Let’s talk about choke.
On Thursday the Chauffeur/Unpaid groom/Video man/Babysitter went to catch Phoenix. When they came in he commented how easy she was to catch. Not that she’s difficult, but she sometimes wants to know what’s in it for her and needs a treat.
She seemed fine as I tied her up and started grooming. As I began brushing her neck I heard a gurgle coming from her gullet. Then I looked more closely, and just behind her jaw was swollen and very tender when I touched it. She gurgled again, before contracting her neck and retching.
I knew it was choke, but haven’t had to deal with it for a few years. The cases I’ve seen have been ponies gorging dry pony nuts and getting a bolus stuck in their gullet. We used to massage their throat to help break up the blockage, but occasionally they needed tubing.
For those who don’t know, choke is when a horse gets a blockage in their oesophagus. Horses can’t be sick, so despite their retching the blockage can only go one way. My first concern was what the blockage could be. After grilling the chauffeur, we concluded that she had the blockage before she was caught. She’d been standing, not eating, and had only taken the treat from him because he put it under her nose, rather than her usual investigative air. There’s no apples, conkers or anything like that in her field, and she does like to browse the hedgerow, so my primary concern was that she had a stick lodged in her throat.
After a couple of violent spasms in quick succession, and high sensitivity in her neck, I rang the vet. I wanted to check I was doing the correct thing, and also to get Phoenix on their radar in case they needed to come out.
As Phoenix didn’t have anything coming out her nose, the vet told me to wait for fifteen to twenty minutes to see if she resolved it herself. Obviously with no food within her reach. I could massage her neck to soften the bolus to help it clear, so long as she The spasms should become less intense and further apart. Once I think she’s cleared the blockage I should offer her a small sloppy feet – a warm mash – or take her to some grass and see if she starts grazing.
Phoenix stopped retching fairly quickly so when she’d been calm and quiet for ten minutes we offered her some grass. She tucked in happily so after grazing for a few minutes I took her back to the yard to check nothing was amiss.
She was fine, so I turned her out, trying to ignore her disgruntled face at the fact she wasn’t having any dinner!
Choke is seen as a medical emergency because whilst many cases resolve themselves without veterinary attention, there is a risk of dehydration and further complications if the oesophagus has been obstructed for a long time. Instructions range from a large, dry bolus of food (caused by gorging), carrots sliced into discs instead of lengthways (I see a surprising number of people feed carrots this way), to foreign objects like conkers or twigs (why it’s important walkers don’t feed horses over the fence).
The vet’s procedure is to tube the horse to ensure there is a blockage, and then to sedate the horse to help them clear the blockage. In more serious cases, they are tubed and fluids gently sent up to soften and clear the blockage. On rare occasions, surgery is required to remove the blockage.
So whilst it’s very unpleasant to watch your horse spasming with choke, don’t panic. Remove any food, make a note of the frequency of the episodes and then ring your vet who can advise.
It may still be warm here in the UK, but the nights are drawing in. I’ve had to cash in my evening hack, leaving Daddy to do bedtime, for Pilates class.
There was an article in Horse and Hound recently claiming that horses don’t need to be trained daily, and it is more effective to train every third day. Which has obvious benefits in that the horse doesn’t get stale, and there is less wear and tear on their joints.
This doesn’t mean that we should only ride twice a week, as that won’t help the nationwide crisis of equine obesity. We just need to ensure that we’re providing variety in our work and not drilling our horses, despite really wanting to nail that particular exercise.
Yet winter is on the horizon, with dark nights and limited turnout. This means that for most owners, who work full time, they’re restricted to the arena for the majority of the week.
So how can we continue to get the best out of our horses without over training them during the winter?
Firstly, despite the weather it’s important to maximise turnout as much as possible, and to feed low energy forage and hard feed so that you don’t need to canter round in circles for half an hour to get a sensible horse to work with, and you’ll stay safer on hacks.
Set aside hacking days on the weekend; it’s a great excuse for a longer hack with friends! If you’re lucky enough to have the option of flexi-time, it might be a good idea to adjust your working day so you can have a mid week hack, even if it’s only a short one. Exercise outside the arena is always beneficial for both horse and rider.
Depending on your horse’s exercise requirements you then need to plan some arena sessions for the dark evenings.
