Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In Search of Montana Horseracing


In Search of Montana Horseracing | Big Sky Journal

Link to story and photos! From Yellowstone Down to the Crow river horses of the Little Big Horn

Dr Gustafson is a practicing veterinarian, equine behavior educator, and novelist. The application of behavior science enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Behavioral and nutritional strategies enrich the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses who are willing to learn and perform.

http://bigskyjournal.com/Features/Story/in-search-of-montana-horse-racing

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Conditioning and Winning, Lasix-free

Competition Horse Medication Ethics

Horses evolved as social grazers of the plains, group survivalists moving and grazing together most all of the time. During their 60-million-year evolution, horses came to require near-constant forage, friends and locomotion to maintain health and vigor of wind and limb.
http://therail.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/11/conditioning-and-winning-lasix-free/
Despite domestication and selective breeding, today’s racehorses are no exception. Although horses are extremely adaptable, the last place a horse evolved to live is in a stall, alone, with limited space to move and forage about with others. The solution to manage bleeding in racehorses is to breed, develop, teach, train and care for horses in a horse-sensitive fashion that provides abundant lifetime locomotion and socialization. Pulmonary health is reflective of overall health and soundness in horses.
In order to maintain pulmonary health, natural conditions need to be re-created in the stable. Horses prefer to graze together and move nearly constantly. Constant foraging, grazing, socializing and moving are essential for joint and bone health, hoof health, metabolic health and pulmonary health, and, of course, mental health. In order for lungs to stay healthy, horses need movement, more movement than American trainers currently provide the population of stabled. Horses communicate with movement and sustain physiologic and metabolic health via near-constant locomotion. Movement is what is most often missing in a racehorse’s stabled life.
Walking throughout the day enhances and maintains lung health. Stabled horses need hours of walking each day, more walking than most are currently afforded. Veterinarians who manage racehorse health need to ensure that their patients are provided with adequate daily locomotion. The movement of training and track conditioning are not adequate to condition healthy lungs throughout the rest of the day, as lung health requires 24/7 movement. For a horse, moving is breathing. Abundant on-track and off-track locomotion is necessary to condition a horse’s lungs and to provide the necessary resilience to withstand the rigors of racing.
Lungs deteriorate when movement is restricted. Horses breath all day long, and near-constant movement is required much of the day to assist their breathing to maintain pulmonary flexibility and vigor. Plentiful walking enhances breathing and lung health. Swimming and doing lunges are also appropriate lung-conditioning activities. Grazing while casually walking clears the airways. Hand grazing may be the best lung-healthy activity of all. Racetracks need to provide abundant hand-grazing opportunities for all of the stabled horses, and the green grass needs to be appropriate grazing grass. Kentucky limestone grass is always best, it seems.
Training over hills and dales, as well as walking up and down inclines helps develop and sustain pulmonary vigor. When horses are locked in a stall a large percentage of the time, their lungs deteriorate. Stabling that does not afford abundant movement and head-down grazing and foraging impairs lung health, making horses vulnerable to bleed when exerted in a race. The cause of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage is insensitive and deficient stabling and husbandry practices and includes diagnostic failures to detect bleeding during training.
The care that establishes and enhances pulmonary health and endurance in horses is the same care that enriches stabled horses’ lives. Pulmonary care is providing the same near-constant movement that keeps racehorses’ musculoskeletal systems sound. It is the care that keeps horses on their feet during races. Horses must remain sound of limb to ensure lung soundness, and they must remain sound of lung to achieve and maintain limb soundness. Afternoon and evening hand walking and hand grazing are essential to develop and sustain lungs and limbs fit to race.
Horses with healthy lungs are content and fulfilled horses whose lives their caretakers adequately, if not extensively, enrich. Lung health is supported by limb health. Breathing and running are biologically intertwined on the track, a breath per stride. To stride correctly is to breathe correctly. To breathe correctly is to breathe soundly, and race sound.
Horses who are bred, socialized, and developed properly from birth, and who train while living enriched stable lives are seldom likely to experience performance-impairing E.I.P.H. while racing. They are more apt to stay sound. Humane care of the horse prevents bleeding. Pulmonary health is reflective of appropriate husbandry, breeding, training, nutrition, and the abundant provisions of forage, friends, and perhaps most importantly, locomotion. Bleeding in a race is reflective of inadequate care and preparation, of miscalculations and untoward medication practices. Lasix perpetuates substandard horsemanship, artificially suppressing the untoward result (bleeding) of inadequate preparation of the thoroughbred.
Genetics play a role in pulmonary health and physical durability. Lasix perpetuates genetic weakness by allowing ailing horses to prevail and sow their seeds of pharmaceutical dependence. Running sore causes lungs to bleed. Lasix manages a wide variety of unsoundness, as do the cortisones and NSAIDs (bute and similar drugs). These anti-inflammatory drugs aggravate coagulation processes. Rather than drugs, pulmonary health is dependent on appropriate breeding and proper development for the vigor, durability and endurance thoroughbred racing demands. Drugs are not the solution. Competent horsemanship is the solution. Genetic dosage, behavioral and physical development, socialization, training, and locomotion husbandry are the keys to racehorse soundness, lung health, stamina, and durability. The causes of E.I.P.H. are no mystery to seasoned race folk. Horses prone to bleed are those horses that are mistakenly bred, inadequately developed and inappropriately stabled and trained.
Horses evolved in the open spaces of the northern hemisphere and require the cleanest, purest air to thrive and develop healthy lungs and hearts. Stable air needs to be constantly refreshed to maintain pulmonary health. Ventilation is essential, and enclosed structures are often inappropriate. Barn design needs to provide both clean air and abundant locomotion. Bedding is critical. Clean straw provides the most movement by simulating grazing. Horses stalled on straw are noted to move about with their heads down nibbling and exploring for hours, recreating nature to some degree, keeping their lungs healthy with movement, their respiratory tracts drained by all the head-down nibbling and grazing. Horses need near-constant head-down movement to maintain optimum lung health. Long-standing horses’ lungs deteriorate quickly. Not only does near-constant movement maintain and enhance pulmonary health, abundant locomotion maintains metabolic health, joint and bone health, hoof health and digestive health.
To enhance lung health is to enhance the overall health and soundness of the racehorse. Racing appears much safer in Lasix-free jurisdictions, where the drug crutch is not allowed, because the drug crutch allows horses to be cared for in a substandard fashion. (A link to the transcript from the Kentucky Raceday Medication Committee hearing is here.) Drugs are not allowed to replace appropriate care and training in Asia and Europe, and raceday drugs should be barred in America as they are in the rest of the civilized world. The stabled racehorse has to be carefully and humanely cared for and nourished in a holistic fashion, both physically and behaviorally, to win and stay healthy to win again.


