Let Your Horse-Owning Voice Be Heard

This just in from Best Horse Practices Summit presenter Dr. Sheryl King:

King writes:

As horse lovers you know that our industry is under-recognized both for its size and its economic impact. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield: “We Don’t Get No Respect.”

We can take steps to change that and preserve and protect what we love. The first step is to be counted.  The American Horse Council is conducting a nationwide Horse Industry Economic Impact Survey. My home state, Illinois, has raised significant funds and will participate as a focus state. Any horse owner in any state is asked to participate.
As an industry, we need to verify our size and our strength.  I am asking you to please complete the survey.
Secondly, I am asking you to please forward this link to every horse lover you know and to every person or business that relies on the horse industry.
The survey will only remain active until July 31, so you need to act fast!
Thank you from the bottom of my horse loving heart.

Dr. Sheryl King

An Interview with MSSPA’s Jeff Greenleaf

The Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, founded in 1872 and currently led by President Marylin Goodreau and  Chief Executive Officer Meris Bickford, is one of msspathe country’s most impressive rescue establishments for abused and neglected equines. Over the decades, it has rescued and rehabilitated hundreds of horses, mostly seized by the state from neglectful or abusive homes in Maine.

We talked with the MSSPA barn manager Jeff Greenleaf as the organization works to make its horses more adoptable through training and evaluation. Kudos to the MSSPA for their efforts!

NickerNewsBlog: We hear that the MSSPA now incorporates teaching its employees horse handling and even riding into their work. Can you tell me more about what employees are learning and how this has had an impact on the employees, the horses?

Jeff Greenleaf: We try to hire employees who have experience with horses. This includes but is not limited to the ability to img_2816recognize injuries and possible illness.
Our employees have the opportunity to watch and assist with our veterinarians and farriers to learn more about the horses’ health and care. All employees have to have experience handling horses, but some learn new techniques with our trainer and myself.
We have a large range of horses here from backyard easy-going ones to the more challenging, difficult animals. As you know, we are a rescue barn. The horses we take in from state seizures can vary from well-trained and handled to horses with no handling to those who have experienced neglect or abuse.
Our trainers come on site to work with our staff to help to evaluate the abilities as well as the temperament of each horse for placement in an adoptive home whenever possible.
Most horses coming to us do not come with a lot of known history. Therefore we evaluate them all for their ground manners and riding experience. Some staff with riding experience work with our trainers and myself to evaluate and exercise those rideable horses. This helps in the ability to place horses into adoptive homes.
When potential adopters inquire about a horse’s abilities, it’s a big advantage to the horse when we can let the people know the training level of each animal.
Employees have different experiences ranging from trail riding to competing in the show ring. They learn new techniques in handling on the ground as well as different ideas on having horses perform to their abilities under saddle.

NN: Do you and/or your employees work to make horses more adoptable through handling, exercise, or rehabilitation?

JG: The more we know about each horse, the better we can pass that information to potential adopters.
Some adopters want a horse to groom and handle on the ground. Others would like a horse they can ride. The ability to answer

Greenleaf with an MSSPA horse

Greenleaf with an MSSPA horse

questions for adopters makes a tremendous difference in terms of a favorable long-term adoption.

All MSSPA employees have a part in handling and exercising the horses. From our newest employee to the CEO, it’s a team effort to care for and find homes for the horses in our care. The more individuals that handle and work with a horse the better chance they have of getting adopted.

NN: Can you give me an idea of your experience prior to coming to the MSSPA?

JG: My horse experience started with my mother riding while pregnant and lead to my entire life having horses in it. From the backyard shows to high level competition, the horses I’ve worked and trained with always made me feel as I was helping improve the animals’ abilities and lives.

After receiving a degree from the University of New Hampshire and working in the university’s horse program, I went on to managing horse facilities in New Hampshire, California, and Maryland. The facilities I managed varied in riding disciplines from dressage, hunter/jumper, Western pleasure.

Through all the horses I’ve cared for I’ve learned each animal is different and reacts differently to handling and training methods. I believe this is why the MSSPA is the place I should be. All the animals coming here get a fresh chance to have a better life and live to their full potential. With a little help from some caring humans, these animals get everything they need to make it to a new loving home.

img_2827NN: Do you have your own horses?

