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Wrangling on the Range #148

SICK Horsemanship!!

                        
WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #148

THIS HORSE LIFE

POSTER GIRL

From "Horse and Rider" - October 2011

BY SUE M. COPELAND


I'LL CALL HER STAR. SHE WAS a Quarter Horse mare euthanized
earlier this year at age 5. I believe had drug testing by the
National Cutting Horse Association been in place at the time
(it's being phased in for 2012), her death could've been
prevented. This is a tale of caution for those associations that
still lack it.

Star was bred by a friend I'll call Patty. Early on, it was clear
the filly had "cow," that instinctive ability to read cattle that
separates the great from the good. But, like many other
youngsters, Star was slow to physically mature. That, combined
with the lack of drug testing, proved deadly.

DRUG CULTURE

Patty's initial goal with her filly was the NCHA Futurity, the
huge-money event for 3-year-olds that's held in November/
December every year. To get a horse ready for it requires the
horse to be started in training at or before its 2-year-old year.
That means immature bodies being ridden by mature humans in heavy
Western saddles. And that means these growing youngsters can get
sore. (See "Size Matters," September '09.)
Trainers often would "stack" (give multiple) systemic
anti-inflammatory medications at NCHA competitions; the
association had drug rules in the past, but lacked testing to
enforce them. Sedatives, such as Sedivet, were also commonly used
to minimize prep time, and to help a young horse stay calm and
focused; the drug also provides pain relief. That means a
youngster ridden into the show pen could be on multiple
pain-masking meds, plus a sedative. That was the culture. Many
folks didn't raise an eyebrow.
I did, and it was a point of contention in Patty's and my
friendship. She was opposed to drug testing, accepting drug
use as the norm for her horse sport, and as being the right thing
for her horse if the meds were used judiciously. (Her mindset is
a common one in events or disciplines that lack drug testing.)
I'm a major advocate of testing, and so would counter that
showing a horse in pain could turn a minor injury into a major
one. We'd argue about it, then agree to disagree, as only good
friends can.

Patty recalls that Star's drug cocktail at the Futurity didn't
include a sedative; the mare was rideable without it. That
changed the following summer at another major cutting, when the
then-4-yearold began to run through Patty's aids. Patty's a savvy
horsewoman, in tune with her horses physically, and invests in
the latest and greatest vet care for them. But neither she nor
her trainer sensed a physical problem in Star. They thought she'd
gotten so fit that she had excess energy.

A few weeks after that show, I went to a small local cutting to
watch the pair. The mare still looked immature. Even with a
sedative, she was trying to run through Patty's aids. I pulled my
friend aside and asked, "Do you think she's sore? She may be
trying to run from pain." Patty agreed.
She took Star in for a full lameness workup; the filly was sore
in both stifles, so was treated with stem-cell therapy. Patty
gave Star months to rest and mature physically, putting her back
into slow work only after her vet OK'd it.
Meanwhile, we continued our drugtesting debate. "You don't get
it," she'd say. "Our sport makes horses sore. It'd be cruel if we
couldn't show them on anti-inflammatory meds. And the sedatives
mean we can lope them down less, which means less stress on their
joints."
I'd respond, "If a horse can't feel pain, he can't protect
himself. That's why groups like the American Quarter Horse
Association, American Paint Horse Association, and United States
Equestrian Federation (under which I show) have drug testing.
With it, you can't mask serious pain, and you darn sure can't use
sedatives. It protects the horse." It took Star's death to change
Patty's mind.

ONE GOOD LEG

Once the mare was back in show shape, Patty took her to a major
cutting. There, her trainer recommended a sedative. Patty allowed
one to be added to Star's meds. The filly walked into the
cuttinghorse pen, no doubt feeling like King Kong. She cut her
heart out, because she Could; she was literally feeling no pain.
That is, until the drugs wore off.

Patty called later that day; "Star's lame in her hind end. The
sedative was a mistake." She hauled the crippled mare to her vet.
The grim news? Star's immature stifles were ruined. Her pain
masked, she'd damaged them beyond repair. Patty was devastated
and furious at herself for allowing drugs to be used. She was
also angry with her trainer for suggesting them.
Her vet suggested euthanasia. But Patty opted to try and save the
horse; she'd bred her, and she loved her.

The good news is she was able to make the mare pasture-sound, at
least for a while. The bad news is that Star hurt one of her
front feet while turned out. An otherwise sound horse would've
likely sailed through recovery, which required stitches and a
cast to immobilize the foot while it healed. But Star, at the
heart-wrenchingly young age of 5, was down to only one good leg.
After a while, the pain of trying to balance over her front foot
and her ruined hind end proved too much. She went down and
refused to get up. This time, when the vet suggested euthanasia,
Patty relented.

She called me in tears. "I think the lack of drug testing killed
my mare. If she'd had to show under enforced drug rules, she'd
never have broken down like that. She's a poster girl for drug
testing."

