Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hidden Structures of the Equine Skull

All about the guttural pouch and the hyoid apparatus

You are probably wondering what in the world these two parts are. These interesting structures play a very important role in protecting the sensitive structures of the skull, and in supporting the structures of the skull and neck.

The guttural pouch

There are 2 guttural pouches in the horse, each placed on either side at the back of the skull. These pouches are air-filled extensions of the auditory tubes. They act as a puffy cushion, protecting the sensitive structures of the head from harsh contact with the bony structures of the skull and hyoid apparatus.

The hyoid apparatus

The hyoid apparatus consists of the two hyoid bones that are fused together to form one solid bony structure. It is suspended from the base of the skull (from the styloid processes of the temporal bone) by ligaments and is suspended in the soft tissue of the neck between the mandible and the larynx. The pharynx passes between the two arms of the hyoid bone. The hyoid apparatus functions to provide attachment points for the muscles and ligaments of the tongue, pharynx, neck and sternum.

Interestingly the hyoid bone/s derived from a gill arch in jawless primitive fish. Through evolution of jaws the hyo-mandibular gill arches evolved into the hyoid bones. It is thanks to the hyoid apparatus that a frog can fire its tongue to capture it's prey. Humans too have a hyoid. Unlike the horse's ours is horse- shoe shaped. You can feel the hyoid connections to your sternum by placing your finger at the notch in the base of your neck, opening your jaw and wiggling your tongue.

The hyoid is a very important structure to consider when riding the horse. As mentioned the tongue attaches to the hyoid. The hyoid is capable of very little movement (equivalent to that of teeth) and is fixed in relation with the base of the skull. Thus, if the horse's head is strongly repositioned for exaggerated flexions, such as the rollkur, it will result in the tongue being drawn up. This has a negative effect, because it hinders the mouth and inhibits the horse from having total relaxation in the mouth. It also decreases the available space in the “throat” area (as a secondary effect to extreme flexion), making breathing very difficult. Another reason why the hyoid has to be considered is, because the six muscles of the sternum attaches to it (as mentioned). These muscles form the underline of the horse and greatly affect the mobility of the forehand of the horse.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Approach and Retreat

Isn't it just annoying when you want your horse to walk past a scary object and your horse completely freaks out? Or what about when you want your horse to cross a stream and he digs his feet in, refusing to move? How do you deal with this?

You might try to smack your horse, thinking he is misbehaving. You'd use your aids more strongly, hoping your horse will give in and just move along. Unfortunately, horses are by nature skittish about unfamiliar objects. They are merely prey animals trying to survive. To us the object might be nothing (a bin, a plastics bag, a little stream, a butterfly!), but to the horse it might look like some monster out to get him. It is this fear response that allows the horse to survive in its natural habitat,however, in the “humansville” it can get them into trouble. So what should you do?

Since, we are the horse's leader in “humansville” it is our responsibility to prepare the horse for what he will have to face in “humansville”. You would have to get the horse to trust you, knowing you'd never ask anything of him that will harm him. Now... there is a good way and a “bad” way to go about this...

The “bad” way is not necessarily bad, but does not suite all horses. This method will involve you forcing your horse to accept the scary object/s without acknowledging the horse's mental and emotional state. You would just take your horse straight up to the object and hope for the best. Now some horses might be brave enough to get close enough to the object to get a better look, but most horses will put up a fight.

The good way is to get your horse familiar with the object/s that is more natural for the horse. In nature horse's hardly ever walk straight up to a scary object to investigate it. They would approach it in a zig zag pattern, rather than straight, and move a little bit at a time. Once they are convinced the object is harmless, they might get close enough to touch it with their noses and eventually maybe their feet. So, to get your horse familiar with an object you just have to emulate this...

Start off by walking your horse past the object (not to it) while keeping a safe distance away from it. How far you want to be away from the object depends on the horse. You will want to be as far away from it as the horse feels comfortable. You then walk past the object (with you positioned between the object and your horse), pretending it is not even there. If your horse chooses to stop and have a look... allow it! Watch your horse for signs off worry (flaring nostrils, tense muscles etc). If your horse looks worried move further away from the object. Once your horse is okay with being that distance away from the object, you can get a bit closer (but only as far as your horse will allow). Again you just walk past it until your horse is comfortable. By to and away from the object will actually help build up your horse's confidence. The more you retreat, the more confident your horse will get. The more confident your horse is, the closer he will be able to get to the scary object. Eventually your horse will be able to get right up to the object without trying to bolt off.

Approach and retreat... that us all you have to do! And it works. What makes this method so valuable, is that you end up enforcing your bond with your horse. Your horse will respect you more, because you didn't punish him for being scared or forced him to jump off the cliff. At the end your horse will be emotionally and mentally fitter. Most important of all... you preserved his confidence.

Approach and retreat can be used for anything from getting the horse used to being saddled, to having his ears touched to crossing a river! How long it will take the horse to get used to the object will depend on the horse. Some horses may only need 4 hours where others may need 2 weeks. However, don't be tempted to rush things. Take the time it takes and it will take less time. It is all worth it in the end for both you and your horse :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Just a friendly hello and some news...

Hey everyon!

I finally got my hands on a computer with interent connection. I haven't forgotten my blog and have been writing up a few as I got the time. Here is what I have lined up once I get back home:

1. Approach and Retreat- how to use it to build confidence
2. "Unknown" structures of the equine head- I did some reading on the guttural pouch and hyoid structure. Very interesting.
3. Bits- choosing one and how to use it correctly.
4. Natural Horsemanship- my views on the topic

I don't really have the time to write a very ectiting blog right this moment, but I thought I would mention something on selling horses. I am currently advertising my pony for sale. Now, I love this pony to bits and really want her to go a good home.

Well, I recently got an email from a lady who is interested and want to come and have a look at her. She sounded very friendly etc. I was really hoping this lady would be the one to buy her, because she lives in town so I can easily go visit Joy if I wish.

I messaged a good friend of mine asking if she knew this lady. I was sure I heard of her before because her surname sounded very familiar. My friend got back to me and told me that I shouldn sell my pony to her. She was going to buy one of my friend's horses but didn't really have the money and she doesnt feed her horses at all.

Lesson learned! Make sure you have a fair idea of who you are selling your horse/pony to. You never know if they will end up in a home where they will get neglected or abused. I am so happy I asked my friend when I did. I would never have forgiven myself if I sold my pony to a bad home. To be honest, I would rather give my pony away for free to a VERy good home, than sell her to someone and have her be neglected.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I just thought I would let everyone know that it might be a while before I post again. I will be away and don't know if I will have access to the internet. However, I will try my best to post again as soon as possible.

Happy Holidays to everyone!!!

Until my next blog ...

It all starts with a bond...

Although, it might be important to be successful at shows (or with whatever it is that you do with your horse), you will never be able to reach the top if you don't have a solid relationship with your horse.

Your horse has to be able to trust you, and you him.

