Make Grooming a Cinch

Article by Absorbine: Professional Julie Goodnight weighs in with some tips

East Longmeadow, Mass. (August 4, 2020) – Whether you’re headed out to the first show of the “season” or keeping a horse quarantine clean, with ShowSheen® from Absorbine,® you can get the job done quickly and easily. While ShowSheen is well-known for putting the finishing touch on horses’ coats, adding radiance, conditioning and protection, this barn grooming staple has many other uses.

Trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight says her favorite use for ShowSheen is prior to clipping. “Using ShowSheen before clipping helps reduce the friction on clipper blades, allowing them to glide through the hair better, reducing clipper lines and helping keep clipper blades sharper longer. Before clipping, thoroughly curry and brush the coat up before applying ShowSheen. This will ensure that the underside of the hair is also treated.”

Want to produce your own professional-looking results? Try these tips for using ShowSheen:

  • To reduce burrs and sand spurs, apply prior to heading out for trail rides and before turn-out
  • For more comfort using flysheets, use to reduce rubs and static cling
  • To help repel dust and keep horses cleaner longer, use liberally all over the horse’s body
  • To prevent skin and hair from drying out, let the pro vitamins and silk proteins work their magic and keep horses’ coats and hair deep-conditioned
  • When summer showers lead to the possibility of muddy legs, keep mud from sticking by spraying legs before turn-out.

“For more than 40 years, ShowSheen has been world’s number one detangler and grooming aid,” says Amy Cairy, director of marketing for Absorbine. “Horse owners are always looking for ways to make the grooming process easier – and have the results last longer. ShowSheen is a staple for every horse owner’s grooming box.”

Discover why professionals and horse owners worldwide rely on top-rated ShowSheen to keep their horses’ coats and hair shiny and healthy. To purchase ShowSheen, click here.

Get a Handle on Your Reins

Tack and equipment play an important role in riding and training horses. Knowing the options and making the right choices can make a huge difference in your riding. The four natural aids of the rider that allow communication between horse and rider are the seat, legs, hands and voice. The reins are an extension of your hand and the connection with your horse.

Reins are the conduit between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth, and they can play a critical role in communication. Reins come in a variety of types and styles and are made of many different materials. Depending on the discipline that you ride (English, Western and the sub-disciplines within), the activities you do, your ability level, the training level of your horse and your personal preference, you’ll want to choose the reins that fit your needs best. 

Different Disciplines

Usually when we think of riding disciplines, we think English or Western. But within each basic discipline, there are many sub-disciplines—an English rider may be doing dressage, hunt seat (jumping), endurance or saddle seat. A Western rider may be cutting, barrel racing, roping, reining or pleasure riding.

Reins are generally designed and constructed to fit the specific riding activity you are doing at the moment, so you may need more than one set of reins. For instance, if you are training for barrel racing, the reins you use may be totally useless or even counterproductive for trail riding. The length of reins, the materials they are made of, special design features, the quality and durability all play a role in what type of rein suits you best.

English tack has been around for thousands of years longer than Western tack and we see much more standardization in reins, in terms of length, design and the materials of which they are made. English reins often come with the bridle and are made to match the headstall. English reins usually attach to the bit the same way and are a closed-loop formed with two reins attached in the center with a buckle (hence the term, “riding on the buckle,” which means the rider has made the reins completely loose and is only holding onto the buckle at the center.

While most English reins are made of leather, depending on the type of riding you do, you may choose a different material. Rubber coated reins are popular on the racetrack and for cross-country jumping— they offer better grip for fast and furious riding in variable weather conditions. BioThane®  (a synthetic leather substitute) is another popular material for both reins and headstalls and is particularly useful in climates where humidity, rain and sweat are a problem. Reins made from webbing are common and are easy to care for and affordable.

English reins are usually laced or braided, for better grip by the rider. Since it is common for English horses to be ridden on direct contact, sometimes a lot of contact, the reins are made for gripping. Rainbow reins have different colors between the rein grips to help young or novice riders know where to place their hands. Since many English horses are ridden in running martingales, often English reins will have “rein stops” that prevent the rings of the martingale from sliding up the rein too high. 

The standard length of an English rein is 54 inches—you want just enough length that when you hold the buckle, the horse can completely relax and lower its head without coming to contact. English reins also come in pony size (48”), cob size (“cob” is a term used for a small horse, and cob reins are 52”) or large-horse size for really big/long-necked horses (60” length). Getting the length of your reins right is important for your horse’s comfort but most horses will do well in a standard length.

Western tack has more variety and less tradition than English. With cattle ranching at its roots, a lot of Western tack is designed for working purposes. However, modern sub-disciplines such as speed events, reining, Western pleasure, trail obstacles, mounted shooting and Western dressage are growing in popularity, with new sub-disciplines popping up regularly. Each activity has specific needs for reins.

With a greater variety of riding activities, and with less standardization and tradition than it’s English counterpart, Western reins come in many shapes, sizes and configurations. In the working Western tradition, the reins would progress along with the horse’s training level, from riding 2-handed on a green-horse, to riding 1-handed with little or no contact on the finished horse.

Traditional Western Reins

  • Mecate Reins are traditionally made of a long, braided horsehair rope, but today they are often made of marine rope. The bristly texture of horsehair reins is good for both teaching the horse to neck rein and giving the rider a good grip on the reins when the riding gets rough. The mecate rein is 22-26 feet long and designed for 2-handed riding with either a snaffle bit or the bosal. The mecate is tied onto the bit in a specific manner, depending on which bridle you are using, to give a closed-loop rein, with a long tail coming off the left side of the bit or bosal, to use as a lead rope when you jump on and off the green horse (the finished horse would ground tie when you need to get off). Mecate reins are often attached to the snaffle bit with slobber straps, which protect the reins and help the reins drape, but can sometimes be bulky and cumbersome. The mecate rein has experienced a surge of popularity in the past 20 years, with the trend of natural horsemanship, because they offer a classic Western look. However, if you are not using the lead rope (mecate), it can be a lot of rope to manage. The closed-loop, yacht rope rein like I designed is easier to use and less bulky.
  • Split Reins are the training rein of the Western horse and the most ubiquitous, due to their versatility and usefulness at every training level. The highest quality split reins are made of heavy harness leather and are 7-8 feet long, attaching to the bit with a water tie (like a thin slobber strap) that protects the rein and offers a soft feel of the horse’s mouth. For the uninitiated, split reins are complicated to use. There are a variety of ways to hold split reins, one-handed or two-handed, depending on the horse’s training level and the activity of the rider. Split reins should be long, with a weighted on one or both ends, to help balance the reins so they come to a drape fast at the bit-end and hang quietly on the tail end. When split reins are held improperly, they can easily fall to the ground if dropped and they are complicated to shorten and lengthen, therefore they are not the best choice for children and novice riders.
  • Romal Reins are the finished rein of the Western horse and typically made of braided rawhide and used with a high-ported, long-shanked bit, and a horse that is so well trained that the rider’s hand will barely move. The romal is a closed loop rein with a long tail that has a quirt or popper at the end (to aid in moving cattle and in training the horse). The rider holds the reins in one hand (traditionally the left hand), with no fingers in between the reins, and with the other hand holding the romal. The reins attach to the bit with a rawhide or leather loop, but rein-chains may also be used to help the reins drape faster.

Food for Thought on Reins

When it comes to rein choice, there are many styles and considerations for the rider. The material the reins are made of is a matter of function, aesthetics, and personal preference. The length, width, weight and feel of the reins relate to the size of the horse and rider, how they are used and the intangible values of the rider.

To me, ease-of-use is often the most important consideration in rein choice, particularly for the novice rider. Balancing on top of a thousand-pound moving animal and controlling the forward motion is complicated enough. The reins should be easy to hold in your hands, easy to keep even, and easy to shorten/lengthen. Safety is always a consideration for both horse and rider. Reins that stay on the horse’s neck when inadvertently dropped by the rider and reins that have a breakaway feature (particularly when synthetic materials are used), improve safety for both.

The most specialized reins, designed for high performance in a specific sub-discipline, like team roping or polo, are also designed for ease-of-use and functionality. But what is functional when running at high speed, riding one-handed, swinging a lariat or mallet under rapidly changing circumstances, may not be functional for taking a leisurely trail ride on an old, semi-retired horse.

Reins may be made of natural or synthetic materials. Leather is probably the most common choice, for its feel and give (breakaway), but the range in leather quality is huge. To me, tack is a critical component of performance, so I always want the highest quality Hermann Oak harness leather. The higher the quality of the leather, the heavier it is, the better the feel and the longer it lasts.

BioThane® is a popular leather substitute used for bridles and reins. It’s a coated polyester webbing that has a similar feel and look to leather and also comes in bright colors. It’s waterproof and more durable than leather in corrosive environments (from humidity, sweat, salt water, etc.). It wipes clean and is more hygienic for horses. It’s often used in racing and endurance riding and for some riders, it carries the bonus of being a vegan product. 

Most reins come in a standard length, specific to the activity they were designed for and would work for averaged-sized horses doing that activity, but may not accommodate an exceptionally long-necked horse. If the reins are too short, the horse pays the price with too much pressure on his mouth and a hollowed out frame. I like my reins to be long enough for the horse to stretch his nose to the ground.

Weight and balance are important for reins—how they feel in your hands and how quickly they offer a release of pressure to the horse. Many reins come in different widths. For instance, split reins can be a  half-inch to a full inch wide. What feels best in your hands depends on the size of your hands and how it feels when you close your fingers on the reins. I have small hands but half-inch feels too narrow and a 5/8th inch rein feels just right, while one inch is hard for me to close my fingers on and still have a soft feel.

I ride my bridle horses in split reins, but I prefer a closed-loop, 9-10-foot, marine rope rein for green horses or when I am teaching from horseback. I designed my closed-loop, cross-discipline rope reins for comfort in your hands (soft feel), ease of use and safety. My rope reins are truly my best product, as many users will attest. I designed them with the novice rider in mind (they’re easy to shorten and lengthen and have a convenient center marker so you always know where you reins are) but I find their ease of use is appreciated by expert riders as well. Marine rope reins may not be perfect for every sub-discipline, but novice and recreational riders love them!

Rein Handling Do’s and Don’ts

Do: 

  • Make sure the reins (and/or headstall) have a breakaway component for your horse’s safety.
  • Make sure riders know how and when to shorten and lengthen reins.
  • Make sure riders know the appropriate length to hold the reins and how to hold the reins properly.
  • Always give the rider the means to control the horse (the reins), even when the rider is being led.
  • Lead the horse by looping the reins around his throat latch (or use a halter under the bridle), not by pulling on the bit.

Do Not: 

  • Wrap reins or ropes around your hand or any body part. Never attach yourself to a horse or saddle with a rope or rein.
  • Allow closed-loop reins to lay on the ground or in front of a horse to prevent entanglement.
  • Lead the horse by pulling on the reins. Use a halter to teach proper leading manners.
  • Hold the horse by clamping two reins together behind his jaw. This hurts his mouth and you cannot hold him still this way. Teach your horse to stand still with groundwork.
  • Tie the horse with reins. This will hurt his mouth and break your reins. Keep a halter on or use a “get down rope” around the neck if you need to get off and tie up frequently.

August 2020 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

 

I’m not sure whether I’m sad to see summer wane or glad to see this year halfway behind us. The not-knowing-what’s-next is hard for everyone, myself included. I miss helping horses with their people. I miss the hundreds of horses I encounter in-person each year. In fact, I consider it a perk of my job and I want it back. How else does a trainer master their craft, other than working with thousands of individual horses?

When will we get back to the horse-business-as-usual? Who knows, really, but I think for large events like horse expos, it’s looking like 2021 will be a remake of what we’d planned for 2020. It’ll be like we skipped a year; sort of like suspended animation. For 2021, I’m booked at all the events I planned to attend this year, and I am looking forward to that day! See my full schedule here.

