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ELD Enforcement Delayed Until Sept. 30, 2018

Are you up to date on all the latest changes regarding the ELD mandate that would require commercial motor vehicles to carry an electronic logging device and comply with time restrictions? Here are all the developments from the past month.

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Amidst other equine industry-related headlines coming out of the giant $1.3 trillion omnibus bill approved early in April — namely, continued protections for wild horses and the continued defunding of horse slaughter facility inspectors — new developments in the ongoing ELD mandate saga slipped under the radar.

In short, Congress passed a temporary enforcement exemption for the livestock industry from the ELD mandate. Enforcement has been defunded until September 30, 2018 for livestock haulers, which allows industry leaders, including equine organizations as well as wider agricultural organizations, to educate all haulers on the scope of the mandate and who specifically is affected. This exemption also provides more time for industry leaders to potentially work out more livestock-friendly rules and regulations.

This exemption came just weeks after the Department of Transportation issued a 90-day exemption of enforcement for livestock haulers, of which commercial horse haulers are considered, on March 13, 2018. Through this 90-day period, haulers were required to carry a notice of exemption. As of the exemption passed in the omnibus bill, it’s unclear whether haulers still need to carry the waiver document; it may not be a bad idea to have a copy on hand.

For readers new to this story, the “ELD mandate” refers to the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” or MAP-21 bill, which transitioned the commercial motor vehicle industry from paper log books to electronic logging devices (ELD). The ELD automatically records driving time and alerts a driver when he or she is over a legally-set hour limit: 11 hours on the road in a 14-hour stretch, with a mandatory 10-hour rest period. Infractions can be viewed on the ELD during a traffic stop or truck inspection and drivers can be fined.

While the intention of this law is to increase safety by limiting the hours that drivers can be behind the wheel, it also poses obvious negative implications for all livestock haulers, including equine — imagine being forced to pull over at a rest stop for a mandatory 10-hour break with your horses still in the trailer due to unforeseen delays.

The ELD mandate also created confusion with just who exactly was considered a commercial hauler. Recreational horse haulers under a certain combined weight were exempt, but the guidelines for determining commercial status based on the size of one’s rig were vague and poorly defined.

The ELD mandate does not change these classifications nor change the laws for what has been required all along, but it does make it easier for law enforcement to see if a driver is in violation.

Whether this law ultimately ends up being changed to be more friendly to livestock haulers or commercial motor vehicles do need to comply by September 30, 2018, anyone who hauls their horses should familiarize themselves with this issue:

Best of HN: 5 Things Every Eventer Does in Every Tack Shop

Photo by Flickr/Rose of Academe/CC.

Living in a rural area means that truthfully, a lot of my tack shopping is performed over the internet, with packages arriving on a regular schedule from various supplement and supply companies. (I do wonder sometimes what my UPS delivery guy thinks about my shopping habits.)

But nothing beats the experience of going to a real live tack shop in person. My “local” haunt is Stagecoach West. I also made a pilgrimage to the famous Mary’s Tack & Feed of Del Mar, California back in November. From coast to coast, with two different parties shopping alongside, I noticed several facts to be true.

1. We move methodically through the store, aisle by aisle and section by section.

When my mother, who also rides, and I recently rolled up to Stagecoach, we went in the door and without speaking a word both automatically turned right and worked out way along the wall. Mom had never been to Stagecoach before, and yet some unwritten code seemed to guide our movements, perhaps some barely perceptible social cue like how an entire flock of birds seems to know exactly when to take off all at the same time. That’s all we are. A flock of tack-addicted birds.

It doesn’t matter what you came in for — you will check out every aisle. Just in case.

2. We check out everything, regardless of personal choice of discipline.

That includes touching every saddle, idly flipping through every rack of clothing and looking at the latest in show ring fashions for all arenas.

3. We pick up every. single. bit.

It’s not like I don’t understand how a snaffle works by now, but seriously, try walking past the siren song of a wall of bits and NOT pick them all up and flex them back and forth. Because, you know, maybe they changed something this time.

This also applies to rolling every copper roller you can find. It has to be done.

4. We smell things.

Take a step back for a moment and appreciate how REALLY FREAKING WEIRD THIS IS. The only other store where this is remotely acceptable is perhaps a grocery store to assess the ripeness of the fruit. No one walks into JC Penney’s and starts sniffing the sweaters, but equestrians in the tack shop will smell pretty much everything from the leather (OK, I understand why) to the supplements to the shampoo. I get it … I think. It’s still a little weird, but I’m not going to stop.

5. We never come out with only what we came in for.

If you can regularly achieve this feat, you have much stronger willpower than I do. I will go to the oldest defense in the book and say that all the stuff I ended up purchasing on my last tack shop trip was genuinely stuff I did need, but it wasn’t stuff I necessarily remembered that I needed until I saw it hanging on the rack or sitting on the shelf.

Again, refer back to #1 above to explain this phenomenon.

Let’s just embrace it.

Best of HN: An Open Letter to the Rider With the ‘Made’ Horse

Flickr/Five Furlongs Photography/CC

Dear rider with the “made” horse,

Everybody knows who you are at the horse show, the horse trial, the rodeo, the barrel race. And everybody knows your horse, whether he’s been in your family for years and years or he’s a recent addition to your barn. You know there are eyes on you and your horse every time you set foot in the ring.

They might know your name and your horse’s name; there might be plenty of whispered rumors about how much you paid for him and who trained him. There’s plenty of muttering from the other riders and the horse show moms when you win that coveted blue ribbon. You hear them when they don’t think you’re listening, or when they pretend they don’t know you can hear them.

“That’s a made horse.” “The judges always pin her because they know who trained that horse.” “Of course it’s easy to win when you buy your way to the top.” “I bet she can’t really ride a real horse where you have to work for it.”

They might know your names, but they don’t really know you. They don’t know how many hours of practice you put in at home, making sure you get it right, that your horse gets it right. They don’t see how much work it takes to make a well-broke horse that nice, and how hard it is to keep a horse nice. They don’t realize just how hard it is to ride a well-broke horse, to make it look effortless in the ring.

There’s some kind of assumption that a “made” horse is easy to ride, a machine that will take you to the top and win you all the ribbons and points and championships. We champion the scrappy do-it-yourself riders who tame those wild green horses, who find the diamond in the rough and through months or years of hard work polish that rough diamond into a gem–and we should always celebrate those riders and their horses.

But that championship should not come at the expense of those riders putting in the same kinds of hours, those late nights and early mornings, the sacrifices and struggles to achieve their dreams on a well-bred or well-broke animal. The made horse is not always an easy ride, and it takes years of honed skill in the saddle to make him look effortless.

I’ve learned this the hard way: I’ve ridden a mare blessed with raw talent and athleticism that I didn’t know how to channel and shape; I’ve taken the made pleasure horse into a class we were shoe-ins to win and made a mistake that took us out of the pinnings.

I practiced for hours on the scrappy, difficult to ride, difficult to love, textbook “tough horses” and learned how to put them together, to polish them as a rider and make them look like a five-figure superstar… and then drawn a made show horse at the national championships and had no idea how to put it together. I could take Paddy the one-leaded rope horse and make him look like a million bucks at home, but the knowledge it took to ride that polished show horse I should have been lucky to draw was beyond me at the time. I was an honorable mention.

As they say, before you criticize someone, walk a hundred miles in their shoes. Until you’ve ridden every horse in the arena, you’ll never know how easy or how tough a rider might have it. We’re all in this horse world together–let’s show each other our support, rather than bring each other down.

Go riding!

Best of HN: How to Train Your Horse For the Farrier – A Horse Nation Guide

The Internet can be a fabulous resource to have some of your horsey questions answered: by browsing reputable websites with trusted sources, I can learn books’ worth of information about horse heath, horse behavior or horse training.

For every reputable source out there, however, there are plenty of places that you should maybe stay away from. Polling random strangers in your favorite Facebook group, for example, is not going to return credible, fact-based information, though you’ll be up to your ears in contradictory anecdotal experiences. (We could all do to remember that “the plural of anecdote is not data.”)

General reference sites can usually be filed under the “not a credible source of training information” category. So imagine our joy when this WikiHow article started making the rounds of the horsey internet, helping hapless readers train their horses to stand nicely for the farrier. It’s not necessarily the text of the article that makes us cringe — there’s some good information in here, such as the understanding that horses are flight animals, it’s best to train in multiple short sessions and why you want to work in safe, enclosed spaces.

