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Neurological Dysfunction

Early diagnosis and treatment will give your horse the best chance of recovery. 10




By Lauren MacLeod

Subtle lameness caused by neurological dysfunction can manifest as a random gait abnormality where the step is different each time.

It’s a scene all too familiar to equestrians: A small crowd has gathered at the rail, all focused on a horse and rider trotting around the arena. Amidst scratching heads, various opinions arise. “I think it’s his right hind,” says the rider. “Nope, definitely right front,” replies the trainer.


are divided into various categories, which reflect their anatomic location in the body and/or their purpose. The following is a brief overview of these classifications. 1. Central vs. Peripheral Nervous System The central nervous system (CNS) refers to the brain and spinal cord, whereas the peripheral nervous system (PNS) is an umbrella term for all of the nerves in the body. These nerves transmit information between the CNS and the other body parts such as the skin, muscles, and internal organs. 2. Cranial vs. Spinal Nerves The PNS is further divided into cranial nerves, which arise from the brain, and spinal nerves, which originate from the spinal cord. The cranial nerves mainly provide innervation to the head, but also extend to the internal organs such as the heart and digestive system. The spinal nerves are responsible for innervation of the rest of the body, including the limbs and trunk.


“I think he’s dragging the left hind toe,” offers another bystander.

3. Motor vs. Sensory Nerves All cranial and spinal nerves of the The horse in question certainly does not seem sound; however, the PNS are categorized as either motor source of the issue remains enigmatic to all observers. The lameness seems or sensory nerves. Motor nerves inconsistent, and no two steps taken by the horse seem alike. Sometimes there relay information from the CNS to is a toe-drag, sometimes he trips and stumbles, and every now and then it the body, and cause contraction of seems like he swings a leg out to the side on a turn. muscles, resulting in movement. What is going on? Sensory nerves gather information from the body and environment, The detection of subtle lamenesses indicators of neurological disease are and provide this information to the can prove challenging to even the significant loss of muscle, excessive CNS. For example, if a horse steps on most experienced horsemen. Matters stumbling, a staggering or swaying a stone, sensory nerves relay inforare further complicated when the gait, sweating that only occurs in one mation about this painful event to gait abnormality is inconsistent or area of skin, and apparent weakness the CNS, which promptly stimulates intermittent. In some of these cases, of one or more parts of the body. the motor nerves to make the horse efforts to find the source of pain More severe neurological disease move his foot away from the stone. are fruitless. In fact, some of these can manifest as a dull, depressed When presented with a horse “mystery lamenesses” are not true mental state, complete paralysis of with suspected neurological disease, pain-related lamenesses at all; they are various muscle groups, an inability to a veterinarian must use his or her caused by neurological dysfunction. rise, or behavioural changes such as knowledge of the anatomy of the Sometimes, differentiating between aggression or compulsive behaviour. nervous system in order to pinpoint true musculoskeletal pain and Form and Function the area that has been injured. For neurological disease can be tricky. To understand how injury or instance, if a horse shows signs of A major clue that the neurological disease of the nervous system can neurological deficit in both of his system could be involved is a random result in the clinical signs observed hind limbs, it is much more likely appearance to the gait abnormality. in affected horses, it is first necesthat the horse has a problem in his That is, the abnormal step is different sary to have a basic understanding spinal cord (CNS) than two separ each time rather than a consistently ate injures in the spinal nerves shortened stride, dragged toe, or head of the anatomy and function of the nod, which are more characteristic of a (PNS) of both hind limbs. Once the nervous system in the normal horse. pain-related lameness. Other potential anatomical location of the injury has The parts of the nervous system WINTER 2018





Timing of Meals for Health & Performance By Shelagh Niblock, PAS





Horse owners know how important good nutrition is to the health and performance of their animals. They spend considerable time and money ensuring that their horses are provided with the nutrition they need to do a job and stay healthy. There is a great deal of debate in the equine industry today about feed and its safety or suitability for our horses. We consult the internet seeking the best supplements, and more and more we are backing up our research with lab analyses to ensure we know as accurately as possible just what we feed them. Despite this


Despite this diligence on the part of horse owners there can still be issues with health and performance. Horses who are working intensely are subject to gastric ulcers and hindgut upset. Performance horses can “hit the wall” and run out of energy when they most need it to be successful. Why does this happen and what can we do to feed our horses better?