In the meantime, and maybe permanently, I’ll be doing a lot more private/small group clinics. There’s nothing quite like working with horses and their people, up-close and personal, and seeing the dynamic between them. After all, if the person could articulate to me what they were doing wrong, we could handle it on the phone. Without seeing the interaction between horse and human, I miss a lot of information that I need to help solve problems. If you think you and your horse are ready for a house call, get more info on private clinics here.

This fall, I’ll be teaching three “vacation clinics” at the renowned C Lazy U Ranch, near Granby, Colorado. This “5-Spur” guest ranch is operating at reduced capacity this summer; with almost all of the activities outside and with well-established covid precautions, they are staying safe while offering outstanding family vacations. I was there in June for a clinic I co-taught with Barbra Schulte and everyone was smart and we had a great time. While my September program at C Lazy U is full, the  two October programs still have openings. So if you’re ready to venture out, this may be your ticket…

 

  • Ranch Riding Adventure, September 17-21. Includes trail riding, daily lessons with Julie, trail obstacles and cattle work. This clinic is full for 2020; if this program fits your needs, call and ask to be on the waitlist for 2021.
  • Fall Mountain Getaway, October 8-12. Join Julie Goodnight, Barbra Schulte and their husbands for a vacation for fun-loving adults. Plan  your own schedule each day, choosing from a menu of activities, including lessons with Julie and Barb, incredible trail rides, plus many fun activities for riders and nonriders alike.
  • Horsemanship Immersion, October 22-26. With a laboratory of over 200 horses to play with, this program is for insatiable learners of all ability levels. It involves concentrated study and hands-on practice, including riding, groundwork, conformation, behavior & training, saddle fit & bits, health & first aid.

As spokesperson for the Certified Horsemanship Association, I’m excited to be participating in their virtual conference, on Friday, October 30th. The CHA Conference is geared toward horse professionals, but is open to anyone and is often attended by non-professionals that wish to expand their knowledge. For the v-conference, I will pre-record a clinic with both English and Western riders called, “Simple and Flying Lead Changes,” (a tall order). I’ll present the video of the clinic on the 30th and answer your questions. 

 

If you’re an English rider interested in bringing your horse and riding with me at my ranch in Salida, Colorado, please contact info@juliegoodnight.com.

 

Enjoy the ride,

July 2020 Horse Report

With more time at home than ever before, you’d think I’d get my horse ridden every day. I guess it’s not surprising that having to totally reinvent the way you do business might take some extra time. We’ve been so busy producing new videos for my training Library, doing live posts with Doc Gunner and developing educational content for equestrians, that some days riding gets shoved to the back burner. I’m sure some of you can relate to the fact that life sometimes interferes with your riding plans.

 

Pepperoni, my 4-year-old gelding is coming along great and has matured into a different horse. Gone are his “exuberant” outbursts and his need to be in a hurry to get wherever it is we are going. If I miss a few days of riding, or even a week, he doesn’t require a reboot; instead, I just pick up where I left off. I’d like to be getting more time on him, mainly so he is more fit, but so far we are making progress even if I only ride him 2-3 days a week (he gets exercised on the days I do not ride).

 

Annie, my cute, fat little mare (14.0 hands and round as a barrel) has become my go-to horse, now that Dually is retired. She’s pretty reliable when we need her, but she can be a bit of a silly at times—busy-bodied about the other horses with a tendency to be marish at times. But she knows when she has to buckle down to work and she generally gives it her all in those moments. She’s a finished Western horse and a blast to ride (if you like little, quick-footed horses like I do) and only requires maintenance in her training and exercise for conditioning. She’s been spending a lot of time lately babysitting our foster horse.

 

My other training obligation at this time is Doc Gunner, my foster horse. He’s a 4-year-old Paint gelding with special needs. He was born deaf, and although we don’t know what happened to this horse during the first three years of his life, he clearly has not had it easy. He was saved from a kill pen back in December and wound up in the rescue pipeline where it was determined he would need some training before he is ready for adoption—that’s where I came in. Through the efforts of many dedicated individuals, some major resources are being put into this sweet young horse in order to give him a bright and secure future. We agreed to take the horse into temporary custody for the purpose of saddle training, the idea being that if he is trained and desirable, he will never be at risk again. Gunner is exceeding our expectations on the training end but we are still working hard to get him completely healthy (another requirement before he is eligible for adoption). We’re fighting ulcers, poor stamina/conditioning and an ugly wound on his gaskin that refuses to heal (we know for sure the wound is at least eight months old and has been aggressively treated twice, to no avail). We are grateful to Dr. Casey Potter from Elite Equine and ReNoVo®, a liquid allograft for equines that promotes healing. This treatment has shown miraculous results for various issues in horses, but particularly in wounds that will not heal. Dr. Potter will first x-ray the wound to see if there are any foreign objects in there, then debride the wound to get rid of all the “proud flesh,” then treat the wound with ReNoVo®. We should see major results in a couple weeks. I cannot wait!

 

We’ve been either live posting or recording every training session I’ve had with Gunner and he has many fans around the world. Everyone is captivated by his sweetness, his willingness and the unique characteristics that stem from his deafness. He’s a fearful horse but he’s quite adept at hiding it behind a calm and mellow exterior. He apparently had not been handled much, as evidenced by not being able to touch his belly, his hind legs, or anywhere on his off side. He did not tie, had minimal ground manners, was hard to catch and very leery of strangers. But that is all far behind him now. He comes right to us to be caught, he ties, and most of the time he lets us touch him anywhere. We’ve been saddling him with no problems (perhaps he’s been saddled before?) and just this week I started sitting on him. I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, and thinking about selecting the perfect human for him. It’s a fun and satisfying project to be part of and once we get Gunner settled in his new home, I’ll be ready to help one more horse in need.

 

You might wonder why my (and your) help is needed? The truth is, on any given day, there are about 150,000 horses in the U.S. at risk of becoming homeless of neglect or abuse, or ending up on a truck headed over our northern and southern borders to slaughter. There is an army of people across this nation who are dedicated to helping horses in transition. If everyone who loves horses would step up to help just one horse, every single one of these horses could be saved or their suffering could be brought to a humane conclusion. With the tanking of our economy, even more horses will be at risk, and the rescue and sanctuary operations need our help. Maybe you have an empty pen and the experience to temporarily foster a horse that has come into the rescue pipeline and is awaiting a permanent home? Sometimes these horses need respite care, evaluation of their training or additional training, and a month or two of care and handling will make all the difference. There are other ways you can help, through tax-deductible donations, donating hay or equipment, volunteering at a rescue or even offering your services to transport a horse to his new home. If you want to help, and I hope you will, please go to MyRightHorse.org, where you can find out more about horse fostering and get connected with the people in your area that are doing the hard work. It takes a village, and we need your help.

 

In the meantime, if you’ve missed the Training Doc Gunner videos, you can find them here. We are also working on a video series called, “Saving Doc Gunner,” which will chronicle his journey from the kill pen to his new forever home (TBD), and will include some dramatic footage that you have not seen in the live posts. The first episode will be coming out soon, so make sure you are on my email list so you’ll be the first to know!

July 2020 Letter from Julie

Dear friends,

It’s definitely been an interesting summer so far. Like so many of you, I’m getting used to a new way of doing business, and so far, I’ve managed to fill in the holes in my schedule that came from cancellations of events everywhere. My days have been filled with live posts and daily video lessons, coaching online students and recording podcasts and voiceovers. Believe it or not, the planning and preparation consumes just as much time as the doing—especially with half of my team working from home.

But our efforts have paid off, and we’ve increased our online content while managing to stay connected to our audience. Many of you have been following the story of Training Doc Gunner, which have come to you over the last six weeks via live posts on Facebook. Gunner is a 4 year old deaf Paint gelding, rescued in Kansas, ending up in Oklahoma City, and then sent to me in Colorado for fostering. His story is compelling, and people have enjoyed watching his training real-time. We are using this social campaign to bring awareness to the hundreds of thousands of horses at risk in this country (now more than ever) and how you can help. To find out more about organizations doing the good work to save horses in your area, and how you might help, visit www.MyRightHorse.org.

At the end of May, Barbra Schulte and I conducted a fabulous riding retreat at the C Lazy U Ranch, and I am happy to say that everyone was smart, observed social distancing, and wore face coverings when appropriate. We all stayed healthy and had a great time (read about it in last month’s blog). I’m looking forward to the three riding programs I will offer at C Lazy U in the fall (2 of them are brand new programs!). I’m hopeful that I will also be traveling to College Station, TX, in October, for the CHA Conference; and if my luck holds out, I may be in Myrtle Beach SC in November for the AHA Beach Ride. Even with the unusual schedule changes happening lately, you can always find the most accurate information about my public appearances here.

Adjusting to the covid crisis has meant modifying the way I operate and looking for new ways to connect with horse lovers. One day soon, I’ll get back to traveling, and already we are seeing an increase in the number of people interested in private horsemanship clinics at their own facilities. All of the big events I had booked to be a presenter at in 2020 that were cancelled have rebooked me for 2021, and the producers are looking forward to next year. We are looking at platforms to offer virtual horsemanship clinics where I can help you with your horse from a distance and at live-streaming horsemanship clinics so viewers everywhere can benefit.

Meanwhile, we continue to invest in our robust online streaming services and membership programs. Horse people, widely known to be late adopters of technology, are clearly availing themselves of it now. I am proud to say we have some of the best tech support and customer service out there—Diana spends a lot of time helping our customers navigate the unknown, so even the techno-phobic horse lovers can learn and study online with ease! If you haven’t checked out my Daily Doses of Horsemanship Homework, they are still available online for free, so get it while you can. And I hope you will join me on my weekly live posts on Facebook, Training Doc Gunner.

There may never be another summer quite like this one (let’s hope), but I’m a big fan of looking on the bright side. I’ve got more time at home now to do what I love doing, I’m involved with some exciting new projects and I’m still seeking the opportunities that I know are out there waiting for me. I hope you too are healthy, safe and able to find some goodness in all the gloom.

Enjoy the ride,

Julie

 

Too Hot to Trot

I grew up in central Florida, riding year-round in the steamy heat. As a young girl, most of my summer riding was done bareback, barefooted, in a bathing suit (much to my mother’s chagrin). As a teenager, I spent summers training hard for jumping competitions, often wearing a black velvet hard hat, tall boots and chaps. Living in a climate like that and riding horses, you learn a lot about surviving the heat. 

For three decades now, I’ve lived in the high mountains of Colorado, where we lose more days of riding each year due to cold rather than heat. The harsh, high-altitude, desert-like conditions that I live in now bring their own environmental challenges. Horses are highly adaptable to the climate they live in, but good horse management practices will keep horses safer, more comfortable, and more capable at their jobs.

In some places, it’s too hot to ride in the summer, and the primary riding season is winter. But for many riders, summertime offers the best riding opportunities—like trail riding, camping, horsemanship clinics and competitions. We dream, scheme, and plan through the winter months about the riding we will do come summer. If you’re active with your horses in the summer, chances are good that you will run into overwhelming heat at times.

To navigate hot weather riding, you need to know when it’s too hot to ride or too hot to transport your horse, and how you will monitor your horse for signs that he’s not coping well with the heat. There are many things you can do to manage your horse better in the heat, and keep him safe and comfortable when the mercury rises.

Too Hot to Ride

Every region has its own environmental challenges to consider, but the most challenging conditions for horse sports are the combination of high heat and high humidity. Here in the high mountain desert of Colorado, we often have days with less than 10% humidity. Even when it’s blazing hot outside, it remains comfortable in the shade, and sometimes it feels cooler than the actual air temperature due to the low humidity. But when you add high humidity to the equation, conditions can get dangerous—fast.

High humidity affects the horse more than the hot air temperature because it interferes with the body’s ability to cool itself down by sweating. If there is so much humidity in the air that the sweat does not evaporate, the body loses its ability to cool itself. The heat index is a measure that combines the effects of heat and humidity to tell you how hot it feels (also known as the apparent temperature).

