal. It can even diagnose fractures of bones that cannot be easily radiographed, such as the pelvis.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides digital, threedimensional images of bone and soft tissue. An equine standing MRI requires sedation rather than general anesthesia.

Commonly used to diagnose soft tissue injuries, ultrasound can be utilized for a range of applications.

IMAGE: Digital, cross-sectional, reflects morphologic changes. BEST FOR: Soft tissue. USES: Diagnose tendon and ligament injuries, abscesses, liver disease, kidney disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer (or neoplasia), fractures, foreign bodies, infections, help guide therapeutic agents to joints, tendons, etc., obtain samples from organs such as liver and kidneys, masses or abscesses. HOW IT WORKS: High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from a transducer into the body. The transducer captures the sound waves that bounce back, and a computer uses that information to create an image based on the intensity, frequency, and time it takes the signal to return. For example, normal tendons are usually homogeneously bright (echogenic) and areas of injury create darker (hypoechoic) areas in comparison. HOW LONG IT TAKES: 45 to 60 minutes. PROS: Comparatively inexpensive, does not require anesthesia. CONS: Some areas (such as within the hoof capsule) may be difficult to fully access.

Computed Tomography (CT) Essentially three-dimensional radiography, CT is a quick imaging modality and can generate many cross-sectional images in seconds. Historically, general




anesthesia was required since the equine patient must remain completely still during the scan. Specific scanner installation offers the option to perform standing CT of the head and neck in horses. Recently, newer technologies have led to the opportunity to image the distal limb standing; however, the image quality is not quite as high with these machines at this time. IMAGE: Digital, three-dimensional, reflects morphologic changes. BEST FOR: Bone, soft tissue, blood vessels.

USES: Plan for surgical repair of joints and complex fractures, detailed imaging of the skulls and sinuses to plan surgery, investigate causes of seizures, diagnose causes of lameness, identify abnormal blood supply, trauma, plan radiation therapy for tumours. HOW IT WORKS: An x-ray tube rotates in a circle around the patient, passing a thin x-ray beam through the body. Digital detectors that are located around the circle sense the beam and produce a cross-sectional image of each “slice” of SUMMER 2022





Laser therapy on a tendon.

? ?? RIGHT ? ? Therapeutic ???? Modality ? ? ?

Choosing the







By Tania Millen “In sport horses, we see a lot of injuries,” says Dr. Sarah Malenchak, who owns Westhills Equine Veterinary Services in Stony Plain, Alberta. “But we want the horses feeling as good as possible as soon as possible so they can go back into work. Plus, we want them to heal properly, so they don’t reinjure themselves,” she says. That’s where therapeutic tools and services come in. They improve healing, help manage pain, increase range of motion, improve muscle activation, and speed up rehabilitation. In layman’s terms, they help horses recover from injury, plus keep them happy and sound.



Our sleepy horse is wearing a Hansbo® ceramic magnetic blanket and front ceramic boots by Back On Track®.


“When you increase blood flow, you increase the healing rate, because the blood brings all the healing factors with it to the injured site,” Malenchak says. She explains that therapy selection depends on the stage of an injury, what therapies are available, how much the horse owner can spend, and which therapies will be most effective at getting the horse back to work. When your horse is injured or has another problem, contact your veterinarian for an assessment. They can determine whether it’s a gait, lameness, or neurological issue, then recommend next steps and potential therapies. Some veterinarians provide laser therapy, chiropractics, or acupuncture services while others work with regional therapists. Vets may rent therapeutic devices, too. Taking a team approach to veterinary problems is beneficial as well. Horse owners may also consult non-veterinary professionals such as graduates of the Equine Rehabilitation Certificate Program, physiotherapists with a Diploma in Equine Rehabilitation, massage therapists, chiropractors or osteopaths certified in equine work, and farriers. For example, equine physiotherapists assess horses, massage their muscles, and mobilize their joints. But they also create rehabilitation programs to correct horses’ weaknesses and speed up their recovery, which in turn decreases the need for ongoing bodywork. Miranda Shumborski is a human physiotherapist with training in equine physiotherapy. She’s based in Edmonton, Alberta and is currently completing a Diploma in Equine Rehabilitation from the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. Shumborski works with veterinarians, directly with horse owners, and alongside other bodyworkers and prefers to use therapeutic devices whose rehabilitative effects have been proven by scientific studies. Malenchak and Shumborski both say there probably isn’t any harm in treating horses with therapeutic devices available


Assess First

injections reduce pain and > Joint inflammation and help improve the horse’s comfort and mobility.