Mealtimes Matter The timing of meals for working horses is a poorly understood and easily overlooked subject. We know



Partially-digested hay in the hindgut acts like a sponge to hold water, which is available to the horse at any given time.

Whether at home or at the show, nothing beats small meals of good quality forage fed often, and regular access to fresh water.

Meals of concentrates fed prior to performance events can negatively impact the horse’s ability to perform.

that, in general, horses have a small stomach and so the practice of feeding small meals frequently is preferable to large meals, especially when feeding concentrates like grains. We also know that horses can be prone to gastric ulcers, especially if they are on an intensive work or training schedule. It’s also generally well known that horses secrete gastric acids in their stomachs constantly and not just in response to a meal. The potential outcome of this digestive adaptation is discomfort for a horse performing on an empty stomach. So how, exactly, does the timing of meals affect your horse’s health and performance?

Feeding for Foregut Health

One of the most effective ways to ensure a healthy foregut for your horse is to feed consistent small meals of forage throughout the day. No matter

what your horse’s need for supplemental energy provided by concentrates, all horses need access to consistent intake of palatable forage. Grass hay works well, as do grass-alfalfa mix hays. Alfalfa itself is an excellent buffer in the stomach of the horse, largely due to its bulky fibre content and the high level of calcium it contains. Straight alfalfa must be fed with caution, though, due to its high protein content. Protein fed in excess of needs has to be metabolized and excreted, a metabolic process that costs your horse energy. Soaked alfalfa pellets and cubes can be a good alternative to provide an effective stomach buffer for your horse prior to working. Although one would think that a diet of free-choice hay offered every day would suit all horses and give them good gastrointestinal tract health, that WINTER 2018




Canada’s Top-Placed Olympic

3-Day Event Riders

By Tania Millen

Representing Canada at the Olympic Games is the Holy Grail for many riders, but not every rider has the good fortune to get there. Those who represent Canada at the Games all have very different stories about how they qualified, the experiences they had, and the exceptional horses they were fortunate to ride. Canada’s top-placed three-day event riders from the 1976 through 2008 Olympic Games have had many years to reflect on their Olympic experiences and fortunately, were happy to share some of their life lessons, anecdotes, and wisdom with those who want to follow in their hoofprints. These are their stories.





Juliet Graham riding Sumatra was the top-placed Canadian three-day event rider at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

“It was incredible walking into the stadium being a Canadian at a Canadian Olympic Games,” says Juliet Graham of her 1976 Montreal Olympics experience.


five of those determined men and women


In 1976, 22-year-old Juliet Graham rode her feisty mare, Sumatra, at the Bromont-based Montreal Olympics, finishing 11th as the top-placed Canadian three-day event rider. Now a part-time riding coach in Virginia, Graham says, “It probably would have meant a little more if I’d been a little older. I remember feeling a bit like a deer in the headlights. It was an unreal experience.” Graham grew up on Graham Ranch in southern Alberta where Sumatra was born and raised, and says, “The ranch was the eventing mecca and party central for a long time. When I was 12, someone rode a tricycle off the diving board into the pool. That didn’t end well,” she laughs. “Sumatra was a horse that Michael Herbert (Canada’s three-day eventing team coach) told my mother was a nice family horse because the whole family could sit on top of it.” Considering the mare went on to gallop around all the top courses in the world multiple times, Graham says, “We never let him forget that.” In her late teens, Graham went to England with Sumatra and they completed world-renowned Burghley three times, Badminton twice, plus the 1974 World Championships where she placed eighth. “That’s where I got my mileage,” she says. “I came back and qualified (for the 1976 Olympics) in the United States and Canada. “It was incredible walking into the stadium being a Canadian at a Canadian Olympic Games. We were the last team to go into the stadium and we had to