Respect is also important and it goes both ways. The horse must respect you as its leader. You in turn must respect the horse (it is a live breathing animal with emotions and feelings). Trust and respect goes hand in hand with one another. Which one you have to earn first, depends on the horse. With some horses, usually the more skitish types, you have to earn trust before you can get the respect. With other horses, usually the more dominant types, you have to earn respect before you can get their trust.

The stronger the bond with your horse, the more successful you and your horse will be. More importantly, the horse himself will feel more at ease.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Riding Aids

Having worked with my pony today, I was reminded of something my instructor taught me about the riding aids...

The riding aids are meant to be applied softly and accurately (in the right place, so to speak) in order for them to have the desired affect. If a horse can feel and respond to a fly sitting on its back then it is more than capable of feeling the aids, even the most subtle ones. In modern riding today, however, many riders use the aids too harshly, resulting in the horse becoming numb to the aids. They then either sell the horse (because it is unresponsive/lazy) or they start to use spurs and whips.

There is nothing I hate more than to watch dressage riders flapping their legs against their horse's sides. With a classical seat the legs shouldn't be moving around at all. They are supposed to lie still against the horse's side, wrapped around the sides like a wet cloth. Only the thighs, knees and upper calves should be in contact with the horse. The rest of the leg just lies where they naturally fall. When the rider should choose to apply the leg aid, he should just gently squeeze with the parts of the leg that is in contact with the horse. The heel should not be used as the leg aid. The heel is only meant to absorb the rider's weight, helping him to be balanced on the horse. It is only with more collected work that the heels might be used in the leg aid. Yet, I see so many riders (even top dressage riders) pulling their heels up to apply leg aids. And what a ghastly sight it is!!!

The hands should be used softly when rein aids are applied. Pulling a horse in the mouth does more harm than good. When riding turns and circles, pulling the reins will most likely have the horse fall in on the inside shoulder. When wanting to apply rein aids you should just have to squeeze the rein like sponge to get the desired affect. But this squeezing mustn't be a continuous pressure... my instructor taught me that I should squeeze and let go, squeeze and let go until the horse does what was asked. If you squeeze and hold you end up turning the squeeze into a pull. Horses by nature push into pressure. So if you just pull on the reins, the horse will just ignore it. And it hurts the horse because you are pulling against their sensitive gums. I had this with my pony. If I just pull my left rein she would just pull against it and try to move to the right. You could be pulling the bit right through her mouth and she'd still fight the pulling. But when I just squeezed my reins a little bit at a time (supporting with my legs aids) she would move in the desired direction. My instructor explained that squeezing works, because there is nothing for the horse to lean against. And it is as if you are asking the horse to do something instead of demanding it. If you had to chose, wouldn't you rather have someone ask you to do something than yell at you to?

Ultimately, aids are meant to be invisible. This is what every GOOD rider should aim for. It takes time and patience to learn this, but there is no better lesson (regarding riding) to learn than this. How we use our aids forms the basis of our riding. Without the aids we can't hope to communicate to the horse what we want it to do. It is a language that should be understood and mastered properly by all riders.

I found Sylvia Loch's 'The Classical Seat' a very good read. She explains all aspects of the seat as well as the aids of riding. A must read for any rider wanting to perfect their riding skills.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How young is too young?

Something that has been on my mind lately is the subject of young kids riding. Now, I know how much fun it was riding when I was a kid, but looking at it now as a grown up I am starting to wonder... when do we draw the line?

It is one thing to sit on a horse now and ride around, but when you are little you aren't as strong and balanced as you are now. And how do you teach a young rider with little muscle development how to use their aids? Do they even understand? Do they even want to know? Is it just all fun and games?

I am not saying that kids should be banned from riding... that would not be fare at all. What I want to know is where do we draw the line to protect the welfare of the pony/horse? Will we be able to draw the line at all?

When a rider goes around leaning on the horse's mouth people will start getting worried. But what if we see a kid riding like that? Do we just turn a blind eye? Will we go to the parent and show our concern? I would hope so. The pony/horse is after all the one that has to cart the kid around. If we don't look after him, how can we ask him to look after our child?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Measuring your horse's height

Traditionally horses are measured in hands. One hand will equal 4 inches (the average width of the human hand). The horse's height is termed as x “hands high” or “h.h”.

What tools to use?

You can use your hands to measure your horse's height by placing one on top of the other. However, this isn't very accurate and practical. Ideally, you should use a tape or a stick. A measuring stick will work best, because it won't move that easily and will stay taught (unlike the tape).

Before Measuring

Make sure your horse is standing on flat solid ground. Get your horse to stand squarely to ensure you get an accurate measurement.

How to measure?

With your horse standing still place the stick/tape upright on the ground, keeping it as perpendicular to the ground as possible. Usually, a measuring stick will come with and arm, but if it doesn't you can just make use of a short straight stick.

Place this stick/arm on top of the withers and hole it perpendicular to the stick/tape. Take note of where the stick/arm touches the stick/tape and mark it if you want.

Calculating your horse's height

If you used a measuring stick/tape that measures in inches or centimeters you have to convert your measurement into hands. If you measured in inches, all you have to do is divide the amount by 4. The total will give you your horse's height in hands.

For example:

If your horse measured 58 inches, you divide it by 4 and get 14.5. So, your horse is 14 and a half hands high. Correctly written your horse would be 14.2 h.h because half a hand is 2 inches (remember one hand equals 4 inches).

If you measured your horse in centimeters you will have to convert your measurement into inches first and then divide it by 4.

For example:

My pony measures 129,5 centimeters. I divide this by 2.5 (1 inch equals 2.5 centimeters) and get 50.98 inches. Divide this by 4 inches and I get 12.77.

So I know my pony is 12 hands but I have to calculate how many inches 0.7 is (I usually just work with the first decimal). Now what I do is I times 7 by 0.4 and get 2.8 inches. Thus my pony measures 12 hands and 2.8 inches. So I can say that my pony is somewhere between 12.2 and 12.3 h.h.

Here is a LINK to a table that gives you all the heights in hands and their values in centimeters :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Treating Tendon/Ligament Injuries

The first 48 hours is a very crucial time when considering treatment. The main goals are to:

1.Reduce inflammation
2.minimize scar tissue
3.promote healing and restoration

Inflammation can be controlled through cold therapy, bandaging and drugs.

Cold Therapy

With cold therapy cold water and/or ice is applied to the leg for a short period of time. The easiest and most practical way to do this is to hose the leg. Ideally you should hose the leg for 15minutes, allow the leg to heat up and then repeat 3 times. Ice packs work better, though, because it is cooler Ice packs should be applied for no longer than 30 minutes. The most effective method is to have the leg soaked in an ice- slurry (mixture of ice and water) for a maximum of 30 minutes, because it gets the leg cool enough to make a difference. Take note that long exposure can be harmful to the healing process, by encouraging blood flow (results in


Correct bandaging will help reduce and control swelling in the injured leg. Decreasing the swelling is an important part of preventing further damage to the tendon. Support bandages can be applied between each period of cold therapy. Care must be taken when bandages are applied, because if incorrectly applied they can cause further damage. Here are a few tips for making sure the bandaging is correct:

1.Use adequate padding to ensure pressure gets distributed evenly
2.Left legs should be wrapped anti-clockwise and right legs clockwise, so that the pressure runs from bone to tendon.
3.Don't apply the bandage too tight or too loose.

