PM #40009439 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Suite 202, 2400 Bevan Ave., Sidney BC, V8L 1W1
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/BEST ANIMAL PHOTOS
Rider Prejudice Against Mares Recent research has revealed negative attitudes towards mares. BY MARK ANDREWS Stallions have often been considered difficult or dangerous, but now it seems that mares are being tarred with the same brush. A study into riders’ perceptions of horse temperament and suitability for ridden work, based on horse sex, found that mares are also seen as “bossy” or “unreliable.” The research, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, has found horse riders are applying human gender stereotypes to horses — a form of anthropomorphism — which could lead them to overlook the merits of mares and fillies. Lead author Kate Fenner, a Ph.D. student in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, expressed concern that this gender bias against mares could also jeopardize their welfare. “When riders assume their horses are being ‘bossy,’ ‘difficult,’ ‘flighty,’ or ‘unwilling,’ they may be more likely to punish or correct them as a result,” she says. “A mare disobeying a rider’s
signal could be interpreted as the horse having a ‘bad attitude’ and be met with punishment. However, when a gelding, thought to be reliable and easygoing, disobeys the same signal, the rider may be more likely to conclude that the horse had not understood the signal, and work to establish the signal-response pattern with the horse using reinforcement.” The research shows that both mares and stallions are considered bossy or difficult, but most leisure riders don’t ride stallions because of an existing belief that they may be dangerous. The study surveyed 1,233 people, of whom 94 percent were women and 75 percent were horse riders with at least eight years’ experience. The predominance of women in the study is representative of the riding population in Australia, says senior author Professor Paul McGreevy of the Sydney School of Veterinary Science. The questionnaire asked
respondents to allocate three hypothetical horses (a mare, a gelding, and a stallion) to four riders: a woman, a man, a girl, and a boy. Riders were described as equally capable of riding each horse and each horse was described as suitable for all riders. Participants were significantly more likely to allocate the stallion to the man and nearly 50 percent of respondents did not allocate a horse to the boy, even though they ranked rider gender as the least important factor in their choice. They were also asked which horses (mares, geldings, or stallions) were most suitable for the three equestrian disciplines of show jumping, dressage and trail riding. They overwhelmingly chose geldings for trail riding, with mares being least preferred for both dressage and show jumping. When given the choice of a mare, gelding, or stallion to ride, more than 70 percent of respondents chose the gelding,
despite being told all the horses in the scenario were competent for a specific task. Professor McGreevy believes the gender stereotyping is based on folklore and could ultimately be a self-fulfilling prophecy. “If you’ve grown up believing that mares are moody or fiery or difficult, you will tend to approach them accordingly and ride them differently, [and] then the horses themselves will respond differently,” says Professor McGreevy. “This kind of prejudice against females is a bit like the traditional bias against horses with chestnut (ginger) hair. Many riders believe a chestnut mare is inherently stroppy or more fiery, and there is no evidence for this.” Professor McGreevy says the prejudice underlines the need for the upcoming global survey of horse behaviour from the University of Sydney, due to be launched soon. Printed with permission from Mark Andrews, Equine Science Update.
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
To Blanket or Not? Research suggests that certain types of blanket could be causing horses to overheat. SOURCE: ISES Horse owners are routinely putting blankets (rugs) on their horses all year round. However, new research suggests that certain types of blanket could be causing them to overheat. It has become routine (and even fashionable) for many domestic horses to be blanketed all year round — in fly sheets, all-weather turnouts, stable rugs, fleeces, or perhaps even a onesie. Blankets can be useful in protecting horses from biting insects and from adverse weather conditions; however, until now there have been very few studies on blanketing, and none on the effect of different types of blankets on a 10
horse’s body temperature. Like humans, horses have a “thermoneutral zone” (TNZ) — an optimal range of temperatures within which they can comfortably maintain their own body temperature. For adult horses in mild climates, this is between 5 - 25°C. Humans, on the other hand, have a more limited TNZ of between 25 - 30°C when naked. This means when humans feel cold, horses are still well within their comfortable zone. Humans often make decisions about blanketing their horses based on whether they feel cold themselves, so they may well be using blankets on their horses when not necessary.
