Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Changes?... Not so Fast

Interesting conundrum. 

Normally, if you have thought much about ulcers and your horses that have them or might have them, you have come to the understanding that the major triggering factors are the stressors in their daily life. The same stressors do not necessarily have the same effects for every horse…some horses are not stressed by the same things that wreak havoc in other horses. They are individuals with different tolerances for discomfort. Kind of like people.

Normally, one would think that if the life of the horse has had a combination of stress inducing factors like extended periods of poor shoeing, limited turnout, say, only 30 mins day  of solitary time in a 15 foot round pen in the hot sun with no shade while aggravated by serious biting bugs that quickly create mental stress,  extended periods of isolation from other equines and humans while stabled, poor bitting and ill-fitting tack choices, poor dentition, no free foraging, uneducated riding or driving….things like that…. It would be logical to conclude these things would likely induce ulcers in the horse which in turn might explain his mouthiness, his aggressive eating habits…wolfing down his food in an effort to protect himself from ulcer pain, windsucking when his tack is put on (swallowing air in an attempt to relieve ulcer pain) in anticipation of stomach pain, his general agitation and uneasiness on cross ties, his lack of relaxation, focus or enthusiasm …even refusals …at work. 

But what if he experienced this for a long time, like maybe the last 10 years or so? What if these things became what he came to understand as ‘normal’? In other words, this has become…. just the way life is? His world?

From an evolutionary strategy point of view, animals that can most successfully mask, guard, and steel themselves against the visible expression of discomfort and pain have a better chance to survive. We know that prey animals that exhibit pain are the preferred targets for predators. They are easier to identify in the herd and catch. Their very survival depends on how well they can hide any infirmities. Survival is a strong motivator to work through pain. In my experience, the good horses do just that. The very act of hiding pain compounds the issue because as a result they do not use their body the way it was intended to move. Muscles atrophy or get even more sore, bone structures become distorted, maybe even arthritic by moving in a guarded and protective way.

And what if, in your well intentioned effort to make his life better, you changed much of his life experience at once by giving him a very good, supportive hoof trim so his natural resting stance was now contributing to overall comfort and health rather than to a forced contortion of where his muscles, ligaments and skeleton want his body to be naturally?

What if he was turned out and moving 8-12 hrs. a day with another horse (they are herd animals!) on a decent green pasture, protected with shade and wind screens, perhaps a fly mask and bug spray?

What if he was working with kinder bits, a gentler, more understanding and educated hand in a relaxed frame with better fitting tack, with a good dental treatment, good chiropractic evaluation and treatment, maybe even some acupuncture to address his long standing guarding and protecting of muscle pain and energy blockages …lots of quality grooming time with humans…….things like that?

We tend to think the extremely poor previous treatments of the horse prior to the introduction of these kinds of changes for the better as prime stressors that trigger ulcers.

But consider this: Would the cumulative effect of all these dramatic changes…improvements…themselves, be enough to trigger ulcers?

Would the sum of these changes from what the horse had come to understand as ‘normal’ be enough to themselves trigger ulcers…even though we would all agree they were changes for the better????

What if we also add,  on top of these changes, the changes of just moving to a new barn with new routines and unfamiliar daily care by humans he does not know, different weather, different tasting hay, grain, supplements, even water, on top of all that??

My point is: we all basically agree that stress is an ulcer trigger. What about the stress of *change* itself? Even if it is what we, as experienced horse keepers, would consider changes for the better? Do we need to maybe go a little slower for some horses, particularly the sensitive ones, when they are rescued them from the traumas of their previous life? 

And when we recognize the changes that should be made, what is the priority in which they should be made? We do not generally have control over some of them. We can't change the water back to what he had when he was living, say 500 miles away. The stabling we have is different from where he came from. Not much we can do about that. The pasture we have is all that is available. It is what it is. Should we let him stand on his miserable shoeing a while longer while we make the other changes just so we don't make too many changes at once? Should we turn him out in a tiny round pen because that is what he got used to while we have a beautiful, shaded paddock right next door? The rehabilitation path may not be as obvious and simple as it first appears.

