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The UK’s leading equine health & well-being magazine

February/March 09 £2.95

Call for probe into race horse breeding By Louise Cordell AN MP has called for a government investigation into the race horse breeding industry amid claims that thousands are slaughtered every year because they don’t make the grade. Mike Hancock has already won support from 29 other politicians after he tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling for an end to the over-production of thoroughbreds. He has now asked the government to introduce a cap on the number of thoroughbreds a breeder is allowed to produce for the race industry. He said: “I think what happens to many of these horses is spiteful and horrible - and for what reason? A dead horse isn’t worth anything at all. “It is a tragedy that so many that don’t make the grade for racing suffer neglect or are slaughtered. “A country that prides itself on its historical connection with horses should be horrified.” Mike has cited research from welfare group Animal Aid which claims 18,000 foals are born into the British and Irish

racing industries each year, yet only around 40 per cent go on to race. The report claims that most horses who do not make the grade are slaughtered for meat. But the British Horseracing Authority has hit back – saying there is no evidence to back up the claims. A spokesman added: “Animal Aid offer vague statements of numbers without any evidence to back them up nor do they ever get challenged to do so. “They want an end to ‘overproduction’ but cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that it is predominantly, though not entirely, an Irish problem because if they did they couldn’t attack us. “Even if there was an issue with overproduction they would balk at what the realistic solution would be, which would be for breeders to put down the broodmares producing the excessive stock never likely to make a racehorse.” Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, added: “The time has come for racing to account for itself and for its excesses to be curbed. The racing industry has created a breeding and racing regime that treats the thoroughbred as a mere expendable commodity.”

Equestrian entr epr eneurs will be in with a chance to audition for Dragons’ Den at this year’s BETA Inter national show. Resear c h e r s f r o m t h e B B C T wo pr ogramme will be attending the trade exhibition to find people w i t h e x c i t i n g n e w p r oducts and market r eady business plans. Dragons’ Den has pr eviously attended BETA I n t e r national, but for the first time this year, the

pr oduction team plans to conduct on-camera auditions with filming taking place during the exhibition. Suitable candidates will then be in with a str ong chance of appearing in the seventh series of Dragons’ Den – and potentially securing investment of mor e than £50,000 fr om t h e s h o w ’ s panel of rich businessmen and women including Duncan B a n n a t y n e , p i c t u r ed above.




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Honour for new professor By Louise Cordell A NEW Equine Professorship has been announced in honour of the career of the thoroughbred Alborada. James Wood has been named the Alborada Professor of Equine and Farm Animal Science by the Alborada Trust – named after the well known race mare. Alborada, bred and raced by Kirsten Rausing, won the Newmarket Champion Stakes twice and was officially rated the Champion Three-YearOld Filly in the World in 1998. The Trust's aims include the funding of veterinary causes in the UK, including research into the causes behind infectious diseases and their treatment. In his new post Professor Wood will lead the management and develop-

ment of the equine and farm animal sections of Cambridge University’s department of veterinary medicine. He is currently developing the department's research strategy for equine and farm animal science and, in addition, he is director of the Cambridge Infectious Diseases Consortium, which researches the evolution, spread and control of infectious animal diseases, including those transmissible to humans. Professor Wood said: "It is a great honour to be appointed into this position, and I look forward to exploiting the exciting opportunities for research here in the University across a range of different equine and farm animal diseases. “We must address the growing threats to human and animal health that exist in this changing world – and this is best accomplished through

scientific evidence." Some of Professor Wood’s recent research examines the epidemiology of diseases such as Bluetongue and African Horse Sickness, as well as bovine Tuberculosis and influenza in horses and pigs. Professor Duncan Maskell, head of the department of veterinary medicine, said: “I am very excited about this new Professorship. “Equine and livestock diseases are important causes of welfare problems and major causes of losses to the economy. “Strengthening the already excellent research base in Cambridge, especially in infectious diseases, by the establishment of this new Chair, and the election of James Wood, provides us with a great opportunity to really make a difference in this important area of activity.”

Society launches new competition for instructors THE British Horse Society is launching a new competition f o r i n s t r u c t o r s o ff e r i n g p r i z e m o n e y a n d t h e c h a n c e t o c o mp e t e a t t h e R o y a l Wi n d s o r H o r s e S h o w. T h e ‘ I n s t ructors Challenge’ is a combined training competition, o p e n t o a l l B H S re g i s t e re d

i n s t ru c t o r s a n d t h e f i n a l i s t s w i l l c o m p e t e a t Wi n d s o r i n M a y i n o rd e r t o w i n t h e £ 1 , 0 0 0 f i r s t prize. A qualifier will be held in each re g i o n o f t h e c o u n t ry w i t h t h e w i n n e r o f e a c h g o i n g f o r w a rd to the final.


Andrew Harrod Tel: 01226 734639 email: EDITOR:

Christine Keate Tel: 07825 097 464 Reporter

Louise Cordell

Tel: 01226 734694





Beverley Parkin Tel: 01226 734333 Fax: 01226 734478 Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of all content, the publishers do not accept liability for error, printed or otherwise, that may occur.

T h e c o m p e t i t i o n w i l l b e ru n a c c o rd i n g t o B r i t i s h D re s s a g e C o m b i n e d Tr a i n i n g ru l e s a t novice level and competitors c a n n o t h a v e r i d d e n i n t e r n a t i o nally within the last ten years. Qualifier details can be found a t w w w. b h s . o rg . u k

Horse Health is registered with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Study offers course design warning CROSS country course designers could be putting horses at risk by including potentially dangerous fences in competitions, according to new research. The study, funded by The Horse Trust, is the first of its kind as previously any suggested changes to avoid damaging falls were based on anecdotal information. Lead researcher, Dr Ellen Singer at the University of Liverpool, found that the fences that posed the greatest threat were those with a base spread greater than 2m, which are faced straight on.

Analysis showed that these were the cause of the most rotational horse falls, which in turn posed the greatest risk of injury to both horse and rider – and reducing the width of these fences would make a greater contribution to safety than reducing the number of fences jumped at an angle. The study revealed that horses competing in one-day eventing competitions are at greater risk of falling at a drop landing, compared with those competing in three-day competitions. It also found that speed of approach is also significant, with falls occuring

both when the horse is allowed to approach an obstacle too quickly and when the rider is over cautious. Paul Jepson, Horse Trust chief executive, said: “The challenge of the cross country course is an essential element – but we would urge designers to take account of this research when preparing their courses and riders to think more carefully about speed of approach. It seems that, every year, there is the tragic death of a horse or rider. If taking account of this survey can prevent one of these tragedies it will have more than proved its worth.”

Some cr o s s c o u n t r y f e n c e s c a n pose a risk to horse and rider





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Success is celebrated at British Breeders’ Dinner BRITISH horse owners and breeders have been celebrating their success at the 2009 British Breeders’ Dinner. Twenty five awards were presented in recognition of the continuing development of the British breeding industry. Six racehorses, re-schooled as performance horses, received awards in the Retraining of Racehorses awards and BEF Futurity section included winners from areas as far apart as Aberdeenshire and Wiltshire. The stallion award went to Woodcroft Garuda K (Munchhausen) and the mare award to Sandrina (Sandro). British Dressage celebrated a first, where all three winners were by the same stallion Dimaggio and British Eventing’s Breeding Awards also saw some consistent patterns with the four and six year old winners both being by event sire Mill Law. BSJA's winners were Sorceress by Cabri D'Elle, Jumping Mac Flash by Kannan and Billy Congo by Vechta and the Outstanding Mare Award went to another show jumper, Amber Du Montois, Denise Stamp's home

Johanna Var don bred mare by Abdullah. A surprise award was also presented to Supporters of British Breeding Chairman Desi Dillingham, who was recognised for her contribution to British sport horse breeding over the last 14 years. Finally, Johanna Vardon was announced as the winner of the Merial Meritoire for outstanding services to British sport horse breeding.

Hairy caterpillars being blamed for abortions RESEARCHERS from the University of Queensland have found that hairy caterpillars are responsible for causing abortions in Australian mares. Dr Judy Cawdell-Smith and Professor Wayne Bryden from the university’s School of Animal Studies found that mares that had been exposed to processionary caterpillars were more likely to miscarry. Dr Cawdell-Smith said: “This is an unusual form of abortion that was first reported in Australia in 2004 and is similar to a condition reported in Kentucky in 2002. Researchers there identified Eastern Tent caterpillars as the cause of the US equine condition – Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome.” Similar equine abortion cases were reported in the Hunter Valley in 2004. Professor Bryden added: “Studies conducted by veterinary epidemiologist Professor Nigel Perkins suggested that the abortions were caused by caterpillars or poisonous plants. But no poisonous plants were found on any of the stud farms where mares aborted. Caterpillars

were identified as the cause of the US problem, but the same caterpillars don’t exist in Australia. However, other related caterpillars were found on the affected Australian stud farms. “It you have ever seen a hairy caterpillar it is unlikely that a horse would eat a whole one – but what is more likely is that the caterpillar’s exoskeleton, which is much harder to see in the grass, is picked up by the horse while it is grazing. In our studies, both whole caterpillars and exoskeleton caused mares to abort." The researchers believe that ingesting the caterpillar changes the permeability of the intestinal wall, allowing bacteria to pass into the horse's circulation and through the placenta. Dr Cawdell-Smith added: “The subsequent infection caused by the bacteria in the foetus results in abortion. “But these bacteria are found in the intestine of mares and normally don’t cause a problem – and interestingly, mares that abort have no ill effects or evidence of illness.”