No, it’s the illustrations that baffle us. We’re not really sure what happened here, but, well… they tried. In an effort to make sure we laugh rather than cry, we rewrote this guide, based entirely on the illustrations.

(Disclaimer: the following guide is purely for entertainment’s sake and is not meant to serve in any capacity as a legitimate training guide for working with horses. If you are training a horse to stand for the farrier, please consult a reputable, researched source or work with a trusted trainer in person.)

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step One: Identify that what you are looking at is indeed a horse. Horses have four legs, hair coats, manes and tails, arching necks and hooves. If what you are looking at has two legs, feathers, a wattle and comb, a short neck and clawed feet, it may be a chicken.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Two: When admiring the horse, begin at the front end, where his eyes are. (Like many animals, the horse’s eyes are in his head.) You are less likely to be kicked in the face if you greet the horse from the front end first.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Three: When greeting the horse, always have multiple exit strategies. Horses can smell fear on a human, so if you are nervous, it’s important to be able to vault the fence in multiple places before the horse senses your emotions.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Four: Contrary to instinct, the halter should not be worn by the horse like a face guard. The halter needs to buckle behind the ears in order to function. While the halter does look way cooler when the connecting strap runs up the center of the face, it is much less effective.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Five: After you have greeted your horse, marked all available exits, established that you are not fearful and applied the halter correctly and then taken it off again, sink your fingertips into his shoulder and lean backwards. Really let the horse hold you up. This establishes your working partnership and lets the horse know that you will always be there for him when he needs a shoulder rub.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Six: As established in Step Two, horses prefer to be approached from the front, so when you work your way to the back end, it’s important to first fondle the hock with a fake hand on a stick. Horses appreciate being tickled in sensitive places by inanimate objects that LOOK like the real thing, especially when the human handler is trying to stay as far away as possible.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Seven: After you have successfully tickled your horse’s hock with a fake hand, it’s safe to apply your own hands. Make sure you are kneeling directly behind the hock when you do so — this will make your horse more likely to come into direct and forceful contact with you when he lifts his hoof.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Eight: Give your horse a leg-up. Again, this is a trust exercise to teach your horse that you’ll always be there for him when he needs to be launched onto a higher surface. Make sure you kneel directly in front of the horse’s leg and place your sneakered foot where his hoof will land should he pull his leg away from you.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Nine: The shepherd’s crook is a valuable tool for catching horses, so it’s important to practice this skill for speed and accuracy. Traditionally, horse catching with a shepherd’s crook is done from a kneeling position where the handler is most likely to be run over.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Ten: If your horse’s hind leg bends like this, this is 100% normal.

WikiHow/Creative Commons

Step Eleven: If your horse’s leg bends the other way, it has suffered an injury and should be bandaged. When applying a bandage, always kneel beneath your horse and directly in front of the injured leg. This will help keep the horse still so you can apply your dressings.

If you’ve successfully completed steps one through eleven, call up your farrier — you’re ready to go. And then call your vet. And maybe a doctor.

Go riding!

Proposed Changes to Model Veterinary Practice Act Could Impact Farrier Industry

Flickr/BVA/CC

Proposed revisions to the Model Veterinary Practice Act (MVPA), published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), would eliminate exemptions regarding farriers and the hoof care profession.

Current language in the MVPA defines “practice of veterinary medicine” as follows from Section 2, in part:

“To diagnose, prognose, treat, correct, change, alleviate, or prevent animal disease, illness, pain, deformity, defect, injury, or other physical, dental, or mental conditions by any method or mode; including the:

i. performance of any medical or surgical procedure, or
ii. prescription, dispensing, administration, or application of any drug, medicine, biologic, apparatus, anesthetic, or other therapeutic or diagnostic substance, or
iii. use of any complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies, or
iv. use of any procedure for reproductive management, including but not limited to the diagnosis or treatment of pregnancy, fertility, sterility, or infertility, or
v. determination of the health, fitness, or soundness of an animal, or
vi. rendering of advice or recommendation by any means including telephonic and other electronic communications with regard to any of the above.”

The current language in the MVPA exempts “any person lawfully engaged in the art or profession of farriery” from the definition of veterinary medicine. Additionally, the MVPA currently includes the provision allowing farriers, due to the exemption, “to use any title, words, abbreviation, or letters in a manner or under circumstances that induce the belief that the person using them is qualified to do any act” as described above.

The proposed changes strike farriers from the list of those exempt. Many of the proposed changes in the MVPA include commentary to explain why such a change was made, but the elimination of language about farriers does not include any commentary at all. This absence is creating confusion as to the AVMA’s intentions.

The AVMA clarified to the American Farriers Journal that it in no way seeks to “exert control” over the hoof-care industry, but in eliminating the exemption acknowledges that hoof care is “well outside the definition of veterinary medicine” and does need to be included in the MVPA; the AVMA suggests that farriery should instead be under the purview of government, state by state.

While some concerned horse owners have interpreted this elimination of language to suggest that farriers would need a veterinary license to continue to practice, be required to be directly overseen by a veterinarian, or that a veterinarian would need to be performing a farrier’s job, that’s not necessarily the immediate case. However, these proposed changes do open the door for such requirements to become law according to individual states or based on interpretation of existing laws.

Both the American Farrier’s Association and the American Association of Professional Farriers have publicly stated their opposition to the proposed farrier exemption elimination.

The AVMA is accepting comments regarding the MVPA until March 25: please click here to open the comment form and lend your voice to the conversation.

Best of HN: Tales From the Farm — The Undead Pigeon

Photo by Kristen Kovatch

I’ve seen some pretty weird things on the various farms and ranches on which I’ve worked over the years, but this incident might just the cake.

Other than a week of false-hope-inducing warm temperatures in February which gave us the first glimpse of the grass that we’ve had since December, the fields and pastures here in western New York have been covered in snow. We’ve gotten over 210 inches total in my particular neck of the woods, though mercifully it’s all gone through some cycles of compression and partial thaw or we’d literally be digging tunnels from place to place.

As various layers of snow melt off, refreeze and get covered again by the latest front coming through, secrets are revealed — branches and other dangerous snags lurking beneath the snow (which make me cautious to move out at speed in unknown corners of the farm), various bits of equipment and supplies we forget existed, and occasionally some truly random objects.

On our amble back to the barn this weekend from a session of hill work in the deep snow — our time spent at the walk in ever-changing winter conditions has certainly been good for my OTTB Jobber’s fitness — I glanced down in the barnyard to see the tail and feet of a pigeon sticking straight up out of the snow. We had a resident flock of the flying pests around the farm, pecking at loose corn around the cow barn and pooping on our gates. The snow around this pigeony posterior was pristine and untouched; somehow this fallen denizen of the sky had evaded consumption by our pirate crew of semi-feral barn cats.

It was unclear to me if, somehow struck perhaps by a heart attack or other medical emergency, this pigeon had plummeted like a stone out of the sky to spear himself into the snow head-first in a tragic yet beautiful high-dive, or perhaps he had been deposited there earlier in the winter, left to sit upside-down in this bank like a refrigerated shrink-wrapped chicken and forgotten until the afternoon sun had melted away the snow around him. Either way, his tail and little clawed feet pointing up to the sky in which he had once fluttered were at once tragic and ridiculous.

As these various thoughts and musings whirled ’round my head, Jobber, who likes to naturally carry his head low like a western pleasure horse, swung his muzzle around to investigate this winged lawn dart. I’m not usually in the habit of letting my horses mouth up dead birds, so I began to shorten my reins to guide his face away.

Jobber exhaled on the pigeon’s tail, and the bird, rather unlike a dead pigeon, burst backwards up out of the snow like a flushed partridge, an explosion of wings and nervous clucking and snow scattered all about. This is how I die, I had time to think to myself as I scrambled to gather up my reins. Killed by a horse spooking at an undead pigeon.

The pigeon, likely suffering not only from a literal brainfreeze but some seriously confused telemetry, managed to flutter headlong into the wire fence along which we had been riding, slingshotting himself back into Jobber’s face for a moment and setting all the wires humming like a recently-strummed guitar, before wobbling up into the air and disappearing over the rolling hills across the road, leaving as mysteriously as he had arrived. Jobber gave two great leaping strides and came to a whirling halt of his own accord, ears pricked on the wobbly dot rapidly disappearing over the horizon.

Reins still akimbo, I patted Jobber’s shoulder as I swore out loud. What on earth this bird was doing bottoms-up in the snow with his feet sticking straight up in the air, looking for all the world like a very dead pigeon, I will probably never know.