I always think one session a week should be unridden. You can do a variety of lunging, in hand work, or long reining. Unridden work should always complement your ridden work, so don’t just let your horse troll round the arena in a hollow frame at the end of a slack lunge line. Use in hand work to improve their suppleness and their understanding of lateral work, and lunging to get them working long and low to develop their topline without the weight of the tack and rider.
One session should be poles or jumping, or perhaps two. You may be a dressage rider, but pole work provides variety to the flat work, improves their cadence and gets the horse to engage their core. There are hundreds of pole layouts which you can use to work on different areas of your schooling. For example, today I arranged some poles to improve cadence and engagement by trotting over the poles, lengthening the trot by trotting over different points of the poles, and worked between the poles to improve straightness. The net result was a switched on pony and rider, both working really well. For those who like to get off the ground, there are plenty of exercises which can be laid out in the school and jumped at any height.
The flatwork sessions should have a different theme so that you are using a variety of different muscles and not over stressing particular areas. For example, if you are working at prelim level, one flatwork session could focus on transitions between halt, walk and trot, with a short time focusing on the canter. Another session could focus on the canter school movements. Another session looking at lateral work in walk. By focusing on different areas in your training your horse is more likely to stay interested in their work, and less likely to strain anything.
I think it’s also important to remember that exercise during the week is a break from the stable for the horse, and a chance to stretch his legs. He doesn’t need to be worked into a sweat each time you ride. If you’ve taxed his brain in walk then he’ll be as tired as if he’d trotted for half an hour.
Hopefully you’ve now got some ideas for implementing an exercise regime through winter to give your horse plenty of variety, and interest, whilst still improving their level of training, burning calories and keeping them happy. After all, schools no longer teach by drilling pupils in their multiplication tables – they’re more dynamic in their teaching – so why should we drill our horses in their work?
The Welsh Pony and Cob Society have been ahead of the game for years in terms of having a record of equines. Years ago you used to get stud books published every few years which were an index of all registered animals. I remember the glee of us girls when we found a horse we knew if the stud books. Now of course, it’s all online. I’ve also always like the fact the genealogy is usually fairly complete. Together with the stud prefixes you could easily identify your pony’s relations. Which is very exciting!
Of course years ago, the WPCS relied on owners registering their animal for the status it brought, the ability to show at county level, and the advertising it did for their breeding. Then, from 2004 all owned horses were required to have a passport, which resulted in many older horses receiving blue passports from The Donkey Sanctuary – which was a bit of a knock to their ego, I’m sure.
However, many breeders who (and I’m going to make a sweeping statement here) bred from mares with questionable breeding/temperament/soundness because they had no other use for the mare did not bother to passport foals until they were sold as yearlings, two, three or four year olds (I can only assume that is because there is a risk of a horse dying before it reaching adulthood and if that happens then time and money has not been wasted on passporting them). So the concept of all equines having passports and reducing the overbreeding of horses didn’t really work, and was difficult to monitor.
Then in 2009 this law was strengthened in that all foals born after 1st July 2009 had to have a microchip and passport within 6 months of birth or by 31st December of that year, whichever was soonest. Any horses applying for new passports (those who had slipped through the previous net) had to be given a microchip too.
This makes passporting horses more expensive, which I think deters responsible horse owners from breeding with their mare, but it still didn’t stop those who breed casually. Even the £1000 fine per unpassported animal didn’t deter many, as the UK still has a massive overpopulation of equines.
Now, as a proud owner of a mare, I find myself wondering would I ever breed from Phoenix. I highly doubt it, although I don’t think she’d make a bad brood mare as her conformation, movement and manners are all great. I just don’t think I’d want to risk putting her through it (because there’s always a risk) for an unknown result. When I could just go to the Brightwells sale in October at Builth Wells and view hundreds of weanlings and take my pick there. If I so desired to have one so young. Anyway, for now she has to concentrate on her ridden career.
As the passport and microchipping laws haven’t really had the desired effect, and with all the different passport issuing bodies (each breed society issues passports for their breed, plus the cross breed passports you also have) it’s very difficult to regulate. At competitions you can monitor passports, but given the number of equines stood in fields, you are only seeing a small, and very biased, sample of the equine population.
From 1st October 2018, it has become compulsory for all equines to have a microchip, as well as a passport. Owners have until October 2020 to ensure this is done. In addition to the microchip, all equine details will be stored on the Central Equine Database (CED).
Luckily for most of us, the passport issuing bodies are still the main point of contact for change in ownership, change or address, or death. They will update the CED.