Advertiser’s announcement

Massage system ‘new and improved’ HAVING launched the original Pro Equine Massage System in 2007, Cyclo-ssage have worked with their manufacturers in Germany to produce a brand new, improved, Next Generation Pro Equine Massage System. The lightweight, rug-based system now features extended massage areas which encompass the shoulder and hind quarter areas – ensuring the cycloidal massage is applied directly to the horse’s main muscle groups via a choice of various intensities and programs. The inclusion of a detachable neck piece option brings the total massage motor number to fourteen and leads to a softer, more relaxed horse from poll to tail. Cyclo-ssage have fine-tuned the system to include a soft breathable

mesh along the spine and crest, elasticated cross surcingles, lithium ion battery and twin, removable and washable fleece linings in both the neck piece and rug. The system has already proved to assist in the easing of muscle pain and tension, as well as improving spinal and joint mobility, reducing lactic acid build up, stimulating the lymph system and helping the body evacuate metabolic products. On top of this the system increases the circulation and transportation of oxygen, helps to accelerate recovery after injury and reduces the chance of muscle wastage in horses on box rest. Prices start at £2,000 + VAT. For more information, or to organise a free demonstration, call 0800 169 2808 or visit




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Three-day event wins 2008 award By Louise Cordell THE Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials has been named the Best International Event of 2008. It is the fifth time that the British three-day event has won the award, which is promoted by the international equestrian year book L’Annee Hippique. To decide the winner, riders in all three Olympic disciplines select their favourite shows based on factors including stabling, ground condition and course preparation, hospitality and prize money. This year Burghley came close to being cancelled after rain made onsite conditions and access difficult but riders confirmed it was the attention to detail and ‘nothing is too much trouble’ attitude that they rated so highly. Elizabeth Inman, Burghley director,

said: “To win an award is always gratifying, and for it to have been voted for by the riders is even better. “But to receive such an accolade this year, after what became a testing four days, is extra special. “For the team at Burghley this recognises their hard work and acknowledges the huge contribution they made to the event.” British rider Nicola Wilson, who came fifth at the event this year with Opposition Buzz, was one of the riders who voted for Burghley. She said: “Burghley is a fabulous venue and we know that the course and going will always be well prepared. The facilities such as the all weather arena are much appreciated, on top of which the organisers are so accommodating and pleased to see you. “It is a lovely event that we always enjoy going to.”

Advertiser’s announcement

Advertiser’s announcement

Blood system must be pure ... THE blood stream is life itself and it is essential to health that it is kept clean and pure so that there is a good circulatory system for delivering nutrients to the body properly and to carry off waste materials. When the blood gets overloaded due to diet, sedentary lifestyle or box rest, the results can lead to problems like laminitis, arthritis, sweet itch, general itching, spots, mud fever type symptoms and a general lethargy. One of the main causes of laminitis is poor circulation, whether due to ‘cholesterol’ or injury and the Blood DeTox formula helps to stimulate good circulation. The herbs in this formula are known for their properties as cleansers and also herbs that give astringency, others aid in removing cholesterol, purifying, helping to kill infection

A n d r e w H o y i n f r ont of Bur ghley House

EXHIBITING at BETA for the first time, FMBs therapy systems offer a range of pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF), massage, laser, TENS, cold+compression therapy products suitable for horses, riders and their dogs.

and build elasticity in the veins and strengthen the vein and artery walls. The Blood De Tox is an extra strength formula which not only gives a good detox but is also a very powerful tonic, lifting the red blood cells and helping to increase oxygen into the blood and all horses would benefit from its periodic use in the spring – especially high competition horses expected to perform well throughout the summer. As this is a once a year treatment, and the course lasts from six to eight weeks depending on the horse or pony treated it is good value.

F o r m o r e infor m a t i o n c a l l 0 8 4 5 260 3602 or visit w w

Safe and practical, these therapies can be used for a whole range of conditions including muscle tension, soft tissue damage, slow healing bones, degenerative joint and muscular diseases, inflammation, sport injuries and arthritis. They can also be very effective when used pre warm up and post exercise. FMBs’ flagship is the popular ActivoMed Combi System, a unique rug that provides sequenced pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) and massage therapy to the horse from poll to tail. The system is becoming increasingly popular and is used by many professionals including Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt, Nick Skelton, Paul Nicholls, Peter Storr and Pippa and William Funnell. A second generation system will be launched at BETA.

Two other innovative new products from FMBs are: The Mounty Cool+Press equine therapy boots are lightweight and easy to operate, delivering a combination of cold therapy and intermittent compression for up to four legs at once. The system is operated from a small, battery powered control box fitted to the surcingle so has no trailing leads or connections. The new Equi-Shower provides an all over body wash within minutes. Used for bathing, cooling down or rinsing muddy rugs it saves 75 per cent water over open hosepipes and there is a hot water system available.

F o r m o r e details or if you ar e i n t e r ested in an exper t opinion on therapy systems, call 01628 4 72440 o r 0 78 8 5 53 9 31 2 o r v i s i t w w





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Editor’s insight... WITH 2009 fully underway, and Christmas and New Year celebrations now less than a distant memory, the responsibilities of horse ownership are all too real. Soaring feed bills were anticipated, but few really foresaw the full impact a recession within the building industry would have on bedding. Not only has the price of shavings at local retail outlets reached a record price in excess of £10 per bale, the stark fact is, there are very few to be had.

Christine Keate

Whether it’s the individual owner of one or two horses, or the bigger professional yards, horse owners every where are tightening their

belts to ride out the current economic climate. It can be very easy in such circumstances to ignore basic welfare issues, sourcing cheaper alternatives may well be a necessity, but basic care should not be compromised. Value for money is relevant not only in the products and feeds we use, but also in the professionals we employ. The ‘guy down the road’ might provide a cheap dentistry/ foot trimming service, but, just how well is he trained, is he insured and is he a member of a professional body who will regulate his work and, encourage the pursuit of

professional development? Most professional bodies have an active policy now, either requiring or strongly encouraging their members to undertake regular CPD. Andrew Poynton discusses this in the Forge feature, and suggests how to ensure your farrier is keeping up to date with modern developments. Grant Chanter, examines the injuries which can occur from badly rasped or neglected teeth, particularly in conjunction with bitting issues, and again recommends the use of a professional who has a recognised qualification in equine dentistry.

Banned owner loses final appeal over horses A BANNED horse owner has lost a final appeal to keep the neglected animals, guaranteeing them a secure future. Redwings Horse Sanctuary took on 14 horses following a large rescue of 49 equines from North East Wales in December 2007. These animals have now finally been signed over into the permanent

ownership of the charity, following several appeals by the prosecuted owner. The horses had been found by the RSPCA very underweight, with a bad worm infestation and crammed into overcrowded stables at a site in Penycae. The council seized the animals and nine colts, three mares and two fillies were put into Redwings’ care, where

they could receive specialist treatment. Nicolas De Brauwere, head of welfare for Redwings, said: “We have been so impressed with how Wrexham Borough Council responded to this case and by their commitment to seeing it through to such a satisfactory conclusion. The Welsh Assembly and the local

authorities in Wales are investing a lot of time and money into animal welfare and Redwings are committed to supporting this positive move.” The horses are now being individually assessed and once they have received any treatment or training needed they will be rehomed through the Redwings’ Guardianship Scheme.




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Head girl Laura takes BEF groom award LAURA Hale has been announced as the winner of this year’s Kuster BEF Groom Award – recognising her outstanding contribution to the equestrian world.

chairman Patrick Print.

Laura won first place for her work as head girl at Hole Farm Trekking Centre in Birmingham, Alice Walthew, yard manager for Celia Plunkett in Banbury was placed second and Joanne Fulham, groom at World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm came third.

“They are all a great credit to British equestrianism and I'd like to commend them as well as their employers and trainers for producing such high calibre grooms.”

Patrick said: “It was a very difficult decision as all of the finalists were of an exceptional standard.

The Awards also recognised Fay Cort as the best newcomer in the industry for her work with Olympic show jumper John Whitaker and his wife Clare.

However, Laura from Stourbridge impressed the judges with her passion for her work at Hole Farm Trekking Centre, which is both a Riding for the Disables Association and Pony Club centre.

Laura received her prize after a shortlist selection, followed by a judging day where the nine finalists were interviewed by double Olympic medallist Tina Cook, double Paralympic medallist Simon Laurens and BHS

Tina Cook said: “Laura's passion for the children and her dedication to the welfare of the horses is incredible- her commitment and drive to make a difference is what clinched it for us.”

Funding boost for sport EQUESTRIAN sport is set to receive a funding boost from UK Sport to help prepare for the next Olympics. The money will be managed by the British Equestrian Federation’s World Class programme, with £13.6m set aside for Olympic sport and £3.7m for Paralympic sport. Andrew Finding, BEF chief executive, said: “I am delighted that UK Sport has expressed confidence in us by their award, which amounts to £17.3m for the next four years. “In doing so I want to pay tribute to our management team, led by Will Connell, and the riders and owners; collectively they have raised the game in equestrian sport and provided the evidence that we have great potential

for success in 2012. "Success is dependent upon a stable governance structure where our elite management team and our athletes, human and equine, have the freedom to excel. “Now, we have to step up to the plate and deliver the medals in 2012." Will Connell, BEF performance director, said: “It is great news that we can continue to operate a World Class Programme supporting development, the equine pathway and performance. “We are extremely grateful to UK Sport and the DCMS, the message is clear that we need to deliver results. “We will review every line of the budget to ensure that every pound supports our quest for success.”