Nick Holmes-Smith with Maiden Cruise at the World Equestrian Games in 1990. “I don’t think coaches or owners or other riders put pressure on riders. The pressure is from ourselves.”

walk for miles in very, very uncomfortable shoes. I knew a lot of people and it was amazing having all those people together in one place.” After the 1976 Olympics, Graham rode at two more world championships, winning a team gold medal in 1978. In 2009, Graham and the rest of the 1978 gold medal-winning three-day event World Championship team were inducted into the Canadian Eventing Hall of Fame. Although she continued to ride, eventually there was a period where Graham was too busy with a business and family to compete. She says, “There was a time when I didn’t do an event for 10 years. Then I got back into it and rode to intermediate but… it’s so expensive and life consuming.” She also had a brief but successful career as a steeplechase jockey.

Subsequently, Graham was part of Canada’s high performance and threeday eventing team selection committee for many years, and she’s still riding and teaching today. Looking back on how the Olympics changed her life, she says, “It was a confidence boost. I still teach a lot and a lot of that goes back to being an Olympian.” Graham admits she has never had another horse like Sumatra, saying, “She was a helluva horse.”


Nick Holmes-Smith knows what it takes to get to the Olympics. He rode at three Olympic Games between 1980 and 1992, all on different horses. WINTER 2018




The Spanish


By Tania Millen

Spanish horses were revered by First Nations people and eventually figured prominently in all aspects of prairie culture. 34






hese days, importing European horses generally means flying expensive horses with highperformance Warmblood pedigrees over to North America. But importing horses to North America isn’t anything new. Horses were brought over from Europe when Spanish explorers and conquistadors sailed the ocean blue in the 15th century. At that time, the three main types of Spanish horses — Andalusian, Jennet, and Barb — were highly regarded and sought-after by breeders throughout Europe. So, when European explorers set off to expand their patrons’ landholdings and settle new country, their expeditions included Spanish horses. In 1493, on Christopher Columbus’ second trip to the New World, all three types of Spanish horses were crammed into the holds of his ships. The four-legged survivors

Horses That Made History of that and other voyages to North America dramatically altered the history of the world. Imported Spanish horses were both vital to Europeans focussed on conquering North America, and instigated horse-based First Nations’ cultures across the continent that still exist today. Registered Spanish Mustangs — also known as Colonial Spanish Mustangs — present in North America today are descendants of those original imports. Plus, some of the wild horses in the USA — known as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Mustangs — still contain Spanish blood. Dr. Phillip Sponenberg is a professor at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and has been studying Spanish Mustangs for over 30 years. He writes that “Colonial Spanish Horses are of great historic importance in the New



Blood First Nation horseman in 1882. WINTER 2018





Becoming confident and safe in the horse trailer.


n previous articles I described bringing AJ home from Alberta, and then teaching him to become confident before moving to the trailer. Some of the things we worked on to set him up for this were stepping up onto a bridge and backing off, moving through narrow places, and learning how to lead and send forward really well. I will offer insights and tips about how to ask him to go into the trailer. I’ll talk about sending in versus leading in, and how to overcome many of the challenges that come with trailering a young horse, or an older horse that worries about the trailer. Before we get started, here are some key tips: • The trailer is hooked up and ready, but I don’t need to go anywhere. • I have no timeline and I’m not late for anything.

Trailer Loading the Young Horse By Jonathan Field

Welcome to the third instalment in my series about preparing a young horse for a lifetime of being confident and safe in the horse trailer. Even though my colt had already travelled from Alberta over the Rockies to BC’s Fraser Valley, as described in part one (A Foal’s Safe Trip Home, Summer 2018 issue), I still did not consider him to be fully prepared for the trailer. It’s about more than getting the horse loaded (although that’s often very important); it’s also about the horse being calm when in the trailer. As horses are naturally claustrophobic, good preparation and positive experiences help prevent panic and future wrecks. I’ve taken many steps to help my colt have a good experience. Now we’re finally ready to teach the youngster to be a thinking horse when he’s near and in the horse trailer. And for those of you following closely, in case you’re wondering — his barn name is “AJ.”





