lowering the horse’s head sniffer horses the powerf U l scenting ability of h orses
health benefits of horses horses helping the community
a pain in the neck e QU itana Melbo U rn e
M inerals and la M initis o U t and abo U t how to prepare
A National Riding, Training and Horse Care Magazine . . . . incorporating The Green Horse -sustainable horsekeeping.
4: oFF For an ouTIng by Liz Tollarzo
Many riders can feel a little anxious when they’re taking their horse off the property for a ride. Taking the time to prepare prior to departure, and having a plan in place before you reach your destination will help ensure the outing is a success.
10: When Is a horse no longer a green horse? by Ross Jacobs
Horses tend to be thought of as green or educated, novice or advanced, terms often used to describe the horse’s level of education with no obvious or definitive meaning.
14: ManIpulaTIng MInerals For MeTabolIc synDroMe (eMs) by Dr Jennifer Stewart
While the awareness of laminitis and its debilitating effects has been increasing steadily in recent years unfortunately there appears to be an increasing number of horses affected by endocrine diseases.
20: so you WanT To be a saDDle FITTer by Amanda Dickerson
The second in our series on careers in the horse industry, what does it take to become a saddle fitter, and what does a saddle fitter’s working day really look like?
24: WhaT Is operanT conDITIonIng? by Portland Jones
A big part of the ‘language’ that we use to communicate with horses; it’s difficult to work with them without an understanding of the fundamentals of operant conditioning.
27: healTh beneFITs oF horses - horses helping the community Spending time with horses can be incredibly beneficial, the positive effects seen across equine therapy utilised in formal settings and enjoyed by those when being around them.
30: equITana Melbourne
After four long years Australia’s favourite equestrian showcase made a triumphant return to the Melbourne Showgrounds in November with an action packed four days.
34: The european InVaD by Rhiannon Brown – Envirapest 35: FuTure MIce eraDIcaTIon 36: TrackIng up by Deidre Rennick 39: properTy plannIng property not against it by Teele Worrell 40: herbs For The hoo Ves by Country Park 42: suMMer pesTs by Tracy Weaver-Sayer
December/January 2022/23 - Page 2
Vol 44 -4 December /January 2022/2023 So You Want To Be A Saddle Fitter?
Summer Pests Inside
Off For An Outing
This time last year we mentioned how hopeful everyone was that life would return to a more ‘normal’ state in 2022, with no, or few, restrictions, and the return of equestrian events across the country. With two Hoofbeats staff - Sandy and Vicki - attending Equitana Melbourne in November, this event demonstrated that life has finally returned to a more ‘normal’ state as we ‘live’ with Covid. In fact, Vicki actually found herself ‘living’ with Covid on her return from Victoria …
For those that did attend Equitana, and those that did not, we hope you enjoy this issue’s wrap up on this iconic event, which we will be following up in the Feb/March issue with a feature on ‘Products you missed at Equitana’.
At the end of a very busy year it is time to reflect on the people who have so much to do with producing Hoofbeats and to thank them for their dedication, enthusiasm and hard work over the past 12 months. Tracy Weaver- Sayer manages the advertising and promotion and keeps the ad pages filled, Michelle Quinn produces stunning artwork, Celine Bonnelykke continues her role of ‘right-hand person’ even while she was living back in Denmark and now in Portugal, Vicki Yeates is helping with production of the WA insert, WA Show Scene, and Anna Marsden (ACT) has taken on the very deadline orientated role of proof reading after the retirement of long-term proof reader, Kaye Meynell.
From all of us at Hoofbeats we would like to wish all of our contributors, advertisers, readers and supporters a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year. We hope that 2023 is a good year for everyone. Sandy and Bob Hannan, Tracy, Michelle, Celine, Vicki and Anna.
MANAGiNG EdiToR: Sandy Hannan
AdvERTiSiNG: Tracy Weaver-Sayer GRApHiCS Michelle Quinn, Jacqueline Anderson produced by HoofbEAT publiCATioNS 90 leslie Road, Wandi, 6167 ph: (08) 9397 0506 fax: (08) 9397 0200
44: TIMe saVIng hacks For horse oWners
by Liz Tollarzo
Identifying horse keeping chores and tasks that can be carried out more efficiently can help to save time and improve our productivity, giving us more time to do what we enjoy.
48: snIFFer horses by Wendy Elks
While dogs are well known for their sniffing skills and abilities, horses also have a powerful scenting ability, which with training, can be utilised.
50: scenTWork by Rachael Draaisma
Using scent work as a training activity can bring considerable benefits to the horse and help to improve the horse/handler relationship.
a paIn In The neck by Dr Raquel Butler
There are a number of common conditions and developmental disorders that can affect a horse’s neck, with signs of pain ranging considerably.
The soFT Feel by Tanja Kraus
It’s important to establish a good foundation in the horse’s training before moving on to training for a more specific discipline, with self control and a soft feel two of the more important elements to establish.
58: lo WerIng The horse’s heaD by Diane Bawden
Being able to ask your horse to lower its head on cue can be beneficial for all aspects of handling the horse, and it’s something that they can learn with a simple pressure/ release cue.
by Denise Legge
With restrictions lifting and travel back on the agenda many equestrians might be considering incorporating horses into their next holiday adventure.
co Ver phoTo - Vicki Yeates Photography
Having the ability to lower the horse’s head on cue is an important tool to have. liz Tollarzo demonstrated how it is done with her lusitana stallion, Nemo, and vicki Yeates was there to capture the steps.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 3
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A pain in the neck
off on an Outing
Whether taking your horse for a trail ride, a lesson, a clinic, or to a competition, there are some steps to consider for a succesful ride!
by Liz Tollarzo
So the big day comes around and out comes the float, trailer or horse truck and we pack our riding gear and every conceivable item we will need for ourselves and our horses and, before you know it we have arrived at our destination! Perhaps about to compete, or have a lesson, partake in a clinic or travelling out for a trail ride.
After unloading the horse it hits us - “Okay, what should I do now? What am I doing? I wonder if my horse is going to behave” or “he’s not listening, he doesn’t like the arena, that horse over there is playing up - should I have come?”
These questions may happen before actually leaving home, on the way, upon arrival or perhaps even after getting on your horse and starting to ride. Don’t think you are alone - as every horse rider will ask these questions of themselves at some point, regardless of their level of expertise or the discipline, sport or activity in which they are participating.
Horses can sense when their human is nervous or uncertain and they have the most developed instincts to run from danger and stay in a herd situation. Handled correctly, most horses will feel secure with the person they know and trust. This, along with training and exposure to different situations, places and objects, means horses will become accustomed to travelling to different places and performing just as well out as they do at home. The problems often experienced with horses when leaving their home ground is their rider/handler’s uncertainty or fears … so having a ‘plan of action’ already worked out before arriving at the new environment - whether for competition or leisure - can help keep both yourself and the horse relaxed.
It is the number one prerequisite that horses can easily do at home whatever will be expected of them on the ‘outing’ - that they are confident in their training and respond to the rider’s aids to go
forward, stop and turn. This not only applies for riding but the horse must be well trained ‘on the ground’ to lead and have knowledge of how to step forward, stop, back and move sideways (forehand and hindquarters as cued) from pressure or a tap via hand or whip. Basic ground work is invaluable as, should the horse be excited when out, this will be the ‘go to’ exercises before trying to mount and ride.
At home the horse must be reliable in its response to light cues as when distracted any horse is liable to become initially stronger or ‘not listen’ until its attention can be bought back to the handler. Every horse should clearly understand these ground cues and it is always useful to make sure it can lower the head and neck when asked, which will also help in reducing stress.
The show or outing is not a place to teach your horse new things (unless at a clinic), but is more of an opportunity to test your home training.
For example, a green or young horse going to compete at a preliminary dressage test would need to be well established in walk, trot and canter and preferably moving sideways off the leg aids - such as turn on the forehand or leg yielding - so there will be no questions being asked of the horse that it doesn’t already know. If the horse’s response is only 80% reliable at home this would probably equate to around 50% reliability when at a new/ different environment! To expect the green horse to perform out at the same 80% it did at home would be unrealistic until it was more accustomed to outings and different atmospheres and could concentrate more on the rider than the new surroundings. The percentage will increase with each outing as the horse gains experience and trusts its training.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 4
To not pay attention to your ‘home-work’ and then just ‘hope’ you have a safe, successful day out is not the situation anyone should put themselves or their horses in.
Before heading out to a new environment accustoming the horse to objects and situations you know it will see when out will help it be more accepting on the day. Put an old table and chairs around the arena, some signs, a pram, umbrella, flags, rubbish bins, a parked car, horse floats, dogs, jump wings, have people walking around outside the arena, someone taking photos so the horse can hear clicking and practice riding in your arena with another one or two horses. The more you can introduce to the horse before the new venue the more relaxed both you and your horse will be. Ideally the riding session is started with walking to warm-up, taking five to ten minutes. Making sure this is part of the normal riding routine will help when you need to walk from the float to the warm up arenas. The habit of walking at the beginning will help the horse expect to be walking when you first get on.
Alternating from short reins, long reins and back to short whilst walking teaches the horse to relax when you first get on and this also needs to become a habit that you can rely on when you go away from home. After walking then some trot figure eights or changes of reins - the home warm-up becomes your ‘safety’ exercises that you will use in the same pattern when warming-up at your ‘outing’.
You will have your favourite school figures, and will know which exercises are best for which situations - i.e. if fresh or distracted or when they are lazy - and these will be to the ones you use. Floating to an instructor that you already know or to a different venue that is safe and contained will give you confidence before heading out to a more challenging environment.
Training clinics with individual and group lessons will also help gain confidence and experience of both horse and rider in a controlled environment with less pressure of ‘having’ to perform.
Loading your float the day before or having a check-list will ensure you have everything you need packed - often a spare halter, lead rope and reins can come in handy. If hooking-up on the day of the ‘outing’ it can be a good idea to catch, stable or yard the horse, so it doesn’t run around, which could result in a sweaty, stressed horse!
Always take a spare hay net - particularly one of a different type of hay (or a hard feed that is rather tasty), which could be used as a treat should the horse become ‘fussy’ due to distractions or as a bribe to keep the horse still when tacking up.
It is always a good idea to travel the horse with a hay net to munch on to help digestion and prevent ulcers. Many horses won’t eat when travelling but if a little time is spent this habit can be changed or improved. Always carry a ‘home-filled’ water container just in case of breakdown or delay as well as the possibility of arriving at the venue and your horse not liking the water.
If using travel boots, make sure the horse is accustomed to floating boots or protection before loading, perhaps put them on when it is eating in the stable or just put them on and lead the horse around and take them off again so its not such as big deal.
Plan your route before heading off and check on your phone for any traffic issues that may delay or detour you on your way.
If not sure whether your horse will tie up well, leave it on the float and find out where the yards are or sign in if required before unloading. If it is an event, find out how the classes are going, so you will not be rushing or feeling stressed yourself.
If the horse is upset in the float, then it may be better to try and find someone to watch it while you run and register. Should this be the situation, then you know before the next outing you will need to practice keeping the horse inside the float for longer periods of time.
Some horses relax more if they are unloaded, lead around the float area and given a green pick as the action of getting the head down and eating will relax them more than being tied to the float or put in a yard. This is a good opportunity to practice your groundwork in-between grazing to make sure the horse is listening to the cues you have already trained. How the horse responds will tell you immediately how much extra warm-up you may need and what your ‘homework’ will be for future events.
Have something tasty for your horse to eat while you are saddling up and getting dressed yourself, especially if you notice it is become worried or excited. However, if this is not working then stop trying to saddle and take the horse in hand - whether in a halter, cavesson or bridle - and repeat your ground work training until the horse is paying attention to you.
Lunging can be useful, should the horse be so full of energy and need to ‘express itself’, but don’t allow it to run around to wear itself outuse the lunging to obtain the horse’s attention and obedience.
It is tempting to allow it to charge around, bucking to tire it out, but while this may work once or twice it will quickly become a repetitive situation and if this behaviour is caused by worry or stress the horse will not learn to relax and pay attention but will become more and more worked-up at every outing.
A bucking display should be corrected and prevented from continuing as it could cause an injury as well as be habit forming. This type of behaviour will again show that perhaps the horse needs more ‘smaller’ outings or clinic situations until it knows how to deal with the environments without becoming overstimulated.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 5
Arrive in plenty of time so you can walk around the venue and relax both yourself and your horse..
Allow the horse to express itself, but don’t let it become a habit of not paying attention to you.
Once saddled - again check the ground work responses before getting on the horse’s back. Try leading around the areas you intend to ride - either with the bridle reins or, if worried, a cavesson and longer lead rope. Let the horse see the environment and stay away from other horses - particularly if they are being ridden. If you think your horse may kick or be worried others may come too close, put a red ribbon in the tail (practice this at home first) as this warns everyone the horse could kick. Make sure you can put the horse’s head down, turn, stop and back up before mounting up.
If possible, have someone with a treat should your horse be unsettled or impatient when you want to mount, or if available, use a smaller enclosure or round yard that will help make the ‘getting on’ safer and more successful. don’t surprise the horse when you are getting on but also don’t take so long that it becomes nervous.
However, if the horse really doesn’t want you to mount perhaps it is a good idea to quit whilst you are ahead and turn the outing into a ground work day, then go home and work on the mounting.
Taking your time is often better than rushing any experience and teaching the wrong things - if your horse is nervous then you will probably be nervous – but remember, there is always another outing and there are many instructors and clinicians who can assist you. This may seem like avoiding the issue, but your horse will let you know if it trusts you enough to get on - it is often only our pride and the feeling that everyone is watching that makes us want to push on ‘no matter what’.
If you know your horse and feel it is better just to get on and the horse will settle then that is what you do. It may even be that you just need a friend or someone you trust to say ‘you will be okayup you go’. Acknowledging if it is actually the horse or yourself causing the issue is a big step towards success.
If your horse doesn’t settle once you are on, you can always get off and re-do your groundwork and then assess whether you can mount again or turn this outing into a groundwork session and decide to go home and work towards the next outing.
If going for a trail ride is a new experience, it works well if you have a confident rider and a quiet companion horse to go out with. For the first few rides out keep it to just the two horses and riders as this will keep everything more controllable and calm.
Pick your trails so you are first starting out perhaps in large paddocks, fenced in areas or properties away from shooting ranges or large kangaroo populations! If planning to mostly walk, lunge your horse first or, if there is an arena, do a little schooling before heading off so your horse is not so fresh.
always walk back towards home and if there is a problem, get off and re-do your ground work - walk for a while before remounting and repeat as necessary.
When you do join a larger ride ensure that you all agree beforehand what pace you want to do, to avoid any misunderstandings with anyone cantering away and leaving you behind. Time taken in the first few dozen rides will go a long way in making your horse a reliable trail horse.
Once mounted and in the warm-up areas or if riding with other riders in an arena, remember there is ‘arena etiquette’ so you should walk only on the inside of the arena. If your horse is feeling a little excited or worried then start on some of the proven school figures that you use as part of your warm-up at home.
Remember, there are often other riders feeling the same as you. You can warn them that your horse is a little unsettled and you will try and keep out of their way and most riders will try and help you and will understand completely.
Try to not cut other riders off - when we are worried we tend not to look up and this is a normal warm-up arena issue, particularly with the greener or younger horses.
If your horse is worried about a corner of the arena or a sign etc and someone has a quieter horse and they are walking, ask them if you can follow them past the ‘scary’ place - as walking with another horse will often help settle and calm them. This is particularly useful if you could not walk around the arena in-hand - finding someone you can pal-up with will make all the difference for your horse.
Showing unwanted behaviour
December/January 2022/23 - Page 6
Always finish on a good note - if you are genuinely happy with your warm-up and you feel your horse has done enough - then don’t ride the test – treat it as a training exercise. Sometimes it is better not to ride the competition but win the warmup and have the best learning experience for your partnership together in the future.
However, if the next ‘outing’ you repeat the same warm-up and not the test - then you are not progressing and have formed an avoidance habit in which case seek help from a trusted instructor or experienced friend to take the next step.
If your horse has warmed-up beautifully but when it is time to step into the competition arena it does not want to leave the other horses (napping) what should you do?
To avoid this happening never stand around in a group of horses before going into the arenas, keep walking and moving and checking your horse’s obedience to the aids. Once in the arena try not to stop - even when checking in with the judge - use serpentine shapes to get the horse’s attention and vary the tempo to check you can go forward.
If everything gets out of hand you can always raise your hand and retire (whether dressage or jumping), however try and ensure the horse will travel around the arena at your chosen speed and pace before leaving so it doesn’t learn a bad habit by you getting off. Don’t be tempted to ‘teach the horse a lesson’ once leaving the arena, just ride a lap or two and then walk to cool off and analyse what went wrong, what step was missed and plan training and schooling to prevent it happening again.
There are many exercises that can be very useful in the warm-up whether for dressage, jumping, eventing, stock work or pony club - the discipline does not matter as these exercises are useful for all horses and riders. School figures and patterns test and consolidate the horse’s obedience to the forward driving, restraining, turning and sideways aids - the following examples are some favourites.
One of the most useful exercises for the distracted, nervous, energetic or expressive horses (and/or nervous rider) is the spiral down - generally from a 20m circle to a 10m circle. The size is not important although don’t go smaller than 10 metres as it could cause discomfort or possible injury to the horse with too many repetitions.
This exercise is great when a horse needs to go forward but then rushes, the rider starts to spiral inwards gradually reducing the size of the circle to 10 metres diameter before starting to spiral outwards again. This can then be repeated until the horse starts to slow down of its own accord without the rider having to hang onto the reins to keep the tempo.
It needs to be done as a slow spiral in and out and can also be used to change pace such as large circle in trot and when on the 10 metre coming back to walk etc. This school figure exercises the horse’s body and mind, as well as the rider’s mind having to concentrate on the pattern and use the exercise to slow the horse instead of relying on the reins - this is super for eventing and fit horses as once they know the exercise their tempo will slow down almost immediately. Continued
December/January 2022/23 - Page 7
Using a change of rein to regain or keep the horse’s concentration is useful - preferably large circles such as two 20 metre circles so not to pull the horse off balance during the rein change. This exercise helps develop even contact on both sides of the mouth by the change of rein. If the horse rushes after the direction change this can then be turned into a spiral in and out to slow the tempo - with or without a change of pace, before continuing to a figure eight school figure. Both circles should be the same size to make sure the rider is in full control of the direction and not allowing the horse to fall in or out on the circles.