We can only hope that having all equine details in one area will mean that disease outbreaks can be controlled and reduced, and stolen animals found and identified quicker as hopefully the middle man has been sacked.
Thankfully, DEFRA does admit that in order for this new law to be effective, it does require owners to be responsible and play their part.
Unfortunately though, I think there are too many numerous-horse owners (even at riding schools) where the paperwork and cost involved in microchipping all their older animals makes it very unlikely that they will follow through with it unless necessity requires it. Perhaps there is a window here for passport issuing bodies and vets to provide discounted microchipping and passporting rates to encourage multiple horse owners to step into line.
I’m still not sure how it’s going to be regulated, because so many horses stay in their field or are only ridden at home. Competition horses, particularly affiliated ones, will be fine, but the geriatric companions will go under the radar.
It is a positive that vets can check the microchip and positively identify a horse and treat accordingly, even if the passport isn’t present. Where do you keep yours? Technically, it should be at the yard but I for one am not keen on giving the yard owner my actual physical passport. I’d prefer to give them a photocopy. I don’t take my passports to the yard daily either, so getting there and having to call the vet for an emergency means that either I’ve got to leave my horse and go and get the passport, or send someone to dig around the office to find where I’ve secreted them away. The CED is a definite positive from this angle.
I like to think that being able to trace horses to owners makes them accountable for welfare issues or abandonment, but in order for that to happen they need to have chipped their horse in the first place. And if you’re a candidate for neglecting your animal, are you going to bother getting them chipped, and updating existing passports? I’m yet to be convinced.
In the meantime, go to The Equine Register and enter your horse’s microchip number to check that they are on the CED. Phoenix’s is as she was born after 2009, but Otis’s isn’t on there. He had a microchip inserted five years ago, and was registered with an animal microchip database as recommended by the vet, but the CED only takes information from passport issuing bodies, and Otis’s chip has not been linked to his passport. I’m sure this has happened to numerous others who tried to get ahead of the game years ago. So it’s definitely worth checking out. You can guess what my job tomorrow morning is!
Firstly, apologies for the quiet blog this week, the piece I wrote on Thursday seems to have disappeared into the ether… I will retrieve it. But in the meantime, here’s today’s post.
Last weekend I enjoyed a very informative day at a Horses Inside Out seminar. So much to take in, I felt like I’d just had a full day of A-level exams! Anyway, I have lots of new knowledge to impart to my clients, and some subjects to discuss on here too. Where to start?
How about with the warm up act, a lecture from the WOW saddle man.
Have you heard of WOW saddles? In fear of you getting bogged down in their blurb, here’s a link to their website , but I’ll surmise it for you here. WOW saddles are based on the flair system of flocking saddles with pockets of air instead of traditional wool, and each style of saddle has a number of different options, such as tree shape, stirrup bar position, knee roll position, which enables horse and rider individuality to be taken into account. Possibly an easier method of creating bespoke saddles than the traditional way? Imagine it to be like going into IKEA and building your own wardrobe from the different options available to you.
This seems like a pretty good approach to saddle fitting. But it is unfortunately outside the budget of the majority of horse owners, and doesn’t lead to a second hand market.
Next, let’s discuss the flair system. By using air to flock a saddle you can make small adjustments easily, and adjust the saddle while it is on the horse and the rider is mounted. Sounds great. I’m led to wonder, however; how often do the air bags need “pumping up” and do they have a limited life expectancy? Do owners “top up” the air themselves? And what is the effect of putting in too much air? Or indeed, riding when they’re flat?
I’m no saddler, but as far as I understand, flocking with traditional wool puts a solid (albeit with tiny air pockets) into the panels of the saddle until the saddle is balanced and fits the horse. Over time, the flocking settles down, compresses, and moulds to the horse’s shape. You’ve seen the dips in your favourite sofa from where you always snuggle up. Saddlers add flocking if necessary when they check the saddle fit, and if there’s any dense bits of flocking, or if the flocking is old and ineffective (take a feel of those ancient stubben saddles on the top rack in the tack room) they can remove all the flocking and replace it with new. I digress. I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, that wool flocking settles around the shape of the horse to a certain extent. Which enables saddles to be close contact and for riders to really feel their horse’s movement.
Air is a gas, and if you squash a gas, the particles migrate to other areas, which causes an increase in density of the particles, which increases pressure. Here’s a little animation for you.