JG: Currently, I have no horses at home, although I do have two dogs, one cat, several chickens and geese.
I have 47 horses here at the MSSPA.  I may not own them, but I’m responsible for their care and well-being. I can tell you every name and each one has its own character. From Roger, the pony, with his 17-hand Warmblood attitude, to Feugo, the tough guy who just loves to be scratched on his withers.

There is not another job that I’d rather be doing.

Check out the MSSPA Adoption Pages.

SYAers head to Donkey Symposium

Two board members from Save Your Ass Long-Ear Rescue are headed to the 4th annual Donkey Welfare Symposium next month.

Joan Gemme of Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue

Joan Gemme of Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue

Joan Gemme and Anne Firestone head to Ithaca, New York, where the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and the New York State Veterinary Medical Society will host the event.

Presenters include Ben Hart from the UK Donkey Sanctuary and equine dentist Dr. Joao Rodrigues. There will also be a presentation of “Smoke,” the Iraqi war zone therapy donkey.

According to a press release, the symposium “helps educate people about the unique characteristics of donkeys from the medical, behavioral, nutritional and humanitarian perspective. Most of the world’s donkeys live in developing countries where they are heavily relied upon for essential tasks involving agriculture, transportation, and security of livestock….this symposium focuses on emphasizing donkeys’ health and welfare concerns so that their lives can be improved and the lives of the people who care for and rely on them can be enriched as well.”

Save Your Ass cares for dozens of mules and donkeys at its South Acworth, New Hampshire facility. Read more about them here.

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Vets as welcome resources

colonelFrom birth to death, veterinarians are Go-To sources for our horses’ medical decisions. They answer a broad spectrum of questions from disease to forage, hoof to tail, optic to colic. Inevitably, we say, “While you’re here, Doc…” because there is always something more they can answer.

At NickerNews and BestHorsePractices, we’re pleased to have several, accomplished vets as partners and sponsors:

We welcome back Dr. Janelle Tirrell, owner of Third Coast Equine Services in Palermo, Maine! Tirrell wants to remind clients to sign up before March 1 for Third Coast Wellness Plans.

janelle welnessWellness Plans can help manage the risk and cost of horse care. You pay a lump sum to receive Spring and Fall farm calls with a variety of services covered. Third Coast offers three tiers of Wellness Plans, with varying services and prices.

An added bonus? In the event of an emergency, Third Coast will come for a follow-up Farm Call, no charge.

We welcome South Shore Equine Clinic and Diagnostic Center of Plympton, Massachusetts!

South Shore Equine, headed by Dr. Mark Reilly, has four vets on staff and an impressive, 7,000 foot facility with exercise areas, grass paddocks, and surgical rooms.

sse usePerhaps more helpful is SSE’s extensive educational library. There are articles on Cushings, hives, sheath cleaning, laminitis and much more.

For those living near Plympton, check out their Horse Owner Education Series, running through March.

Read about Dr. Reilly’s innovative Lyme testing protocol here.

Incorrigibles beware: We Care

During 2010 and 2011, many of us worked long hours to help serve up some justice to the many animals killed and mistreated by Brett and Alexis Ingraham. Read more about the Ingrahams here.

Brett Ingraham was convicted of animal cruelty, 2011

Brett Ingraham was convicted of animal cruelty, 2011

The Ingrahams were found guilty of animal cruelty. But did they learn? Some say not.

“Incorrigible” means unable to be corrected or reformed. That’s what Dr. Janell Tirrell, of Third Coast Equine, called folks like the Ingrahams when she met with fellow advocates to help develop what would eventually be known as the Maine Equine Welfare Alliance.

Janet Tuttle, owner of Rockin’ T Equine Rescue, used her usual blue-collar bluntness to say the same thing of horse owners who fail to embrace the real meaning of ownership: Of folks like these, “you cannot learn stupid,” she told me.

Meanwhile, a group in Houlton nowadays has been trying to effect change at Jessica York’s farm. Check out this report by WGME.

Since I moved to Utah from Maine, I’ve bore sad witness to a few horse neglect incidents, big and small. The most recent concerned a neighbor who took off for four days of vacation without bothering to have anyone tend to his equines. Sure, he piled hay in their racks and filled the tub with water. But after 36 hours, they had eaten all the hay. What water they had was slimy and warm (since it sat in an uncleaned, algae-filled tub).

Maine Equine Welfare Alliance

Maine Equine Welfare Allianchours, they had eaten all the hay and the water had grown slimy (since he had not been cleaning the tub, apparently).

Did I mention temperatures were consistently in the 90s?