A shallow loop is a loop that comes off a straight line, it can be 2m, 5m, 10m or really any combination of depth and is a gentle way of encouraging the horse to accept the bit on both sides of the mouth and improving the contact. The shallow loop doesn’t disturb the horse’s forward tendency, as much as say a figure eight and as such helps the horse maintain a steady rhythm whilst encouraging gentle bend and straightness. It is easier to ride and is quicker to school left and right bend than a serpentine.
riding WiTh fleXionS
Being able to ride a straight line whilst flexing the horse to the outside or the inside is an important tool. This being a prerequisite before trying to do any leg yielding, the spine and neck of the horse must stay straight and the horse be able to be flexed from the poll to whatever side is asked. For example the horse is ridden in a straight line and then asked to flex to the outside for say 30 metres before being straightened again - at no time should the neck bend - the flexion comes only from the poll just behind the bridle headpiece.
Once the horse can be ridden on a straight line with flexion to the inside or outside as asked, the leg yield can be practiced where the horse moves forwards and sideways away from the rider’s leg. There should be no bend in the spine or neck and the horse is flexed from the poll away from the direction travelling and towards the sideways driving leg. Leg yield can be performed towards the track, away from the track, head to the wall (approximately at a 35 degree angle) or
hindquarters to the wall - the horse’s inside legs pass and cross in front of the outside legs. It can also be done as a dressage test where is the horse should be slightly forehand leadingin advance of the hindquarters (almost parallel); or, in training the forehand can more clearly lead which can be useful to encourage a horse to travel more forward and assist in acceptance of the outside rein.
leg yielding will improve the horse’s obedience to the
rider’s aids and allow corrections of line and steering as well as help get the horse’s attention back on the rider.
Practising transitions between as well as within the paces will help get the attention of the horse as well as increase suppleness. If the horse is a little excited or nervous then transitions need to be performed slowly and with obvious time taken between changing pace. If the horse is behind the leg aids then these transitions should be quicker and sharper to encourage the horse to think more forward and get more active. Walking after the canter can help settle the horse if it is reactive or excitable. Teaching this at home can help in the warm-up arena. Rising trot in working trot and then slowing the trot down and sitting trot until the horse is relaxed and then rising trot back to working trot can help the horse allow you to sit when their back is tight in the warm-up. If this is not working then go back to the spiral exercise and combine these transitions in sitting trot will show how any of these exercises can help each other.
The leg yield can be performed towards the track, away fom the track and can be combined with other exercises, such as leg yield to the track and then shoulder-in.
It is very important to have your warm-up plan clear in your mind before starting - practice some warm-up patterns at home so your horse is accustomed to these and then, depending on the situation, you have a collection of warm-ups to suit the horses attitude on the day.
Your horse should be familiar with the exercises and school figures and understand what is expected of it so there are no ‘surprises’ for either horse or rider whilst at the ‘outing’. Mix and match school figures and use transitions to keep the horse’s attention and tune it up to your aids and always be ready to step back and say “i should have been more prepared,” and go home and practice and train the missing sections and then try again.
We all want a confident, obedient horse and a safe and enjoyable experience - practice your warm-up patterns, use training outings, enlist the aid of a trusted friend or instructor and you will be setting youself and your horse up for success - happy ‘outings’.
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When is a horse
About the AuthoR
After 15 years as a medical researcher and then 20 years as a professional horse trainer, Ross changed careers once again to become a full time horsemanship clinician.
He travels within Australia and overseas teaching people horse behaviour and how to implement the principles of good horsemanship to the benefit of the horse, the rider, the relationship and the performance.
His philosophy is that no matter the discipline or experience level, every horse and rider profits from good horsemanship.
To visit Ross on facebook go to Good Horsemanship - Ross Jacobs’ (Facebook. com/people/Good-Horsemanship-RossJacobs/100064515560094)
no longer a green horse?
A horse is considered to be ‘green’ (novice) at anything it does not know or do well. A horse may not be ‘green’ in some aspects of its work, but when learning new things, it will be the colour of a tree frog.
Ross Jacobs’ facebook page is one that you might take the time to check out some of the posts. Unlike many in the horse world today, Ross is not concerned about broaching subjects that may cause controversy or differences of opinion and he covers many topics that are food-for-thought for all those who ride or work with horses. While browsing some of the topics offered, our attention was caught by the discussion on the green horse. While many have different opinions, it was interesting to consider the points he raises.
Our thanks to Ross for permitting us to share this topic with readers.
During a lesson at a clinic, I was asked, “When is a horse no longer a green horse?”
It’s a good question and worth thinking about. The reason it is a matter that deserves consideration is that we tend to think of horses in terms of green or educated, novice or advanced. We use these terms to describe the degree of education of a horse and whether we like it or not, it can influence how we approach a horse’s handling and training.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 10
There was some discussion about when a horse is no longer a green horse among clinic participants and fence-sitters.
One person said that when a horse is broken-in, it is no longer green. Another person thought that when the basics are established, a horse is no longer green. Somebody mentioned when a horse is ready for competition and yet another commented after a certain number of rides.
It is clear that there is no obvious and definitive meaning to when is a horse no longer green. There are many views.
A while back a trainer in the US called Warwick Schiller asked me when did I think a horse could be described as being broken-in. I joked that when the owner had run out of money a horse was broken-in. However, in truth, my real definition is a little less clear. I told him, “A horse is broken-in when I can put an incompetent rider on its back and expect things will be ok.”
By that definition, there are an awful lot of horses being ridden for years that are not broken-in. I use this definition because it relates to the mindset and comfort of a horse about being ridden.
Being broken-in is not about what a horse can do when ridden, but what a horse feels about being ridden. A horse that has no trouble ‘inside’ it about being ridden will learn to tolerate an incompetent rider. But a horse with trouble ‘inside ‘ has its survival instinct closer to the surface and is less likely to tolerate bad riding.
If I take that same attitude to the question of when is a horse no longer a green horse, it’s a little easier to define green-ness.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 11
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“I am seeing more and more examples of people teaching students that the way to get along with their horse is to avoid exposing them to trouble or challenges or pressures or anything that might result in raising a horse’s blood pressure. I don’t believe this is the purpose of training. It is not possible to direct a horse to an idea it doesn’t have or doesn’t want or doesn’t like without creating some degree of anxiety.”
If we consider that in training we are always teaching a horse new things, we could reason that every horse is green at something. Therefore, there is no such thing as a horse that is not green.
I think this is a good definition to have because it reminds us to be absolutely clear in everything we do with a horse. It encourages patience when a horse makes a mistake. It encourages compassion and empathy when a horse experiences trouble.
For a horse to learn and become a better riding horse we need to push the comfort zone into the uncomfortable zone. The comfort zone is not an area where much learning takes place. But if we can avoid that trap, thinking of a horse as always being green is unlikely to ever be a mistake.
Of course, it can be argued that there are different shades of green. It probably comes down to a personal view of where each of us considers the line of demarcation to exist between novice and educated.
For me, I think a horse can be performing at an advanced level but still be considered green. For instance, a horse that can spin correctly according to the standards of reining competition or a polo horse that is playing at the international level, or a show jumper that is clearing 1.6m. These horses may be highly educated in their field, yet still not be solid in the basics of being a riding horse.
I can recall seeing a Grand Prix dressage horse cantering out of control sideways through the gate of the arena when the judge approached with the blue ribbon in hand. To me, that horse was green because despite being highly trained to perform dressage movements, it was not welltrained to be a riding horse.
Now to turn our attention from the horse to the rider, when is a rider no longer a novice rider? Can we apply the same standard or definition to riders as we might to horses? Is there such a thing
It seems to me that, like a horse, a rider is always
Below: A horse may be educated for one aspect of riding/competition but still be uneducated and ‘green’ in basic manners or other aspects of handling.
Neither a horse nor a rider is ever finished learning. If this is true, then maybe there is no such thing as
EDITOR’S NOTE: What is a ‘green horse’?
The exact meaning of “green horse” varies with the individual or organisation using the term. In many breeds or competition associations, ‘green’ is a classification reserved for horses under a specific age, or with fewer than a specific number of rides or months under saddle, or with less than a certain number of placings or prize money earned.
Informally, some might refer to an unridden horse as ‘green’; a horse broken to saddle with only a handful of rides as ‘green’; a broke-in horse still in a snaffle bit or hackamore as ‘green’; or a horse ridden in a double bridle as ‘green’ for its first few rides. So it’s a good idea to be clear on the speaker’s meaning…especially if you’re going to ride or purchase what has been described to you as a ‘green’ horse!
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is there a role for mineral supplements in lamnitis?
manipulatinG minerals for metabolic syndrome (ems)
By Dr. J H Stewart
Tto this debilitating disease that affects so many of our horses and ponies has increased in recent times with media and veterinarians making prevention a focal point.
Social media has also played its role in awareness with regular posts from horse owners discussing options and treatment for their horses. Despite this increased awareness each year there appears to be increasing numbers of horses that have laminitic incidents.
Laminitis commonly results from endocrine diseases such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) or pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), but other causes can include weight bearing on supporting limbs due to injury and excessive sugar intake from grain or lush pasture.
This is definitely one disease where owners can play an important role in prevention - with awareness of the horse’s health, condition, feeding regime, and early detection - should a laminitic episode occur.
Acute laminitis is seen during the early stages of the disease, the horse will appear uncomfortable and show signs of lameness, however there are minimal changes within the hoof and prognosis is good if treated early.
However, once the pedal bone has moved within the hoof, which leads to permanent damage, the horse is described as suffering from chronic laminitis and will require long-term, veterinary supervised, management.
Dr. Jennifer Stewart looks at the role mineral supplements can have in laminitis.
Minerals make up less than 0.01% of the body but are critical for many body functions. Deficiencies and, in a few cases, excesses of essential minerals (including iron, iodine and selenium) can lead to disturbances in hormone synthesis, insulin function and glucose handling.
the role of maGnesium
Magnesium is required for over 300 metabolic steps, including three that regulate body glucose movements. Magnesium is a cofactor for the downstream actions of the insulin cascade and plays an important role in managing blood glucose levels.
In man and other species, magnesium deficiency aggravates insulin resistance. Decreased levels of magnesium inhibit some of the insulin transport stepsblocking insulin action and hence the movement of glucose into body cells. In other species, magnesium deficiency has also been clearly identified as both a cause and effect of insulin dysregulation (ID).
Most ponies and some horses are unable to regulate their blood glucose. When they eat carbohydrates (grain or lush grass, especially rapid young growths), their blood sugar and insulin levels rise
cushinGs disease vs metaboilic syndrome
equine cushinGs disease:
Disorder of the pituitary gland that results in hormonal inbalances. The disease tends to occur on middle-aged and geriatric horses.
clinical signs include:
• a long, wavy haircoat that fails to shed according to normal seasonal patterns;
• excessive sweating;
• lethargy and poor athletic performance;
• chronic recurrent laminitis;
• weight loss and muscle wasting;
• abnormal distribution of fat;
• conbsumption of large volumes of water and passage of large amounts of urine;
• delayed wound healing and increased susceptibility to infections.
what causes it:
The intermediate part (pars intermedia) of the pituitary gland produces excessive amounts of pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and several hormonally-active derivatives, including adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
and stay high. Blood insulin levels may increase 100 fold in an attempt to move glucose out of the blood stream and into the body cells.
This is similar to what happens in the early stages of adult-onset diabetes in people. The problem isn’t too little insulin (like in the type of diabetes where people have daily insulin injections), it’s that the cells are not sensitive enough to insulin.
metabolic syndrome: A cluster of conditions affecting somewhat younger adult horses, and including obesity, insulin resistamce, hyperglycemia, chronic laminitis.
clinical signs include:
• insuline resistance and hyperglycemia;
• chronic laminitis.
A long haircoat is NOT a feature of the condition, and tests of pituitary function usually yield normal results. Furthermore, afffected horses do not respond to medications which are frequently of benefit in cases of Cushing’s disease.
what causes it: Obesity appears to be the central problem in horses (and humans) suffering from metablic syndrome.
As in humans, ID is linked to altered fat deposits and in horses, to PPID, acute and sub-clinical laminitis, osteochondrosis and some forms of tying-up. In us and in horses, the path to high blood insulin, ID and obesity is generally paved by a diet high in starch and sugar. High insulin (triggered by the high sugar content of the diet) slows the metabolism and shifts it over to fat storing.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 15
Although the two disorders feature some striking clinical similarities – most notably a predisposition to development of chronic laminitis – the underlying disease biology is quite different in each case and successful management requires a proper diagnosis first. Consult a veterinarian to learn more.
Insulin sensitivity in obese horses is 80% lower than in horses with normal body weight. Another profound consequence of this altered metabolism is that arteries go into spasm and constrict more easily. This phase of constricted blood vessels and reduced blood supply is well documented in founder/laminitis. Insulin has a critical role in controlling the relaxation and contraction of blood vessels and magnesium helps desensitise the vessels so they can relax and not go into spasm. During ID, the regulatory action of insulin on blood vessels is disturbed and when fed excess carbs, blood vessels contract within 12 hours. The tendency for the arteries to spasm easily is a key factor in laminitis.
‘Endocrinopathic’ laminitis is the term used to describe laminitis due to equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID = Cushings disease).
A component of both is insulindysregulation (ID) – which causes horses to be unable to manage their blood glucose levels. Almost identical to type 2 diabetes in humans, EMS is related to insulin.
where weiGht is an issue
Although horses are relatively free of many health conditions that affect us –such as high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease, one by-product of the modern equine lifestyle is their tendency to gain weight.
Obesity increases the risk of some serious health issues – one of the most serious of which is EMS and ID. Management of insulin dysregulation lowers the risk of laminitis, and one of the cornerstones of management is diet – especially sugar, starch, vitamin E and magnesium intakes. magnesium
Humans and horses suffering from metabolic syndrome have significantly lower levels of magnesium in their blood and inside their cells – even though they are often within the ‘normal’ range, they are at the bottom of that range.
Returning the magnesium content to more ideal, optimum levels can reverse the changes that lead to altered hormonal balance and decreased insulin responsiveness.
Severe magnesium deficiency in horses is very rare but mild deficiency and sub-optimal intake is a not uncommon. Magnesium deficiency is more likely to occur in spring as fast-growing grasses don’t accumulate much of this mineral. Grasses can also be low in magnesium content if pastures are fertilised to encourage fast growth. Other causes of mineral deficiencies may be due to interference of certain medications and poor dietary intake.
Magnesium deficiency can be due to depleted soil magnesium levels, as well as the long term use of certain medications such as antiulcer treatments. Several studies have shown antacid stomach ulcer treatments inhibit the absorption of calcium and magnesium.
There are several forms of magnesium available as supplements – but care must be taken not to extrapolate information from humans and other species. Inorganic forms are better absorbed than magnesium in feedstuffs. There are few studies on the effectiveness of different forms of magnesium in horses – but the research that has been done consistently shows that magnesium oxide is well-absorbed and increases body magnesium content.
Magnesium toxicity is not an issue with daily supplementation because excess amounts are efficiently excreted in the urine. The best way to find out if your horse is likely to be magnesium deficient is to analyse their diet. Measuring levels in the blood is unlikely to pick up suboptimal levels because blood magnesium levels are maintained in a narrow range – even if total body levels are low. However, measurement of ionised magnesium rather than whole blood magnesium can be useful and your veterinarian is your best guide.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 16
Soaking hay is an easy way to reduce sugar and starch – especially useful if hay NSC analysis is not available
Mineral deficiency = reduced immunity, growth, fertility, sub-clinical disease and sub-optimal health.
optimimal mineral intaKe & balance
Mineral excess intake = toxicity. Varies with the mineral - some cause toxic effects at 10 times their dietary requirements, others not until 1000 times. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
starch and suGar
The development of ID is caused by a number of genetic and environmental factors. The development of equine obesity and ID may be caused by lack of exercise and feeds rich in sugar and starch. Horses on high starch/sugar (= non-structural carbohydrates - NSC) intakes have reduced insulin sensitivity and a 30% decrease in glucose uptake compared to horses on a diet containing fibre, fat and less than 10% NSC.
Soaking hay is an easy way to reduce sugar and starch – especially useful if a hay NSC analysis is not available. Soaking for 30 minutes in warm or 60 minutes in cold water can remove up to 50% of the sugar and 90% of dust particles. But it also leaches important minerals: copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium.
regimes may be necessary to treat horses with EMS however, it can be dangerous for horses to lose weight too quickly, so rely on your veterinarian to guide you and your horse through this process.
It’s also important to recognise that not all horses with ID are fat! Some are normal, others underweight and some are normal or underweight but with regional adiposity – the term that describes fat deposits within the neck (cresty neck), prepuce and tailhead. Any overweight horse should have their blood insulin screened.
Animals with normal weight but that have noticeable fat accumulation (as mentioned above) should also be evaluated. EMS should also be considered in any horse with unexplained forelimb lameness, since laminitis is sometimes the first sign of EMS.
Labels for pelleted and prepared feeds should also be checked to ensures the NSC content is <10%
Labels for pelleted and prepared feeds should also be checked to ensure the NSC content is <10%. This is especially important with extruded, micronized and steam-flaked feeds. These heat-processing methods increase the starch digestibility and produce greater swings in blood glucose and insulin.
the importance of eXercise
Based on veterinary advice, the optimal exercise program will vary with the individual horse but current recommendations are to begin training with 2–3 sessions per week (20–30 min per session), each comprising riding or trot and gallop exercise, and to increase training intensity and duration to 5–7 sessions per week. Remember very strict weight loss
Screening for EMS is commonly done by measuring blood insulin and glucose concentrations, and this is useful for identifying animals with moderate to severe insulin dysregulation. However, in less affected animals, metabolic abnormalities may not yet be severe enough to detect with this screening method and dynamic tests are needed to uncover insulin resistance. Dynamic tests
evaluate the body’s responses to an oral or intravenous glucose challenge, specifically looking for an exaggerated insulin response. Early detection of EMS allows implementation of management changes to promote weight loss and improve the body’s responsiveness to insulin before enough laminar tissue damage occurs to cause lameness.
Regular check-ups from your vet will help monitor the response to management changes and any other treatment, and allow assessment of your horse or pony’s insulin levels. Your vet can advise on pharmacological treatments – however, they are not a substitute for good dietary management, which is the cornerstone.
The recurrence rate of endocrinopathic laminitis is high, with estimates of 30 –70%. The higher the resting insulin levels, the greater the risk. This makes strategies to protect blood insulin levels by dietary restriction, weight loss/exercise, adequate magnesium and correction of mineral imbalances so very important.