So when a rider applies pressure to the air flocked saddle, when they sit on it, they’re increasing the pressure in the panels. And if they aren’t sat in a balanced manner, they’ll increase pressure in different areas of the panel, potentially causing sore spots on the horse. Equally, the pressure in the panels is just as likely to send energy up through the rider’s seat, causing back pain, and creating an unstable seat for them to balance on. I’m trying, but failing, to find the research online I heard about yesterday, which says that air flocked saddles are of no real benefit compared to wool flocked saddles, and can even have worse pressure points. If you know the paper I’m talking about, please send it over!
The concept of flocking saddles with air I’m yet to be convinced by. From what I’ve heard, it’s like marmite. Some horses love the freedom it gives over their backs, some hate the unstableness of the saddle. Some riders love sitting on an air bed, others hate the reduction in feel. I’d suggest doing your own research because the jury is still out on this.
Moving on to the main subject of the lecture I heard. Fitting saddles. The lecture began with a quick overview of how the horse’s shoulders develop with work, and he gave us a couple of visual checks to do to see which areas of your horse are more developed than others … more on this another day when I’ve got some photos to accompany my words.
WOW saddles design or fit the saddle to the horse, in terms of the physical body of the saddle, anyway, and when the rider sits on the saddle is adjusted asymmetrically. The company claims that by adjusting the saddle asymmetrically the horse will become straighter. I sat on one of the saddles on a wooden horse and had it “fitted” to me. As with the majority of riders, I sit slightly to the right, which means that my left seat bone is slightly closer to the midline of the horse. The lecturer told us that this means my right leg hangs long and loose, whilst my left leg draws up to hold me on because I feel like I’m going to slide right all the time. This causes my left shoulder to drop and go behind my body. In terms of the way the horse goes, the right hind is stronger as it’s having to compensate for me sitting off centre, which leads to a stronger left shoulder, and a better bend on the right rein and better quality trot because the stronger hind leg is on the inside. The left canter has more power because the right hind (the strongest) is the propulsion leg, but the horse is more likely to fall in during left canter because he gives you right bend more easily.
Now with all these lefts and rights it’s really confusing. But I’ve sat down and thought about it all, and the chain reaction makes sense if you sit to the right. Obviously it all happens in reverse if you sit to the left. I was disappointed that before sitting on the saddle my posture wasn’t assessed at all as then he’d know that my right shoulder is tighter and carried higher than my left as a result of an old injury and muscle tension rather than a consequence of my sitting to the right on the saddle.
This is where there is a point of contention. WOW saddles focus on sitting the rider asymmetrically in order to help the horse go straight. But what came first? The chicken or the egg? Do horses make riders crooked or do riders make horses crooked? It can definitely be a vicious cycle, and I’m always telling my clients that if they’re giving their horse chiropractic treatment then they should also have some too. In my opinion, WOW saddles are only treating the symptom and not the cause. I think WOW saddlers also assume that the horse is straight at birth and it is our asymmetric riding which causes any problems. Domestication does favour doing things from the left hand side, but surely good training ensures the horse is comfortable being approached, led, tacked up and mounted from both sides?
Of course, you need to break the vicious cycle of horse and rider crookedness. To me, this can be done by working the horse from the ground more, ensuring you’re working them evenly, educating the rider’s eye, feel and understanding of biomechanics, Pilates (equine and human), and using regular physio treatments to help make horse and rider as symmetrical as possible. Yes, no one (human or equine) is born perfectly symmetrical. One hand/leg is always dominant, and bone length can differ. But you can become ambidextrous. Those lefties years ago had to adapt and write with their right hand for fear of being burnt at the stake for being a witch/the devil. Now we know it’s not a sin to be left handed, but equally we also know that by using both sides of our body to the same extent we build even muscle tone and are less likely to over stress and injure one area.
So surely before making adaptations to our riding lives we should look at solving the underlying problem, and not the symptom?
You hear of horses coming back from injury who need to have their saddles temporarily altered, perhaps with a shimmy on one side to compensate for muscle atrophy because of the injury. And the rider will work on various strengthening exercises to build up this area, and the saddler will then be able to remove the shimmy once the muscle has developed. The use of the shimmy, or asymmetric flocking will reduce any saddle slide and hopefully stop pressure points developing elsewhere. For example, if the saddle slides left, then there is the potential for soreness to develop on the right side of the thoracic spine. Which creates another problem. So saddlers do fit saddles asymmetrically to a horse in order to not cause further problems, but they’re fitting the saddle asymmetrically so that it is a level surface for the rider, and is less likely to slip to one side. A bit like if you have one foot bigger than the other. You buy a pair of shoes to fit the bigger foot and fill the other shoe so that the smaller foot is comfortable. Then you’re more likely to walk evenly and without causing an injury.
