Young Horse Education Project

We have an education problem in this country when it comes to young horses. We certainly know how to show,  yet I have never believed education needs to happen solely in the show ring.

It is insanely expensive on the major circuits, with only a few managements here and there able to offer discounted divisions for the up and coming show horses. Classic Company offers $5.00 3’ and 3’3” Green hunter division for their winter circuit in Gulfport, which is very forward thinking, and I believe Nona Garson offers a Professional Young Jumper division and low heights with no entry fee for the first horse, but $35 for additional horses. Also forward thinking. Regional Shows are gaining tremendous strength and popularity for people with young horses, as many of them can be held in the same venues as Premiere shows… I can show in the PA Farm Show Arena for about 1/10th of the cost of the real horse show, which is an exciting experience, and the pictures and videos look the same without the yellow backdrop. Obviously, I am also a HUGE supporter of the Young Horse Show Series for the European way to start horses. Very affordable, and caters to multiple disciplines. Mileage is always good.

But what about plain old education? What about starting a young horse before it ever even gets into the show ring? Do we have a good enough system? Do we understand the time it takes and the steps to take to build a confident and secure young horse?

IMG_9745

I like to think breeding in the States has been gaining ground (maybe not if you talk to the pony breeders right this second) so we are going to need to accommodate these young horses somehow as they learn the ropes. Other countries and continents have a wealth of breeders and young, ambitious riders who know they might only get one chance to get in the tack, so… riding a baby it is!! I am sure you have seen videos of awesome rides to break a warmblood, and the culture there is obviously way more synchronized with young horses. Christ, you can hardly get lifetime equestrians over there to wear a bloody helmet.

But we need to address the changes in America, and sometimes, you just have to try crazy ideas without thinking about too hard about the results.

The Scoop:

I am going to launch a pilot project this year called the Young Horse Education Project which will entitle a participant (professional or amateur, doesn’t matter) to 10 FREE educational sessions with his/her young horse age 3-5 yrs old. The sessions can be me riding, you riding, or whomever riding, doesn’t matter. There should be less urgency to send horses out to strange environments to get broken, which can get expensive and nerve-wracking for owners.

The horse needs to be microchipped, and registered with either a State/National show organization like MHSA, PHSA, VHSA, USHJA/USEF, etc.,  or registered with a Breed registry. If the horse is for sale, it will be promoted on the website for sale and all social media accounts….for free. If the horse is not for sale, it will get as much or as little promotion as the owner chooses.

If the horse should sell as a result of participation the owner will have two choices. Pay UP TO a 10% commission OR donate to one of the two charities I support, The Arabber Preservation Society, or Talisman Therapeutic Riding, both holding a 501(c)3 status.

Why do this? It actually helps me so much, believe it or not, as I am constantly being asked for horses for sale. Not just horses in my barn, but from the community.  I don’t send out group texts to trainers saying what do you have? What have you heard? This hasn’t really worked for me. It’s time consuming, and easy to mix up horses. I forget a lot, get busy, then feel bad I forgot about a horse someone told me about once.

I don’t attend every show in the area. I travel. I miss some shows. There could be a hundred young horses not aligned with my local show schedule I just haven’t seen. And, get this, sometimes I don’t WANT to go to another show, even to watch. I want to stay home and teach clients every once in a blue moon!

The show record phenomenon. We have created a society who can’t seem to purchase a horse without a show record with has results from at least ten Premiere Rated Shows in the country. This is ludicrous, and makes me crazy. Sorry, go ahead and judge me and my young horses, but I am not putting them in jeopardy of injury because of some unexplained expectation to fork out hard earned money for 10 cent ribbons. They get plenty of mileage with what I do, and remain sound, and happy.  Not all young horses should see that many shows! It is not healthy! This could be a great alternative.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 1.19.37 PM