There are no hard and fast rules on mineral supplementation and no magic formula that can be applied to every horse or pony - it depends on body condition, the type of diet, breed, age, health and reproductive status.
Rarely do mineral supplements ‘treat’ clinical diseases. They do however address any underlying deficiencies or times of increased demand that can contribute to certain veterinary clinical conditions.
While more is not necessarily better, minimum recommended intake is not necessarily optimal. (Figure 1).
A comprehensive supplement, compatible with all horses and providing the necessary blend of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and omega oils to supply optimal levels of vitamins and minerals that are low in hay and pasture or leached during soaking, is safest and easiest. It’s not often that a single supplement is indicated but it’s important to help your horse by providing a low sugar diet and key nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E. Your veterinarian will work with you to design a customised management plan tailored to your horse’s individual needs. Epsom salts is an old folk remedy for founder – possibly because it provides magnesium – luckily we have better magnesium options now.
All content provided in this editorial is for general use and information only and does not constitute advice or a veterinary opinion. It is not intended as specific medical advice or opinion and should not be relied on in place of consultation with your equine veterinarian.
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December/January 2022/23 - Page 19
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Dr Jennifer Stewart CEO BVSc BSc PhD Dip BEP Equine Veterinarian and Consultant Nutritionist.
by Amanda dickerson
a SaDDLE FITTER
The correct fitting of a saddle to both horse and rider is one of the most important aspects of riding. A correctly fitted saddle will allow the rider to be comfortable and in balance with the horse, while regular fitting of the saddle to the horse can avoid performance and behavioural issues through pain.
You’d better like driving. That’s the message to prospective saddle fitters from Tony Flynn of Brighton Saddlery who has travelled all over New South Wales for more than 30 years, fitting and adjusting saddles.
There are a variety of ways to learn the art of saddle fitting and you don’t need a formal qualification to call yourself a saddle fitter or offer saddle fitting services.
Tony was trained by the legendary Ray Morris, a saddle maker from New Zealand who turned his attention to the effects of saddle fit after losing his vision at the age of 21. Ray was self-taught and passed his knowledge along to many others, teaching them to focus on the importance of feel in getting the right fit.
While you don’t need a formal qualification to call yourself a saddle fitter a professional certification in saddle fitting should give you a thorough knowledge of equine biomechanics, physiology, rider interaction, and saddle construction and fitting.
The Society of Master Saddlers UK is often held up as the gold standard in saddle fitting qualifications, although at around £3,000 ($5,300) for the five-day course, the cost can be prohibitive for international travellers.
Other international courses available include the Netherlandsbased Master Saddle Fitter Consultant (MSFC) (msfc.nl/en) which involves on-line learning of the theoretical aspects, and a trip to France for the practical exam. The course costs around $3,800. There is also the UK-based International Academy of Saddle Fitters (www.saddle-academy.com) which is registered and approved by UK Rural Skills and is a UK-registered training provider.
There are other online courses available that will give you the basics of saddle fitting. Search ‘saddle fitting course near me’ and all manner of courses will pop up. It can, however, be a case of ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to the quality of the course and the usefulness of its content, so check carefully what you can expect.
In Australia, ASFA (Accredited Saddle Fitters of Australasia) describes itself as ‘the leading independent institution for saddle fitting accreditation’. ASFA has a 6-year Master Saddle Fitting Traineeship that combines theoretical and hands-on saddle fit principles, combined with comprehensive flocking and saddle adjustment modules. However, this course is difficult to access.
The initial course is followed by 12 months of field training supported by course mentors. Trainees complete mid-year assessments and final practical and theoretical accreditation assessments to be able to advertise themselves as ASFA certified.
As of February 2022, the Diploma of Equine Allied Health and the Certificate IV in Equine Care include the unit ACMEQU419 - Evaluate saddlery and gear fit for horse and rider combination. It’s aimed at ‘individuals who have responsibility for assessing the fit, condition and suitability of saddles and gear for rider and horse safety and comfort.’
Saddle fitters will gain an understanding of the biomechanics of the horse’s movement as the horse is ‘designed’ to move in a way that is directly influenced by its muscle build, strength and flexibility, however an incorrectly fitted saddle will adversely affect this. Photo compliments Saddles Plus. Continued
The saddle needs to allow the horse free movement in the back and shoulder muscles.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 21
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There are many online courses available that will give you the basics of saddle fitting. Search ‘saddle fitting course near me’ and all manner of courses will pop up. It can, however, be a case of ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to the quality of the course and the usefulness of its content, so check carefully what you can expect.
Most fitters have links to a particular saddlery store, but it’s not necessarily the case. Tony’s clients either approach him directly or through the store and he estimates that 60-70% of his business comes from word of mouth.
‘Saddle fitting can be an uphill battle for young people; there can be a lack of acceptance from older people,’ says Tony. He recommends travelling with someone and learning from them in the early days of your career.
Tony provides his services across New South Wales. Saddle fitting is often ‘try before you buy’, but Tony won’t leave a saddle with a client unless he’s put it on the horse first. If he leaves a saddle, he gets it back the next time he’s in that zone, which could be weeks later.
A DAy IN ThE lIfE Of TONy flyNN
For local appointments, Tony will usually leave home around 9. If he’s travelling further afield, he might leave home at 6.30 or 7. In Sydney, it’s all about beating the peak hour traffic. A typical day has between six and eight appointments, with each appointment lasting 30-60 minutes – not including travel between them. Eleven-hour days aren’t uncommon.
“Mostly I’m fixing someone else’s problem rather than doing new saddles,’ says Tony. People generally have a saddle, but need it fitted to suit their horse. As he’s only going places he’s been invited, Tony finds people are generally receptive to feedback and corrections “There’s no trick to saddle fitting – it’s common sense and analysing everything you do as you do it,” he says.
ON ThE ROAD AgAIN (AND AgAIN)
Tony’s van is one of the biggest on the market and he replaces it about every 5 years. Why? The van travels around 80,000 kilometres a year, so it doesn’t take long for the kilometres to add up and take their toll. In the back is enough room for 60 saddles, along with a press for altering saddles on the spot, a bag of flocking, various tools and accessories such as leather and girths.
Worst part oF tHE JoB?
‘It’s the sheer volume of driving that’s the worst part of the job,’ says Tony.
BEst part oF tHE JoB?
“Being your own boss and being independent. You have a choice about when and where you work and whom you work with.”
WhY IS SADDlE FITTING AN IMpORTANT ROlE IN ThE EQUESTRIAN COMMUNITY?
The physical damage caused by a poorly fitting saddle may cause tension within the back muscles and over a period of time, muscle atrophy (decrease or wasting of the muscle tissue) or hypertrophy may be observed.
An ill-fitting saddle does more than just cause physical damage and pain. Emotionally, your horse will begin to connect discomfort to the saddle, and may become difficult to catch or uneasy while being groomed. These initial behaviours may then manifest into behaviours such as spooking, bucking, rearing, and biting. Unfortunately for the horse, poor saddle fit is often misdiagnosed as a behavioural issue, and the horse is then unfairly disciplined when the root cause of the problem is the saddle.
An initial course in saddle fitting is usually followed by 12 months of field training supported by course mentors
Saddle fitter Tony Flynn trained with Ray Morris, the legendary saddle maker who turned to fitting when he went blind.
JEss WARDEll of performance
What made you decide to become a fitter?
“Almost five years ago I saw an advertisement to become a saddle fitter with Performance Saddlefits and I thought this would be a sensational change from Real Estate and give me the opportunity to work with horses, be my own boss and travel the countryside educating horse owners about the importance of saddle fit.
“I am currently a registered trainee with the Society of Master Saddlers and will head to the UK in 2023 to complete my qualification to become a qualified saddle fitter. There are no easy ways to get qualifications. The SMS qualification requires three years of mentorship and then you must go to the UK to sit for your multiple SMS Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter (QSF) exams.
“I have done two trips to Italy, Germany and the UK to train and spent many hundreds of hours training and sitting in on webinars to train. To sit the SMS exam, it’s approximately $6500 - $7000. A prerequisite is that you attend the flocking course for four days in which you are then required to complete an examination on the fourth day. The costing for this an additional $700 – $800.
“Once you add in your flights, accommodation, transport, food and any other incidentals you may require the course can cost you upwards of $13,000 AUD.
“The SMS are the most recognised qualification in the world for saddle fitting, and whilst you don’t require a qualification to practice as a saddle fitter and operate your own business, I feel personally that there is a need for regulation within the industry for the care and welfare of horse and rider.”
The horses have been the biggest influence in Jess’ journey to be a saddle fitter.
“Horses have no voice, so we have to be highly skilled to recognise the signs of poor saddle fit and assess how we can help them to be as comfortable as possible under saddle.”
“When I first started, I spent many weeks in the car with my mentor Paula Jeffery - director and founder of Performance Saddlefitsabsorbing as much of her knowledge as I possibly could. It was the best start to becoming a saddle fitter. We have a team across Australia and are the most highly trained team of saddle fitters in the country. I’m blessed every day that I get to be a part of a team of like-minded women all working together for the welfare of the horse.”
BEst part oF tHE JoB?
“Seeing the look on clients faces when they are sitting in a correctly fitting saddle, and they feel the difference in their horse’s performance. I never get tired of seeing the joy on those faces.”
Worst part oF tHE JoB?
“Scheduling. You do also spend many hours doing admin work, driving and sometimes staying away from home. It’s exhausting but I enjoy it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I travel approximately 45,000 – 50,000klms each year in my van that holds approximately 30 saddles, a work bench and a cold saddle press for alterations.
My particular region is the ACT, Southern and Central West NSW providing saddle fitting services and new saddle sales.”
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December/January 2022/23 - Page 23
by Portland Jones
Operant conditioning is a form of associative learning that describes how a behaviour’s strength is either increased or diminished depending on its consequences.
If a behaviour results in a pleasant outcome it is more likely to be repeated. If a behaviour results in an unpleasant outcome it is less likely to be repeated.
If you ride or handle a horse it’s important to understand the fundamental principles of operant conditioning because it forms the basis of the communication between our species. You can think of operant conditioning as a big part of the language that we use to communicate with the horse – it’s like the nouns and verbs of speech, and it is very difficult to communicate clearly without them.
John Watson is considered by many to be the father of the field of psychology known as Behaviorism.
Watson was responsible for the now famous experiment in which he conditioned a nine month old child known as Little Albert to become frightened of a white rat by showing him the rat and, at the same time, making a loud clanging noise. Before the experiment Little Albert enjoyed stroking and patting the rat but afterwards he would cry and try to escape when it was shown to him. Eventually his fear extended to other white furry things including a researcher’s fur collar and a Santa Claus beard.
Although this experiment may seem unethical today Watson had demonstrated that natural human behaviour was easily modified via conditioning.
As an animal trainer I would be interested to know how the behaviour of the rat (let’s call him Little Barry) was changed by the experiment. The loud noise that frightened Little Albert would presumably have also frightened Barry. Did Barry become frightened of all small humans? And, like Albert did he generalise this fear and extend it to things that resembled infants (for instance things that smelled like mashed banana and milk vomit)?
Another aspect of the experiment that is of interest to animal trainers is the degree to which Little Albert extended the object of his fear to cover other white furry things. The flow-through effect of the white rat / furry collar / beard is highly adaptive. That is, it makes sense for humans and other animals to be frightened of things that are similar to other things that have frightened them in the past. If you have ever been bitten by a spider, you will probably be cautious about walking through all webs, you won’t stop to try and determine the species from the shape of its web.
Much of what we know about operant conditioning we learned from three key theorists: John Watson (1878 - 1958), Edward Thorndike (1874 - 1949) and B.F Skinner (19041990). Although some of their research methods might be considered old fashioned and even unethical, they changed the way behaviour was thought about and studied and their discoveries are still relevant today. More importantly their findings have been verified and proven many times over by hundreds of researchers on many different species of animal since they were first discovered.
This is called generalisation and it explains why the horse that is badly frightened by a flapping bag can often extend that fear to towels, saddle blankets and even fly veils despite never having had a frightening experience with those objects.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 24
Why is it influencing the way we manage, handle and ride our horses?
OPERANT CONDITIONING? OPERANT CONDITIONING?
Edward thorndike was the first researcher to systematically study operant conditioning. He put cats in boxes that they could only escape from if they pushed a lever or pulled a string. The hungry cats would try to escape the puzzle boxes to get a fish reward. Thorndike noted that the first time the cat was placed in the box it took a long time for it to work out how to escape but subsequent trials became quicker until eventually the cats could escape almost immediately.
Thorndike wrote that over time the cat’s behaviour became “more orderly, more deliberate, more efficient.” Which is interesting because it is a good way to describe the difference between untrained and trained animals. Well trained animals become less chaotic, less random and far quicker and easier to manage than their untrained couterparts. He also noted that, statistically, it was obvious that the cats didn’t suddenly have a moment of understanding, they simply practiced a rewarded behaviour more frequently in the same position because the number of trials taken to escape diminished predictably. Thorndike also showed that watching an experienced cat escape from a box did not shorten the time period required for the observer cat.
Thorndike also did some experiments with other animals. He put chicks into small boxes and removed them as soon as they started pecking. Pretty soon the chicks would peck as soon as they were put into a box. He reasoned that this did not demonstrate “understanding” but was simply a process of trial and error learning.
TWO RulES fOR lEARNING
Out of his research Thorndike distilled two main rules for Operant Conditioning. These are just as important and relevant today as they were when the research was first conducted.
1) Repetition of a response strengthens it. That is, the more often a behaviour is performed, the more likely it is to be performed again.
2) Behaviours are either strengthened or weakened depending on their consequences. If the cat was able to escape and get the fish reward, the behaviour it performed just before it escaped was more likely to occur again.
These rules are particularly useful to horse trainers because they encompass so much of what it is important for us to remember every day. Every time the horse repeats a behaviour it is rehearsing it and getting better at it.
Letting the horse practice an incorrect behaviour over and over again until the correct response is finally acheived in order to “finish on a good note” is not a useful strategy because in the process of achieving one good repetition the horse has practiced many incorrect ones. It is far more useful to break down each training task into its smallest component parts and practice each part until the horse is very reliable.
Achieving the correct behaviour can be very much like a seesaw. If the horse has practiced a lot of incorrect responses that’s a lot of weight on one side of the seesaw. In order to balance it out and lift the good behaviour off the ground you need a correspondingly large number of correct repetitions before the correct behaviour is reliable. Our job as horse trainers is to put as much weight on the correct end of the seesaw as possible.
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The second rule is also worth thinking about. It is the immediate consequenses of a behaviour that matters – not what went before or the long term outcome or what you believe the horse understands or the importance of the event... It simply comes down to what is reinforced and what isn’t. Horses (and other animals) by virtue of their evolution are opportunists not philanthropists. They will go to where the reinforcement is because it makes evolutionary sense to do so.
The wonderful horseman Tom Roberts used to ask his students if a behaviour profited the horse or not. If a behaviour profits the horse because directly afterwards it receives a release of pressure, an ability to avoid work or scary things, freedom or a food reward then it will be repeated.
Praise, prizes and slaps on the neck do not profit the horse and therefore will not increase the likelihood of the behaviour occurring again.
B.F skinner is responsible for most of what we know today about Operant Conditioning. He determined that it is indeed the consequences of a behaviour that determine how likely it is that the behaviour will be repeated.
He invented the Skinner box (similar to Watson’s puzzle box) which is a device that can be used to study conditioning by either rewarding or punishing various behaviours such as key pecking for pigeons and lever pushing for rats. For example, if a rat brushed past a lever in the Skinner box a pellet of food might drop into the feed container. The rats learned at a predictable rate to press the lever in order to obtain food.
Using the data he collected Skinner determined that there are three types of responses (that he called operants) that can follow behaviour.
1) Neutral operants neither increase or decrease behaviour. For example, if the rat pressed the wall next to the lever and nothing occurred the lack of response would be deemed neutral as it neither increased or decreased the behaviour.
2) Reinforcing operants (which can be either positive or negative) increase the likelihood that the behaviour will occur. If the rat pressed a lever and acquired food, this is a reinforcing operant and it would make the rat more likely to press the lever in future.
3) Punishing operants (which can also be either positive or negative) make it less likely that a behaviour will occur again. If the rat pressed the lever and received an electric shock it would be less likely to press the lever again in the future.
Skinner also discovered that when a behaviour that has previously been reinforced is no longer rewarded it diminishes in frequency. This is called extinction. Interestingly though, in more recent times researchers have shown, using MRI to track brain activity, that behaviours that we consider extinct still exist in the brain, they are just suppressed.
Buidling on this work Jospeph LeDoux showed that fearful behaviours are far more resistant to extinction than other behaviours. Which is significant because scientist Janne Winther Christensen has shown that fearful behaviours are the major cause of horse/human accidents.
SO WHAT DOES THIS mEAN fOR THE HORSE OWNER?
It means that during training and handling we need to avoid triggering fearful responses in the horse as much as possible.
The research shows that horses don’t ‘get over’ extremely fearful experiences, they are stored in the brain and are far less subject to extinction than other behaviours.
Introducing novel things very gradually and consolidating correct trained responses both in hand and under saddle at every stage of the horse’s training are important ways of reducing fear.
We can never know what the lived experience of another creature is. Assuming that the horse thinks like us or is in some way “pretending” to be frightened is extremely problematic. An object that is extremely scary for one horse might be cause for very little concern for another. This is true of humans too. There are a multitude of human phobias and some appear to be completely illogical – unless of course that phobia is yours and then it is very real and very, very frightening. The best way to train the horse is to avoid fear in every situation, but once fearful behaviours have been learned the best way to deal with them is with a correct training plan, empathy and patience.
It may seem like old news to look at the work of researchers who studied behaviour in the last century but it’s worth remembering that over 2000 years ago a Greek librarian called Eratosthenes calculated the Earth’s circumference with remarkable accuracy using two sticks. And, just like the work of Eratosthenes, which has been shown many times over to be valid, the work of Watson, Thorndike and Skinner has also been shown to be both scientifically valid and relevant in a modern setting.
A horse trainer, lecturer and author Portland has been coaching riders and training horses using an evidence based approach for many years and is particularly interested in welfare and sustainable training practices. She has written widely about Equitation Science and has recently been involved with the rewrite of the Pony Club Australia curriculum – the first time an evidence based model has been applied to Pony Club. Portland’s second novel Only Birds Above has just been published and she is currently working on another novel and a second non-fiction book about horses.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 26
What is Operant Conditioning continued...