Association first for Aimee THE British Grooms Association has announced the appointment of its first ever Scottish area representative. Aimee Branstone, from the Scottish Borders region, has joined the association in order to provide a voice and a contact point for members all over the country. She aims to raise awareness about the BGA throughout Scotland and said: “My goal is to make sure every groom in Scotland knows about the BGA and what it can do for them so that we can

continue to improve working conditions and attract more good people to the profession. I’d like to get the message across to grooms who feel they are undervalued that there is support there for them – we want lots of happy grooms in Scotland. I’m so pleased to be part of the BGA, I’ve always wanted to give something back and this is the perfect way to do that.” Aimee works at Shawstown Riding Centre, near Longtown and manages a yard of 25 horses.





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feeding and nutrition


U l t i m a t e f i t n e s s i s o n l y a c h i e v e d b y c a r eful conditioning

Pictur e: Sue Car den

Feeding to help build muscle and topline By Lizzie Drury


IT would be fabulous if all we had to do was to buy a bag of ‘Muscle and Topline Builder’ to get that amazing toned and fit outline on our horses, without even having to put in any regular exercise or schooling.

Card i a c M u s c l e – is only found in the heart, does not tire and enables the heart to work as a unit.

Unfortunately, we all should know that no such feed exists but certainly feeding a correctly balanced diet in conjunction with the correct fittening and schooling routine will achieve the muscle tone and topline required for that perfect picture. Before talking about the types of feed that are suitable for supporting muscle and topline development, a quick recap on what muscle actually is. All horses regardless of breed, fitness and age, have the same arrangement of skeletal muscles but some muscles may be better developed in particular horses, due to their specialist training. There are however three types of muscle found in the body, each of which has its own characteristics and

S m o o t h M u s c l e – is spread throughout body’s organs, especially the gut and is not under conscious control. S k e l e t a l M u s c l e – can be influenced by work and is under conscious control. As horsemen we are most interested in skeletal muscle, as we can see these muscles under the skin and can influence them through work. Each muscle is made up of many millions of specialised elongated cells called muscle fibres and each muscle fibre itself is composed of thread like myofibrils, which are the contractile elements of muscle. Each myofibril is composed of sarcomeres, which are crossed by regular bands of contractile protein called actin and myosin. These are one of the main classes of protein in the horse. Muscle contraction is brought about

when the thin filaments of actin slide over the thicker filament of myosin. So how can feeding help to influence the increase in muscle tone and topline with regular work? Proteins are made up of many building blocks called amino acids. There are 22 amino acids and some of these are known as essential amino acids (these must be provided in the diet) or non essential amino acids (these can be made by the horse itself). In the horse, essential amino acids are lysine and methionine. These must be present in the horse’s diet in order to optimize muscle function, cell renewal and tissue repair and growth. Muscles are almost constantly working, even at rest there will be muscle tone so that they are always ready for action with the possible flight response. This means that muscle cells need to be repaired and renewed and so require a good source of nutrients including a supply of available protein and amino acids. Protein obtained from food cannot function in the horse’s body until it is broken down into its constituent parts – the amino acids. To ensure an adequate supply of essential amino acids for optimum muscle function and health, you need to look for feeds that contain good levels of quality protein sources. Very often horse owners tend to be more concerned about the protein percentage inclusion, which is wrong as a high protein percentage may be made up of poor quality sources of protein. Feeds containing quality protein sources will also need to be fed at lower intakes.

Cereal grains are lacking in lysine and therefore are considered to be a poor quality protein and if you were to feed your horse a diet containing predominantly cereals and restricted quality protein sources you would find that no matter how much work you put in to your horse, the development of muscle tone and topline would be very difficult. It is also likely that your horse would also experience increased muscle soreness and become more prone to infections, and in extreme cases you may even start to observe muscle wastage. Raw materials that are high in quality protein include soya bean meal, alfalfa, linseed and peas and these will be listed on ingredient labels, thus giving you an idea of the quality of the protein included in the ration. Typically stud feeds, convalescing feeds and conditioning feeds would have higher inclusion levels of quality protein sources than a feed used for maintenance.

Conclusion: Quality protein intake in conjunction with exercise is known to cause a muscle building effect by stimulating the release of hormones that are concerned with the uptake of amino acids by the body’s cells. Potentially, the more amino acids that are taken up, the more proteins are produced and the more muscle is laid down. However, exceeding a horse’s protein intake will not build twice as much muscle and can have a detrimental effect on your horse’s respiratory health and hydration status. Horses cannot store excess protein and have to break it down by a process called deamination, producing ammonia or urea which is excreted.

 Lizzie Dr ur y MSc is r egister ed nutritionist, Saracen Horse Feeds




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feeding and nutrition

Boosting blood ... By Kate Coles THERE are many products on the horse market claiming to be blood builders, boosters or tonics and these are widely used for performance.

taken as a result of poor performance, probably due to cost restrictions.


A blood test will look at many different aspects of the blood, including the number of red blood cells per unit of blood, the percentage volume of the blood taken up by red blood cells, which will be shown as PCV (packed cell volume), as well as the concentration of haemoglobin.

Blood is made up of red cells, white cells and platelets all suspended within a fluid called plasma.

A drop in the red blood cell count indicates anaemia, which can also affect the haemoglobin content.

This is the transport system for the whole body, which provides nutrients, hormones and salts and the movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

This condition reduces the performance of a horse and can also manifest as depression, with many horses showing outward signs of pale gums and membranes.

All of the components of blood are essential to the health of the horse but when discussing performance, the key emphasis is on the red blood cells.

The drop in performance is related to the reduction of the gas exchange, with the supply of vital oxygen to the muscles and organs and the removal of carbon dioxide not being fully achieved.

However, it is important to examine what these supplements do and ultimately what affect they have on the blood, health and performance of the horse.

Red blood cells: Red blood cells are manufactured in the red marrow of the bone. This is a constant process as each blood cell only has a life span of about three to four months. Unlike other cells in the body, red blood cells do not have a nucleus but contain an oxygen carrying, iron rich protein called haemoglobin. This enables red blood cells to carry oxygen and exchange it for carbon dioxide, a waste product, to be expelled from the body.

Blood counts: Blood testing is used in horses not only to diagnose disease but also to create performance profiles, estimating the performance level and possible potential of an individual. To be an effective tool in this type of profiling blood tests must be taken on a regular basis, as variations between individuals will be seen, as with heart rate, respiration and temperature. Often, however, blood tests are only

If anaemia is suspected a veterinary surgeon should be contacted to establish the cause, as this could be related to, or secondary to, another condition such as a virus. Even though anaemia may be the reason for reduced performance in some individuals, blood tonics can be beneficial to maintain or improve performance in the healthy horse.

Importance of nutrition: Correct, balanced nutrition is the key to health in any species, but when discussing performance nutrition must be directed to ensure the body has the correct fuel for the work asked of it. The essential factors in performance are ensuring blood is healthy, that the transport system is at full capacity and that the correct levels of nutrients for energy conversion are available. As mentioned, haemoglobin is rich in iron and iron is generally one of the first ingredients that people think of when looking for a blood

‘The essential factors in performance are ensuring blood is healthy, that the transport system is at full capacity and that the correct levels of nutrients for energy conversion are available’

Blood testing can cr eate per for mance pr ofiles – estimating the possible potential of an individual Pictur e: Sue Car den supplement. However, although iron does have important role, horses generally are not deficient in iron and supplemented alone, will not achieve an increase in performance. It must also be remembered that supplementing just one component can have a negative effect on the absorption and utilisation of other vitamins and minerals. For example, too much iron can interfere with the absorption of calcium, zinc, copper and manganese. B vitamins are essential to the performance of the horse and are involved in many systems and functions within the body, essentially energy release and red blood cell formation. As work load increases so does the requirement for B vitamins, especially as the environment and feed of a performance horse can have a negative impact on the horse’s

digestive system, compromising the production of B vitamins. If B vitamins are lacking, energy conversion is not efficient and can lead to the production of lactic acid in the muscle, leading to fatigue and cramp. The level of folic acid, which is intimately linked to B12, and copper can also be linked to anaemia in horses and selenium and vitamin E are important for correct muscle function, essential for the performance horse.

Competition and performance: When choosing a supplement for a performance horse, ensure that the ingredients comply with current competition rules. A blood supplement will only be beneficial if it can be fed whilst the horse is in training and competition.

 Kate Coles BSc (Hons) is advisor for Equine America

11-Equine America



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feeding and nutrition

Picture: Sue Carden

Nutrition for optimal growth By Isabel Harker THE ultimate aim when rearing a foal should be to produce a sound, healthy and successful athlete for whatever level and type of equestrian use. Many factors come into play during the growth and development of foals, but nutrition is one that we can more easily influence and therefore we should try and get as close to the optimum as possible. We are increasingly realising that how we feed and manage pregnant and lactating mares as well as their young stock can have a profound effect on health and welfare. Some of the main issues affecting the growth of horses that can be assisted by appropriate nutrition include bone development, digestive health, immune status and behavioural development. In addition, we now believe that good nutrition supports not only overall health now, but also future health and longevity.

