Farewell, 2008 - and don't let the screen hit you as you go out the door

the last day of 2008 - finally. What kind of a year was it? The kind you never want to live through again. Just for starters...

National - 

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 13:  Executive Vice Pres...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Photo - Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer for JPMorgan Chase Barry Zubrow speaks during a hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill November 13, 2008 in Washington, DC.

What can I say? Total collapse of the economy seems to say it all. It's not  just the collapse, but the reason for the meltdown that really fries my eggs. All those so called financial experts investing millions, no billions, in instruments backed by, well, nothing. And never even checking to see what the basket into which they were pouring all of their eggs was made of. "Sub-prime mortages" - meaning a person who doesn't even have a job being allowed to take out a mortage - that's what they were made of. As I said, nothing.

Bedrock financial institutions going under, millions of jobs and homes lost... enough.

Then we endured the Election That Lasted a Hundred Years. Even though the election did turn out the way I wanted it to, I can't remember another election as nerve wracking, muck raking and downright infuriating as this one. John McCain, a man I used to admire, demonstrated that he would do absolutely anything to win, including nominate Sarah Palin - about whom the less said the better - as his VP. Can we sink lower next time? I don't even want to know.

Here On The Farm -

We're all still alive, so I guess I should be grateful for that, but otherwise, it hasn't been the best of years. Last January, Mike came down with shingles on his back, chest and down his left arm. He didn't end up with postherpatic neuralgia - for which we are profoundly grateful - but he felt absolutely awful for over a month, and still his a tingling sensation down his arm.

As I posted earlier, Ami developed a laminitis flare up on the clover hay we got this year, and we had to take her completely off it and buy some grass hay. She seemed fine, but she is having real problems on the frozen ground now, and we suspect that her feet were compromised in some way from the earlier episode with the hay.

Also, we still have a barnfull of the clover hay - that we can't even feed Indy because he gains weight overnight on that stuff - and are scrounging to find quality grass hay to get us over the winter.

Matt was here Monday to put a pair of "glue shoes" on her front feet, but both his tubes of adhesive - $25 each - burst their containers when he tried to pump some out. He had to make do with something else until he could get more. He was quite concerned with the additional damage to Ami's front feet that he could see, so we're doing the best we can until he can get more adhesive, and hopefully allow her feet to heal. Ami seems to be feeling better even with the lesser pad he put on her, so we're just hoping for the best. That girl and her feet worry me to death! It didn't help that this December had some bitter cold that we don't usually have until January.

Just to end the year with a real bang, a few days before Christmas I woke up with a killer headache on just the right side of my head. My right eye was very irritated and felt like something was in it. The headache got better during the day, but my eye did not. The next day, the headache was back full force, but the eye seemed better by afternoon. The third day, both the headache and the eye were awful, and we'd had an ice storm overnight.

I could hardly make it to the barn - my head was bursting and my eye was tearing severely. Trees were snapping and breaking all over the place - it sounded like we were in a war zone. Then the power went out. I ask you now, can things be more perfect? Oh yeah.

To make a very long story short, it was indeed shingles on my face, in my hair and in my right eye. This is no small matter, because one can lose an eye to this abominable disease and/or develop postherpatic neuropothy that can last for years or forever. I'm under the care of an ophthalmologist, whom I will see again Monday. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, I can only go out during the warmest part of the day to see the horses because the rash and headache are very cold sensitive. Below 20 degrees or so is murder. Gotta love it.

Happy 2009, everyone...

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Falling Back

If there is one day in the year that I can single out to be consistently depressing, it's the Sunday we go off daylight savings time. On Saturday it's sunny at 6:00 in the evening; on Sunday it's too dark to see at 6:00 in the evening. To me, it's awful.

This year, that Sunday was a nice day - the first in a while - and Indy and I did get in a ride. But, geez, it got so dark so quickly that we had to cut it pretty short. What a bummer. Indy seemed as disappointed as I was. We haven't had a chance to ride since then either, and it's very possible we won't get to ride again until spring. How dismal is that?

We haven't had any bitter cold - yet - but it's been cold and/or windy/rainy/snowy just about every day. The ground is squishy and torn up, so when it does freeze it will be hard as a rock with as many craters as the Moon. Just like last year. Oh, goody.

Of course there's never a dull moment with Indy around, under saddle or otherwise. For instance...

As Mike and I were going to the barn one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I noticed Indy munching the grass along the fence line. He certainly was enjoying himself with those big mouthfuls of green grass. Wait a minute! There's no grass like that along the fence in the paddock! Right. Indy was eating the grass on the outside of the fence, stretching his neck over the top of the fence as pretty as you please. This fence has a hot wire across the top, but we had shut it off while we were replacing part of it and hadn't turned it back on yet. It had been off for weeks, but Mr. Smarty Pants had finally figured that out and was munching while the munching was good.

So, of course Mike and I had to drop everything and get the fences hooked up again before Mr. Troublemaker pushed to old part completely down. Indy looked SO disappointed when he realized the top wire was hot again. Sigh. Sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do.

Another problem we've had this season is all that clover that was in the field last summer - which is now in our hay of course. We had to take them off our hay because Ami was having serious problems with her laminitis flaring up, and both of them were gaining weight so rapidly that they seemed to get bigger by the day. Great.

It's hard to find good grass hay around here. We have a round bale that Joe took of our back field that's good grass, but it's not gonna get us through the winter even if the guys are on a diet. We are still using a bit of our "candy" hay - for desert? - but not much. Ami is doing fine now, and Matt was just here and said her feet look good again, so we have to be careful with the clover to make sure they stay thay way.

Then there was Indy's foot - left fore to be exact. I'd noticed a small crack in the front part of the quarters and what appeared to be a flare developing between that point and he heel. When Matt picked up the foot, he said, "There's your flare," as we looked on in amazement - it wasn't the hoof wall that was flaring - it was the entire quarters flaring sideways from a big crack in the sole of Indy's foot! None of us had ever seen anything like it. Matt said he must have hit something really hard - really hard. His sole was fractured and only his bars and buttress were holding the side of his foot on. Matt said, "If his bars and buttress weren't so awesome, he would've lost the whole side of his foot." All that and I don't think Indy even knew anything happened. He's not taken a lame step - whenever it happened or now.

Matt trimmed of the "flare" as much as possible, and the foot looks great. And we just let it grow off. I just wish I knew that in the world he could have hit to hard as to do that to his foot. At least it's not bothering him.....

Here it is almost December, and the guys are still confined to the paddock. We are still having cold nights, but warm(er) and sunny days - today for instance is sunny and expected to hit 48 after a low of 19 overnight. So, all that green grass out there is madly making fructose while the sun shines. Ami would come up sore after one hour on that stuff. Sooner or later they always get out there, but his year may be later than sooner.

One more piece of news - I was reading one of my many horse magazines, and in the grooming section they suggested using a doggie slicker brush on thick winter coats - carefully of course. It sounded like a reasonable idea, so I tried it. Indy loves it, naturally; Ami hates it, naturally. Too bad she doesn't like it because it's lots easier on me than a curry, and it really gets through that thick hair. At least I can use it on him, and he's the one that wants to be groomed endlessly anyway. LOL!

It turned out to be pretty decent today despite the morning low of 19 degrees. Tomorrow night however, we're supposed to start getting snow lasting through Monday. We are under a winter storm watch from Sunday afternoon until Monday evening. Indy - the world's foremost Snow Man - says, "It's about time!"

As long as he's happy.....

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Equid Emotions and Laterality: Is there a Connection?

This is going to be an interesting thing to check out.

clipped from www.thehorse.com
Does your horse give "dirty" looks? Rather than trying to read his expression, you might be able get some clues about how your horse really feels about objects by paying attention to which eye he uses to observe them. French behaviorists reported that horses explore and process information about various objects differently, depending on the emotional importance of the item.

According to co-author Martine Hausberger, PhD, director of research at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique at the University of Rennes in France, "In the past few years, researchers have suggested that a link exists between a lateralized response and emotions in animals."
Read the entire article at http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=12599

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Debate over horse meat gains new life - U.S. news- msnbc.com

Horses being transported to slaughter at a now-defunct Texas plant.