About the Author: Dr Portland Jones
HEALTH BENEFITS OF HORSES
Horses helping the community
Having been around horses most of her life, Felicity Rideout is no stranger to the wonderful contribution they make to our lives.
After navigating the perils of her own mental health, she is now on a path to see how the therapeutic benefits of horse interactions can help more than just those in the equine community.
Like many young girls Felicity dreamed of the day she would own a pony of her own. “To be honest I just loved being with him, washing, grooming and feeding him – even just sitting on the fence of the paddock watching him. I loved it all and following my parents’ separation, spending time with my pony offered a solace that couldn’t be matched.”
Being selected onto the Young Riders State Dressage Squad for four consecutive years was a dream come true. A self-confessed perfectionist, Felicity was driven to put in the hard work, working long days in the city, riding in the evenings and competing on the weekends, but at 19 - and after three years on the squad - the cracks began to show.
“I was exhausted and burnt out and before I knew it, I was in the grip of a full-blown depressive episode. I felt overwhelmed by life and the high demands I had put on myself.
Worst of all, what over the years had given me so much comfort, joy, a sense of belonging and connection with my horse felt distant and inaccessible. I was so hard on myself that I felt like a failure.”
“In pursuit of excellence, I had lost the true joy and meaning that had come from being with my horse.”
Felicity said goodbye to her horse and walked away from the sport and community she treasured. But the passion wasn’t gone for good. “It was there just simmering under the surface. I always believed horses would play a role in my life again.”
Almost ten years passed before Felicity felt ready to make horses part of her life again,
“After leaving the corporate world to have my first two children, I wanted to do something with meaning; climbing the corporate ladder no longer appealed to me. Becoming a mum opened up space for me to pursue the path of equine therapy – a truly heartfelt passion.”
The opportunity to combine her love of horses, her psychology degree and her deep desire to help people came at the perfect time in the form of equine therapy. The primary objective of this therapy is to facilitate connection between the client and the horse
by utilising a number of different activities, such as grooming, leading, feeding and caregiving as well as learning about equine behaviour and herd dynamics.
Knowing first-hand how horses can enhance our wellbeing, the therapy isn’t so much about what you do, but is more about being present with the horses.
“Horses are always in the moment; finely tuned to their environment and they offer us the opportunity to be present with them and in turn experience life more fully.”
A self-confesed perfectionist in her youth, Felicity set unachievable expectations for herself, her horse and her profession.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 27
Different modalities of equine therapy continue to grow in popularity around the globe, and for good reason. Research has demonstrated its benefits in a range of areas and for a number of conditions, from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to dementia, substance use recovery and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The multifaceted benefits of equine assisted wellbeing offer an incredibly diverse experience that tailors itself to the individual needs of the client, from increased confidence and leadership skills, enhanced self-regulation, reduced stress and anxiety, increased feelings of wellbeing, developing fine and gross motor skills and encouraging problem solving.
With an estimated one in five Australians experiencing some form of mental illness in any given year, diversity in treatment options is a must.
“Often clients have exhausted other avenues of treatment, or are uncomfortable with traditional talk therapies, but once introduced to equine therapy they appreciate the value that comes from the
BENEFITS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HORSES
The benefits of being with horses doesn’t occur in just the formal therapeutic setting; for horse owners, the benefits are extensive from riding to raking stables and just being in the great outdoors. As Felicity explains, “There is no doubt that this in part is what draws us to horses: the way we feel physically and emotionally when we are around them. The positive effects of horse ownership offer an antidote for those of us who tend to experience mental health challenges. When life gives us lemons, as it inevitably will, having something in your life that you really enjoy doing, that gives you purpose and offers connection, is invaluable.”
Despite the benefits that we receive from our horses research has highlighted that the commercialisation of equestrian disciplines is having a negative effect on the relationship between horse and rider.
Where success and financial gain are given priority, the horse is considered expendable, and the relationship between horse and rider becomes of little importance.
Most recently, British event rider Lucy Blain announced on social media that she is stepping away from competitive riding due to its unrelenting nature and high pressure, opting instead to focus her attention on finding enjoyment in the simpler things such as grooming and riding out.
This is just one instance of riders being affected by the pressure of competition and serves as a great reminder to horse owners that the physical and psychological benefits can be missed if we aren’t taking the time to slow down and enjoy our horses.
The relationship we have with our horse is exactly that, a relationship, and like any relationship it can be healthy or unhealthy, troublesome or enjoyable. Many factors will contribute to the overall experience with our horse with the possibility of enhancing our physical and psychological wellbeing or detracting from it.
Ironically it’s not just our wellbeing that benefits. Taking the time to thoroughly groom and observe our horse offers insight into our horse’s wellbeing and enables us to identify issues as they arise, such as minor grazes or something more sinister. Spending time with our horses without expectation allows us to truly get to know them and to build an authentic relationship of trust and connection, while we reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, mentally and physically.
Interaction helping the community continued...
The Horse, Mental Health and Well-Being
In a 2014 study of at-risk youth, it was demonstrated that being tasked with caregiving activities such as grooming and feeding, increased empathy and the opportunity to form a bond with the horse. The study indicated that for many individuals facing a mental health challenge and for whom feelings of loneliness and isolation are common, forming a bond with a horse can be profound.
Research has also shown that the horse’s ability to be finely attuned to their environment persuades us to a state of greater selfawareness. Interestingly, it has been identified that spending time with horses increases our self-awareness, optimistic thinking and communication skills. It is thought that because our interactions with horses require us to be present and aware, it takes us out of negative thinking and into a more mindful state, therefore increasing our sense of wellbeing. Additionally it has been found that for children who have experienced trauma, animals can be attachment objects, and body-mind interactions with them have been able to contribute to reduced stress and recovery.
If you don’t have a horse already then this could be a reason to consider introducing one into your life in the new year; either rehoming, purchasing, sharing a lease, or volunteering at a Theraputic riding centre.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 29 Practitioner TrainingEquine Assisted
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Right: A great hit with the
It was back with a bang! The Melbourne Showgrounds had long lines
of excited equestrian enthusiasts waiting to enter Equitana 2022.
With 2018 being the last time this event ran, the hugely popular biennial equestrian showcase was the most anticipated event for 2022.
COVID -19 cancellations were forgotten as new dates were locked in for November 2022 and thousands updated thir diaries so they could making their way to the Melbourne Showgrounds for what is undoubtedly the biggest equestrian event in the Southern Hemisphere. The four day equestrian extravaganza was finally able to kick off on 10th November, the event well and truly living up to the promise of more of what equestrians love, namely education, entertainment, exhibition and competition. As thousands streamed into the venue on day one it seemed even the weather gods were turning it on for the long awaited event, with Melbourne’s notoriously unpredictable weather staying fine for the duration.
Above: Hidez rugs had a bright display with a range of compression rugs and hoods.
Right: Dan Steers wowed the audience with his demonstration of horsemanship.
Left: Boyce Deverell and Jodie Rouget from The NRG Team were catching up with clients and enjoying the events.
Each of the event’s most popular components were back, the nightly drawcards like Thursday’s Jumping Full Flight, the dressage on the Friday night with the CDI-W Freestyle, Saturday night’s Mane Event and to wrap up, Sunday afternoon’s finale of the Mitavite Way of the Horse competition, where three competitors worked their horses at the same time for just an hour a day over the four days and are judged on the final day. The crowds filled the Grand Pavilion to watch Skye Liikanen take out this year’s all female competition with the three year old Connemara filly, Dylanglen Maya.
This year there were many familiar companies and brands filling each of the three exhibitor pavilions, along with the outdoor exhibitors; the event giving businesses of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to showcase their wares to thirty odd thousand attendees.
If there were any concerns about interest rate rises, the chance of a recession and increasing unemployment in 2023 there were few signs of it in the bustling halls. Shopping has always been on the agenda for most of Equitana’s visitors, and this year was no exception, with bargains and new goodies being snapped up.
$50,000 Grand Prix Showjumping
Australia’s best showjumpers and their riders were at Equitana for the $50,000 Grand Prix show jumping event, with the winner taking home $15000. The course included a related line between 6 and 7 and a double and treble.
Three riders went double clear over the two rounds and time was the deciding factor for the winner and place getters. There were fourteen competitors in the first round including Shane Rose riding his Tokyo Olympic eventer ‘Virgil’ with nine going forward to the second round.
The winner was Izabella Stone riding ‘Oaks Ventriloquist’, in second place was Brook Dobbin riding ‘Gina MVNZ’, in third place was William Dight riding ‘Thea’ with 2022 Australian Show Jumping Champion Tom McDermott in fourth place.
By Diane Bennit
Long time subscriber to Hoofbeats, Linda Merrilees from Bobs Farm, NSW caught up with editor Sandy Hannan.
Hoofbeats thanks photographer Vicki Yeates for her range of photographs and for stepping in to cover this event when a broken wrist side-lined Sandy from using the camera.
Izabella Stone riding ‘Oaks Ventriloquist’
There was truly something for everyone, as along with the shopping there was the choice of 36 presentations on the Thursday alone, with 12 competitions or horse events in the many arenas dotted around the showgrounds. There seemed a palpable sense of relief as the event drew to a close, especially from the event organisers after trying to pull this huge undertaking together twice and being defeated by COVID.
Equitana Melbourne 2022 not only went ahead as planned, it surpassed expectations, its success testament to the resilience of the equestrian industry, and a sign that while Melbourne may have been left battered and bruised from COVID, it’s certainly not lost its reputation as the greatest host of Australia’s most exciting equestrian festival.
Above: Skye Liikanen, winner of the Way Of The Horse, rode the Connemara filly Dylanglen Maya on the third day, but not in the final presentation. Skye also purchased the filly and will work on her at home.
Left: Julia McLean, WOW Saddles and Jacqui Melbourne from Albury, NSW.
Winners of the Equitana Pony Club of the Year 2021 (by presenting the best Pony Club of the year video), was the Whittlesea Horse and Pony Club (Vic). Over 50 entrance tickets were given to club members and they came prepared to carry their purchases home. Amelie and Sarah Powell, Jenny Smith, Nikki and Zoe McPhai, Grace, Melinda and Heidi Villani,and Charleigh-Anne Walsh, had a great day.
Top: Mel Blair and Nina Lewis from Go Tafe. Above: There was an abundance of Toys For Boys, for those with no direct interest in horses.
OTT Express Eventing
Left: In a condensed version of an eventing competition Shane Rose riding ‘Easy Turn’ had the winning score of 83.54 over second placegetter Jess Somerfield’s 86.35 on Lakeview Albion
Equitana has something for everyone, as was evident by the range of bags collected by this foursome from Swan Hill in Victoria -Tanae Walker, Aaron Kaylock, Rhiann O’Meara and Grant Kaylock. The ladies have OTT and Arab horses and the brothers come from a 22,000 acre farm in Mallee country. As to what they had seen so far, Aaron pointed out that they had done nothing but shop since arriving however were planning to ‘park’ the purchases and concentrate on attending clinics and the night time entertainment.
Equitana is all about the experiences people have so we asked a few to share their thoughts on the event.
Many attendees shopped up a storm!
Dressage fans would have been pleased with the presentations by this year’s star presenter for the Sprenger Dressage Masterclass, Sabine Schut-Kery. Born in Germany and now living in America, Sabine won team silver at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She worked with several horse and rider combinations throughout the four days and covered many topics, including longitudinal and lateral balance, activity, contact and suppleness. She used leg yield a lot to improve suppleness and highlighted the more crossover of the hind leg, the more engagement of the hindquarters. She asked riders to give the inside rein often to encourage self-carriage. She reminded riders to keep their hands low and asked many to lengthen the curb rein if they were using a double bridle. This is so riders don’t rely on the curb rein, as it’s a tool for refinement. In keeping with this principle, she also asked riders to use their calves for the leg aids, rather than always using the spur, as the spur is also for refinement. All horse and rider combinations seemed to improve in a short period of time. Sabine took questions after the Masterclass and was very approachable and eager to share her knowledge.
New this year was the Liberty Championship, an event that showcased trainers and their horses presenting a Liberty ‘freestyle’. Billed as a competition that would highlight the connection between horse and trainer with no saddles or bridles, this was a popular addition to the event schedule. Ash Barnett from
Ariel, Allie, Leanne, Nicki and Jessica, shopped till they were ready to drop, and were amazed at the bargains they got, and
they would take their complimentary copies of Hoofbeats home to read as they had a busy stand . “It’s been going great, the vibe is so giddy! It’s a team effort, and we are having a blast catching up with everyone!”
Sabine also ran sessions that were available to all ticket holders.
Grand Prix and Young Riders Dressage
The dressage competitions took place over the first two days of Equitana. The scoring was paperless, so scores were announced straight after the tests. There was an app you could download to give your own scores. These spectator scores were also announced after the tests, so you could see if the audience agreed with the judges, making it a lot of fun. In most cases the audience agreed with the judges’ rankings. The CDIW Grand Prix was qualifying event for the Dressage World Cup final (Omaha, Nebraska April 23), was won by Jessica Dertell on the imported stallion Cennin. She followed this with a win in the Young Rider Individual Test on Gladstone M H. The freestyle night was very enjoyable. The winner of the CDI-W freestyle was Lindsey Ware on Aristede. There was also a Young Rider freestyle, an Intermediate I freestyle and a quadrille to watch. The quadrille was very well performed by four riders from the Dressage Victoria Young Rider Squad. The evening finished with Sabine riding a magnificent grey Lusitano stallion, Alancelot.
This horse had been very well trained up to Grand Prix by its owner, Debbie Ware from Wetterau Equestrian Centre in Victoria. Although there were a couple of minor communication issues, which was not surprising given Sabine had only ridden this horse the day before, the horse showed off some super work, especially the piaffe. By Sarah Thean
The Australiana Mane Event is always a real showstopper and it lived up to all expectations for the sell-out crowd and was an evening to savour and a chance to really celebrate the journey of the horse in Australia.
E QUITANA MELBOURNE B USINESS AWARDS
The Technology Innovation category winner was Sonaray Australia with their product ‘Complete Off Grid Light and Power Solution’, which was launched at EQUITANA Melbourne this year. Sonaray can now offer a complete off grid lighting and power system for any rural off grid equestrian facility.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 32
Jane Cross photo
Stephen Mowbray photo
Regular Contributors Liz Tollarzo Rhiannon Brown Teele Worrell Belinda Taylor Country Park Herbs Articles, news, photographs, questions and artwork for inclusion in this publication are welcome and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the sender’s contact details Number 161 Number 161 December/January 22/23 Produced by Hoofbeat Publications 90 Leslie Road Wandi 6167 Ph: 08 9397 0506 email@example.com https://hoofbeats.com.au The European Invader European Wasp TRACKING-UP Starting a track system Working with your property - not against it Summer Pests are thriving in the wet season TIME SAVING HACKS for horse owners
The European Invader
by Rhiannon BrownEnvirapest
A director for Envirapest, a Pest and Weed Control company, Rhiannon has over 7 years’ knowledge in the industry, is a founding board member of the Professional Women in Pest Management Association as well
as being a licenced pest and weed controller herself. She has a love of horses, has two of her own and has been an accomplished natural horsemanship enthusiast for over 18 years.
P:1300 368 472
As the seasons change and we head into summer Australians love to spend time outdoors. Whether it is with our horses or ponies, playing with the kids or the Aussie backyard barbecue –we love getting outside. But with the arrival of the warmer weather we also see an increase in annoying insects such as flies and mosquitoes sharing the great outdoors with us and our horses. But one particular invader that can cause a lot of pain to your family and pets is the European wasp.
These wasps are the black and yellow ones you see around that are slightly larger than a bee and more aggressive than a native wasp. In many cases people have mistaken the common yellow paper wasp for the pest European wasp but the European wasps are a bright yellow colour with black stripes and yellow legs; and their antennae are entirely black.
The European Wasp
The European wasp is now an established pest in most parts of Australia and was first reported in Tasmania in 1959. In Western Australia, it is a prohibited pest and all sightings need to be reported to DPIRD so that the colonies can be destroyed.
BuT WHy THE CoNCERN ovER A WAsP?
Well these guys not only take over and compete against our native wasp and bee species but they are extremely aggressive and attack people, horses, dogs and cats regularly. Their stings are not barbed like bee stings - which means that the wasp can repeatedly sting its victim over and over, and they do. They have even been observed killing bird chicks in the nest.
Horses tend to be stung around the muzzle because 80% of European Wasps nests are found in the ground in raised banks, normally with a single entrance hole – the perfect place for your horse to be feeding.
Although typically meat eaters the European wasp is attracted to sweet things, so remove any rotting fruit from trees planted around stables and yards.
Reactions can range from small, painful swellings right up to anaphylactic shock and respiratory distress.
Nests can also be found in tree hollows. once a nest is disturbed the colony will aggressively attack the animal or human that has disturbed it and they sting many times.
Typically meat eaters, which attracts them to the barbecues or dog food left outside, the European wasps are also attracted to sweet things like rotting fruit and sweet drinks. you can be in for a painful surprise if open soft drink cans are left unattended around known territory of these wasps. It can help as a deterrent if you remove any rotten fruit from fruit trees that are around the stables or horse yards and chick coops.
WHAT To Do If you fIND A EuRoPEAN WAsPs NEsT.
If you think you or your horse has been stung, monitor for systems and seek medical/veterinary advice as soon as possible
The next thing you should do is search the reporting requirements in your state. some states will arrange to dispose of the colony for you, by a professional. It would be recommended that you do employ a professional to eradicate the colony. Professionals have products that are designed for wasps and are trained in how to deal with an aggressive colony. There will have a variety of control methods they can use to suit the situation including baiting, trapping and other preventative control methods.
FUTURE MICE ERADICATION
Researchers at the University of Adelaide have released their findings about the potential effectiveness of gene drive technology to control invasive mice.DNA technology is used to make alterations to a female fertility gene and, once the population is saturated with the genetic modification, the females that are generated will be infertile.
Research paper first co-author and post-graduate student Luke Gierus said the technology was the first genetic biological control tool for invasive animals.
“We’ve done some modelling in this paper and we’ve shown using this system we can release 256 mice into a population of 200,000 on an island and that would eradicate those 200,000 in about 25 years.”
Luke says the technology has a long way to go but signs are promising.
Luke said the next step would be to continue testing in laboratories before releasing mice onto islands where the team could safely monitor the effects. He said the method was far more humane than other methods, such as baiting.