Bone development: The incidence of developmental bone diseases (DOD) is high in racing and sport horse breeds; many factors including genetic predisposition, growth rate, mechanical trauma and imbalanced nutrition may affect the risk of disease occurring. However, the final trigger factor is likely to be associated with management so it is important to try to limit nutritional and other managemental factors that may increase the risk. New research suggests that the

sources of energy in a horse’s feed are as important as the amount of energy in the diet; this is because energy sources directly affect a hormonal cascade that influences the maturation of bone. A growing body of evidence suggests the insulin response to a high carbohydrate (cereal) based feed may play a significant role in the development of DOD’s.

Mineral supply: Bone is mineral rich containing 99 per cent of the total calcium, 85 per cent of the total phosphorus and up to 70 per cent of the magnesium within the body. Therefore it is important to feed an optimal supply of these minerals in the diet; of particular importance is the ratio between calcium and phosphorus. In addition, trace elements such as copper, zinc and manganese perform essential supporting roles in cartilage and bone formation and therefore close attention should be given to mineral nutrition during pregnancy and growth.

Digestive health: When concentrating on growing a strong healthy foal it is easy to forget the mare, but pregnancy and lactation present immense challenges to her. Such demands affect the digestive system, particularly the hindgut, but hindgut health can be secured by maximising fibre intake and reducing the reliance on cereals.

Continued on Page 13




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feeding and nutrition


Key to maintaining gastric health Continued fr om Page 12 Weaning is a critical and highly stressful time for the foal and it has been shown that foals are susceptible to the development of gastric ulcers during this period.

great benefit to the foal as it will increase his chance of fighting off infection. Recent research has proven that high levels of vitamin E can significantly increase the antibody concentration in both the mare’s colostrum and in the foal, hence supporting his immune system at this critical time.

The key to maintaining gastric health includes reducing stress, reducing the fermentation of cereals in the stomach and increasing the buffering of gastric acid production by increasing the amount of saliva produced.


The most effective way to achieve this is to allow access to grazing or forage at all times and to feed a concentrate feed based with controlled starch levels.

The development of abnormal behaviours or stereotypies such as crib biting and wood chewing can be influenced by both stress and lack of dietary fibre.

Immune status: The new born foal is born with only the protection of its innate immune system, which at birth is under developed. The foal therefore relies on the antibodies passed from his mother via her colostrum in the first 24 hours after birth to protect him from germs in his new environment. This is called passive immunity. Increasing the value of this transfer of passive immunity is therefore of

The acute stress of weaning has been associated with the onset of such behaviours, and young horses that received traditional compound feeds following weaning have been shown to be four times more likely to develop crib biting than those that did not. Crib-biting has also been linked to gastric ulcers in foals. Altering the diet to include more fibre can help to reduce the risk of developing stereotypies. The feeding of ad lib forage and changing the diet to reduce the risk

When concentrating on a healthy foal – don’t for get the mar e. P i c t u r e: Sue Car den of developing gastric ulcers has been recently shown in trials to have drastic results even stopping foals crib biting altogether. In conclusion, whilst appropriate diet during pregnancy, lactation and growth may not guarantee a healthy and successful adult, there is

increasing evidence to suggest that feeding a good quality specifically formulated breeding feed, may offer several benefits and could help reduce the risk of certain unwanted conditions.

 Isabel Harker is nutritionist for Spillers




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B l o o d s t o c k matter s

A ‘per for mance gene’ is likely to r emain elusive.

The genetic basis of disease in racehorses By Professor Tim Morris, Department of Equine Science and Welfare, British Horseracing Authority IT has been known for several millennia that traits are passed down through generations; families are alike, a placid cow bears a placid calf. When breeding and development of the thoroughbred horse started with the foundation lines, the traits for speed and performance were noted and these animals were selected for breeding. This empirical approach continues today, except that the mechanisms by which these traits are passed on are now more widely understood, following the study of the science of genetics, for over a hundred years. Many scientific discoveries have been made in the field of genetics, and underpin advances in the treatment and diagnosis of disease. Those involved in racing and breeding may well ask what impact these discoveries have had, or may have, on horseracing and thoroughbred breeding? Around the world a considerable amount of this research is now


project, about half complete, is by

£75,000 each year towards the

Equine Genetic Research (EGR) Ltd is a joint venture between the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the Animal Health Trust that seeks to identify genetic markers denoting inheritable traits to help breeders improve the selection for matings, maximising the chances of producing healthy, competitive horses.

the Levy Board with ownership

project, with the total funding being

remaining with the BHA and AHT

£1.6 million over four years.

The diseases being studied are recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER), osteochondrosis (OCD) and fractures in the Thoroughbred. Whole genome scans are being used to investigate associations between genetic markers and RER, OCD and racecourse fatal fractures. This information, coupled with other published research is being used to investigate the potential role of specific genes in fracture pathogenesis, based on the findings of a recent pilot study and on the work that has identified genes associated with bone mass and fracture in humans and other species. The British Horseracing Board funded a pilot study in 2003 that achieved its objective of proving the scientific soundness of this approach. Funding of the current four year

under EGR Ltd. The TBA contributes

Continued on Page 15

Key Definitions W h a t i s g e n e t i c s ? The study of heredity, focusing on how particular qualities or traits are transmitted from living things to their offspring. W h a t i s h e re d i t y ? Heredity is how qualities or traits are transmitted through the genes. W h a t a re g e n e s ? A unit of hereditary consisting of a sequence of DNA that occupies a specific location on a chromosome and determines a particular characteristic in an animal. W h a t i s a c h ro m o s o m e ? A threadlike strand of DNA and associated proteins in the nucleus of cells that carries the genes and functions in the transmission of hereditary information. W h a t i s D N A ? DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a doublestranded helix of nucleotides which carry the genetic information of a

cell. It encodes the information for the proteins that make up the body and is able to self-replicate W h a t a re n u c l e o t i d e s ? Nucleotides are nitrogencontaining molecules which link together to form strands of DNA. The four different types of nucleotides, in different combinations, make up the coding mechanism of DNA. W h a t i s a n a n i m a l ’s G e n o m e ? The complete set of genetic material (DNA). W h a t i s a n a n i m a l ’s G e n o t y p e ? The genetic makeup, as distinguished from the physical appearance. W h a t i s a n a n i m a l ’s P h e n o t y p e ? The observable physical or biological characteristics, as determined by both genetic makeup and environmental influences.




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Bloodstock matters

Certain genes are good markers of disease Continued fr om Page 14 Thoroughbred breeding uses selective breeding which can be done in a highly organised and controlled manner, based on performance records and pedigrees. Currently, it is based primarily on the phenotype of the sire and dam and also the phenotype of their parentage. Key traits selected are speed and stamina and it is estimated that the genotype contributes to around one third of these traits. Breeding based on the genotype involves using technology to scan the whole genome, i.e. discovering and listing the nucleotide sequences that then make up the DNA that form the genes to characterise a particular species. This information would then be used to make decisions on breeding programmes. The genomes of man and some animals, including horses, have now been discovered and listed completely, or in part. What has not been considered, and is a massive undertaking, is to discover exactly what each gene does, and how they interact with other genes and the animal’s environment. However, it is unlikely that just one or several genes, each a sequence of DNA, makes up the genetic component of the key traits of speed and stamina. An animal’s genotype is large and complex, and speed and stamina depends on many factors; this is why a ‘performance gene’ is likely to remain elusive. There are also significant ethical and commercial aspects to using any such genetic data. Thus performance is not the focus of genetic research in thoroughbred. Instead the focus is in the wider area of genetic science where the work has been on discovering the genetic basis of disease. As this area of science developed, it rapidly became clear that most diseases were not caused by one or a

few genes. However, it has become apparent that certain genes are good markers of disease and that knowledge of these genes could be used for screening for disease susceptibility, to understand the causes of disease, and even to treat diseases. A caution in all such approaches is that of unintended consequences, for example the serious disease sickle cell anaemia in man has a genetic basis, but this genotype also confers protection from malaria. A genetic treatment for sickle cell anaemia might therefore have other negative consequences. Nevertheless, research into the genetic basis of disease is now possible and has the prospect of beneficial outcomes. The BHA’s involvement is based on the belief that the outcome of such research, even if commercialised, should be available to all. It is also important that the outcomes of any such studies are used in a transparent manner, and that racing reaches a consensus on how this knowledge is used. However, there seems little support at present to use such knowledge for any invasive genetic manipulations, ‘gene treatment’, to prevent disease, although, this may change if it proceeds in human medicine in an ethical framework that is seen to provide acceptable controls. It is quite possible that, when complete, the genetic research under the control of EGR Ltd, or other research, does indentify genetic markers for disease – this information could then be used for input into selective breeding. So in summary this work is not about finding the ‘magic bullet’ of a single gene for performance; it does not exist. Once the results of this work and other research is understood, it is about having the choice to complement existing breeding approaches by adding genotype information to the existing phenotype information to help produce healthy, competitive horses.