What I do know are two things: don’t let your horse poke dead pigeons; two, I have the most tolerant horse on the planet.

Go riding!

Best of HN: 11 Random Things My Horses Have Spooked At

I got a text from my mother a few nights ago: “A friend’s very savvy trail horse spooked at a group of shirtless men jogging on the public trail today. Perhaps he startled at their paleness.”

And herein was launched the first-ever written-down collection of really random stuff my horses have spooked at in their lives. Add your own in the comments section!

1. The world’s dumbest barn cat attempting to leap into the saddle via clawing her way up his leg/shoulder (Jobber)

2. A newborn calf (Winston)

3. A field harrow that had been parked in the same place all winter without incident, but had recently run over a black trash bag, giving it the appearance of having phalanges floating lightly on the breeze (Winston again)

Photo taken several minutes AFTER Winston had backed halfway down the road with my sister-in-law before gradually being coaxed to at least keep it in the driveway. Photo by Kristen Kovatch

4. A flashing road sign warning of uneven pavement ahead (Randy)

5. The same flashing road sign on the opposite side of the road on the way back, which he had to physically turn his head all the way over his shoulder to intentionally look at over his blinder, so that he could spook a second time (Randy again)

6. Tibetan prayer flags (Tyrone)

7. A cow circling the cabin, behind which he had just pushed said cow (Skip)

8. Goats (Red)

9. After getting over the goats, the door leading into the barn housing the goats (Red again)

10. A hot air balloon lurking over the valley, several miles away (Red… again)

Yes, that wee tiny speck way off in the distance. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

11. My husband wearing camouflage (Winston… again)

Add your own to the comments section! And go riding.

Nursemares of the Northeast: Saving Lives, One Foal at a Time

Laura Phoenix and So Sultry, one of Nursemares of the Northeast’s original mares. All photos courtesy Laura Phoenix/Nursemares of the Northeast.

Breeding a mare and raising the foal can be one of the most rewarding processes in the horse world — but unfortunately, it doesn’t always go according to plan. Mares can suffer complications, fail to produce milk or reject their foal, leaving their spindly-legged youngster effectively or literally orphaned. For these tragic situations, a nurse mare can be a blessing, able to step in and save the young foal by producing the much-needed milk and adopting the foal as her own. But the nurse mare industry has a darker side as well — in order for a mare to produce milk, she needs to have a foal of her own, and that foal usually became a by-product when its mother’s services were needed.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way — with the development of hormonal milk induction, a mare can now be induced into producing milk and taking on an orphaned foal, without having been pregnant or nursing a foal of her own first. It’s this process that Laura Phoenix of Nursemares of the Northeast follows, with a high success rate of acceptance among her mares year after year. We spoke with Phoenix to learn more about the process.

Hormonal milk induction

“My experience started when I was young,” Phoenix details. “It was the days before milk induction, so there were lots of orphaned foals left behind, which broke my heart. I always appreciated the fact that we were helping other foals, but then you came home to screaming babies. I took a lot of pride in my work — I became a professional at the bonding process and had a knack for getting mares to accept their new foals, but I had to leave the job because that pride was overshadowed by the babies left behind.”

But when Phoenix heard about hormonal milk induction, she knew she had to get back into the field.

The process uses hormones to “trick” the mare’s body into thinking she is pregnant; when a mare’s services are needed, a different administration of hormones creates mild labor pains and triggers milk production. The entire protocol of hormones takes place over 21 days, and Phoenix has learned a lot over the four years she’s been in operation about how to customize the protocol for quality milk production. (Learn more about the hormonal induction process here.)

The nurse mare is never actually pregnant during the hormone protocol and there is no foal produced as a “by-product” for the mare’s nursing services. Thanks to Phoenix’s skills in bonding her mares with “their” new foals, combined with the protocol itself, the hormonal milk induction process means that most of the mares seem to truly believe the orphan foal is their own.

Miss Gazon working her magic with a new foal in need of a mother.

“We always have a mare in full milk after January 15th; sometimes I’ll have more than one ready as the foaling season opens since we never know when our services will be needed,” Phoenix states. “There’s always a three to five day period where the mare and foal are adjusting to each other and her milk production will fluctuate as she balances out; I always bring a supply of milk along with from hand-milking the mares to supplement. Usually everyone adjusts and the mares produce plenty of milk on their own. So far our first two mares of 2018 haven’t needed any supplementation at all, which is wonderful.”

Nursemares of the Northeast

Phoenix considers her business an emergency service, so during foaling season her phone is always on. “Call me at 2 AM!” she states. “Some people think they have to wait until a respectable hour, but not when it comes to this. We want to prepare as soon as possible so we can get your foal and our mare together as soon as possible. I haul the mares myself so I can accompany them for the introductory process; that’s such a critical step. I can help it be a fifteen minute or half hour process versus a couple of days.”

Nursmares of the Northeast typically serves the northeast United States, and in the past year Phoenix has hauled mares as far south as North Carolina and as far north as Maine. In 2017, she had 21 out of 22 mares accept their new foals; for 2018, she’s increased her herd to 28 mares. Phoenix’s mares have helped everyone from racehorse and sporthorse breeders to backyard breeders, as well as major equine clinics throughout the northeast.

Tejas Gold at Rood & Riddle. This mare couldn’t wait to meet her new baby.

“My mares need to have had their own foal in the past so that I know they have a good mothering instinct,” Phoenix describes. “Most of the mares are adopted Thoroughbreds who aren’t producing what they need to for a breeder, so it’s a win-win for everyone. I always keep my farms updated and send photos of them with their new adopted babies, and they love it!” Phoenix keeps a variety of sizes in her herd, and even sent her smallest mare to nurse a pony orphan last year — it was another great match. “We believe in giving our mares everything they require, and then some — we want quality, healthy horses as well as great milk production.”

Phoenix herself is a critical part of the introduction process — through the skills she’s honed in the years of working in this industry, she can tell immediately if a mare and foal are going to bond or if intervention is necessary. “Sometimes we’ll have a mare that likes the baby, but isn’t quite sure that it’s actually hers. We have to be on top of that quickly, and sometimes pull out all the stops — sometimes that means taking the baby away and restarting part of the process. And then we have other mares that we call our ‘five stars’ — they go crazy as soon as they see the foal and can’t wait to lick and smell and love them like their own!”

Hormonal milk induction vs. other methods

The milk induction process is time consuming, and the timing is critical so that a mare is producing when she needs to be. “We’ve been called in to replace other hormonally-induced mares that never came to the farm with the proper support, so they stopped lactacting,” Phoenix shares. “It’s definitely a science that needs to be done correctly.”

While it may seem easier from a purely factual basis to stick to the “old method” and naturally foal out a mare and then put the orphan foal on for milk, especially with the prevalence of rescues willing to buy nurse mare foals, Phoenix believes that hormonal milk induction is the clear ethical choice. “I believe that the nursemare business has the opportunity to be completely ethical and I love it that way.”

Millpower, aka “Millie,” taking a nap with her new baby.

When hormonal milk induction is done correctly, Phoenix is also a firm believer based on her own experience that the mare will believe that the foal is her very own, and there’s a smaller risk of the nurse mare rejecting the foal. She’s also seen plenty of evidence in her own mares that correct hormonal induction creates a mare just as “milky” as a natural foaling mare.

“Having a hormonal milk induction nurse mare is more expensive at the onset than bottle or bucket-raising a baby,” Phoenix describes. “But the long-term benefits from having a foal raised by a mare outweigh the initial cost — the foal will learn socialization and manners from his new mother, and won’t need to have an additional buddy brought in or around-the-clock feeding from humans.”

“It’s my mission to change people’s minds about hormonal milk induction and to show that the nurse mare business can be ethical.”

To learn more about Nursemares of the Northeast, please visit the Facebook page.

American Horse Council Meets With DOT-FMCSA Over ELD Mandate

Trailers of the East Coast/Flickr/CC.

Last week the American Horse Council (AHC), which advocates for the nation’s equine industry, met with leadership in the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to clarify some of the concerns raised by horse owners and equine professionals regarding the new electronic logging device (ELD) mandates.

At the end of January, the AHC sent a letter to Secretary Elaine Chao of the Department of Transportation, raising concerns about ambiguous language and requesting an equine industry-specific statement about who will be required to comply with the ELD mandate. In efforts to help clarify what is considered a CMV and who is affected by the ELD mandate, the AHC also created two brochures defining who needs a commercial driver’s license and describing the need-to-know information about electronic logging devices.

