Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cold Season

AKA Is it so cold you cannot breathe?

A great topic of discussion is whether or not to exercise our horses in such brutal cold.  OK, it actually has warmed up in the last twelve hours or so, but before that it was subzero.  

But the point of the discussion is whether or not it is dangerous to ride a horse in such temperatures.  I have heard both sides of the discussion.

I personally don't try and do major work in the cold since I worry about damage to the lungs, but had never searched for evidence on this.

So tonight, I decided to take a peek to see what I could find.

Influx of neutrophils and persistence of cytokine expression in airways of horses after performing exercise while breathing cold air

Michael S. Davis, DVM, PhD; Caroline C. Williams, BS; James H. Meinkoth, DVM, PhD; Jerry R. Malayer, PhD; Christopher M. Royer, BS; Katherine K. Williamson, DVM; Erica C. McKenzie, BVSc, PhD

The basis of this study was involving horses exercising and then breathing warm or cold air.  Neutrophils increased after breathing the cold air.  Neutrophils are the most prevalent white blood cell in the body and are the first responders to infection and so forth.  They also found elevated cytokine levels, which are used in signaling pathways.  These particular cytokines can help suppress additional immune response.

Their conclusion was that exposure to this cold air created an immune response for a couple of days.  The immune suppression could potentially lead to an increase chance of not fighting off a respiratory infection while in the subclinical phase.

Additional research has been done with sled dogs as well indicating very similar responses.

Perhaps another insight into why people are predisposed to respiratory infections in these colder months.  I know I am fighting off a bug right now! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Memory Monday: Mother's Day

Two and a half years ago, it was mother's day.

Seemed suitable.

The semi feral mare of course, had to try and break the typical mare rules.  She foaled on day 329 (earlier than "average 342").  She foaled at approximately 8 in the morning.  She foaled with an entire entourage watching.  She foaled during my finals week on my work day for the week. 

Leave it to the mare to try and be difficult.

But she was an excellent mother.  A good memory indeed.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

In Light of The Vortex, Some Light Reading

So the polar vortex part II is upon us.

Time to keep on trucking forward, but also to sit, read, and ruminate a bit.  OK, perhaps, not so much ruminating.  I don't have a four chambered stomach like our bovine friends.

Today's article was From Conception to Training from Tribute Feeds.  Typically, I am a little nervous about taking face value from feed companies, however, Tribute has been pleased to answer any of my specific questions and point me towards the original studies, validating their articles and positions.

So, this article is an overview on feeding the pregnant mare to feeding the young horse. 

A few points I found interesting.

"Many pregnant mares are able to obtain enough calories from good quality forage to maintain or even gain weight. No forage, neither grass or legume, hay or pasture, will supply all the nutrients needed by the broodmare for her own maintenance much less the trace minerals needed for sound fetal development. If the mare’s diet is deficient in specific nutrients, the fetus can pull many of the nutrients it needs from the dam’s body, up to a point. This is why we generally see a lower number of nutrition-related DOD’s in a mare’s first or second foal. If the mare’s depleted body reserves are not replenished, deficiencies can occur in their future foals and eventually will affect the reproductive performance and health of the mare herself."

This is a topic of conversation I've seen over and over again in person and online about how easy keeping mares can easily just maintain on grass and I vehemently disagree that is OK.  But this is the first time, I really thought about long term depletion of vit/min from the mare and the consequence on subsequent offspring.  I have read old articles and remember a quote talking about later foals from a mare sometimes "missing the bus" or not being as physically sound, so in an era where we have the ability to feed correctly, this makes sense.  

As well as this comment.

One as yet unpublished finding was that mares fed a high non-structural carbohydrate (NSC – sugar + starch) diet tended to have foals with increased insulin resistance. This condition may predispose foals to D.O.D.
 I hope this research is published.  I have often wondered if it was just anecdotal evidence when I have seen the barns that do feed a high NSC "sweet feed" to mares/young foals, then specialize in a lead/feed type young career, and then have a high percentage of juvenile animals with D.O.D. type issues (among other things!).  I also particularly wondered if it was dietary or genetic, and of course, with more information on D.O.D. forthcoming, it appears genetic, but perhaps with nutrition being a factor in having these genes expressed or not.

So this was my Sunday evening after a long day at work. 