Kim Hodgess, a M.Sc. student from Duchy College, UK, carried out a pilot study to investigate how the use of different blankets affects horse temperature, and how this could impact horse welfare. She then presented her findings at the 14th International Society of Equitation Science (ISES) conference in Rome in September 2018. The research team studied horses who were routinely blanketed as part of their management routine, ten kept stabled indoors and two at pasture. Three of the horses wore sweet itch blankets (a sweet itch blanket is a lightweight, nonwaterproof blanket that is used to protect the horse from biting insects and covers the majority of the horse’s body including the neck and belly), six wore fleeces, two wore light quilted blankets, and two control horses were not blanketed (one stabled and one at pasture). The surface temperature of each horse was taken by taping a small temperature data logger directly onto
Soldiers Saddle Up and Find Healing with the RCMP
By Julie Meilleur, Soldier On During their training, soldiers learn to work together as a single unit. Effective communication between individuals is necessary for a team to come together and beat the odds. Riding a horse is no different. To be successful, a rider must put aside their emotions and communicate clearly with their horse through the use of body language and voice commands. The ability to separate from personal problems while working with the horses is a big help to those who have experienced traumatic illness or injury. For the past 12 years, Soldier On has supported close to 5,000 ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and veterans to acquire sporting equipment and to participate in group structured activities such as fishing, golf, and horseback riding. In 2013, Soldier On partnered with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to give its members the opportunity to spend a week at the RCMP Musical Ride stables
in Ottawa, Ontario. The Saddle Up camp provides members with a safe place to try something new and connect with people who have faced similar challenges during their time in the CAF. Camp participants learn to groom, feed, and ride the same horses that perform in the Musical Ride. Many of the members have no prior horse experience and are thrilled for the opportunity to learn from the Musical Ride staff. The goal of this camp is to have fun; however, many members find healing and peace with the horses. One member expressed surprise at how the horses could calm her when she needed a break from a busy day. Another member, Diane Doiron, found the horses were far more forgiving of her inexperience than she expected. She was appreciative of their patience with her while she learned about horse care and riding. Like many Soldier On members, Diane experienced trauma during her time in the CAF. In 1987, she was released from the military because of her sexual orientation. She felt alone and abandoned by her military family and too ashamed to share her story with friends and relatives. For 30 years, Diane was unable to find the help and support she needed from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) or other military support services. In 2017 she, along with 75 other people, received an invitation from the Prime Minister to come to Ottawa for a formal apology regarding the previous discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the CAF. At that meeting, Diane felt like she was being accepted as a Canadian after 30 years of feeling like an outsider. Since then Diane has been receiving assistance from the military for her post-traumatic stress disorder and, as part of her healing process, she decided to apply to a Soldier On sports camp. A creature of habit with no horse experience, Diane wanted to try something that would push her out of her comfort zone. “I didn’t know that an experience like this was on my bucket list, but now I can cross it off. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before!” When Diane arrived at the Saddle Up Soldier On camp and put on her combat pants for the first time in 30 years, she felt like she was being accepted back into the military family she had left so long ago. For Diane, spending a week at the RCMP stables was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a week she will never forget. Many soldiers feel guilty because they are ill or injured and cannot deploy. Various factors such as health and family AUTUMN 2019
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
Feeding the Growing Horse for HEALTH & PERFORMANCE
You chose both the mare and the stallion,
By Shelagh Niblock, PAS
and you have waited almost a year during
The successful feeding of young horses post-weaning demands that we meet their nutritional needs for maintenance as well as for growth and development, and as they get older there may be nutrients required for work as well. Failure to meet the nutrient needs of growing horses can restrict their development and may affect their productivity later in life. Good nutritional guidelines for growing horses have been established in the National Research Council Nutrient Requirements of Horses (NRC), and there are plenty of manufactured supplements and feeds for growing horses available. So, feeding that young horse should be easy, right? Not always! Genetic factors, forage quality, and management are all significant contributors to the development of a successful feed ration for the growing horse. How do you get it right?
the gestation of your anxiously anticipated foal. Now the foal is here and approaching the age to wean. The mare has done an admirable job of supporting that young life for the past 15 months during pregnancy and nursing, but now you must take over the task of meeting the nutritional requirements of your growing horse. 16
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/GRIGORITA KO
The Importance of Balance Growth in young horses is multifaceted and consists of bone growth, development of soft tissues, and weight gain. A critical aspect of healthy growth in the young horse is skeletal development. Balanced nutrition is a fundamental aspect of healthy bone growth. Weight gain that is in excess of what the developing skeleton can support will cause problems. Rations for growing horses must be balanced for essential nutrients without providing excessive energy, and for all nutrients to permit good bone development without excessive weight gain.