The Animal Welfare Institute says these horses, including one with cut and swollen eyes, were among animals being transported to slaughter at a now-defunct Texas plant. Such cases illustrate the inhumane treatment of many horses destined for the meat market, the group says.
Dixie Wilson / ARTEX

Mike Stuckey
Senior news editor

The emotional debate over slaughtering horses for human consumption gained new life in Washington this week as a House committee approved a measure that would ban the practice nationwide and halt the export of U.S. horses destined for dinner tables in other countries.

While it’s unclear whether the Judiciary Committee’s Tuesday approval of the slaughter ban will lead to passage by the full House and Senate before the clock runs out on the current session of Congress, the panel’s hearings refocused attention on an issue that has motivated animal-welfare groups for years.

Horse meat in package, bought in a Dutch supermarketImage via WikipediaOutraged by what they say is cruel treatment of horses sold for meat, the groups already have succeeded at forcing closure of the three remaining U.S. horse slaughterhouses — two in Texas and one in Illinois — in recent years. But since thousands of horses are still exported for slaughter in Canada and Mexico, and many states have no laws that would prohibit the opening of new plants, the groups have been seeking federal regulation since 2001.

“There’s absolutely no way to make it humane,” said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute, one of the ban’s principal backers. “It’s an industry that cannot be regulated to make it humane.”

So the “Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act,” sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of Judiciary, and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., would make it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to possess or transport horse meat for human consumption or horses intended to be slaughtered for human meals.

A necessary option

But opponents of the law, including some cattle ranchers, horse breeders and veterinarians, say that the now-defunct U.S. slaughterhouses, regulated and inspected by the Department of Agriculture, were run in a humane fashion and provided a necessary option to deal with unwanted horses.

“From a welfare perspective, they’ve made things a lot worse,” said Mark Lutschaunig, director of governmental relations for the American Veterinary Medicine Association, which represents 76,000 U.S. vets. Lutschaunig said his group is hearing reports of a sharp increase in cases of horses being neglected and abandoned by owners who can no longer sell them at auction for slaughter.

Despite the fact that horse meat is widely eaten by Europeans and Asians, the vast majority of Americans have no interest in taking a bite out of Old Paint. Since no U.S. horses are raised for that purpose, they only come to the meat market as castoffs: old, sick, too unruly to ride or genetically deficient. Because horses are not regulated as meat animals, Heyde said, the process by which they are slaughtered is fraught with cruelty.

About 100,000 American horses are exported for slaughter in Mexico and Canada each year, roughly the same number as when the U.S. slaughterhouses were operating. There are about 9 million horses in the United States, according to federal estimates.

Harrowing stories, images

Web sites maintained by Heyde’s group and others contain harrowing accounts, photos and videos of horses being transported to the slaughterhouses. “Deprived of food, water or rest, the horses are forced onto double-decked cattle trailers” and hauled for 24 hours or more, according to the Animal Welfare Institute’s site. “Callous workers use fiberglass rods to poke and beat their faces, necks, backs and legs.” At one plant in Mexico, horses are “stabbed repeatedly” with knives in “a barbaric practice (that) simply paralyzes the animal. The horse is still fully conscious at the start of the slaughter process, during which he or she is hung by a hind leg, his or her throat slit and body butchered,” it says.

CONTINUED - page 2

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The First Day of FALL! What Happened To SUMMER?

Okay, I know I say this every fall, but dang it, fall and winter pass SO much more slowly than spring and summer. Hopefully we will have a nice "Indian summer" this year so Indy and I can make some more progress.

We did have a nice ride a couple of days ago. It was longer than usual, and he was higher than I think I've ever seen him. Maybe it was just getting out to the grass, because I know he's really hungry - more about this later - or possibly it was the adjustments I made to his sidepull - I raised the noseband because it looked too low, but he didn't seem to like that at all. So, it was a bit more of a ride than usual in addition to being longer.

It all pointed up how out of shape I am. Indy was fine, but the muscles in my legs were - and still are - really sore, with my arms and hands a bit of a problem as well. I readjusted the sidepull, but I think I'll do some more ground work, possibly with the bit, to get him a little lighter. I just hope, like I said, that the weather will give us a break.

The reason I knew Indy was really hungry was because we've had to cut down on their ration of hay - again. I've mentioned that we had a lot of clover this year, and they have already started gaining weight from our hay! Dang! They were already on a diet, and we've cut them back as much as we feel like we can. And needless to say, we never feed grain or any other concentrates.

If we have as much clover next year, we're just going to have to kill it out. These two just can't handle the calories, and they need to be able to have at least enough hay to keep their digestive systems healthy without getting obese. It's no fun being an easy keeper, as I know from experience. I was always an easy keeper myself, gaining weight on a claorie count that most people would have lost weight with.

Since my muscles are much to sore to try to ride - or even do ground work yet - I've just been grooming. But - I'm having no end of problems with one of our half grown barn kittens. I named her Terror when she was just a baby, little knowing how well that name would fit her. Oh, she's very friendly. In fact, that's the problem. She won't leave me alone while I'm trying to work on the horses.

She's incredibly persistent - if I try to ignore her she will leap from the stall rail half way across the stall, landing on my neck. Needless to say, this can be quite a shock. It also can be quite painful when her little claws dig into my skin, protected only by a thin shirt. At least Indy doesn't spook when I scream into his ear.

If Terror isn't launching herself onto my back, she's wandering around the stall under Indy's feet. As one can imagine, this is most distracting. She is such a sweet kitty, and I love her dearly, but if she doesn't lose interest in this game pretty soon I'm not sure what I'm gonna do with the little demon. Oops! My bad - Demon is another pesky little half grown kitty that's always under foot.....


Groups Working to Rescue Stranded Galveston Horses

by: Erin Ryder, TheHorse.com News Editor
September 16 2008, Article # 12704

While most residents fled the island of Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Ike approached amid National Weather Service warnings of "certain death," numerous horses and other livestock were left behind. Now rescuers are working to get the surviving animals to safety on the mainland, where a staging area for horses has been set up at Jack Brooks Park in Santa Fe, Texas.

Jerry Finch, president of Habitat for Horses, an equine protection organization based in Galveston County, is assisting in this effort. As of the evening of Sept. 15, crews were just beginning to assess the damage and see to equine needs. Finch's team covered a portion of West Galveston.

"I just went down basically to do an assessment, and there are a bunch of (horses) down there," Finch reported. "There are probably at this point 80 to 100 horses that we're going to have to pull out, in just the little section that we saw."

Finch reported the Galveston flooding was reminiscent of the plight of Plaquemines Parish, La., after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "The water (in Galveston) got 8 to 10 feet deep, so these horses had to swim out of whatever pastures they were in," Finch reported.

"For those that had to leave their animals, if we can find them we'll take care of them," Finch added. "We're horse people, but the livestock's important to us, too," he said of the stranded cattle that have been spotted in the region. "We'll do whatever we can do to make sure everybody's taken care of."

Finch said horse owners can assist in the rescue in two ways: They can donate time or money. Volunteers will be needed to help care for animals at the staging area. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Habitat for Horses at 866/434-5737. Finch said cash donations are most useful to the group. Donations can be made via the Web site, Habitatforhorses.org, or mailed.

Damage at the Habitat for Horses ranch in Galveston County.

"With money we can buy the things we really need," Finch explained. "So many people donated things in Katrina that we just never really needed. We need the money to buy the necessities, to pay the vets, to buy the hay."

Aside from the rescue operation under way, another concern is the Habitat for Horses' own primary facility, located on 27 acres in Galveston County. That ranch is home to around 50 animals. Finch described it as "in shambles. But the horses are okay. That was our biggest thing. As long as the horses are okay, we can handle it. We had a brand new barn, operating room facility, everything else, and it no longer has a roof. The sheds and storage are gone. But that's physical stuff--let's take care of the horses first, then we'll take care of (the rest of) it."

Other groups, including the Texas Animal Health Commission, members of a National Veterinary Response Team, USDA Veterinary Services, and the Texas State Animal Resource Team, are also working on the scene. Find contact information for these groups and other resources at "Hurricane Recovery: Contacts for Texas Livestock Owners, Rescue Crews."