How about you?  Thoughts/comments on the article?  Everyone keeping warm? 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

As The Luck Turns

In a prior post, I mentioned that I am often incredibly lucky.  Everyone sitting around and I would be the person that doesn't win.

Well, apparently my luck may be changing.

In fact, I went to the company holiday party which is a feat in itself.  But free food and a chance to win something, so off I went.  And win I did.  I won a brownie maker.  Alas, I am allergic to chocolate.

But still, I won.

And then, today I won a 1973 Arabian Yearbook.  I am such an incredible nerd that I would do a back flip if 1. my back didn't hurt and 2. I could do back flips.  I never could.

But I won this too, so there you go.

And in another amazing stroke of luck, I have a super awesome friend who keeps being mentioned on this blog.  Well J got up early to go to a sale at a tack store because I was doing a lame thing like working.  So, she managed to swoop in and find a new full seat pair of Pikeur breeches for $49.  That's almost like winning a prize, isn't it?

I am so excited.  Can't wait to try them on.  Apparently, I need to ride hunt seat again or something along those lines.

So despite the plunge into arctic temperatures again putting a damper on horse time, I am quite pleased with recent adventures.   Tomorrow it's supposed to be oh say, 12 degrees so that sounds like perfect riding weather to me.  :) 

Hopefully I didn't manage to use up all my lucky winnings in one fell swoop here.

How about you?  Any good finds, wins, buys, or rides lately?

Monday, January 20, 2014

MM: Reflection

As previously mentioned, I grew up riding in a camp environment, primarily western and bareback.

I had a few brief encounters with other disciplines, like the time I went to a Saddlebred barn and rode a 5 gaiter.  But that's a different story.

But in general, just western.  I really didn't have a major understanding of what various disciplines required, since the internet didn't exist (or not as we know it!), so all these other things just existed in books and pictures.  ;)

So one lovely day, a friend was riding a Lipizzaner gelding that been donated.  He was big and noble with a roman nose.  I didn't really understand the extent of his training, but he was a good soul, if not a little goofy.  So when the friend mounted him and took him out in the field, I took another look.

Here was the big, almost goofy looking horse working in tandem with his rider.  She has asked him to give to the bit, round up, and was doing pretty leg yields, collected trots, and half passes.

The beauty of watching the team in motion was something that reverberated to my core.  Two beings truly understanding and communicated and almost dancing.  This gelding looked so much like a cart horse when ridden on a loose rein and let to plunk around with an inverted topline, but just bridled and filled with energy, he sprung up with enthusiasm and beauty and poetry in his steps.

Sadly, the person in question took her life a few years ago.  The gelding died from bastard strangles.  Both were tragic circumstances.  But I try and reflect back to happier days when the sun was shining, all was good and right, and I was truly inspired to look into a different type of world where man and horse could move as one.

What was a horse moment that has truly stuck with you? 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

On This Day

On this day in 1943, Bakers stopped selling sliced bread in the US until the end of the war.  

Who knew?

Not nearly as cool as sliced bread was my day today.  It was an enjoyable weekend, after working for too many days straight.  I made a priority to go and see the horses and actually enjoy spending time.

Thursday and Friday, I put the western saddle on the semi feral mare since she has had a good deal of time off with the whole polar vortex thing. 

She lived up to her name sake.

But then that got me thinking.  Today, we rode and she was much better.  I put her in side reins and the surcingle for a few minutes beforehand until she was stretching and taking contact.  Then I put the dressage saddle on and rode her that way--puffy snow clothes on all.  When I mean puffy snow clothes, I mean Carhartts, thermals, skate tights, and jeans.  Not quite so much contact that way.

But my line of thought was if she was more comfortable in the dressage saddle or the saddle pad.  I'll have to switch the pad out next time and see.  The saddle pad is a back on track pad. 

She was just much happier to around and actually stretch down into contact and be a whole lot less tight. 

Both saddles fit reasonably well.  They do fit a little bit better in the spring/summer/fall before she looks like a Goodyear Blimp.  She's eating a little well this winter. 

But I would say fit is pretty much equal between the saddles, so maybe the pads.  Dressage pad like I said is the Back on Track pad.  The western pad is a Billy Cook Gel Pad with a felt bottom. 

So maybe next time I'll use the dressage saddle with a typical dressage pad and see what horse I get as far as being tight or not.  Just food for thought.