The DOT reported to the AHC that a new website would be released this week, specifically designed for the agricultural industry and including a contact dedicated specifically to agricultural questions. An FAQ page will also be developed to specifically address agricultural-related questions.

The DOT also clarified that drivers who are not engaged in business, regardless of combined weight of truck and trailer, are not considered commercial drivers and do not need to comply with CMV regulations. Going to an event issuing prize or prize money does not in itself constitute a commercial activity for amateur/non-professional horse owners.

Federal regulations started phasing in ELDs over the course of several years, with the latest step to require ELDs in all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by December 18, 2017. The ELD records driving hours in an effort to better enforce laws stating that operators of CMVs cannot drive more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period; drivers need to rest for a mandatory 10 hours before they can hit the road again. Drivers found breaking this rule can be fined.

The definition of a CMV can be a little murky — anyone engaged in a business venture with their truck and trailer, write their rig off as a business expense, compete professionally or even haul their friend’s horse and split the gas money can all be considered professionals and the rig classified as a commercial vehicle; rigs of a certain combined weight are classified as CMVs as well. There are also additional (and confusing) exemptions.

Many equine professionals who had either previously “flown under the radar” with logging hours or were not aware of their commercial vehicle status were suddenly faced with the reality of having this law enforced to the detriment of horses’ well-being: imagine having to stop during your long trip home from a faraway show for 10 additional mandated rest hours, due to unforeseen circumstances or delays on the road. What do you with your horses on the trailer?

The DOT issued a 90-day waiver for the agricultural industry to comply with the latest step in the ELD mandate, pushing the deadline back to March 18, 2018 — which has bought some time for advocacy and industry groups to work with the government to find a better solution for both commercial drivers and the livestock they’re hauling, taking the health and well-being of the animals into better account.

Further reading:

Huufe: The Equestrian Social Network We’ve All Been Waiting For

The first viable social media platform just for equestrians, Huufe combines a marketplace and ride tracking with your favorite social media functionality to create a unique experience. Horse Nation speaks with CEO Charlie Trietline for an exclusive first look.

For those of us who post more on social media about our horses than anything else in our life, for those of us who track every ride with another between-the-ears photo, for those of us whose various feeds look like a horse show lineup, for those of us who use social media as a way to buy, sell and network with other horse people all over the globe: Huufe is coming to combine all of these functions into one platform, developed by equestrians for equestrians.

Huufe CEO Charlie Trietline knows this equestrian world well: his father was a National Hunt trainer with 80 to 100 horses under his care. “As soon as I was able, I was riding,” Trietline details to Horse Nation. “I rode as an amateur jockey for awhile, then joined the army.” It wasn’t just any army regiment: Trietline was a member of the famous Household Cavalry, serving both as reconnaissance all over the world and “the ceremonial stuff,” as Trietline calls it. He followed his service with a decade working for Hewlett-Packard in the technology sector.

This combination of experiences gave Trietline plenty of ideas, but there was one idea in particular that he mulled over for weeks, then months: a social media platform that was part marketplace, part ride tracker, part community and all for equestrians. “I looked back at my life, I took the best bits of everything, and put them together. The more friends I spoke to about it, the more told me, ‘Charlie, this is quite good.'” Huufe was born.

Activity feed as shown in the web app.

More than an app

“There’s an emerging trend among these big, general platforms,” Trietline describes. “The big platforms are fragmenting a bit, and smaller communities are coming out of these larger networks. People are after a unique experience, which is what’s led to the creation of separate social media platforms for other niche groups, like cycling or running. The equestrian world has so far been underserved with such platforms… and I saw the opportunity to create something bespoke and special.”

Huufe is more than another app to add to your phone: it’s a free and fully-fledged social network of its own, with functionality on both mobile and computer. On Huufe, users will be able to post their user profile, connect with other equestrians, post photos and videos and track their equine-related activity — using a smartphone, users can track their entire ride in real time. Users can create and join groups to foster community within Huufe, based on anything from geographic location to favorite breed to discipline to whatever users can come up with.

Activity feed as shown on mobile.

Premium users — Trietline ballparks the price for a premium account around $7 a month — can add horse profiles and then use Huufe’s management tools to track health schedules as well as a stable management calendar. Premium accounts also have accident detection technology at their disposal: the user’s smartphone will be able to detect a fall and text three designated contacts if a fall alarm is not turned off within a certain amount of time.

Users can also access the marketplace, where horses and equipment can be listed for free. Huufe’s marketplace, in conjunction with its in-depth horse profiles, offers a comprehensive look at a horse’s background and experience like no other network.

Marketplace, as shown in the web app.

Trietline emphasizes that once the initial network is launched, Huufe will be user-driven: “Added functionality will be based on what the Huufe community wants to see.” In the works are a set of features for equestrian service providers, such as farriers and vets, to be able to build a service directory, as well as eventual gait analysis for the ride tracking feature.

User experience

While many aspects of Huufe might visually look similar to Facebook, there are a few key differences — namely, that there will be zero advertising. “That’s a strict rule for me,” Trietline states. “It will be a unique experience for users, rather than scrolling through ads to get to what you want to see.”

Instead, Huufe seeks to emphasize the community aspect through its groups feature. “It’s a more intimate experience,” Trietline describes. “Individual members’ activity will flow into the group setting and build that sense of community.”

Ride tracking as shown on mobile.

Of course, social media has become known not only for bringing people together, but sometimes tearing them apart — Trietline was quick to address the concept of bullying. “We have a very strict code of conduct for all users, and reporting functionality for all posts so that they can be reviewed by the team for anything that goes against that code of conduct. This is a very serious point for us: that kind of behavior goes against everything we’re trying to do here, and we will not tolerate it.”

It’s clear from speaking with Charlie Trietline that his passion truly lies in developing and sustaining an equestrian community via Huufe, and it appears that no stone has been left unturned on the long road of development and design.

What’s next?

Alpha testing will begin in March with a small group of about thirty to forty users. “There will still be a bit of tidying up to do at this stage, and those alpha testers will be making sure everything is ready to go.”

By late spring, Trietline plans to have the beta version available for download in smartphone app stores and open online, with users able to operate in test mode. If all goes well in beta version, marketing the full version of Huufe will take place in early June.

You can sign up now at huufe.com to join the email list for updates and become a beta tester, and follow on social media so you’ll know when Huufe is ready to welcome you: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Go riding!

Best of HN: Rehoming Racehorses & the Thoroughbred Makeover with Amy Lynn Paulus

Since its inception in 2013, the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover has helped bring awareness to the versatility of the off the track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) in secondary careers. Each year, the number of applications for participation have grown immensely, an exciting development not only for the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) but also for those who are passionate about finding OTTBs second careers — such as Amy Lynn Paulus.

With each Makeover that passes, the number of entries with horses rehomed by Amy grows in size. We caught up with Amy to hear how the Thoroughbred Makeover has impacted the industry and what makes her so passionate about the Thoroughbreds.

With a family history on the racetrack, Amy was destined to have a heart for the industry. At the tender age of two years old, Amy rode her first OTTB and she was hooked on the breed. “I officially rehomed my first OTTB that I retrained at the age of thirteen,” she mentioned. “And I have been rehoming them ever since!”

Amy with two of the OTTBs at her facility. Provided by Amy Lynn Paulus

What started as a side gig for fun developed into a demanding career over time. Amy has rehomed thousands of horses into new careers and has no intention of stopping any time soon. “My goal for last year was to total a horse a day by the end of the year; that goal was far exceeded rehoming over five hundred horses,” she revealed. “I’ve decided to push myself and give myself a goal of almost double and I’d like to single-handedly rehome eight hundred this year.”

As someone who has purchased not one, but two “Paulus ponies,” the driving factor for me behind buying from Amy was her years of experience, close relation to each horse’s track connections, and passion for the breed. Her understanding of each horse helps her place them in new homes where they will be successful and several of her graduates have gone on to bigger and better careers.

April Moritz-Dye and Paulus graduate, Triple Down. Photo provided by April Moritz-Dye

“The great thing with what I do is I get to see a wide variety of disciplines and horses that I know excelling in them. I’ve had several horses make it to American Eventing Championships, jumpers go south to Florida for the winter show circuit, barrel horses clocking right outside of 1D times, Huntmaster horses, great working ranch ponies, and polo horses competing successfully in Wellington all within a year of them coming off the track. These horses are so smart and their work ethic and willingness to learn is amazing.”