People get intimidated to make a call to tell me about a horse, or show me a horse, because the American expectation is that you have to PAY a trainer to show them a horse. I would like to erase this about our culture. It is one thing if you meet a trainer at a show and take advantage of the ticketed warm up, or can shout at a trainer within earshot “will you please stay and watch this one go??” But that puts a lot of pressure on a young horse. What if he/she isn’t really having a good day? What if the paint pony is freaking it out? Not all young horses should have their first introduction to flowers and boxes while surrounded by the tiniest people on the tiniest animals on the planet, who can barely steer. How many horses have had setbacks from this their first time out in public? Bad impressions get talked about amongst trainers, then it takes an extra 6-8 months to get people to believe you again. It is another situation entirely if you can introduce a young horse to a new arena without nerves, too much activity, and give them a chance to sniff the flowers first.

Will it work? No idea, but I think it has a good chance. I would much prefer to stand behind a recommendation of a young horse I have seen ten times rather than just once. I would love to have more knowledge than simply a video. I would like to see the young horse, help it, and help the rider improve results! Every trainer does, because it is a reflection on your own work and talent.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 1.26.49 PM

Owners now have an alternative to a show record! If the young horse completes the program over a period of time, shows progress, talent, potential, they can use that as a sales tactic. Yes, this baby went through the Young Horse Education Project, did not stand in a field for six months and do nothing, and a potential buyer can call me up to verify it’s progress. I will tell them that I saw the horse X amount of times and the results are this…

It raises the integrity of sport. This took a lot of consideration. Really, I am tired of money being the sole motivator of the horse world. Money has such long term and not always pleasant results that it has really warped the America equestrian lifestyle. If this project doesn’t have a big turnover rate, I really have lost very little except a few hours here and there doing what I love – which is to teach and educate young horses. I am leaving it up to the owner to make a choice about cost of education. In this day and age, with social media, people really need to raise their own integrity because so much can be brutally abused online. I don’t think too many people will intentionally cross me, and by signing the applicationyou a choice between paying a commission or donating to a charity. Both work for me.

The format can be copied. I don’t expect people to jump up and down across the country to replicate the program, but it is possible to do so. Maybe if the demand from young horse owners eventually became high enough, it could spread. Hopefully, good, capable professionals would see the benefits, or at least watch it for a period of time. Lord knows, I share enough information with everyone so it is not too difficult to stay informed.

Sponsors. This is an incredible way to develop loyalty from future customers. I firmly believe there are a lot of talented equestrians and horses who are simply unable to show at expensive venues. Yet, they might one day, and you know who those equestrians will appreciate the most? Sponsors who may have provided them with their first leather halter with fuzzies. I have already approached County Saddlery about options, because I have SEEN and FELT a difference, and truly believe this new generation of saddles will make a positive impact on horses in the future without the exorbitant costs of french saddles. I am not saying that lightly, and if you want to try mine, you can. A drawing for a free County Logic girth would be incentive to start, I would think. Maybe? People do love incentives, after all, so we will see what I can come up with regarding County.  After filling out a half-dozen surveys sent out by our parent organizations (USEF/USDF) this winter, I would think the Manna-Pro or Horse Health Companies would send a free sample of something! I spent a long time on those surveys! lol, I am probably the only one. Stay tuned for more interest.

16179231_1598909953471650_3147443200027586584_o

If you want to check out the website for more information, feel free. It is updated, the application is there to view or download, and if nothing else, I will earn feedback on the views of educating young horses in America! We are totally capable of being better horsemen, all the information is out there.

http://noblestables.com/young-horse-project.html

View an application:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12kmkQDOb3G_c39-TQ5HkyFk464F9faiTs4OqA0kPAsQ/edit

Advertisements

I watched the Workshop….

Frankly, I think the horse show world has bigger problems than the use of Medroxy-progesterone / Depo /Regumate / Altrenogest. However, since the past high profile abusers of harder drugs, (like GABA and reserpine), have paved the way for us by demonstrating poor competition tactics, we are all stuck here thinking the same thing…. what is going on? Why is the new regime of the US Equestrian suddenly pinning us all up against a wall? El Chapo is on the run and we are all paying the price? So we need to deal with this, apparently.