“It’s potentially a new tool that can either be used alongside the current technology or by itself,” Luke said.
“This is quite a revolutionary technology that gives us another way to try and control and suppress mice.”
December/January 2022/23 - Page 35
by Deidre Rennick
Paddock Paradise, Equicentral, Horse Track system. These are a few terms you might hear when the topic of alternative horse management systems are raised. The idea of redesigning our horse husbandry to create a more natural and sustainable system has been around for quite some time. Jaime Jackson, often known as the father of barefoot trimming, started writing in the early 90s about lessons learned from observing wild mustang herd behaviour. The way they moved around terrain, forage options and resources such as water formed the basis of his Paddock Paradise system. stuart and Jane Myers have spent a lifetime travelling and teaching about paddock systems that promote rotational grazing and resting to allow natural grazing styles and land conservation.
A track system is basically a way to design your paddocks to encourage forward movement and natural horse behaviours.
These systems are very popular in countries where land is at a premium. The many barns that focus solely on track systems. They are very popular and have long wait lists. Track systems in Australia are less common. Probably because we usually have plenty of land available to us! our land is often repurposed stock paddocks, so a rectangle paddock shape is very common. Changing fencing is expensive, so we just keep what we already have when we bring horses onto our properties.
a beginner’s guide to starting a track system (Part 1)
What is a Track System?
When you turn up at your horse’s paddock with a bucket of feed, if they are not already at the gate, you will see their heads pop up and they will take the shortest line to the feed bucket. If there’s a round bale in the paddock, you will see that they have probably been standing there most of the day eating hay. our management systems have taken away a lot of natural moving, foraging and nibbling behaviours from horses.
The basic premise of a track system is the creation of loops of track around your land that encourages the horse to move forward seeking food and to get to other resources like water and shelter. single loops and figure 8 designs are the most common. There is usually a central feeding, resting
as far as your imagination, land and budget allows.
To keep horses moving, you have feed or hay stations along the track. you can also have areas where the track gets wider to allow loafing and play. Where tracks really become fun and exciting is the notion of creating different terrains and experiences for the horse, to mimic the natural environment. There can be herb gardens, logs, rocks, bridges, obstacles or bushy areas on your track. you can run your track to maximise changes in the terrain and outlook on your land. I’ve seen one track on flat land where they used old tyres filled with soil and sand to make a mound for the horses to climb over. Many people use sleepers to make boxes where they dump
Make sure your horses have a comfortable resting and eating station.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 36
Varied surfaces should be incorporated into the track
track system is to have more than one horse to make a herd, you can have a single horse on a track. In fact, it will provide more dayto-day stimulation for a horse without a herd to be on a track where there is a lot of interesting things to see and do.
Why have a Track System?
I have nearly 50 acres and six horses. some of my paddocks have shelters, others have good tree coverage. Rotating my horses across different paddocks has never been an issue.
However, I noticed that every paddock they spent time in got trashed. Corners and gateways chopped up allowing new weeds to come through. Being on sand, once the topsoil broke up it was taking up to two years to recover. I also got myself a couple of “good doers.”
Going from hard keeping Thoroughbreds to Minis and galloways inclined to chubbiness forced me to rethink how I was managing them. They were all in individual paddocks and always hung along the fenceline. I had fence injuries and damage from them playing across the fences. If I took one away the others ran up and down, chopping things up even more. And when I had to rotate the galloways away from the Mini, he became quite despondent. This horrible spring with pouring rain and flooded paddocks made up my mind to create a track system. I had one paddock with a clay base that had not flooded too badly, so I started there. I’m about six weeks into my new track system, and I love it! The three horses are in together and looking so happy and healthy.
Considerations before starting a Track System
• Set up costs – it will cost you money for fencing and supplies. I started with as much as I could afford and built a small track first. Expansion will happen as I add more supplies when my budget allows and when the spring feed has browned off.
• Feed costs – depending on your system, your feed costs will likely go up! I’ve set up a grassless track, so my horses now rely on me solely for all their nutritional needs, especially forage. However, my track can be reconfigured easily, so in the summertime new tracks will allow them to graze standing hay. I can also control when and where they graze to keep them off areas I don’t want them to graze. Buy up hay at the start of the season when it’s a bit cheaper to help keep your feeding costs down at other times of the year. As I can see the benefits in weight loss and improved hoof health I am comfortable with spending more on their feed at the moment.
• Feed balancing – you must know exactly what you are feeding to make sure minimum nutrition and fibre requirements are met. Many feed companies will give you a free feed analysis, and there is always feedXL online if you want to do it yourself.
• Feed requirements – not all your horses on the track will have the same feed requirements. This can be particularly challenging. To keep the Mini from eating more than he needs I hang some
day if you have a small track. As they are getting more roughage through hay be prepared for gold medal winning amounts and know what you are going to do with it! I’m using it to fertilize my resting paddocks, but bagging and selling, or giving away to gardeners in exchange for produce are other ways to manage this. unfortunately, you won’t be able to just set up a round bale of hay for free choice hay, as it defeats the purpose of a track if your horses are standing in one place eating. Hay stations around the track are designed to encourage horses to seek food and keep walking. At a minimum you need at least one hay station per horse – the more you can have the better! But this means stuffing haynets or filling feed boxes morning and night. Continued...
December/January 2022/23 - Page 37
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Inbuilt water crossings can be a great addition for hooves, muscles and hydration.
• Emergency management planning –holidays, travel, work commitments or sickness can all hit at unpredictable times. Think about what would work for you and your horses if you suddenly couldn’t be there. I have two hay boxes set up that can each hold a full bale in a slow feeder net. I also have an area where the grass is not so lush where I can take down a section of the track to allow them access to grazing.
• Management of resting areas –suddenly you will realise how quickly grass and weeds grow! As we need to contend with fire risk you may need to
slash or strategically graze the off track areas. If you have less land and plan to graze summertime standing hay, this may not be an issue for you.
• Is a track system for everyone? - I’m not sure a track system will suit all horses. I haven’t put my retired Thoroughbreds on the track system yet. My main concern is that a circuit might trigger memories of racing, particularly with more than one Thoroughbred in a herd. Also, if you use electric fencing the horses must be electric fence aware and your set-up done in a way that you don’t get times when there is inadequate charge to deter a pushy horse.
A TRACKING JOURNEY IN QLD
Ruth and Paul Askey-Doran have lived on their 66 acre property, ‘Birdsong Park,” 45 minutes south west of Townsville, since 2012. Ruth is a qualified veterinary nurse with a passion for animal welfare as well as land management.
Their tracking journey started with Guv’nor, a Clydesdale x Percheron gelding, who was at the end of traditional options for treating his EMS and chronic laminitis. A good friend introduced them to Paddock Paradise early in 2022 and they haven’t looked back. Guv’s transformation over the four months he was on the track was remarkable. Weight loss, improved hoof health and he was well, happy and pain free. He was a new horse and our only regret was not knowing about track systems sooner! Unfortunately we lost him to an unrelated medical incident in August 2022.
We could see the benefits the track system was having on all our horses and our land. Not only were the horses losing weight, had better mobility and healthier hooves, but the land where the horses couldn’t access, was regenerating and wildlife thriving. It was a win/win management option for land and horses.
We now have three tracks, have just completed a pony track and have opened up our property to assist other horses and owners. A legacy to honour the amazing Guv’nor who taught us so much.
RUTh’s TOp TIps
1. Read Jaime Jackson’s Paddock Paradise before starting.
2. Start small. Especially if you have a grass affected horse. It’s easier to keep a small track grass free.
3. Use the centre of your track wisely. You could regenerate the area for native wildlife, or alternatively use it for growing hay or standing hay for later in the season. If you have a bigger property you could incorporate your fire break as the horses will help keep it clear. If you have a hill, even better!
4. Follow and learn from others. There’s lots of Paddock Paradise and track sites
Next issue Deidre will cover design and setup of her track, future development plans and tips on getting the best out of an electric fence set up.
Do you have a track system? Let’s feature your system set-up in Hoofbeats - email to email@example.com and be sure to include a couple of large images.
About the Author Deidre Rennick , a partner in Warrnambool Equine - the feed and saddlery store in Warrnamboo, Victoria, researched the various options for tracks when setting up her own system.
Guv’nor and Ruth.
Obstacles on the track.
Left: Janey’s amazing transformation after living on the track. Right: before the track.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 38
Track system continued...
years delivering events for horse owners, educating them on sustainable land management techniques tailored to the challenges of owning horses.
One presentation, appropriately titled ‘Protecting your land from the ones you love’, went through five important themes of equine landcare, the first covered What is Landcare? Part 2 cover looks at Property planning.
Working with your property, not against it
by Teele Worrell
When a landholder is ready to look at property planning, I always encourage a fresh look. Imagining your property without the current infrastructure could help you get the most out of the experience. Printing out an aerial map of the property is a goosd place to start.
No one wants to hear ‘why don’t we move some of the fences’? but the longterm benefits from using your property effectively can outweigh the pain of any initial investments. If you could change anything about how you use your property would you? And what is holding you back? Every property will have strengths and weaknesses but property planning can help to minimise negative impacts and take advantages of the strengths. for example, if you keep horses on sandy soils, then your soil will have good drainage but won’t hold up well to sustained grazing pressure, while properties with clay soils hold up well to pressure from grazing but can become waterlogged during winter.
once you understand your property’s strengths and weaknesses you can modify your management. using your property more wisely will improve the health and resilience of your land making it more productive.
Management options could include the creation of a sacrificial area to reduce the time horses spend grazing on sandy pasture, allowing the soil structure to stay intact.
Property owners with clay soils can leave horses on pasture for longer without seeing
soil structure break down but may need to remove access to waterlogged areas during winter, in turn those areas can then provide summer grazing opportunities.
Property planning will save you time, effort, and money. one way to save time is to build a pathway system for your horses allowing you to reduce the amount of watering points that need checking and maintenance. This is an additional benefit to reducing the time horses spend grazing on pasture while encouraging horses to move more.
An important part of property planning is incorporating emergency management into any future development.
Making changes? Can additional gates be included to allow for improved evacuations or to provide a pathway to a safe place for
your horses to go in the event of a fire? Can higher areas be fenced in a way to provide an evacuation site in the event of a flood?
successful equine landcare takes time. Property planning can help you use your properties strengths to help keep your horses and land healthy while also navigating any weaknesses that may require extra management.
Having all your plans written or drawn on paper can help you avoid making changes once the poles have been set into the ground.
Using tools such as drones (above) or other air photography can help you get an idea of your property’s possibilities and limits.
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As a landcare officer
P R o P e RT y Planning
Property planning is about using your property effectively and efficiently and sometimes starting with a clean slate.
are thriving in the very wet season
The east coast of Australia has been incredibly wet over the past 20 months with large swathes of NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland hit with significant rainfall and major flooding.
The very wet conditions have led to an increase in a number of pests, with mosquito populations in particular booming across many areas and increasing the risk of serious mosquito borne disease outbreaks.
JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS ((JEV)
of particular concern is Japanese encephalitis a viral disease that animals and people can contract through the bite of infected mosquitos. spread by several species of Culex mosquitoes, it’s been detected in NsW, victoria and south Australia and can cause encephalitis in humans and horses and be life threatening, so property owners should do all they can to help control mosquito populations and take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites.
While most cases of JEv show no sympoms there have been 42 cases of the virus reported in humans, with seven deaths in 2022. There has also been 35 “highly probable” positive cases of the disease in horses in Queensland and NsW, including three deaths.
Dr Hadley Willsallen, the president of Equine Veterinarians Australia, said it was difficult to protect horses against the disease without access to a vaccine, which has not yet been approved for use in Australia. With a similar clinical presentation to Hendra virus (Hev) and Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLv) infections in horses, with clinical signs
including fever, jaundice, inappetence, and neurological symptoms. Dr Willsallen told The Guardian last month,
“JEV has the potential to be very significant for horses, as the highest concentration of horses in Australia is located within the ranges of infected mosquitoes.”
The Charles sturt university Equine Hospital has seen ten likely cases of Japanese encephalitis this year, including three in which the horse died from the disease or had to be euthanised. While a JEv vaccine is available for people at risk of exposure, the federal agriculture department has advised that it is working closely with the Australian Pesticides and veterinary Medicine Authority to submit an emergency use permit application for the vaccine for use in domestic horses. Notwithstanding further delays in approval and procurement, it takes four weeks after the vaccine has been administered for a horse to be fully protected.
The increase in mosquito numbers will also increase the risk of other viruses that can affect horses including Ross River virus, Kunjin virus and Murray valley encephalitis (MvE), making the use of protective rugs, masks and repellents very important as mosquito populations peak this summer.
Horses may rub or scratch itchy areas and cause open wounds and infections
Check the property for potential mosquito breeding sites such as water troughs, tyres, buckets or containers that hold water.
Property owners should take steps to minimise anywhere where mosquitos can breed by removing stagnant water, tidying up anything that can collect water, for example tyres, wheelbarrows, overturned buckets, planter pots etc. around the property.
Mosquitoes can lay hundreds of eggs in the tiniest amount of standing water so it’s vital to check where water could be collecting. There’s concerns as flood waters recede, stagnant pools of water will see mosquitoes thriving for quite some time. Ensure your home’s gutters (and stables/sheds if they have gutters) are clean so water can drain away freely.
Keep lawn and garden areas trimmed as mosquitos will use these areas to rest, and change the drinking water regularly for your horses, and any pets and other livestock.
Dams should be kept free of vegetation and rainwater tanks should be properly sealed with removable screen mesh covering inlets and the outlet end of overflow pipes. The farm Biosecurity Awareness Campaign (a partnership with Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia) recommend an effective mosquito management program that targets all stages of the mosquito life cycle using a combination of methods. Integrated mosquito management involves a combination of environmental management to reduce breeding and resting sites, both inside and outside; larviciding; adulticiding; ongoing monitoring and surveillance and record keeping. A comprehensive guide to mosquito management for horses is available on the farm Biosecurity website, https://www.farmbiosecurity.com.au/ livestock/horses/mo squito-managementfor-horses/.
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Mosquitoes are generally most active at dawn and dusk so be sure to take steps to protect yourself with appropriate clothing and if possible avoid turning your horses out at these times. fans can be utilised in stables as mosquitoes are weak fliers and some horse owners report that feeding garlic and apple cider vinegar can help to discourage biting insects like mosquitoes and flies. An apple cider vinegar/water mix applied with a spray bottle has also been shown to be an effective mosquito repellent, as has garlic oil rubbed on the skin, although there’s more effective and better smelling ways to repel insects. Certain plants can help to repel mosquitos so consider growing a few near your house and stables, with lavender, marigold, lemon grass, catnip, citronella, rosemary, basil, scented geranium, mint and sage considered helpful to ward off mosquitoes.
Protective measures incorporating rugs, masks, herbs and repellents are important in pest management.
Skye Park Rugs Summerair Hybrid pictured.
And while they might not be as visible, and rarely bite us or our horses, termites are another pest expected to flourish after the significant rainfall events, the high levels of moisture in the soil providing perfect conditions for them to infest large areas so take preventative steps to protect your property’s infrastructure.
tickicide, should be considered along with property maintenance recommendations such as the slashing of long grass and tall weeds, and the removal of manure and any rotting or decaying organic matter on the property.
Aside from being incredibly annoying, pests like mosquitos can leave more than just bites with their ability to spread viruses; something that should not be ignored or disregarded. so, with summer bringing warmer weather, it’s important to be vigilant to not only the risk from bushfires this season, but to the risks associated with pests - with sensible precautions of benefit to us and our horses.
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Time Saving Hacks for horse
by Liz Tollarzo
Probably the best time saving hack with keeping horses is not to have any, however as this is obviously an impossibility for most of us, we need to look at various ways we can use our time more effectively and still manage the horses, income producing activities plus have time for family and friends. With most of our time spent feeding, mucking out, brushing and moving horses around from stables and paddocks , this is where we will look at solutions to speed things up.
Do you get time to just ‘hang-out’ with your horse?
• Feeding hay is a time consuming business, so having hay feeders in stables and paddocks where hay can be deposited yet keep it off the ground can speed up feeding as well as reducing waste. using round bales (1.2 to 1.5metre rolls) and using a round hay feeder or hay hut in paddocks can save heaps of time as the horses can eat directly from the bales without a great deal of wastage. To slow down the consumption and stop the horse devouring the hay too quickly it is advisable to use slow feeder nets over the rolls.
• Individual hay nets do take time to prepare and secure for each horse so making up a few day’s nets at one time can be a life saver for that day when you are running late. using hooks to hold hay nets open when filling them works well, however can be a pain when wanting to move around the hay shed. An alternative ‘mobile’ hay filler can be created using a ‘wheely’ bin with the hooks at the top to keep the net open. This works very well and any fallen hay collects inside the bin.
While many of these suggestions may seem insignificant, when you add up the time saved daily it can mean the difference between riding, relaxing with your horse or just ‘managing’ it.
• Feed bins with a hay rack incorporated above the feed bin can speed up feeding
A big hay bale, a net and a hay hut not only saves time but also money as horses don’t waste the hay..
hay; putting a bale into a wheel barrow and just depositing biscuits of hay directly into the racks as you go.
• Mixing multiple feeds at once can speed up the daily job - spending more time on one day to stack feed buckets for the week can work very well as long as the feeds can be protected from pests and environmental conditions. Premixing supplements together into containers for each day of the week also makes the daily feeding quicker and more efficient.
• If you struggle with the ‘feed bins in barrow’ syndrome with them falling over or out as you transport them to your horses then the new Bucket Barrow, that was introduced at Equitana will give you the option of having five feed bins fitting comfortably in barrow that can be pushed easily with one hand and will not tip.
• Attaching a length of rope or twine to the knife and scissors used to open feed bags and cut hay strings and hanging these on the wall can make them more visible as they always seem to develop legs!
• Find out if your stockfeeder will deliver weekly or fortnightly as it is then one less chore you have to worry about fitting into your weekend.
The bucket barrow.
• Using automatic waterers in stables definitely reduces stable duties, however they should be checked every day to ensure they are working properly and remain clean. Paddock waterers can also be made automatic and once again just need daily checking and cleaning when required. If buckets need to be filled in stables or yards then having a long hose is quicker and easier than carrying buckets to ever horse!
• Attaching a scrubbing brush next to each paddock water source and next to stable taps for cleaning water or feed buckets could mean cleaning occurs regularly as it saves that ‘hunt’ to find a brush.