But there’s a huge variety of therapeutic modalities — from cooling boots to warming blankets, massaging tools and other devices, plus hands-on work such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage — and they all do different things. So how do riders choose what’s best for their horse? This explainer will help.

from tack stores and independent distributors. But it’s also important to consult a veterinarian or other professional so that horse owners are not inadvertently treating a larger problem with a bandaid or “feel-good” solution. “Make sure that you’re not spending weeks treating an undiagnosed problem, when you initially should have been doing something completely different,” says Malenchak. “If you don’t have a diagnosis of the severity of the injury you can miss the acute phase of healing.” Therapeutic devices and services are best used as part of a comprehensive plan, too. For example, cold therapy and

compression are often used together to reduce pain and swelling during acute phases of injury. They may be followed by heat therapy on other areas of the horse to improve elasticity of muscles, ligaments, and joints prior to rehabilitation exercises. Then electrical stimulation may be used to activate nerves and increase muscle contraction. Meanwhile, the overall rehabilitation plan may include manual therapies (such as massage and chiropractic) and therapeutic exercises for strengthening, stretching, and neuromuscular re-education.

Therapeutic Options

There are seven types of modalities:

1 MANUAL THERAPIES These include

acupuncture, chiropractic, farrier work, massage, osteopathy, and physiotherapy conducted by veterinarians or nonveterinary professionals including horse owners. They address specific problems plus whole horse health.


include “carrot stretches,” cavaletti and ground pole work, hill work, backing up, and more, while swimming, wading in pools, and walking on treadmills can increase exercise benefits. Exercises are generally used during later stages of healing or throughout








What does it mean? By Tania Millen


ost horses aren’t simply pasture pets — they provide some sort of active service to their owners. But many horses are not totally sound, and most horse sports don’t allow lame horses to compete. Lameness generally means a horse is in pain; hence, it’s not acceptable to ride lame horses. So, what can owners and riders do? Gerard Laverty says many horses that are less than 100 percent sound are living comfortable lives as “serviceably sound” partners. “It’s most horses that have saddles on,” he says. Laverty teaches the farrier science program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia and has his own farrier business. “Probably no more than 10 percent of my horse clientele would be classified as sound,” says Laverty. “The remainder, if they’re in work, would be serviceably sound. By that I mean they have issues just like you and me, but those issues are not so severe that they prevent the horse from doing the job the client wishes them to do.” It’s a common refrain.





“We have about 25 lesson horses and pretty much all of them require something to stay sound,” says Gwen Donohoe, who owns Sagehill Stables just south of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “I can only think of one or two horses that don’t have anything wrong with them at the moment.” Donohoe works with veterinarians to assess her horse’s soundness and decide how to keep them sound. “Every lesson horse that comes in gets x-rayed, and if we find arthritis, they get injections or put on something to maintain them,” Donohoe says.

Defining Lameness

Dr. Alejandra Garza is an equine sports medicine veterinarian with McKee-Pownall Equine Services in Caledon, Ontario. “When we get called for a lameness or pre-purchase examination, the first question I ask the client is: What’s your intended use? What do you want to do with the horse?” she says. Garza explains that veterinarians in

North America use the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ lameness scale to assess soundness. It runs from zero (sound) to five (very lame) and each number corresponds to a specific description, as follows: 0 — Lameness not perceptible under any circumstances. 1 — Lameness is difficult to observe and is not consistently apparent, regardless of circumstances (i.e., under saddle, circling, inclines, hard surfaces). 2 — Lameness is difficult to observe at walk or when trotting in a straight line but is consistently apparent under certain circumstances (i.e., weight-carrying, circling, inclines, hard surfaces). 3 — Lameness is consistently observable at trot under all circumstances. 4 — Lameness is obvious at walk. 5 — Lameness produces minimal weight bearing in motion and/or at rest or