So where have we got to? I’m as confused about the whole concept as anyone else. But to me the concept of fitting the saddle to the rider’s asymmetry reinforces the idea that it is ok to ride crooked and to not look after your own body. Yes you need to fit the saddle to the horse, whether that’s asymmetric because they have an underdeveloped trapezius, or not. But it doesn’t make sense to me to put a rider on an uneven saddle; just like it’s uncomfortable walking in shoes with heels of different heights, and causes soreness in one leg. Furthermore I’m yet to be convinced by using air to flock saddles as research and rider feedback is so divided. Perhaps the WOW method has a place in rehab work, but I don’t think it is the long term answer. Or at least, if it is, maybe we shouldn’t be riding that horse?
I have to give it to the WOW saddle man, he gives a persuasive lecture, but I would urge riders to think about the underlying reasons for a lack of straightness in themselves and their horse and look at working on overcoming this through physiotherapy and exercise as surely it’s better all round to be as close to straight as possible.
There are posts all over social media about over rugging horses as it’s that time of year when it’s pretty chilly at night, but lovely and warm during the day.
I’m holding out while we have fine weather this week, and leaving Phoenix naked. Sure I’m sure she’s a bit chilly in the very middle of the night, but she’s got plenty of fur, and is after all a tough native. But the rest of the time she’s plenty warm enough. She can move around her field to keep warm, or shelter by the hedgeline. With the baby to manage, it is easier to not have to worry about her being too hot in the day with a rug on if I can’t get there early enough.
Here’s a guide which has been doing the rounds recently, and I think will surprise many owners with the rugging advice.
My Mum and I had a discussion about what are light weights or zero fill rugs and their individual merits.
Rain sheets, with no filling, are in our opinion only useful for warm, wet summer days when convenience is important. Such as a competition or it’s raining and you need your horse to be dry to ride. If you were to use them in the autumn, when the horses have grown a thick coat you are just flattening the hairs, which prevents the horse raising the coat and trapping a layer of air next to the skin to act as an insulator and keep them warm. This is called the pilomotor reflex, and is the same reason we get goosebumps when we’re cold.
At least a lightweight rug compensates for flattening the coat by providing warmth via the filling. It’s worth considering when thinking about what rug to put on your horse, as they will probably be better off naked than with a zero fill rug on chilly autumn days.
When looking to the guide for help it’s worth remembering the following points:
- Older horses or ones with arthritis will need thicker rugs as they feel the cold more.
- Horses that tend to drop off weight suddenly will benefit from having their rug on a little earlier than their friend who holds their weight.
- If your horse has previously been rugged up to the nines they will need to acclimatise to your more minimalist rug approach, so you may need to rug more than you thought for the first couple of autumns.
- Some horses just feel the cold more than others.
- The guide refers to fully clipped, or hunter clipped horses, when they state “clipped”, so if your horse is only partially clipped you may not need to rug up as much as the guide says. It may be more of a case of using a rug with a neck rather than a heavier fill of rug.
- Depending on your horse’s breed, they may grow a much denser coat than others, so may need less rugging than a finer coated counterpart.
All in all, we as horse owners need to ensure we aren’t over rugging horses to ensure they are less at risk of colic due to being too hot, the obese and laminitic ones lose weight over the winter so they’re less at risk in the spring and their hormone levels reset themselves.
At the end of the summer I was approached by an American company, Equi-Spa, asking if I’d trial and review some of their grooming products.
Always up for trying new things, I had a look on their website to see why they differed from other grooming products before accepting their offer and very quickly a parcel arrived in the post for Phoenix.
In the box we’re three sprays: Orchid Oil Gloss, Peppermint Summer Protection, and Fairy Tails Spray.
I’m a great believer in elbow grease for keeping a shine on coats, so always use the body brush enthusiastically. However, I had felt in August the Phoenix’s coat wasn’t shining as I’d like. Her summer coat was fading and been bleached by our intense summer, and the first symptoms of a winter coat were appearing, which always makes coats look dull. If a product can help improve coats during the change, then they must be worth investing in.