By Day Three, a group of concerned neighbors called animal welfare.

By Day Four, the horses finally had hay and fresh water. Did the owner learn anything when he had to chat with the animal welfare officer? I wonder.

That same week, I parked next to a big, red Cadillac with two dogs in it. The windows were rolled down about an inch and a half. The temperature was 95 degrees.

I called the sheriff. He called an animal control officer who measured the temperature in the car at 115 degrees. They broke into the car, saved the dogs, and gave a citation to the owner. Did that owner learn anything? I wonder, sometimes, if the world is not full of incorrigibles.

So, this week and every week, my hat is off to all those working to educate folks about this great privilege and responsibility we have: Ownership. My Thank You list includes vets like Tirrell, Dr. Rachel Flaherty and South Mountain Equine, groups like the MSSPA. And all those quiet workers, neighbors, friends, and family who help nurture good horsemanship and husbandry with those who might not know better.

And for all those out there fearlessly advocating for animals: keep up the good work!

Peters on weighty matters

20130201_jbl_WFC_1955Dr. Steve Peters, the neuropsychologist whose collaboration with horseman Martin Black produced Evidence-Based Horsemanship, joined the call for better horsemanship through better personal health with his recent Personal Statement, posted on the Evidence-Based Horsemanship facebook page.

It echoed recent BestHorsePractices posts, which explained research and implored riders to be mindful of the impact their weight and fitness have on their horses. Read research on Rider Weight. Read related blog post.

Reprinted with permission, Peters writes:

Everyday I counsel patients on what we refer to as “Chronic Metabolic Diseases”. The medical field is concerned with the epidemic of obesity and the diseases linked to it such as diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. I don’t counsel and educate these patients to be demeaning or find fault, but to help them manage their risk factors so that I don’t have to see them in the hospital with a stroke at relatively young age of 50.

This message is one of the few that can actually be life-saving and benefit your horse’s health and well being.

I think many of us fear not being politically correct or do not want to hurt someone’s feelings when we note that they are too large for their horses.

fat3-300x184 To know if you are the right weight use the 20 percent rule which includes you and your saddle’s weight in the formula. This weight combined should not exceed 20 percent of your horse’s ideal weight. This does not mean that simply fattening up your horse helps..It makes it worse. We are talking about the horse at its ideal weight. For example, if I weigh 150 pounds and I have a 50-pound saddle, the combined weight is 200 pounds.Therefore, I should not be riding horses under 1,000 pounds. The wear and tear on their joints and back have been shown to be excessive when we exceed this limit.

I am hoping that more people will begin to consider riding draft crosses. We own a Belgian cross who has become quite agile here in Utah’s mountains and fun for our bigger friends and family to ride.

I would like to challenge you to make some lifestyle changes if necessary to maintain the 20% rule because I want you enjoy your horse into your golden years and to have many happy horse-related days with kids and grandkids.

I wish you healthy days ahead and the best care you can provide your horse.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steve Peters

IMG_0479

Horse Skeleton offers nightmares, but no answers

sk

 

For nights after discovering this skeleton, I had trouble sleeping. Couldn’t get the image out of my head. Instead, I extrapolated back to this horse’s final days – it died a pointless and likely painful, drawn-out death, getting tangled in branches by its blankets. Ridiculously, it had on two.

Pep and I found it while bushwhacking in the Oquirrh foothills. Best guess says this poor horse died two winters ago. The carcass has been picked clean and decomposed enough for that time frame, but not longer. There is still hair on its face and other parts.

It was in a dense mass of scrub oak, downhill from ridge leading towards Butterfield Canyon, maybe two miles from the nearest home. After dismounting, I got entangled just getting close enough for photos. It was wearing the horse blankets and shoes on all fours.

scrWhy, oh, why didn’t his owners search harder?

What happened?

Coyotes and cold, perhaps. I’ll never know.

I do know this horse’s fate can serve as a heads-up for all of us horse owners and horse lovers. What would you do if your horse took off, got loose, or disappeared?

What steps can you take to prepare for such a scary scenario?

I look forward to your thoughts!

ske

The Triple Crown Boycott

28racing-1-master675-v3For the love of horses, I’m boycotting the Triple Crown this year. There will be no watching the Derby, Preakness, or Belmont in this house.

Why?