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/GRIGORITA KO
Protein is an important nutrient, but even more important is protein quality. Protein is comprised of “building blocks” called amino acids. Some amino acids are in plentiful supply in equine diets, and some are not and so are called “essential amino acids” and must be supplied daily in the diets of growing horses. An example of an important essential amino acid in the diet of a growing horse is lysine. Lysine is a “limiting nutrient” in any equine diet that does not provide sufficient intake of it to support the growth requirement of the horse. In other words, equine diets where lysine is a limiting nutrient will permit only as much growth and development as the amount of lysine. The young horse may continue to gain weight if energy is in plentiful supply in the ration, but skeletal development may be hindered. This can cause slowed or stunted growth and excess body weight gain, a recipe for developmental orthopedic disease (DOD). The same concept applies to other nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, and trace minerals. Calcium and phosphorous are important for mineralizing the protein matrix in growing bone, but they must be present in both the sufficient amount and the correct ratio for successful growth. Trace minerals are an important part of the mineralization of growing bone and so dietary deficiencies or imbalances in copper, zinc, or selenium may result in any one of those minerals becoming a limiting nutrient. Rations for growing horses must have sufficient nutrients fed in the correct ratios to permit good bone development.
Ensuring the youngster has sufficient nutrients for healthy growth means you must have some idea of their feed intake. A diet that contains a satisfactory nutrient profile for the growing horse must be consumed in sufficient quantities to deliver the nutrients required. This can be an area of particular concern in the choice of hay for your youngster. Because growing horses have smaller body size, if hay is of poorer quality, consumption may not be enough to meet nutrient demands. Course hay with low digestibility will often result in growing horses with classic signs of nutrient deficiencies including poor hair coat, poor immune function, and pot bellies. Good quality hay is always the foundation of a balanced ration for the growing horse.
The Weaned Foal
The feed intake of a weaned foal is low due to small body size, small mouth, milk teeth, and limited capacity in the cecum or hindgut. At the same time, the growth rate of the weaned foal is very high and accordingly, the nutrient density of the weaned foal diet must be high. Weanlings must have access to quality hay or to pasture with high digestibility. They will also need balanced supplementation of important vitamins and minerals. Ideally, foals should be started on a concentrate prior to weaning. Foals accustomed to eating concentrates like a good quality foal-starter pellet will be far less likely to experience a
What is a Limiting Nutrient?
A young horse with classic signs of nutrient deficiencies including a pot belly and poor hair coat.
post-weaning slump in condition following the abrupt cessation of mare’s milk. Foals consuming at least a kilogram per day of 16 percent protein foal-starter are usually better equipped for weaning than foals consuming forage alone. Quality hay, good pasture, and foal-starter pellets or balancer pellets fed accord to the bodyweight of the weaned foal can be continued until one year of age. Pay close attention to growth rates and bodyweight gain. Commercial foal starters may provide more energy than that required by large warmblood weanlings who can potentially consume larger quantities of quality forage. In this or similar circumstances, it may be necessary to reduce the foal-starter intake of your warmblood and initiate the feeding of a balancer pellet fed according to the manufacturer’s directions. As noted above, attention must be paid to the amount of lysine the balancer pellet is providing. National Research Council Equine Nutrition Guidelines suggest that growing horses between the ages of four to ten months require approximately 180 milligrams of dietary lysine per kilogram of body weight of the foal per day. If you choose to feed a commercial balancer pellet, check the tag to ensure this requirement is being met. If the lysine content is not noted on the Guaranteed Analysis on the tag, call the manufacturer to ask what the content is and whether the balancer pellet is formulated for growing horses.
