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Rider brings western dressage to Wellington County BY JAIME MYSLIK

PALMERSTON – A local horseback rider is hoping to bring more western dressage to Wellington County. Though Shannon Tully South, 45, grew up in the English riding world, participating in one day eventing and carriage driving, she began riding western after taking time off to have children. “The western dressage just kind of appealed to me,” she said. “I had gotten a western saddle ... and I liked it because it was very comfortable and I just really liked the feel of it. “I just thought, ‘well, I’ll just give this a try,’ and then I kind of went from there.” The Western Style Dressage Association of Canada (WSDAC) began in 2011. Elaine Ward, a WSDAC founder, said western dressage takes the rider back to the basics and will help improve their performance in other equine sports. “It’s the fundamentals of position, it’s the fundamentals of communication, it’s the fundamentals of how those riders are applying their aids to the horses,” she said. “They’re learning how to ride, not how to sit and that’s where the magic of the western dressage comes in.” Western dressage is very similar to English dressage, South said. The horse and rider must complete a set test and are evaluated by a judge. One of the main differences is equine inclusivity. All horse breeds, including gaited horses, can participate. “In traditional dressage gaited horses can’t compete because their gait is so different,” South said. “If the test calls for trot,

they don’t do a trot so they would be excluded. “Through western dressage they actually have tests that are designed for gaited horses for their gaits.” Another big difference is attire. “If you don’t want to wear tight white pants then you don’t have to, which is kind of nice because they are mandatory in some dressage,” South said. Instead the requirements are a western saddle and western attire such as boots, a long-sleeved shirt with a collar, jeans and a helmet. “It’s just a little more casual, although people can get pretty dressed up,” she said. “You see a lot of bling showing up ... the shirts, they’ve got them with the bling down the back. “You can get as fancy or as simple as you want to be as long as you meet the basic requirements for your attire.” Many of the western dressage shows are sanctioned through WSDAC, which offers tests for all levels of rider from the introductory walk/trot to level four. When a show is WSDACsanctioned each rider’s results are collected and stored so they can qualify for national awards. “You compete at your sanctioned local show but then all of a sudden you realize you’re competing nationally as well,” South said. “You get a lot of benefit for your dollar.” Last year South and her horse Tido (Tostid O) were named basic level open champion and introductory level reserve champion after their first full season showing. WSDAC compiled her scores from all of her tests and counted her top three.

Photo by One for the Wall Photography

Shannon South and her horse Tido compete in western style dressage across Ontario. South also began a western dressage show in Mount Forest called 24 Carrot Dressage.

“There’s a lot of longtime competitors who have been doing it since its inception who will not hesitate to coach newbies through things and to show them sort of the ropes in their very first show.”

Photo by DC Photography & Design


“Intro is sort of your introductory level to western dressage so I started there and then ... I thought ‘oh I’m here I might as well just ride some basic tests because we’re dressed and everything’ and didn’t really think much of it,” South said. “Then at the end of the

year I looked at the standings and I went, ‘wait a minute, how did that happen?’” Ward is also South’s coach and she said South’s riding foundations contributed to her success. “I had hopes that she’d do well, but wow, I mean that was kind of mind blowing,”

Ward said. “Communication just started happening and it was this snowball rolling ... “I was so proud of her.” Next year South plans to compete in level one. It is $35 for a year’s membership with WSDAC and each day of showing costs

about $125, South said. “It makes it super accessible,” she said. “So people who want to try it ... don’t have to lay out huge dollars just to give the show a try.” And competitors are welcoming of new members. CONTINUED ON PAGE 24



Equine industry representatives discuss youth engagement in the early 2000s to the 60 to 69 range in 2017. “In essence, adults who are involved in the equine sector at the turn of the century have generally continued to be involved but we have grown older without rejuvenating the industry,” Maharaj said. The challenge now, he said, is to find younger Canadians to be the new equestrian leaders. Past national chair of the Canadian Pony Club Kim Leffley said engagement is one of the core challenges to bringing youth into the equine industry. “A lot of what we hear now is focused around engaging the youth and the term ‘athlete,’” she said. “Athlete implies competition. Competition implies a win