In North America, veterinarians use the AAEP lameness scale to assess soundness, with each number on the scale from 0 to 5 corresponding to a specific description or degree of lameness. Following your veterinarian’s recommendations is key to keeping your horse serviceably sound and comfortable. PHOTO: CLIX PHOTOGRAPHY




there’s a complete inability to move. This scale defines the degree of lameness, but whether a horse can remain serviceable depends on what the rider expects the horse to do.

What is “Serviceable?”

Serviceability is defined as usefulness. A horse that is serviceably sound is generally considered useful to the owner or rider. Garza explains that matching a rider’s current and expected level of riding and competition with the horse’s abilities, soundness and potential to stay sound, is an important aspect of determining whether a horse will be serviceably sound for a specific rider. But a horse that isn’t sound enough for one level of rider may be well-suited to a less demanding rider. For example, a horse with a grade one or grade two lameness may still be of service depending on the rider’s desires. “A lot of old horses are on antiinflammatories for chronic pain,

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THINGS You Might Not Know About


UC Davis Center for Equine Health





Practicing good biosecurity at home and while traveling is important for your horse’s health and safety, and is an important part of industry-wide disease control measures. We collaborated with Dr. K. Gary Magdesian, infectious disease control officer and faculty member in the Equine Internal Medicine Service at the UC Davis veterinary hospital, to present a list of important things to remember when it comes to equine biosecurity. 1 Disinfecting footbaths are ineffective if there is organic material on your boots. Manure, dirt, mud, and plant material prevent disinfectants

in the footbath from doing their job of killing germs. They also contaminate the water, meaning that footbaths need to be changed




more often. Before using a footbath, scrub the bottoms and sides of your footwear with a brush and rinse with a hose to remove visible debris. To encourage boot scrubbing, keep a scrub brush next to the footbath.

leptospirosis, and rabies, among others. Practicing good hygiene and sanitation as part of a comprehensive biosecurity plan helps keep horses, people, and other animals on the property healthy and safe.

3 Biosecurity protocols protect horses, but they are important for human safety too. Some diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from horses to humans. These include ringworm, salmonellosis,

4 Biosecurity is an all-forone, one-for-all management scheme. While practicing good biosecurity is important for individual horse health, it is also for the safety of the

whole herd and facility. Effective biosecurity protocols protect the most vulnerable individuals, including foals and older horses. 5 Biosecurity is an important part of day-to-day equine life. Biosecurity is not just for when there is an outbreak; it needs to be practiced every day. Assess which aspects of your horses’ lives expose them to disease risks and




2 Disinfectants have contact time requirements — don’t just spray and go. Effective disinfection protocols ensure appropriate disinfectant contact time with surfaces.

The contact time needed to inactivate disease organisms varies by product. Always follow product labels and manufacturer’s instructions when using disinfectants.

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Nail the Correct Lead EVERY TIME, EVERYWHERE By Lindsay Grice, Equestrian Canada coach and judge Wrong lead! It’s one of the earliest alerts a young rider hears from her coach. One’s heart sinks to hear that same alert from the coach calling over the show ring rail. The novice rider learns the outside leg back and kiss cue to canter but I’ve found that riders are often unsure why they should use this cue. Let’s break it down. We’ll review the phonics of teaching your horse to pick up the correct lead and some hints to help the rider recognize it. In Canter 101, we want to communicate to the horse the concept of changing his legs from two-beat trot to three-beat canter, allowing him to trot faster until he spills into the canter… for now. We reward the try, encouraging those first canter strides, even if on the wrong lead. Just canter is the correct answer. Early canter experiences are typically 44




