Posts Tagged ‘equine’

Although I haven’t yet really dug in to the subject, I am very interested in contemporary equine art.  My taste is more towards the modern, post-modern, and abstract, but I’m open-minded.  I had the thought that maybe I’d even like to start a gallery here, so if you all have a favorite artist you’d like to recommend, that would be great.

In the meantime, I found artist Barbara Rush, who has a self-described neo-cubist style:

It looks to me like she might be a dressage rider.  What do you all think?


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I love TheHorse.com, if only because it gives me such good blogging fodder:

California Adopts Steroid Testing Levels

February 29 2008, Article # 11422

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) took a major step towards banning supplemental anabolic steroids with the adoption of testing levels for four major substances during its meeting Feb. 28 in Arcadia.

“It’s the first step in regulating anabolic steroids in California horse racing,” said Rick Arthur, DVM, the state’s equine medical director. “This is the most important action the board will take on medications this year.”

Due to their copyright policy, I can’t reprint more than that on this site, but I do feel I can add a few quotes:

Punishment for overages has yet to be finalized. In the meantime, the CHRB intends to send warning letters for any overages.


CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro noted that the timing is right for regulation. “Anybody who reads the news knows this is something obvious,” he said. “We need to move forward. This is something that will help the whole industry very quickly.”

Hmm… really? From working on horses at the track, I can tell you that the ones on steroids – most commonly ‘Equipoise’ (a misnomer if I ever heard one) – are so tense, both muscularly and mentally, that it’s totally unpleasant to be around them. Even the grooms avoid them, and do the minimum to care for these horses. I have seen horses literally grinding their teeth like a methamphetamine addict on a three-day run.

Trainers come up with all kinds of good reasons to give their horses steroids – “She’s too moody to race otherwise”, “He’s not aggressive enough to get out front”, “He’s not fast enough without” etc., etc., but the bottom line is, if you have to drug your horse to win, it’s not the right horse or you are not the right trainer. Performance-enhancing drugs are just that – drugs. Just ask Marion Jones.

And who will be doing research into the long-term effects of use in horses? No one, I presume, since, after all, they’re just horses, who can easily be converted to cash once their winning streak is over. (I’m hoping those who eat chevale aren’t disturbed by the idea of inducing who-knows-what drugs into their system along with a horseburger du jour.)

And those warning letters? Those will really put the fear of God in ’em. Especially since any testosterone level in non-gelded horses will be acceptable. Your man-eating, fire-breathing, totally unmanageable stallion is always like that, right? And gee whiz, he sure races great, especially if you can keep him straight so he doesn’t get distracted by the impulse to beat the crap out of every other horse on the homestretch.

The racing industry is dogged by constantly churning whispers of unfair play on every level. Surely the powers that be can see that the confidence of the gaming public – something that no one can deny has slipped, and slipped badly on every racing day other than the Derby – is imperative to the continued health of the sport. So why the hell is it a “major step” when they announce “testing levels” but don’t actually announce banning the drugs, testing for them, or consequences?

Get with it, guys. If an Olympic medalist can be taken down, what’s the dilemma about a $3000 claimer?

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It pains me to write about this, but write about it I must:

Despite 5,000 Lawsuits, Wyeth Hopes For Hormone Replacement Therapy Comeback

By Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet. Posted February 26, 2008.

Selling a product that causes cancer isn’t easy, but with help from a U.S. endocrinologist group, Wyeth is again obscuring the truth about HRT.

…Wyeth is not alone in hoping for an HRT comeback.
Since HRT was found by the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 to cause a 26 percent increased risk of breast cancer, 29 percent increased risk of heart attack, 41 percent increased risk of stroke and 100 percent increased risk of blood clots, a study in the January issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention found the cancers also move quickly. Women who took combined estrogen/progestin hormone-replacement therapy for just three years had four times the usual risk of lobular breast cancer, which accounts for about 10 percent of invasive breast cancer.

The effect of millions of HRT users saying, “You want us to take WHAT?” after the WHI study — 75 percent quit — was also dramatic. There was an 8.6 percent reduction in overall breast cancer between 2001 and 2004 and 14.7 reduction for estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer.

But “studies” by doctors who don’t want to give up the HRT gravy train appear with increasing regularity, promoting results that seek to reverse or spin the WHI findings. HRT actually protects against heart disease and reduces calcification of the arteries — two original, disproved HRT selling points — say the authors of the new crop of “timing hypothesis/therapeutic window of opportunity” analyses, hoping the memory of the American public is as short as their practice’s funds without trumped up HRT profits….

…But others like the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) have jumped on the HRT bandwagon.

“This is an important and meaningful analysis for women who can benefit from Hormone Replacement Therapy,” said Richard Hellman, AACE President about a study which indicated HRT did not elevate cardiovascular disease risk in some women.

And a position paper on the AACE site says, “Given the powerful effects of estrogen therapy in relieving menopausal symptoms, we believe that physicians may safely counsel women to use estrogen for the relief of menopausal symptoms.”

Now, let me first say that the article is from a VERY liberal news site. I do not endorse or agree with many, if not most of their articles. However, I like a well-rounded approach to news, so I try to see what all the fuss is about from several angles, and this site is one of them.