‘It has become apparent that certain genes are good markers of disease and that knowledge of these genes could be used for screening for disease susceptibility, to understand the causes of disease, and even to treat diseases’

Identifying genetic markers may maximise the chances of pr oducing healthy, competitive foals.




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B l o o d s t o c k matter s

The mar e’ s r esponse to the stallion at the teasing boar d cannot be pr edicted.

Pictur e: Sue Car den

Problems at the teasing board ... In this, the first in a series of articles concerning reproductive and general equine behaviour problems, Dr Mark Kennedy, CEO of Anglia Equine Consultancy, addresses the problem presented by the mare intolerant of the stallion’s attentions on teasing, despite appearing physiologically in oestrus. It is not uncommon for a mare who appears well in oestrus on veterinary examination (with dilated cervix and nicely maturing follicle) to fail to show behavioural oestrus when presented to the stallion at the teasing board. Indeed, she may not only fail to show oestrus, but be downright aggressive in response to his attentions. It is also not uncommon for such mares to be sedated for further examination and indeed for actual covering, in order to ‘get the job done’, especially late in the breeding season when owners and vets are worried about the possibility of failing to get her in foal that season. Yet with forward planning there may be simpler, less stressful courses of action which can be considered before this becomes necessary, particularly for young, inexperienced mares. These may also be more likely to result in the mare scanning in foal by the end of the season than methods

which simply attempt to suppress behaviour with sedation rather than addressing the underlying problem. Let us consider for a moment the contrast between the natural environment of the mare and that she is exposed to in managed horse breeding. Feral, free-living horses live in a harem group consisting of several mature mares, their offspring and a stallion who lives with the group year-round. Thus mares are exposed to a stallion and his behaviour from the outset. The managed mare, however, is usually only closely exposed to a stallion for teasing and covering. Is it surprising then, that on her first close encounters with this fired-up, noisy, pushy individual, she reacts with fear and aggression, despite her physiological status? Indeed, familiar as we all are with the longevity of the horse’s memory for unpleasant events, it is also not surprising that older mares who have had unpleasant experiences around

that their fear is indeed being reduced by such exposure, rather than being reinforced. This also illustrates how much care must be taken over the selection and training of stallions for teasing duties on the stud.

stallions continue to be less than cooperative at the teasing board.

A quiet, well-mannered teaser is widely recognised as an enormous asset to any breeding operation.

We can think of this situation as being one where fear is masking the expression of normal reproductive behaviour.

Finally, one might wonder what can be done with such a mare in the absence of convenient access to a teaser?

In order to address it properly, we must try to at least reduce the fear. An obvious and yet effective way of doing this is to take the time to regularly expose young mares to stallions, prior to the breeding season, in a safe and controlled manner.

During secondment to a large Thoroughbred breeding operation I observed a mare in physiological oestrus, yet showing fear and aggression at the teasing board simply being turned out with older mares for a couple of days, in an attempt to address the problem.

Teaser stallions, for example, can be housed near such mares and allowed to routinely interact with them under close control, for example over the loose box door.

This was very successful; by the end of the first day’s turnout with the mares she was freely performing oestrus behaviour towards them!

Some studs keep their teaser stallions in loose boxes within the same barns as their mares, facilitating such interaction.

This demonstrates the importance of our being sensitive to the stresses we may expose our horses to by our management; in this case a general reduction of stress due to turnout and the opportunity for socialisation with other mares resulted in the performance of previously suppressed oestrus behaviour.

Careful control is required in all these potential means of educating mares about stallions, together with continuous assessment of their behaviour towards him, to ensure




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Equine influenza – should we be on the lookout? Strategic vaccination of competition horses By Patrick Traill of Fort Dodge

Taking equine ‘flu, for instance, it is necessary to prove efficacy by ‘direct challenge’, which means it is necessary to show that vaccination is able to reduce the signs of clinical disease and, very importantly, that vaccination reduces shedding and hence further infection.

I AM often asked by owners whether horses could suffer side effects from a potentially increased vaccination load. They are also anxious to know whether vaccinating their horses against a broader range of diseases is likely to affect their performance.

With regard to safety, again using equine ‘flu as an example, all vaccines must prove their safety by being administered at twice the recommended dose and being administered two weeks apart, where four to six weeks would be a normal primary course.

Could it potentially mean, for instance, that their horses are in a state of perpetual recovery and never quite reach peak performance? There are two important points to consider here: First, vaccination is recommended and often enforced for very good reasons, namely the prevention of highly infective and debilitating disease, and where choosing not to vaccinate would potentially expose a horse to a dangerous level of infection Secondly, only animals in good health are vaccinated and, apart from a short period where heavy work is not recommended, the horse suffers no ill effect from the immunisation process – a fact which is of course verified by numerous safety trials. In effect, vaccination actually keeps the horse’s immune system ‘fit’ through continued annual/biannual challenge at a safe and efficacious level. In the USA, the exposure of horses to different diseases is much greater and so vaccination can already involve protection against multiple pathogens. As an example, there are vaccines available that not only protect

Some owners ar e c o n c e r n e d v a c c i n a t i o n s m i g h t m e a n t h e i r h o r s e never r eaches peak per for mance against ‘Flu, Tetanus and Herpes but also against Eastern/Western Encephalomyelitis and Venezuelan Encephalomyelitis – these are given in one shot. These horses will potentially also receive West Nile Virus and Rabies as additional vaccines during the year yet they, like their European counterparts, will be continuously in and out of competition and still certainly perform at the highest level so I think owners can be reassured on this point. Their horses’ performance is unlikely to be impaired and a vet would never in any case recommend vaccination unless the benefits would vastly outweigh the risks from not vaccinating. It’s worth reminding ourselves why it is that we vaccinate our horses and why the controls and regulations surrounding

vaccination are so stringent. The diseases that we vaccinate for routinely are potentially debilitating and possibly fatal. At present, vaccine uptake in the UK falls well below the level of 70 per cent which is considered to be necessary to provide good ‘herd’ immunity. Despite the undoubted importance of vaccination, many owners remain concerned about the safety aspects and the likelihood of a horse suffering an adverse reaction. As with any registered veterinary medicine, vaccines are subjected to a very strict process of registration. During this process, the two most important questions which need to be answered are: Is this vaccine efficacious? and Is this vaccine safe?

Even at these overdose and high repeat rates, all the approved vaccines have been seen to be safe. A further good example of vaccine safety is the strategic use of vaccination in pregnant mares (three vaccines at five, seven and nine months of gestation) to prevent late stage abortion due to herpes virus. In these situations, vaccines have not only been considered efficacious but have been proven to be safe, both for the mare and for her developing foetus. Finally, a strict system of reporting vaccine reactions is operated by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in conjunction with all the relevant pharmaceutical companies and results indicate a low rate of apparent adverse reaction. It’s also important to remember that the very small risk of a vaccine side effect is greatly outweighed by the benefit of protection against serious disease.




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vaccination WITH only 35 to 40 per cent of horses vaccinated against Equine Influenza (EI) in the UK, and with some reports of vaccinated horses contracting the disease, there is understandable concern that EI poses a continual threat to the UK horse industry. Mark Riggs BVetMed MRCVS, veterinary technical manager for Merial Animal Health explains why we need to remain ‘on the lookout’ and how vaccination continues to be essential. EI persists in being a global threat. With the increase in international travel, and as flu strains continue to evolve and spread worldwide, the UK horse population is continually exposed to risk. According to Defra/AHT/BEVA Equine Disease Surveillance Reports, there continues to be outbreaks of EI across the UK. Fourteen horses were reported to be infected with EI in the first six months of last year. The majority of

these horses were not vaccinated, or had not completed a primary vaccine course. The consequences of having a naive (unvaccinated) population exposed to EI can be dire, as witnessed by the major outbreak of EI in Australia’s equine population last year. This outbreak plunged the Australian horse industry into turmoil, causing the cancelation of many race meetings and horse events, with massive financial consequences to the industry. In the UK, outbreaks were also reported in late 2007 on seven premises in separate locations. On two of the affected premises, cases included ‘vaccinated’ Thoroughbred horses; raising concerns that some vaccinated horses may also be at risk.

Vaccine efficacy: In order for a vaccine to be effective, it is important that vaccines contain

‘Symptoms vary in severity but include high fever, nasal discharge, dry cough and a poor appetite. Veterinary attention should always be sought and mildly affected horses can recover in two to three weeks’


viruses similar to strains circulating in the field.

be sought and mildly affected horses can recover in two to three weeks.

The influenza virus has the ability to rapidly change and adapt over time – a process known as antigenic drift.

However, in serious cases, secondary complications can occur and horses that recover from EI can end up with chronic respiratory problems.

In the light of this drift, the need to update vaccines by using appropriate vaccine strains remains an important factor in maintaining vaccine efficacy.

EI is also highly contagious and can be spread by droplets in the air or via contaminated equipment and handlers.

To help meet this need of regularly updating vaccines, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) established an Expert Surveillance Panel that makes recommendations on vaccine strains.

By actively ‘looking out’ for symptoms of EI, action can be taken rapidly in the face of an outbreak to minimise its spread and reduce impact on the local horse population.

Vaccine manufacturers are strongly urged to follow these recommendations based on the international surveillance programme.