launched on a circle — the horse most naturally defaults to the inside lead. We introduce our horse to these signals: • Outside leg behind the girth to initiate the gait and direct the haunches to the inside; • Inside leg more forward at the girth to aid with impulsion and ready to block the front feet from stepping to the inside; • Inside rein asking for slight flexion of the horse’s nose to the inside of the circle. At this point, a horse believes the answer is simply canter. He’s not yet linking the position of his rider’s legs… to the position of his body… to striking off on a particular lead. However, after he’s getting the hang of stepping into the canter, it’s time to leave “Circle Elementary School” and head for “High School of the Straight and Narrow.” Graduate to canter transition on a line

by angling to the fence-line at 45 degrees. It’ll make the inside lead seem like a logical option for your horse. However, remaining on the fence-line can be a hindrance to actual learning. Riders habitually gravitate to the rail before cantering and proceed around the outside. I see my share of well-worn paths around the arenas in which I teach. There comes a time when we’ve got to take off the training wheels. When a horse associates the location with a maneuvre rather than with his rider’s specific aids, the location has become part of the cue. The horse soon links the fence on his right with picking up the left lead. It’s classical conditioning. Anticipation can be used to the trainer’s advantage. By picking the same spot to initiate the canter, the horse begins to set himself up, lifting off without running off.



Position your horse for success and communicate your canter aids clearly and consistently.

2 LATERAL CONTROL Visualize your

horse’s body parts as a train. Wrong leads result when one car derails — the haunches slip off the tracks to the outside or the shoulder bulges to the inside. 3 LONGITUDINAL SUPPLENESS

The connected horse is flexible and compressible, like a spring. Connecting before transitioning is like picking up the telephone – are you ready? If his back is inflexible like a jump pole, when you apply your leg aid he’ll simply run through the trot, inevitably spilling onto his preferred lead. If you try to slow down, he’ll only break gait and trot.

Helpful Hints 1 LEAVE THE CURVE Pulling your horse in the direction of the turn with the inside rein can teach him to duck his shoulder to the inside, fishtailing the hind end to the outside. “Dropping the shoulder” is a recipe for an unbalanced transition at best and a wrong lead at worst.

An imaginary straight line travels from the horse’s nose, though his legs. For the left lead, press the front feet to the right and back feet to the left of this line, flexing the head slightly to the left. As your horse becomes more advanced, the angle becomes almost imperceptible.



1 RESPONSE TO LIGHT CUES You’ll require tuned and reliable go-forward and slow-down cues. If your horse is dull to your legs, you’ll be chasing him into the canter. If he leans on your hands, you won’t be able to keep him organized.


That said, when horses have their familiar routines upset, it stirs up anxiety. Anticipation may plant the seed, but keep it from taking root by teaching the aids separate from any environmental stimulus. In every riding clinic, I meet someone struggling to find a fix for a “one-lead” horse. Aside from physical issues, lead preferences rarely emerge if a solid foundation is laid before initiating that first canter. Without the tools to influence a horse’s lead, it's hit and miss. Every miss is practicing what you don’t want. Here are the tools you’ll need:






How Does



Affect Fitness? By Jec A. Ballou

Without access to multiple riding surfaces, many horses plateau in their fitness or get stuck in a state of physical discomfort. In fact, different footings can play such a big role in any horse’s conditioning that there is an industry adage for it: there are no poor surfaces; only poor use of surfaces. From a fitness and conditioning standpoint, there are benefits to riding on both soft and firm surfaces. If you are limited to training on only one type of footing weekly, chances are good that your horse’s musculoskeletal system has some deficiencies. For both injury prevention and gymnastic conditioning, training purposefully on surfaces allows you to modulate physical effort while attuning proprioception. This leads to physical resilience while optimizing muscular and skeletal strength. Put very simply, soft sandy terrain requires more muscular and aerobic effort while firm ground develops better proprioception, limb coordination, and hoof stimulus. While an ideal scenario includes training on both firm and soft footings throughout each week, horses that are grappling with gait dysfunction or mild lameness may benefit from fully 50




changing their primary training area for a period of time. Before exploring the benefits of each, it is worth clarifying that excessive repetitive movement on any type of ground brings risk regardless how hard or cushy. In fact, one of the primary benefits of changing surfaces is to minimize repetitive strain and stress.