Maybe it is more stressful than we think to make all those changes at once even though the changes will, in the long run, all greatly improve his life.

Maybe we need to take more time. Maybe…. not so fast.


Friday, July 31, 2020

RCP - Article CD 939 Tires

RCP #9
Article: CD 939
Submitted by: Ted Campbell

Current wording:

Article 939 Tires
At ADS-recognized competitions for Training division only, pneumatic tires and/or wire wheels may be allowed at the discretion of the Organizing Committee. (See Appendix CD-E. Quick Reference Guide for CDEs.)

Suggested wording:  

Article 939 Tires
At ADS-recognized competitions pneumatic tires may be used in Training, Preliminary and Intermediate divisions provided that the wheel on which they are mounted is engineered for use on a carriage. Tire tread type is optional. The use of wire spoke wheels is limited to use in the Training division, at the discretion of the Organizing Committee and approved as safe by the event TD and Ground Jury.

Reason for change:
Many or most carriage makers are selling vehicles with these modern design wheels. Many years of experience has shown these wheels to be safe. Therefore there is no longer a safety concern except with the vehicles that compete with the bicycle type tires. These need to be approved as safe by the ground jury and the TD.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Cruelest Excuse

Probably the cruelest excuse you can make about your horse is to say this about his slightly poor or quirky behavior...his slightly abnormal reaction...his somewhat odd reflex: 

"It's just the way he is. He's always like that." 

Why is is cruel? 99% of the time he's trying to tell you something isn't quite right. He's a little bit stoic (or maybe a LOT stoic). It's easy to write it off. After all he's not hurting you or his grooms and it's not THAT can put up with it because he does his job well. He wins ribbons, good ones.

If he's not stoic, you have already called the vet and had it checked out because he told you loud and clear that he's in discomfort.

It's not the 3 legged lame horses I worry about. They get the attention. It's the ones who win ribbons, give lessons, cause no trouble that no one bothers to get checked out that I worry about. The good horses.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

He may not even know he can.

SPEED is a function of DISTANCE over TIME.

The triangle of Speed, Distance and Time. 
For determining Speed, we're interested in the bottom triangle.

If you go 50 miles (Distance) in 5 hours (Time), your Speed was 10 miles per hour
10 mph = 50 miles divided by 5 hours or 10 mph = 50 miles/5 hours

An equine taking 20 quick short steps may not be as fast as one who takes 15 long steps to cover the same distance although he may look faster because his legs are moving quicker.  Visualize a VSE vs a horse trotting a cross country obstacle course.

Do the 20 quick steps take more or less time to accomplish the same Distance than the 15 long ones?

Which equine will expend more energy or tire faster?

Which is more efficient?

Slowing the tempo of a gait, that is: allowing the horse to take longer, more efficient strides, generally allows a horse to move its body and limbs through a fuller range of motion.

To accomplish this, the muscles need to be supple, not tense.

Encourage your horse to slow his tempo here is the important part....

He may not even know that he can.
Be patient, be kind, allow him the space and time to learn.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Seeing the World: Humans, Horses and Birds

Equine Vision

What a horse sees are in images C and D. Nte that fluorescent orange is seen as almost the same color as the grass. When a carriage horse is flying through a course made of traffic cones, the cones and the grass there are set on are almost the same color. Now check out the vision of birds below!

Real life implications of dichromatic color vision for the horse. Two unaltered digital images (A,B) and digitally altered (C,D) forms of the same pictures simulate the dichromatic color vision of the horse. A computer algorithm was used to simulate how each color in the original picture would appear to a dichromatic horse possessing visual pigments with the spectra determined in this study. To more closely approximate the horse’s visual experience, the images were also adjusted to take into account the decreased spatial acuity of the horse.