Yearlings have a slower growth rate than weanlings and their feed intake is higher due to larger body capacity, so the nutrient density in the diet of the horse between one and two years of age needs to be lower. Key to the successful diet for a yearling is providing quality forage, as well as free choice salt, water, and a good vitamin and mineral supplement given according manufacturer’s directions. Yearlings fed superior quality forage may do better on a diet that also includes a balancer pellet. Diets based on quality hay fed in combination with high nutrient density supplements such as balancer pellets are often a good choice for the slower growing, large breed horses. Yearlings fed balanced rations with sufficient nutrients can look “framey” and still be on track for good growth and AUTUMN 2019
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/GRIGORITA KO
Different breeds mature at different ages and feeding programs should factor in nutrient requirements for work once training begins. Although lighter breeds such as Arabians and Thoroughbreds are considered mature at four to five years of age, larger breed horses such as drafts and warmbloods are not at mature size and weight until they are at least six to seven years old.
ligaments, and developing bone. Keep the training to what is sufficient to establish a good working relationship with your young horse, but hold off on introducing harder work until later in development.
What is Compensatory Growth?
Young horses who have experienced growth setbacks either due to disease, management, or nutritional shortfalls are at risk of a condition called “compensatory growth” should they suddenly be started on a diet with more nutrient density. Compensatory growth occurs when the young horse’s body is trying to “catch up” and fulfil its genetic potential. Unfortunately, the rapid growth that occurs under conditions of compensatory growth is frequently unsound and it may contribute to the incidence of DOD. If you acquire a youngster who may have had a rough start in life, reintroduce a healthy diet gradually. Slow steady growth is always the best. Young horses who have gained too much weight and need to have their energy intake reduced must never be put on a starvation diet. A gradual reduction in energy intake will generally allow the young horse to grow into his excess body condition. When managing the diet of a young horse who needs to slow down his growth rate, ensure
Head Tossing. Bit Resistance. Sensitive Ears.
Does Your Horse Have
Does your horse have trouble responding to the bit? Does he hold his head awkwardly at times, or seem to have problems chewing? Does he show unexplained behaviour under saddle or have problems with certain gaits or leads? Or does he toss his head a lot, especially when pressure is applied with his bit or perhaps a hackamore? These symptoms may be indicators of a wide variety of conditions that should be checked by your vet. But your horse may also be showing signs of TMD, a disease of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) located just below and in front of the ears, one each on either side of the head. Other symptoms that may indicate a problem include uneven wear of the teeth which would be noticed by your vet, cribbing, ear sensitivity, difficulty flexing at the poll, head shyness, and sensitivity around the jaw. 22
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/SHARON MORRIS
By Margaret Evans
In April 2016, Kim Rose, a professional equitation and hunter/jumper trainer in Delta, British Columbia, purchased Julio, a three-year-old Trakehner/Thoroughbred gelding. He was a beautiful mover and athlete and generally well-behaved under saddle, but he began to have episodes of going from cool to explosive on the lunge line, and his bucking and galloping were beyond simple fresh play. He was completely unpredictable with ballistic, almost angry, reactions. “Julio periodically appeared uncomfortable and didn’t finish his hay overnight,” says Rose. “He liked to stick his tongue out the front of his mouth when in his paddock, stall, or in the cross ties, but has never done so when bridled or working on the ground or under saddle. He has always been schooled in a rubber Happy Mouth Mullen loose ring bit with a plain noseband
Research into TMJs recently took a major step forward. The Mark and Pat DuMont Equine Orthopedics Research Fund awarded $50,000 to Carmalt for a study focusing on the TMJ joints. In addition, he received a graduate student stipend of $18,000 to support his research team’s work on the investigation of the impact of TMJ inflammation on equine performance. People typically say their horse has “TMJ” when referring to this condition, but that is something of a misnomer. “All mammals have two TMJs (one on each side of the head), allowing the mandible to be hung under the cranium,” says Carmalt. “I’m trying to talk people out of calling this problem ‘TMJ.’ TMJ, when used in this manner, is actually a colloquial term for disease of the temporomandibular joint (which can be shortened to TMD). Failure to respond to the bit, ‘rein- or bridlelameness’ which is only visible or felt by the rider, or unexplained explosive behaviour under saddle may be associated with TMD. It is important to rule out other causes such as pain from the neck or back, other causes of lameness, or behavioural problems before focusing on the TMJs. At this point, the TMJ should be treated like any other joint. Local anesthesia (a joint block) should be performed, and the horse re-assessed. If this fundamentally changes the movement of the horse, or ameliorates the offensive behaviour, then it is more likely that the TMJ(s) are the source of the problem.”