• I’m thinking about the horse’s lifetime

trailering experience versus waiting until the last minute and needing to jam this very important lesson into a tight schedule.

Starting with the end goal in mind, I want the horse to see the back of the horse trailer and think about when he gets to go in there. The trailer is a place where good things happen. It’s a place where he gets to rest and sometimes eat a nice flake of alfalfa or a handful of grain. Having said that, the food is not what gets him to go in. It’s actually not even in the trailer when I do the training. I don’t want the distraction, and we know that a horse can have the best food right in front of him and still not go into the trailer if he doesn’t feel safe or doesn’t have a good enough leader to get him in. It’s about trust. Later on in training, I will give the horse breakfast in the trailer as many days a week as I can, when I’m around the barnyard and close by. Should the horse be tied in the trailer? This is a common question. The purpose of tying a horse in a trailer is to keep their head at the front, rather than to keep them in the trailer. Have you ever seen a horse that was tied in the trailer with the butt-bar undone

All the preparation we did with the barrels and the or the back door left open, and tried to step out backwards until their hind legs were out of the horse trailer? A bad wreck can result if the back legs slide under the trailer or off the side of the ramp while the horse is still tied by the head. What keeps the horse in the trailer? It’s either the divider partition or the bottom bar. Then why do we tie? I tie to make sure the horse’s head stays at the front instead of the horse turning around and trying to crawl over or under the divider partition, or becoming turned around in their single stall. A green horse can also travel loose, as I described in part one about bringing my youngster home from Alberta. If a horse doesn’t tie well on a regular basis, it’s a wreck waiting to happen if he is put in a confined space and tied up.

Horses that Paw in the Trailer

Horses that paw are physically in the trailer but mentally out of the trailer. The solution goes back to the foundation and the way the horse is set up to want to go in the trailer. If I have a horse that can’t be at ease and comfortable in trailer, I put my trailer in the arena all blocked up safely, load him several times during our training sessions, and let him rest awhile in there. If he begins to paw and becomes anxious, it essentially calls me over to bring him out of the trailer and do more. More moving and frantic behaviour in the trailer means more physical output outside the trailer. In time, the inside of the trailer becomes a place of relief and relaxation. When this is working well, my horses will spend many occasions during the week just standing in a trailer.

gate, described in the previous article Young Horse PreTrailer Training, has set us up so I can easily send AJ where I want him to go. It’s important for him to learn to be sent somewhere because ultimately when he gets in the trailer, he will be in there on his own. It takes more confidence, leadership, and trust on the horse’s part to be sent somewhere compared to being led somewhere. Here’s an example: We’ve all had a situation where we couldn’t ride the horse across a bridge or into a scary corner of the arena, but if we dismounted we were able to lead the horse through. That’s the difference between sending and leading. I will start sending him right away by asking him to pass between the trailer and me. This is the same exercise we did with the barrels, as described in the previous article. Once he goes by both ways and sees it with both eyes and sniffs it, I move on. TIP: Place your trailer in a bit of a low spot so there is less of a step-up. Put shavings in the trailer to make it more inviting and less slippery. WINTER 2018