Amy acknowledges that a great place for these horses to get their start is at the Thoroughbred Makeover. “The Makeover has opened up a door for these OTTBs that would have never existed. The Makeover is filled with both knowledge and experience, being one of the only places where amateurs can show against professionals on a level playing field in an atmosphere that feels like a rated show while also feeling like a family,” she shared. “The RRP puts so much work into not only the show itself but also sharing the education needed for buying an OTTB, and they try to put everyone on the right path and set riders and potential buyers up for success.”

Holly Tiszai and Paulus graduate, Peace at Last. Photo provided by Holly Tiszai

Each year, horses rehomed through Amy make up the largest number of entries placed by one connection. Last year 35 trainers from all over the country got together to create Team RRPaulus, a group of trainers who purchased their Makeover mounts through Amy. This year, she anticipates an even larger turnout of RRPaulus riders. “So far we have 53 trainers accepted with horses purchased from me for 2018. There are still trainers looking for their RRP mounts so I am hoping I’m able to find at least a handful of those that are still looking their mount.”

But this career path isn’t just about the numbers for Amy. “Seeing breeders, owner, trainers, grooms, and jockeys happy about horses they have been affiliated with makes me happy and makes me feel like I am truly making a difference for these horses’ lives after racing.” Often, those race connections make the trek to the Kentucky Horse Park to watch their former racers excel in their new homes and at new careers. “Those who can’t make it always are so thankful and happy to get pictures or videos I take for them and at the end of the day I believe they’re the horse’s biggest fan.”

Erica Addison and Paulus graduate, Aristarchus. Photo provided by Erica Addison

When asked if she would ever step into the ring as a competitor, Amy gave this humble reply: “I can’t say if I’ll ever make an appearance competing, though this year I debated entering because it would be such a fun experience. Over the years I’ve been able to schedule, multitask and find a balance so I’m able to get back in the saddle and continue doing what I love. But, I feel like my purpose at the RRP is to be there catching all the moments I can for these horses I’ve rehomed, to be there cheering them on, helping however I can and being a part of the family I’ve created.”

To learn more about Amy Lynn Paulus and her “Paulus ponies,” join the Facebook group here. Go riding!

Sorry, Folks: No Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl Commercial This Year

If you’re one of the many equestrians who watch the Super Bowl expressly so you can eat junk food and watch the annual masterpiece that is the cinematic Budweiser Clydesdale commercial, I have a bit of bad news this year: there is no Budweiser Clydesdale commercial.

For some of us (such as myself) this is kind of good news, because I usually have to excuse myself from the room so I can dab at my eyes in private. (The draft horses, man! They just GET me!)

For most of us, however, this is kind of a rip. Budweiser did attempt to mollify what it probably foresaw as a wave of public outcry, however, and released this Internet spot, featuring a noble Clyde thundering all over the country like some sort of harbinger of beer:

Well, it’s better than nothing. (This ad will also run on TV on the days after the game.)

Budweiser has also promised that it will again be hosting its Clydesdale Super Bowl party, so you can keep an eye out for a quick spot during the game’s many commercial breaks that will let you know where you can watch the big horses on live cam just being horses. (Or, you know, you can go outside and look at your own horses. That works too.)

Until 2019, when we hope that the Clydesdales will be back for some Super Bowl tear-jerker action, here are the best big-game commercials from the past few years. Enjoy!

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 (bonus: there were two this year!)

2010

2011 wasn’t very Clydesdale-y, so we skipped it… moving on to 2012:

2013

2014

2015

Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section!

As seen on …

Best of JN: The German Riding Instructor is the Hilarious Hero the H/J World Needs

In a hunter-jumper world that could desperately do with a laugh and a little light-hearted fun right about now, the German Riding Instructor — that is, Ronny Reimer of RCR Equestrian — is here to help.

His selfie videos “live from Ockla, Tyron and Weglington” point out the funnier things about that strange circus that is the winter showing circuit. Here are a few of our favorites.

Wellington is like Oprah Winfrey …. #ronnyriemer #GERMANRIDINGINSTRUCTOR #wellington #pbiec #horses #jumper #rcr #rcrequestrian #palmbeach #westpalmbeach #horseshow #grandprix #welcome #amazing #awesome #great #marketing #advertising @esp_wef @ronnyriemer @rcrequestrian @chnullie

Posted by The German Riding Instructor on Thursday, December 28, 2017

Impressive ! Must see architecture 🐴😊👍🏻💚 #rcr #rcrequestrian #GERMANRIDINGINSTRUCTOR #video #tampa #castle #king #amazing #awesome #twist #soda #coke #cola #pepsi #horses #horseshow #grandprixsundays #funny #love #advertising #marketing @germanridinginstructor @chnullie @rcrequestrian

Posted by The German Riding Instructor on Sunday, December 10, 2017

Top of the standard !!!!
Holy cow ! (Like the Indians would say) 😂😂😂
#TBTuesday #oldbutgold @marcusgruenthal

Posted by The German Riding Instructor on Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Follow The German Riding Instructor and never miss a video.

Go Jumping!

Best of HN: ‘Down the Fence’ Documentary Review

Explaining one’s discipline to onlookers — even onlookers within the equestrian world — can be a tricky business. In every discipline, from hunters to eventing to fine harness driving to reining, there are nuances and details that are difficult to explain, and few of us are up to the even more difficult task of explaining why we were attracted to that discipline in the first place.

While competing has taken a backseat to other goals in my horse life, reined cow horse was my discipline of choice for many years, and while it may appear to simply be chasing cattle in circles, there is of course much more going on than observers can possibly see: even for a naturally-gifted animal with cow sense, reined cow horse is a true triathlon involving three unique skill sets that calls on horse and rider to give everything they’ve got in grit, heart and courage. This is the world depicted in Down the Fence.

The documentary skillfully intertwines the individual stories of five professional trainers along with the history of reined cow horse, tracing what is now an arena discipline back to its roots in vaquero horsemanship and Spanish riding traditions. Down the Fence highlights the bygone traditions of reined cow horse and the living, evolving history of western horsemanship while thankfully avoiding getting bogged down in a “how the west was won” tale or the complicated landscape of modern ranching and the cowboy way of life. The documentary remains purely a look at the sport itself.

“Show, don’t tell” is a guiding mantra in creative writing, and the filmmakers heeded this advice in the documentary as well: through telling the stories of the five trainers — Brandon Buttars, Kelby Phillips, Erin Taormino, Jake Telford and Doug Williamson — I got a distinct impression of what makes each story unique and each individual relatable without assigning stereotypical roles (while some of these folks could probably be described as “underdogs,” “up and comers” or “old hands,” the film doesn’t ever apply these labels). There’s no antagonist; I wanted to root for everyone as the documentary follows the progression of the reined cow horse season through its five major shows, ending with the Snaffle Bit Futurity.

Peppered with interviews and conversations from not only the five featured trainers but a huge array of professionals and horsemen from the reined cow horse industry, I was moved by the real sense of camaraderie in reined cow horse: no one can make it alone. The segment in which horsemen spoke about the relationship and bond between horse and rider definitely had me reaching for the box of tissues — and there wasn’t a single moment of anthropomorphism or mysticism, just honest, open talk about why humans will always love horses.

Down the Fence isn’t a behind-the-scenes training doc or exposé, but it’s a beautiful piece of cinematography, a love letter to the discipline of reined cow horse. For me, it was a reminder of what made me fall in the love with the discipline in the first place and inspiration to look forward to returning to the show pen again soon. I’d love to hear the thoughts of a viewer who has never ridden reined cow horse before to see if the film hit all the same high notes, but I suspect that it will.

Screen shot via trailer

Down the Fence is brand-spanking new to Netflix to watch for free, but is also available for rent or purchase on DVD as well as a number of streaming services. Click here to view all options. Learn more about the film at the documentary’s website.

Ah-ha! Moment of the Week from Attwood: The Best Advice You’ve Ever Received

Many eventers have encountered a special horse, had a breakthrough competition, or experienced a revelation during training that changed … well … everything. In a new weekly series presented by Attwood Equestrian Surfaces, eventers share their ah-ha! moments. 

Earlier this week EN’s sister site Horse Nation asked readers to share the best piece of advice about horses they had ever received in their lives.  Readers had plenty to say, and Kristen Kovatch decided to put all of that good advice in one place for the horsey Internet to enjoy. Now, we’re passing it on to you — and we want to hear YOUR best advice in the comments!