• Making sure each paddock trough has a blunted pole or similar secured at one end to assist any bird or animal that may fall into the water to escape - not only saving its life but also prevents the possibility of the horse not wanting to drink fouled water and time needed to empty, scrub and refilling the water source.
• If using sawdust or straw in stables, extra bedding can be banked up against the sides so that after cleaning this can be bought in to replenish the bed as needed.
• Cleaning out stables or yards with a fork or a pooper scooper with wider holes in the base will allow the bedding or sand to fall through easier whilst leaving the manure behind. using a deep litter system (meaning just picking-up manure and topping up bedding - digging up wet spots and bedding once a week) can save time.
• That ammonia smell from old urine can be eliminated with a layer of Zealote (an absorbent, natural mineral that is often used in cat litter) under your horse’s bedding, plus it’s highly absorbent too so will make your bedding last longer.
• Sand stables are much easer to muck out so will be quicker to clean than shavings, sawdust or straw, however care will need to be taken that feed does not fall onto the sand, which could cause colic.
• Using rubber or ‘mattress’ system as flooring inside the stable and using less bedding will make cleaning easier -again an initial expense will help save time in the future.
Automatic waterers save time filling up buckets, but should be checked
Machinery, such as a tractor, is invaluable on any horse property.
• While it may sound like extra work actually picking up manure whenever you see it - it can often speed up the mucking out process the next day before it is trodden in.
• Keep stable cleaning equipment together with a large heavy-duty wheelbarrow so it is always in the same place and ready for action - and make sure any other agisters or stable users know that they should clean up after their own horse.
• Using a blower for the general stable aisle instead of the trusty broom can also speed up the cleaning process.
TiMe Saving Machinery
• The use of machinery to assist in our daily chores allows us to achieve the desired result far quicker and moves larger quantities with ease and with less chance of strain or other injury to ourselves.
• Using tractors with a bucket to move sand or manure piles can make any stable duties a breeze, especially when the only alternative is to use a wheelbarrow and shovel. This means that although a tractor may initially be an expensive purchase, it is truly a wonderful machine to have to ease our workload. Implements can be added to a tractor such as a fork to move round hay bales, fertiliser spreader and mower implements.
• Although of course we can mow paddocks with a ‘push’ mower (slowest) or ride-on (fast and can be rather fun), - the size of the
mower, which of course does not have the multi-uses of a tractor, but nor does it take up any of your valuable ‘horsetime’ as you can set it and then watch it do all the work while and go play with your horse.
• Having neighbours, friends or agisters who are willing to trade some of the jobs such as feeding or moving horses or even covering you for the occasional morning or day off in exchange for lessons, agistment or sharing your knowledge can allow you more time for other recreational activities.
• On larger properties having a quad bike that can tow a trailer to carry hay or a tip trailer for mucking out makes cleaning out yards and disposing of stable refuse quicker and easier.
• For even more time-efficiency consider letting your horses stay out in the paddock for a few days each week rather than stabling or yarding!
• Leading horses from stables or yards into stables does take time and the temptation to lead two or more horses at once is probably better resisted as things can quickly go wrong and what started as a time-saver becomes more the opposite! However, if horses are kept together in paddocks they may be accustomed to being allowed to walk in and out of their enclosures by them selves.
• Automated timers for gates are a great consideration as it means gates can opened at a specified time to let the horses in or out! A product called the BattLatch gate kit, which consists of a retractable poly rope that makes a temporary gateway and that can be
December/January 2022/23 - Page 45
Leave a halter and rope near the gate, but be careful its not somewhere the horses can get their feet stuck.
The BattLatch gate kit allows you to program times in to open gates so the horses came come or out.
pre-programmed for specific times of the day and the poly rope retracts automatically safely into a reel, allowing horses access to different paddocks during the day. This is a super idea for horses requiring restricted grazing times or when you are off to work early and don’t want to let them out until later. of course they may need to be ‘trained’ so they understand the routine.
• Designing a paddock set up where all of the gates are at the same end can speed up the movement of horses, so setting up fencing and designing the best time efficient and safest configuration can really assist time management.
• Having a halter and lead rope for each horse that stays next to their own paddock or stable makes for efficient movement of horses.
• Having a face cloth or small towel and a spray bottle where you tack-up means you can clean your bit immediately after riding, or for a quick wipe down of the horse’s face or girth area if not requiring a full wash (having two towels - one for the head and one for the body).
• Once a week wiping over riding equipment with a dressing, leather cream or readily available ‘tack wipes’ will keep tack supple and in good order, which makes cleaning easier as well as saves money by keeping equipment in top condition.
• If washing bandages in a washing machine, put them individually into a lingerie or laundry bag - as this prevents them tangling and makes them easy to hang and roll for their next use.
• Try and clean out hooves in the paddock, arena or yards to minimise sweeping out the stable or breezeway areas. Keep multiple hoof picks handy by hanging near the individual paddocks so they are easy to locate and use.
• Changing rugs consumes time so keeping rugs to a minimum really can help. Having a rain sheet, a 100gm and a 200gm300gm rug and using each as required instead of using multiple
Leading horses individually may seem time consuming, but it is safer and could save you time (and injury) in the long term.
layers makes it very simple to use one rug as required for the conditions. A mesh rug can help keep off flies and protect from the sun and should it rain whilst on the horse it would not need to be removed before placing a waterproof rug over the top, however a cotton rug would have to be removed in this situation before rerugging, so a mesh rug can be an invaluable time saver.
• If your horse is out in the rain and then brought into the stables, leaving the wet rug on the horse (as long as the horse underneath is dry) will save time as it will dry on the horse quicker than if you hang it on a rail and be of no concern to the horse! This will cut down time rugging unnecessarily and handling wet rugs.
• One point that cannot be rushed is that if a horse is still hot after working or hosing - don’t rush putting on a synthetic waterproof rug as the horse will have difficulty cooling itself down if rugged too soon. Placing a polar fleece or cooler blanket on initially and doing some other jobs whilst waiting for the horse to cool down will speed up your horses recovery. This can then be removed and the horse rugged as usual. The use of a solarium light system can quickly dry a wet horse and assist warm-up and cool down.
• If you are agisting your horse, keeping changes of clothing at the agistment centre so you can drive directly from work makes for good time management and keeping a pair of riding boots with your equipment is very useful as it is so easy to forget to pack those boots! If tending your horse before work use a set of waterproof overalls over your work clothes so you can just take them off afterwards and off to work you go!
• Find out when your horse is normally fed or turned out at the agistment centre. This can speed up the riding process by arriving at an appropriate time that will not upset the horse or centre’s
Organise your natural therapies, medications ansd supplements in easy-to-getto containers.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 46
feeding regime (or farrier’s visit). Knowing when the arena has been booked for a lesson will also prevent the problem of not being able to ride when you had planned. Many of the above suggestions can be implemented fairly easily and will save you time - time that you now may spend with your horses, your family or for yourself. As with most solutions, the main point would be to plan ahead where possible, use the best quality available whether it is feed or equipment and try not to cut corners to speed things up, and always keep the horse’s welfare as the priority as we try and find time for ourselves and our lifestyle.
Hopefully you will find at least a few ideas you can take from this article to enjoy a bit more quality time with your horse, doing the things you love.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 47
For a range of equipment to suit your Equestrian property call Tel: 0447 710 056 | www.cdtractors.com.au
exta time for riding.
give you that
Air-scenting –the powerful scenting ability of horses
Ever since the first horse was domesticated, it has been generally thought of as a beast of burden, a mode of transportation or a pet. The air scenting detection horse is different. It is possibly the first job that man has given the horse where it is expected to think and act all on its own in an open environment.
by Wendy Elks
“your nerves start to tingle as your horse signals that it’s caught the target scent on the wind currents. you sit quietly as it turns up-wind and eagerly proceeds, with nostrils flaring. At this point you’re a mere observer in the saddle: it is the horse’s instincts that determine where you go from here.
It’s a profound thrill: you have a front row seat to one of nature’s true wonders -- an opportunity to learn equine sign language. Ranging from quivers, speed changes and vocal indications, this language of signals will tell you if the source of the hunt is close or a long distance away.
your horse’s neck and head are a probing device, swinging in every direction to determine on which level of air current the strongest scent flows; surging forward and suddenly the horse’s frame drops. your heart starts to pound as its speed morphs into stalking, head and neck snaking out in an unmistakable manner. This sign language indicates that the scent source is very close.
Abruptly the horse stops, and either freezes into a point or uses its hoof or nose as a pointer, communicating to you that its job is done, the scent source has been located. It’s an exhilarating
accomplishment: you have just taken part in a natural instinctive behavior that few humans do: the equine art of scent detection,” said Terry Nowacki, founding member, past president and current training officer of the Marshall County Minnesota Mounted Sheriff Posse.
A global authority on equine scent detection, Terry’s name is synonymous with the modern recognition for and development of an equine’s ability to detect scent ‘on command’, much as dogs can be trained to do in service to humans. Terry’s decades-long research began when he became interested in seeing if horses could do this work after being involved in canine search and rescue missions. Keeping up with the dogs was an issue, particularly in difficult terrain. The height and reach of a horses, he found, provided other advantages: a horse’s nose can catch scents up to two metres in the air and up to 400 metres away. “under ideal conditions my tests have proven horses can pick up and follow scent from a ½ mile away (2640 feet), less distance when conditions are not ideal. Horses can scent by sticking their nose high in the air or right on the ground.
Terry’s interested was piqued after a horse ‘found’ a missing 80-yearold Alzheimer’s patient in Minnesota, fifteen years ago. After three
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An InTEnSE SEnSoRy ExpERIEnCE…
With their talent for tracking humans lost in wilderness or buried in snow, the sniffability of dogs is legendary. Historically horses have played a minor role, as vehicles conveying searchers into difficult or remote terrain. Recent studies show that horses have a powerful scenting ability, with the advantage of height and reach, over dogs, creating enormous possibilities in search-andrescue, and drug detection.
days of searching along a forest trail, a horse on another trail suddenly stopped, and the rider spied the man in the undergrowth. The man survived, and Terry began researching and experimenting with the horse’s ability to identify and follow scents. He has since written two books on the subject: Air scenting Horse and Equine Language and Communication Journal.
DoG AnD HoRSE CoMpARISon
Comparing dogs and horses in scent tracking, Terry says that while the scenting ability of a dog in thick undergrowth is greater than a horse’s, horses often hold the advantage because airborne scent rises. A dog’s nose must remain closely connected to the trail, while a horse’s nose can catch scents up to two metres in the air. Riding, of course, enables the human partner to keep up.
Another interesting comparison, efficiency-wise: once a dog tires it pants to cool itself, which somewhat compromises its scenting method (of sniffing the ground). In contrast, a tiring horse’s nostrils dilate, enabling the absorption of more scent.
Terry has proven countless times during public demonstrations and field trials that when he turns his scenting horses free, with no rider, they air-scent, search and find a training subject or scent source completely on their own.
founder of the American Equine scenting Association, Terry says a trained horse knows when it’s being readied for a mission.
WITH oR WITHoUT RIDERS
“When the exercise starts the horse begins breathing more heavily to move greater air volume through its olfactory passages, for the purpose of sorting and identifying. The rider, who has no such ability, must sit passively and let the horse do its work.
“An air-scenting horse is a real asset to search and rescue efforts. Claims by sceptics that the rider guides the horse have been disproven: horses can follow scents without a rider. in airscent training both rider and horse are ignorant of the location of their quarry.”
CoMpETITIon EVEnTS EMERGE
from Terry’s decades-long exploration into equine air scenting a new form of competition has evolved. Equine scenting field Trials (“just for the sport of it”) have been held all across the us for many years and Terry started this as a competitive sport.
Do you think you have a good partnership with your horse? Terry challenges riders to test their skills by participating in a one-of-its-kind Equine scenting field Trial.
“Imagine entering a search area that could be between 10 and 30 acres in size. The search area would be covered with tall grass, brush or trees. You goal is to have your horse find a wellhidden subject by using scent detection. of course, this is a blind search where the rider has no idea where the subject is hiding. The only way you will know if your horse has the scent is by reading its equine sign language by what you see, feel and hear. When your horse finds the illusive scent, you’ll lay your reins on your horse’s and neck and become a passenger as your horse follows the invisible scent drift all on their own, to a distance of a ¼ mile (400 metres) or more.”
“This training improves a person’s horsemanship because one must pay attention to what one sees, feels and hears from their horse,” Terry Nowacki, says. “It is the only discipline in the world where the horse performs 100% on his own in an open environment, and where it is 100% necessary to read your horse’s sign language in order to be successful. Equine Scent Detection is not only a skill that can and has saved lives, it is also fun to do. It’s like a game of hide and seek on horseback.”
Terry Nowacki is the founder of the American Equine Scenting Association. In his position with the Marshall County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse he has been actively involved in operations, planning and logistics on different major searches across a two state area and given search and rescue training clinics all across the US. Known for his research, clinics and proving public demonstrations across the US on Equine Scent Detection, he has since written two books on the subject: Air Scenting Horse and Equine Language and Communication Journal. http://www.airscentinghorse.com/
Photo by Kendra Nowacki
SCE n TW o R k
SCE n TW o R k
Not just for search and Rescue ... it’s a ‘new discipline with play’.
Teaching a horse to purposefully follow a scent track or detect an odour source needn’t be just another way that horses can serve humans. Renowned European equine behaviour consultant Rachael Draaisma says the rewards of using scentwork as an activity can bring enormous benefits to a horse, mentally, emotionally and physiologically. It can also be a boon in helping to improve the horse/human relationship. It’s something that any owner, rider or trainer can do with a horse for the sake of partnership, for sheer, simple pleasure, or as a reward or gift for the horse.
Horses live in a world filled with human stimuli. The degree to which they can handle it influences their wellbeing and the life they lead. Most programs that teach horses to cope with stimuli around them are based on changing their behaviour without taking into account their underlying emotion. Within these programs, the horse must experience stimuli and obediently show behaviour that the rider/trainer demands. Doing scentwork offers horses some choice, self-determination, and an opportunity for individual expression.
Rachael calls scentwork ‘a new discipline with play’, that can be practiced within a training regime, behavioural consultation, animal assisted therapy or simply as a gift for one’s horse.
In either case, the benefits can be quite profound. Based on the horse’s natural olfactory (smelling) instincts, the horse searches along a pre-walked trail with an edible treat at the end, making scenting a rewarding form of play and stress release.
A nATURAL BEHAVIoUR
scenting is a natural behaviour through which animals in the wild explore their environment and glean valuable information. In the domestic, human-constructed environment, horses have little
opportunity to exercise their natural instincts. scenting allows a horse to express itself as a horse in a relaxed, no-pressure activity, accompanied by its owner/trainer.
Also rare, the horse gets to be leader. “In our work with horses, the horse has to constantly obey and be controlled,” explained Rachael. “More and more, people are looking for ways to strengthen their bond with their horse through reciprocity (exchanging things with others for mutual benefit). Scentwork offers that. some people might prefer to avoid high-pressure work, or work with their horse in a more shared and equal way. for one reason or another, they may prefer not to ride at all. The mental stimulation of scentwork helps to keep the horse engaged and interested.”
scentwork also helps a horse become more grounded: a horse that learns to handle stimuli on its own has a greater comfort zone, reducing the incidence of spookiness and flightiness.
‘noSEWoRk’ foR fUn
This activity can be used as a reward, a break from serious training, for stimulating a jaded horse or one that is resting or in recovery. ‘Nosework’ engages the horse on a deeply instinctive level; it is mentally tiring and challenging, yet satisfying, and without pressure. A scenting exercise promotes focus and concentration, and positive socialisation. It empowers the horse to think and act for itself -- in company with its trainer -- as the two enjoy the process together.
EnGAGInG THE WHoLE BoDy
There is another advantage for both horse and rider/trainer: the observance of correct movement and swing, as the horse joyfully engages in natural behaviour with its entire being. Its unconscious body movement is a joy to watch: the wonderful stretch of the horse’s topline in which the entire spine is stretching and elongating, nose to the ground, quarters swinging; the
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hindfeet track well under, the footfalls are regular, even and long. Core engagement is stimulated, horizontal and vertical balance improved. Such perfect practice for the most difficult pace of all: the walk; what every good rider tries to achieve in training, effortlessly portrayed.
EQUInE BoDy LAnGUAGE
The sense of adventure and exploration in this fun exercise, leading to confident curiosity, can be of enormous benefit in terms of more productive focus and curiosity for both horse and rider, when encountering obstacles or strange objects on the trail.
A horse accustomed to trusting itself to explore and identify without fear is less likely to react with an automatic flight or fight response, when confronted by strange objects.
Rather it has trained itself to self regulate tension and has an increased capacity to link new comparable stimuli to a framework he already knows.
TRAInInG THE HoRSE foR SCEnTInG TRAInInG THE HoRSE foR
start in a small area such as an arena or yard. for training purposes a specially designed bag containing the horse’s favourite treats is hidden at the end of a pre-walked trail; in an arena, it could be buried within the topping. The starting point of the trail is marked by a ‘smeller’, a small towel that holds the smell of the footsteps of the tracklayer, which the horse soon learns to recognise as the starting point. The distance in the beginning from smeller to scentbag, which holds the reward, is very short and is lenghtened over time.
As the training progresses tracks can also be laid in outside terrains such as in forests and plains. scent tracking can be done with a horse being hand walked or ridden. It can also be expanded to finding missing persons.
Another scent activity Rachael is passionate about is having horses search for scattered treats; a ‘treat search’. This takes the handler little time and effort, but holds optimal value. It can vary in grades of difficulty and can be easily done at familiar and unfamiliar places.
During her research, Rachael found that most horses quickly passed over smells that they’d already processed and identified as ‘old hat’, and were repelled rather than attracted by strong smells. faint smells were more intriguing, and there may be more than one reason for this: curiosity, on the one hand; and the instinctive enjoyment of the release of the get-up-and going hormone, dopamine.
“In the case of a weaker scent trail created by footsteps, the horse has to use its olfactory abilities more intensely than in the case of a stronger scent. In the process of exercising its olfactory (smelling) system, multiple dopamine receptors are activated, resulting in more ‘feel good’ sensations than a trail with strong scents.”
Collect different kinds of foods your horse really likes and put them in the scent bag. Hide the bag a very short distance away.
Cover with bag with arena topping but leave the mesh on the bag uncovered and open to the air.