The rumors of banning hormone usage cut deeply into our horse show community and it didn’t take long to realize the adverse affects the ban would have. Trainers have trusted their own veterinarian recommendation to use hormones to control unsavory behavioral issues which have been known to potentially put not only horses at risk to their own self-inflicted injuries, but humans as well, (i.e.: When Mares Attack).  Now those same trainers were befuddled by the sudden contradictory claims by a horse show organization. The USEF, now known as US Equestrian chose a path toward ‘Clean Sport’ in what some people think of as a harsh manner. They seemed to be claiming we should all wake up and see the horse world in the same manner as outsiders see us. As horrendous drug abusers. K.

So a “Workshop” is scheduled for March 13, 2017, to discuss Hormone Usage. In Orlando, Florida.

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 11.04.23 PM

Mary Babick speaking during the Workshop

A rough start to the Workshop could possibly be conceived as a gross understatement. Members were promised a live feed, which would have been great since travel to Orlando is not a luxury most of us can afford. We were blessed with an apology on the website, stating the technical difficulties would be preventing us from actually watching any discussion and we would need to tune in later for the ‘On Demand’ version. Meet me when I am boiling hot angry.

Then suddenly, someone announced it was up and ……..buffering. The buffering was quite possibly worse than having three root canals in a row without novocain. The crew was obviously scampering to fix the horrendous problem, but to no avail. It buffered continuously for three hours, making speeches and questions impossible to follow fluidly. From the camera angle, seats looked depressingly empty.

Struggling to hear the first speaker, I made out that he was insisting we, as horse lovers, have a better commitment to welfare of the horse. The demise of the circus was discussed, the animal rights groups were discussed and it was a well rehearsed speech to scare us into thinking we were torturing our animals by injecting them with various pharmaceuticals. Awesome, but if that is the case, we really shouldn’t be horse showing at all, and our horses should just be kept in our backyards stuffing themselves with round bales and carrots. Let’s be real here.

The second was Stephen Schumacher who spent a painful amount of time detailing scientific research about Depo Provera simulating the same receptors as GABA, and how it acts as a proven tranquilizer in horses. With little proof. GABA is given on a strict timetable for effectiveness in calming horses, Depo is used for a longer term curb on unruliness in horses, not the same thing, in my book. To me, this was a reach, to him, it was evident we were abusing the hormone.

The third vet to speak, Jim Heird,  did not seem to substantiate what Stephen was proclaiming, and produced a 2009 University of Colorado study on mares in heat and teasing stallions and each set of test mares on three different hormone treatments and the effects of estrus on all the mares and the stallions being in close proximity, blah blah blah. Are you kidding me? Since when does a competition mare compare to a broodmare while a stallion is sniffing her ass? Outside behavioral issues were not recorded in the study.  Only whether they were coming into heat or not. He was never aware of Depo being a lethal drug. He was not aware of any health side effects. The horses were not retested after one year for comparison. Is it just me or are we are really not breeding our mares during the 3’3” Performance Hunters?  It just didn’t seem to apply in a helpful enough manner.

Then Canada stepped in.

In case you haven’t heard, Canada is a freaking mess right now. The amount of resignations in the last few months has crippled Equestrian Canada and left all of its members without leadership, organization, or direction, to the point where their PONY CLUB had to send them a letter and say ‘GROW UP and SOLVE YOUR OWN MISTAKES’  so the irony of using Canadian representation to educate Americans on hormone usage was kind of like someone from Siberia educating American sports fans on Baseball. https://www.horse-canada.com/horse-news/equestrian-canada-in-turmoil/

My favorite question from the panel was “How have the judging standards in Canada compared to the American hunter industry?” and response…..crickets. He didn’t know.

Instead, Mr. Canadian guy admitted there were way stricter controls on pharmaceuticals in Canada, similar to Europe, so access to large bottle of ANY drug was really quite difficult. K.

Amount of hunter horses in Canada right now? Should we do a numbers comparison to the amount of hunter horses in America right now?