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
Prior to surgery, Julio with his tongue out for pain relief.
PHOTO: KIM ROSE
adjusted loosely and no [other] equipment. I simply do not believe in or use any sort of restrictive or forceful equipment other than loose, evenly-adjusted side reins on occasion and when lunging.” But in May 2018, she observed an intermittent audible clunking from Julio’s head. Research led her to suspect a TMJ problem, but a subsequent visit by her regular vet yielded nothing. By the fall, the sound was more frequent. Rose was worried. She stopped riding Julio and sought further veterinary advice. Radiographs taken by veterinarian Dr. Robyn Kopala of Meadow Lane Equine Clinic, Surrey, BC, revealed that Julio had a radiopaque fragment in the middle of his right TMJ. Further examination and consultation led to Julio having an arthroscopy of the right TMJ. But the procedure did not reveal the location of the chip, although synovitis and articular cartilage damage was evident. Flushing the joint removed several small pieces of cartilage. The problem did not go away. By early December 2018, the clunking sound was back, and it was clearly bothering him. Rose was at a crossroads. In Julio’s condition, she knew he was not safe for saddle work and could not be sold. But she wanted answers. Online research led her to Dr. Travis Smyth’s thesis Osteoarthritis of the Equine TMJ. Smyth was a graduate student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), University of Saskatchewan, and Dr. James Carmalt was his supervisor throughout his surgical residency and post graduate degree. In no time, Rose was in touch with Smyth who introduced her to Carmalt. On January 19, 2019, Rose loaded Julio into the trailer for the journey to WCVM, Saskatoon, for a CT scan, tests, and full examination. She had no idea at the time that Julio would not be coming home until June.
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
Anatomy and Function of the Equine Hyoid Apparatus By Alexa Linton, Equine Sports Therapist 30
ith the focus on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in this issue (TMD â€” Does Your Horse Have It?, page 22), I found myself wanting to tie this crucial joint between the temporal and mandible bone into an area of current fascination for me, the hyoid bone and its relationship with the fascia. In osteopathy, we are taught to see every part of the body as connected â€” and not only every part of the body, but everything from the structural, to the fluidic, to the energetic and beyond. The hyoid apparatus, a small collection of bones nestled under the mandible and in front of the cervical spine, and its connection with the fascia exemplify this understanding, with far-reaching
Equine Hyoid Bone
Equine Hyoid Apparatus and Larnyx, Lateral View
Sternothyroid Trachea Omohyoid Sternohyoid
R and L arytenoid cartilages Epiglottic Cricoid cartilage cartilage
HYOID APPARATUS Stylohyoid
Basihyoid bone Lingual Process
Styloglossus muscle Tongue
Hyoepiglotticus muscle Sternothyroideus muscle and omohyoideus muscle 32
Basihyoid Genioglossus muscle
PHOTO: OVERSEAS HORSE TRANSPORT
Horses Above the Clouds
Shipping Horses By Air By Tania Millen
Horse transportation is an integral part of Canada’s equine industry, and horses are often trailered long distances when they’re bought or sold, when their owner is relocating, for breeding purposes, or for competition. But for horses traveling across North America or overseas, there is an easier way to get from A to B — horses can fly! In 1990, Canada’s World Equestrian Games team horses flew in a chartered plane to the inaugural games in Stockholm, Sweden. Some 30 quarantined horses were trailered to Toronto International Airport where a convoy of trucks and horse trailers formed a semicircle around the front of the plane to prevent the possibility of a horse getting loose and charging down the runway. Once tack trunks, buckets, and miscellaneous gear were hand-loaded onto the plane, a narrow, steep, plywood-sided ramp was built, extending from the side of a five-ton cargo truck up to the plane’s front door.