GUELPH – “We are at a turning point in the history of Ontario equestrianism,” said Akaash Maharaj at the recent Equine Industry Symposium. “A time of both high potential and deep peril and the decisions that each of us make individually and collectively or the decisions that we fail to make over the next 10 years will undoubtedly determine whether Canada’s equine centre remains viable and acceptable.” Maharaj acted as facilitator for the annual symposium held at the University of Guelph on Feb. 10. People from all sectors of the equine industry gathered to address ways to engage youth. Over the last 15 years the average age of equestrians has risen from a range of 40 to 49


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and a lose. “We’re automatically making some delineations between people who have the ability or the desire to follow that track and the ones who don’t.” But inclusivity is important, she said, as is the promotion the areas of the equine industry that are about more than just riding skills. “A lot of what we hear in the industry is equestrian is all about the high performance riding,” Leffley said. “No it’s not, it’s coaches, stable owners, breeders, racing, the farriers, that’s what keeps our industry running.” She said the focus needs to shift away from just riding. “We’re losing a lot of very talented people who maybe don’t have the means or the skill to do the riding thing but they have a great something

to give back to our industry if we can simply engage,” Leffley said. She said one of the keys is to engage parents. “There’s nothing worse than a horse-crazy kid driving their parents nuts because they will go out and they’ll try to get you involved in something but they’re not even sure what’s out there,” Leffley said. Step in Ontario Equestrian. The newly branded provincial sport governing body that was formerly the Ontario Equestrian Federation is shifting its focus to offer quality programming and a safe environment for riders. Tracy McCague-McElrae, executive director of Ontario Equestrian, said that it’s very daunting for a parent who doesn’t have any equestrian

Facilitator Akaash Maharaj kicks off the Equine Industry Symposium at the University of Guelph on Feb. 10. The theme of the day was youth engagement in the equine industry. Photo by Jaime Myslik



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Moreau, McNair take home O’Brien Awards at annual gala BY OLIVIA RUTT

MISSISSAUGA - On a night of glitz and glamour two Wellington County residents took home some of the most prestigious awards in the horse racing industry. On Feb. 3, Standardbred Canada announced the winners of the 2017 O’Brien Awards at the annual gala in Mississauga. Richard Moreau of Puslinch won his fifth consecutive Trainer of the Year award and Doug McNair of Guelph-Eramosa took home his first O’Brien Award for Driver of the year. McNair’s father, Gregg McNair, was also nominated in the Trainer of the Year category. The awards, which were established in 1989, are given out to the best in harness rac-

ing and are named in honour of Joe O’Brien, “an outstanding horseman and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame,” states Standardbred Canada. O’Brien passed away in 1984. Moreau, originally from Quebec, has a 50-acre horsetraining facility in Puslinch. “I’m just happy,” he told the Advertiser. Moreau posted 277 victories in 2017, with more than $3.7 million in purse earnings. He led all other trainers in Canada. “I am very grateful to be able to compete in that circuit,” he said. Moreau got into the sport because his uncle was a jockey in Montreal. “My neighbour used to take me to the track to see the

races,” he said. He was enrolled at CEGEP (a publicly funded pre-university college) in Montreal, but left to follow his horse training passions. “[I was] in the race track in Montreal back then - and I never did anything else after that,” he said. “I live in the back stretch for a little bit,” he added with a laugh. In 2018, Moreau is hoping to surpass $50 million in career purse money for the horses he has trained. What makes a good trainer? Moreau said it starts with passion. “I don’t mean only horse racing, but anything you do; if you like it, it’s always easier,” he said. “And then perseverance.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 24

Richard Moreau received the O’Brien Award for Trainer of the Year for the fifth consecutive time at the annual Standardbred Canada gala held on Feb. 3. President of the Ontario Harness Horse Association Ken Hardy, second from left, made the presentation to Moreau. From left: Louis-Philippe Roy, Hardy, Moreau, Cheryl McGill and Doug McNair. Iron Horse Photo

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Industry leaders talk youth engagement at equine symposium FROM PAGE 22