The filly did pretty well tonight too.  I went ahead and lunged her in the saddle with the surcingle over the top.  She was bitted, but also had the lunging cavesson on over the bridle with side reins.  Poor girl thought it was a lot of hardware.  But she was pretty good.  She hasn't had the bit in too many times since she just recently had her wolf teeth pulled.

New task I think.  Get baby used to being bitted.  I have an apple mouth boucher and a french link loose ring set up for her.  I have to dig through the bit box to see if she may have something else she prefers.  I know that people usually prefer having the young horses start in a solid D ring or Eggbutt, but I just don't know if there is enough space in her tiny little mouth without a multi piece bit (ie french link or something similar).  Thoughts anyone?

How about you guys?  What type of saddle pads do you typically work in?  Notice a difference?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Memory Monday: Jumping In the Deep End

Most people have seen a photo or seven of the filly.  There is one if you haven't.

Well, let's go back a few years.  I wanted to breed my mare.  It wasn't a passing thought and she is a very well bred, proven broodmare.  I thought about my goals and I wanted a "sport horse".  OK, a little ambiguous, but I wanted something that could comfortably do dressage and be shown on the Arabian sport horse circuit. 

A friend and I sat online and chatted for hours about various stallions we liked and pros and cons.  I went ahead and visited a local stallion and was impressed by his accomplishments and his movement.  He was bred for trot, a la Arabian english pleasure style, but had a good strong body and good engagement behind.  

So there you go.  But in talking to the stallion owner, I learned that he was nominated to a futurity program.  The idea being that if the resulting foal was nominated in-utero, it would be eligible to enter this competition and be eligible for payback money.  I was able to purchase the auction breeding (more selective and more potential money to win) and off we went.

Let's fast forward a little.  The filly was born and husband and I still wanted to go to this futurity.

Only problem is I had never even shown a horse in halter.  Ever.

OK, step one.  Found a halter trainer.  Her trainer was kind and focused a lot more on showing sport horses in hand which is cool because really, while I wanted to show at this futurity, I didn't want a horse that would just stand and quiver whenever a whip was present.

OK, at least the horse was getting trained.

My husband went ahead and decided to show her at a schooling show for experience.  He is pretty proud of the fact that he beat other horses, including a young child.  He had actually never even seen a halter class until he showed up that day.  Goof ball.

We packed up the yearling filly, the equipment, and headed out an epic journey.  Unfortunately, the trainer had a conflict so it was just going to be us.  Oh geeze.

You know normal people work on going to schooling shows first and then do say, you know major events later in their career.  I apparently decided to do things backwards.

We survived.  We had good compliments and a few people were very surprised on her breeding as she is bred to be quite an athlete, not just primarily "pretty".  ;)  

I was happy to get through it with the help of a very kind gate keeper and ring steward.  The judges were pretty cool too.  The thing is I am hard of hearing and I didn't realize how much you truly do have to hear to even stand a horse up in the arena, let alone a major event with online streaming and international attention.  So, in a hobbled together kind of way, we made it work.  :)  I didn't place, but it was a very large, very deep class with major money horses.  It also lasted forever, or so it seemed.  I think it was about an hour or so. 

So there you go.  That was my first show and class ever.  I survived, horse survived, and it makes for a good story. 

We did end up showing in another halter class and won.  OK, so we were the only entries...but hey, we were still there! 

How about everyone else?  How did your first show go? 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Genetic Disorders

I am a bit of a nerd.  I have always enjoyed reading and learning and as a young teenager, I began stumbling upon the building blocks of genetics in science.  I immediately delved into equine color genetics and genetic disorders.

As I familiarized myself with such studies, I was asked time and time again by fellow equine hobbyists why it was worth my time or effort as I wasn't a breeder.

Color genetics perhaps, but I think all horse people should have a basic idea of equine genetic disorders, how they occur, what it means, how it is genetically transferred, and so forth.

But if you just have a performance horse or a pasture pet why should it matter?

Sadly, I have seen horses with genetic disorders stripped of papers and sold.  HYPP +/- stallions bred to grade horses with no information to the mare owners on what can occur.

Even the best intentioned person could be enjoying their young horse and then notice something isn't quite right later on.

There are quite a few well known genetic disorders:
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency
Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis
Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia
Overo Lethal White Syndrome

Some not as well known

Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency
Hoof Wall Separation Syndrome
Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome
Fell Foal Syndrome

And so forth.

One recent genetic disorder that came across my lap recently was hoof wall separation syndrome (HWSS).  It is believed to be an autosomal recessive trait. 