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Storm Warning

Galveston contains many restored Victorian homes.Image via Wikipedia

Ike has passed on by, and I guess Galveston is still there - part of it anyway. If you've never been to Galveston you can't truly appreciate what's been lost. Galveston is/was a lovely city. I'd love to live there if it weren't for the hurricanes.

I'm sure it will be pouring rain in my home town of Dallas as well. There will be street floodings, but it will still be nothing like Galveston. I was still living in Dallas in the 1960s when Carla hit about the same area. It seemed it would never stop raining in Dallas that time.

We here in Indiana had some heavy rain and gusty wind from the remains of Ike yesterday afternoon. We could have used the rain a couple of weeks ago. Now, it's too late to help the farmers, and the yields of soybeans and corn will likely be hurt from the weeks of no rain we had. Well, as far as us personally, we weren't planning on a third cutting of hay anyway - good thing because there isn't going to be one - and this rain will perk up the grass enough so that Indy and Ami will have something to nibble on over the winter.

Since this post is pretty much off topic anyway, I might as well get into deeper water - no pun intended, believe me. It's just that I have a rule to keep politics off this blog. It's totally off topic here. This blog is about Indy, and he's about the most apolitical being I know.

Actually, I'm apolitical myself. As a somewhat conservative independent, I usually don't want to have to admit I voted for either of the bozos that are on the presidential ticket. Over the years though I've tended toward the Republican party because of my conservative leanings.  But, things have changed.......

In recent years - and especially under George W. Bush - the Republicans have begun pandering to a sliver of a sliver of religious extreemests who want to turn our country into a Theocracy - their Theoracy of course - and then take us back to the Dark Ages by declaring war on the basic tenets of virtually all branches of science in favor of their particular version of the creation story. I find this terrifying.

In spite of these strong misgivings, I was at least considering McCain until he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate and then started well, lying about practically everything.

For McCain to choose Palin after accusing Obama of being inexperienced would be funny if it weren't so serious. It was especially incumbent upon McCain to choose a running mate who would be able to run the country in his absence because, let's face it, McCain is 71 years old plus having had a run in with an extremely virulent form of cancer. Like it or not, he's much more vulnerable than Obama in this regard.

If McCain chose Palin because he honestly thinks she is a good choice, this throws his judgment in  serious doubt. If he chose her because he thought she could grab votes that he otherwise would not have gotten, this throws even more serious doubt on his integrity. I'm really sorry to have to say this, but the truth is the truth. As far as I'm concerned, a McCain/Palin victory is unthinkable.

Even if I agreed with her views - which I do not - I would still realize that she absolutely cannot be ready to take over the most important, most difficult, most complicated job in the world. It's simply not possible.

Besides, as I said earlier, I've lost all faith in John McCain. I had previously thought that probably either one of them could handle the job, come right down to it. Now?

I plan to do everything in my power to see to it that Barack Obama is our next President. 

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Report From The Zoo

Thought I should check in to report progress - or rather, the lack thereof. A couple of days ago I was feeling much better, but during the night on Wednesday, I started hurting again. The muscles in my ribcage feel as bad as they did a week ago, and I have no idea of what I might have done to reinjure them. To say I feel totally bummed would be the understatement of the year.

Still, I try to keep my spirits up as best I can, and there certainly is never a dull moment around here. I'm not sure if the flooding we had around here in the spring had anything to do with it, but we are seeing sights we never saw before.

I mean, the deer have always come around, but now they are grazing in the back yard! And not just occasionally either. On Wednesday morning about 5:00 AM - as it was just getting light - I happened to look out and there was a buck with a rack grazing just this side of the paddock fence. Unfortunately, it was still too dark to attempt a picture, but I could clearly make out the antlers even if I couldn't quite count the points.

As I watched in rapt attention, I noticed movement on the other side of the hay feeder - which is just on the other side of the fence from the deer. It was Indy, contenedly munching some scraps of hay off the ground while the buck continued to graze. They were quite aware of each other and couldn't have cared less. Not only that, there were cats all over the place - as usual - and they didn't care either. Just one big, happy family.

A few weeks ago I saw something in the field that I didn't recognize. With the help of some binoculars, Mike and I determined that it was a fox - something we hadn't seen here before. Later, we realized it wasn't a fox - it was an entire family. We saw both parents frolickinig in the field with several cubs. Again, neither Indy nor Ami glanced at them twice, so I'm sure they weren't a new sight for them.

The last time I rode Indy, the Fox Family was again romping in the field - while we were riding there too - and I don't think Indy even glanced at them. While I was certainly glad Indy accepted our new "neighbors" I was worried about the barn cats, especially the very small kittens.

That concern seemed to be settled just a few days later. It was at dusk when Mike and I saw both adult foxes up by the front door of the barn - the very place where the kittens like to gather and play. The foxes were strolling around checking things out, the kittens were running and playing, and cats and foxes were totally ignoring each other. I know coyotes will kill cats, but appearently foxes very seldom will attack cats, even kittens. Around here, I'm sure the foxes have more than enough to eat without risking the wrath of a momma cat that's almost as big as they are!

Then, there was the turtle. This guy had a shell larger than a dinner plate, and he (she?) was moseying purposefully across the back yard, totally oblivious to the crowd of curious cats around him. We've seen him about three times, always in a different part of the yard.

Well, well. I took some time off from typing this and watched the news, They had a story about tagging turtles for some study or another, but it seems they were leading the people - including the police by now - to patches of marajuna! Seems turtles love the stuff. Who knew? Marajuna sniffing Police Turtles!

Honestly, I've never smoked a joint in my life, but I'm about ready to try anything. Now, where is that darn turtle...


What Is WRONG With People?

If you show in the Big Time, and you have a trainer who does everything with your horse except sit on his back in the ring, please, please click on this link. Even if you don't show and/or have a trainer, please check this out anyway. I thought the physical hazards - not to mention ethical considerations - of tail blocking were well known, but I guess not...

The Horse: Tail Blocking Gone Wrong

Okay, did you read the article? Those people were paying the trainer to do that to their horse without having a clue as to what it actually involved. My God! There is no excuse. And how about that brat of a kid who was pissed off because she "worked so hard" to get where she was and it was all "taken from her." Taken from her? What about her horse? He's lucky to be alive and not permanently paralyzed. Does this kid give a shit? NO. It's all about her. If she were my kid, she'd never have another living thing to abuse and neglect, but the parents don't have a clue either. GEEZ!

Okay, say you don't show Quarter Horses where the tails have to hang like they were dead to get pinned. How about Tennessee Walkers that do the "Big Lick"? Want to make a little wager as to how many of those horses are doing this grotesque gait because they're sore? What say? Soring doesn't go on any more? Why then at a recent show where USDA inspectors were on hand with sophisticated equipment to test for soring, did so many exhibitors leave without even unloading their horses? So many left that they hardly had enough to go on with a show. What would you do if your trainer elected to not show your horse rather than submit him to a USDA check? Would you do anything?

As a Morgan owner myself, I know how most Morgans carry their tails - jaunty and away from their body, even at the walk. But, that's not good enough for Big Time Showing. Oh no, you need to stick some ginger up their butts so they'll really high tail it. And this is legal! If you think this practice is okay, drop by sometime and I'll teach you first hand how it feels.

I'm only hitting the high (!) spots in regards to what goes on in the world of Big Time Showing. Of course there's all the infamous politics that's always present. But, you know what? I don't give a damn about all that. If the exhibitors feel abused, stop showing. They have that choice. The horses have no choice, and the abuse that they are forced to endure is all that concerns me.

But, "everybody's doing it" and "that's what it takes to win" Holy CRAP! What kind of reasons are those? If you think winning is an excuse for abuse, you don't deserve to own a pet rock, let alone a horse. What is WRONG with people?!

Oh yeah - it's the trainer's fault for doing anything that they believe will give them an advantage.. It's the judge's fault for pinning such ridiculous idiocy. It's, it's - YOUR fault. If you own such a horse, the buck stops with you.