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Principles of Equine Athletic Development

Horses require abundant friends, forage, and locomotion to develop and maintain behavioural and physical health. Horse health is dependent on body and jaw movement. Digestion, respiration, metabolism, and musculoskeletal and hoof health are all dependent on abundant daily exercise, walking, and socializing.
The causes of cribbing, weaving, and other stereotypies are clear. Deprivations of friends, forage, and locomotion are the causes of stereotypies. Abundant daily friends, forage, and locomotion is the prevention and treatment of stereotypies. Horses are born to socialize, communicate, move, and chew on a near constant basis. The nature of the horse is to move and graze with others day and night. For behavioural health, these preferences need to be re-created in the stable.
Stabled horses require 24/7 forage, and miles and miles of daily walking, as well as abundant socialization to re-create a natural existence. When these needs are not provided in adequate measure unwelcome behaviors develop.

Foals raised by the mare and herd in a grazing setting develop into easily trainable animals, as it is the mare and herd that teach growing horses how to learn. It is the in-depth socialization and interaction with the herd of mares and foals that nurtures and develops athletic ability and prowess the growing horse. In the case of thoroughbreds, it is the mares and cohorts that instill growing horses with the confidence to run by and through other horses at speed. The herd teaches the horse how to prevail. Horses learn how to cooperate from other horses. They learn how to see and graze and move, and perhaps most importantly, how to communicate with others as taught by other horses. This is socialization. Please appreciate the necessity of socialization in the development of equine athletes. It is the herd that provides the foundation for the horse to learn, endure, and prevail in athletic competitions.
The horse's genetic potential is usually well-documented and identified. It is appropriate socialization that develops the equine athlete. Foals raised in stalls and stables seldom develop the wherewithal to become consistent reliable winners, as it is the herd that develops the foal's inherited abilities to perform. Much of this development occurs during the first hours and days of life, and this development phase with the mare should be nurtured rather than interfered with. The mare and herd are the most qualified individuals to teach the newborn foal to become a developmentally healthy horse. 
 All physiologic, behavioural, and metabolic functions of the horse are dependent on abundant daily walking. In natural settings, ingestion is paired with walking, and takes place 70% of the time. Horses requires miles of daily walking to maintain homeostasis. Digestion, respiration, metabolism, musculoskeletal function, and behaviour are all dependent upon abundant daily locomotion. Locomotion is the most overlooked and deprived maintenance behaviour of stabled horses.
http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Behaviour-Nature-Horses-Gustafsons-ebook/dp/B00ILG3JX0/ref=la_B00IN7XNNI_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393961474&sr=1-1