  • The thoroughbred industry is one of the most irresponsible breeders in the country. Each year, thousands of foals are born, tested for speed, and wasted. Men and women of the Sport of Kings breed with impunity; horses are their easy, experimental crops. Dan James, of Double Dan Horsemanship has seen it first-hand. He told me:

I think the thoroughbred industry needs to become a little more responsible for the number of horses that are being produced each year… What are they going to do for the rest of their lives?”   Dan James

1Read more.

  •  Some trainers and jockeys are no better than the scoundrels guilty of soring in the walking horse industry. As has been widely reported, they’ve been secretly abusing them with electric shocks during training sessions and competitions. Read more.
  •  Drugging horses continues, despite condemnation by politicians and the public. Drug testing and compliance is probably more restrictive cows than it is for thoroughbreds. Read more.
  • ROI (Return On Investment) is more important that proper horse development.  Why else would babies be running at the tender age of two years? That kind of intense activity is too much for young horses, athletically AND mentally, say the authors of Evidence-Based Horsemanship.
  • Recently, I watched an excellent short documentary of nurse mare foals. These days-old foals are stripped from their mothers, so the mares can serve other foals with higher racing potential. Hundreds of foals cast aside, auctioned under curtain of darkness. Some have been rescued. Like all the aforementioned abuses of thoroughbreds, the practice goes unchecked. Watch the video.
  • foalThe industry does a nice job of contributing to thoroughbred rescues and agencies. But the charitable efforts are self-serving. It’s their Tide for image laundering.

The industry has no incentive to amend their harmful practices. And I’m not counting on politicians or law enforcement to affect any meaningful change. Adopting a thoroughbred is a nice gesture and thank goodness for those non-profits!

But if breeding is a running hose, rescuing simply diverts the flow. Better to turn off the faucet and pressure the industry to rein in breeding and treat their charges more humanely. Better to not watch in hopes that less viewing translates to fewer dollars.

These current industry practices are not what’s best for the horse.

Finally, a trainer’s event with rescued horses

For years, I’ve been reporting on colt-starting events and saying to myself:

EquineComebackChallengeAmazing stuff, but rescued horses are way more challenging than these untouched two-year olds. They’ve got baggage by the bucketful, troubled pasts, bad habits, and even horsey PTSD sometimes.

Why not work with them? It’d be cheaper, more charitable, more challenging, and help relieve the glut of unwanted horses.

But that’s the sad thing with colt-starting events:
Most have ulterior motives that make them less about horses and more about making money, selling those horses (and horsey accoutrements), and creating a spectacle.

More and more horsemen or women are criticizing The Road to the Horse because its format (three days of high-pressure training in front of bright lights and screaming fans) doesn’t do the horse any favors.
Other events like the Horsemen’s Re-Union take the glitz and competition out of the picture; that’s a huge improvement. But the Re-Union still exists primarily to sell off a breeder’s yearly crop of two-year olds.

AHomeForEveryHorse_Mock_LogoNow comes the answer to my thoughts:
The Equine Comeback Challenge, sponsored by A Home for Every Horse (AHFEH), pairs 10 rescued horses with 10 trainers. The trainers have 60 days to work with their horses and will be featured at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in Denver, Colorado.
The horses, ages 5-15, came from several Colorado rescue organizations and will be sold privately by the trainers and adopted after they compete with their trainers in a Ranch Versatility trial at the Expo.

Yahoo!
Best wishes to all involved and hats off to AHFEH for creating and sponsoring the event.

GERL gets things done

top_title_rOne of the great rewards of running NickerNews and BestHorsePractices is rubbing elbows with good people and good organizations.

The Georgie Equine Rescue League, Ltd. is one of them.

Boy, do they get things done!
They distribute an excellent quarterly newsletter with updates on rescues, fundraisers, educational seminars, and success stories. The group fairly oozes with good will, strong efforts, charity and focus.
They recognize the connection between overbreeding and horse neglect by sponsoring Stallion to Gelding Castration ittyDays. Fifty bucks to castrate your stud!

In today’s world, groups don’t get far without an effective website. GERL’s home page features rotating images of horses “before” and “after” their GERL rescues. Images at right are of one named “Itty Bitty”  I can’t think of any better way to convince visitors to get involved.

There are also pages devoted to available horses, adopted horses, personal rescue stories as well as educational pages, a Horse Hotline link, and wellness pages. They have a cool 2014 horse calendar for sale, a painless way to contribute to GERL. Check it out.

Hats off and best wishes to GERL, its leaders, members, and volunteers. Keep up the fine work.

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