Bandaging should be checked regularly and I prefer re-bandaging at twice a day (morning and night).


Consult a vet when having to use drugs. Corticosteroids should be avoided if possible, because they delay healing and weaken the tendon. Calcification or hardening can also occur at the injection site, impeding stretching ability of the tendons.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Examples of NSAID drugs are bute (phenylbutazone) and Banamine (flunixin meglumine). These drugs help to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain. They are best used in the initial stages of injury.

Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO)

DMSO is used to decrease inflammation. It also neutralizes molecules released by the inflammatory cells, preventing further damage. It can be administered intravenously, orally or be applied under wrap. DMSO is used by vets as a vehicle to carry other substances, like corticosteroids, into the body. It is very volatile and latex gloves should be warn when being handled.

Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG)

Glycosaminonglycans (GAGs) are a component of joint cartilage. PSGAG is a special GAG that contains extra sulfates and is used in the treatment of joint diseases. It reduces inflammation and inhibits enzyme production associated with inflammation. PSGAGs help to reduce pain and swelling and may improve the outcome of therapy. It is suggested that PSGAG therapy aid tendon healing. It should be administered within 28 to 48 hours after injury, every four days up to seven doses. The drug will either be injected around the tendon or into the muscle.


Rest is very important for healing. How long a horse should be stall rested depends on the severity of the injury. The main reason for stall rest is to minimize movement thus preventing further damage to the injured tendon/ligament. A period of stall rest will be followed by a period of controlled exercise as guided by the vet.

Controlled exercise

The purpose of controlled exercise is important for strengthening the tendons/ligament fibers. Controlled exercise will usually start with about 10 minutes of walking, working up to 40 minutes of walking. Exercise will slowly be worked up until the horse is strong enough to return to work. This can take up to a year or more, but depends on the extent of the injury.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)

This is a new treatment that can reduce the healing process from 6 months to just one month. The vet will take blood from the horse, spin it in a centrifuge to isolate platelet-rich plasma and inject it into the site using ultrasound as a guide. These platelets release growth factors that will stimulate the healing of the damaged tendon/ligament. Although, the procedure is useful in most cases, PRP is not suitable for all injuries, such as acute lesions and inflammation (because the injected PRP gets flushed away by the high blood flow).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tendon and Ligament Injuries

How and Why?

Horses are prone to tendon/ligament injuries, especially when being worked hard. Their legs were not designed to cope with the stresses of everyday hard work. In nature the horse spends most of its time grazing which does little to the tendons/ligaments of the legs. This is why it is very important to ensure the horse is strong enough to do the required work. The horse has to be warmed up properly before staring the work. Working sessions should be started slow and then built up over a period of time so that the muscles, tendons and ligaments can become strong enough to cope.

Tendons/ligament injuries result from severe strain or direct trauma. Other factors can contribute to a tendon/ligament injury: muscle fatigue, uneven/deep ground, poor conformation, ill-fitting bandages/boots and sudden turns.

Different types of injury

Tendon Strains

Overuse or overstress causes damage to the tendons. Damage will range from minor inflammation to the actual tearing on the tendon. The area will be painful and swollen.


This injury is better known as a bowed tendon. It refers to strains of the SDF tendon. It often occurs when the muscles becomes fatigued and can't compensate for the rapid loading and overstretching of the tendon. This type of injury is not as common in the hindlegs as it is in the frontlegs. The leg will be swollen, warm and painful. The injury is usually described by its location and will either be a low, middle or high bow. Injury to the DDF tendon will cause swelling in the back and below the fetlock joint, and is referred to as a low low bow.


Tendons are surrounded by a sheath, the synovial membrane, that secretes fluid to lubricate the tendon. Inflammation of this sheath causes a build up of fluid in the sheath, resulting in obvious swelling. There are several types of tenosynovitis:

1.Acute Tenosynovitis- there is a sudden build up of fluid within the sheath. It is followed by pain, heat and lameness. This can progress to chronic tenosynovitis.

2.Septic Tenosynovitis- this involves a bacterial infection. The synovial fluid (lubricating fluid) will contain pus and inflammatory enzymes which can digest the tendon. Pain and lameness are severe.

3.Idiopathic Tenosynovitis- these are mild injuries that result in swelling with no pain or lameness. This includes thoroughpin, bog spavin and wind puffs.

Lacerated/Ruptured tendons

This can be caused by a deep cut to the leg or overextension/overflexion of a fatigued joint during work.

How the injury heals

When the tendon/ligament is injured the tendon fibers and blood vessels tear. The process worsens when blood and fluid leaks into the tendon.

Inflammatory cells migrate to the damaged area. The inflammatory cells secrete enzymes that will break down the damaged tissue so that the body can remove it. Inflammation is a very important part of the healing process, but if it goes unchecked, it can cause damage to the good tendon tissue too.

One to six months after injury new blood vessels and immature tissue are formed. The immature tendon tissue aren't as strong as the old ones. These fibers are made of a weaker collagen called Type III collagen. This type of collagen is less mature, weaker and arranged haphazardly (instead of parallel).

Six months (and onwards) after injury the Type III collagen is slowly replaced by stronger Type I collagen, but not completely. The fibers are slowly rearranged in a more parallel fashion. The fibers has to be strengthened with controlled exercise. Controlled exercise will also help reduce scar tissue. However, the tendon will never be as strong as it was before.

The entire healing process takes anything from 9 to 12 months. Additional healing may occur years after.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tendon and Ligament Injuries

Recognizing Tendon and Ligament Injury

There are 4 basic signs of tendon/ligament injury:

1. Lameness

2. Heat

3. Swelling

4. Pain

Checking your horse's legs everyday is a very important step to recognizing signs of injury. If you are familiar with the feel of your horse's legs, you will immediately be able to pick up abnormalities to the leg. The earlier you are able to identifying the better. These injuries are easier to treat when in the early stages.


Not all injuries will produce lameness as a sign. In mild cases the horse will usually limp or bob it's head. In severe cases the horse won't be able to put any weight on the leg or will severly bob his head while walking.


This is often caused by inflammation. The increased blood flow to the area causes it to become hot.


This is a common sign of acute tendon/ligament injury. It is caused by inflammation. The blood vessels dilate and fluid leaks into the tissue to repair damaged tissue. Bleeding (hemorrhage) into the tissue can also cause swelling.


The inflammation process causes the area to become painful, making them painful to touch. You can detect the pain through palpation (feeling the injured leg with your fingers).

The Lameness Exam

When the vet is called out he/she will ask you about the horse's history, age, competition, level, activity preceding the injury, training schedule and medications. This will all help to give the vet a clearer picture of what may have happened.

The vet will start off observing the legs by running his/her hands down each leg. Conformation and shoeing is noted, and all joints, tendons and ligaments observed. The back, rump and leg muscles are checked for swelling or atrophy (degeneration). Each hoof will be tested with hoof testers to rule out any hoof abnormalities.