What does "autosomal recessive" mean?

Autosomal means a gene that is located on an autosome, which is a chromosome that doesn't determine gender.  In a simplistic view of things, there are two parking "spots" for genes at each location (loci).  

A dominant autosomal gene would be on the autosome, but you would only need one "defective" copy of the gene in that loci to be afflicted with the disorder.  An autosomal recessive requires both loci to have defective copies.

So with HWSS, perfectly normal Connemara ponies were having offspring with these tragic feet.

But I have to give kudos to Connemara people.  It has been acknowledged that this is a genetic issue.  Funding is being done for further research at UC Davis.  

A blog for people communicating about HWSS is set up with information and stories from breeders.

Be warned that some of the stories are quite sad though.

But still why should someone care?  

I guarantee you that this is just not limited to Connemara horses.  Connemara crossbreds are popular, handy little horses.  This crossbreds, if excellent examples, are often bred on which is fine by me.

However, for that person buying that young event prospect out of the field and there is a little toe chipping off on that nice pony cross, it may be worth keeping this in mind.  Possibly nothing, but with education, additional heartbreak can be prevented.

For the breeder that doesn't know why so many young horses have "white line disease", perhaps the knowledgeable barn friend or farrier could pass this along.

They are looking for more examples of unaffected and affected Connemara ponies to pinpoint down the exact location of this genetic defect in the genome.  Once this is done, a test can be developed.  

Knowledge is key.  I think knowing a basis of equine genetic disorders is a good piece of knowledge to have, right next to saddle fitting and nutrition. How about you?  Any genetic disorders that you are familiar with?  Any personal stories?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Miss my goofy little mare.

But on a good note, the little filly who has had issues the past week or so stocking up finally reverted from old-war-horse looking legs to normal, filly sized, extra frozen tundra furry legs.  Progress is great.

Plus, it's now above zero, so look out ponies.  Time to go back to work tomorrow.  I have never been so excited to see a couple degrees above zero in my life when I peeked at the temperatures this afternoon.  By the time I got out of work, it was twenty degrees.  :)  

How about you guys?  Anyone else have a mini vacation during this polar vortex? 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Memory Monday: Riding Aside

I have had the luck of meeting some cool people on the internet.  When I was in university, I took a leap and packed my bags and headed to Nova Scotia to visit some horsewomen I had just known online.

It was pretty cool.

Up until that point, I had solely been exposed to western riding, riding bareback, and generally, I could stay on pretty much anything with four legs.  Through this group of savvy, helpful women I began learning about other disciplines and cool horsey things they did, like driving, barrel racing, dressage, hunter/jumper, and riding sidesaddle.

One beautiful farm I visited had some wonderful Morgans.

My photo doesn't do this handsome fellow justice
In typical Morgan fashion, these plucky little equines did a lot of everything.  I was offered and had the chance to ride sidesaddle.  

This was a big leap for me.  I didn't ride any sort of English discipline, but I was game.

Look at that look of intensity.  

OK, much less intense here.  Much more clueless.
What a fun experience.  It made me far more acutely aware of balance.  I also realized why people often carry a whip in the offside hand too.  This poor sweet little gelding kept drifting right.  Oops, guess I should be more aware of that left leg, but with the crop and some instruction we figured things out.

I would love to own a sidesaddle horse someday! 

How about everyone else?  Anyone ever try riding sidesaddle?  Or what's the most "different" discipline that you've done?

As for the rest of the trip, I had a great time.  So great, that I went back and would love to go back again.  Too bad, I have more of a clue this time around how to ride some of these great horses properly this time.

I also blame this trip for bringing the idea of switching to English up in my brain.  Definitely not a negative thing and I have no regrets!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Five Reasons I Love Boarding with Other People

I am only human (go figure) and occasionally get frustrated in the fashion others approach situations.

But I wanted to be positive today, so here we go.

Five Reasons I Love Boarding with Other People

1.  Collective wisdom.  Have that nagging feeling about a subtle lameness?  Instant people to help watch, check, or even video so I can see.  Want to know if those breeches really do look weird, since my husband would only admit that under oath of certain death.

2.  Motivation.  I find it much more palatable to be out riding at the barn at an unholy hour in the morning to beat the summer heat or even to go out to the barn when it's incredibly unpleasant if I am meeting up and riding with someone else.