Firm Footing

Any new surface types should be introduced slowly in 10 to 15 minute periods for an initial three weeks, and this principle definitely applies to harder ground like packed dirt, clay, decomposed granite, asphalt, and other concussive footings. During these small intro sessions, the body adapts by sustaining microscopic damage to subchondral bone and then remodeling. Fatigue fractures and lesions occur when the remodeling process cannot keep up with the rate of damage in instances when horses were not progressively adapted. In most cases, this adaptation process is a worthwhile undertaking that offers big value to your horse. Studies of soft tissue injuries have shown that horses training predominantly on soft footings like arenas develop loss of

proprioception over time. This leads to compromised sensory feedback to the nervous system and eroded neuromuscular patterns. Being stabled on soft shavings or straw further contributes to this sensory dullness. Even if they avoid injury, a number of these horses experience suboptimal muscular function: altered firing patterns, delayed contractions, fewer fibres recruited. Their physical conditioning often seems to hit a wall or backslide. Changing the training environment can help avoid the plateaus. In rehab settings, stimulus from firm ground serves a key role in optimizing the horse’s neuromuscular system to return to training. Likewise, hard surfaces contribute enormously to young horses’ bone and hoof health as well as ligament and tendon resilience. For riders with limited access to a variety of surfaces beyond the arena, positive stimulus from firm ground can be provided in the form of hand-walking for 20 minutes three times per week on the driveway or barn aisle or a quiet paved road. A weekly trail ride typically offers horses a chance to tread on packed roads or sun-baked paths as well.

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October 3, 2022



Facing Fear Real and Imagined

The Mediterranean waters glistened below me. As I stood on the edge of the rockface, contemplating the 25-foot drop into the clear blue sea, it felt like my body was screaming at me to not jump. My knees were shaking, making my legs feel unsteady. My mind felt fuzzy and slightly disconnected from reality. I was more acutely scared than I had been in 52




By Annika McGivern

quite some time. But here’s the thing: I really wanted to jump. I was in Croatia and the sea was warm and inviting. I had watched about 10 people make the same leap quite safely and I knew, rationally, that it really wasn’t that high. I was determined to push through my nerves and do it, but in that moment I wasn’t entirely sure my body would let me.

This experience reminded me that we can have goals that are very different from those we feel comfortable enough to accomplish. Through equestrian sport we seek challenging experiences that bring meaning and excitement into our lives, yet those same experiences come with risk that we may not feel comfortable with. I wanted to jump off that rock, but my body most certainly did not. In the past I’ve wanted to get back on a horse that bucked me off the previous day, but my body most certainly did not. Maybe you want to jump bigger jumps, gallop faster, ride new horses, or simply pick up the canter, and your body is not on board. How do we find the balance between listening to our bodies and keeping ourselves safe, yet also taking on those rich and meaningful challenges and experiences that allow us to grow as riders and individuals?


The Two Types of Fear

Fear falls into two categories. The first, rational fear, is experienced in response to real danger and risk in our environment. The second, irrational fear, is experienced in response to a perceived risk to our self-image. If you were hiking and turned the corner to discover a mama black bear and her cubs, you would experience rational fear. Your body would respond by pumping your system full of adrenaline and other hormones designed to help you fight, flee, or freeze your way to survival. Now imagine being asked to share a deeply personal story of failure to an audience of 500 strangers. For many of us, we would experience the exact same physical response as when we stumbled upon the bear. Yet, in this case we are not in any physical danger. In this scenario there is a perceived risk to our self-image. We are opening ourselves up to judgement and scrutiny. Fear is a very real experience for equestrians. After all, our sport carries with it a legitimate risk. We regularly grapple with the rational fear associated with sitting astride a large animal with its own mind, and we also are plagued by the fear of failure, of judgement, and of not being good enough. These fears are irrational because they are created and perpetuated by holding an inaccurate or simply unhelpful perspective of reality. As these two types of fear come from different places, each type requires a different approach and skill set to manage and master.

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Combining polo with lacrosse, polocrosse is a fast-paced team sport played on horseback. L-R: Kass Renz, Evan Plant, Shelby Denesiuk.