Make Me WORTHY Of My Horse


By Kevan Garecki If you spend enough time around horses, before long you’re likely to encounter an injury. Some folks joke that they could bubble-wrap their horses and put them into a round room, and they’d still figure out a way to hurt themselves. Like humans, there are some horses that cruise through life without a single incident, while others just seem prone to elevate our stress level, and diminish our cash level, with frequent new and interesting injuries! There just might be more to this than meets the eye, however, as creating a safe environment for our horses actually begins with how we perceive them. I’m sure just about everyone who owns a horse loves that horse, and I’m not going to get into who cares more for their horses because of what they do for, to, or with them. I am going to share with you how we can increase understanding by the way we approach our relationship with horses, and enhance their safety as a result. I’ll say one thing first, because a lot of people have a rather skewed perception of just what “training” is. You don’t “train” a half-ton flight animal that could kill you in the blink of an eye; you prove to him that he can trust you more than his own 52




instincts. That is true horsemanship. No matter what we ask the horse to do, regardless of the disciplines we pursue, when it comes to teaching or training, we all use operant conditioning to get that horse to do something. Operant conditioning is simply causing or coercing a specific action or response by varying the consequence. An example is the “pressure and release” method whereby a horse learns to move off our leg not by pressure, but when we release the pressure, thereby signalling that the horse has done what we’ve asked. Another example of


This photo was taken during a photo shoot I did for my dear friend, Lisa Diagneault. I was trying to demonstrate a pose I wanted her to attempt, and as I did so her horse Thia simply placed her foot into my hand, pressed her head gently to mine, closed her eyes and released a big sigh. Thia and I have a great deal of history together, and by that gesture it was obvious that she certainly felt the need to share something. I was honoured and humbled that she chose to share it with me. This is a horse who trusts me, because she knows I trust her. This is why I do what I do…


Bella casually investigates a trailer for the first time. There was no pressure, it was just an invitation.

Horses have an innate sense of our intentions. They can read our body language and understand signals that we may not even realize we’re giving. Horses just naturally feel safer around those who mean them no harm. I believe this is why some people are truly gifted with horses; it may also explain why some do so well at exploiting them. It all depends on how you use your PHOTO: LISA DIAGNEAULT

talents. We are all connected, remember this every time you’re with your horse. — Kevan Garecki







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Celebration of Horses


Album of Winners We are delighted to congratulate the Winners and Runners-Up in our 27th Annual Celebration of Horses Photo Contest. Our 2018 contest welcomed the highest number of entries ever, and the quality just keeps getting better every year. Our sincere thanks go to the hundreds of horse lovers who shared their special moments and stories of beloved equines and working partners. The continued success of this contest would not be possible without the generous support of our wonderful sponsors, to whom we are extremely grateful. The lucky winner in each category will receive a $250 gift certificate from Noble Outfitters. Two runners-up in each category will receive a POG (Portable Ozone Generator) from Strathcona Ventures. 62




LOVE OF HORSES Depicting the Human-Horse Bond

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“This was my tribute photo to the Humboldt Broncos Bus Tragedy on Jersey Day [April 12, 2018],” says photographer Debbie Thiessen. “My husband, Ken, was the willing rider and his horse is Diego, an 11-year-old Andalusian gelding.” WINTER 2018




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In the Middle are the Horsemen By Tik Maynard Trafalgar Square Books • Non-fiction ISBN 9781570768323 • 369 pages • Paperback, Kindle REVIEWED BY APRIL RAY-PETERSON With rave reviews from such iconic horseman as Monty Roberts, Pat Parelli, Jonathan Field, and David O’Connor, this book is a must-read for every horse lover out there. An inspiring story about horses, life, and everything in between, Tik Maynard dives into what makes him a true horseman. Maynard started riding at Southlands, a small suburb of Vancouver, BC, with the Vancouver Pony Club. Horses are in his blood, with both of his parents being grand prix riders themselves, his mom in dressage and his dad in show jumping. Maynard competed in modern pentathlon representing Canada at three World Championships, and at the 2007 Pan American Games. When faced with a career-ending injury and a devastating break-up, we learn how he picked up the pieces and put them all back together in his journey to learn more about horses, and in the process more about people, himself included. This book is as easy to read as it is for horse folk to relate to, and I couldn’t put it down. For anyone who has worked in a barn or followed the “working student” path, his story is incredibly relatable, and you feel as if you are right there in the narrative with him. Following Maynard’s working student career in Canada, the US, and Europe — including working with the Millars of Millar Brooke Farm — his journey is beautifully documented and includes all the good and bad that’s involved in trying to make it in the horse world. The variety in Maynard’s work experience really underlines the fact that as horse people we can learn from everyone and could certainly benefit from being more

