3/31/2007

FDA withdraws pergolide for humans

Elisia sent me this link on Pergolide. I think I did know that it can be used on humans, but it wasn't a front of mind peace of knowledge. My question now is, is the result going to be the same for horses? Pergolide has been a wonderful treatment for Cushing's with Precious. I'll call the vet next week and see what they think.

http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01596.html

3/25/2007

How to worm your horse

Today I wormed the horses, here are a few tricks to make worming your horse easier.

1. Play with your horses mouth. I like to massage the muzzle and put my fingers in the lips. Be careful to watch your fingers and do this for short periods of time as there are a lot of nerves in that area and it can be a little over-stimulating at first. If you have a young horse, do this often as a bonding technique your young one will love it.

2. Occasionally give your horse a syringe of apple sauce. This will help you giving your horse anything paste related. Try to give apple sauce more than icky pastes and your horse will be more willing to open her mouth.

3. Teach your horse to lower her head both by pressure on the poll and the base of the leadrope. This will make it easier for those with taller horses. With smaller horses, this isn't as much of a necessity for giving wormer (but still important!).

4. Teach your horse to 'muzzle'. With the lead rope in your left hand, standing on the left side of the horse, reach under the head of your horse and gently grab the muzzle of the horse with your right hand. It will be easier to put the wormer into the corner of mouth with your left hand.

5. Give your horse a treat first, keep the wormer in your pocket when the are interested in what you have, slip the wormer in.

With horses, worms are a fact of life. Hopefully these tips will make worming a little easier. Of course I hope my community will add their ideas as well!

3/23/2007

Honorary Girl Scout?

A few days ago I got a comment from the troop leader for Girl Scout Troop94 ILL on The Real Cost of Raising a Baby Horse that my posting helped them earn a badge! I never got to be a girl scout, they lost my application when I was a kid. What I want to know is, will they make me an honorary Girl Scout? I can sell a lot of cookies. One year I sold more campfire candy than anyone else in my afterschool Campfire program and that stuff was $5 a box!

In all seriousness, this is the 2nd most viewed post on my blog. The MOST popular post is The Real Cost of a Horse-Boarding. I guess people really want to know how much a horse costs! I'll work on more of these types of posts.

3/21/2007

Spotlite's Fire Marshall

Some of you may remember my post about Garfunkel. He was a much loved dog and kept my counters clear of food, white hairs in all my clothes, spots in my eyes, but mostly love in my heart. I have felt that a part of me was missing since he passed away. I have been waiting for a new spotted friend.

The reason I have been so absent Learning Horses because on March 10th we brought home our new Dalmatian puppy, Spotlite's Fire Marshall.

Marshall is a AKC registered liver spotted Dalmatian (they come with either black or liver spots). He is a show pup, so I plan to show him in the conformation ring. We also want to do performance events (like agility, obedience and rally). But most importantly Marshall is going to be my trail dog.

Dalmatians have a long history with horses, there is great information at the Dalmatian Club of America's website. They are THE coaching dog designed and built to run miles and miles each day and guard the horses at night (and keep the barn free of rats). That history has been preserved by the AKC in the title of Road Dog or Road Dog Excellent. The RD or RDX is a ride on horseback (by human) where dog follows along and performs off leash commands. The dog is required to get vet checks. This is our goal.

Because Garfunkel had arthritis at an early and and Steinbeck had some type of problem with his back leg, I wanted a dog that had a pretty good chance of having good health, which is why for the first time I got a registered dog from a breeder (all my other dogs have come from shelters).

Garfunkel had been around horses a bit when we lived in Alaska with my mom. But never had the opportunity to go riding with us until a few years later at Reed's Ranch. His first time out on the trail he was loving it. Running like a crazy dog in and out of the bushes and just having a grand ole time. When we got closer to the house we were on a very narrow part of the trail and Garfunkel was right behind a horses back legs, tail on his head just walking along with them. They were not bothered by him (and these were horses that would kick at a herding dog), in fact over time, he did it to all the horses. Garfunkel had no training, just instinct and there was never any animosity between him and the horses.

But I didn't know anything when I was raising Garfunkel. I knew very little about dog training and I was a college student with no money and I made some big mistakes. This time I hope to do better.

I would like to invite all of you to visit Marshall's blog at Learning Puppies!