Prevention is better than cure:

Be on the lookout: With most competitive UK organisations and associations requiring members to comply with compulsory vaccination in recent years, it is not surprising that many horse owners have never seen a horse with flu. However, this makes it all the more important for both vets and horse owners to remain vigilant to the disease. Symptoms vary in severity but include high fever, nasal discharge, dry cough and a poor appetite. Veterinary attention should always

Maximising the uptake of vaccines and maintaining vaccination programmes for horses within the UK remains key to prevention of the disease. It is the responsibility of all those involved in the equine industry, including horse owners, vets and vaccine manufacturers. There is also a need for vaccines to be updated regularly, ensuring they meet the horse industry’s requirements to the ever-changing face of Equine Influenza. Vaccination remains the key to preventing EI, and is paramount in controlling the spread of the disease during outbreaks that continue to occur throughout the UK.





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Horse blood – what is it and what does it do? By Patrick J Pollock PUT simply, blood is the lifemaintaining fluid that circulates through the body’s circulatory system. This is made up of the heart, arteries, veins and capillaries. Blood has many functions but essentially acts as a transporting medium carrying various substances in and out of the body. Blood carries in nutrition, electrolytes, vitamins, antibodies, oxygen and water. Blood carries away waste materials and carbon dioxide.

A little blood goes a long way

What are the components of blood? Equine blood is made up of approximately 80 per cent water and 20 per cent solids. The components of blood include: Plasma; this is the fluid which suspends the blood cells. Red blood cells or erythrocytes; these carry oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues. White blood cells or leukocytes; a key part of the immune system, their function is to help fight infection and repair damaged tissues. There are several different types; lymphocytes, monocytes, eiosinophils, basophils and neutrophils. Platelets or thrombocytes; an important part of the blood clotting system. Fat globules. Carbohydrates. Proteins. Various chemical substances including hormones, enzymes and proteins. Gases, including oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

spongy material in the center of the bones that produces about 95 per cent of all of the body's blood cells. A number of other organs and systems have a blood regulatory role. The lymph nodes, spleen, and liver help regulate the production, destruction, and differentiation (developing a specific function) of cells. The production and development of new blood cells is a process called hematopoiesis and continues throughout the life of the horse. Blood cells formed in the bone marrow start out as a stem cell. A ‘stem cell’ (or hematopoietic cell) is a very basic cell capable of differentiating into whatever type of cell is required. As the stem cell matures, several distinct cells evolve such as the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Immature blood cells are called blasts. Some blasts stay in the marrow to mature and others travel to other parts of the body to develop into mature, functioning blood cells.

Where are blood cells made?

What are the functions of blood cells?

Blood cells are made in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is a soft,

The primary function of red blood cells, or erythrocytes, is to carry

‘Equine blood is made up of approximately 80 percent water and 20 per cent solids’

oxygen and carbon dioxide. Haemoglobin (Hgb) is an important protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of our body. Equine haemoglobin is slightly different to that found in human beings and other mammals in that it can carry more oxygen. The primary function of white blood cells, or leukocytes, is to fight infection and assist in tissue healing. There are several types of white blood cells and each has its own role in fighting bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections. White blood cells migrate throughout the body and can help to heal wounds not only by fighting infection, but also by ingesting matter such as dead cells, tissue debris, and old red blood cells. Furthermore white blood cells protect the horse from foreign bodies that enter the blood stream, such as allergens. Another important function is the removal of dead or damaged cells, in this way white blood cells are involved in the protection against the formation of tumours. The primary function of platelets, or thrombocytes, is blood clotting. Platelets are much smaller in size than the other blood cells and they group together to form clumps, or a plug, in the hole of a vessel to stop bleeding.

What are blood types and do horses have them? Blood types (or groups) are determined by specific proteins called antigens found on the surface

of red blood cells. Knowledge of blood types is important as transfusion of incompatible blood (the donor animal has a different blood type from the recipient animal) can result in the production of antibodies against the new blood leading to severe haemolytic transfusion reactions and even death in some cases. There are two types of antibodies to blood group antigens; those that occur naturally and those that are only produced after a horse has been exposed to the new antigen. Acquired antibodies are produced after exposure to an incompatible blood type, which usually occurs following a blood transfusion. Equine blood typing (for the most common blood groups) is offered by a few specialised veterinary diagnostic laboratories Ideally, any animal that is routinely used as a blood donor should be blood typed for the most common antigens that produce a haemolytic reaction and (ideally) should be negative for these antigens. Blood type compatibility (or incompatibility) is determined in the laboratory using a technique called crossmatching. There are over 30 blood groups in horses, of which only eight are of major importance. Of these eight, seven are internationally recognized (A, C, D, K, P, Q and U), whilst the T group is primarily of research interest. Of these, the groups Aa and Qa are most important for tranfusion reactions.

Continued on Page 21




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blood Continued fr om Page 20 An example of why a good knowledge of the different blood types is important is found when a foal is born with a different blood type to the mare. Neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI) is a disease of newborn horse foals and mule foals that occurs within the first week of life. It is caused when the mare produces antibodies against the foal's red blood cells and transfers those antibodies to the foal through colostrum during the early stages of lactation and nursing. This syndrome may occur when the blood type of the mare is different than that of the stallion and the foal inherits the red blood cell type from the stallion. Mares that are negative for red blood cell factors have the potential to develop antibodies against those factors. Mares only become sensitised as a result of exposure to blood of a foetus with incompatible blood type as a result of inflammation in the placenta, difficult births, or from exposure to blood containing the foreign blood factors from a previous blood transfusion. Generally, a mare does not develop a sufficient amount of antibodies to cause NI in its foal during the first pregnancy. However, in rare cases a mare may produce sufficient antibodies during a first pregnancy and can cause NI in her foal. Increased risk of developing NI occurs with subsequent pregnancies due to breeding to that stallion, or another stallion with the same red blood cell factor. After ingestion of colostrum containing antibodies to red cell factors, the antibodies are absorbed into the foal's blood and cause the foal's red blood cells to rupture (erythrocyte lysis, which describes the

‘Significant blood loss results in the horse going into a state called hypovolaemic shock. The signs of shock are: weakness, whole body sweating, colic, progressively elevated heart rate and pale/white mucous membranes’


‘An example of why a good knowledge of the different blood types is important is found when a foal is born with a different blood type to the mare‘ syndrome's medical name, neonatal isoerythrolysis).

How much blood does a horse have and how much can it loose? Although there is some variation from breed to breed, an average value is 80 ml per kilogram of body weight. As a result the average 550kg horse (1,200 pounds) has about 45 litres or 12 gallons of blood. The general rule is that an animal will start to show signs of shock from blood loss when ten per cent of its blood volume has been lost. Based on the averages, the adult 550kg horse can therefore lose up to ten litres of blood (two gallons) of blood before serious concern. It is useful to remember that, ‘a little blood goes a long way’ and that most bleeding from wounds appears much more copious than it actually is. Significant blood loss results in the horse going into a state called hypovolaemic shock. The signs of shock are: weakness, whole body sweating, colic, progressively elevated heart rate and pale/white mucous membranes. If your horse is wounded and is loosing blood, the most effective way to minimise that blood loss is using pressure. Every first aid kit should contain bandages and padded material such as gamgee or cotton wool. The bandage should be applied tightly and smoothly, so that it applies significant pressure directly over the wound. If no bandage is available then towels can be used to apply pressure to the wound.  Patrick J Pollock BVMS, CertES (Soft Tissue), DipECVS, MRCVS is a European and RCVS recognised specialist in equine animal surgery.

The average adult horse can lose up to ten litr es of blood befor e serious concer n.





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Andrew Marling B.Ost Hons, Dip A.Ost of Astwood Equine Osteopaths looks at some of the common back problems faced by the modern competition horse

F r ont leg str e t c h

Back care principles stay the same WHETHER you are show jumping, eventing or competing at dressage, the basic principles of back care are the same for each discipline. Practical care begins in the stable; ensure all feed is fed from the floor to promote the lengthening of the splenius cervicis and trapezius muscles and ligamentum nucae and supraspinus ligaments. If possible, bed right up to the door; if horses have a half bed they will tend to stand with their quarters up in the air forcing the majority of their weight to be borne by the forelegs. This can cause bracing of the shoulders with a direct effect on latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids, triceps and tightening of the pectoral group reducing shoulder mobility. The principal aim of the back aware owner/rider should be to keep the horse’s back warm and moving. If you cannot turnout for extended periods then a back massager can be useful; many horses enjoy the sensation and appear to find it relaxing. Many of the popular massage pads sit over the saddle area and work specifically on latissimus dorsi, trapezius and rhomboid muscles, warming up the muscles that you will be sat on whilst riding. When riding it is very important to commence with ten minutes of long rein walk asking the horse to use their hind legs and swing through their backs. Some large circles and figures of eight will help to stretch out any tightness around the poll, withers and the rest of the top line. If your horse is not too fresh or spooky some work in long rein trot (rising of course) will help to warm up the locomotor muscles without undue pressure. It is of even more importance to stretch the horse long and low at the end of a session. When the horse is fully warmed up they will be able to stretch much deeper improving the flexibility of the top line muscles as well as gluteals, hamstring group, shoulder muscles, hip flexors and quadriceps

Dr essage horses tend to r efer with tightness ar ound the poll groups. Different disciplines put different stress and strain on the horse’s body. Show jumpers are expected to work in collected canter for extended periods and this can put extra pressure on gluteals, quadriceps and deep hip flexors. Performing voltes in walk and trot will greatly improve the strength and straightness of the horse quarters and inside hind leg. Show jumpers tend to refer with problems through their pectoral group, shoulder muscles and forelimb flexors obviously due to the enormous pressure on the front legs when landing. When we see tightness through these muscles we would also look at the loins and quarters to see if there is any tightness or poor muscle development. Often extra strain is put through the shoulders because the horse is landing abnormally; naturally most problems with the point of take off are caused by the quarters. A good way of working on this muscle and improving the strength of the back in general is to work the

horse long and low up gentle hills in trot (in the field only). Ask for slightly more extension than working trot and work up to medium trot once the horse is established. This really works the gluteals, hip flexors, longissimus muscles, quadriceps group and hamstrings. Dressage horses tend to refer with tightness around the poll. This is due to the extended time frames the horse is expected to work in an outline and be submissive to the bit. Even advanced horses need to be given frequent stretches during their work to allow them to release the tension from the brachiocephalic and omotransverse muscles.