3.  Ability to have group lessons.  I enjoy being able to visualize how others process information and how it affects his or her horse.  Plus the whole group lessons are cheaper thing.  ;)

4.  Helpful eyes.  More people in and out to notice if my horse is laying down or acting abnormal.  Horse have a remarkable way of getting into trouble and short of putting a camera on them 24/7, more eyes is quite helpful.

5.  Social outlet.  Talking horses at work isn't exactly a popular topic and anytime I mention horses to my husband I think he sees the bank account dwindling, so I try and enjoy using the barn folks as my social horsey outlet.  Let's share horsey news, grieve over sad horse related things, and so forth.  Granted, the internet has been a fantastic medium for this as well, but local news is also important and interesting.

So there you go.  Do you board?  Enjoy aspects of having other people around?  Or do you have horses at home and enjoy solitude?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Rewind A Little

The Holidays were a little insane in my world.  Not so much because I was out and about doing holiday things like drinking egg nog, but rather because I was working an insane amount of overtime.

So, I wanted to rewind a little and catch up on some cool horsey things I did and failed to mention since by the time I get home, I just pass out instead of blogging.  Shame I know.  Blogging first, then REM sleep right?

I went to go visit J and that sweet rescued mare Love.  I always forget what an incredible joy it is to ride a well broke, made horse.  I just briefly rode her and worked on canter striding over ground poles, but still a great feeling.  Plus, she is so incredibly smooth that I am happy as a lark.  Or any other random bird.

Love a little Love!

I had a chance to go and take photos of my friend's beautiful horses.  Both are some awesome western/reining horses, but they certainly don't look that way when out in the snow.

This is really a reining horse. 
I rode another friend's horse at the same barn.  He is a nephew to one of my favorite horse's ever (Alex) who is frequently mentioned in this blog.  Just like his uncle, he moves quite similar.  Hate to say it, but breeding tells.

Rode my semi feral mare a few times.  It's been so cold that I have been focusing on extended warm ups and doing more bending and counterbending, just at the walk.

The whole subzero/frozen tundra thing is kind of putting a damper on riding frequently.

The semi feral filly has been the recent problem child and has been very stocked up on three of her four legs.  Good thing she only has four legs to stock up.  Anyway, she's been on a regiment of forced exercise and banamine.  At least it doesn't look like I am dealing with anything more serious like cellulitis, but the whole exercise/banamine thing does get a little tedious when it's so pathetically frozen here.

So I have taken up just running around the arena with my horse.  Last night she hid behind the shavings pile in the corner.  I am not sure if she didn't want to trot around anymore or if she didn't want to be seen with the lunatic.

Probably a little of both.

So that's the skinny for the last two missing weeks!  Anyone else do anything fun and exciting while I've been on hiatus?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: Onwards and Upwards

Looking towards the future

Those experts in the know always say to set goals, write them down, check back in on the progress, and to keep moving forward.

So, this year I am going to try and materialize some of my goals and hold myself accountable.  I find it easy to put things off, get distracted, get frustrated, and to eventually lose sight of where I need to go.

So here I go.  Some may seem incredibly simplistic, but I need to have attainable steps to work towards and complete.

2014 Goals:

1.  Comfortably and correctly bend and counterbend the mare both directions.  

2.  Ride at least three times a week, weather permitting.  

3.  Work on my personal fitness two times a week, mixing aerobic, core strength, and weight activity.

4.  Have a correct leg yield by the mare without tension and excess baggage.

5.  Take the semi feral mare to another schooling show.  Bonus points for completely said tests and staying inside the ring.

6.  Start the filly under saddle or harness.  

7.  Work the filly up to a point of acceptable physical fitness to build her topline and stamina.

8.  Work on handling that tricky left ear on the filly.

9.  Be able to clip ears.  Bonus if it's without sedation.

10.  Learn to clip the horses so it looks less like ran-over-with-a-lawnmower and more like proper pretty pretty pony.

11.  Learn to do a running braid.

12.  Show the filly in hand in a bridle.  Probably the first part of this goal is to put said filly in a bridle, before the show part.

13.  Consistantly learn to not drop my inside rein.

And lucky goal number 14 for 2014 is:

14.  Learn to push a little more and quit the impulse to pull a horse.  Back to front should be 2014's motto.  

So wish me luck!  Feel free to share your goals in the comments or a link to your blog post with your goals.