One of the horses Moreau trained, Sandbetweenurtoes, received the O’Brien award for Older Pacing Mare of the Year. McNair, one of Sandbetweenurtoes’ drivers, took home the Driver of the Year O’Brien Award. He was nominated once before, but this was his first win of the prestigious awards. “It felt great; this is definitely one of the toughest awards, if not the toughest award, to win in Canada,” he said. “It means a lot.” McNair captured the top spot for earnings in 2017, with more that $5.9 million in purse money in Canada. In all of North America, McNair brought home 325 wins and over $6.5 million in purse money. “I had a really good winter, and the summer came around and I got a lot of good stakes horses to drive,”

he said. “It just keeps rolling and just keeps getting ... better and better all year. A lot of the times it doesn’t last all year.” Along with Sandbetweenurtoes, McNair was a regular driver for Stay Hungry, the winner in the two-year-old pacing colt division, and for Bettors Up, the three-year-old pacing filly of the year. “It was a good night. It was nice to see everyone dressed up like that and it was nice to win,” McNair said. “Three of the horses I drove all year ... they ended up winning awards; it was a really good night.” He congratulated Moreau on winning Trainer of the Year, even though Moreau was up against his father. “That was no surprise. [Moreau’s] numbers were so much bigger than the rest of the trainers,” he said. “They’re both great trainers, though.”


McNair said he is hoping 2018 will bring him more success. “You just got to keep on the same pace. I’m off to a big year again, getting a lot of good drives and stuff,” he said. He’s hoping to win the North America Cup in the future. The next cup will be held at Mohawk Raceway on June 9. “Smaller tracks, like ours, have the unique opportunity to provide a training ground for

drivers, a place where their skills and careers literally take shape right before your eyes,” said Kelly Spencer, marketing manager at Grand River Raceway in Elora, which is frequented by McNair and Moreau. “Fans of local harness racing take great pride in having watched Doug McNair’s career transformation in realtime, from a humble start to being recognized as the nation’s best. “And as a track, we’re immensely proud of him, too.” Spencer said the stables of both Moreau and Gregg McNair employ many local people and generate business in the local industry. “Their outstanding operations have a real impact on our local agricultural economy,” she said. “Both work tirelessly to maintain excellence year over year, and our community is fortunate to have both in our backyard.”

Western dressage making appearance in Wellington County FROM PAGE 21

so they take new members and ... they just pull them in and just help them through,” South said.

“Western-based sports are often ... very inclusive and they’re very supportive

“There’s a lot of longtime competitors who have been doing it since its inception who will not hesitate to coach newbies through things and to show them sort




recently started working more closely with Equestrian Canada as well as the provincial sport governing bodies across Canada. “Now we are working really ... cooperatively in trying to develop programs that we’re [offering] across the country, which is pretty exciting,” she said. Other speakers included Heather Ramey from the School of Social and Community Services at Humber College, Jenny Mayer from AgScape, David Reynolds from INAC Services Ltd. and Equine Guelph director Gayle Ecker. In the afternoon attendees broke off into groups to discuss topics like what horse people can be doing together and what the industry is prepared to work towards achieving in the next 10 years.

background to try to help their child break into the sport. Part of engaging parents is promoting accredited coaches and stables as well as Ontario Equestrian members. This is a big focus of the new Ontario Equestrian. Both Leffley and McCagueMcElrae said it’s important for all sectors of the equine industry to work together. “We have to get away from silos,” Leffley said. “We have to connect, build bridges. “There are so few people and resources to go around ... that if we continually develop programs that mimic or take resources [that] replicate something that’s already out (there, it) is a complete disservice to the people that we’re trying to serve.” McCague-McElrae said Ontario Equestrian has

McNair, Moreau win O’Brien Awards


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of the ropes in their very first show.” Local riders can check out the sport at the 24 Carrot Western Dressage series in Mount Forest that South

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So she began her own show called 24 Carrot Western Dressage at QuarDream Equestrian Centre in Mount Forest in October 2017 and she had both local competitors and high level WSDAC riders showing. “It was very well attended and I had a lot of spectators come and say ‘we really want to try this,’” South said. And they’ll get the chance. This year she has sanctioned shows scheduled for July and September at the same facility. South said she features a unique walk test that she created for beginners. “With the help of one of the directors for WSDAC I created a walk test so there’s no trot, it’s just walk because I have a lot of people who [are] a little nervous about competing, they’ve maybe never even competed before and just the thought of even trotting in front of a judge is a big, big deal,” she said. “So the walk test ... was super popular last year.” She said people who have young horses and want to expose them to a show environment also participated in the walk test. Coming out is an opportunity for interested riders to see if the sport is truly of interest to them. “Usually the organizing members of the show, even the competitors, are really happy to talk about it,” South said. For more information about the Wellington County western dressage shows visit 24carrotdressage. For more information about the Western Style Dressage Association of Canada visit