One by one, the horses were led and hazed through the truck, up the rickety ramp, through a people-sized doorway, and along the makeshift plywood floor of the open cargo plane where narrow stalls were constructed around each horse — three abreast across the plane. The loaded horses then waited impatiently with ears brushing the ceiling, while the rest of the horses were individually loaded and their stalls were constructed. With everyone aboard, the doors were closed and the plane taxied to the takeoff line-up where it sat on the tarmac waiting its turn, while horses and their grooms AUTUMN 2019
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
PHOTOS: OVERSEAS HORSE TRANSPORT
In preparation for their flight, horses are loaded into large boxes which are in turn loaded onto the cargo plane by giant elevating lifts and conveyor belts.
dripped sweat in the muggy heat. After a grindingly slow flight, the horses arrived in Europe, deplaned via another rickety ramp, went through customs and vet checks, and were hauled in strange trailers to their new quarters. The whole process took over 24 hours, and it was four days before the horses and their grooms recovered from the ordeal. Nowadays, horses fly differently. Today, shipping a horse by air is almost as simple as sending a Christmas present to faraway friends. Horses are packaged up into large boxes called pallets, which are then loaded onto cargo planes by giant elevating lifts and conveyor belts. They arrive at their destination as efficiently as passengers on regular flights. The process isn’t quite as simple as dropping your horse off at the nearest courier service 40
office, but the logistics are fairly straightforward. Although individuals can arrange shipments themselves, it’s simpler and more cost effective to hire a company familiar with the myriad steps involved in the process. Globally, shipping horses by air is big business, with many companies and agents vying for business. In Canada, Quadriga Horse Transport based near Calgary, Alberta, and Overseas Horse Services, with locations in Calgary and Toronto, Ontario, are main players. They transport horses by road and air, and arrange import, export, and flights for all sorts of four-legged friends from minis to upper level performance horses to the superstars of the Canadian Equestrian Team. Both companies offer one-stop-shop services, arranging everything from ground transportation to quarantine, blood testing, vaccinations, health papers, airline documentation, and the flights themselves, depending on where the horse is flying to and from, what is required, and what the client needs. Unlike 30 years ago, horses fly in specially designed air stalls — commonly known as pallets — and stand three abreast (Economy Class), two abreast (Business Class) or have one whole stall to themselves (First Class). As long as the horse is in an air stall, they can fly on any 747, 757,767 or 777 cargo flight. In a typical year, Quadriga Horse Transport arranges 20 to 30 flights, many with more than one horse. “Most popular countries are Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and the UK,” says Marc Boyer, company owner. Kenneth Serrien is the Managing Director of Overseas Horse Transport Ltd., which arranges flights for approximately 650 horses each year all over the world, including from Canada to Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and South America, often with stopovers through Europe, Miami, Los Angeles or New York.
PHOTO: CLIX PHOTOGRAPHY
How to Minimize Risk of Injury from Falls “There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode; there never was a rider that couldn’t be throwed.” – Will James, cowboy
out. In retrospect we should have taken him home, but we thought he would settle. He didn’t. In my first class he bolted, and we crashed into a fence. I got back on and rode him for a while in the warm-up ring, but we gave up on the show. A couple of days later, in a lesson, he did a sudden violent sideways spook that dumped me once more, but I mounted up and finished the lesson. “Forty-eight hours later, I tried to put my boots on and could not bend down. I could not sit. Back to my physiotherapist who took one look at me and said, ‘You’ve blown a disc. Who’s your doctor?’ I went on rest and pain management for three months. At the end of that time it wasn’t better. It was far worse. I couldn’t work. I was in agony, popping 50mg of morphine a day, and could not sit or stand for more than about five minutes. A CT scan did indeed show that my L4-L5 disc was ruptured, but my symptoms (muscle atrophy and pain radiating down my leg) indicated L5-S1. A visit to the neurosurgeon brought the diagnosis that I had a sequestered disc. A piece had broken off, travelled down the spinal canal and was lodged
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/MANA PHOTO
PHOTO: CLIX PHOTOGRAPHY