According to the National Weather Service, when the heat index reaches 103°F, conditions become dangerous for both you and your horse. A summer day with an air temp of 88°F plus humidity of 75%, means the heat index is 103°F, and you and your horse are at risk of heat exhaustion. A temperature of 92°F plus 85% humidity gives a heat index of 126° and puts you and your horse in extreme danger of heat stroke. 

Since the heat index chart tells us how hot it feels in the shade, if you are out in the sun it’s far worse, so you must factor that in too. A black or dark colored horse in the sun will struggle even more than a gray or light-colored horse. If the horse is already covered in sweat before you saddle, it could be a warning sign that the heat index may be too high to ride.

The heat index chart is derived from a complicated formula, but even without the chart, you can make simple calculations by adding the heat and humidity. When the sum of both is more than 150 (e.g., 80°F with 70% humidity), your horse is at risk of heat stroke, and you should take precautions.

Too Hot to Box

Even when it’s cool outside, horses can get easily overheated in a horse trailer (often called a “box” in other countries). When you add excessively high air temperatures outside the metal box, the body heat coming off multiple horses inside the box, and the excessively high heat coming off the asphalt road  in the middle of a hot day, the horse trailer can quickly become an oven.

When transporting horses in the summer heat, we often travel at night or early in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day. If it’s a fully enclosed trailer, we make sure the overhead vents and all windows are open, to ensure good air flow. With our seasoned travelers, we avoid leg wraps or shipping boots in the hot weather to help keep the horses cooler.  

Since many horses won’t drink as much on the road, dehydration is always a concern when traveling with horses. Add to that the heat of the trailer on a hot summer day, and that road trip can be quite hard on the horses. We make sure to offer horses a clean, cool bucket of fresh water every time we stop and monitor the intake on each horse.

Look for Warning Signs 

When exercising in extreme heat, both you and your horse are at risk of heat exhaustion, muscle cramping, anhidrosis (non-sweating) or even the life-threatening condition of heat stroke (when internal overheating occurs, and blood flow shuts down). The best thing to do is avoid riding in conditions that present a risk to your horse, but it’s also important to know what signs to look for and how to deal with an overheated horse.

First, be alert for excessive sweating—a horse completely wet from head to tail with sweat pouring from his body is a sign that the horse’s body is losing its ability to cool itself. You may start to see lethargy, stumbling or a lack of response from your horse.

Rapid breathing (almost panting), fully dilated nostrils and a rapid pulse are signs that the horse is struggling, and your intervention is needed. As the horse loses its ability to cool itself through sweat, its internal temperature begins to rise, and the horse is at risk of heat stroke.

Anhidrosis, or a failure to sweat, is a serious, but poorly understood condition in horses that can lead to heat stroke fast. It is most often seen in horses in hot, humid climates like Florida, and it seems like some horses are more prone to it than others. Be watchful for horses that are dry when exercising in the heat—they may be more lethargic and breathing hard. When a horse fails to sweat, we must take immediate and aggressive external measures to cool him down before his internal temperature rises too high.

Cooling Down a Hot Horse

There’s nothing complicated about cooling a hot horse. Get him in the shade, stop exercise, hose or sponge him down with cool water. In extreme conditions, or for horses with anhidrosis, ice packs or cool packs can be placed on his neck and jugular veins (specialty cooling garments are also made for horses). Running cool water from a hose over the large veins on the insides of the legs will help a lot. Misting fans, shade and air circulation will also help keep horses cool.

Make sure the hot horse has access to drinking water. There was a time when it was believed that you should not let a hot horse drink too much. That crazy idea flew right out the window after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where they researched cooling off hot horses and found that the faster you cool them off, the better. Sure, if it appears a horse is bolting down very cold water, you might want to slow him down a little, but it’s not a good idea to restrict his intake.

Proper hydration is critical to a horse’s health, and salt and electrolytes can play a big role in hydration. My horses always have access to a salt lick, even when we are traveling. If a horse will not consume the salt, we may consider top dressing loose salt in their grain. If I think a horse would benefit from electrolytes, I give them in a separate water bucket, along with a bucket of plain water so that the horse always has a choice. He will consume the electrolytes if he needs them (no need to force feed), and I don’t want to restrict his access to water.

At the End of a Hot Day

The bottom line is that a well-trained horse will do whatever you ask of him, even if it’s dangerous to his health and well-being. The fact of the matter is that it’s the rider’s responsibility to keep the horse safe, to monitor the weather conditions and make appropriate decisions about when it’s too hot to ride. It’s the rider’s job to watch for warning signs that the horse is not coping well with the heat and to take immediate action to bring him relief. 

Even though our horses are always willing to give, it doesn’t mean we should always be willing to take. Sometimes that means we must change the plan or wait for a better day to ride. If you’re armed with the facts about how your horse copes with the heat, it will help you make responsible decisions to protect your horse.

Now get out there and enjoy the summer riding!

June 2020 Horse Report

All the excitement around my barn in the last month was about Doc Gunner, my new “foster horse.” He arrived at our place on June 18th after a long haul from Oklahoma City. Doc Gunner is a 4-year-old Paint gelding (no papers) who was rescued from a kill pen in December. He is completely deaf, in an unthrifty condition, seemingly untrained, but very sweet-natured and compliant. The first week he was here he literally slept and ate, slept and ate, nonstop. I’ve never seen a horse sleep, flat-out and snoring, for so many hours of the day and night. Perhaps his deafness is a bonus here?

We have been live-streaming all my training sessions with this young horse, from his arrival at our farm to the first time I took him out of his pen, to now—four weeks later. He’s such an interesting horse, full of character, wary, but extremely willing. My job as his “foster trainer” is to give him the foundational training he needs to be successful, and wanted, for the rest of his life. So successful, in fact, that he will not only find a perfect home when I think he is ready, but that he will never be at risk again, for as long as he lives—no matter how many times he changes hands.

Maybe you have an empty stall in your barn and the experience to care for a horse that needs TLC or rehab? Maybe you have the skills to evaluate the training of a horse that has come into the rescue pipeline with no history whatsoever, and needs to be matched with a perfect adopting family? You could jump into the game with me and help horses in need, starting with just one foster horse.

Before the economic shutdown started, there were already more than a hundred thousand horses at risk in this country. Many of them end up going over our borders, north and south, to slaughter. The good people that work in horse welfare need your assistance, because more horses will be surrendered during economic strife. If everyone who is qualified would step up to help just one horse, think of the good it would do! If you want more information about fostering a horse in need in your area, please go to MyRightHorse.org.

And please join me on this journey with Doc Gunner, as we train this horse and help him find his perfect forever home.

June 2020 Letter From Julie

Dear friends,

The last three months have been a whirlwind of disappointment, worry, having expectations, lowering expectations, exploring options, reinventing business, getting used to a new normal and gradually gaining hope about the future. Like everyone else, I’ve adapted to the times and learned to accept a new pace of life. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel! I just completed my first post-covid horsemanship clinic and you can read all about it in my blog.

Throughout this ordeal, my team and I have worked hard to stay connected to our audience, by producing educational content that will keep you learning and growing in your horsemanship, even if you were separated from your horse during the shutdown. We’ve had a lot of fun with the “Daily Doses of Horsemanship Homework,” and you can find eight weeks’ worth of horsemanship lessons here. I believe firmly that what goes around comes around, and by offering this free educational content to everyone, we have gotten much in return. So thank you for your kind comments, your thoughtful questions and for sharing our message.

I’ve been working with The Right Horse Initiative for some time, to spread awareness about the hundreds of thousands of horses at risk in our country right now and this message has taken on a new urgency during this economic crisis. Horse Rescues are bracing for an increase of horses coming into the adoption pipeline and The Right Horse has launched a new program to ask horse people for help, including the fostering of horses in need. Find out how you can help at MyRightHorse.org

After months of asking others to help, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and we’ve taken on a four-year-old, untrained gelding for foster training. He’ll stay with me here at my ranch, while we give him the training he needs to be safe and desirable for adoption. If we all stepped up and helped just one horse in need, we could totally turn this thing around. You can watch me train this horse—live and unedited—and follow the story of one deaf horse called Doc Gunner here.

I look forward to the day when I can travel to clinics and horse fairs again, connect with my people and help horses first hand.

In the meantime, I am content to stay safer at home, to behave in smart ways and respect the health of others. I’ll get my full share of relaxing and recreating, and continue to develop new online content and grow the connection with riders through our online training programs.


Enjoy the ride,
Julie

My First Covid-Era Horsemanship Clinic

After almost two decades of being a road warrior, traveling 20-30 times a year to clinics and public speaking at horse fairs and conferences, I suddenly found myself grounded when travel came to a screeching halt in March. The writing was on the wall a week or two before the shutdown, when events on my calendar started cancelling one by one. By the time the shutdown was official here in Colorado (March 16th), I was already starting to panic about how I would make a living if there were no live events for me to attend.

At first, my normal weekly rhythm—pack, travel, work the weekend, fly home, unpack/laundry, then start packing again for the next trip—was completely disrupted. For a week or two, I felt like I was going in circles—not knowing what to do next or even what day of the week it was. At first, like a lot of people, I thought it would be great to have a break from travel, to be at home more, have more time to ride my horse, garden and complete scores of back-burner projects.  I eased slowly into this newfound freedom, but it never seemed to fit me quite right.

Can Someone Please Explain What Just Happened?

It was scary—not knowing when I would travel again or how my business would suffer—could we pivot to find a new revenue model to replace the losses? I enjoy being on the road, meeting new horses and their people, seeing new places, eating at great restaurants. I missed networking with my peers, doing training demonstrations for the public, seeing old friends, making new connections, and helping horses. We were suddenly pitched overboard into unchartered waters. I couldn’t help but fear that these things that I so loved would no longer be part of my life.

But then, something changed in me. A new normal took hold. I got used to the slower pace. I found more time to ride my bike, hike, boat, and fish. I no longer missed traveling and forgot about eating at restaurants. I got stuff done around the house, and yes, I was able to pivot my business model and keep my team gainfully employed by doing daily posts of horsemanship homework 7-days a week, throughout the shutdown.

At first, it seemed like all the events I was booked for through the summer, and even beyond, were going to cancel. It was a strange relief, finally accepting that staying at home was the right thing to do. But at the same time, it was disconcerting—surrendering instead of fighting for my business. And it was with this uneasy feeling of ambivalence that I greeted the news that my first post-covid public event—a riding retreat at the C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado—would be one of the first such events to happen as we approached the reawakening of our economy.

Life Resumes But It’s Not Exactly Normal

Julie and Barbra teaching a clinic attendee.The Women’s Riding & Wholeness Retreat—an innovative 4-day program that includes horsemanship, personal empowerment, and confidence building—is a program I co-teach alongside Barbra Schulte. The C Lazy U Ranch is a “5 Spur” guest ranch, nestled in the Colorado Rockies, with a herd of over 200 saddle horses. They offer all-inclusive luxurious vacations, steeped in horses, the Western lifestyle and outdoor adventure. 

I’ve been conducting horsemanship programs at the C Lazy U several times a year, for more than a decade.  I was totally confident in their ability to navigate this new germ-conscious world, knowing that during the shutdown they were working hard to figure out how to reopen safely. I knew, in typical C Lazy U fashion, that they would exceed governmental requirements and offer a shining example for hospitality businesses planning to reopen. Intellectually I knew this to be true. But in my current state of sheltering in place, withdrawing and retreating, I had very mixed emotions.

Is getting back to work important? Yes. Is it too soon? I don’t know. Can we do this right? Yes. What exactly does that mean? I don’t know. Who will come? Will they fly across the country to get here? Will it be life as normal? I doubt it. Can I speak over a microphone with a face mask on? (I would soon discover that you can’t).

At the start of 2020, this program was full, with 36 guests. When the shutdown occurred, each guest was given the option of getting a refund, moving their registration to one of my fall programs, or staying enrolled for the postponed dates. Surprisingly, there was about a 30/30/30 split, and we ended up with 22 participants still registered for the clinic.