55 Corrective Exercises for Horses By Jec Aristotle Ballou

Trafalgar Square Books • Non-fiction • ISBN 9781570768675 • 171 pages • Hardcover REVIEWED BY APRIL RAY-PETERSON Whether you are bringing your horse back to work after injury or time off, looking to improve your horse’s overall performance, or simply want to enhance your working partnership, these exercises and tips can help you achieve your goals. Always prioritizing the horse first, Ballou’s lifelong study helps riders open their eyes to proper biomechanics and athleticism without shortcuts, force, or unkindness to the horse. As the cover promises, these easily-understood exercises will help resolve postural problems, improve movement patterns, and prevent injury. Ballou also explains corrective exercises, bodywork therapies, the importance of cross-training, and her rules for keeping any riding horse happy from performance partners to pleasure mounts, and everything in between. With guest contributions from Rachel Ory, champion reiner and Western dressage trainer; and Jim Masterson of the Masterson method, 55 Corrective Exercises for Horses is easy to follow and beautifully laid out, with wellexplained exercises, tips and loads of photographs. The ringed binding makes it 78




Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association News



Making the Connection “Communication” — the 21st century buzzword! It comes in all shapes and forms, from traditional media to social media to everything else electronic. But the best communication takes place face-to-face. This is where, as human beings, we really make the connection. Our society leans towards separateness. Wherever you go, people are texting or talking on cell phones (as they eat breakfast, walk in the street, ride the bus… even while driving). For some, it has become an addiction. “Tuning

open-minded on our very own horsemanship journey. Ultimately, it should be about the horse and how we interact with them and learn from them. What they have to teach us is endless if we’re willing to listen. We can start by reading this book. Today, Maynard runs a farm in Florida with his wife, Sinead Halpin, US Eventing Team Member, and they just welcomed a baby boy into the family in September of 2018. In addition to this book, he has written a children’s story, has been published in REAL magazine, won the Malahat Review Open Season Award, and has twice been short-listed for the CBC Literary Awards for his non-fiction work.

in” also means “tuning out.” In our therapeutic riding programs, cell phones stay out of the arena. Making the connection with our instructors, riders, and fellow volunteers requires our undivided attention. Safety is, of course, a first consideration, but tying for first place is relationships. We have much to learn from our clients with disabilities in a therapeutic riding program. We learn to discover the unique qualities, potential, aspirations of each one, and our connectedness with them

helps them discover their abilities. We are part of a team, including the horse, helping them to raise the ceiling. When a rider makes the connection with his or her horse, we all get excited. Connecting with each other and with our riders and horses implies not just a commitment to focus, but a generosity of spirit that sets self aside and, in doing so, opens us up to the wonderful possibilities of new relationships. As they blossom in our riders, we are all touched. b For more information on CanTRA and its member centres, visit, or email Your donation to, or will make a difference to a child or adult with a disability.


< Jesse loves to ride at the

Joyriders, Prince Edward Island.



Chelsey snuggles up to Ember.


easy to use and reference. This book would be an asset for any horse person who wants to understand how to help their horse optimize the way he uses his body for a longer life of soundness and health. And with this in your library, you will never run out of things to do with your horse, no matter what your end goal is. In addition to this book, Jec also penned 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse and Rider, which remains one of the top sellers of all equine instruction books, along with 101 Western Dressage Exercises for Horse and Rider. She has made a name for herself with her writing, training, popular clinics, and by giving horse people the tools they need to help their horses, by combining her experience in horse fitness and classical dressage. Ballou has dedicated this book to Corazon, the horse who helped her rediscover the joy again.





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Canadian Horse Journal - SAMPLE - Winter 2018  

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Canadian Horse Journal - SAMPLE - Winter 2018  

Canada's Leading General Interest Horse Magazine