A good osteopath looks at the whole hors e quadriceps groups are able to bring the femur into flexion resulting in a greater over track. Schooling, at any level, is trying to achieve a relaxed and supple back. The Germans have a special phrase for it ‘Losgelassenheit’ which translated means ‘loose lettingness’ or ‘loose allowingness’ exemplified by a swinging back and lowered head. Without this basic principle in place even the most talented horse will be unable to realise their full potential.

This blocking of the neck follows through the length of the spine stifling the horse’s freedom movement and natural expression.

It is also important to remember that whilst we have looked at individual muscles in this piece it should be remembered that no muscle works in isolation, it is important to take many factors into consideration, such as confirmation, fitness, musculoskeletal function, ligaments, nerve supply and so on.

When the horse is working correctly with good engagement of the hind quarters the deep hip flexors and

A good osteopath looks at the whole horse – not just the referring symptom.

Horses that are forced into an outline will be tense through their backs, making it impossible for them to use the hind leg correctly.




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Driers save money and time

Footwear for equestrians THE comprehensive range of sheepskin lined long boots from Tuffa Boots provides a choice of winter footwear for all equestrians. The top quality nubuck leather uppers are comfortable and hard wearing and are combined with rubber soles for a warm, durable non-slip surface. The Suffolk Brown and the Suffolk two-tone both come in standard and wide leg widths which close securely round the leg with the stretchy straps. The Country Riders are a must for all winter riding and are available in black and brown.

SIMPLEFIT Ltd market the Centaur range of mobile heated driers specifically designed to save money and time. During mild wet winters horse rugs are almost continually damp from ineffective drying.

Lynn Russell

The benefits of Equissage EQUISSAGE has been developed by Niagara Healthcare physiotherapy products that have been used on humans for both injuries and mobility over 50 years. The medical benefits include increased circulation and lymphatic drainage, relaxation of muscles and increased joint mobility which in turn produces better movement and performance. Used on a daily basis, the Equissage pad can provide a circulatory massage, and can be placed over rugs without losing its effectiveness. It can be used before exercise to

‘warm-up’, after exercise to ‘warmdown’ and prevent stiffness and can also help to promote general health and well-being, the Equissage pad also helps to condition the horse’s skin and coat.

They will succumb to mildew and rot and, aside from being uncomfortable for your horse, will need replacing far more frequently than necessary.

These driers are made to dry two, three, four or six rugs at a time in two to three hours and there is also a drying/airing frame which is erected over a heated base and will hold up to six large rugs as well as clothing and boots. All are filled with a mixture of water and antifreeze so that they can be used in unheated buildings safely.





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Andrew Poynton FWCF discusses farriery standards in the UK

Main bodies work to maintain and improve farriery WHAT provision is made for maintaining and improving farriery throughout the UK?

Ther e ar e many courses, clinics and seminars

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is the expected norm for all professions today; that is regular refresher courses and information to keep the practitioner up to date with the latest developments in their field.

In farriery the three main bodies associated with the craft, the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF), the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) and the National Association of Farriers Blacksmiths and Agricultural Engineers (NAFBEA) jointly work together to promote and monitor CPD for farriers.

Continued on Page 25

Tim Mockford, practitioner and licensed instructor in Applied Equine Podiatry, examines some of the issues surrounding the barefoot horse.

Shod versus shoeless IN AN ideal world most people would like to see their horses performing shoeless, but the fact is that each and every horse is born with a certain genetic ‘hoof print’ and it is this ‘hoof print’ which will dictate at what level they are capable of performing without shoes. There are other contributing factors such as the environment, diet, exercise regime and owner commitment that will have a bearing, but ultimately it is genetics that dictate the choice of whether or not to shoe a horse. In essence this is simply a welfare issue, what is best for the horse? The shoe is, in fact, a restrictive ‘environment’, one that prevents the foot from distorting across three dimensions as nature intended. This distortion is essential as it provides the stimulus to the internal structures that is required for healthy growth. Without this stimulus, these structures will atrophy and weaken, but what does this mean? Any structural or functional weakness will mean that the foot is less capable of effectively ‘managing’ the energy that is generated in the foot during the individual stride phases. Specifically, the foot becomes

The transition must be managed by a pr ofessional incapable of fully utilising the potential energy required for locomotion (performance) and more importantly, it cannot dissipate the excessive concussive energies that a healthy shoeless foot is capable of. This concussive energy, if not dissipated by the foot, will travel up the bone column and suspensory apparatus, and may contribute to trauma such as ring bone, side bone, caudal heel pain and navicular syndrome. The key to true ‘shoeless’ performance is ensuring that the hoof capsule is placed in symmetry with the internal foot.

performance. The transition has to be carefully managed by a professional hoof care practitioner and the success of the transition will be dependent on not only on ‘genetics’ but on team work, owner commitment and most importantly of all, time. There are several ‘schools’ of barefoot trimming prevalent in the UK, – the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry developed by KC LaPierre (a Journeyman Farrier for over 15 years) is based upon a foundation of ‘Theory, Model and Method’. This is based upon the theory that domestication causes the majority of the problems that

we experience with our horses feet. AEP not only accepts this fact but actively works to compensate for the negative effects of domestication. If you do engage a hoof care practitioner, it is essential that you choose a professional. Be sure to research what training they have undertaken, what qualification they hold, what organisation they belong to and what their CPD requirements are. Most importantly of all, ensure that they have professional indemnity / liability insurance.

This ensures that all bio-mechanical and neurological stimulus exerted on the dermal layer by the epidermal layer is correct and as such, will lead to correct growth (physiology) and not incorrect growth (pathology). This is a state known as ‘functional equilibrium’. That said, you cannot simply remove a horse’s shoes and expect to achieve immediate high

The hoof capsule should be in symmetr y w i t h t h e i n t e r nal foot.




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forge Continued fr om Page 24 Farriers are encouraged to participate in a minimum of two and a half days per year and since recording CPD began in 2007, there has been healthy uptake, with increasing numbers of farriers involved. The courses, clinics and seminars are many and diverse, including joint veterinary and farriery seminars, practical trimming and shoeing clinics; other courses may be dedicated to new advanced specialist techniques. Farriers studying for the voluntary advanced exams also accrue CPD credits. The farriery training scheme in the UK is held in high regard the world over, attracting voluntary candidates to attempt the WCF examinations, from the national standard Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (DipWCF), through the Associateship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (AWCF) to the Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (FWCF). So what benefit is all this to the horse and horse owner? There are standards and education for all farriers; the DipWCF pass level standard should maintain the majority of horses’ feet, keeping them sound, whether the horse is having feet trimmed or being shod; the four year plus training equips the farrier well. Once qualified the farrier should

continue to learn and gain further skill and experience performing on a higher level. When the owner, vet and farrier are faced with unresolved lameness, not necessarily through any fault of the farrier, they can refer the case to a farrier holding the AWCF, the qualification for remedial farriery. This is not to be confused with ATF (Approved Training Farrier) which some farriers place after their names. As stated the farrier has been approved to train an apprentice and will have had to attend a course then demonstrate their ability to teach an apprentice, a commendable task indeed, but not the higher qualification. The FWCF is the highest qualification in farriery. Fellows will be involved in scientific research and may be farriery examiners. The parties involved with the horse may wish to work together on the case or independently until all avenues have been explored and hopefully a resolution found. The referral farrier’s role is to aid where possible and then ideally return the case to the farrier or one who will maintain the work. There is a system in place for the best welfare of the horse; it is important for horse owners, farriers and veterinary surgeons to be aware of this and to take full advantage of the skills and expertise of the

Horse Health advertiser’s announcement

Delight at success of knife system LONDONDERRY Forge Supplies are delighted to announce the outstanding success of our new Knife and Tool Sharpening and Maintenance System. Following a number of demonstration workshops where farriers were able to see just how effective and versatile the system is, it has proved to be very popular. We now have stock for immediate dispatch and we will be arranging further demonstration workshops as the weather improves. The system provides a highly effective, efficient and inexpensive way of sharpening and maintaining knives and tools, saving you time, effort and money. Using a bench grinder with a series of easily interchangeable polishing wheels and abrasive compounds, knives and tools are quickly sharpened and importantly, once sharpened they can be quickly polished and honed to maintain a keen edge.