About a third of the guests were from Colorado (like me, driving a few hours to get there) and the rest were from out of state. Several women drove all the way from Tennessee. Some flew in from California, Georgia and Florida. There was certainly an atmosphere amongst those of us that made the trip that we were going to make this happen—and have a great experience—come hell or high water.

Let’s Get This Party Started!

The C Lazy U made extensive plans and procedures for protecting their staff and their guests. Following county, state, and CDC guidelines—in fact exceeding them in most instances—I felt confident in the Ranch’s attention to detail. Prior to the event, Barbra and I had several video conferences with Ranch management to discuss the procedures so that we presented a united front to our guests.

Prior to the start of the program, we were all asked to read about and agree to the procedures the Ranch outlined and be prepared for appropriate social distancing and wearing face coverings. Five days before the start of the program, we completed affidavits online about our current health and recent exposures. We completed the same forms again upon arrival at the ranch. 

And so it was, that on Thursday, May 28th, we started our first post-covid horsemanship clinic, with 26 of us coming together, but staying apart. Barbra and I could not have hand-picked a better group of participants. We were all brave but cautious; excited to be there, but uncertain how to act; not letting covid define us, but being incredibly careful to respect and protect others—especially the staff at the ranch.  

Horseback Riding is Perfect for Social Distancing

Photo Credit: Louise Hollaway

Turns out, once you are up on a horse, social distancing is easy! No one wants to get closer than six feet anyway, for fear of getting bit or kicked. We knew that once we were up on a horse and riding outdoors, we would have fewer concerns. But the fact remained that mounting and dismounting those horses could be problematic for maintaining proper distancing. Eating meals together and having workshops indoors were issues we had to mitigate.

Barbra and I were both confident in the extensive precautions the Ranch had taken. We felt strongly that we had a duty to set the right example for our guests and to get business functioning again. The precautions taken by C Lazy U (exceeding government guidelines) are far too extensive to list here, but I’ll give you an idea of what we, as guests, experienced…

  • Face coverings: Everyone complied with the requirement to cover mouth and nose with a face mask, bandanna or buff (tubular neck gaiter) at all times when social distancing is not possible—indoors or out. 
  • C Lazy U staff ALWAYS wore face coverings and gloves, indoors and out. We learned to recognize them by their eyes and body shape. Their temperatures were taken daily and everyone was very conscientious to look for signs of infection. 
  • Instead of everyone meeting at the barn to mount, we were spread around the ranch at three separate mounting locations to reduce the number of people congregating in one area. Everyone (guests and staff) wore masks during mounting and dismounting, but once underway and away from others, we could pull the mask down.
  • Initially, we thought we would require riders to keep their masks on during riding in the indoor arena, but quickly discovered that would not work. Riding can be an aerobic activity, and with the high altitude at the ranch, breathing is hard enough without a mask. Keeping the end doors of the arena open and with half the number of riders as normal, it felt safe.
  • In addition to masks, riders were expected to wear their own riding gloves and each horse’s tack was fully disinfected each day after use. You knew that your tack (and all other items around the ranch that may have been touched) had been disinfected because it was flagged with orange surveyor’s tape each morning.
  • All our meals were eaten outside, around the pool (it was cold and rainy one night, so we retreated indoors for dinner). Seated at tables of four or six (which normally held 10 or 12 people), we were served gourmet food, family style. We developed our own policies at the table, like once one of us had touched a serving utensil, that person would serve everyone else, so as not to share utensils. 
  • When you checked in (outside), you were asked how you prefer housekeeping to be handled. Guests had three choices: regular daily service, just replace towels and coffee, or no housekeeping. Whatever your comfort level, the Ranch would accommodate.
  • Small bottles of disinfectant were everywhere around the ranch, at your dining table and in the workshop room. Spray bottles of disinfectant were in the public bathrooms, along with instructions about how to spray, wash your hands and exit without contamination.
  • For our indoor workshops, we were relocated from the normal conference room to a larger building that would better accommodate social distancing. The big converted haybarn allowed the ranch to place comfy, upholstered chairs, spread around with plenty of space in-between. Hand sanitizer was always within reach.

We Did It!

Although I initially had some ambivalence about having the clinic, that uncertainty melted away once we arrived at the Ranch. As always, it felt like coming home. I had complete confidence in the C Lazy U staff and management, and they didn’t let me down. We felt safe and taken care of, the whole time. The flexibility of the staff to meet the needs of each guest was amazing, but they never compromised on safety.

I will say that as guests, we were all very conscientious about face coverings at first, but as we ate our meals together, rode together and participated in workshops together, there was some erosion to the policy. By the middle of the clinic, many guests were forgetting their masks or getting lax, particularly when amongst ourselves.

Still, we worked hard to respect the health and comfort level of the people around us—staff or guests. We so appreciated the C Lazy U staff and their willingness to put themselves at risk for our personal benefit, and we always made a point of pulling our face coverings up when around them.  

Everyone in our group had a different level of comfort in terms of wearing masks and being close to others and we all respected one another. Afterall, covering your mouth and nose around others is a sign of respect and a selfless act. 

What Happens Next?

Sadly, this was not only my first post-covid horsemanship clinic, it was my last one for a while. All my other events have been cancelled or rescheduled for 2021 until the next time I go to C Lazy U in September. I normally take time off in the summer anyway, so for now I am content to stay at home and train horses in front of a camera instead of an audience.

I am still ambivalent about getting “back to normal,” as it relates to getting on a plane and traveling from coast to coast. But I love my job—going to where the horses are and helping people get along with them better— and I look forward to resuming my travels. I’m doing my best to stay informed of the facts, listen to the experts, to resist falsehoods/rumors/conspiracy theories, and to keep an objective view.

In the meantime, my team and I are working hard to stay connected with our followers around the world and to grow our business in new directions. Our online streaming services and online training programs are enjoying a surge of activity. And one day soon, we’ll all be participating in horsemanship clinics, horse fairs, horse shows, and group trail rides again—albeit with modifications. I am confident and I am patient.

This too shall pass, and when we get to the other side, we’ll be stronger—both as individuals and as a society. I look forward to seeing you at a horse event soon!

Helping Horses in Need—It Takes a Village

Dear Friends,

This is a story about one horse that needs our help, and the dozens of people stepping up to help horses in need every day. But the truth is, he is only one of hundreds of thousands of horses at risk in the United States. The latest figures from the Humane Society of the United States are that roughly 80,000 horses cross into Mexico or Canada, bound for slaughter each year.

If that seems like a lot of horses, you should know that the number is down significantly from a few years ago when it was around 130-150,000 each year for more than a decade. Keep in mind that these slaughter-bound horses are just a partial reflection of the number of horses at risk of homelessness, starvation, neglect or worse each year. We have two million fewer horses in the United States today, than we did in 2005, as evidenced by the numerous shuttered horse properties all over the country. What happened to all those horses?

How Did We Get Here?

Dr. Tom Lenz, one of our nation’s top veterinary experts on horse welfare, authored this fact-based article on the history of unwanted horses in this country. I encourage you to read this article yourself, so you have a realistic perspective on the depth and scope of this issue. Recently Dr. Lenz said, “I think the smaller number of mares bred today, the industry’s awareness of the problem and the re-homing of horses by many organizations have contributed to the lowered numbers [of horses going over our borders to slaughter].” But we have a long way to go.

Dr. Lenz explained further, “The horse industry will never completely eliminate unwanted horses. Horses will always age, sustain career ending injuries, or not meet their owner expectations. However, I’m optimistic that the future is brighter for these horses because the horse industry has turned its attention to the issue and continues to develop strategies to both reduce the number of unwanted horses on the front end through responsible care and breeding as well as on the rear end through rescue/retirement programs, retraining for alternative careers, and low-cost euthanasia options. Horse owners today are more aware than ever of how their actions affect the welfare of their horses and an ever-increasing number consider the consequences before they breed, buy, or discard a horse.”

Awareness and Action by Others are Saving Horses Every Day

According to The Right Horse Initiative, a horse in transition is any horse who is currently in transition from one home, vocation, opportunity or owner to the next. Throughout their lifetime, most horses will have multiple homes and owners. Often, these horses find themselves in transition due to no fault of their own, rather, as the result of a change in the owner’s circumstances (time, location, finances, need, etc.).

Because horses are long-lived animals, on average a horse is re-homed seven times in its life—and at each transition, it may be at risk of homelessness or worse. This is where we pick up the story of Doc Gunner. For us, the story begins in December 2019, when the then 3-year-old gelding was purchased in Kansas by a woman who found the horse via a social media post. Her sole reason for acquiring the horse was to rescue him from a bad situation. This woman courageously stepped up to help one horse, and through her actions, it’s quite possible his life was saved.

The gelding was quarantined for 30 days, then trailered to Oklahoma City, where he resided on the woman’s small farm until April 2020. He was vetted, vaccinated and dewormed. His neglected teeth and feet were treated and healed. But as is often the case with neglected horses brought back to health, it became increasingly obvious the horse had little handling and training. Although this gelding was fortunate to have one person step up to help him out of a bad spot, his fate was not yet secure.

 

Meet Doc Gunner

He is a 2015 or 2016 sorrel overo gelding, reported to be registered with APHA (papers lost) and apparently the progeny of Colonels Smokin Gun (aka Gunner), an AQHA/NRHA reining champion from the late ‘90s and a NRHA Hall of Fame inductee. Certainly, the young gelding strongly resembles the sire in color and movement, plus he was born deaf, as some Gunner foals are. We are investigating his alleged registration with APHA. We know there is a Paint horse registered by that name, we just don’t know for sure if it’s him. We will run some DNA tests soon, 

 

Doc Gunner arrives at the ASPCA Regional Support Center in Oklahoma City to be vetted before he comes to Colorado.

which will give us more information about his color, breeding, health, and behavior (and possibly something about his deafness, too).

Although the horse seems quiet and kind, he ultimately proved to be too much for the 75-year-old woman to handle. She contacted the ASPCA Regional Support Center in Oklahoma City, a no-cost, open-door center that provides options for horse owners who need to surrender a horse or seek euthanasia if that is what’s best for the horse. At this point, a second set of people have now stepped up to the plate to help save one more horse.

It Takes a Village

Tom Persechino, Director of Equine Welfare at the ASPCA, who helps operate the Regional Support Center, worked with Nexus Equine to get the horse into the adoption pipeline. Persechino indicates the horse is quiet and cooperative with relatively good manners, and although he does not tie and is slippery to catch, he is good with having his feet handled and trailers well. According to Persechino, “The only thing standing in the way of this horse having a happy home and a purposeful life is basic training in ground handling and a solid start under-saddle.”

Apparently, this is where I came into the conversation, due to my involvement with the Right Horse Initiative and their efforts to increase awareness of the huge need for foster homes for horses. According to Christie Schulte-Kappert, Program Director for The Right Horse Initiative (and the mastermind behind me taking Doc Gunner for foster training), “This young horse is just a perfect example of a horse in transition. We like to say horses like him ‘get lost in transition.’ Horses can be at risk when they transition from one career to the next.  Training can often be the missing link that increases this risk.”

In mid-April, Christie gently prodded me to put my money where my mouth was. “He’s cute and athletic and apparently pretty well bred – we think he could really flourish in the right home, but it will take some training to get him there,” said Schulte-Kappert.

“So when Tom brought this gelding to our attention this week,” she continued, “your name came up as a possibility to help him become a good citizen and transition to his next career. His story is an amazing example of a ‘horse in transition’ – not a rescue case, but a horse that needs help to get from point A to point B, and could be at risk in between there. He’s a great example of how any horse, regardless of parentage or background, can be in transition at some point in their lives and the programs we’re working to build to stand in those gaps.”

Doc Gunner Starts his New Journey

On April 24th, Tom Persechino and Katrina Friend, a horse trainer from Nexus Equine, picked up the young gelding from the woman who first saved him and delivered him to the vet clinic that works with the Regional Support Center, where a thorough health, dental and lameness evaluation was completed. A benign mass was removed from a hind leg (possibly a sarcoid or proud flesh), and no other health issues were found. Before valuable resources (in short supply) are spent on a horse, we want to make sure its training will be successful. If not, another horse may need those resources more. Currently, Doc Gunner is at Nexus Equine, awaiting the results of his vet work while Persechino works on his travel logistics to Colorado.