The vet will then ask an assistant to walk and trot the horse in a straight line and in circles in both directions. When observing the front legs the vet will look for signs of a bobbing head. Every time the horse steps on the injured leg, he will lift his head. It is thus important that the horse can move his head freely when being observed. If the horse does not appear lame at the walk it has to be trotted (each leg has to carry more weight so horse more likely to show lameness). Lameness at the walk is indicates a severe injury. When observing the back legs the vet will look for signs of the hips dipping. If weight is placed on the injured leg, the hip on that side will usually appear to fall down.

Once the vet identified the injured leg he/she may palpate the lower leg to help isolate the problem. Each tendon/ligament will be palpated one at a time, starting below the knee. The vet will run his/her fingers down inch by inch, carefully testing for any pain.

To accurately diagnose the lameness the vet will need to perform one or more diagnostic tests. These tests includes:

1. Flexion Tests

2. Nerve Blocking

3. Thermography

4. Ultrasound

5. Radiographs (X-Rays)

Flexion Tests

This is used by the vet to identify joint problems and can be useful in diagnosing tendon/ligament injuries as well. Flexion tests involves stressing of the joint by bending (flexing) it for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The horse is then trotted out. If the lameness is more pronounced than before, the problem lies in that joint. Care should be taken, because by stressing the joint further injury can be caused, especially with DDF tendon injuries. A positive flexion test does not rule out a tendon/ligament injury. To rule out fetlock joint problems the vet may use nerve blocks.

Nerve Blocks

A local anesthetic is used to block the nerves to one of the tendons/ligaments. The horse is trotted out again and if the lameness disappears then that particular tendon/ligament is the cause of lameness. This test can lead to complications such as septic and infectious arthritis.


This is used to measure and record the temperatures in the horse's legs. These tests aren't always very accurate, because thermography is very sensitive to changes in surface temperatures. It also has limited value in diagnosing a tendon/ligament injury, because it can't show what is going on in the deeper tissue. Thus, thermography is seldom used today.


Ultrasound waves are used to create a picture of what the leg looks like on the inside. On ultrasound bone looks white, tendons gray and fluid black.

Radiographs (X-Rays)

These help to diagnose bone conditions, such as arthritis and fractures, that could lead to lameness. Tendons/ligaments do not readily appear on radiographs.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Anatomy of the Equine Hindleg

The Hindleg

The hindleg, together with the frontleg, forms the appendicular skeleton of the horse. Unlike the front leg, the hindleg is directly attached to the spine via the pelvis. This ideal design maximizes the hindlegs' power to move the body forward. However, this direct attachment puts the spine at risk of concussion which is why proper hindleg construction is a MUST. Any concussion that does not get absorbed by the hindleg gets directly transmitted to the spine. It is for this reason that the hindleg has many angles instead of it being straight, like the frontleg.

The Pelvis

The pelvis is a circular structure constructed by the fusion of 6 bones (3 on each side of the body). These bones are the:

1. Ilium (haunch bone) - this bone joins onto the spine at the sacrum forming the iliosacral joint.

2. Ischium (seat bone) – this bone forms the point of hip and buttock.

3. Pubis

By early adulthood these 6 bones are fused together forming one solid structure. The strong muscles of the hindquarters attach to several projections of the pelvis. The longer the pelvic bones, the longer and more powerful the muscles.

The Femur and Tibia

The femur is the longest bone in the horse's body. Together with the pelvis it forms the hip joint. It forms part the stifle joint where it joins with the tibia. The stifle joint is similar to the knee joint in the human with the patella as a kneecap. In most horses the fibula is almost completely fused onto the tibia.

The hock (Tarsus)

This structure is made up of 6 bones of which two are fused together. These bones are aligned in 3 rows. The largest tarsal bone is called the calcaneus and corresponds to the human heel. This bone gives rise to the point of hock. At the point of the hock tendons of the gastrocnemius, biceps femoris and portions of the superficial digital flexor attach.

The lower leg

Anatomy of the lower leg is the same as in the front leg. However, there are some minor differences in terms of tendons/ligaments and angles of the joints.

Tendons and Ligaments

In the hindleg there are only two extensor tendons: the long digital extensor tendon and the lateral digital extensor tendon. The suspensory ligament, superficial digital flexor tendon, deep digital flexor tendon and inferior check ligament are all found in the hindleg in the exact same locations, however, they originate from different muscles. The SDF tendon has no superior check ligament in the hindleg.

The tendon and ligament of the hindleg is not injured as often as those of the frontleg. This is because the hindlegs, usually, carry less weight than the frontlegs and are constructed to better absorb concussion.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Anatomy of the Equine Forleg

The Foreleg

The foreleg forms part of the appendicular skeleton of the horse. Compared to the hindleg the foreleg is suspended in place by muscles and tendons, which gives it great mobility, and it is relatively straight with few angles, which makes it prone to concussion injuries. Thus, the foreleg conformation has a big affect on the athletic ability and soundness of the horse.

Mechanics of the front leg

The scapula is a flat triangular bone that joins onto the humerus. The spine of the scapula (a ridge) divides it into two halves, providing attachment for the shoulder muscles. How flat or bulging the shoulder is will depend on size and development of these muscles.

The humerus forms the elbow joint with the ulna and radius. Where they join, the humerus has a deep groove called the olecranon fossa. This is where the olecranon process (the free end of the ulna) will enter when the weight is placed on the leg, locking the joint and so stabilize the entire leg.

When the weight is taken off the leg the elbow joint unlocks and is capable of a wide range of forward and backward motion (about 100°). The elbow can only bend when the knee (carpus) is bent.

The knee (carpus) too can only flex in one direction. It consists of 7 bones. These bones are called the carpal bones, except for the 7th bone which is referred to as the accessory carpal bone.

Anatomy: Horse vs Human

Heather Smith Thomas made a beautiful comparison, in her book “The Horse Conformation Handbook”, between the anatomy of the horse's lower leg and that of the human hand. It is rather fascinating to think that the horse is, actually, standing on its fingers!

The knee (carpus) corresponds to the human wrist and contains the same 7 bones arranged in an identical fashion. The cannon bone corresponds to the human middle finger. The middle knuckle in the human hand is the equivalent of the horse's fetlock joint. The two splint bones corresponds to the 3rd and 4rt metacarpals, but have shrunk to become narrow. The long and short pastern bones together with the coffin bone, in that order, corresponds to the phalanges in the hand.

Tendons and ligaments of the lower foreleg

The Superficial Digital Flexor (SDF) Tendon and Superior Check Ligament

The SDF muscle runs along the back of the radius and narrows near the the carpus to form the SDF tendon. As the SDF tendon passes behind the carpus through the carpal canal it is a round shape. It becomes flattened and half moon shaped as it continues down the limb, cupping itself around the rounder digital flexor tendon. The SDF tendon branches at the fetlock joint, each attaching to a pastern bone. The SDF tendon serves to support the two pastern bones.