There is plenty of culpability to go around in this sorry mess -

Why would any judge even consider, let alone prefer, a horse that was doing things so unnatural as to virtually require artificial/abusive "training" methods. These horses should be dismissed from the ring, not pinned for God's sake!

Why would a trainer do these things - other than to win at all costs of course. Oh, but they have to to win, and they are paid to win by owners like the ones in the story - ignoramuses who don't care enough to educate themselves about what their trainers are doing to their horses in order to give them those wins.

My greatest Why however - and my greatest contempt - is directed at the owners of these horses. Why would an owner allow this to happen? Why would they not educate themselves about what their trainers are really doing to their horses and what the consequences might be? And, most importantly, why would they put the glory of winning ahead of the welfare of their horse? At least the trainers can claim economic necessity, weak argument though that is. The owners are willing to sacrifice their horse's well being and possibly his very life, for a worthless ribbon!

You know who you are. What the freaking hell is WRONG with you?


Animal Welfare Institute and National Black Farmers Association Launch “Project Wanted Horse”

In response to the current unwanted horses discussion, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) recently launched a national partnership aimed at helping American horses in need by finding them homes on farms operated by NBFA members.
The “Project Wanted Horse” partnership comes as Congress considers the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The project, say the organizers, disproves bill opponents’ arguments that the campaign to end horse slaughter has resulted in a glut of unwanted horses in the United States and that slaughter is therefore necessary.

“One of the horse slaughter industry’s main arguments is that these horses are unwanted and have no homes to go to. Today, we’re standing up and standing together to demonstrate that this is simply untrue,” said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute, in a press release. “The coming together of our national organizations sends a significant message that these horses are valued and wanted.”

“Project Wanted Horse” places horses that would ordinarily go to slaughter on the farms operated by NBFA’s 94,000 members. The Animal Welfare Institute will oversee the placement of horses with NBFA members. Each placed animal will be accompanied by a legally binding contract ensuring quality lifetime care and that they will not be resold to slaughter. However, the organizers note that “Project Wanted Horse” is not intended to be a dumping ground for those horses.

Congress is currently considering the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 311/ H.R. 503), which would outlaw the transportation of horses either domestically or internationally for slaughter. The legislation is sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.).

The National Black Farmers Association is a non-profit, community organization founded in February of 1995, by John Boyd, Jr., of Baskerville, Virginia, a third generation farmer. The organization represents African American farmers in regulatory and legal matters.
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Severe Congenital Reactive Equine Abscence Melancholia

If you're a horse person, you know this dreadful disease all too well. And here I am, a week and a half since my tumble, and talk about suffering! This has to be the worst case of SCREAM I've ever had. To say I'm miserable would be a serious understatement...

Not only am I in constant physical pain, I'm in even worse psychological pain due to this dreaded affliction. It doesn't help matters that it's been almost impossible for me to get any sleep because of the excruciating muscle spasms in my ribs. I haven 't dared even try to visit the barn for fear of something happening that will prolong this agony and keep me away from my horses even longer.

In fact, today is the first day I've felt significantly better - not great or normal, but at least better. That makes me feel a little more optimistic, because believe me, I'm ready to totally freak.

I am lucky that I can see Indy and Ami out the kitchen window, and that's certainly better than nothing, but it's not enough. As I'm sure my fellow SCREAM suffers know, seeing is just not enough. You gotta touch and smell. You gotta have horse hair and horse sweat all over you. You gotta have green slime on your shoulder... I have to stop - I'm driving myself crazy! I need and Indy-hug. I need to be snorted on..... Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

Please excuse that outburst. I better stop now...
Zemanta Pixie


On Great Horses Saddled With Lop-Sided Riders

I did it again. After a lovely half hour ride last Sunday afternoon - with an equally super half hour on Saturday - Indy was standing quietly while I thought about what to do in the last couple of minutes before I went back in, when he got stung on the belly by something and bounced once - mostly out of sheer surprise - I and went sliding off to the left, as usual, bruising my ribs, as usual. Heck, Indy didn't even go anywhere. He was just a few feet away, nibbling grass while he waited to see what I wanted to do next. He looked pretty puzzled, and I don't blame him.

This is a problem that has dogged me from the first day I ever rode down to this. I'm lop-sided. Of course, most people - and horses - are to a certain degree. With people, the right side is usually a bit larger than the left. So it is with me - except it's more than a "bit." It's not the first thing that strikes people about me, certainly - well, unless they glance at my feet and notice that my right pants leg just touches the top on my foot, while the left is sprawled all over my foot to the point of dragging the ground at the heel. Yeah, more than a bit. Even though I'm left handed, my entire right side has always been much larger and stronger than my left. If I wore anything with straps, I was constantly fighting the left one to keep it up on my shoulder.

I just took all this for granted - like, what was I gonna do anyway? - until I started riding, and began noticing the problems my conformation was causing. By the time I realized that, in order to make my stirrups feel even, I was not only sitting off to the left, I was also carrying my right leg ahead of the left one. Beautiful!

To make matters even worse, my right ankle is stiff from a sports injury in high school. It won't flex as much as my left, so that pushes me even more toward the left. I've been riding for over 30 years now, and I can't remember even one spill that wasn't sideways and to the left. No wonder my ribs are fed up to the point of having even a relatively easy fall making them scream bloody murder for days. My body has always insisted - much to my disgust - on carrying 99% of my weight on my hips and thighs, so my ribs have no padding - skin over bone.

Maybe if I'd been working under an instructor instead of basically teaching myself to ride, I could have overcome this - somehow - before it became so ingrained, but then again, I've had years of dressage lessons since those early days they haven't helped one iota. In fact, I don't remember anyone else ever even noticing.

Anyway... it seemed to me even the last few years with DJ that the thing was somehow getting worse. In fact, I was now getting the saddle off the the left - not much, you understand, but enough that I was constantly "hitching" it back to the center of DJ's back. He didn't seem to care, but it was extremely frustrating to me, not to mention making it even easier for me to lose my balance to the left and not be able to recover.

Indy's saddle was a touch off to the left Sunday, but I can't "hitch" it over on him like I did on DJ. Firstly, Indy hates that, and besides, with the Tacky stuff pad liner I use under his saddle, once you have the cinch properly tightened, that sucker ain't gonna hitch over anyway. You get it right the first time, or you get off, loosen the cinch and straighten it - Indy doesn't mind this at all. And, that's exactly what I should have done, but I didn't. Next time...

All this post mortem soul searching can't alter the fact that I'm here at the computer instead of out riding right now, but, I have thought of some things to do that possibly can prevent - or at least tip the odds - this from happening again.

Number one thing is to get some protection for my ribs. I tried a regular "body protector" earlier, and not only did I feel like a was wearing the top half of a space suit, it was catching on my cantle. That darn thing would make me fall. Scratch that. What I have come up with is high impact foam. I was able to get some rectangular pieces which I can make into a rib protector which will be quite comfortable I think, and be quite adequate for the type of riding I do. I have no plans to be taking 5'6" jumps at full gallop.

Also, I'm going to put just a little extra padding on my left stirrup. My stirrups have removable hook/loop pads on them already, and I think I can add just a little more under the left one. It doesn't need much - nothing like a hole or even half a hole on the leathers. That's why I've never been able to adjust my stirrups. Never found anything that wasn't over kill. It's funny how something so small - 1/4 inch, probably even less - can make such a huge difference. Anyone who's ever ridden knows that it sure does though.

What's especially frustrating to me this moment is that Indy was doing so super. Saturday he didn't even think about giving me any static when it came time to come back in the paddock. He just strolled in, stopped where I told him and stood perfectly still while I dismounted. I even closed the gate myself with him standing beside me. He never seemed to consider making a break for the field. He just stood there.

He is also becoming lighter and more responsive to the bridle every ride. He just gets better and better. So, now I don't know how long it will be before the next ride. My ribs are sure not ready yet, and even when they are, there's always the weather. I know Indy won't forget, but I want to RIDE!!!!!!!!!!

Oops, sorry about that... Guess I'd better close for now. My ribs hurt.