By Tania Millen Polocrosse players in Alberta and Saskatchewan are gearing up for a full season of competition in 2022. “We’ve got an active group here. Last weekend, we had 10 people playing 10 horses,” says Gayle Smith, the secretary of Bridge City Polocrosse Association (BCPA) near Saskatoon. She says there are also eight kids learning the game and “they’re really doing well with their little cow horses.” Polocrosse combines polo with lacrosse and is one of only a few team sports played on horseback. It’s a fast-paced sport 56




where teams of three players try to score by throwing a foam ball through goal posts with their lacrosse stick while outmaneuvering the opposing team’s riders. “I think what makes polocrosse special is that it’s one horseone rider which makes it economical for people to get into,” says Benn Armstrong, the President of BCPA. He played polocrosse as a teen in Australia before immigrating to Canada 22 years ago and now lives at Kenosee Lake in southeast Saskatchewan. “The sport is fast. It’s full contact [at upper levels] and any


Passion on the Prairies




< Riders of all ages and levels of skill can participate, and the basic requisites are a love of horses and the ability to ride. Pictured is Amanda Nyuli (in black).


horse can play at the lower levels,” Armstrong says. “The whole family can enjoy it. Men, women, children — it doesn’t matter.” Smith thinks polocrosse broadens the appeal of riding horses for boys. “Girls are highly engaged with horses, but I think polocrosse appeals to boys who have a sporting interest, especially the hockey players and lacrosse players because they know stickhandling,” Smith says. Smith and her husband have tried many different horse sports including jumping, cow work, and trail riding. “When my husband got a racket in his hand, a light bulb went off. He was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can play a team sport on horses!’” says Smith. “I thought, this is a way for my husband to be quite engaged in horse sport, so we just took off with it.” Smith also explains that any tack is suitable at the lowest level, but snaffle bits are required and minimal artificial aids are allowed.


To participate in polocrosse riders need only one horse, which makes the sport affordable. Pictured is Alf Epp.






Dismounting Anti-Black Racism in Horse Racing By Ian Kennedy


own gravel roads in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, you can judge the changing of the seasons and the progression of time by the corn. Every July, throngs of teenagers head into the fields to detassel corn. It’s a rite of passage in Chatham-Kent — hats and gloves, thermoses full of water, corn rash, and heat stroke — all for summer wages. By August 1, Emancipation Day, the





seed corn has been detasseled, and stands of sweet corn are speckled along roads and laneways to farms. A bell rings to signify the day, celebrating freedom. The rest of the corn in the area, mostly grown for silage, has reached toward the sun, and soon the harvest will come and the green of these fields will brown, marking the passage of time.

Emancipation was proclaimed in Canada on August 1, 1834 when the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 officially came into effect, ending slavery across the British Empire, including in Canada. However, slavery remained in practice in America until 1865. Near Dresden, Ontario, at the site of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a settlement known as Dawn was formed in 1843 and became a

The Henson homestead, situated on the grounds of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, is the home Josiah Henson resided in while living at the Dawn Settlement. A former slave, abolitionist, and minister, Henson was the inspiration for the title character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


key terminal on the Underground Railroad for Black refugees escaping slavery south of the border. They often arrived on horseback or hidden in horse-pulled carts or carriages. The location, a Historic Site recognized by the Ontario Heritage Trust, was named for Reverend Josiah Henson, who would become known as “Uncle Tom” in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous book,

Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Here, nearly 700 freed and escaped slaves lived in peace during the 1840s. Canada, however, did not nationally recognize Emancipation Day until August 1, 2021. On this Emancipation Day in 2021, the sun was burning off the rain that had fallen in the night. Dresden Raceway was set to host their first annual Black Heritage Day at the track,

an event organized to honour Black harness racing drivers, trainers, and horse owners. Looking out my rearview mirror as I drove to Dresden, a plume of dust followed me, folding itself into an almost opaque cloud. Turning again, I could see a rusted barn ahead with a pasture fenced around it. Closer to the road sat a small farmhouse with SUMMER 2022





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