The superior (radial) check ligament attaches the SDF muscle to the carpus even though it is a ligament. All check ligaments serve to protect the tendons from overstretching.

The SDF tendon is commonly inured in horses, especially race horses such as Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. Injury to this tendon will lead to what is called a “bowed tendon”.

The Deep Digital Flexor (DDF) Tendon and Inferior Check Ligament

The DDF muscle runs along the back of the radius. Just above the carpus it narrows to form the round DDF tendon which joins the SDF tendon through the carpal canal behind the carpus. At the back of the fetlock the DDF tendon passes through a sheath that provides lubrication and nutrients to the tendons. The DDF tendon then widens and flattens, crossing the the navicular bone and attaches to the coffin bone (third phalanx). Between the DDF tendon and the navicular bone lie the navicular bursa ( a fluid filled sac) which helps to cushion the tendon as it bends.

The inferior (carpal) check ligament descends from the carpus' base and attaches to the DDF tendon at the mid-cannon bone.

Injury to the DDF tendon is uncommon.

The Suspensory Ligament

It originates behind the cannon bone below the carpus. As it descends down the cannon it runs along the DDF tendon. It divides into two branches, each of which attaches to one sesamoid bone. These branches continue towards the front of the pastern to join the common digital extensor tendon. The main function of the suspensory ligament is to stabilize the lower leg and to prevent overextension.

Injury to the suspensory ligament is common.

The Sesamoidean Ligaments

These ligaments help to stabilize the fetlock joint and is made up of the following:

1. Oblique and straight sesamoidean ligaments (located behind the pastern deep under the DDF tendon).

2. Intersesamoidean ligaments (located between the two sesamoids).

3. Collateral sesamoidean ligaments (located on both sides of the fetlock joint).

4. Cruciate sesamoidean ligaments (descends from each sesamoid bone's base and cross to attach to opposite side of pastern).

Injury is uncommon.

The Palmar Anular Ligament

The palmar anular ligament covers the back of the fetlock joint, creating a channel through which the DDF and SDF tendons pass. It holds these tendons firmly in place against the fetlock bones.

Injury to this ligament itself is uncommon, but swelling and injury to the DDF and SDF tendons can cause problems.

The Foreleg Extensor Tendons

These tendons have two very important functions. They help to move the leg forward (extend the leg) and help to stabilize the front joints. There are three extensor tendons in the foreleg:

1. The extensor carpi radialis tendon. This tendon attaches to the front of the cannon bone and helps to extend the knee joint and move the leg froward.

2. The common digital extensor tendon. This tendon attaches to the coffin bone and helps to extend the toe forward.

3. The lateral digital extensor tendon. This tendon is found behind the common digital extensor tendon and runs on the side of the leg. It attaches tot he first pastern bone (beneath the fetlock joint) and helps to extend the leg.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The ABC of Nosebands

Tight nosebands...

This is one of my pet peeves and gets my skin crawling (I'm not ashamed to admit it!). I cannot stand the sight of a horse with her mouth shut closed by a tight noseband. Why is the noseband so tight? No, because the horse will not behave, objects to her work or will not keep her mouth closed. Does no one know what nosebands are supposed to be used for these days? Who came up with the idea that a tight noseband will solve any problem?

If a horse is schooled, and ridden correctly, she should not need the support of any noseband. Back in the old days horsemanship was an art. The idea was to be able to ride a horse in harmony which meant that the horse should be happy to comply to the rider's requests. No force. No pain. No gadgets. True harmony!

Sadly, in modern horsemanship today, riders have become lazy! Yes, I said it. RIDERS HAVE BECOME LAZY. The horse starts to object to his work (for what ever reason be it pain or harsh riding), tries to evade the bit and trots around with the mouth open. Instead of the rider trying to find the source of the problem and working to solve it, the rider slaps on a tight noseband and continues riding. Voila, the horse is not acting up anymore and the mouth is closed. (Oh, no wait, the horse just misbehaved some more. The cavesson cannot be tightened any more. The rider goes and buys a crank noseband). If only all problems were that easy to solve! Honestly, this form of horsemanship is a farce.

Now, there is a time and place for a noseband. With horse sports involving speed and/or jumping, such as racing, steeplechase and cross country, a noseband can prevent the horse from breaking her jaw. By keeping the mouth closed (not tight, but just enough) the jaw will not be able to dig into the ground in an event of a fall. Mind you, the lower jaw can dig into the dirt like a shovel. With it being very weak it is very easy to break if enough force is applied.

When schooling horses, especially the youngsters, the noseband can be used tactfully to encourage the horses to relax the poll and lower jaw. But this will only work if used correctly (not fitted tight) AND if the rider rides correctly (no constant pulling on the reins etc.). A very good trainer once told me that if a horse is misbehaving or not performing a movement correctly, the rider is to blame 99 percent of the time. How true!

The Cavesson Noseband

This is the simplest form of a noseband. It has its origins in the army when cavalry horses would wear a halter over their bridle so that they can be tied when not being ridden. When fitted correctly you should be able to put 2 fingers between the noseband and the horse's face. Yes, you heard me, 2 fingers! I wonder how many rider's fit their nosebands as loose as this? Very few, in my opinion, that is if you can find any at all. Yet, the 2-finger rule is found in all the Pony Club and BHS manuals. Interesting, no? So, what harm does a tight cavesson noseband actually do? Well, if fitted tight enough it can push the soft cheeks against the teeth causing them to rub against one another. This is a common cause of ulcers and lesions on the insides of the cheeks in horses (old and young!).

The Drop Noseband (Hanoverian Cavesson)

This noseband was designed by the Spanish Riding School and is still used by them today. It has been designed to fit lower down the horse's jaw and fits below the joint. This allows the noseband to restrict the opening of the jaw to a greater extent, compared to the cavesson. However, the drop noseband MUST NOT be fitted snugly. The horse must still be able to open its mouth to mouth the bit. If too tight, it will cause tension at the poll and jaw muscles which is detrimental to schooling the horse. It also has the ability to compact the nasal cartilage and nostrils if too tight. Thus, if the horse is working hard and breathing hard to get in more oxygen, the nostrils won't be able to widen enough. The horse's breathing must NEVER be hindered by a noseband. The 2-finger rule applies to this noseband too. If you feed your horse a treat and the horse is unable to chew it, the noseband is too tight!

The Flash Noseband (Aachen Noseband)

This noseband is supposed to give the rider the benefits of both the normal cavesson and drop noseband. The drop noseband serves to keep the mouth closed and the cavesson to provide attachment for the standing martingale. There are, however, some problems with this type of noseband. 1. The flash itself does not perform its job efficiently because it runs diagonaly across the face instead of straight. 2. If the flash is fitted too tight it can actually pull the cavesson down the nose (In this case you might as well just use a drop noseband).