Walking Horse Exhibitors Withdraw from Show

I tried and tried to come up with an appropriate comment for this, but words fail me...

clipped from www.thehorse.com

Hundreds of trainers withdrew their horses from competition at a major Tennessee Walking Horse show last weekend after USDA inspectors arrived on the scene to examine horses for violations of the Horse Protection Act.

According to Earl Rogers Jr., president of the Kentucky Walking Horse Association, the four-day Owingsville Lions Club Horse Show drew more than 500 Tennessee Walking Horses, many of them contenders for the breed's championship title at the upcoming National Celebration in August. But the prospect of failing USDA testing brought the competition down to just 40 horses in the show's final two days.

"If they had been found in violation, they would not be able to show at the Celebration," said Rogers, who also manages the Owingsville show.

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Horse Slaughter: A Global View™: Reality check ...


Reality check ...

An unknown off-the-track racehorse slaughtered in the U.S., June 2008. Did you know him?

June 27, 2008 ~ EquusEditorial's work on the racehorse memorials and horse slaughter project returns little joy or encouragement. But today we are shocked and saddened at the truth which had escaped us until now, was so well hidden from us and no doubt from many of you out there.

Where were we? Our head in the clouds? How did we miss it? Maybe we're the only ones who were under the impression that horse slaughter had ended in the United States, with the closure of the three remaining slaughterhouses. Isn't that why the horses are transported now across the Canadian and Mexican borders to be slaughtered? Wasn't our next big hurdle to actually end that transport to once and for all save our horses from the whole tragic ordeal?

The public's focus has been turned to the inhumane slaughter methods outside the more "compassionate" United States. But did you know that it is still legal in most states to slaughter horses for human consumption? As well as for other purposes? We confirmed this with the Humane Society of the United States today, June 26, 2008.

We're not talking about sending dead horses to the rendering plant. We're talking about live horses taken to slaughter. And in the specific case that led us to this truth, we're talking about off-the-track racehorses slaughtered for zoo meat. That is, broken down, injured, abused, neglected, or ill racehorses dropped off by their owners who have taken the cowardly way out. Owners who no longer have need for the animals nor, obviously, any compassion for them. Owners who could not find it in their hearts or their pocketbooks to humanely euthanize the horses instead.

This feels more like the review of a ghastly low-budget horror movie than it does the truth of horse slaughter right here in our own country. We will be working on this story and publishing it in all its shameful facts as soon as possible.

We're giving you this heads-up first, compelled to share how our perception of U.S. horse slaughter has been shattered. The situation is more complex and further from resolution than we had thought, further away from sparing our horses such horror at the hands of humans.

Posted by EquusEditorial at 5:39 AM

The more I think about this, the more ambivalent I find myself becoming. The carnivores in the zoos have to eat something, and feeding deceased horses to zoo animals would be one way of solving the problem that catches so many horse owners off guard: What does on do with a dead horse?


I don't think I would have a problem with my horse being fed to zoo animals after his death. When you think about it, it's no worse than rendering, or even burying - for the worms and whatever else to feast on.

However, this article is not about feeding zoo animals horses that are already dead - it's about slaughtering them specifically for that purpose. Which of course is no more humane than slaughtering them for human consumption. I can't speak for others, but it was never about the human consumption thing for me. It was about how inhumane it is to ship horses in trailers intended for cattle, and to use slaughter practices designed for cattle. 

And, it was - and is - about they type of owner who would do this to a horse instead of spending the money to give their animal a humane death. I have no words to express my opinion of these people. So, we're back to square one, aren't we?

I honestly don't know. There is no way I can support horse slaughter for any purpose until they are guaranteed humane transport, and until slaughter practices are revamped to make them at least reasonably humane for horses. Transportation is the easy part, although many fight giving up the double decker trailers tooth and nail. I realize they are more economical, but even those tall enough for cattle are inherently unstable. I've seen an overturned double decker cattle trailer, and believe me, it was a sight I wish I'd never come across.

Double decker trailers tall enough for horses would be even more subject to accidents, and very unsafe for all concerned. And overhauling the slaughter process to make it humane for horses is even more problematic. Frankly, I don't know if it's even possible to come up with a mass slaughter routine that would be humane for horses, with their high strung nature and powerful flight reaction. 

Even worse, I have a feeling that horses euthanized with narcotics would not be suitable even for other animals to consume. So, how would your vet euthanize a horse in a way that would be humane for the horse, yet leave it acceptable for other animals to consume? I don't have any answers. How I wish I did...



!!!!!!!!!!! RANT ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You were warned....

No, I'm not going to rant about the weather, although I'd love to. But, we have it so much better than millions of others here in the sodden Midwest that I think I'll skip that topic - for now.

Instead I'm going to blow off some steam that's been building up for some time now about Internet Etiquette - or rather the lack thereof. I know the Net has it's own "Netiquette," but there are still some basics that apply everywhere. That is, if you want anyone to pay any attention to your expressed opinions.

Everyone knows about those hypocrites who use the anonymity of the internet to use vile language and express obscene opinions they would never put up there if they had to stand up and take responsibility for them. I just ignore them as well as those slime balls who join a discussion just to cause trouble. They're not worth my time either.

My greatest lack of respect is reserved to those who sincerely believe they're adding useful opinions to blog comments, forums, etc. but haven't done their homework, and yet address those who disagree with them as if they were total idiots who never should have expressed an opinion in the first place.

An example of this - that really got under my skin - was in the comments to a blog post - not one of mine - about the hot button issue of horse slaughter. This person was agreeing with the blogger that horse slaughter was a necessary evil.

She started her comment by saying she wished all the "tree hugging PETA types would just stay out of it," and then, apparently also assuming that those of us who are anti slaughter must be ignorant first time horse owners who "love their pretty horsey in the pasture" lawn ornaments and didn't have a clue that with or without slaughter - this dripping with contempt - "guess what, horses DIE" with all the attendant issues of "carcass disposal" (again, her term) and so on.

I can usually ignore such arrogant ignorance, but not this time. I was far too offended - no, I was furious - not to say something. Maybe if, even after six years, DJ's death weren't still an open wound, I could have let it pass. Maybe if she hadn't shown such complete ignorance about PETA and what that organization is really all about, I could have stayed out of it. But, gentle readers, I was totally pissed off. Besides, I honestly felt she needed to be educated a little bit before she pissed off someone who has a bit less self control than I do.

Folks, please remember when you post something, hold the contempt and sarcasm. You could be wrong. You might be mistaken. You could possibly be as clueless as this person who didn't fathom that because a person is against slaughter that they don't know their beloved horses can die! I asked her how dare she assume something like that and post it with such utter contempt. I felt like she had twisted the knife that DJ's loss will always be for me.

As for the PETA accusation, well... ignorance can be forgivable, but if you're going to be so confrontational, sarcastic and unforgiving yourself, you better know what you're talking about. Otherwise, you'll look as idiotic as she did. If you don't understand what I mean about PETA, find out. Learn something.

I also am beginning to really hate those who think that because it's the net they can write like thEy had nevr been to scool in there life and dont evEn no whut capital leTTers mean Xcept in the midle of woRds and apearntl nevr even heRd of punctuashun

But, I'll save all that for another post.


AP survey finds 5,000 race horse deaths since ‘03 « Tuesday’s Horse

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | Horse Racing | 16 June 2008
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Thoroughbred racetracks in the U.S. reported more than three horse deaths a day last year and 5,000 since 2003, and the vast majority were put down after suffering devastating injuries on the track, according to an Associated Press survey.

Countless other deaths went unreported because of lax record keeping, the AP found in the broadest such review to date.

Eight Belles before she is destroyed on the track at Churchill Downs after breaking both front ankles following the Kentucky Derby

The catastrophic breakdown of filly Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby last month made the fragility of a half-ton horse vivid for the millions watching, but the AP found that such injuries occur regularly in every racing state. Tracks in California and New York, which rank first and sixth in thoroughbred races, combine to average more than one thoroughbred death for every day of the year.

Questions about breeding, medication, synthetic surfaces versus dirt and other safety issues have dogged the industry for some time, and a congressional panel has asked key players in the sport to testify this week about its direction, particularly the influence of steroids.