Onwards. What relevance does this have for a blog about horses? Simple: The return of HRT means the return of PMU (not that it ever went away completely, but the numbers did lessen when women began to realize that perhaps they’d rather have hot flashes than cancer.) The return, or perhaps I should say revitalization of PMU means more unwanted horses basically bred for slaughter. Yes, I know, the slaughterhouses in the United States have closed, but the industry is humming right along with profitable shipments to Mexico and Canada. We can thank the racehorse industry for a large portion of that, as well as backyard breeders, but at its height, the PMU industry made a significant contribution as well. (Besides and beyond that, I personally find the conditions in which the mares are kept to be appalling.)

While the horse slaughter issue is too lengthy to cover here, I think we can all agree that we do not need any more unwanted horses in the United States than we already have. The idea that Wyeth would try to re-market drugs that have been shown to cause cancer and, as an added bonus, increase the horse slaughter market is reprehensible.

Menopause is not a life-threatening condition, folks. But for women and horses, hormone replacement therapy is.

More information about PMU can be found here.

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In Service to the Horse: Chronicles of a Labor of Love

by Susan Nusser

Little, Brown and Company, 2004

karen_oconnor.jpgNusser is an excellent writer, with a great eye for details and the ability to create suspense out of an eventing season. The secondary stories of the showjumping and breeding grooms, while interesting, never take off, and it’s the groom of the O’Connor Event Team that creates the center and meat of the book. The book seems less about the lives and livelihood of grooms and more about the O’Conners – celebrities in the elite world of Three Day Eventing – and one wonders why the author didn’t admit her fascination and simply write a book about them, since they provide plenty of interest. The premise of the book doesn’t live up to the jacket copy, but in its stead, the glimpse into the lives of two of the equestrian world’s biggest names make it well worth reading, at least for the equine enthusiast.

*Review originally written on Google Book Search

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I subscribe to an email newsletter from The Horse that pops up in my inbox with almost annoying frequency. However, there’s always at least one or two articles of interest to me, on a good mix of topics ranging from health care to news to training. This week we have the ongoing Trexler abuse story, which smellshorsey has been covering, and also the situation in Romania, which Simply Marvelous recently wrote about and the Transylvanian Horseman lives daily.

The article that caught my eye, however, was a recent study lending credence to clicker-trainers everywhere:

Study Correlates Food Rewards with Positive Responses during Training

March 03 2008, Article # 11436

Young horses learn faster and have more positive interactions with humans when they receive food as a reward during training, according to a new study presented at the 34th Annual Equine Research Day held in Paris, France, on Feb. 28.

Yearlings that received grain pellets as compensation for appropriate reactions to vocal commands were up to 40% faster to acquire new skills than a control group of yearlings that received no rewards. The training primarily involved respecting the words “stop” and “stay” and remaining immobile while the trainer performed certain grooming tasks and veterinary procedures on the horse.

The article goes on to say:

On average, the reward group [those who were given food rewards] finished their training in 3.7 hours whereas the control group needed 5.2 hours to acquire the same tasks. “There wasn’t even any overlap,” Sankey explained. “The slowest horse in the reward group still learned faster than the fastest horse in the control group.”

This is a significant finding, because one of the long-held myths of horse training is that horses respond better to negative reinforcement operant conditioning (i.e. applying a source of discomfort, such as pressure, and removing it when the horse gives the correct response) than to positive reinforcement, such as a food reward. Clicker training, which utilizes food rewards, has been shown to quickly and effectively train horses (and other mammals) to do all kinds of things, but for some reason a large segment of the horse community still seems to view it with skepticism or scorn.

At this point, I feel a need to digress from the subject matter for just a moment to say this: There is no training method, no technique, no clinician, no author, no piece of equipment that is the Holy Grail of horse training. I am not saying that clicker training is the way to go and that anyone who uses negative reinforcement operant conditioning is ignorant, or anything of the sort. I use it myself, all the time. What I am saying, and will continue to say over and over again in this blog, is that people need to be open-minded. Be flexible and adaptable when working with your horse. Try new things, learn new ways of thinking and being, and go outside your comfort zone. We ask that of our horses and expect that they will honor our request but so often we will not do the same!

Side note: Also, for reasons I can’t quite figure out, people tend to lump clicker training in with Natural Horsemanship. Because the NH label gets bandied about so much without a clear definition, many people don’t even actually know what they’re referring to or where it came from or to whom it actually applies. In my opinion, clicker training is not an NH technique (although it shares many positive qualities with NH) because what we call NH today can be traced back to the methods of Tom Dorrance, Bill Dorrance, and Ray Hunt, and they were most certainly not using clicker training. However, the definition of NH is a subject for another post, and I will leave it at that with the suggestion that anyone interested in tracing the history of NH read The Revolution in Horsemanship by Dr. Robert Miller and Rick Lamb.)

Back on topic, it will be interesting to see what, if any, response this study generates in the American horse community, since the researchers are French. Will American researchers take the ball and run with it, or will this article slip quietly into the archives?

I hope that this kind of scientific finding will be a reference to be used when the nay-sayers and the tradition-bound try to tell us that their way is the only way. Then we can smile and use the power of positive when we say, “Have you read the latest research?”

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