Quite simply, it only takes a couple of minutes to achieve excellent results! Our Knife and Tool Sharpening and Maintenance System is versatile and enables you to sharpen and hone all of your favourite knives and is easily adapted for loop knives using a Dremel or cordless drill. It also allows you to polish out imperfections on hammer faces, sharpen and polish clench knives and buffers, sharpen and polish fullers and stamps so they glide through hot steel, rejuvenate rasps – extending their useful life and put a mirror finish on your competition tools. The system is easily installed in your workshop for van and allows you to keep your equipment in tip top condition, saving you time effort and money. This is a system designed by a farrier for the farrier. Please call us for further details of the system and demonstration workshops which of course also qualify for CPD points.

T h e s y s t e m i s i n p l a c e f o r t h e b e s t w e l f a r e of the horse. professionals currently available. The industry is well regulated and where sub standard work comes to light, guidance and further training can be given. For farriers to deliver quality work

they need suitable working conditions and amenable horses. The responsibility of the owner to have the horse routinely attended at appropriate intervals makes all the difference.





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Equine dental technicians examine thousands of equine mouths over the years and are accustomed to seeing various degrees of trauma in the oral cavity. Grant Chanter BAEDT, discusses some of the more common causes.

Oral trauma from bitting BITTING trauma, whether caused directly or indirectly, can go unnoticed for long periods and result in varying degrees of resentment of a contact, however soft the hands are.

away from it.

We are often called out to check horses showing signs of oral discomfort and resistance.

A horse’s performance, depending on the individual’s sensitivity, can deteriorate as it concentrates on the pain rather than the job at hand.

Although such resistance may originate from external factors not associated with the mouth, i.e. lameness, there are many instances where bitting is the cause. Indirect bitting trauma results from poor dentition. This is most often the cause and the expectation of the owner. Sharp molar enamel points and focal overgrowths can pinch or lacerate when coming into contact with surrounding tissue. However, it may be a surprise that it is frequently not the dentition, but a direct result of the bit itself, causing the problem. The most obvious bitting injuries associated with improper use of bits are cut tongues. However, less gruesome injuries to the bars and other tissues are also signs of bitting problems, which can affect performance. Trauma to the lower interdental space (bars of the mouth) can frequently lead to penetration of the mandible (lower jaw bone) resulting in periostitis (bone spur). A localised thickening along the bar may indicate this condition. Changing to a softer bit, altering the height of a bit and using one with different action may alleviate the problem. However, if there is no improvement then a vet can give a nerve block to confirm and a simple surgical procedure can remove the periostitis; the horse is then usually more comfortable in the short term. In the long term however, it must be kept in mind that periostitis is commonly a secondary cause of primary discomfort. Therefore this form of trauma will return if the primary discomfort is not identified and treated i.e. lameness or dental pain. This is generally the case where periostitis is unilateral (present on one bar), and therefore showing more resistance on one rein. A horse with a painful mouth will not always show sensitivity in the ways we may expect. Often they push into pain and not

For example, a horse that is sore on one side of his mouth may lean more on that rein and bilaterally tender bars may result in excessive leaning.

Often it is the less significant, minor oral injury that affects performance which goes unnoticed. As a result I recommend to owners to routinely check their horse’s mouth as regularly as you would check legs for heat and swelling. Simple checks without risking fingers can be done. Make visual checks for small amounts of dead broken skin, sores or cuts to corners of the mouth and run thumbs along the bars for lumps and bumps.

A p r otuberant tooth such as this may need to be r educed in stages

An EDT or vet would be able to check more thoroughly with a halogen headlight and the mouth opened with a speculum. Pinching is often caused by ill-fitting and/or badly worn bits. Some loose ring snaffles and especially Dutch gags can be the major culprits. Such pinching can occur to both inner and outside corners and even the smallest pinch can make the more sensitive horse run off or become inconsistent in the contact. The obvious solution is to change the loose ring to an Eggbutt, but often horses will set themselves. Alternatively a slightly wider bit, or a less worn one has helped with some cases. The best solution is to purchase the more advanced bitting brands, such as Myler and Neue Scheule. Such brands have put much more research into their design so as to give the horse more comfort and thus clearer communication from rider to horse. Ergonomic designs are much more advanced now and intricate detail in the design of a loose ring for example, prevents many more horses from being pinched. Indirect bitting trauma caused by poor dentition can be avoided if the teeth have been routinely checked (six to 12 monthly depending on the individual horse) by an EDT or properly trained vet. If they have not, then sharp enamel points and focal overgrowths can pinch or even lacerate surrounding

A t y p i c a l i n j u r y w h e r e t h e f l e s h y c o r ners of the mouth become pinched between the bit and the teeth tissues when contact with the bit is made. An EDT would routinely remove enamel points and balance focal overgrowths, commonly called ‘bit seating’. This term is slightly misleading as it does not enable a bit to sit on the teeth as such, but it provides more room in the mouth for the surrounding tissues when a contact on the bit is made. This is particularly important for horses who have very ‘fleshy’ mouths and for horses who may have more rigorous mouth contact i.e. polo ponies. Care must be taken when reducing large focal overgrowths as a reduction of over 4mm in one visit

may expose sensitive pulp. Such exposure can cause infection of the tooth, therefore, it would be common practice to reduce gradually over six monthly visits. In conclusion, much of the trauma can be avoided, firstly by regularly checking your own horse’s mouth, secondly by ensuring your bit is suitable for your horse – if there are any doubts then ask a bitting clinician. Thirdly ensure the teeth are checked regulary by a properly trained vet or EDT. The website for the British Association of Equine Dental Technician (BAEDT) will list those who are properly trained and who have also passed recognised examinations.




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Horses use complicated memory process – study HORSES use complex, ‘human-like’ memory processes in order to recognise each other according to a new study from the University of Sussex.

They found that the horses showed a stronger reaction to the ‘incongruent’ calls that didn’t match the horse they had just seen, compared with the congruent calls.

The research into how horses recognise members of the same herd has shown that the process is much more complicated than previously thought.

The results suggest that horses, like humans, use a ‘cross modal’ system for recognising each other – one that involves a combination of sensory clues, including auditory and visual information.

Mammal communication researchers studied the reaction of horses to the sight of one member of the herd while they heard the call of either the same horse, or a different herd member.

Lead author Leanne Proops said: “Individual recognition within species is a complex process and is very poorly understood. “We know that in humans it is cross

modal, for example we recognised someone by how they look and how they sound. It now appears that horses, and perhaps other animals, also possess a cross modal representation of known individuals.” The study focussed on 24 horses and Woodingdean livery yard in Sussex and Sussex Horse Rescue Trust. Subjects watched a herd member being led past them and a call from that or a different horse was played from a nearby loudspeaker. The researchers then measured how long the test horse looked in the

direction of the loudspeaker. They found that horses responded more quickly and looked for longer in the direction of the incongruent calls – which didn’t match the horse they had seen, compared to the congruent calls. This indicated that the mismatched combination confused their expectations. Leanne added: “Given that the stimulus horse was out of sight when the vocal cue was heard, it is likely that the test horse was accessing or activating some form of multimodal memory of that individual’s characteristics.”

Strict sentence ‘commended’ WORLD Horse Welfare has commended the strict sentence given to a 52-year-old Cheshire woman with a history of neglecting horses. Caroline Sutton, of Lindfield Estate North in Wilmslow, received an eight year ban on owning, keeping or having any part in the welfare of horses for a catalogue of offences under the Animal Welfare Act. She was also given a three year Community Order with supervision requirements, told to pay £250 costs and the Judge also ordered that the remaining horses in her care be seized. The conviction marks the end of many years work by World Horse Welfare and the RSPCA. From May to September 2007 a total of seven horses were removed from her premises, including three stallions and four ponies, all living in squalid and dangerous conditions. Paul Teasdale, WHW chief field officer, said: “Caroline Sutton has been a thorn in the side of World

Horse Welfare, the RSPCA and countless local people, for many years. “It is only through the introduction of new legislation that we were finally able to bring to an end the totally unacceptable manner in which she has been keeping her horses. “From the first day I met her, Caroline Sutton professed to be a horse lover – in fact she is a disgrace and embarrassment to the horse world. “She alone is responsible for subjecting her horses to a life of misery, discomfort and squalor and should be ashamed of herself. “She deserves her punishment together with the contempt of those of us who have had the misfortune to deal with her over the years.” Two of the seven horses seized from Caroline Sutton were taken to World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm in Blackpool and, after responding well to care, will soon be rehomed.

DNA Bedding

The President of The British Horse Society, Desi Dillingham, has been made an MBE for voluntary service to equestrianism. BHS chairman Patrick Print said: “Desi, who became our president in 2007, is widely recognised as a great ambassador, not just for the society but for horses and those who ride and drive them.

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“In this instance, the over-used word ‘passionate’ is entirely appropriate in describing her desire to get more people, young and old, into the saddle, and in her commitment to equine welfare she is second to none.” Mr Print also welcomed the New Year Honours awarded to other equestrians. He added: “We were delighted that equestrianism has been so well represented, with Paralympic triple gold medalist Lee Pearson’s appointment as a CBE and Anne Dunham, Sophie Christiansen, Ruth Skinner, Susan Tron and Deborah Anne Hall all made MBE. “They are all, in their own way, exemplars of excellence within the equestrian community.”





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Horse Health ( Feb/March 09)  

The UK's leading health and well-being magazine

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