The Crank Noseband (Swedish Cavesson)

Now, I agree with Elwyn Hartley Edwards when he stated, in his book The Complete Book of Bits & Bitting, that this noseband should have no place in educated riding. This noseband has only one function and that is to shut the horse's mouth closed as much as possible. I dare you to prove me wrong :)
It makes use of a pulley system and a turn back strap to crank the mouth shut. Believe it or not, this is the same pulley system used to secure cargo on wagons and trailers! Ironically, these nosebands come with a thick pad in attempt to prevent the noseband from cutting into the horse's jaw. Already fitted tight, this noseband will cause the cheeks to rub against the teeth (regardless of the beautiful, fluffy padding!), but when the horse fights this noseband she actually ends up tightening it further, thus, compressing the cheeks against the teeth even more. What a vicious circle!

The Grackle & Figure 8 Noseband

This noseband consists of straps that run across the face in a figure of 8. The point where these straps meet is padded and the straps are held together via a round leather patch. This noseband is used to prevent the horse from crossing her jaws, hanging on the bit and taking hold of the bit with the teeth. Some horses that finds the normal cavesson too restrictive might find the grackle more comfortable, because it is more flexible and giving. Thus, it gives the horse little or nothing to gape against. It also stays clear of the teeth, so there is less chance of the cheeks being rubbed against the teeth.

The Combination Lever Noseband

This noseband works in much the same way as the grackle, but does not give as much “give”. Because it stays clear of the bit, it does not do anything to stabilize it in any way (as a drop or flash does). It's metal bars may hinder the horse and cause it to cross the jaws.

The Kineton Noseband

This noseband originated from the race tracks for the use on pulling or hard- to- control-at- high-speeds horses. Because of this, this noseband has been thought to be “harsh”. The way this noseband works is it transfers the pressure (applied with the reins) from the bars of the mouth to the nose where it acts like a hackamore but without the leverage. This is very useful for horses that try to run away from the bit, because of how it scares and hurt them.

To use or not to use, that is the question...

Which noseband you decide to use and how you use it depends on the horse. The simplest of equipment in the wrong hands can be just as harmful to the horse as the more advanced equipment. Therefore, use the noseband as tactfully as you would any other gadget. There IS a time and a PLACE for a noseband as mentioned. It is up to you to make the right decision. You alone are responsible fore the welfare of your horse. After all, you are the one that puts all the tack on your horse in the first place!

Do avoid using a gadget (correctly or incorrectly) to mask a problem. You will have far more success if you deal with the problems at their sources. Yes, it will not be easy, but at the end of it all you will have a happier horse and you two will be one step closer to true harmony. And that is something to be proud of :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interesting Horse Feed

Feeding Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS)

BOSS is the same seeds you would feed your pet birds. It contains a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that is good for the horse, making it a good natural supplement.

Vitamins it contains:Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin C, Folate and Pantothenic Acid

Minerals it contains: Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Potassium, Sodium, Copper, Magnesium, Phosporous, Selenium and Zinc.

Nutrients it contains: Carbohydrates, Sugars, Water, Omega- 6 Fatty Acids, Protein, Fibre, Fat and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

BOSS is also very high in amino acids which are necessary for muscle building and maintenance.

Other benefits

BOSS gives a shiny coat and helps with weight gain. Fed in small amounts your horse will get the shiny coat without weight gain. Some owners claim that BOSS also improves hooves.

How to feed it

It can be fed whole mixed into the horse's feed. It is advised to start feeding it in very small amounts and gradually increasing the amount to help customize the horse to its taste. However, never feed it at a rate higher than 900g (2 pounds) a day (don't know why).

HYPP horses

If your horse is HYPP positive don't feed BOSS to your horse. It contains high levels of sodium that can bring about an attack. If you don't know if your horse has HYPP, it is best to have it tested before feeding it BOSS.

Omega Fatty Acids

Some owners worry about the high levels of Omega-6 Fatty acids and low levels of Omega -3 Fatty Acids of BOSS. Why? Well, Omega- 6 Fatty Acids are slightly more inflammatory than Omega-3's which have anti-inflammatory properties. The concern is that this will promote infammation in horses.

However, no research has been done to prove what the ideal omega-6: omega- 3 ratio is in horses.

This all that is known so far:

1.Omega-6 Fatty Acids causes inflammation. This is necessary to a small degree for a healthy immune system.
2. It is unknown how much omega- 6 is too much for the horse.
3. Horses do not need omega-6 supplementation.
4. The negative affects of omega- 6 supplementation is not known.

If your horse has any inflammatory conditions (such as arthritis) you should carefully assess your horse before adding it to your horse's diet.

For more information visit THIS website :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

African Horse Sickness

African Horse Sickness (AHS) is an infectious non-contagious disease. This means that the virus can't be passed on from one horse to the other via contact (non-contagious). It is spread via midges, more specifically, Culicoides midge. If a horse is bitten by midge carrying the virus, it will get AHS. There are 9 different strains of the AHS virus. AHS will affect all breeds of horses, mules and donkeys, but the mortality rate is highest in horses (as high as (95%). Zebras appear to be resistant.

When are horses at the greatest risk of AHS?

As mentioned AHS is caused by Culicoides midge. Horses are at the greatest risk in warm, rainy seasons when midges are plentiful . Midges are also known to be most active at sunset and sunrise.

Different forms of AHS

There are 4 different forms of AHS: Pulmonary/ Lung ('dunkop') form, Cardiac ('dikkop') form, Mixed form and Fever form.

Pulmonary/ Lung form

This results in the lungs drowning with fluids. It has the highest death rate of 95%. It a preacute form of AHS, meaning it is the worst and quickest form of AHS. It has an incubation period of 3 to 4 days. There are no swelling of the head hence the name 'dunkop' (it means thin head). Symptomps are:

1. A very high temperature (T) up to 41 degrees
2. Laboured breathing (onset can be sudden)
3. Mouth open and head hanging down
4. Frothy discharge pouring from the nostrils.
5. Excessive sweating
6. Sudden onset of death

Cardiac form

This form affects the heart and is characterized by swelling of the head and neck hence the name 'dukkop' (it means thick head). It is a subacute form of AHS ie not as severe or sudden as the Lung form. It has a mortality rate of 50 % If horse survives it will often be left with complications such as Billiary fever and paralysis of oesophagus. Symptoms are:

1. Fever followed by swelling of head and eyes
2. Entire head swells in sever cases.
3. Loss of ability to swallow
4. Colic
5. Bleeding in the membranes of mouth and eyes.

Mixed form

It is he most common form of AHS. Often confused with Pulmonary and Cardiac form of AHS, because horse may show symptoms from both forms.. It can usually only be recognized after an autopsy.

Fever form

This is the mildest form of AHS. This usually occurs when the horse is immune to one or more strains of AHS, but comes infected by another strain. The horse's T will rise to 40 degrees for 8 to 12 days, but then returns to normal. The fever may be accompanied by loss of appetite and labored breathing.. All you need to do is feed the horse well, allow rest and provided good nursing. The horse will usually make a full recovery. Make sure to rest horse for 4 weeks before returning the horse to work.