That's why my hat's off to the NCHA for implementing testing next
year. The National Reining Horse Association earns kudos for
doing the same thing. It was an uphill battle for both
associations; they were fighting a culture in which drug use was
endemic. It's too late for Star, but I bet those rules will help
save other horses.

Sadly, Star's fate is still a risk in those associations that
lack widespread drug testing, which is the only way to enforce
drug rules. For example, the National Snaffle Bit Association
does not require testing at many of its events. The National
Reined Cow Horse Association tests only at a few shows (although
some states in which they hold events, such as California, have
testing). The National Barrel Horse Association has no drug
testing.

Sure, drug tests cost money. But they can save lives. How can an
association (and its members) afford not to do it? Please, think
of the horses. Think of Star. 

You can reach H&R Contributing Editor Sue M. Copetand at
thishorselife@aol.com.
..........

NOTE:

THIS  JUST  MAKES  ME  SICK, MAKES  ME  ANGRY, AND  JUST  MAKES 
ME  HAVE  TO  SAY  THIS  IS  DISGUSTING  HORSEMANSHIP!!! THERE 
SHOULD  BE  LAWS  TO  PREVENT  THIS  KIND  OF  SPORTING 
ACTIVITY, WHERE  THE  HORSE  IS  TOO  YOUNG  AND/OR  TOO 
IMMATURE. IT  BLOWS  ME  AWAY  THAT  PEOPLE  WILL  IT  SEEMS  DO 
ANYTHING  TOO  SOON  WITH  HORSES  JUST  FOR  THE  PERSONAL 
THRILL  OR  COMPETITION  AND/OR  THE  WINNING  GAME,  TO  HAVE 
THAT  TROPHY  OR  MONEY  IN  THEIR  POCKET.  IF  YOU  TRULY  LOVE 
YOUR  HORSE  YOU  WILL  NOT  ENTER  IT  IN  COMPETITIONS  BEFORE 
THE  PROPER  TIME,  WHEN  YOUR  HORSE  IS  MATURE  ENOUGH  TO 
HANDLE  THE  PARTICULAR  EVENT  YOU  ENTER.

Keith Hunt
..........

WE HEAR YOU (From Horse and Rider - October 2011)

LETTER OF THE MONTH

CALLING OUT ABUSE

I just read the commentary in the August 2011 issue ("POV
Blindness"), and I couldn't agree more. I own a lovely
performance gelding with the ability to do well. For three years,
I was fortunate to have him with a talented trainer who loves
horses. The last show we took my horse to was nationally
sanctioned, and we were very excited. My trainer hauled Smokey
the night before, so the horse could have plenty of time to
acclimate.
That night, she called to tell me how abusive many of the
trainers were to their horses. She'd watched them work and said
she was happy when she finally saw one trainer pet the horse
after a good maneuver. But then she was appalled when a few
minutes later, the same trainer was spurring and whipping the
horse.
To make a long story short, we didn't win - or even place.
However, we walked away with a happy horse, and I've never been
so grateful for or impressed by a trainer as when mine looked the
in the eye and said, "I'm sorry we didn't do better for you. I
know your horse has it in him, and we could probably win some of
these things, but I'm not willing to do what it takes to beat
these other trainers. They're abusing their horses."
I've been around plenty of trainers and show horses, and over the
years the abuse has gotten worse and worse. The amount of money
involved is only going to continue that trend. My husband and I
now have three nice trail horses (including my former show
gelding) with wonderful attitudes. They're easy to catch, load
themselves on and off the trailer, respond nicely to our riding
cues, and are a joy to be around. I'll take that any day over
being handed a check and a trophy (which I also happen to have).
Thank you for the wonderful commentary. I wish more columnists
would talk about this subject.
......

ANNE WATMAN, WISCONSIN
......

NOTE:

WELL  SAID  ANNE -  I  AGREE  FULLY  WITH  YOU - Keith Hunt


E-mail your letters to HorseandRider@aimmedia.com. Or, send them
to Horse&Rider, 2520 55th St., #210, Boulder, CO 80301. To be
considered for publication, your submission must include your
full name and your state. Published letters are"subject to
editing for brevity, clarity, and accuracy.
......

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Point-of-view blindness is a concept that very few people in the
industry get, primarily because they are ... well, point-ofview
blind!
Most of those standing on the outside looking in can clearly
identify training practices that employ excessive force or
intimidation, that repeatedly force the horse into an unnatural
frame, or that are simply unhealthy long term. But to those on
the inside, these practices are "the way it's done." Many of the
practitioners of the various "dark arts" of horse training are
otherwise respectable, principled people-they're just too
immersed in the training culture to take a step back and see
themselves with fresh eyes.

LISA STEVENSON, TEXAS
......

NOTE:

I  GUESS  IT  MUST  BE  SO, SAD,  VERY  SAD  TO  SAY - Keith Hunt
  

To be continued with more educational articles for people in the
horse world.


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