He specifically noted, by the way, that Equine Canada could have done a way better job at implementing the start of testing (which was only in the last year), and notifying exhibitors as to a formidable withdrawal time, but they didn’t. They failed to recognize the implications of the adverse affects of the use of Medroxy-progesterone and the reality of U.S. riders crossing the border to compete in their events. So, to avoid persecution, they decided competitors would only be given a warning, not an actual sanction for having the hormone in their system. I believe he said only blood and urine was used for testing. Is Medroxy-Progesterone found in blood and urine?? He also said that it was banned because it was considered by Equine Canada to be performance enhancing, no studies had been performed regarding adverse affects.

The next speaker, our USHJA president, Mary Babick, was indeed validating ALL of our concerns about the use of hormones in ALL facets of sports, not just the elite high performance hunters. She addressed every example of hormone usage saving the animal and rider relationship, not destroying it. She also tried to make it clear that she FELT she was doing the right thing, her VET HAD RECOMMENDED hormone usage, and she was shocked at the impression she was an abuser by having only two horses in her barn on Depo-provera. She explained specifically why those two horses were better with hormone usage.  I imagine this how most of our horse show community feels. She also stated that she felt WAY more discussion and research needed to happen before taking the stance that clean sport also equated to ‘no hormone usage’.

Again, the question arises as to whether FEI rules should apply to the children’s hunter ring?

Sissy Wickes was next and had loads of membership data defending even more benefits of hormone usage and how increasing the gap between members and an “organization” was not in the best interests of any horse lover, much less the USE members and their counterparts. She was eloquent, direct, and very easy to listen to. It made you want to hold up a sign saying GO SISSY! Unfortunately, one of the participants on the panel took offense to hearing that the USE was not listening to its members and strongly denied the accusation. Balloon slightly deflated. Stay tuned to the Plaid Horse for more details.

So where are we?

We are asked to take a closer look at our culture, and our tolerance for pharmaceutical usages, the effects it will have on our next generation, and in return we are asking the US Equestrian to take out more time to actually research the amount of horses using Medroxy-progesterone/Depo/regumate/ etc and specifically why they feel it is so harmful. Education, education, education.

I do see why using the argument that women suffer from bone degeneration or arthritis is absolutely not comparable to usage in horses. It is not, to me, a viable argument. Yes, there are concerns that using Depo on women for birth control affects bone density. But human women live about 80 years. Horses live about 25, and most compete about 15-18 years in whole, if managed properly. So the possibility that horses will have a greater risk of bone fractures is actually not at all a viable argument when it comes to equines. That does not change my PERSONAL belief that it should not be used in young horses, but I understand the argument. Humans outlive equines. Horses will most likely be long retired from the show ring before developing bone deficiencies and fractures from Depo usage.

There are still many other arguments which go back and forth, and the abuse or overuse is still a big factor, but somehow this whole mess imploded onto itself. What was initially intended as a crackdown on ALL pharmaceutical use in the hunter ring has backfired, and somehow performance enhancing tactics is coming into question.  “Performance Enhancing” tactics are impossible to regulate!! That would mean no martingales to one person, or no aluminum shoes to another. It would also mean no ear plugs. Am I right?

What a shame we have wasted all this time on a silly hormone, now there seems to be no end to the possible arguments which will occur between the US Equestrian and its members. And we were off to a pretty promising start this year. well Road… meet Long.

All studies are published on the website. https://www.usef.org/network/coverage/2017workshop

Here is the three hour long video https://youtu.be/fFwKtXRUxUw

You know what really irritates me? If this particular issue had been rolled out in a five year plan by Murray Kesslar and he was able to truly address changing the culture of showing horses in America, and provided education, multiple interesting seminars and town halls, how many of you would have gone, “yeah ok, we see the vision, we can be on board with that,” and in that time frame we could make changes within your own communities. This setback is real, and it is a shame. Do I know if it will affect our entire industry? Well, I guess now that depends on the decision of the US Equestrian. Best of luck people. Best of luck. Follow this up with the other news articles, I am sure there will be many.