The AP compiled its figures from responses to open records inquiries sent to the organizations that govern the sport in the 29 states identified by Equibase Co., a clearinghouse for race results, as having had at least 1,000 thoroughbreds start a race last year.

Arkansas, Michigan, Nebraska said their organizations don’t track fatalities at all, and only one of Florida’s three main thoroughbred tracks provided numbers. There were wide differences among the other states in what types of deaths are monitored and how far back the records go.

“Nobody really knows how big of a problem it is,” said Rick Arthur, California’s equine medical director. “They just know it’s a big problem.”

When a horse breaks a leg — let alone two, as Eight Belles did — often the only choice is to euthanize the animal. A thoroughbred’s bones are thinner than most breeds. Usually it’s not possible for the horse to lie down for long periods because that could disrupt the blood flow to the arteries in the lower limb, causing an extremely painful hoof infection called laminitis.

Barbaro, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2006, broke down in the Preakness and was euthanized with laminitis several months later after a gallant effort to save him.

Despite the regularity of such breakdowns and the money involved in the sport, no one is certain how many horses are lethally injected on the nation’s tracks each year. The Jockey Club, which registers all North American thoroughbreds, did not know of another comprehensive, state-by-state tally of fatalities at tracks before the AP’s, said Bob Curran, a Jockey Club vice president.

Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., who made the grim announcement that Eight Belles had been euthanized after the Derby, said fatality numbers don’t seem to be dropping, despite major medical advancements. To Bramlage, that suggests racing injuries are becoming more frequent because vets are already pulling the most injury-prone horses before post time.

“We’re able to pick them up better, with digital X-rays, bone scans and MRIs, which give us the information we need to take those horses out of training,” Bramlage said. “In spite of that fact, we’re not denting the total number of deaths.”

California officials became alarmed in 2005 when the number of thoroughbred racing deaths there spiked by nearly 50 percent from just two years earlier. Last year, 314 horses — 261 of them thoroughbreds — died at California’s tracks, including those hurt in training or barn accidents, and a few that suffered other injuries or medical complications.

“Just seeing the totals and the recurrent theme, it’s eye-opening,” said Bon Smith, assistant director of the California Horse Racing Board.

Beginning this year, California has mandated that all its major tracks replace their dirt surface with a synthetic mixture found in some studies to be safer for horses and jockeys.

While California’s thoroughbred fatalities are nearly triple those reported by any other state, its warm weather and bounty of tracks make it the nation’s busiest racing state. And it has received high praise across the industry for the way in which it tracks deaths — every death that occurs on the public grounds of a California racetrack is recorded in detail, largely through veterinary reports.

Some other major racing states have no records of fatalities that occur during morning training exercises, even those that happen on the tracks where races are run in the afternoon. Kentucky listed 228 deaths since 2003, but none of them from training accidents, which in some states that track them account for nearly a third of the total.

Other states, such as Colorado and Iowa, run mixed breed meets, in which quarterhorses might appear in one race a day while thoroughbreds make up most of the rest. Often, these states list the deaths only by meet, not breed, although veterinarians say the more muscular torsos and spindly ankles of thoroughbreds make them more susceptible to injury.

Many states that do closely track horse deaths haven’t been doing it for long. New Mexico counted 52 deaths in 2007, but its racing commission said it had no records before that.

Some states that do monitor deaths don’t differentiate between horses that die in freak accidents in their barns, for instance — the consensus is that such deaths are rare — and those that break down training or racing and are destroyed.

Such discrepancies have made the task difficult for Mary Scollay, a veterinarian at two Florida racetracks who has created a uniform national injury reporting system that aims to record every thoroughbred fatality. Scollay, who next month will become Kentucky’s equine medical director, said 65 tracks are participating in the program now, but only 30 have compiled a full year’s worth of data.

She declined to release the preliminary numbers, explaining the sample size is still too small to draw conclusions. It could take years, Scollay said, before major trends can be identified.

“Certainly we know more than we did last year at this time, and one fatal injury is one too many,” Scollay said. “We know we need to do better. I think within the last few weeks, there’s been a mobilization of the industry to do some pretty serious things.”

Those who own and handle the animals stand to lose plenty when a horse is put down.

Timothy Capps, a professor at the University of Louisville’s equine industry program, said most racehorses don’t carry mortality insurance. The ones that do typically carry only a fraction of their projected value as a stallion or mare, Capps said.

After the gruesome breakdown of Eight Belles, the Jockey Club created a national panel to examine safety, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority did the same on the state level.

Among the topics being reviewed are track surfaces, medication (particularly steroids), the use of the whip by riders, and whether — as Bramlage suggests — thoroughbreds are becoming less durable because they’re being bred to emphasize speed rather than stamina early in their careers.

“Those that do get hurt maybe get hurt worse because of their speed and size,” said Larry Jones, who trained Eight Belles. “A good big horse will outrun a good little horse, and they can be more fragile because their legs and joints have to hold a lot more.”

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has asked states for the figures they have on fatalities ahead of a hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Of particular interest to Congress is the influence of steroids, which were legal this spring in most racing states including Kentucky, Maryland and New York — which host the Triple Crown races.

Those advocating a steroid crackdown got ammunition when Big Brown, who easily won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with the steroid Winstrol still in his bloodstream, ran the Belmont without it and finished last.

Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said steroids should be banned — not regulated — in horse racing but questions whether the sport has the ability to police itself.

“There are enough people I have great respect for who say this industry is really beginning to be in trouble,” Whitfield said.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the sport gets a bad rap for what he believes it does best — take care of the animals.

“There isn’t a trainer worth his salt that doesn’t look into this 24 hours a day,” Lukas said. “I’ll guarantee you that if any one of those purists who feel like it’s an abusive sport would spend two weeks in my barn, they’d walk away a different person and have a greater appreciation for the care. Animals don’t have a say in it, but when they get to this level, they have a pretty good deal going.

© Copyright Associated Press


Zito delivers with Da’Tara when Big Brown fails to « Tuesday’s Horse

Big Brown fails to deliver

It is reported everywhere by sports writers, broadcasters and racing pundits that the connections have no idea what went wrong with the horse.

Well, I saw the race, quiet unexpectedly, and there are several explanations, but here is the simplest and most likely:

Big Brown came out of the gate hard. Drawn from the number 1 position on the inside he experienced a lot of crowding as the other horses raced for the rail to get a good position. Several strides in Big Brown was bumped badly, knocked off his stride and had to be snatched up. Big Brown then had to navigate quite a bit of traffic to get the position he would hold for the rest of the race, on the outside third from the raile.

With his head high in the air, Big Brown pulled hard and jockey Kent Desmoreaux seemed never to be able to settle him into a comfortable stride. Although it was not a fast run race, those extra exertions to me is where Big Brown lost the race.

Add the hot weather, longer distance and that he also may have not liked the ground, and Big Brown’s poor performance can be explained. Only because Big Brown was going for the Triple Crown and has an admitted doper for a trainer who ran Big Brown on a badly cracked hoof has it all been so highly scrutinized.

There is the factor so often overlooked. Big Brown is a living,breathing, thinking, feeling creature. What he was experiencing mentally on the day we may never know, but it does matter. The blessing is that the jockey took care of the horse, and when he realized Big Brown had nothing left in the tank, pulled him up, thereby protecting the horse from injury, and possibly much worse.

Big Brown pulled up

Jockey Kent J. Desormeaux reins in Big Brown during the
140th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park in
Elmont, New York, June 7, 2008.

Big Brown failed in his bid to become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown
winner when he finished in last place to the winner Da’ Tara.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Big Brown finished last.

Sunday, the papers say, Big Brown was all alone except for the staff who handle and care for him.

No one knows what Big Brown’s fate is now. More racing perhaps, with a match up against Horse of the Year Curlin in the Breeder’s Cup, and then off to the breeding shed. Another big win would help plump up the price for Big Brown’s services at stud. The experts say his stallion fees began falling before he left the racecourse.

