Spring Break!

I am taking a "spring break" from the blog, so I will be back posting again after Easter!

California Poppies galore

Yellow Mustard

*Photos from spring break a couple years ago: driving the Pacific Coast Highway!
(taken through a bug-laden car windshield)


Wishing that your next couple weeks are full of happy springtime rides,  spring (barn) cleaning, horse-hair currying, bright flowers and rain showers!

Drugs Rule? Or Drug Rules?

I recently read an article on the Chronicle of the Horse titled, "Are Drug Rules Putting our Horses at Greater Danger?" by Robin Greenwood.

Ms. Greenwood addressed the hunter ring (where I most often show), where the style of a sedate and mellow, steady horse is the goal.  As the article notes, the nature of many Thoroughbreds makes it difficult for them to match, and therefore beat, the calm of a gelded warmblood (TBs are called hot-blooded for a reason!).

The article summarized that rules prohibiting drug use are likely moot because competitors will always stay a step ahead in finding a new drug that won't be detected in a urine or blood sample.  The author concluded: "Perhaps it’s time to consider legal ways to help a horse relax rather than making that completely illegal."

Do you agree?
Have the rules become so restrictive that competitors are being driven to find more creative ways (that are often dangerous) to circumvent the rules?

A beautiful hunter (and I believe I spot a warmblood brand on the right hind).
Source: the Wellington 2012 show from examiner.com

I believe the answer lies in why competitive organizations create the rules in the first place.  I would presume the primary goal is horse safety and welfare.  And in close second, to maintain the integrity of the sport.  Our American baseball players aren't (supposed) to use steroids because we value the integrity of a drug-less sport.
And Olympic swimmers are no longer permitted to use full body suits in races because we want to see who is the natural best, not by artificial means.

Perhaps the hunter ring should choose to re-evaluate the desired "type" for a winning round, so that TBs have a chance of beating the "dead"bloods (I say that lovingly about warmbloods!)

In a previous post I discussed whether we need more legislated laws to protect horse welfare.  In general, I think that rules of an equine discipline can adequately set a standard of care without the involvement of state legislature.
But I think it is important to consistently re-evaluate our position on horse health and well-being in the competitive world.  It is okay (and even admirable) to want to win, and as an equine society we need to decide what parameters are necessary to provide a fair playing field- and if that means no calming drugs are allowed- then do we care that (in general) the TBs can't beat a warmblood in the currently-in-vogue hunter round style?

I appreciate Ms. Greenwood's article because it prompts serious discussion about how rules and the governing bodies of horse sport should balance protecting horse welfare, creating a fair playing field, and improving competition.
Could legalizing certain drugs in fact improve horse welfare?
It doesn't seem like on the whole it would, but it is certainly an intriguing question!

Equine Environmental Law: Manure is Power

Some environmental groups oppose the presence of horses (and cows) on the basis of water or soil contamination.
Composting and recycling our horse manure has been the best thing to ever happen to our gardens (we feed our horses well, so the fertilizer is high quality!), but initiatives like the following are certainly intriguing, and give an additional meaning to "green" energy:

An all too familiar sight! 
"In February the Norco City Council in Riverside County voted 5 to 0 to move forward with a proposed $36 million manure-to-power conversion plant. Chevron believes the plant would be the first of its kind. The city often referred to as “Horsetown USA” looking to be a leader in the green energy movement, took their manure challenges to Chevron Energy Solutions. The city will order an environmental impact report on the plant. Chevron Energy Solutions presented an engineering study that showed the plant would be viable. The plant would take 18 months to two years to build on unincorporated land a few miles outside of town. The proposed plant would dispose of an estimated 65 tons of horse manure produced daily by the city's 17,000 horses. The plant would end the $17.25 per ton cost of disposal as well as generate annual power revenue of about $7 million for the small city. One of the issues still to be resolved is the lack of long term leases on the drying fields." 
What does your farm or ranch do with the horse manure: compost/ garden, donate, pay a disposal fee, or convert to energy, other?

Article source: California Horsemen's Association March 2012 Newsletter

What are the Odds? Gambling on a Horse race

Kentucky recently passed a constitutional amendment to permit the expansion of gambling in the Thoroughbred racing industry.
This article by the Kentucky Horse Council states in part: "If the citizens of Kentucky approve the amendment, we also advocate for regulations that enable expanded gaming to provide support to Kentucky's equine industry."

Regulating bodies argue that gambling on horse racing is necessary to increase revenue for the sport and the state, and helps encourage awareness of racing.
But gambling on horse sport has its drawbacks, such as gambling addictions and illegal wagering.

I haven't seen any episodes of the new equine racing show "Luck," but the following 'behind-the-scenes' clips raise interesting points about the relationship between gambling and horses.
For example, actor Richard Kind notes that one aspect of racing is "the degenerate gamblers..." 

The first part of this clip shares insight into the laws of race horse ownership- did you know that a felon cannot own a racehorse?

You can click here to find the California Horse Racing Board's rules on wagering.

I've only placed small, minimum-amount bets at Thoroughbred races while at the racetrack.
 Have you ever wagered, gambled, or placed a bet on a horse race, either at the track or offsite?

Three horses have died on the set of the television show "Luck."  All future production of the show is terminated.
You can find an article on it here.

Welfare and Horse Diving: a final word

As you may have read, or seen on my facebook page, the proposed horse diving act in New Jersey has been cancelled (you can read the CBS article here).

A diving girl and her horse after a successful dive
A friend and I chose to read Sonora Carver's book, A Girl and Five Brave Horses as an informal horse book club book.  We love horses, and with the recent proposed revival of horse diving in New Jersey, we thought it would be an insightful read.
As you may recall, Sonora Carver was the young woman featured in the movie Wild Hearts Can't be Broken, who suffered from detached retinas in an unfortunate diving accident.

In my last post on the topic, I left open the question whether training horses to dive from 40 feet high is inhumane or not.  As with most equine welfare issues, opinions are polarized.  
On one side, diving horses may not be much different than other extreme horse sports, and on the other side, diving may not be considered sport and is mere recklessness for the sake of "awe factor," with the horse's well-being paying the price.

I think every true horseman would agree that horse welfare doesn't require that a horse sit in a pasture, without a job, to protect him from potential work-induced injuries.
But how much we ask a horse to do beyond basic arena work can enter a grey zone.
Then I read this article on The Horse by Midge Leitch, which in summary asserted:

"Both science and society have a role in deciding what constitutes an appropriate level of animal welfare and the appropriate use of the horse. While science can determine what type or degree of animal welfare risk exists under specific circumstances, it cannot determine what type or degree of risk is acceptable--that is the question society answers."

I think for the most part the author hit the nail on the head (though it gives rise to the pedantic questions of my college philosophy class: Who is this "society?"  Is the esoteric concept of society truly just a mere myth?)

From a scientific, veterinarian standpoint horses may not be physically injured by diving.
And according to Carter's book, from the standpoint of experienced divers, only horses that enjoy diving and the showmanship involved are used for the diving acts.
But according to Leitch's article, the appropriateness of horse diving is determined by society's moral compass.

This topic is relevant because the courts often use "public policy" as the reasoning to a judicial opinion.  There are some established public policies, such as 'for the general welfare,' 'best interest of the child,' to 'facilitate interstate relationships,' etc., but some policies are more elusive; public policy is largely subjective, and is typically a powerful argument.
While the New Jersey steel pier opted to withdraw the horse diving act without litigation, the general outcry against horse diving would very possibly be considered 'as against public policy.'