“Have a great ride” is always good advice! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Sit back. Sit BACK! SIT BACK!!!” –Denise Kirby

“1. Forward. 2. Inside leg to outside rein.” –Diana Guttenberg DeYoung

“‘When turning out a horse, walk all the way through the gate and turn the horse toward you. Unsnap the lead as you’re backing out of the gate.’ I understood the importance of that advice after watching one person get dragged about 50 ft. and another take a hoof to the face from a frisky buck. Thanks, Stephanie England-Grey!!!” –Elsa Hale

“In working with OTTBs: love, patience and kindness.” –Lexi Poteat Pejnovic

Look where you are going and stay by yourself. Told to me by Victor Hugo-Vidal.” –Dee Kysor

Steer with your boobs!” –Jill Lowe

“Breathe.” –Jan Moller, Aradia Diane Willard, Mary McGaughy Neely and MaryAnn Isaacson

Train a horse well and you’ll never have to worry about his future.” –Jamie Maguire

Don’t micro manage your horse. Let them make mistakes so you can make the corrections. That’s how they’ll learn.” –Nissa Sjoberg

“Wet saddle blankets make good horses.” –Melissa Brown

Leave your emotions out of the saddle.” –Ashley Rose

80% of the time, things are going to work out just fine no matter what you do. 10% of the time everything will go wrong no matter what you do. You really only need to be a good enough horse person to deal with the remaining 10%. If you think of it this way, it gets easier to not second guess yourself.” –Abigail Emily Martin

If it is not fun at any time… get off.” –Gidget Treadway

Not one training method will work for all horses or riders. Do what works for you.” –Stephanie Cantrell

A. Wear a helmet always, even on the ground. B. Ride the horse you have, not the horse you want. (As in, don’t force the horse to be something he’s not, and don’t skip ahead in training.)” –Caitlin Last

“If you come off get back on!!” –Robbyn White Gray

Always be planning several steps ahead. You can’t expect your horse to move forward with confidence if you have no idea where you’re going.” –Karina Brown

Smile, smile, smile!” –Joy Pernat

You will never know enough.” –Pauline MadEye Wheeler

You are either training or untraining.” –Brigette McGhay Cosgrove

Never take on more horses then you can afford on your own. A free horse is NEVER free.” –Michelle Larsen

Quiet but firm, leg before hands, no matter what you are doing… you are either training him or untraining him.” –Roxann Gill

You’ve already committed to getting in the saddle. Do not hesitate, breathe and get on. Picture what you WANT to happen, not what you THINK will happen.” –Nina Amelung

Don’t worry about one ride; don’t look at it day to day. Look at your progress on more of a monthly basis. That way, one bad ride will be overshadowed by multiple good rides.” –Danielle Vance

Things take time.” –Lea Ditte Marsk Lauridsen

Where you look is where you’ll end up. Stop looking down!” –Barb McCaslin Riffey

As gentle as possible, as firm as necessary.” –Karen Boates

NEVER buy a problem.” –Margreta Wenzloff Flach

Look where you want to go.” –Linda Light

Get the arch out of your back and sit on your butt.” –Bird McIver

The horse you own is always the best horse in the world. Stay positive. Do not listen to rail birds.” –Lynn Howland

It’s not the horse’s fault, you need to ride better.” –Vernita Frens Mullen

Let the active/nervous horse move its feet, you’ll only make matters worse if you try to stop it.” –Wendy Fowler

Make corrections going forward.” –Deb Howatt

Don’t sneak up behind them.” –David Simpson

Heels down, eyes up, & relax in the seat, have a great trainer for lessons & advice.” –Ann Lee Francis Boone

Always remember what a blessing it is to be around horses at all.” –Merwie Garzon

Now, it’s your turn, Eventing Nation. What’s the best piece of advice about horses that you’ve ever received? Share in the comments!

Best of HN: 3 Ways to Deal With ’52 Free Thoroughbreds’

Remember that viral post about the 52 free Thoroughbreds in need of homes immediately or they’re all going to slaughter due to lack of interest from an inheriting family member?

Guess what’s just come back around, harder to kill than a cockroach.

The post itself, and its many slightly different iterations, reads as follows:

FREE HORSES!!! 52 thoroughbred horses need homes. Will go to Sugarcreek this Sat. for slaughter. Gentleman died and his son wants nothing to do with them. Most broodmares are broke and some are in foal weanling, yearlings, 2yrs. and 3yrs. old most are gelded. FREE and papered. Friend of the deceased is trying to find homes. 440-463-4288 Barnesville, OH.
Please copy and paste this on your status.
I would hate to see all these house put down. PLEASE someone help they FREE and papered!!!!!

I hope someone can help!

Somehow, due to the magic of the Facebook algorithm, this thing rears its head almost annually — it would be a fascinating study in the mysteries of social media to figure out just exactly how this post manages to resurface, catch a few unsuspecting, well-intended individuals and take off yet again to bedevil horse people everywhere.

In case you’re not familiar with the full, original story, this WAS a real, desperate need in late January of 2011 — Daniel Steans, DVM passed away on January 27, 2011 and his good friend Lynn Boggs took to Facebook to try to find homes for his 52 Thoroughbreds. Thanks to the power of social media, all 52 horses found homes in just four days — read the story on Eventing Nation.

Unfortunately for all of us seven years later, the presumable posts of triumph and gratefulness didn’t go viral. Now, the original plea for homes comes back to haunt us, somehow becoming the punchline to a thousand equestrian jokes and driving us to distraction. It catches everyone from your sweet Aunt Judith who knows you’re into horses and thinks maybe you could help to actual horse people who simply never heard about it the first half-a-dozen times — I myself was sent this from a horse owner who was convinced it was a different set of 52 Thoroughbreds in need of homes.

It’s the Nigerian Prince email for horse people, only without the actual scam.

Fortunately, there are several productive ways we can contend with the 52 free Thoroughbreds:

1. Share the good news about the original 52 free Thoroughbreds and thank the sender for their concern.

Whether it’s sweet, clueless Aunt Judith or your fellow boarder who sends you the message/tags you in a post/writes this on your Timeline non-ironically and in all seriousness, they’re acting based on genuine concern and belief that you might be equipped to help these horses in a time of crisis. Isn’t that a good thing?

The last thing we should do in these situations is curtly tell the concerned friend that this is fake and that you’re sick to death of seeing it (even if you are). Instead, take this as an opportunity to educate and inform your friend about the true story, let them know you appreciate their concern and belief that you can help, and maybe gently, casually remind them how important it is these days to vet your sources for basically anything you read on the Internet.

After all, for some of your Facebook friends, this is one of the only interactions with the horse world they might have, and it’s important not to give them the wrong impression.

2. Turn it into a benefit for real Thoroughbreds — or any horse — in need of a home ASAP.

I’ve seen this now in a couple of different places online and I think it’s a great idea — for every 52 free Thoroughbreds post out there, there are plenty of very real horses in immediate crisis who are in need of a soft landing. Social media users are encouraging one another to make a small donation to a favorite equine charity every time they see the 52 free Thoroughbreds post — some are aiding other Thoroughbreds via off-track aftercare, others are reaching out to rescues plucking horses from slaughter sales. The charity isn’t as important as the intention — use this slight annoyance as an opportunity to do some good and save more horses destined for an untimely end!

3. When all else fails, there’s always this.

Go riding!

Better, Faster, Stronger: Genetically Engineering the Horse

A video is rapidly circulating on social media, boiling down a complex scientific achievement into just a few seconds for public consumption:

The first genetically engineered super horse could be born by 2019

They run faster, jump higher, and might be coming to the Olympics. Learn more: http://wef.ch/2m0XMCe

Posted by World Economic Forum on Sunday, January 7, 2018

The science

Kheiron Biotech, based in Argentina, first made international equestrian headlines as a cloning headquarters, successfully cloning some of living polo legend Adolfo Cambioso’s greatest mounts. In fact, Cambioso rode a string of six clones of one of his favorite mares to help propel his team to a win in the Argentinian Open.

Clones are genetic copies of the original, which can provide some advantages to breeders and owners but do not genetically further a breed. Some clones are used as breeding stock, especially if the original horse is unable to breed (for example, if the original horse is a gelding). Others are trained for competition, with one theory being that a clone could feasibly be better than the original with a carefully-regimented training schedule to set the horse up with all available advantages. Clones are not recognized by some breed associations or registries, but the FEI does allow them to compete.