Vaccination has helped to bring AHS under control. There are 2 vaccines that has to be given to the horse once a year. The vaccines should be given 3 weeks apart (3 week is the minimum). The first injection (AHS I) contains the strains 1,3,4, and 5 and the second injection (AHS II) contains strains 2,6,7 and 8. The horse must not be exerted for 3 weeks after each vaccination. Too much work will lead to the body T rising so much that it will cause the horse to catch AHS, because the current vaccine is a live vaccine. This means that if conditions are ideal the virus will start infecting the body. Unfortunately the current AHS vaccines aren't fool proof. Horses have been no to get AHS, despite regular vaccination. Thus, other precautions must be taken.

Additional Protection

1. Stable horses a few hours before sunset and sunrise.
2. Mesh screens on stable doors and windows are helpful in keeping midges out.
3. Turn of lights at night.
4. Fans in the stables (midges don't have wings strong enough to fly in a breaze/wind).

Competition horses

Competition horses must be vaccinated by a certified vet and each vaccination must be recorded in the horse's passport by the same vet. No horses may enter the AHS Control Area (in the Western Cape) less than 60 days after the second vaccination.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis

I was busy doing some research on horse feeds and happen to come across an article on black sunflower seeds and its nutritional value as a feed. In this article it was mentioned that horses with HYPP should not be fed it because it poses a health risk to those horses. Never before have I heard of HYPP and curiosity led me to doing some research on it. Here is what I found...

What is HYPP?

HYPP is a inherited muscular disease caused by a genetic defect (mutation of the sodium channel gene).

The muscle cell membranes have “pores” known as sodium channels and they control the contraction of the muscle fibers. Mutation of the sodium channel gene causes these channels to become “leaky” when potassium levels fluctuate in the blood. Excessive amounts of potassium in the blood will cause the muscles to contract more readily than normal. The horse then becomes more susceptible to episodes of muscle tremors or paralysis.

HYPP is a natural mutation that occurred as part of the evolutionary defect. This led to the production of an altered sodium channel. It is not caused by inbreeding.

Descendants of the American Quarter Horse sire Impressive are known to likely be carriers of HYPP. According to a UCDAVIS article, confirmed cases of HYPP have been restricted to descendants of this horse.

Inheritance of the gene

The gene can be both homozygous or heterozygous to have an effect on the horse. Homozygous horses, however, seem to be more severely affected. Research is still being done to determine why some horses show more severe signs of the disease than others.


Sporadic attacks of muscle tremors (shaking or trembling) is a characteristic sign of HYPP. Other signs includes weakness and collapse. Paralysis of the muscles of the upper airway may result in loud breathing noises. Severe paralytic attacks can lead to sudden death, most likely caused by heart failure and respiratory muscle paralysis.

HYPP attacks are often confused with that off Tying Up. One way to distinguish between the two is to observe the horse after the attack. A horse with HYPP will appear normal where as a horse with Tying Up will tend to have a stiff gait and painful/stiff muscles (hindlegs, rump and back).

HYPP attacks can also be confused with colic if the horse lies down or is unable to stand.

During attacks HYPP horses are conscious and aware of their surroundings. They may also appear to not be in pain.

Causes of attacks

Environmental factors can cause an attack. External stimulus and events can increase the chance of paralysis onset. Factors include changes to the diet (high potassium feeds), fasting general anesthesia, and concurrent illness and exercise restriction.

Prevention of HYPP attacks

1.Avoid high potassium feeds (alfalfa, canola oil, soybean meal/oil and molasses.

2. Feed twice a day.

3. Exercise regularly and/or allow frequent access to a large paddock.

4. Inform your vet prior to any anesthesia and medication.

5. When traveling provide plenty of water (every two hours).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How cruel are we really!?

I was going to write my next “overdue” blog on longeing, but I just happened to stumble across this horror and thought I had to voice my opinion.

The horror I stumbled upon is the Blue Tongue Video Controversy!

This entails a video shot by EPONA tv of a Swedish Olympic dressage rider, Patrik Kittel, training his horse at a World Cup Qualifier. They recorded Kittel riding his horse, Watermill Scandic, in various degrees of hyperflexion, for a minimum of 2 hours on Friday ahead of Saturday's Grand Prix.

For a short period of time the horse's tongue was showing. It was clearly blue and flopped limply from the mouth. However, Patrik Kittel was quick to notice, and halted the horse before reaching for the muzzle with the hand furthest away from the camera.

EPONA spoke to a spectator who claimed to have notified one of the show's officials (confirmed to be true). The Chief Steward, however, did not find it necessary to comment or take action, because Kittle was no worse than any of the other riders!

This is what Partik said when EPONA questioned him on his training session:

EPONA asked him if he thinks he is riding in accordance with the FEI Code of Conduct.

"I think you should send the questions in an email along with the footage, so I can give it to my lawyers."

EPONA asked him if he himself is unaware of whether he rides in accordance with the FEI Code of Conduct.

"Of course I do. Otherwise a steward would do something about it. But I don't want to discuss it with you now. Have a good day."

Despite using unethical methods of training and being informed to the officials, Patrik finished up third in Sunday's freestyle. This is just the first World Cup qualifier of the season...

This is what Patrik said when being interviewed by Barbara F :
(Link to interview)

The person who took the video contacted me after the show and after she had posted it on line. She did not lodge a complaint against me at the show, nor did she confront me privately or at the press conference.

What was your reaction when you saw it?

My reaction was more about the text and the video put together, which basically present that I was riding my horse cruelly for 90 minutes, which is utterly not true.

I watched the slow motion, the editing, the decision to post only those few minutes of my ride and not my warm-up, or walk breaks, and how neatly the images supported the accompanying text – all presenting me as abusing my horse.

… This is not true. EPONAtv has 120 minutes of footage of him training his horse. Kittel worked his horse mainly in rolkur for the majority of the time without release.

What was happening with the horse’s tongue?

Scandic got the tongue between the bits or over the bit, as horses occasionally do. It took me about a half a round to notice it and then I corrected it. Of course the circulation to the tongue is compromised for those few seconds, but I corrected it the moment I saw it, as any other rider would do if their horse got his tongue over the bit. For the rest of the video, you can see that the mouth is completely closed and the horse is foaming.

… It is not clear why the horse's tongue was blue in the beginning of the session. However, I believe it was caused by pressure blocking off or reducing blood circulation to the tongue. This leads to ischaemia and hypoxia. Experts believe that the curb bit and rein tension that causes it. The question is:"For how long had pressure been placed on the tongue to make it go blue? This doesn't just happen in a matter of minutes! Note: Hypoxic muscle tissue is extremely painful.

Do you understand why people are so upset about the video?

With the way that the video and text are put together, I understand why people get upset. This video is a very brief clip taken totally out of context and the accompanying text is inflammatory and untrue.

… again, EPONAtv has 120 minutes of footage.

How long did you ride Scandic for that session?

I didn’t time my ride, but rode as was needed on the particular day. ALL of my rides include a walk warm-up, a slow trot to warm up his muscles, long and low stretching and walk breaks. None of that was included in the video footage, nor mentioned in the accompanying text.

… time can fly by very quickly when you are busy. What might have felt like a short session could very well turn out to be a long one. EPONAtv's 120 of footage is evidence of this. And Patrik did ride his horse in hyperflexion for close to 120 minutes.