Jun 10, 2008


"I Took Care of Him"

"Something was wrong. He's the best horse I've ever ridden. I took care of him."
~ Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown's jockey after the Belmont Stakes

What did happen to Big Brown during the grueling Belmont Stakes? The simple answer is that he just "hit the wall." It's not exactly uncommon among athletes, equine or otherwise. But why and on this day of all days?

Desormeaux also said, "The track wasn't holding him up. He slipped." Thoroughbreds are are notoriously of such a temperament that something like that can throw them completely off their game - and this goes for even a relatively laid back guy like Big Brown.

Thoroughbreds are also notorious for having thin, shelly hoof walls, and Big Brown did miss some training time because of a quarter crack. Was that enough to make such a difference?

If Desormeaux had continued trying to place him, might Big Brown have had one of those catastrophic breakdowns for which fatigue is known to be a huge risk factor? Fortunately, we will never know the answer to that one, but it certainly seems well within the realm of possibility.

Have we not had a Triple Crown winner for 30 years because modern TBs are so inbred and have been bred for speed alone for so long that the lengthy Belmont Stakes, coming so soon after the Derby and Preakness, is too much for them to handle anymore? Especially considering that they really are just babies.

If so, how much has that contributed to the heartbreaking deaths of the likes of Eight Bells and Barbaro? In breeding for ever more refined (i.e. lighter) bone, have breeders past the point at which bone density and training can compensate for lack of pure size?

There have been many questions recently about track surfaces as well. Those surfaces are a part of the whole American style of racing - running faster and shorter on dirt, as opposed to slower and longer runs on turf which are much more in keeping with what horses are naturally adapted to do. Are American Thoroughbreds being bred to run faster than flesh and blood can cope with?

Honestly, I do not know. I don't pretend to know. Unfortunately, I don't think anybody else knows either. I've never followed racing much, and I certainly never watch. If I'd seen Ruffian or Barbaro or Eight Bells go down... Let's just say that those are images I don't care to have to remember. It makes me feel crappy enough as it is.

I do know however that the above questions need answers, and soon. And I haven't even mentioned the whole area of steroids - which Big Brown was getting once a month except for May - and other questionable drugs which have been in all too common use.

Personally, I wish Big Brown all the best. He's a good horse, and I hope he lives a long and happy life. Sure, we all wish he had won the Triple Crown, but, you know, he doesn't care at all. And since I think the horse must come first in everything we do with them, that's good enough for me.

For the sake of all the other racing horses, I do feel the issues that made so many headlines this season must be addressed - sooner than later. There are so many things wrong with racing at present, but, fortunately for Big Brown, Kent Desormeaux isn't one of them.


A Birthday And An Adventure

Indy and Ami had a very nice day on which to celebrate their birthday(s). Of course, the weather wouldn't matter to them as long as they got their gifts - apples and extra carrots. One must keep one's priorities straight after all.

It was a lovely day and Mr. Scratchaholic got a super birthday scratch. Ms Ami is not that crazy about scratches, but apples - she's that crazy about those.

Indy is 10 - May 28, 1998

Ami is 17 - May, 1991

I took a lot of pictures - like the ones on this post - and even made my first video. It's at the bottom of this post.

Indy and I had a very nice 30 min. ride the next day, and the day after that... We finally made the leap to riding out in the field. That's quite a story in itself...

On my first attempt at mounting the dang saddle turned. I'm not sure why, because I had it in the same hole as the day before. Indy hates this, and he had to stand while I loosened the girth, fiddled with straightening the saddle and re-tightening the girth. But, he did it. He stood stock still for the entire operation - a praiseworthy act in itself!

Then I remounted and walked him around. Since I was hoping to go out into the field, I was wearing the body protector I purchased some time ago for this occasion. After that excruciatingly painful rib bruise I got when I came off that #%&*#@! Wintec saddle, I didn't want to take chances.

As we walked around the paddock though, I got the uncomfortable feeling that the thing was seriously interfering with my balance. I guess these things are made for a different kind of saddle, because it kept hitting the cantle of my saddle.

I rode back over to Mike and told him it wasn't going to work. I decided to just take it off and hand it over to him to put back in the barn. That is, I tried to take it off. The @#%&*! thing was so thick and hard and stiff that I couldn't get my arms back through the arm holes. Mike and I almost had to take the darn thing apart - think new Velcro rrrrriiiiiiipppppp! - to get me free of it. This while Indy stood quietly thinking no doubt that there was just no end to the nutty situations people got themselves into...

We then walked around the paddock a bit more. Indy was still perfectly calm, so TA DA! Mike opened the gate! And out we went.

Indy was really very good considering we were walking through clover up to his belly with grass even taller. I didn't expect - or even want - to keep him from noshing. I just wanted to keep him more or less moving - in the direction I wanted to go of course. I had him in his soft leather sidepull, and I was a little concerned about steering, but I needn't have been. He was quite responsive considering the distractions.

At one point however, he started to trot down the hill toward the front, and I'm afraid my reflexes took over. This was exactly what happened when I took that disasterous fall off the Wintec saddle - through no fault of Indy's - and I stopped him. I'm sure he wasn't going to take off bucking. After all, he didn't do that the first time. But... We'd been out for a half hour anyway, so I decided to end this first ride before my reflexes did anything else stupid.

Then, for the first time, Indy and I had a real difference of opinion. He didn't want to go back to the barn! The paddock gate was open, but he wasn't planning to go anywhere near it. When I put my legs on him to go forward, he started backing up. I turned him completely around in a tight circle, and asked him to go forward again. This time, he pawed furiously at the ground. I had to laugh, even though I didn't want him to know it.

Again I asked for forward. I had my hands planted with light contact. When he tried to turn away, I closed my fingers on the reins, and just kept my legs on. After only a few moments, I felt him relax - i.e. give up - and he strolled into the paddock just as if that was what he wanted to do all along.

I was impressed. As soon as we got inside the paddock, I leaped off and started telling him what a good boy he was to obey me even when he didn't want to. I gave him a handful of carrot bits and petted him even more as we walked back inside the barn together to untack.

I understandably gained a lot of confidence on this ride. Indy and I faced some tests we hadn't incurred before, and he passed with flying colors. Naturally, since we're both looking forward to our next trip out, it's been raining/threatening ever since, and today was extremely hot and humid. I'm afraid it will be a few days before that next ride happens.

Still, Indy and I are both enjoying the even closer bond that our little adventure led us to.

I love this picture, but somehow it makes Indy's back look much longer than it actually is... Oh well, it does show off his incredible coat.


Brain Dysfunction in Cribbing Horses Gives Researchers Something to Chew On

Here's hoping that this research will some day lead to a cure for this unfortunate condition.

clipped from www.thehorse.com

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the United Kingdom have discovered that cribbing horses learn differently than horses that don't crib.

Cribbing is a stereotypy in which a horse grasps an object between his incisor teeth and inhales air into the esophagus while emitting an audible grunting noise. It is the most common stereotypy among stabled horses.

Previous research has suggested that changes in the chemical pathways in specific regions of the brain appear to be important in environmentally-induced stereotypies such as cribbing. In particular, cribbers reportedly have fewer types of dopamine receptors in a specific region of the brain referred to as the dorsomedial striatum.

"Post-mortem studies have illustrated that crib-biting horses have differences in some brain areas," explained Matthew Parker, MSc, a doctoral candidate in the School of Psychology at the University of Southampton. "We wanted to see how this affected their learning."

read more at http://www.thehorse.com/viewarticle.aspx?ID=11999&source=rss

Homes for Horses Coalition Launches Web Site

Another much needed resource for unwanted horses.

clipped from www.thehorse.com

The Homes for Horses Coalition has launched a new Web site, www.homesforhorses.org.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), along with the Animal Welfare Institute and several other groups, formed the Homes for Horses Coalition last July. Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the HSUS, said the coalition was designed to support equine-focused nonprofits.

read more at http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=11320


A Walk On The Mild Side

What a great couple of days Indy and I have had. On Saturday I rode him for about a half hour, and he was even more responsive to the sidepull than the last ride. I think he's figured out that if he's good in the sidepull, he won't have to wear a bit. Since he much prefers the sidepull, that's a powerful incentive!