Left: Lay down the smeller (cloth). Step on the cloth firmly a number of times wearing shoes you wear often that have textured soles. Walk to the location you have buried the scentbag, setting your feet firmly on the ground with every step.
Right: Then leave the track with big steps. You are now ready to get your horse.
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Rachael Draaisma is an authority on equine body language and the signals employed for the purpose of communication among horses. She has also extensively studied the horse’s olfactory system and its relationship to physiology and biomechanics. Her findings are covered in her book Scentwork with Horses (published by CRC Press in 2020, following her best-selling book, Language Signs and Calming Signals of Horses.) https://calmingsignalsofhorses.com/en/
Tshape, size and thickness of these muscles. variations can be seen under dissection in the attachments of the muscles within the neck, especially in the Trapezius cervicus muscle.
Muscle development in the neck can be very beneficial to assess in relation to lameness of both the forelimb and hindlimb as the use of the neck muscles is altered in movement with these issues. The muscle development and posture of the neck also gives an indication about the dynamic posture of the horse.
There are a number of muscles that extend from the back of the horse all the way to the neck, such as the long back muscle (Longissimus dorsi), the multifidi (segmental muscle extending from the neck to the tail) and the Spinalis dorsi, which is an important muscle in the wither pocket of the horse in relation to saddle fit.
The posture of the neck will be affected by hoof balance and comfort, saddle fit, feeding positions, bit fit and comfort, limb lameness and the rider.
they house the spinal cord that extends from the brain to the tail. Alterations in the position of the neck vertebrae will affect the health and function of the spinal cord along with the nerve roots that exit at the junctions between each neck vertebrae and control muscle function of the neck and forelimb, as well as hind limb coordination and the phrenic nerve extending to the diaphragm.
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one of the longest nerves of the body also passes along the neck, the recurrent laryngeal nerve. you may have heard of ‘roarers’, which is a roaring noise from the upper respiratory tract of the horse when working. It is more common in racing and is due to paralysis of this nerve affecting the opening and closing of the airways in the throat area (larynx).
An interesting fact is that the cervical vertebrae are growing until the horse is at least the age of six years old and often up to the age of eight years, depending on the breed.
This is an important consideration in the training, self carriage and collection of the horse relating to the postural support of the neck.
THe eQuine neck
A horse has seven neck (cervical) bones and they sit along the lower aspect of the neck. The upper neck of the horse - where it joins to the skull - is known as the atlas and has the movement of flexion and extension. The joint of the first two neck bones, C1 (the atlas) and C2 (the axis) create the motion of rotation while C3-C7 create the ability of the horse to laterally bend towards each side with a small amount of rotation in the lower neck. The neck also has the ability to flex (the nose coming towards the chest) and extend (the nose raising upwards).
Leaving a limb hanging while jumping can be a sign of a neck issue.
Sign S of neck i SS ue S
signs that the neck may be involved include a stiff neck carriage or reluctance to bend in one direction, stumbling/tripping or falling, forelimb lameness, irritation of the forelimb such as frequent pawing, stomping, stopping and rubbing at the limb, abnormal sweat patterns along the neck, enlargement (hypertrophy) or degeneration (atrophy) of the neck muscles, muscle weakness and/or hypersensitivity to being touched on the neck.
The hind legs can also be affected leading to a wobbly, weak gait (ataxia) or throwing the hindlimb out wide on a small circle (circumduction). A lack of limb awareness can also be a sign of neck issues such as knocking jumps, leaving a limb hanging when jumping or standing with the forelimbs or hindlimbs in strange positions.
A behavioral change may be the first indicator of a neck problem highlighting the importance of always investigating a behavioral change thoroughly. Behavioral alterations due to neck pain may include pulling back, rearing, pulling on the reins, not wanting to go forward, a sudden oneset of spooking which can become more extreme and include bolting, aggression and sudden outbursts of unusual behaviour.
The point to notice is that the signs are highly variable and it is important to monitor facial expressions for signs of pain - such as tension around the mouth and eyes.
nuchal ligament which is comprised of a funicular cord and laminae on each side of the neck that extend down to C5 with often weak fibres to C6 and very little to no fibres extending to C7. The curve of the neck creates a gentle S shape leading to the junction with the thoracic vertebrae which is often deep on the inner side of the shoulder blade (scapula).
It used to be thought that the nuchal ligament lamellae extended strongly to C6 and C7 but thanks to the amazing dissection skills and research
of Dr. Sharon May-Davis it is now recognised that the base of the neck has limited support. This creates a greater importance on our awareness of the correct posture, and strength of the stabilising postural muscles of the neck for self carriage is very important.
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C3 C4 C5 C6 C7 forC3-C7createtheability
C1 (atlas) C2 (axis)
•Pull back injuries •Wobblers • Arthritis of the articular facet joints •Equine Caudal Cervical Morphological Variation (ECCMV) •Fractures of the vertebrae
There are also other developmental disorders that can occur affecting the bones and joints of the neck.
Pull back inju R ies
Pull back injuries cause a lot of strain and spasm around the poll and in a growing horse can create inflammation in the growth plates of all of the cervical vertebrae and therefore may alter growth. The attachments of the muscles - both into the poll, the neck and the rest of the body - can be damaged, creating long term issues. The nuchal ligament may also become damaged along with the fascia relating to the spinal cord and brain. A horse that has discomfort in the poll will often continue to pull back.
Wobble R s
Wobblers are horse that are often young and this condition often affects the mid and lower(caudal) cervical vertebrae but can affect other areas. There is compression of the spinal cord therefore altering the signals getting through to the rest of the body, especially the hindlimbs and often the forelimbs too. They are called wobblers because they are very wobbly on their feet due to the lack of coordination and awareness of their limbs, and those affected may fall over. This can be treated with surgery while complimentary therapies such as acupuncture and proprioceptive training can help.
aRT h R i T is of T he a RT icula R face T join T s
Arthritis in the neck is common in the area of C5/C6 and C7 and can result in pain and restricted motion in the neck as well as affect the forelimbs and hindlimbs. At times this can cause forelimb lameness due to nerve compression as they exit the neck to innervate the muscles of the forelimb. Nerve pain can be very debilitating (speaking from personal experience). This can be aided by joint supplements such as a course of Pentosan, releasing restrictions by a qualified biomechanical medicine professional and working with other qualified body workers to optimise the function of the whole body and appropriate gentle exercises.
e quine c au Dal c e R vical Mo RP hological va R iaT ion ( ecc M v )
The lower part of the neck (caudal neck) has been noted to present with malformations in over 30% of Thoroughbreds, over 30% of Warmbloods and other breeds have also been affected. This is a condition that the horse is born with and cannot be corrected with surgery or bodywork. on the underside of the vertebrae a process is missing on one or both sides of C6 and may or may not be present (transposed) on C7. If one side is affected (unilateral) it creates an asymmetry that affects the positioning of muscles that support the lower neck and the nerves that are passing out at this point to the forelimb and diaphragm. If both sides are affected, it is more symmetrical, however can create instability and the muscle that usually attached to the bony processes that are missing has been shifted to C7, which alters the support in the lower neck.
other malformations or variations have been noted when ECCMv is present, such as malformations of the first rib presented as a double headed rib, a residual rib or other manifestations which can significantly affect the nerve (brachial plexus) supplying and hence controlling the forelimb. The signs may be non-existent to very subtle in the early years of a horse’s life however there is a potential risk with these horses over jumps due to the lack of awareness and altered function of the forelimbs, meaning they may be more likely to drop a leg and catch it on the jump leading to a rotational fall. They often destabilise in middle age, which can lead to very dangerous behaviours as outlined above. further information can be found at https://www.ecvmallbreeds. com/
c e R vical ve RT eb R al f R ac T u R es
fractures of the cervical vertebrae can occur due to trauma such as falls in the paddock, falls when jumping or inappropriate chiropractic adjustments. The degree of instability in the fracture and the fitness and strength of the horse will determine the signs of the fracture.
If you are concerned that your horse is displaying signs of neck pain or stiffness then you can consult with your local veterinarian for further investigations, such as radiographs and work with your local animal biomechanical medicine professional.
ABOUT ThE AUThOR
DR. RAqUEl BUTlER
A biomechanical medicine veterinarian and lecturer in Equine Science at Charles Sturt, Wagga Wagga, Raquel is passionate about equine locomotion, rehabilitation and the physiology and management of the equine athlete.
A video of exercises can be seen through accessing the link www. horseprohub.com/pl/2147604027.
Raquel has a great injury prevention and rehabilitation series along with
many others that can be accessed by joining Horse Pro Hub with the coupon DRRWEBINAR at checkout.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 54
For more information please contact Dr Paula Bell-Cross on 0419 934 790 or firstname.lastname@example.org • Experienced team of dedicated equine vets and vet nurses • Fully equipped equine hospital facility with video-camera monitoring in stables • Comprehensive gastro-intestinal health services including gastroscopy • On-site and mobile dental service including mobile crush • Lameness evaluations including radiography and ultrasonography • Video-endoscopy • On-site laboratory with in-house blood machine • Comprehensive reproduction service including chilled and frozen semen artificial insemination, embryo transfer and stallion collection. • Separate dedicated reproduction laboratory • Float and arena hire PHONE: 9296 3884 For all your perFormance horse needs valleyequinevet.com.au
Creating a Feel
Pa RT 2 in TR aining T he Wes T e R n h o R se
Tanja kraus continues her horsemanship training articles, focussing on tips and exercises that are applicable for the offthe-track (oTT) Thoroughbred but which work for any breed for those wanting to train their horse for western or just basic good horsemanship.
once we have a good horsemanship foundation established in our horses, both in the physical ‘reset’ - nutrition, hoof care, dental, veterinary and body work, and in the basic ground and ridden work, we can now begin the more discipline specific training.
Despite the discipline or sport that a rider may select for their horse there is a need for them to consider the necessity for continued investment in these basic foundations, particularly in balance and proprioception work (perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body). Training will eventually get to a point where riders can start to introduce more discipline specific requirements, however it is vital that they continue the investment of time and energy in foundation work, after all our oTT’s, and in fact any horse, may have had many years of training habits to change.
es Tablish self - con TR ol one of the more important elements of foundation work is to educate the horse in its emotional and physical self-controlunder saddle and on the ground. That is, to establish the horse’s ability to be ridden on a loose rein in walk, jog and canter, without needing to be regulated or speed controlled with the rein.
The main reason for this is that once you have self-control established, you can move forward into the demands of self-
carriage, without the complications of the horse misunderstanding the rein cue as a speed control, or in fact, needing the rein cue for speed control.
gR oun D W o R k fo R collec T ion
Introducing some physically demanding exercises on the ground will help your horse increase its physical health, and make the ridden introduction of more collected work easier to perform.
gR oun D o val
The square on the ground exercise (in oct/Nov issue) provided four ‘arcs’ and four straight sides for release. once that has been established you can increase the work with the horse and can transition this to an oval shape. Basically, the oval will have two half circles – one at each end, with two straight sides - again
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providing the opportunity for you to release your horse’s reins. Remember, that the smaller the circle the more demanding this exercise is, so start off with a 20 metre half circle at each end, and as your horse’s skill improves, reduce the half circles to around 10 to 15 metres.
gR oun D Poles
shortening the distance in between the ground poles, causing the horse to have one step in between each pole will increase the challenge, and allow you to introduce a shortening of stride on the ground. An introduction of minimal trot work over poles will also increase strength and self carriage.
Ri D ing T he s qua R e
To instill and maintain your horse’s confidence in your training regime, using exercises that are somewhat familiar to it as an introduction to collection work will make your and the horse’s training a lot easier.
I like to use the square exercise that we used in last issue (oct Nov) as an on the ground exercise, and take it to under saddle work to begin the introduction of the idea of correct bend, engagement of the inside hind leg, and a soft feel in the rein.
As per the execution of the square on the ground in-hand, the straight sides provide an automatic release to the horse in the straight line, after the arc in the corner, which calls for a greater degree of flexibility and strength, particularly while carrying a rider. At times it is easy to underestimate how difficult this work is for all horses, let alone the oTT that can be compromised in its physical ability in these more collected manoeuvres, so remember to start slowly, and build your horse up, with plenty of resting time in between repetitions.
Ri D ing gR o un D Poles
In keeping with the focus of familiarity to maintain confidence, I would also introduce ground poles as part of the ridden work once your horse is competent in these exercises in-hand. I prefer to leave large spaces between ground poles to allow proprioception development under saddle. In the early stages of ridden work navigate the ground poles at a walk and slowly introduce the jog / trot, on a relatively loose rein, to allow the horse freedom to adjust its body as it requires. As its skill under saddle increases, and your horse is no longer needing to make large adjustments to its carriage as it goes over the poles, you can introduce a soft feel (light contact) to the rein.
Both the square and the ground poles will give you a great start to beginning collection work and asking your horse to shorten its frame under saddle. Remember, that while it may seem slow and easy, beginning collection work under saddle can be physically demanding on your horse, so slowly increase the length of time you ask it to ‘hold’ positions, and how many repetitions you ask for over the course of a training session.
This exercise lifts the belly, stretches the topline and the horse pushes of with the hind-end over the poles.
Trotting with one step between each pole, you can increase or decrease the stride by adjusting pole distances.
Doing the same groundwork on and off the saddle can be beneficial for both you and your horse’s understanding of the task.
Once your horse is competent in-hand then introduce it to poles under saddle.
Establish the horse’s ability to be ridden on a loose rein in walk, jog and canter without needing to regulate its speed control with the rein.
Lowering the head
Lowering the head
by Diane Bawden
Ri DD en - fR ee Rein To s of T f eel Rein
Assuming you have built a good ‘on the buckle’ rein at the walk, jog and canter, you can now begin to introduce the soft feel (contact with a drape) and a free rein (a loose free rein, used for free and lengthened gaits). The ridden square exercise is a great way to introduce the soft-feel rein on the arcs, however this exercise will introduce a transition from soft feel to free and back again. often this transition can elicit some anxiety in our horses as they anticipate the contact rein to mean the race is about to begin!
At the walk - and starting with a soft feel rein - walk for 10 to 20 metres and then release into a free rein for the same length, then take up the soft feel rein again. Continue this process for a ‘lap’ of the arena, the purpose is for the horse to understand it does not need to change gait or direction, simply shorten the stride in the soft feel rein, and lengthen into the free rein. I often use this as step two of the warm-up - as my actual warm-up is always being ‘on the buckle’ in all gaits.
These more challenging ground and ridden exercises will help you take your horse, including your oTT Thoroughbred towards becoming a more collected and versatile horse, allowing you to pursue western events that you find appealing. Personally I would recommend Ranch Horse and Cowboy Dressage as both of these disciplines encourage functional movement in the horse, and a calm and confident mount, giving a calm atmosphere for your horse to experience at its outings.
TANJA K RAu S - a clinician with a passion for training horses using horsemanship philosophies to develop a partnership between the horse and rider, which has resulted in many riders from different disciplines finding a better connection with their horse.
Over the years Tanja has successfully competed in dressage, western events and showing as well as in the Cowboy Dressage World Finals and Top Hand events in the uSA.
In the Race to Ranch competition - that gives riders 100 days to retrain their off-the--track racehorse - Tanja and her Thoroughbred Ginger Coops placed a creditable 5th overall.
In this feature she shares some of her insights into what to expect when training a horse for western, be it a Thoroughbred or another breed, most of the principles are the same.
The benefits of having the ability to lower your horse’s head are both direct and indirect. A lowered head for putting on a halter, bridling, brushing or clipping is directly beneficial. The horse’s learned response to giving to the cue of downward pressure of the halter can be indirectly beneficial in many more situations. For example, if the horse steps on the lead rope it is more likely to just give to the pressure than panic, or when tied up if the lead rope gets over its head it is again more likely to just give to the pressure. During float training a low head on entry to the float is definitely beneficial.
The horse is in a quite vulnerable position with its head down. Psychologically, this position is only taken up naturally when it feel relaxed and safe. Head in the air is the position for flight and scanning around for any danger.
TEAChING ThE hEAD lOWERING CUE
Teaching a horse to lower its head on cue should be done when everything is quiet, and needs to be done with patience and some sensitivity.
If your horse already has an issue with you putting your hand up near its head, on its neck, or it is a chronic ‘head-in-the-air’ worried type, then this is going to be a longer process because you have to deal with those particular issues before you can actually teach the cue.
For most horses though, teaching the cue to lower the head is relatively simple as it is a pressure-release cue. When they respond as you want them to, in this case lowering the head, you release the pressure.
When starting the training select a quiet area, at a quiet time. Have the halter on your horse and stand on the left, close to its throat latch, facing the horse but turned slightly forward.
Depending on your horse, the first step may start with a downward halter cue. However, if your horse has already learned to significantly or violently resist the pressure on the halter you can sometimes teach lowering the head much easier using the hand as the cue instead of the halter.
ThE hAlTER CUE
This is when you teach the horse to initially lower its head by pressure downward from the lead rope. The principle is the same, it is a pressurerelease cue. You put downward pressure on via the lead rope until the horse lowers its head even just a couple of millimetres or, in the case of a more difficult horse, just until it relaxes and stops resisting the pressure.
Each horse is very different. For some it will help if you use your free hand to gently rub or pat the neck or face. For others that creates its own issues and can be detrimental to teaching the cue.
Maria Marriot Photography
Having a horse lower its head on cue can be beneficial in all aspects of handling, from putting on the halter, bridling, loading in a float or as a calming aid.
ThE hAND CUE
Holding the lead rope in your left hand, place your right hand on the top of the horse’s neck, right up near the poll. Before you begin teaching the cue make sure the horse is comfortable with your hand in that area. Rub or scratch to reassure the horse that your hand is not a danger.
Once the horse is relaxed with your hand near the poll, put your thumb on one side and your middle finger on the other side of the mane, keeping it right up just behind the poll. I keep the palm of my hand flat on the horse’s neck where possible, just to give a little more reassurance and contact. Then you can apply a small amount of pressure downwards.
If your horse already knows to give to the halter then you can use this to help it understand the downward pressure from the hand is the cue for it to lower its head. Immediately after you put a downward pressure behind the poll you can gently pull down slightly on the lead rope.
Be patient here but be quietly persistent. You don’t want to put so much pressure or put pressure on so quickly that it startles the horse. There is no hard and fast rule or even a real guideline as to how much pressure is required. That is something you must decide for yourself using the knowledge you have about your horse as to what amount of pressure works, what is totally ineffective and what startles the horse.
Lavish praise on any advancement but just for a few seconds. Remain stern, calm but unrelenting in the face of resistance.