Kheiron Biotech has now pushed the envelope even further, revealing late in 2017 that the lab was able to not only clone but to genetically enhance the genomes of a clone: using a process referred to as Crispr (Clustered Regularly Inter-Spaced Palindromic Repeats) the research team can boost a gene sequence critical to muscle development, endurance and speed. The team was able to produce healthy embryos with this process, and there are plans to implant embryos into surrogate mares within the next two years.

The reaction

The research team believes that this process helps to speed up breeding — selected traits could be enhanced in the lab rather than over generations and generations of breeding with uncertain results. There are also plans to use the Crispr mechanism to edit other genes, with the possibility of eliminating genetic defects.

It’s a bit disingenuous to say “these horses will be allowed to compete in the Olympics.” The FEI has stated that as of right now there are no bans in place to bar genetically engineered horses from competition — simply because it hasn’t happened yet. The organization, however, does plan to continue to monitor these developments.

While the concept of being able to remove genetic defects and hereditary disease, speeding up efforts by breeders, certainly sounds appealing, the concept of “playing God” has been an ethical debate for years ever since Dolly the sheep, the first live cloned animal, popped onto the scene. As science continues to push the boundaries of what we believe is possible, the debate is sure to rage on.

Weigh in, Eventing Nation — what are your thoughts on genetic engineering in horses? Let us know in the comments — and go riding.

[Genetically engineered ‘super-horses’ to be born in 2019 and could soon compete in Olympics]

Best of HN: Too Cold To Ride? Using Common Sense & Science

Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

A recent Facebook posting from Yates Equine Veterinary Services has been going viral around equestrian social media concerning what temperatures could be considered too cold to work a horse. The post has sparked plenty of lively discussion, with plenty of equestrians on both sides of the issue cherry-picking a few key facts to back up their own theories. We’ll establish the facts, combined with common sense, to help readers decide for themselves in the middle of the United States’ intense cold snap (not to mention this coming “bomb cyclone,” whatever on earth that might be…).

The post that launched a thousand comments:

I am frequently asked, and I wondered myself, about working horses in extremely frigid weather like what we are…

Posted by Yates Equine Veterinary Services on Friday, December 29, 2017

Thanks, Dr. Yates, for digging into the research!

The tl;dr version in bullet facts:

  • The horse’s respiratory tract is designed to warm and humidify air by the time air reaches his lungs. Intense exercise (anything more than a walk) speeds up and deepens breaths so that air is not as warm or humid when it reaches the lungs
  • Scientists discovered in three studies that respiratory tracts in horses can become damaged by breathing cold air (23 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Damage to lower respiratory tracts was found 48 hours after exercise, including elevated white blood cell counts and inflammatory proteins as well as narrowing of the tracts
  • While full text was not available for two of the three studies, the third study was performed on nine horses on a treadmill in a climate-controlled facility. No further information is given on the horses
  • Dr. Yates observes that there are no studies done in natural environments (outside) and no studies done in relation to horses’ acclimatization — are horses who live outside in cold environments better acclimated to working in cold temperatures?

Dr. Yates’ conclusion is that she will likely avoid exercise (trotting, cantering and jumping) when temperatures are under 20 degrees F.

Interpreting the results

Some riders are taking these studies as evidence that all riding should cease when temperatures are below 25-20 degrees F, while others are reading this post as justification to just bundle up and keep on training. As with lots of discussions in the horse world, the best path may lie somewhere in the middle — and with the unknown factor of how acclimatization might affect a horse’s ability to work in the cold, common sense should continue to dictate the ride.

Here are a few considerations when deciding to ride in the cold:

How is your footing? Frozen hard-packed bare ground at 25 degrees is a far different riding surface from a snow-covered pasture at 25 degrees. No matter how warm it is, icy conditions should be a no-go for any rider.

Where does your horse live? Again, while acclimatization did not come into play with the above referenced studies, I believe you can make a case that a horse coming from a heated barn to a cold outdoor arena would likely have a harder time both breathing cold air and physically/mentally settling in to work, while a horse living out 24/7 working in the same environment should feasibly be more likely to be ready to go.

What’s your horse’s level of fitness? Going hand-in-hand with considerations of acclimatization, cold weather is not a good time to decide to bring a horse back into work if he’s going to be breathing that cold air into his out-of-shape body as you make him trot and canter. It may take some creative management to exercise a fit horse in extreme cold; hand walking and ground work are good strategies that will protect his respiratory system while keeping him mentally and physically engaged, especially if he’s not the sort of horse who can go out for a snowy trail ride around the property.

Take your time in warm-up. Regardless of your horse’s acclimatization, both his muscles and his respiratory tract need plenty of time to warm up in this weather. The golden rule from multiple sources seems to be a 10-15 minute walking warm-up if you’re planning a regular work in colder weather. If it’s under 20-23 degrees, it’s advisable to walk only to avoid damaging your horse’s respiratory tract.

Cooling down is equally vital. Even if your horse is clipped to allow him to work without sweating up a long, shaggy coat, an appropriate cool-down is essential. For unclipped horses who have worked up a sweat, cool-down is critical to allow the horse’s coat to dry before it freezes, giving the horse a chill.

Discretion is the better part of valor. Seriously, very few of us are in true life-or-death scenarios where we MUST work a horse hard in extreme cold. (And those of us who are — I’m thinking of ranchers with livestock to tend — may have horses who are acclimated to working in the cold and therefore may not be as prone to respiratory damage — again, we’ll need another study to look into this). While it’s frustrating in the immediate moment to be “grounded” due to weather, in the long run our horses and we ourselves may ultimately be happier and healthier if we skip a training ride and instead slow things down for this period of intense cold.

Take a look at your own conditions, your horse and your weather forecast to make decisions in your riding life. And if you can — go riding!

Further reading

SmartPak: Ask the Vet: Too Cold to Ride?

Certified Horsemanship Association: Exercising Your Horse During Winter

Study: “Cold air-induced late-phase bronchoconstriction in horses” (subscription needed for full article)

Study: “Influx of neutrophils and persistence of cytokine expression in airways of horses after performing exercise while breathing cold air” (subscription needed for full article)

Best of 2017 Video Countdown #2: This Extensive Sales Video May Blow Your Mind

Each day between now and the New Year we’re counting down the most popular videos shared on EN in 2017. The #2 spot goes to “This Extensive Sales Video May Blow Your Mind,” which garnered 10,359 views when it was posted on January 19, 2017.

This sales video for a Missouri Fox Trotter named Walter is SO straightforward and dry that it’s hard to tell if trainer and seller Zackery Stevens is just that much of a straight shooter or a total genius or both. We can’t decide if we should laugh, marvel, take this man seriously or buy him a beer. Or maybe all of those things.

Let’s just establish before you watch this 20-minute sales video (the man is nothing if not thorough) that Walter appears to be perhaps the greatest horse that has walked this planet. We promise, this is worth the 20 minutes just to listen to this guy talk about his horse in the driest voice you’ve ever heard from someone trying to sell something.

As a side note, we took a peek at the TheHorseBay.com online auction page for Walter, whose sale ended about a week ago. If the page is reporting accurate information, Walter sold via online auction for $50,000. Well done, Walter. And well done, Mr. Stevens.

Best of 2017 Video Countdown #5: One Way To Tackle a Bank

Each day between now and the New Year we’re counting down the most popular videos shared on EN in 2017. The #5 spot goes to “One Way To Tackle a Bank,” which garnered 4,871 views when it was posted on June 2, 2017.

One of the many things we love about Laine Ashker as an eventer in the social media age is her willingness to share the less-than-pretty moments with good grace and good humor — because she understands, like we do, that we’ve all been there. Horse life is messy, unpredictable and definitely has its fair share of SMH/LOL/OMG moments, whether you’re an amateur or a professional.

That’s why we’ve fallen head over heels for Laine Ashker’s new ride Debakey, a four year old Holsteiner gelding owned by Lena Perger. His latest adventure — his unique take on a bank — has the internet in stitches:

(Don’t worry, Ashker confirmed that Debakey was totally fine.) He was also pretty fun to watch when he saw his first skinny and chevron…

If you’re scratching your head right now, fear not — here’s Debakey on something he has a bit more experience with, demonstrating the springs in his feet.

Los Angeles Area Barns Burn Amidst Deadly California Wildfires

Screenshot via video

Fueled by dry conditions and Santa Ana winds, rapidly-moving wildfires are burning hundreds of thousands of acres in Southern California, threatening many homes and barns in the greater Los Angeles area.