We had a great ride - heck, it wasn't even hot, not even for Indy. For some reason, Ami got quite perturbed every time she looked up and Indy wasn't immediately in sight. She would come crashing into the barn so she could look out the back window and see us around the corner. I could tell Indy was thinking, "What's with her?" I guess it could have been the fact that Mike was mowing with the tractor, plus the kids next door were racing their ATV all over. Whatever, it didn't bother Indy. As usual.

Yesterday, I decided to take him out into the open field for only the second time - with the first time being over three years ago. With me on the ground for this initial time. I wanted to make sure I knew what he would do if Ami started throwing fits. After the way she acted the day before, when we were just in the paddock like always, I figured his going outside might bring on some real fireworks.

Ami did not disappoint in the fireworks department - she threw a real hissy fit! Running, bucking, squealing, you name it. Indy was startled enough to look around when she started, but ignored her completely after that. I guess I found out what I wanted to know!

Indy was just about perfect on this tour. Oh, he was scarfing down the edibles, but I couldn't blame him. The pasture is almost ready to cut, and there was clover that was knee high. I considered trying it myself...

He never pulled on me or tried to go his own way, and he came back inside the gate with no fuss at all. Of course, as I was trying to get the gate completely closed, he was trying to push it back open with his nose, but all was well and he let me secure the gate. I think he felt better about the whole thing when I started telling him what a good boy he'd been.

I rode him for just a very few minutes, and he didn't try to insist on going out again or anything. He was just his usual self - "What, me worry?"

Next time we ride out. I know, I know. I've had Indy for 6 years, he is Mr. Cool, and we still haven't ridden in the open field. It's incredible to me too. I intended to go slow, but not this slow!

Sigh.... Many factors, most of them quite unlikely, went into this delay. But, that's a whole other post.

Remembering the Horses of War

A Special Memorial Day Report

May 2008

Following the end of the Civil War, many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war and as a memorial to those who died.

It is estimated that 1.5 million horses died in the Civil War.

Not included formally, but most certainly in the hearts and minds of the cavalry, were these horses.

That was far from the beginning, and certainly not the end, of the use of the Horse in War.


Horses have been used in human warfare for millennia, probably since the time of domestication of the horse. Horses were specially trained for a variety of military uses, including battle, individual combat, reconnaissance (scouting), transport, and supply. The term war horse usually refers to horses used for fighting, whether as cavalry in battle or in individual combat. The best-known war horse was the destrier, ridden by the knight of the Middle Ages. However, even horses used for purposes other than direct combat played a critically important part of successful military ventures. There are still some uses for horses in the military even in today's modern world. Source

World War I

Horses were heavily used in World War One. Horses were involved in the war's first military conflict involving Great Britain - a cavalry attack near Mons in August 1914. Horses were primarily to be used as a form of transport during the war.

When the war broke out in Western Europe in August 1914, both Britain and Germany had a cavalry force that each numbered about 100,000 men.

In August 1914, no-one could have contemplated the horrors of trench warfare - hence why the cavalry regiments reigned supreme. In fact, in Great Britain the cavalry regiments would have been seen as the senior regiments in the British Army, along with the Guards regiments, and very many senior army positions were held by cavalry officers.

However, the cavalry charge seen near Mons was practically the last seen in the war. Trench warfare made such charges not only impractical but impossible. A cavalry charge was essentially from a bygone military era and machine guns, trench complexes and barbed wire made such charges all but impossible. However, some cavalry charges did occur despite the obvious reasons as to why they should not.

I March 1918, the British launched a cavalry charge at the Germans. By the Spring of 1918, the war had become more fluid but despite this, out of 150 horses used in the charge only 4 survived. The rest were cut down by German machine gun fire.

However, though a cavalry charge was no longer a viable military tactic, horses were still invaluable as a way of transporting materials to the front. Military vehicles, as with any mechanised vehicles of the time, were relatively new inventions and prone to problems. Horses, along with mules, were reliable forms of transport and compared to a lorry needed little upkeep.

Such was the use of horses on the Western Front that over 8 million died on all sides fighting in the war. Two and a half million horses were treated in veterinary hospitals with about two million being sufficiently cured that they could return to duty. Source

World War II

Though formal mounted cavalry began to be phased out as fighting forces during or immediately after World War I, cavalry units that included horses still had military uses well into World War II.

The most famous example was the under equipped Polish army, which used its horse cavalry in World War II to defend Poland against the armies of Nazi Germany during the 1939 invasion.

Other nations used horses extensively during WWII, though not necessarily in direct combat.

Hitler's armies reportedly used more horses and mules in WWII than the German armies used in WWI.

LoneSentry asserts:

Despite highly ballyhooed emphasis on employment of mechanized forces and on rapid movement, the bulk of German combat divisions were horse drawn throughout World War II. Early in the war it was the common belief of the American public that the German Siegfrieds of Hitler's Blitz rode forth to battle on swift tanks and motor vehicles. But the notion of the mechanized might of the German Wehrmacht was largely a glamorized myth born in the fertile brains of newspapermen. Actually, the lowly horse played a most important part in enabling the German Army to move about Europe.

Public opinion to the contrary, so great was the dependence of the Nazi Blitzkrieg upon the horse that the numerical strength of German Army horses maintained during the entire war period averaged around 1,100,000. Of the 322 German Army and SS divisions extant in November 1943, only 52 were armored or motorized. Of the November 1944 total of 264 combat divisions, only 42 were armored or motorized. Source

Both the German and the Soviet armies used horses until the end of the war, not only to transport ammunitions and equipment, but also for reconnaissance and counter-insurgency efforts. The British Army used mules in India and Southeast Asia as pack animals.

While the United States Army utilized a few cavalry and supply units during the war, there were concerns that in rough terrain, horses were not used often enough. In the campaigns in North Africa, generals such as George S. Patton lamented their lack, saying, "had we possessed an American cavalry division with pack artillery in Tunisia and in Sicily, not a German would have escaped." Source

Last Charge

The last American mounted tactical cavalry unit in combat was the 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts) in Philippines, stationed at Ft Stotsenburg, Luzon, 1942, which fought both mounted and dismounted against Japanese invasion troops in 1942.

On the Bataan Peninsula, the 26th Cavalry (PS) staged a mounted attack against the Japanese on 16 January 1942. The battered, exhausted men of the 26th Cavalry climbed astride their horses and flung themselves moments against the blazing gun muzzles of Japanese tanks.

This last mounted pistol charge was led by Ed Ramsey in command of G troop, 26th Cavalry. It was the last mounted charge in America's annals, and proved the climax of the 26th Cavalry's magnificent but doomed horseback campaign against the Imperial Japanese Army during the fall of the Philippines in 1941-42.

According to a Bataan survivor interviewed in the Washington Post (10 April 1977), starving US and Philippine troops ate all the regiment's horses. Source

Horses in War Today

Today, formal combat units of mounted cavalry are in almost all cases a thing of the past, with horseback units within the modern military used for reconnaissance, ceremonial, or crowd control purposes. The only remaining fully horse-mounted regular regiment in the world is India's 61st Cavalry.

Organized armed fighters on horseback are occasionally seen, particularly in the third world, though they usually are not officially recognized as part of any national army. The best-known current examples are the Janjaweed, militia groups seen in the Darfur region of Sudan, who became notorious for their attacks upon unarmed civilian populations in the Darfur conflict.

Although horses have little combat use today by modern armies, the military of many nations still maintain small numbers of mounted units for certain types of patrol and reconnaissance duties in extremely rugged terrain, including the current conflict in Afghanistan. Hungary, some Commonwealth countries, Balkan countries, and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia maintain cavalry units as part of light infantry and reconnaissance formations for use in mountainous terrain or areas where fuel supply may be difficult. Source

Monumental Oversight

It is said that there are more horse statues in Washington D.C. that in any other place in the United States. They do seem to be everywhere.

What you will not see is a memorial to the horses who gave their lives in times of war.

One was created in London in 2004, not just to honor horses, but all animals conscripted into the service of their country.

My dream is that some day one will stand in Washington D.C.

Vivian Grant,

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