In January 2003, Penny Woodworth, who lives on Vancouver Island, BC, was taking a jumping lesson. “Smallish jumps, nothing exciting. My long-time error is looking down, which I did that day. My horse stopped, and I tumbled off. Not a bad fall at all, except that I landed with one butt-cheek on the ground pole. I got up and carried on, but I was crooked and stayed that way. After a week or so, still riding crooked and feeling shooting pains down my right leg, I went for physiotherapy. I had dislocated my sacroiliac (SI) joint. Regular physio treatments and exercises finally got it to stay in place and I continued riding. “Later that summer, I attended a horse show where my horse had had some bad experiences and he was freaked
By Margaret Evans
CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
GROUNDWORK Using Footwork to Change Your Horse’s Neuromuscular Patterns Groundwork can serve a range of purposes, from behaviour modification to physical conditioning, but over the long term its greatest contribution is its alteration of neuromuscular patterns. When a horse needs to adopt a new pattern of muscular activation, coordination, or balance, groundwork is often the quickest way to accomplish it. Using focused and brief groundwork sessions daily, many horses’ postural challenges can be rewired with far less tension and confusion than under saddle. The primary benefit of these groundwork sessions is the direct triggering of core muscles through slow-moving, finelycontrolled footwork. It allows full access to the horse’s nervous system without interfering stimulus from a rider or the larger locomotion muscles. Ideally, to change poor postural habits or to further embed good ones for lasting health, the core muscles 56
By Jec A. Ballou
need to be stimulated at the beginning of any session. Once activated, they tend to stay switched on. If a rider’s weekly routine does not include a few minutes of schooling her horse from the ground, I always encourage it to change. On the other hand, if a rider’s routine includes repetitive daily groundwork exercises in excess of ten minutes, I encourage this to change, too. Veterinary and research studies show that short bouts of focused stimulus produce changes in the neuromuscular system more successfully than long sessions with repetitive and dulled movements. By these recommendations, an effective routine would include groundwork exercises for five to ten minutes on two or three days per week. Further, each day should utilize at least a few novel exercises in order to ensure the horse
is not just performing by rote. To ensure new or improved muscular activation, it is necessary that the horse is not executing the exercises with dullness, boredom, or listlessness. I often suggest that riders keep six to ten exercises in their toolboxes. This way, they can alternate between two or three different ones on any given day throughout a week. Remember that your goal is to practice frequently enough to gain all the rewards from each routine, but not so much that it becomes robotic and the horse is not participating fully. So, which are the best exercises? For the purposes of this article, I offer below three simple exercises that benefit all horses regardless of discipline. They are especially useful because of their improvement on the horse’s body symmetry, posture, and core muscles. Obviously, there are many others that you might choose in addition to these. The following ones are helpful as a foundation as well as useful to revisit at least weekly. Further, it is possible to perform them nearly anywhere — a trailhead, field, arena, or wherever you have a section of mostly flat ground.
The Labyrinth Used frequently to help horses become calm and focused, this arrangement of poles improves proprioception. Ideally, poles used to set up this pattern should be 12 or 16 feet long, but shorter ones can suffice if there is no other option. When using shorter poles, you may need to allow some gaps of space between poles at the corners rather than touching them end-to-end. The horse should be able to make a comfortable turn at each corner without excessive confinement. I have found this exercise to be especially useful for correcting the imbalance of horses that tend to travel with heavy weight on the forehand, or ones that stiffen their neck rigidly when in motion.
The Original Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle ®
1 Set up the labyrinth as shown in the photo. 2 Walk your horse very slowly through the labyrinth.
English & Western Styles
3 Take your time and proceed with small, careful steps. Be sure to flex the horse’s poll/neck in the direction of each new turn. 4 Aim for an uninterrupted rhythm of shortened and precise steps without the horse stopping.
US Patent No. 6591589
PHOTO COURTESY OF JEC A. BALLOU
5 Do not be overly concerned if the horse bangs the poles. This is part of the experience.
Prices Start at $69.95 USD
www.bitlessbridle.com Or Call 719-576-4786
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CANADIAN HORSE JOURNAL
WHO WILL BE CROWNED CHAMPION?
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Canada's Leading General Interest Equine Magazine