First of all, I used the Peppermint Summer Protection. This is a pest repellent which uses only natural plant extracts. Having a baby in the vicinity, I don’t like using fly sprays full of chemicals, so this appealed to me. In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you the effectiveness of it as a fly spray at the moment: we weren’t particularly bothered by flies when I used it, but we are getting towards the end of fly season and don’t have those irritating zooming little black flies at the moment, which do irritate Phoenix. The spray does smell pepperminty and fresh, which can only be a good thing. The biggest impact I found from using the spray regularly, was the improvement to her coat. The spray leaves a residue which makes the coat slightly slippery (so I avoided over using it on the saddle area, just in case) which means dirt doesn’t stick to her, so she comes in cleaner and any mud is easily flicked off. Which is great for September, when the showers, warm weather, and coat change lead to plenty of rolling. Phoenix’s coat also developed a lovely shine to it, which many people complimented me on.
I really liked the spray bottle as by twisting the nozzle you could adjust the mistiness of the spray, meaning you waste less. However, the spray is quite loud and if you have a diva like Phoenix who dislikes sprays (you’d have thought she’d have gotten used to it by now, having been sprayed daily since April) it can be fun and games applying it. I did think it was worth the dancing though, as her coat looks and feels great even though she’s between coats.
The other two sprays (which arrived with black tape around to prevent leakage during transport, which I felt was a great just-in-case idea and doesn’t reflect the quality of the sprays in any way) are both mane and tail sprays. Again, the spray bottles are good quality and have a locking device so they don’t accidentally go off in your grooming kit. I also liked the tall, narrow bottle shape so it’s easier to keep them upright in your grooming kit. They stream the liquid out instead of spraying, so Phoenix was a fan, and I felt wastage was minimised.
The Fairy Tails spray is a non-toxic detangler –
Formulated with botanical extracts, pure essential oils, minerals and amino acids to detangle, manage and enhance manes and tails naturally!
– and I felt that a few squirts through the tail was all that was needed to make brushing it easy. Perhaps I should be trying this on my notoriously tangled hair? Phoenix doesn’t have the thick, lustrous mane associated with Welsh Cobs so whilst brushing it through is fairly quick I like to minimise what I pull out, especially when she’s already got a short patch from last winter’s rug and some more missing from an altercation with a hawthorn hedge. This spray does mean my brush flies through, and I’m hoping it means any hawthorn branches do too! There’s no smell with this spray, and the effects do seem to last. So many detanglers claim to last for weeks, but in my experience they need to be reapplied every day.
The second tail spray smells divine! It’s the Orchid Oil Gloss detangler, and again is non toxic.
Formulated with premium coconut and orchid oil extract, pure essential oils, minerals and amino acids to detangle, manage and enhance manes and tails naturally!
I felt this spray was superior to the other, as it really gave Phoenix’s tail a shine. Chestnut tails are a lovely mix of colours – highlights many ladies lust after – but they do lack the shine of a black tail.
The Orchid Oil Gloss also stayed in the tail for a few days which meant that brushing through her tail took moments.
All in all, I was impressed with the quality of all three products and the positive effect they had on Phoenix’s coat at a time of year when it is not looking it’s best as she prepares for winter. I look forward to continuing to use the detanglers over the next couple of months and hopefully see the improvement in her mane as it grows out, although looking back at the photos I think it needs a bit of a tidy up. Like owner, like horse! I’ll probably use the peppermint spray infrequently over the winter to condition her coat, but it will be good to further trial it in the spring when the flies reappear. I particularly like the fact the sprays are all natural and chemical-free, which can only benefit Phoenix, me and the environment. As well as the grooming products I tried there are some for hoof protection, udder/sheath cleaning, muscle care, sweet itch relief, and skin/coat care. They’re all natural products and look to complement each other in the care of working horses.
If you want to find out more about Equi-Spa and their various products then here is their website – www.equispa.com – with an online shop, and there are also links to lots of welfare and management articles too, which make for interesting reading.
Has everyone been following the WEG competitions this last week? If I’m honest, I’ve not watched any, but plan to do a marathon catch up over the weekend. I have however, been following it all online.
I do have a couple of opinions about it to voice though.
Given that it’s the championship for eight of the FEI disciplines – combined driving, dressage, endurance riding, para-equestrian, eventing, showjumping, reining and vaulting – I have to say that there is disappointing media coverage on the non-Olympic sports.