Once you have a small advancement in lowering the head, and this may only be a centimetre or two, stop the training for a time and ask again in a minute or so. Only ask for four or perhaps five small responses during each training session at the start.
Initially, the head is usually only lowered for a moment, then raised again. Just go through the process again.
This is where your sensitivity comes into play. Continue to apply an ever increasing pressure behind the poll until the horse reacts, even minusculely, by lowering the head even a centimetre.
RElEAsE AFTER sMAllEsT REspONsE
With both methods you are looking for even the smallest response to the pressure that will move the head downwards. Instantly release the pressure once the response is received. However, often during this early stage, the horse’s first response is to raise its head immediately you release the pressure. It is important that you don’t take the pressure off when it raises its head, because taking the pressure off is the reward for responding to the cue to lower its head.
This is why I say if your horse already has some issues with your hands around the poll or it’s particularly easily startled then you have to deal with those issues first, before you start teaching about lowering the head.
Where possible, when the horse does raise its head, try not to remove or move the hand from the cue position. Depending on the horse this can often be easier said than done, and sometimes having something to stand on can help with this.
It is also possible to use a carrot as an enticement to get the horse to lower the head. Be aware though that this ‘enticement’ should only be used as part of the process, making sure that the actual cues are given as well or the horse will never learn to give to the pressure of either hand or halter. Test the progress by trying to lower the horse’s head without the use of a carrot after a few sessions and if you don’t get the correct responses you need to re-think how you are doing it.
It helps to lower yourself as the horse’s head goes below your chest level. That way you are not a threat standing over the horse, but be very aware and careful not to lean over the lowered head. A suddenly raised horse head to the face hurts. Do as many short sessions in the day as possible. As an example you may do a few moments training in the morning when you go to feed, when changing rugs, when leading out of the stable, before letting out in the paddock, when bringing in at night, before saddling, after riding, and so on.
All these situations require a level of calmness so if your horse is highly excited first thing in the morning when you’re letting him out it is not the time to be teaching this cue.
Once firmly established the cue can be used at times of minor stressful situations. The horse can be asked to lower the head after a startled response to a loud noise or something similar and this will usually help to calm it. Make sure you don’t abuse this cue though as the horse is putting a lot of trust in you.
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Keeping in mind that you want the cue to eventually be the hand rather than the pull on the lead rope, so ensure that the poll hand cue is given ever so slightly before the lead rope cue.
Photos by Vicki Yeates of the Lusitano stallion Nemo (imp)
Place your hand on the neck, just behind the poll, with the thumb and middle finger on either side of the mane.
Immediately after applying downward pressure to the neck pull down gently with the lead rope, releasing immediately the horse responds.
As the aim is to have the horse respond to the hand cue to lower the head, cease using the halter cue once the horse learns to respond.
International horse riding holidays have always been popular but since the world has ‘re-opened’ after COVID they are becoming increasingly sought after as restrictions on travel over the past couple of years have left many travelers cashed up and ready to go.
Some incorporate riding into their holidays, either as a stand-alone destination or just including a ‘ride’ into their travel itinerary.
by Celine Boennelykke
With many different locations worldwide, the options can cover anything from a long trek to a half-hour ride along the beach or lessons on educated horses. Whether you decide to take a full riding holiday or book lessons whilst overseas there are some dos and donts that can be essential for the safety and enjoyment of your experience.
as responsible horse owners, being given an obviously neglected horse to ride on a trail could ruin a whole holiday, so it can be detrimental not to research the destination and horses on offer as your mount before booking. denise Legge, a regular overseas riding holiday enthusiast highlights a few points for readers to consider - what to be careful of and what to embrace.
When you experience a horse riding holiday and at the end want to take your four-legged companion back as hand luggage, then for me, that was about the only downside of a horse riding holiday. I have
been lucky enough to have eight overseas holidays (if you include Tasmania) in the last 20 years.
The horse riding holiday is a wonderful way to experience a slice of somewhere new and to see an area in much more depth than your average holiday.
T HE FIRST DECISION IS TO DETERMINE WHERE you can ride just about anywhere from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe and most will offer some form of trail riding. But if you are after something else, such as western, safari, cattle work or instructional, you can easily find options for these activities. The vast majority of countries will not require a visa if you are a visitor and spending less than 30 days in the country but do make sure your passport
is current. I recommend visiting www.smarttraveller.gov.au to check out:
• Insurance Advice • Travel Advice
• Visa Requirements • Your Passport
Check the situation in your country of choice. for instance, I had a tremendous riding holiday in Poland in 2012 (the stables were out of this world) at Galiny Palace some 50km from the Russian border. I would be a little hesitant to go at the moment due to the Russian/ukraine war.
Post-CovID there are far fewer companies that offer travel insurance. for my last overseas trip I obtained travel insurance from Australia Post. If you do take insurance for your trip then be sure to mention you are going horse riding as this could make a difference to the package you receive. very few travel insurance companies cover jumping, polo and hunting and those that do charge a hefty fee.
I used Australia Post to obtain a credit card, not linked to any bank accounts, loaded with my currency of choice. There is also a very handy traveller checklist on the Australia Post website.
It is so much better if you can travel with a mate; the journey passes much quicker and it makes minding luggage easier. That said, with the exception of my riding holiday in Croatia, I have always been a solo traveller, but if you are taking a non-riding partner and/or children check that the centre can accommodate and entertain non-riders.
Ty PE OF H OLIDAy
When opting for a trail riding holiday it is useful to check out whether your base camp is centre based, a moveable one or a combination of the two. Centre based means you don’t have to pack up your stuff every day but by moving location you do get to see a greater variety of countryside. The holidays I had in Portugal,
December/January 2022/23 - Page 60
france, Croatia, Bulgaria and slovenia were all combination, which suited me fine.
some places also offer a mixture of trail riding and/or lessons - it’s all down to personal preferences and what you want to gain from your experience. Either way, you will meet other horse enthusiasts that may become friends for life.
R IDING E x PERIENCE
It is really important that you are honest about your riding ability and level of fitness as this will help the ride management select you a suitable horse. When setting your abilities too low or high, chances are you will not receive a horse suited to your level and this might have an effect on the whole experience. If in doubt, then ask an experienced rider/friend to evaluate your riding abilities for you.
your weight is also important as many places have a weight limit. Most trail riding establishes are pretty accurate as to what is involved whether that is at beginner level and a gentle morning/afternoon stroll through gently undulating countryside to experienced riders spending five to six hours in the saddle with fast canters involved. I have found that the operators are pretty good at matching rider and mount. Going to the gym or doing some rider exercises to prepare yourself physically can be very helpful for your overall experience of the holiday.
Denise Legge in Tasmania, and while it is not ‘overseas’, it was a memorable holiday.
W HAT TO PACK?
Do your research on the weather for your location at that time of the year. Here are the basics:
• Riding helmet - I pack mine into my hand luggage to avoid damage along with a pair of leggings, gloves, a spare T-shirt, my chaps, wash kit, medications, torch and a mending kit. This way if the luggage is lost, I will have the essentials on hand. Riding boots - I find short boots offer greater flexibility and you can wear these on the plane with ease. If you are doing lessons you may want to consider long.
• Jodhpurs/breeches - three pairs should be enough for a week or two of riding.
• Long-sleeved cotton tops/baselayers
• Wool - depending on the weather a vest and a couple of lightweight merino/wool mix sweaters are a good idea.
• Jacket - unless you are going somewhere really wet, windy and cold you can get away with a shower-proof lightweight jacket. The ones that fold up into a pocket are very useful and packing space savvy.
• Comfy socks and underwear - Only pack clothes you have ridden in before! I treated myself to some new underwear prior to a riding holiday, but the knickers had discrete picot edging and after six hours in the saddle, I had a blister in an interesting place!
• Cotton PJ’s - are more practical and worst-case scenario if you have a long-sleeved cotton knit top it can do double duty for riding.
• Wash kit - but be mindful of the liquid limits on flights.
• Casual - depending on the type of holiday you have selected and location/climate you will need some ‘non-riding’ attire. In Europe they are a bit less relaxed in terms of dress code than us Aussies so smart jeans, linen trousers/shorts and matching top are to be considered. Obviously, if you are staying somewhere very smart you may want to dress accordingly.
• Shoes - in addition to riding boots I’ve found it useful to have comfortable but flexible footwear for sight seeing/evenings and a pair of slippers for around your room/bunk/house/tent.
• A small note pad - something to read, a camera (AKA a mobile phone) and anything to keep yourself amused during the ‘downtime’. In addition I have usually taken a small gift or two (suitably Australian) to say ‘thank you’ to the host.
Portugal – Trail riding (combination) and the opportunity for dressage lessons and Portuguese games. The Lusitano horses were very well trained.
Poland - Centre based short trail riding with flatwork and jumping lessons on Warmbloods.
Spain - Centre based trail riding with the chance to see classical riding displays.
France - Trail riding (combination) plus a X-country course.
Tasmania - Trail riding, centre based.
Croatia - Trail riding (combination) that included a visit to World Heritage National Park Plitvice Lakes.
Bulgaria - Trail riding with different overnight accommodation.
Slovenia - Trail riding (combination) with the opportunity to ride Icelandic horses and visit the famous Lipica stud.
of horse riding abroad, especially if you are somewhere with a strong history
If your holiday is in the mountains or on rocky, uneven ground, for example, Norway, Colorado National Park or Iceland, it can be beneficial to choose an establishment that offers the breed original to or best suited to these challenging conditions, such as fjordhorses, Mustangs, Icelandic ponies etc as they will have the best footing, keep you safe and give you a better experience. your safety while on any riding holiday is important as an injury is a sure way to ruin a great experience, and can be excessively expensive.
cH eckli ST:
• Is the airport the country’s main airport or is it regional? The more ‘legs’ to your journey the longer and more expensive it can be.
• Are you going to be met at the airport? Or will you need to book a cab and pay extra?
• What are you getting in terms of accommodation? Is there a single room supplement or indeed the option of a single room? Full board, half board, and what is included in addition to meals.
• What other facilities are on offer? These might vary from swimming in the lake to a sauna, to WIFI, a swimming pool, massage, carriage driving etc. On the Croatian holiday there was free use of a sauna - a real boon after five hours in the saddle. In Spain there was an open-air swimming pool.
• Side trips. Many trail riding places will have a ‘day off’ when you can sample the local sites. Is this included in the cost or is it extra and is it what you want? In Slovenia we had the chance to go bear watching.
S ETTING G OALS
This especially applies if you are doing a training holiday or just taking the opportunity to have a few lessons whilst on a regular non-horse-specific holiday. setting some goals that suit your level can be essential: “I’d like to jump a metre” or “I would love to try tempi changes”.
Depending on how many lessons you are planning on taking, you may have some more specific goals to present to your instructor, but by talking about goals, there will be a bigger chance you will reach them.”
• If you have a non-riding partner what is the extra cost (e.g. hire of a bike) to keep that person entertained?
• Factor in if you want to spend more time in the country before or after your riding holiday. If you are going to travel that far (and just about everywhere is far from Australia) then you might as well make the most if it.
• Tips and gratuities. Varies from country to country.
• Language. In my experience at every establishment I have ridden their command of English is embarrassingly good. It is appreciated if you know the words for please, thank you, hello, yes, no, sorry or excuse me.
• Ensure your footwear and clothing have been thoroughly cleaned before re-entering Australia due to the biosecurity requirements.
• Download your photos and write a little description about each soon after your trip. And if you are invited to provide a review, be honest and polite.”
Fjord horses plowing through thick snow is an experience quite different from Australian trail rides.
Horse-free days allow for sightseeingDenise in Slovenia.
Tania Huppatz from Snaffle Travel is a well-known tour operator and has also travelled widely on horse holidays around the world. from her many years of experience, booking with a well-known and reputable horse holiday company can be a safety for you and for the riding facility. Mismatches can happen and the many years of experience these companies have matching people with horse holiday operators can be essential for a successful holiday.
“I have experienced a lot of things and a lot of the time it is the rider overestimating their riding ability. I have made calls to riding centres overseas when my client has complained they are riding a horse that can’t do the High school movements on their dressage riding holiday. I ws soon to discover the so-called rider was not up to the task and a nervous rider. It was not safe to put them on a highly trained horse as it was too much horse for them, so they have had to put them on a quieter horse that had the basic movements.
“I understand from the riders’ point of view as well as the riding horse operators’ point of view too.
“It is a lot of money to spend if the rider books the wrong riding holiday.”
“I understand from the riders’ point of view as well as the riding horse operators’ point of view too. It is a lot of money to spend if the rider books the wrong riding holiday. “Travel insurance is very important, and you must read the fine print of the insurance policy as not all travel insurance covers horse riding and especially jumping, hunting, polo and any competitive riding.
“Another important point is to make sure all our operators have a good command of the English language as there is nothing more frustrating than having a lesson and you don’t understand your instructor or on the trail you can’t ask a quick question or have a joke as there is a language
“Last but not least, travel with a credit card that has no international transaction fees or currency conversion like 28 Degrees Lattitude Global platinum or
DR RAQUEL BUTLER
Whatever your goals, if your
performance could be improved
Clinics for bodyworkers and horse owners in biomechanical assessment, functional anatomy and dynamic exercises techniques are also offered.
Dr Butler is passionate about promoting collaboration with your horse’s own veterinarian, body worker, trainer and farrier.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 63
e impor Tance of a repu Table booking company
Bankwest platinum. I always take 2-3 types of money when travelling overseas in case I may lose or have my card stolen. I take my credit card, some local cash and a spare debit or credit card.”
Qualified in chiropractic, osteopathic techniques and rehabilitation, Dr Butler offers online consultations for injury rehabilitation and performance training plans to improve the outcomes in health and wellbeing for your horse.
Contact Dr. Raquel Butler at email@example.com or visit Integrated Veterinary Therapeutics on Facebook
contact Integrated Veterinary Therapeutics for expert advice from biomechanical medicine veterinarian Dr Raquel Butler.
hENDRA vACCINE ClAss ACTION DIsMIssED IN COURT
Horse owners from N Queensland have had their $53million Hendra vaccine damages class action dismissed in the federal Court in late November. The group claimed that animal pharmaceuticals company Zoetis Australia Pty Ltd did not provide adequate warnings about potential side effects of the vaccine on their horses, their lawyers arguing their horses suffered side effects from the vaccine that led to loss and damage. since 2012 about half a million doses of the Equivac® Hev vaccine have been administered to horses across Australia with more than 1,500 horses experiencing adverse reactions and some having died. Alleged losses or damages included reduced financial value of horses, veterinary treatment expenses, loss of income generated by the horse, loss of opportunity to gain income from the horse and the replacement value of the horse. Rejecting the claims Justice steve Rares said, “There were too many uncertainties to find the vaccine caused any serious side effects. Based on the expert evidence, none of the clinical signs on which the applicant relied as serious or debilitating side effects was, in fact, a side effect of Equivac Hev, except in respect of those that I found were transient side effects.” He added that some of the transient side effects were lumps, hives, lethargy and pain. Zoetis has always denied any wrongdoing or liability and maintained the vaccine was “safe and effective”.
hUGE DONATION FOR BRITIsh vET sChOOl
FROM MysTERy DONOR
The university of surrey (uK) has received a £10 million (nearly 18 million AuD) anonymous donation for the school of veterinary Medicine. This is the largest philanthropic gift in the university’s history with the anonymous donor reportedly making the legacy contribution after learning about some of the innovative studies and techniques underway at the school. Described by the Pro-vice chancellor Paul Townsend as “game-changing”, the donation will be used to fund more accessible, accurate and quicker treatments for cancer in animals. Nick Bacon, professor of surgical oncology at the university, said: “Little separates animal and human cancers. This generous gift will advance veterinary science and animal wellbeing and forge stronger human-animal bonds.” The donation will also allow for scholarship schemes for students, enabling the best veterinary medicine students to study at Surrey, irrespective of their financial circumstances.
NsW EqUEsTRIAN ADMIT DRUG CONspIRACy
A NsW upper Hunter horse racing identity has admitted to conspiring to import more than a tonne of cocaine into Australia from south America. felicity fraser, who has played polo and is known for breeding Melbourne Cup winner shocking at her and George fraser’s Ilala stud, will appear in Newcastle District Court in December to get a sentence date. fraser’s co-accused, Peter Leslie Ritson, 60, her former boss, faces the same conspiracy to import cocaine charge and firearm offences. It was alleged the pair made attempts to import 1050 kilograms of cocaine in four shipments from Ecuador. several other charges against the pair were dropped.
BOyD ExEll ClINICs IN vICTORIA
Reigning fEI Individual World Champion Boyd Exell will be conducting clinics in January at Greenwood Park, Warrayure, victoria. While Boyd is based in the Netherlands he holds regular training clinics throughout Europe and the uK. The five times FEI World Champion four-in-Hand Driving and nine times fEI World Cup Indoor Driving Champion will share his knowledge and expertise over the clinic’s four days with 46 sessions being held.
DEATh OF AUsTRAlIAN EvENTING lEGEND
Well known Australian eventer Algebra has passed away aged 24. Bought off the track for $1500 by Julia Mclean, she found the grey Thoroughbred a bit “tricky” and gave the ride on him to Lizzie McRoberts, the pair progressing from Pony Club to one-star level eventing within 12 months. Natalie Blundell then took on the ride, the pair achieving considerable success in Australia, heading to England in 2014 to aim for WEG selection. In 2015 Andrew Hoy took on the ride, Algebra’s owners Julia and John Glenn deciding to “give him one more year at the top level”. The pair won their first international event together, Montelibretti CCI3*-L , going on to win and place at several others, with Andrew describing him as, “a petite horse with a very big heart and plenty of scope”. Algebra returned to Australia in 2018 to retire on Julia and Glenn’s farm, passing away on 15 November.
We’d like to highlight that information included in the article Bred for Speed, Now Going the Distance in the October/November issue (Vol 44, number 3) should have made clear that the horse and rider featured in the article, Jolene Cole and her Thoroughbred, Baribo, won the 2019 Tom Quilty Endurance Ride Heavyweight Division, not the Tom Quilty Gold Cup, which is awarded to the first Heavyweight or Middleweight Division competitor across the finish line. This was won by QLD rider Kaylea Maher on her Arabian horse, Matta Mia Dimari. Baribo is believed to be the only Thoroughbred to have won a Tom Quilty Australian Championship 160km event and a NSW State Championship 160km event overall.
December/January 2022/23 - Page 64
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