3/20/2007

It's all in the hips, It's all in the hips

I was riding Tesoro two days ago and Elisia came to the barn. We chatted a little while I was riding then I asked her to remind me about the spiraling exercise we worked on in my last dressage lesson. When I talked about Tesoro's major over reactions, she said, 'Maybe you only need a 1'. I looked a little puzzled then she reminded me that there are different levels of asking (1,2,3,4), each more intense than the previous. Duh, that is one of the basics of natural horsemanship, but I guess I am not very good about putting it to use in the saddle.

So she had me just use my seat. To spiral in all I did was slow Tesoro down, open my left hip and he started to move in nicely. To spiral out, I opened my right hip and rotated my left hip in. As you read this it might sound like a ton of movement, but in reality it was like putting the lightest touch, perhaps how you would hold a rose that was losing its petals to smell.

The results were AMAZING. For the first time I really felt like I could get what I wanted with Tesoro. I was using my seat to slow him down and concentrating absolutely on not moving any other part of my body. We rode again last night, this time trying to apply the same to the Paso Corto. It will take more work to get results at the corto, but I just feel I have found a better way to ride him.

Thanks Elisia, your a great coach (and friend)!

3/09/2007

Can you Join Up more than one horse?

Probably, but that isn't what I was going for. It was pouring rain this morning, so I was unable to turn out the horses. I put them in the arena one at a time while I cleaned my stalls. After all four were in the arena I went in with my carrot stick/partner stick (mine is black with a blue string) and started moving the horses around the arena.

It was interesting how it worked out, who stayed with whom and how they moved. The geldings were not sure if they should follow me or Precious, but when they were all going one direction (the direction I was moving them) and she was going the opposite, it was pretty clear who was in charge (and for those of you who don't get that, it was ME that they were listening to).

After just a few minutes I got each one of them separate, went up, petted them, swung my stick over them. But Santana wasn't having any of that. He didn't want me close, so I started pushing him out again, making him go. Very quickly, the other horses stood to the side while he lunged in a circle. He tried to use them occasionally to hide, but they were not interested in helping him. In just a few short minutes he joined up, did some nice at liberty work (with the other three horses in the arena) and we were finished.

At Liberty-work without a halter or leadrope
Join Up-a method used by Monty Roberts

3/08/2007

Unselling a horse

For those who do not know, my career has been in sales. I have sold hardware, software and 'untangibles' and I have been pretty good at it. I really don't think it is that hard, because in reality, it is just finding out what people need and selling them what works for them.

When it comes to horses, I am NOT very good at sales. I am very picky about where my horses go, I want a very good personality fit and I want my horses to be happy.

So today, I tried to 'unsell' Tesoro and it didn't work. She wants to come ride him again, she is actually interested in leasing him, but maybe to buy him long term. We will see. . .maybe I can give him a bad habit or two before she comes back.

What in the world is DQP?

I am currently in Hemet, CA a small community north east of San Diego. I am here to begin the apprentice process for IJA, the Independent Judges Association. Horse world, I have some news for you. There is shady s***(expletive deleted) going down in the horse industry and the understaffed and underfunded APHIS is tasked with policing millions
of horses with only 8 people.

Here is how it started. In 1970 congress passed the Horse Protection Act (amended 1976), a statue specifically designed to protect horses from soring. If sored, they are not to be in exhibitions, sales, shows or auctions. Specifically called out in the statue (the ones in need of most protection) are the Tennessee Walking Horse (THW) and the Racking Horse. Huh? Walking Horse? Racking Horse? I know, I know, many of you are unfamiliar with these breeds, but there is no mistaking the distinctness of movement and most importantly, the smoothness of the ride. There are thousands of Walking Horses in the US and these beauties are known for out walking the fastest and largest of your walk/trot type breeds.

But here is what you don't know (but must know). Somewhere along the lines in the evolution of the show, the higher the horse stepped, the easier it was to win. It is kind of like the 'bathing suit' competition. At some beauty pageants the big breasted girls win instead of the truly 'fit' girls. I know, that is a horrible analogy, but you get the idea. If the horse steps huge, it is showy and captivating. The problem is many of these horses don't do this naturally. There are a few that can, but for the most part, instead of using steroids to hit home runs, the practice involves horrible techniques damaging to the horse to get results. Tell me the last time you heard these words used in a positive manner: chains & chemical burning. I won't elaborate but you get the idea.

So here is where we are today. The USDA (the same people that inspect your meat) have an office called the APHIS, Animal & Plant Heath Inspection Services. Under APHIS is another division called the Animal Care office. It is the folks here who have been entrusted with enforcing the Horse Protection Act. Under the employ of the Animal Care office are Veterinary
Medical Officers of which there are 8 in the US. Yes, you read me correctly, 8. There are more than 7 million horses in the US, so if I do my math correctly, there is one VMO for every 875,000 horses in the US. That sounds like a manageable case load, don't you think?