Teaming up to go with the gut: horse and human investigations GUELPH - Horse owners know the importance of team work. When your partner weighs 1,000 pounds, the importance of listening to and learning about their perspective is clear. Teamwork is also important when it comes to research, and is the driving force behind many important scientific discoveries. At the University of Guelph, two researchers with expertise in different areas have teamed up to learn more about the gut bacteria of horses. The research is a collaborative effort between Dr. Luis Arroyo, a researcher and clinician focused on large animal health, and Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe, whose main focus is on links between the gut microbiome and health in humans. Links between the gut microbiome and human health have gained much attention in the past few years. Changes in the human microbiome have been linked to obesity, diabetes and more. These findings spurred researchers to investigate the microbiome in horses, and many now believe that the microbiota are key to understanding horse health and

diseases, such as colic. The researchers hope to use an in vitro system known as Robogut, developed by Allen-Vercoe, to answer questions about the gut bacteria in healthy horses and those affected with disease, such as colitis. Robogut, a combination of beakers, tubes and monitors, simulates the human gut and allows researchers to explore the human microbiome. For instance, Robogut has been used to investigate the impact that high protein diets have on the microbiome when compared to high fibre diets. Both researchers emphasize key differences between horses and humans that will need to be accounted for when transitioning Robogut from a simulated human gut to a horse gut. For one, horses generally have a more standardized diet than humans. Many humans eat vastly different meals each day. Different nutrients have different and often rapid impacts on microbiome. Setting up Robogut for horses may be more straightforward in this respect, as the researchers will not have to account for such a large

amount of variation. However, the unique characteristics of the equine digestive system may also make setting up Robogut more complicated. “Horses are hindgut fermenters, and rely on the bacteria in their cecum and colon to produce as much as 70 per cent of their energy needs,”

DNA sequencing was completed on the samples to determine and compare the microbes present in the intestinal tracts of these horses. Researchers also grew the samples under different experimental conditions, to understand how these conditions would affect the growth of different microbial species.

“These results will help us understand what a healthy horse microbiome looks like, and will make sure that our experiments with Robogut will be of the utmost value.” - DR. LUIS ARROYO said Arroyo. Since the intestinal tract of the horse is much different than humans, researchers first need to understand what conditions are necessary for microbial growth in horses, to ensure that Robogut’s experimental set up accurately reflects that environment. Arroyo is currently overseeing the research that will answer these questions. First, fecal samples were collected from healthy horses and horses with colitis.

The samples were grown using close to 50 different media types (this changes the nutrients that the bacteria feed on), and under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Researchers then harvested the samples, and are currently completing DNA sequencing. From these experiments, comparisons can be made between the original samples collected from the horses, and those grown by the researchers, to determine which con-

ditions resulted in optimal microbial growth. These comparisons will help Arroyo and AllenVercoe determine the right experimental conditions to use for Robogut to mimic a horse gut. Although the differences between horses and humans can make experimental set up more time consuming, studies in humans can often help researchers identify new areas of investigation in horses. For example, scientists now believe that many cases of colitis in humans are due to imbalances in the microbiome, and not pathogens as was previously thought. These findings guided the research into microbiome and colitis in horses, including this project. Dietary change has also been linked to effects on the microbiome in humans. Allen-Vercoe cites a study performed in her lab where a switch from a high protein diet to a high fibre diet did not affect the composition of the microbiome, but resulted in rapid changes to the abundance profile. This area is now being investigated in horses as well. Instances of antibiotic use, stress and bottle feeding with milk substitutes can also be

found in both species. These have all been associated with effects on the microbiome in humans and are now areas of interest in horses as well. Allen-Vercoe adds weaning as a topic of interest, stating that “weaning can cause a lot of stress to the foal, especially if it is done too early or is forced. This stress combined with change to the diet can have a rapid and huge impact on the microbiome, and may be a cause of diarrhea seen in foals.” Allen-Vercoe said she believes weaning should always be done very slowly in all species to prevent these negative effects. Arroyo she he is excited to get back the results of the initial experiments. “These results will help us understand what a healthy horse microbiome looks like, and will make sure that our experiments with Robogut will be of the utmost value,” he said. This research is supported by funding from Equine Guelph, Emerging Leaders of Latin America and The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Nicole Weidner Equine Guelph


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Equine Feature Supplement February 22, 2018  

Feature Supplement of The Wellington Advertiser.

Equine Feature Supplement February 22, 2018  

Feature Supplement of The Wellington Advertiser.