Like the dog and cat world, in which animals in the system are routinely transported to different locations, horses are also transported from state to state, with a goal of giving them the best opportunity to be adopted. Horses, as in the case with Doc Gunner, may be transported to receive specialized training, or in some instances, there may be a higher demand for certain types of breeds of horses in different parts of the country.

“For example, gaited horses may move into new homes faster in states like Missouri, Tennessee or in the Northeast, so if one is sitting in Texas or Oklahoma, we would consider transporting that horse to increase his chances of finding a suitable adopter. We also have learned that some re-homing organizations have become highly skilled at re-homing either certain breeds or types of horses, or have programs that might benefit different horses,” said Persechino. “We’ve seen this with older horses or horses with minor medical issues who still have many good years left in them, however, the key is finding adopters willing to take on horses like this, so we might move horses to a re-homing organization that specializes in finding homes for what one might deem the more difficult to adopt.”

Persechino goes on to explain that once they ensure a horse is fit for travel and have its Coggins updated and health certificate in order, the actual transporting is relatively straightforward. “However, we think a key to transporting horses is to try and be as efficient as possible, so we have this understood rule of trying not to leave any empty slots in trailers when we transport! Last year, through the Regional Support Center, we had a group of five horses that we needed to move from Oklahoma to Minnesota. As our luck had it, waiting in Minnesota were 10 miniatures that were having a hard time in the adoption process so as our luck would have it we were able to send five horses north from Oklahoma and load 10 minis up for a return to Oklahoma where they were able to receive some much-needed training and gentling.”

“With Doc Gunner, as we’re working to bring him up to Colorado, we’re also working with a couple of other groups in the area to send them a horse or two and receive some back,” said Persechino. “Again, the whole goal of transporting horses is to move them to a location where they have the best opportunities for success!”

The network of individuals and organizations working together to help horses is both amazing and inspiring. This story has left me wondering what would happen if every horse lover in this country made one single effort to help. Would there still be horses at risk?

My Turn to Help

Doc Gunner is awaiting his journey to Colorado, where he will begin training to become a solid equine good citizen and a reliable and safe riding horse. I am taking the gelding into my barn for foster training.

Once here, we will evaluate his training and temperament, then make plans to fill in the holes in his ground manners and start his under-saddle training. Once he is more manageable and rideable, he may go to a foster home as an intermediate step, while his training continues under my supervision, and where his life will more closely resemble the pace of a real home, in preparation for a non-pro adopter (as opposed to the regimented life in a horse trainer’s program).

In time, Doc Gunner will be matched with the perfect human to adopt him and who will give him a purposeful and secure life. Fortunately for Doc Gunner, he will always have the safety net of Nexus Equine should he ever find himself in bad circumstances again.

Come with Us on This Journey

We will document Doc Gunner’s journey via a social media campaign on Facebook, YouTube and at JulieGoodnight.com, to bring awareness to the needs of horses in transition and how horse people everywhere might help at-risk horses in their area.

We will video this journey and post regularly, so you can follow the gelding’s progress as he works his way through the training, fostering and adoption process. With any luck, he’ll be on the road soon, headed from Oklahoma to Colorado, and we are eager to welcome him into his temporary home, here at my ranch. My crew and my friends are all excited to help out where they can and it will be rewarding for all of us to see this young horse blossom and have a secure future. It will take a village.

You Can Help Horses Too

If horse owners everywhere made a commitment to help even just one horse a year, imagine how we could reduce the numbers of horses at risk. There are many things people can do to help, even if you’re not a horse person.

  • Now more than ever, adoption is critical—more and more horse owners are affected by the pandemic and are facing loss of jobs or income. Shelters and rescues have limited capacity and even in the best of times are often full or pressed for space.
  • The American Horse Council and United Horse Coalition both have great COVID-19 information hubs on their websites. UHC has a nice overview on cost-saving tips for horse owners which we encourage owners to implement before seeking surrender options.
  • Folks can search for adoptable horses at org or visit TheRightHorse.org and click on “Partners” to find an adoption partner near them.
  • Contribute money to a local horse advocacy organization if you can. If not, maybe you can offer in-kind donations of hay, grain, equipment or services
  • If you have experience caring for horses, and have space for one or two horses, you could play a vital role by providing a temporary Foster Home for horses, helping to bring them back to health as they work their way through the adoption pipeline.
  • If you are experienced in riding and training horses, you could be a Foster Trainer, like me, and take on a project like Doc Gunner for training or evaluate a trained horse for the type of home he is most suitable for. There are many trained riding horses that wind up at-risk.
  • If you have a truck and horse trailer, perhaps you could volunteer to transport horses to their new homes or to their temporary foster homes
  • Look for safety net programs in your state or region to support. Colorado has a great hay/feed bank organized by Drifter’s Hearts of Hope and Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance.
  • Horse owners can also reach out to friends and neighbors in their horse communities and offer their help. Seniors or owners with health issues may need temporary help with basic care for their horses, or a place to keep their horses for a few weeks. The more we can help in our local communities in small ways, the more horses we can keep safe and keep in their homes through the crisis.
  • And at the very minimum, we can all keep our eyes out for horses at risk, that might exist right before our very eyes. Maybe a neighbor needs help. Maybe you see horses that have fallen through the cracks. Be proactive on behalf of horses and contact your local animal control or horse rescue. Who else will advocate for them if the owner isn’t?

If you want to help horses like Doc Gunner, be sure to visit MyRightHorse.org to find a horse to foster, adopt or share on your social media.

May 2020 Letter from Julie

Dear Friends, 

Another month has gone by while we all do our share to fight the spread of this awful virus. Here in Colorado, we are slowly rebooting the economy and I am hopeful that people will continue to be smart and not erase all the sacrifices we have collectively made in the past eight weeks. For the most part, I am staying at home (“Safer at Home” is the new motto in our state) and I have a suitable array of home-made face masks that I wear when I must go out.

I do see some silver linings. Certainly, people everywhere have become more aware of the importance of personal health, good hygiene and are altering social norms so we don’t contribute to the spread of disease. I think we’ve all become more empathetic of people that may not have it as good and we’ve changed our perspectives about what workers are important and essential in our society. And dare I hope that people around the world will see the obvious and positive impact this shutdown has had on the global environment and come to realize we can stop climate change if we work at it? Also, many of us have reshaped our relationships with those closest to us, hopefully in positive ways.

Some of you, like me, are forced to stay at home, but we are happy to have more time with our families and our horses. Many of you have shared with me on Face Book that you’ve been separated from your horses for way too long or maybe you’re able to go back to the barn now but riding is restricted. In both instances, perhaps we are finding new appreciation for our horses.

I’ve been offering a Daily Dose of Horsemanship Homework, 7-days a week for the past  six weeks, to help you ease through this challenging time and further your horsemanship goals. We’ve been doing LIVE posts several days a week where we can all connect and where I enjoy answering your questions. Since I have not been able to make presentations at horse expos or teach horsemanship clinics since this thing began, this is my way of continuing my work and staying connected with my audience of horse lovers. In case you’ve missed out on the Daily Doses, you can find them all  here  Daily Dose’s

I look forward to the day when nonessential travel resumes, events are rescheduled and I can start teaching at clinics and expos again. At the end of this month, I am co-teaching with Barbra Schulte  for the Women’s Riding & Wholeness Retreat, at the renowned C Lazy U Ranch. I’ve got lots of clinics, expos and conferences in the fall and my schedule   is always current online, if you want to find out more.

I’ve got lots of open dates to fill in my calendar now, and I haven’t said that in a very long time. If you’re interested in hosting a horsemanship clinic or hiring me for a private clinic at your facility, please contact twyla@juliegoodnight.com.

I’ve learned a lot about individuals, about society and about myself during this pandemic, as our emotions and opinions have evolved over the past two months. I’ve enjoyed a different pace of life and my crew and I have proven that if we work hard, we will succeed. I’ll be ready to get back on the road, and pick up where we left off, once its’ safe to do so.

Be sure to check out this month’s blog to meet my new foster horse project, Doc Gunner. We’re all in this together and we need each other’s support, so be smart and set a good example.

Until next time,

Julie

The Unwanted Horse in the United States: An Overview of the Issue

Author, Tom R. Lenz, DVM, MS, DACT provided permission to post.

Horses in the United States no longer wanted have been sold or discarded by their owners throughout history, but it is only in the last few years this subset of the horse population has been designated “unwanted”. To many, the horse is a symbol of beauty, grace, and the American West. A study of American attitudes toward animals in 1980, found the horse to be one of the top 3 most beloved animals. (1) Public sentiment and misinformation provided by animal activist groups have greatly complicated the unwanted horse issue and the discussion of end-of-life decisions for horses. Adding to the divisiveness in the unwanted horse debate is the fact the American horse industry and the Federal government classify horses as “livestock” whereas the non-horse owning public considers the horse a “companion animal” or pet.

 

U.S. horse population numbers increased gradually from their introduction into North America, peaking in 1910 at 19.8 million head. That number decreased dramatically with the start of industrial mass production of motorized vehicles and reached an all time low of 1.6 million head in 1974. (2) Because most horses no longer had value as work animals and the interest in horses as recreational animals had not yet surfaced, horse surplus reduction occurred at dozens of horse processing plants across the country where they were processed for both human and animal consumption. Later, as the number of surplus horses dwindled and pet food manufacturers turned to cast off products from beef and hog processing plants, the number of horse processing plants dwindled to a very few. American consumers never developed a preference for horse meat and as their economic situation improved in the post-war years, horse meat largely fell out of favor. As these events were occurring in the United States, post-World War II European and Asian populations were being encouraged to eat horse meat that was considered lean and a good source of iron.(3) The result was the development of a U.S. horse meat export market to European and Asian countries for human consumption.  The U.S. horse slaughter industry steadily grew to meet that demand and in the late nineteen eighties was processing over 300,000 horses per year on average. Overtime, the number of horses processed gradually declined and reached a low of only 42,303 head in 2002 before stabilizing at approximately 100,000 head per year over the last few years.

 

Today, over one billion people, or 16% of the world’s populations, eat horse meat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) total production of horse meat for human consumption world-wide in 2007 was 1,040,450 tons, roughly five million horses.(4) This is an increase of 27.6% in consumption since 1990. The top five leading horse meat producing countries in 2007 were China, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Argentina.(5) Generally, English speaking countries, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, do not consume horse meat, yet often export it to countries that do. The horse processed for meat represents the lowest economic level of the U.S. horse population and epitomizes the unwanted horse. Therefore, when addressing the unwanted horse problem, the issue of processing horses for human consumption and its welfare implications must be considered. Unfortunately, the debate over the processing of horses for human consumption has polarized the U.S. horse industry and non-horse owning public. Segments of each have strong, emotional opinions on the subject and share little common ground. This may be due to the change in modern American culture, which is two to three generations removed from the ranch or farm, toward animal advocacy and away from viewing animals as a food or labor source. That coupled with increased costs in boarding, farriery, hay, fuel, and veterinary care has made it harder and more problematic to keep a horse until its natural death. When age, physical disability, or behavior decreases the horse’s value below a certain point, it often ends up at a slaughter plant. And therefore, the issues of the unwanted horse and the horse processed for meat cannot be separated.

 

Until the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in Europe in 2000 and the Foot and Mouth disease epidemic that occurred in the United Kingdom in 2001, Americans, both the horse owning and non-horse owning public, were not aware horses were being processed in the United States and their meat shipped to foreign markets. In addition, both disease outbreaks were responsible for changing many European consumers’ preferences from beef to horse meat.(6) This change drew American media attention to the fact horses were being processed for meat in the United States and their meat exported to Europe for human consumption. Media coverage of the issue not only drew the attention of the horse owning public, but also equine breed associations, animal rights/welfare organizations, veterinary associations and the non-horse owning public. Because of the resultant focused lobbying efforts of many animal activist groups and some horse owners, federal legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2001 to prohibit processing of horses in the United States for human consumption. The legislation sparked aggressive debate on equine welfare and initiated a series of unintended horse industry welfare and financial consequences.