In a very smart move, the Animal Care office partnered with 10 Horse Industry Organizations (HIO) to help with the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. Most of these associations are related to gaited horses, where practices of soring are often considered the worse or most blatant. Each of these HIO's trains DQP's(Designated Qualified Persons) that can be used at horse shows. The DQP can now examine all the horses at shows, each horse is examined PRIOR to being allowed in the arena and then the winning horse is re-examined after a win.

So now the power of 8 is magnified and multiplied and the problem can be solved right? Oh, you are going to love this.

First, there are shows failing to utilize a DQP. The bigger national shows know better, but you can find a schooling show, a non-pointed show or someone just too cheap to hire a DQP. But the second problem is the bigger problem. DQP's are hired by the show management. Although they are trained by associations that are signatories on the rules, the DQP's are not working
for the USDA, but instead for the show. As altruistic as we want to be a show is there to make money. Big barns with 'winning' horses funnel lots of money into the show and one or two pissed off trainers can bankrupt a show or association.

So, the show management may say 'guess what DQP, thanks for your opinion, but this person is going into the show ring'. What are the chances that one of the 8 VM Officers are going to show up and fine the show? Well, you do the math. X # of shows, 8 VMO's, the chances are not that high.

But that is exactly what happened last year at the TWH Celebration, the World Championship for the Tennesee Walkers. Folks this is the 'fashion week' for TWH, the competition of glory, the Miss America pageant, ok you get the idea. A random VMO inspection pulled 9 out of 12 horses out of the the World Grand Championship class. 75%. With three horses remaining, the class was cancelled. There was NO winner pinned because the VMO's could come this time.

But how in the hell (excuse my french) do we get to a world where 75% of the horses about to compete for the World Grand Championship get to that level when the VMO's find they are in violation of the horse protection act?

I already did the math. One VMO for 875,000 horses. That's why.

So here is my solution. Get involved. It has been a long time since I made a call to action (reminds me of my persuasive speaking in college). Seriously. Call you folks in congress, lets shuffle some money from our work in Iraq to fund these folks. If you love the equine breeed (and believe in sound practices), you cannot keep quiet. I know that I can't. Link to this post, write your own post, but don't delay. There are more of us 'good guys' than there are of those 'bad guys'. Support organizations like FOSH and don't support breeders that sore or shows that allow sore horses. Big bucks are involved here, but I tell you, if we make enough noise, it will go away. Do you remember 25 years ago how little people wore seat belts? We can have that kind of impact.

Before I end my rant, let me be clear, there are a LOT of people showing SOUND Tennessee Walking Horses. I have been privileged to show with these people over the last few years. I see them on the trails and and fun days. These horses are amazing AND beautiful and I am proud to be part of that circle. It is these owners and lovers of the breed that have made the progress so far, but they can't do it alone.

For most of us, these practices are so abhorrent we cannot even fathom why someone would do such a thing. So we have to get off of our apathetic butts and call/email/write our folk in congress to take one tank out of Iraq and divert that money to the Animal Care Office.
spread the word, fight the fight. I don't get too worked over by much stuff, but I will tell you that I am going to take action. Horses don't deserve it and we have to be the REAL voice of the horse.

3/07/2007

What is all the FOSH about?

I returned (alive) from the Judges Training Seminar for the Independent Judges Association, an arm of FOSH. Make no mistake about it, judging horse shows is hard work.

We had two days of classroom learning and one day spent judging a horse show. Although we were not center ring, we were still obligated to place the classes. We then reviewed our placings with a certified IJA judge.

What was most interesting about the entire weekend was what I learned about the Horse Protection Act. Interesting is not the right word, shall I call it disgusting? For many years I have lived in my little bubble not realizing the horrible things people do to horses to win at horse shows.

Admittedly, I'm not that competitive. A ribbon is nice, but if my horse behaves and doesn't go through the roof, I am happy. I enjoy showing, but my horse doesn't, so we gave it up as a team. But there are people going to terrific lengths to ensure success, at the expense of horses. FOSH is an organization dedicated to changing that. IJA judges are part of that solution.

I will report more about the Horse Protection Act and I expect ALL of you to be mad. Very mad. So mad that you will write your people in Congress and make some funding available for enforcement. If we join together, we can stop these crimes against equines. The first step? Join FOSH.