Horse and Hound have dutifully written up about Team GB’s personal best in the reining, but that’s nothing compared to their social media posts about the dressage and event horses who passed their respective trot ups, and detailed analyses of each performance.
You can watch every discipline on FEI TV, but all other channels, such as BBC, Eurosport, H&C, provide extensive coverage of dressage, eventing and showjumping, with minimal coverage of the other disciplines. I hope Clare Balding references each discipline in her highlights show at the games.
I’m sure there’s financial reasons for not televising the disciplines where we aren’t so dominant, but equally with so much online TV available I’m sure with just a bit of promotion on social media, equine enthusiasts will be more aware of all the disciplines and be able to watch them. You never know, if a young rider watches, for example, the vaulting competition, that may encourage them to take up the sport as it combines their love of horses with their love of gymnastics. Which of course only benefits equestrianism as a whole.
My other question, or rather thought, about the WEG is why on earth are they holding it in North Carolina during hurricane season?
Unlike the Olympics, which are held circa the first two weeks of August, the WEG can be held at any time during the year. In 2014, the Games were held at the beginning of August in Normandy. So when Tryon was given the bid, why did they choose the hottest, most humid time of year to hold the Games? You only have to google the climate in North Carolina to see that it is extremely hot – red on the colour scale – from June until October. Then consider the North Atlantic hurricane season, which peaks from the end of August right through September.
As far as I understand it, there wasn’t a huge amount of interest, or funding to hold the WEG. Initially, it was given to Bromont, Canada in 2014 but then they pulled out due to not being able to secure financial support so in 2016 Tryon was announced as host. Ok, so they haven’t had that long to prepare for 68 nations and almost 700 horses to descend on them. Which may have led to them choosing the latter part of the year.
But surely if horse welfare is at the top of the FEI’s agenda, they would have come up with alternative plans. Either to use an alternate venue, or delay the Games to the early part of 2019. I honestly don’t think any of the athletes would have minded it being 4 1/2 years between WEG if it would have improved the competition environment. I applaud the owners of the Irish show jumper who refused to send their horse halfway across the world into potentially catastrophic conditions.
This leads me onto the debacle of the endurance event. First of all there was a false start, and then the race was disbanded due to the weather conditions. Imagine all that preparation, flying across the world, to participate in a failed, badly organised event. Then we hear that an endurance horse has been euthanised due to kidney failure from severe dehydration. What else has gone on behind the scenes that we don’t know about? How many horses and riders suffered from heat stroke and had to be hospitalised?
This morning, I woke to the news that the eventing showjumping and the dressage freestyle have been postponed due to Hurricane Florence hitting on Sunday. I know no one could have predicted the magnitude of Hurricane Florence, but given the fact that September always has at least one major hurricane hit the North American coast, we could’ve placed some bets.
I haven’t even touched on the outrage when it was revealed that the grooms accommodation consisted of dormitory style tents. Which is rather reminiscent of a scout jamboree. And doesn’t give the grooms the best chance of doing their job to the high standards the athletes expect and require. Let alone the fact that it’s hurricane season and let’s face it, those tents aren’t going to withstand the first gusts of Hurricane Florence! I know the infrastructure was only just finished in time for the beginning of the Games, so corners will have been cut somewhere but it seems the poor grooms suffered. I have also heard there were problems with arrival process and that feed and gear were confiscated and lost upon arrival, which hasn’t made it into mainstream media yet.
I think a lot of equestrians are, quite rightfully, upset with the WEG/FEI and the Tryon organisers for several bad decisions, and for not prioritising athlete welfare. Apparently the discipline sponsors offered to relocate the event at their own expense because they were so concerned about equine welfare, but the FEI insisted on continuing with Plan A.
So then I wonder if perhaps the equestrian championships aren’t better being held individually, or in small groups. I mean, each discipline has different requirements so in order to accommodate all of them a lot of money and work is needed by a host. Which perhaps leads to a lack of interest in hosting the WEG as a whole. If it was broken down again, so dressage and para-dressage was held on one week, at one suitable venue, and eventing at another time and place you’d have far more willing hosts because it’s not such a massive undertaking so is more viable, and the championships could be held at the time of year most suitable for that discipline. Which would lead to better horse welfare, happier athletes, happier spectators, and hopefully more successful championships.
I think it’s a case of watching this space, and seeing the fallout that the Tryon WEG has on the FEI as a body, and in the future format of the WEG and championships because we, as equestrians, have a duty to our horses to learn from this fiasco.