 

The term “Unwanted Horse” was first coined by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) at a horse industry meeting in Washington D.C. in 2005. Unwanted horses are defined as “those no longer wanted by their current owner because they are old; injured; sick; unmanageable; fail to meet their owner’s expectations; or the owner can no longer afford to keep them”.(7) Generally, these are horses which are geriatric, incurably lame, have behavior problems, or are dangerous. They also include un-adoptable feral horses and horses that fail to meet their owner’s expectations because they are unmarketable, unattractive, not athletic, unmanageable, have no color, are the wrong color, or cost too much to maintain. Normal healthy horses of varying ages and breeds may also become unwanted. (8) In many cases, these animals have had multiple owners, have been shipped from one sale barn, stable or farm to another, and have ultimately been rejected. In 2007, approximately 58,000 horses were processed for meat in the United States, +35,000 horses were exported to Canada for processing, + 45,000 were exported to Mexico for processing.(T.Cordes, USDA, personal communication) In 2008, after closure of the U.S. horse processing plants, ± 57,000 horses were exported to Mexico and ±50,000 were exported to Canada for slaughter. In addition, + 21,000 un-adoptable feral horses were kept in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) funded long-term sanctuaries, + 9,000 feral horses were in the BLM adoption pipeline and an undetermined number of unwanted horses were potentially abandoned, neglected or abused. As of February 2008, there are approximately 29,500 wild horses and 3,500 wild burros roaming free on BLM-managed range lands. Because feral horses have few predators, the herds double in size every four years unless animals are captured and removed.  Since 1971, 235,000 wild horses and burros have been removed from federal lands and adopted(9) Feral horses that are over ten years of age when captured or have been put up for adoption three times and not adopted are placed in long-term BLM funded refuges where they live out the rest of their lives. In 2007, BLM spent $ 26 million to support wild horses and burros kept in short and long-term holding facilities.(10) That is well over three-fourths of the BLM’s 2007 fiscal budget of $38.8 million. The BLM is authorized under a 2004 amendment to the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act to sell “without limitations” unadoptable horses and burros, but pressure from animal activists and public sentiment has not allowed these animals to be euthanized or sold for slaughter.

 

Initially, there was debate in the horse industry on what type of horses were primarily represented and who was responsible for creating the significant number of unwanted horses in the U.S. However, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) export records on U.S. horses shipped to Canadian processing plants in 2002-2005 reveal 42.8 percent were geldings, 52.1 percent were mares, 3.41 percent were stallions, and the gender was not recorded on 1.70 percent. In addition, 70 percent were western type horses, 11 percent were English or Thoroughbred type horses, 3.6 percent were draft type horses, and the rest included various breeds or types of horses or mules.(11) Observational studies conducted in 2001 reveal that “riding” horses make up 74% of the horses processed for meat as opposed to draft or other horse types.(12) In general, these types of horses reflect the demographics of the U. S. horse population with no specific type or breed of horse standing out as the quintessential unwanted horse. On average, over the past 10 years, 1-2% of the 9.2 million head (75,000 – 150,000 horses) domestic equine population in the United States has been deemed unwanted and sent to processing plants.(13) (14) According to the 2005 USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System survey, + 167,000 (1.8 percent) horses in the United States 30 days of age or older were euthanized or died that year. In addition, + 112,000 (1.3 percent) horses were processed for meat.(15) Therefore, the total mortality for horses in the United States in 2005 was approximately 3 to 4 percent of the horse population of 9.2 million. These percentages have varied little during the last decade.(16) The question facing the horse industry is if the option of annually removing many of the unwanted horses from the general horse population via euthanasia at a processing plant is legislated out of existence, will the horse industry be able to provide adequate care and accommodations for these animals or opposed to draft or other horse types.(12) In general, these types of horses reflect the demographics of the U. S. horse population with no specific type or breed of horse standing out as the quintessential unwanted horse. On average, over the past 10 years, 1-2% of the 9.2 million head (75,000 – 150,000 horses) domestic equine population in the United States has been deemed unwanted and sent to processing plants.(13) (14) According to the 2005 USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System survey, + 167,000 (1.8 percent) horses in the United States 30 days of age or older were euthanized or died that year. In addition, + 112,000 (1.3 percent) horses were processed for meat.(15) Therefore, the total mortality for horses in the United States in 2005 was approximately 3 to 4 percent of the horse population of 9.2 million. These percentages have varied little during the last decade.(16) The question facing the horse industry is if the option of annually removing many of the unwanted horses from the general horse population via euthanasia at a processing plant is legislated out of existence, will the horse industry be able to provide adequate care and accommodations for these animals or will it be forced to absorb the additional cost of their euthanasia and carcass disposal?

 

In recent years horse rescue/adoption/retirement organizations have, to their credit, made a conscientious and concerted effort to provide care, funding or suitable accommodations for unwanted horses in both the private and public sector. The number and capacity of these facilities can only be estimated as they function relatively independently and do not have a national organization. The American Horse Council’s National Assessment of Contributing Factors Surrounding the Unwanted Horse Problem found the average maximum capacity of rescue/retirement/retraining facilities is 42 horses or an estimated total of 18,060 horses per year.(17) Due to the long natural life span of twenty five to thirty years for most horses, rescue/adoption/retirement facilities face a potentially long, costly care period for each horse, and have placed funding as the critical, limiting factor for those striving to provide an adequate standard of care. In addition, there is a strong need for the formation of a national oversight organization that could inspect and register equine shelters that meet humane husbandry standards in order to prevent animal hoarders and unscrupulous horse traders from taking in horses under false pretenses. According to the American Horse Council study, rescues reported the cost to maintain a horse for one year to be $2,300 on average. If the horses sent to processing plants in 2008 had been rescued, it would have cost the industry $343 million.(17) This annual cost, however, understates the total cost required because unwanted horses that would have been processed in previous years will now remain in the horse population.

 

There are a number of options for horses that are unwanted or no longer considered useful. Some can be retrained for other uses. This is common in racehorses that often find second careers in dressage or hunter jumper competition or cutting horses that find second careers in team penning or as pleasure horses. Some are donated to university animal science departments, law enforcement agencies, veterinary teaching hospitals or therapeutic riding programs. As has been discussed earlier, some are simply euthanized at the request of their owners or sent to processing plants. Whenever there are large numbers of unwanted horses, there is always concern for their welfare and the reality for many unwanted horses is that they become a burden and are potential candidates for abuse, neglect or abandonment.

 

A review of the unwanted horse issue would not be complete without a brief review of anti-slaughter legislation and the effect it has had on the horse industry. The term euthanasia has already been defined, but because the term slaughter is used frequently in the proposed legislations it is important to understand its meaning. In North America, slaughter is used to describe the humane ending of an animal’s life under strict federal regulations and is used only when the carcass is processed at a licensed meat plant for food purposes. In the European Union, slaughter is used by authorities to describe humane animal death, no matter the end result of the carcass.(18) The 1996 Farm Bill gave the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulatory responsibility for the humane commercial transport of horses to processing plants.

APHIS oversees the requirements on access to food, water and rest during shipment, as well as the types of horses that cannot be shipped. In addition, the regulations phased out the use of double‑decker trailers in 2006 and require that origin/shipper certificates accompany each shipment that document identifying marks, breed, color and gender.(19) A major concern by proponents of the anti-slaughter legislation is they believe horses, despite USDA oversight, suffer during transportation to the processing facilities. In a study reported in 1999 and conducted at the two Texas horse processing plants, a total of 1,008 horses in sixty‑three trailer loads were observed during unloading. Conditions considered severe welfare problems in horses were body condition scores of 1 to 2 (emaciated) of 9; recumbency or the inability to walk; fractured limbs; and severe wounds. Ninety-two percent of the horses arrived in good condition. Fighting was the major cause of the injuries that occurred during transport and marketing. Abuse or neglect by the owner, not transportation, was the cause of 77% of the severe welfare problems observed.(20) In a study conducted by Stull et al, nine trailer loads of horses (n=306) transported to slaughter facilities with distances ranging from 596 to 2,496 kms were observed to characterize the physiological responses and number of injures due to transportation under summer conditions. The percent of horses injured was greater for two‑tiered “potbelly” (29.2%) compared to straight-deck (8%) trailers.(21)

 

In 2001, the first proposed law to outlaw horse slaughter was introduced into Congress. The bill was never taken up by the full House, however, it did strike an emotional chord within both the horse industry and the non-horse owning public and started a debate that continues today. Proponents argued the ban on slaughter would eliminate pain and suffering of those horses shipped to processing plants and the surplus of unwanted horses that would result could easily be absorbed by the horse retirement/rescue industry. Opponents to the bill argued that banning the slaughter of unwanted horses would result in unintended consequences that would include increased neglect, abuse and abandonment. They also argued that unwanted horses, which in the past could have been sold for a profit, will now become a cost to the horse owner who must pay for care or euthanasia and carcass disposal.(22) They believed this would most severely impact the approximately 45% of U.S. horse owners that have an annual household income below $75,000 per year.(14) They also pointed out the bill did not provide funding, an infrastructure or enforcement authority to address the welfare of unwanted horses no longer processed for meat. There was also concern voiced that if the processing plants overseen by USDA veterinarians were closed, horses would be transferred longer distances to foreign processing plants The bill was not passed, but in subsequent years bills have again been introduced in Congress to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Independent inspections of processing plants in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada by AAEP veterinarians verified that animals at the plants were handled properly and their use of captive bolt and gunshot were acceptable forms of humane euthanasia for the horses being processed.(23)

 

Federal legislation to stop horse processing for meat became a moot point when in 2007 a 1949 Texas law that prohibits the slaughter of horses for human consumption (Texas Agriculture Code, Section 149.002) was discovered and enforced, closing the two horse processing plants in Texas.(24) In that same year, Illinois Bill H.B.1711 was passed and amended the Illinois Horse Meat Act, thus making it unlawful for any person in Illinois to slaughter a horse if that person knows that any of the horse meat will be used for human consumption.(25)  Now that there are no longer horse processing plants operating in the U.S., activists have turned their attention to introducing federal legislation to prevent the export of U.S. horses to processing plants in foreign countries.

 

 

Although the Unwanted Horse issue appears to be a U.S. only problem, animal activists in Canada and Europe are beginning to stimulate discussion on banning horse slaughter in their respective countries. From the U.S. experience with both the horse slaughter and unwanted horse issues it can be predicted that such activities will have a negative affect on the horse industry and equine welfare in countries where it occurs. The U.S. unwanted horse issue coupled with a dramatic downturn in the economy has produced several negative affects on the horse industry. The cost of caring for horses has increased and the amount of money available to owners has decreased. This has resulted in an increased sell-off of horses and the inability of owners to adequately care for them if they will not or cannot sell them. Because the processing plants in the U.S. have been closed, horses are currently shipped to Mexico or Canada for processing. The resultant high cost of transporting the horses has lowered the price buyers are willing to pay to only a few hundred dollars for a standard sized horse in good flesh.   Horses that have traditionally be sold at sale barns for 50 to 60 cents per pound are now bringing 10 to 15 cents per pound. As a result, the lowered price being paid for low-end horses has lowered the sale price of all U.S. horses. In addition, the number of horses abandoned and neglected has significantly increased. In a recently conducted national survey, over 90% of those polled indicated the number of neglected and abused horses is increasing. Eighty seven percent indicated the issue of the unwanted horse has become a “big problem”, compared with only 22% who felt it was important three years ago. Sixty-three percent of rescue/retirement/retraining facilities surveyed reported they are currently at or near capacity and, on average, turn away 38% of the horses brought to them.(17) Other problems created by the issue include a push by animal activist to reclassify the horse as a companion animal rather than livestock. The general public supports this initiative because they no longer view horses as working animals, but rather a luxury item that is to be treated as a pet. If horses were to be officially reclassified as companion animals, the horse industry would lose all federal and state funding for disease control, equine research, and disaster relief. The debate over horse processing and the unwanted horse has also fragmented the U.S. horse industry and created strong, emotional divides in an industry that traditionally collaborates.