A lack of seasonal precipitation has created bone-dry conditions in Southern California, providing plenty of fuel for rapidly-moving and unpredictably-spreading wildfires in the greater Los Angeles area. Fanned by the gusty Santa Ana winds of late autumn, four large fires and several smaller fires have burned an estimated 116,000 acres as of Thursday morning.

Thousands of firefighters are battling the Thomas Fire outside of Ventura as well as the Rye, Creek and Skirball fires closer to Los Angeles, with an estimated 300 homes and business already lost.

The Creek fire burned the well-known Middle Ranch of Lakeview Terrace, home to several well-known barns including Archie Cox’ Brookway Stables and Dick Carvin and Francie Steinwedell-Carvin’s Meadow Grove Farms. Fortunately, all horses on the property were evacuated to safety on Tuesday in advance of approaching flames.

Video from Jorge Hidalgo of Brookway Stables shows a terrifying scene, in which Hidalgo and others still on the property are sent to the riding ring as the safest place as flames take the barns around them. Conditions on the roadways made leaving impossible. Fortunately, all are now safe.

Fire is on

Posted by Jorge Hidalgo on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Getting very very bad

Posted by Jorge Hidalgo on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Video from Francie Steinwedell shows the barns — now mercifully long empty of horses — going up in flames:

So sad to see our barn go up in flames

Posted by Francie Steinwedell on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Equine evacuation centers have been set up at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center, Los Angeles Equestrian Center, the Fairplex grounds and Antelope Valley Fairgrounds. Many smaller farms and ranches are also opening their doors to horse owners in need.

Some farms and ranches have not been as lucky as Middle Ranch — due to the fast-moving nature of these wildfires, some larger facilities had only enough time to get people to safety. Thirty horses reportedly died in the Creek fire on Wednesday when the owners were forced to flee for their lives early in the morning with no time to evacuate stock to safety.

As fires are still raging, with only 15% estimated to be contained, few wide-scale relief efforts have been set up at this time. So far, Damoor’s Feed and Tack of Glendale, California has pledged support to affected horse owners:

While no announcement of aid has been made formally by US Equestrian, interested individuals can always donate to the Disaster Relief Fund to help fellow equestrians in need. We will continue to monitor this story as fires burn; the weather forecast for Friday and Saturday shows that winds may diminish which may allow firefighters to gain some control over the flames.

For networking and information about evacuations, visit the Southern California Equine Emergency Evacuation Facebook group. More information about disaster preparedness and evacuation plans can be found here.

Update 12/7/2017 7:14 PM EST:

Two fires at 0% containment –called the Lilac and Liberty fires — are spreading rapidly north of San Diego, threatening numerous farms and equestrian centers. Evacuation points for horses have been opened up at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Del Mar Equestrian Center, among other locations.

The San Luis Rey Downs race training facility was a scene of chaos as an estimated 50 horses were turned loose by track staff when their barn caught fire. Some horses were able to evacuate to Del Mar Fairgrounds before road closures forced drastic measures, emphasizing the speed at which the Lilac fire has progressed in just one afternoon, growing rapidly from a thousand to two thousand acres. Individual trainers have confirmed equine deaths, but with fire still active in the area both rescue trailers and individual autos are not being granted access so a total head count of loss is not yet known.

We will continue to follow these stories as they develop.

Best of HN: Songs About Horses: ‘Dressage Girls’

Tweaking lyrics is a time-honored tradition at Horse Nation — every December we love to re-release our re-imagined Christmas carols so we can all sing about our equestrian problems in the holiday season, for example.

This song, performed by Tom White O’Connor, however, might just take the cake. Accompanied by a video by Joseph Newcomb, Tom croons away about the perils of falling in love with an equestrian. And not just any equestrian — a dressage girl.

Without further ado:

The lyrics, if you’d like to sing along again:

Dressage girls are easy to love, they’re just hard to afford
They ride big fancy horses that cost more than most Porsches, I’m sure
Saddles and bridles and vet bills and clinics
You say “darlin’ we just can’t go on”
Then she rolls those brown eyes and your heart nearly dies
It’s time for a new credit card.

Daddies, don’t your let your daughters turn into dressage girls
Don’t let ’em ride warmbloods that cost way too much
Let ’em play softball and soccer and such
Daddies, don’t your let your daughters turn into dressage girls
You’ll lose ’em for sure, for dressage there’s no cure
You’ll be left mucking their stall.

(So good. Oh, but wait, the second verse gets better. Way better.)

Dressage girls ride horses in shows like you’ve never seen
They ride sideways and backwards and all alphabetically
There’re no cattle or ropin’, barrels or whoopin’
The crowd’s quiet like a Sunday church hall
You’ll be proud just to see her, even if you can’t figure what the hell she’s a doin’ out there.

(BRB DYING.)

Daddies, don’t your let your daughters turn into dressage girls
Don’t let ’em ride warmbloods that cost way too much
Let ’em play softball and soccer and such
Daddies, don’t your let your daughters turn into dressage girls
You’ll lose ’em for sure, for dressage there’s no cure
You’ll be left mucking their stall.

Truer words have never been sung. (“They ride sideways and backwards and all alphabetically” — GENIUS.) We’re officially adding this one to our Horse Nation playlist.

Go riding!

Electronic Logging Devices & CMVs: What New Regulations Mean For Horse Owners

Photo via Trailers of the East Coast/Flickr/CC.

The “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” or MAP-21 bill, was enacted in 2012 by Congress with ongoing implementation for the next few years. Of most concern for livestock haulers and horse owners is the phasing in of a requirement for commercial motor vehicles to install and use an electronic logging device, or ELD.

The purpose of an ELD is to log the hours of driving time performed by a driver: Legally, a driver can only be on the road for 11 hours in a 14-hour stretch before they are required to take a mandatory 10-hour rest period. The ELD records drive time and alerts the driver when he or she is over their hours; any infractions are recorded by the ELD and can be viewed during inspection. Drivers found to be in violation during inspection or traffic stop can be fined.

Currently, we’re in the “awareness and transition phase” as described by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) — commercial drivers are not currently required to have an ELD but are encouraged to start the transition now from paper log books, logging software and automatic on-board recording devices. The next stage, phasing in the ELD, begins on December 18, 2017.

While we typically picture tractor-trailers when we mentally envision a commercial driver or commercial motor vehicle (CMV), the reality is that CMVs can come in many shapes and sizes, and these rules and requirements apply to all of them.

What is considered a commercial motor vehicle?

The full legal description of commercial motor vehicles can be found here. The commercial motor vehicle definition as would apply to horse owners can include a truck and trailer with a total gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,000 pounds, as well as a truck and trailer that have been written off as business expenses or are used for business — if you’re a professional trainer and your rig is part of your business, it’s considered a commercial vehicle. Even if your vehicle does not actually require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) but is part of your business, it can be considered a commercial vehicle. If you haul horses for compensation, your truck and trailer are considered commercial vehicles.

If you’re a sponsored rider, you are considered a professional and your truck and trailer are also considered commercial.

Essentially, if your truck and trailer is used for profit or for business purposes, it’s considered a CMV and all of the CMV rules apply, as they always have. You need a Department of Transportation (DOT) number, and some states may require a state number as well.

Exemptions

A full list of exemptions can be found here. The most key exemption for horse owners reads: “Unless otherwise specifically provided, the rules in [Subchapter B, including the definition of a CMV] do not apply to the occasional transportation of personal property by individuals not for compensation and not in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise.”

In explanation, amateur owners/non-pros are exempt from the commercial vehicle status if they’re hauling for recreational purposes: you can still load up your horses and go trail riding, and you can still haul your horse to go show for fun as long as you are not deducting your expenses for tax purposes for a business and counting any prize monies as ordinary income (not business income). Essentially, for the recreational horse owner, there’s no need to worry about installing an ELD as hauling is not considered commercial.

Agricultural exemptions also apply to CMVs: the full list of agricultural exemptions can be found here. For transporting horses under the agricultural exemption, you may travel within a 150-mile radius from the source of your commodity without requiring an ELD — in this case, let’s assume your load of horses from your home barn. You may also travel outside of that 150-mile radius no more than eight days every 30 days with the use of a paper log (no need to use an ELD).

Clear as mud, right?

The upcoming ELD requirement starting on December 18, 2017 will definitely impact professional horsemen and horsewomen who spend a lot of time and miles on the road; individuals who are already following rules and regulations for CMVs will likely not have to modify their individual practices. The changes coming in December are increasing the potential for these rules to be enforced more strongly.

More information can be found at the FMCSA website.