I love all my horses and Scandic has a special place my heart. He has an incredible personality and I would never ever try to break his spirit – it’s what makes him so special and such a great partner. I have educated him myself and he has always been there for me. I hope everyone will try to view my kur from Odense. You will see his spirit and his happiness to perform and you will understand our special bond.

… What I dont' undertsand at all, is how people can claim to love their horses and yet be so oblivious to the pain they are causing to them. A lot of studies have been done and the Rolkur (hyperflexion) has been proven over and over again to be harmful (let alone painful!) to the horse. Then why the HELL do you still do it to your horse? Do you honestly believe you CARE for your horse when you turn a blind eye to your methods? Clearly this is all about winning and nothing more! If you really love your horse you'd value your partnership more than to subject your horse to cruel methods for the sake of winning!

We should really know better

I am absolutely disgusted at the methods top class competitors use for the sake of being the top in their sport. Surely it is the same as an athlete taking drugs to enhance their performance! And how can the officials even allow this in the first place? Aren't they supposed to be regulating that the sport stays as pure and honorable as possible? Don't they care at all? And so what if we end up eliminating our top big name riders from the competition!? If one cheats, one gets eliminated, full stop!

Here is a shocker for you... In 2008 the FEI Veterinary Commission released a statement saying: “The FEI condemns hyperflexion in any equestrian sport as an example of mental abuse.”
This statement subsequently stricken from the minutes without further explanation; the FEI has chose to ignore the recommendation from its own veterinary commission. And, believe it or not, the FEI shut down the welfare sub-committee, without replacing it with another body to safeguard the welfare of horses. has been trying to get answers for these events.

We, the spectators, are just as much to blame as the riders and officials that condone these methods. How often do you see spectators watching horses being warmed up with hyperflexion, and subsequently pain, yet they don't seem to do anything about it? Do they even notice? Have we truly been brain washed into believeing that that is what the horse should look like and be ridden as? Maurizio Patti states (in his article Ignorance and Power) “It is probably how the FEI wants people to be so as not to cause damage to the business of sport and ignoring the damage being caused to the horses. Hyperflexion like that puts the horse in a state of fear, from where he cannot escape, which spreads from his mind to his whole body.”

Future generations

What worries me, as well, is the example we are setting for younger riders. They observe how their idols ride their horses and strive to ride the same. They see the horses withexcessivly bent necks with the head in the chest and think that that is what the horse should look like because that is what top riders' horses look like. I think hyperflexion has already started to become a fashion statement and what harm will this not do when it reaches younger riders!?

It is sad that a sport that was once something beautiful and graceful has been littered with so much dirt. It is no longer a sport of innocense... a partnership. Now, it is all about winning. And to win we obliviously subject the horses (our partners!) to painful training methods in order to impress the judges with our flase sportmanship. Ignorance is a bliss, no? Any flea bag can force a horse to prance around, but it takes a true horseman to get the horse to do the same without the use of pain and fear. Alas, true horseman has become endangered. They are few and far to come by.

Click here to view EPONA's clip of Patrik

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coat Color Genetics

Have you ever wondered why your horse is the color he is? Why it is that gray horses are born black and gray with age? Why it is that bay horses have black manes and tails with black leg markings? The mystery behind it all is a very interesting story once you understand the basics. It is then very easy to understand how a number of “genes” are mixed together to form the variety of coat colors we see today.

Where it all starts

It is important to have some understanding of basic genetics in order for the rest of this blog to make sense, but don't worry, you don't have to be a genius either. 

Here is all you need to know:
Genes come in sets of two, with each parent contributing one gene. When the offspring has two identical genes ( one from the dam and one from the sire) the gene is said to be homozygous. When the offspring has two different genes the dominant gene is said to be heterozygous.
A dominant gene is a gene that will express its characteristic whether it is heterozygous or homozygous. A recessive gene, however, can only express its characteristic in its homozygous form. In other words, the offspring needs to have two genes of the gene in question for it to show that particular characteristic.

Base Colours

All horses will have one of two base coat colors: black or red (chestnut). A black gene is always dominant over the red gene and may be either homozygous or heterozygous. For example a horse that has both a black gene and a red gene will have a black base coat. The only difference will be this horse can pass on the red gene to its offspring.

Variations in coat colors

There are many variations in coat colors. These variations are caused by dilution genes and modifiers acting upon the base coats. Dilutions genes will lighten the coat color. The degree to which the dilution gene will lighten the coat depends on the gene in question, as well, as whether it is in its heterozygous or homozygous state. Here are four different types of dilution genes:

1.Cream gene
2.Champagne gene
3.Silver gene 
4.Dun gene

Modifiers modifies or alters the base coat. These modifiers can either affect the base coat or certain parts of the body or both, depending on the modifier. Here are 6 modifiers:

1.Agouti (bay) 
6.Mealy (Pangare)

Chestnut horses

Chestnut horses will always have a red base coat and will always be homozygous for the red gene. The coat will vary in shade depending on the other genes or modifiers acting on it. The coat color can range from a light, golden red to coppery red to a dark liver color. Black chestnut is the darkest chestnut color; it is so dark that the horse can easily be mistaken for a black horse. This color is very common in Morgans. As mentioned, other factors will have an affect on the shade of the coat color. For example if you combine the red (chestnut) gene with a cream gene you will end up with a palomino coat color. Or if you combine the red gene with a dun gene you will end up with a red dun coat color. 

Black horses

Black horses will have at least one black gene. The coat color will vary from a blue black (non -fading black) to a brown (fading black) to a smoky color. Factors can act on the base coat to lighten the coat color. For example If you combine a black gene with a silver gene you will end up with a chocolate coat color (known as chocolate silver dapple). Or if you combine a black gene with a dun gene you will end up with a smoky (grulla) coat color. 

Bay horses

Bay horses always have black base coats with an agouti modifier acting on it. This agouti modifier restricts the black coat to the legs, mane and tail allowing the red base coat to come through. The extent to which the agouti restricts the black coat depends on the type of agouti. It is theorized that there are three different types of agouti. One type causes the regular bay color called bright bay. The second type causes a “wild type” of bay called wild bay (the horse has a very light bay coat with the black leg markings restricted to the fetlocks). The third type causes a brown or seal brown color where the horse is nearly black with brown/red points ( at the muzzle, eyes, elbow and flank). 
Like chestnut and black, other factors can act on a bay coat to change its shade. For example if a bay horse has a dun gene it will have a yellow or tan coat color, called buckskin. Or if a bay horse has a cream gene it will have a golden brown coat color.

Gray horses

Gray horses can have either a black or a red base coat. They are born bay, black or chestnut, but the gray modifier causes depigmentation of the coat, resulting in the coat becoming lighter as the horse ages. Gray is dominant over the other colors and can be both homozygous and heterozygous.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hello :)

This is just a friendly hello from myself. I can't wait to get writing on my blogs :) I haven't really done this before so do please excuse my excitement! Not sure where to start and how to start, but I am sure I will figure it out in no time :)

Catch ya later!!!