 

The horse industry will never be able to completely eliminate unwanted horses. Horses will always age, sustain career ending injuries, not perform up to owner expectations or not be attractive enough. However, the horse industry has turned its attention to the unwanted horse issue and is developing strategies to both reduce the number of unwanted horses on the front end through responsible breeding as well as on the rear end through rescue/retirement facilities, retraining for alternative careers, and low-cost euthanasia options. It is the responsibility of all horse owners to learn the facts about the unwanted horse issue and to own responsibly. They must be aware of how their actions affect the welfare of the horses they own and consider the consequences before they breed, buy, or discard a horse at the local sale barn. The unwanted horse issue will not be resolved over night and over time will extend to other countries. Concerted efforts to reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats in the United States have been underway for decades, yet millions of dogs and cats are still euthanized at animal shelters and veterinary clinics each year. (26) Key equine stakeholders are now working together to develop effective strategies to improve the quality of life of unwanted horses and to reduce their numbers.

 

References:

 

(1)        Kellert, S.R. (1980) American Attitudes Toward and Knowledge of Animals: An Update. International Journal of the Study of Animal Problems, 1:2, 87-119.

 

(2)        U.S. Department of Agriculture (2008) Highlights of Equine 2005 Part II: Changes in the U.S. Equine Industry, 1998-2005. U.S. Department of Agriculture Information Sheet.

 

(3)        Reece, V.P., Friend, T.H., Stull, C.H. (2000) Equine Slaughter Transport-Update on Research and Regulations. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 216:8, 15 April 2000.

 

(4)        Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2006) www.faostat.fao.org. [Accessed 26 October 2007].

 

(5)        Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Statistics and Data Development Unit, ARD (2008) www.faostat.fao.org/statistics [Accessed 25 September 2008].

 

(6)        Helm, T. (2000) Horse Meat Sales Soar Over German BSE/Mad Cow Crisis. Telegraph, U.K. www.rense.com/general/6/bdse.htm [Accessed 17 October 2008].

 

(7)        American Association of Equine Practitioners Hosted Unwanted Horse Summit (2005). The American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Washington D.C.

 

(8)        Messer, N.T. (2004) The Plight of the Unwanted Horse: Scope of the Problem. American Association of Equine Practitioners Proceedings, 50: 165-167.

 

(9)        Lofholm, N. (2008) Slaughterhouse, Euthanasia Possible for Wild Horses. The Denver Post, 29 July 2008. Source: Bureau of Land Management.

 

(10)      U.S. Department of the Interior (2008) Challenges Facing the BLM in its Management of Wild Horses and Burros. Bureau of Land Management Fact Sheet.

 

(11)      Cordes, T. (2008) Commercial Transportation of Horses to Slaughter in the United States Knowns and Unknowns. The Unwanted Horse Issue: What Now? Forum, U.S. Department of Agriculture Revised Proceedings, 18 June 2008.

 

(12)      McGee, K., Lanier, J.L., Grandin, T. (2001) Characterizations of Horses at Auctions in Slaughter Plants. 2001 Animal Sciences Research Report. The Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University.

 

(13)      U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agriculture Statistics Service (2007) Livestock Slaughter Summary 2007 Report. www.nass.usda.gov/quickstats/indexbysubject.jsp? [Accessed 25 October 2008].

 

(14)      American Horse Council (2003) Horse Industry Statistics. www.horsecouncil.org/statistics.htm [Accessed 2 October 2008].

 

(15)      U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (2005) Trends in Equine Mortality, 1998-2005 #N471-0307. National Animal Health Monitoring System’s Equine 2005 Study.

 

(16)      U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (1999) Deaths in U.S. Horses, 1997 and Spring of 1998-Spring 1999 #N337-0501. National Animal Health Monitoring System’s Equine 1998 Study.

 

(17)      Lenz, T.R. (2008) National Assessment of Contributing Factors Surrounding the Unwanted Horse Problem, American Horse Council, Washington D.C.

 

(18)      Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) (2008) The Alberta Horse Welfare Report. www.afac.ab.ca.

 

(19)      U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Technical Pubs. Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter. www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs_ahhorses.html. [Accessed 23 October 2008].

 

(20)      Grandin, T., McGee, K., Lanier, J. (1999) Prevalence of Severe Welfare Problems in Horses that Arrive at Slaughter Plants. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1999, 214: 1531-1533.

 

(21)      Stull, C. L. (1999) Responses of Horses to Trailer Design, Duration, and Floor Area During Commercial Transportation to Slaughter. Journal of Animal Science, 1999, 77: 2925-2933.

 

(22)      Ahern, J.J., et al. (2006) The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Humane Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States. Animal Welfare Council, Inc. 15 May 2006. www.animalwelfarecouncil.org.

 

(23)     Grandin, T. (2004) How to Determine Insensitivity. www.grandin.com. [Accessed 14 August 2004].

(24)      State of Texas, The Sale of Horsemeat for Human Consumption. Texas Agriculture Code, Chapter 149.002. www.tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/ag.toc.htm. [Accessed 24 October 2008].

 

(25)      State of Illinois, Amendment to the Illinois Horse Meat Act. Illinois Bill HB 1711.             www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09300HB17118GA. [Accessed 24

October 2008].

 

(36)     http://www.americanhumane.org/site/PageServer?pagename=nr factsheets animal

euthanasia [Accessed 13 November 2008].

The Unwanted Horse issue – Where is it today? 2020

This article is posted with the Author’s  Tom Lenz DVM, MS, DACT permission.

 

 

Horses in the United States no longer wanted have been sold or discarded by their owners throughout history, but it is only in the last decade or so this subset of the horse population has been designated “unwanted”. Until the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in Europe in 2000 and the Foot and Mouth disease epidemic that occurred in the United Kingdom in 2001, Americans, both the horse owning and non-horse owning public, were not aware of the unwanted issue. European have traditionally eaten horse meat but both cattle disease outbreaks were responsible for changing the European consumers’ preference from beef to horse meat because they didn’t trust the safety of beef. This change drew American media attention to the fact that American horses were being processed for meat in the United States and their meat exported to Europe for human consumption. Media coverage of the issue not only drew the attention of the horse owning public, but also equine breed associations, animal rights/welfare organizations, veterinary associations and the non-horse owning public. Because of the resultant focused lobbying efforts of animal activists, the public and some horse owners, federal legislation was introduced in the United States Congress in 2001 to prohibit the processing of horses in the United States for human consumption. Since then similar federal legislation has been reintroduced in every Congress and has been expanded to include the export of horses to foreign meat processing plants. The 2001 legislation introduction initiated a series of contentious debates within the country that ultimately divided the horse community.

 

The term “Unwanted Horse” was first coined by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) at a horse industry meeting in Washington D.C. in 2005. Generally, these are horses that are geriatric, incurably lame, have behavior problems, or are dangerous. They also include un-adoptable feral horses and horses that fail to meet their owner’s expectations because they are unmarketable, unattractive, not athletic, unmanageable, are the wrong color, or cost too much to maintain. Normal healthy horses of varying ages and breeds may also become unwanted. In many cases, these animals have had multiple owners, have been shipped from one sale, stable or training facility to another, and ultimately rejected. Some are refitted and find new homes in alternate careers but others continue to be shipped to meat processing plants.

The U.S. horse processing plants were closed by state law in 2007 but today horses continue to be shipped to plants in Mexico and Canada. Because horses being process for human consumption epitomize the unwanted horse, they have been at the heart of the discussion. At the 2005 American Horse Council meeting leaders from across the industry came together to discuss options for resolving the unwanted horse issue. It was agreed that because there were strong opinions on both side of the horse processing issue the focus should be educating the horse industry and owners on responsible care of their horses and options that were available for a horse that was no longer wanted by its current owner. The result was the formation of the Unwanted Horse Coalition, which was placed under the umbrella of the American Horse Council. The goal of the organization was to raise awareness of the unwanted horse and provide a medium for the exchange of information about adoption, proper care, alternative careers and responsible ownership. This was done through a website, print material, educational forums and public service announcements. Last year it was agreed that raising awareness of the issue has been accomplished so the Unwanted Horse Coalition transitioned to the United Horse Coalition with a goal of “ providing information for existing and prospective owners, breeders, sellers, and horse organizations regarding the long-term responsibilities of owning and caring for horses, as well as focusing on the opportunities available for these horses through industry collaboration”. Particular attention is being given to the education of potential owners regarding the cost of care, proper husbandry, training requirements, expectations and life-ending decisions. In addition, since 2001 virtually every horse breed and discipline has developed a program to identify unwanted horses and to provide options for retraining, rehoming and post career care. None of these programs were present in 2001. They include the American Quarter Horse’s Re-ride Adoption program, the U.S. Trotting Association’s Full Circle Program, The American Horse Council’s Time to Ride Initiative and many more. The Thoroughbred industry has been active in finding new homes for retired race horses through their TB Aftercare Alliance, Take the Lead Program and their Retirement Check-off Program, just to name a few. A new unwanted horse advocacy group, The Right Horse Initiative, brought years of experience in finding homes for shelter dogs and cats to the horse industry. The organization is a collective of industry professionals and equine welfare advocates working together to improve the lives of horses in transition through a dialogue of kindness and respect, reducing the number of at-risk horses, providing information on end-of-life decisions and working towards eliminating the problem.

 

The horse industry will never completely eliminate unwanted horses. Horses will always age, sustain career ending injuries, or not meet their owner expectations. However, I’m optimistic that the future is brighter for these horses because the horse industry has turned its attention to the issue and continues to develop strategies to both reduce the number of unwanted horses on the front end through responsible care and breeding as well as on the rear end through rescue/retirement programs, retraining for alternative careers, and low-cost euthanasia options. Horse owners today are more aware then ever of how their actions affect the welfare of their horses and an ever-increasing number consider the consequences before they breed, buy, or discard a horse.

April 2020 Horse Report

In the four weeks since my last horse report, we have been on lockdown. Most Americans, and indeed people all over the world, are affected by this pandemic but for each of us, the effects are different. Some of you are separated from your horses, because boarding facilities are not allowing access. Some of us are stuck at home with our horses, and grateful for that. Maybe you are at home but not able to work from home, or perhaps you’re stuck at home and working all day. Still others are going to work as usual every day because you perform an essential service—THANK YOU! For me, our horses are right outside the door and things are operating somewhat normally around here except that some of my crew are working remotely and that I am home during what is normally my busiest travel time of the year.

I’ve been enjoying producing my Daily Doses of Horsemanship Homework, but I’ll be honest, it’s a lot more work than I originally  thought! I made a commitment to post a horsemanship lesson every day during this shutdown, not fully comprehending how long this thing would last (if only we knew a month ago what we know now). But a promise is a promise, and with the help of my far flung crew, we are delivering. I’ve really enjoyed the LIVE posts I’ve been doing 3-4 times a week—we’ve had good turnout and it’s really satisfying for me to connect with everyone in the live posts—to know that you are out there and engaging with me and enjoying the lessons we are posting. I love answering your real-time, real-life questions on the live posts and to debrief the arena lessons I’ve offered you.

I’ve been using Pepperoni mostly for the arena lessons—this is his first serious media job and he has performed quite well, almost like a grown-up horse. When we are producing content, the horses have to do a lot of waiting– repositioning for the camera, trial runs, stops and starts– while we get set up. Young horses aren’t always that patient or cooperative, while my mature horses have learned how to pose for the camera and when to turn it on. Pepper is four years old now and he’s more mature and more reliable and I am pleased to see that he is learning to be in front of the camera.

In order to mix it up a little and to produce some real-time training content, we’ve been using Woodrow for ground manners lessons. He’s a 3 year-old QH gelding that belongs to my barn manager and assistant trainer, Melissa. He’s quite a character, he’s very brave and opinionated, and he hasn’t had much work in this department, so he’s been an excellent demo horse! We’ve done some entertaining ground lessons with Woodrow on establishing boundaries, standing still, leading manners, ground tying, rating speed on the lead line… and there’s much more to come! He’s even developing his own fan club.

If you’ve missed any of the Daily Doses of Horsemanship Homework, you’ve got some catching up to do! There are plenty of lessons to keep you busy—both arena and “living room lessons,” that you can pick through to find the lessons that help you the most. You can find every single one of the Daily Doses here. Please join me on the LIVE posts on Facebook, to share your story and ask questions @JulieGoodnight. The LIVE posts are always announced ahead of time on my Facebook page. I look forward to connecting with you there!

Horsemanship Homework

Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Despite our best efforts, there are times when life-events will supplant your horsemanship activities. Putting in too many hours at work, an illness in the family, a new job, building a house, starting a family, moving or changing jobs are all events that can put your riding on hold for an extended period. But who knew a viral pandemic and national stay-at-home orders would stand in the way of improving your horsemanship?

Right now, people all over the country and all over the world are home from work or school, helping to curtail the spread, with nothing but time on their hands. Have you ever thought how much time you’d spend riding if you didn’t have to go to work or school? Or fantasized about being able to spend all day at the barn, with no other demands on your schedule? Be careful what you wish for.

The truth is, in this new reality, some of you are stuck at home WITH your horses, while some of you are stuck at home WITHOUT access to your horses. I’m sure most of you would prefer to be in the former group—to be able to get outside, do the physical chores, groom, ride and train. But without guidance, supervision and structure, how will you improve and what will you work on? If you’re in this boat, you might want to check out my riding audios that you listen to while you ride.

For those of you experiencing separation from your horses, not only are your goals and dreams temporarily suspended, but you’re also worried about your horse and the separation must be heartbreaking. Still, there are ways to make lemonade.

Sometimes life gets in the way of our plans. That’s our current reality and the hand we must play. No matter what your circumstance, whether you’re isolated from your horse or not, able to ride or not, there are ways to stay on track with your horsemanship, to grow your knowledge, to improve your balance and fitness, to learn more about horse behavior and influencing a horse’s behavior.

I often talk about the Mind-Body-Spirit connection, or, if you prefer, the Mental-Physical-Emotional connection. These are three parts of our being that are inseparable and inter-connected. When you have a thought, it affects you physically. When your emotions surge, it affects the thoughts in your mind and has a physical effect. We do best when these three parts of our being are in balance.

To take it one step farther, if you’re stuck at home, separated from your horses or feeling like you’ve been set adrift, there are many things you can do to keep you mind, body and spirit engaged in a positive direction to further your horsemanship, even when times are tough.

Mental Connection

If you can’t go out and ride your horse or your regular riding lessons are cancelled, you can still improve your horsemanship by studying! Read books and research articles, listen to podcasts, and watch videos to learn more about horses and riding. I love to read, especially about horse behavior, and recently I dedicated a blog to my favorite horse books.

I shudder to think where would we be without the internet in times like these. Online courses about horses and riding sports makes study-at-home easy. I started converting all my content to the digital space about a decade ago, in the form of articles, videos and audio recordings and we’ve amassed a huge resource library. We’ve got hundreds of episodes of Horse Master, all searchable content, streaming on-demand. My Interactive membership includes an online curriculum, study resources and assignments, plus personalized coaching from me. There are plenty of educational resources out there, both paid and free. And remember, when you read a term you don’t understand, look it up in your Equine Dictionary!

Study horsemanship theory—classical riding. The higher you go in your riding level, the more important riding and training theory comes into play. It’s less mechanical and more cerebral. Read the Book of Xenophon, the oldest known complete work of horsemanship (written almost 4,000 years ago). Take a cross-discipline approach and study skills and techniques in other disciplines of riding than the one you are used to. There’s more to riding than heels down, eyes up and shoulders back!

Focus is an important mental skill in all areas of life, but especially with horses. Multi-tasking is not as valuable as the ability to bring 100% focus onto a singular task. I’d guess that all accomplished riders have exceptional focus. It’s a skill you must hone and practice. To me, riding my bike on a single-track trail in the mountains, is as much an exercise on focus as it is physical. Riding a horse can be similar. Check out this exhilarating helmet-cam video that shows the amount of focus it takes to pilot a powerful horse through a five-star cross country jumping course.

In everyday life you can find ways to improve your focus with brain teasers, meditation, exercise, jigsaw puzzles, or simply putting your phone down and practicing listening skills.

Physical Connection

Riding is a very physical sport, so getting in better shape will help. Also, since horses communicate primarily with gestures and postures (body language), having good control of your physicality and body language helps you communicate more effectively and actually will help you ride better.

Balance is the #1 skill required of riders. It’s a challenging balance sport, because it’s a balance-in-motion and the synchronization of the balance of two animals—horse and human. Each has a will of its own and a balance of its own. Balance is a skill that naturally declines with age, peaking at about 18-20 years old. But no matter your age, young, old or in-between, you can always improve your balance through exercises that challenge your balance.

I’ll give you a full refund for the price of this blog if you practice a simple balance exercise two days in a row, and don’t see a huge improvement the second day. Balance improves rapidly when you work on it. Whether your exercise is as simple as balancing on one foot when you brush your teeth, or as complicated as walking a tightrope, you get better every time you practice and anything you do to improve balance off the horse, will help you on the horse as well.

Core strength is essential to good balance and to great riding skills. Riding is a weird combination of balancing while seated and synchronizing your balance with the horse—making your core strength and center-of-gravity critically important. It’s not enough to just do sit-ups and strength-building exercise, you must also use your core for balance and coordination. There are many great workout routines that address core strength and balance, and you can look at my favorites here.

Bi-lateral coordination refers to being equally strong and coordinated on both sides of your body. But the sad truth is, most of us are one-side dominant—as are most horses. Once again, getting older doesn’t help because often old injuries, scoliosis or arthritis will make lateral imbalances more pronounced. I seek out activities and exercises that help me develop bi-lateral coordination and I like to work my weak side more than my strong side.

I enjoy exercise routines like Pilates because it helps me identify my lateral weaknesses, which in turn affect my horse’s performance. Exercises that improve bi-lateral coordination are fun—try patting your head with one hand and rubbing your stomach with the other at the same time. Try signing your name with your other hand. Groom with two brushes– wax-on-wax-off (one of many reasons why I love the HandsOn grooming gloves

Most riding errors are posture related. If you do it on the ground, chances are you do it on the horse. Also, posture declines with age—that’s a fact of life. Our body shape changes with age from year one to 100. But like balance, you can always improve your posture. Just simply making an effort to sit up straight or making a mutual agreement with your friend or spouse (I’ll remind you if you remind me) to kindly point out when you are slouching, will go a long way to improve your posture. Better posture is good for your health, your confidence and your riding! 

Emotional Connection

Having faith in a positive outcome is important no matter how bad or chaotic it seems in the moment. Things will look different with time and perspective. Having confidence in yourself is not easy, but sometimes it’s required. “I’ve got this,” “I’ve been through worse,” “I love this!” (as my friend and colleague Barbra Schulte would say in any moment of adversity), are productive messages to give yourself. Just like when your horse spooks and blows up on you, you need to stay focused and proactive and do what you and your horse know how to do.

Everyone has moments of self-doubt. It’s normal. But not everyone has the grit to deal with it. The ability to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn more and succeed next time, the ability to lean-in when the going gets tough, and the ability to have faith in the positive outcome require true grit.

Building confidence and honestly examining your fears will not only help with your horsemanship, it will impact everything in life from scolding a naughty horse to asking your boss for a raise. Building your confidence will not happen automatically, it’s an attitude you must develop and maintain. There are many tools available for building confidence on my website, including a motivational audio and an online short course, both called Build Your Confidence with Horses.

Practice controlling your emotions through deep abdominal breathing and mental relaxation techniques. This stuff works, but only if you practice it. Next time you are startled and feel your heart rate shoot up, practice calming yourself through deep abdominal breathing and positive imagery. Next time you have an emotional confrontation or even just a welling of emotion, practice these skills. Sometimes when I am speaking in front of a crowd, touching on something poignant, I feel myself starting to cry and I view it as an opportunity to push through and take control of the emotion. Calming yourself and steeling your emotions is not always easy but like any skill, it gets easier when you practice.

There’s so much you can do to improve your horsemanship, even when you are secluded at home, unable to ride or feeling disconnected from the sport. While it’s great to have a trainer and/or riding instructor to motivate you and guide your learning, with some dedication and self-discipline, you can achieve your goals independently.

Take the time to study, read, watch and listen. Study classical riding theory and science-based research on horse behavior and training. Improve yourself physically and learn to steady your emotions. It’s a wholistic approach, to address the Mind, the Body and the Spirit in your horsemanship pursuits, and it will cause your horsemanship to soar. Regardless of your current situation, there is much you can do to become the horseperson your horse deserves!

April 2020 Letter From Julie

Dear friends,

What a difference a month makes! Here in Colorado, we are in our third week of shutdown and second week of stay-at-home orders. We are all taking the pandemic seriously and doing our part to prevent spread, keep distance, protect the vulnerable and support our health care workers and first responders. My hope is that four weeks from now, I’ll be writing in this newsletter about how the worst of it is behind us. But for now, we have to hunker down, be smart and do what we can to contribute to flattening the curve.

 

Fortunately for me, much of my business is internet-based, so we can keep the virtual doors open! Our subscription services (streaming horse-training videos) and membership programs (online horsemanship curriculum and coaching) are going strong and many of you are making the most of this time by improving your horsemanship knowledge. Diana is standing by, both online and by phone (719-530-0531), to help you with customer service, as usual.

 

If you’re stuck at home, fantasizing about getting back to regular riding and cruising the internet, check out our online store at shop.juliegoodnight.com! We’re still open for business and processing orders and offering you FREE SHIPPING (no minimums) as an incentive to shop. In addition to our fabulous rope halters, training leads, and reins, we also offer unique grooming products that you can’t find anywhere else, streaming horse training videos, sticks and flags, and many other great products.

 

It was tragic that so many great horse expos had to cancel this spring. I’ve agreed to be a presenter next year at the Northwest Horse Fair (Albany, Oregon) and the Midwest Horse Fair (Madison, Wisconsin). We’ll pick up right where we left off! We are in the process of rescheduling horsemanship clinics as needed. My previously rigid schedule has suddenly gotten more flexible!

 

In response to the health crisis and the increasing amount of people under stay-at-home orders in this country (3 out of 4 Americans, at the time of this writing), I’ve started daily postings offering you horsemanship homework—both “Living Room Lessons” and arena lessons. I’ve either posted through Facebook Live (I love connecting with you in real time!) or through a video uploaded to my YouTube channel. We’re starting on our third week of Daily Doses! In case you’ve missed any or all of them, we’ve put them on the Goodnight Academy homepage, under What’s New? https://signin.juliegoodnight.com/

 

Also new in my shop this month (this week) is a brand new digital product—a horsemanship short course on Building Confidence with Horses. We’ve been working on the short courses for months, and now happens to be a good time and a good subject to release the first one. Check it out here: https://signin.juliegoodnight.com/goodnight-academy-short-courses/

 

Many of you are separated from your horses during this shutdown and I know that must be tough! I’m incredibly grateful to have my horses at home and to be able to go to the barn for a sense of normalcy. I’m making the most of this unplanned time at home to ride my horse more, catch up on back-burner projects and produce more educational content for our online Library (we’re releasing new content every week). I’m looking forward to getting back on the road for clinics and expos, but for now, I am content to stay home and do what I can to help. I am confident we will get through this with American determination and ingenuity.

 

Please check out my Daily Dose of Horsemanship Homework and join us for a live post if you can! Help spread the word to your horsey friends, especially those with kids at home that may need a horse fix.

 

Until next time, stay safe, be smart and let’s do this!

Take care,

Julie