Dr Gustafson is a practicing veterinarian, equine behavior educator, and novelist. The application of behavior science enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Behavioral and nutritional strategies enrich the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses who are willing to learn and perform.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Minimizing Risk Between Horses and Humans


Minimizing Risk Between Horses and Humans


Sid Gustafson DVM, Veterinary Behavior Educator and Practitioner 918 South Church Avenue Bozeman, MT 59715
Equine   Behaviour Educator, University of Guelph Office of Open Learning, and Equine Guelph

The Appreciation and Application of Equine Behaviour Minimizes Risk to Both Horse and Human


Abstract:
This is a review to promote an appreciation of the horse to minimize and effectively manage risk when humans and horses interact. This paper is a primer on equine behavior, and portrays the educational approach to fulfill the health and welfare of horses from the horse perspective, rather than from the human perspective. Behavioral study and appreciation of the evolved nature of horses provide the foundation for the contemporary principles equine welfare and safety. Friends, forage, and locomotion are the long-evolved requirements for healthy horses to facilitate optimum health, performance, and healing. When humans appreciate and fulfill the needs and preferences of horses, risk is minimized on all levels of interaction for both the horse and the human.

Keywords: equine behaviour, risk, human injury, horse injury

Equine Behavior Through Time
Horses began their journey through time 60 million years ago. Three million years ago the footsteps of man were fossilized next to the hoofprints of horses, suggesting that humans have been contemplating horses for some time. But it was not until perhaps ten thousand years ago that man began the dance of domestication with horse. There is archeological evidence that man had formed a close relationship with horses by 5500 years ago in Botai, where the horsefolk kept and milked horses, and probably rode them. Horses provided these early horsefolk with nearly everything they needed. It is interesting to note that large domestic dogs lived with these early horsefolk as well, but no other domestic animals. To understand the domestication process is to appreciate equine behaviour. Horses apparently became domesticated because they found a niche with man long ago on the steppes of Kazakhstan. Both trained and wild horses existed in this realm south of Russia and west of China. A population of horses more amenable to captivity and taming than their wild counterparts likely provided the stock for the first horse societies. Rather than plucking wild horses out of the wild and taming them, it is thought that over tens of thousands of years a relationship developed in a shared niche.
By the early 20th century the closest living relative to man's Equus caballus, the Tarpan, had gone extinct. No truly wild horses remain. All of today’s caballine horses are descended from an original and possibly separate population of horses that were amenable to be tamed and selectively bred by humans. It appears to have taken tens of thousands of years to fully domesticate the horse, and to eventually attain control of breeding. Breeding initially consisted primarily of selection for docility and amenability to captivity, and later milking, riding, driving, and stabling. In contemporary culture, selective breeding often involves selecting for the best athlete, or attempting to select for the best athlete. In addition to genetics, this presentation will focus on the socialization aspect of raising horses, and portray the importance of nurture on the eventual behavioral and physical health of the adult athlete.
No longer does man depend on horse for survival as he once did. Although still bred for trainability, more and more horses are today bred for specific performance goals. These days, horses provide man with entertainment, recreation, sport, esteem, performance, and pleasure, and, as ever, but in fewer and fewer reaches, utility. Other than stockmen, few others rely on horses for to sustain a pastoral livelihood. This new role of the horse requires renewed studies and considerations of equine behavior.
Horsefolk and veterinarians alike remain enticed and intrigued by horses. The science of
equine behaviour attempts to appreciate just who horses are, and from the horse perspective. To appreciate the horse perspective, behaviorists explore the evolution and domestication of the horse. We continue to find ourselves attempting to appreciate how the current human/horse relationship came to be so as to facilitate a smooth trouble free relationship with our horses. As well, appropriate breeding, socialization, and training of horses helps minimize behavioral wastage.
To understand where our relationship with the horses is headed, veterinary behavior practitioners attempt to see where the human/horse relationship has been, and then to modify the relationship to favor the horse. Humans continue to live with horses and continue to learn from them, as all horsefolk have through time, but now much less time is spent with horses learning from horses, so contemporary practitioners must research and make themselves aware of behavioral principle that were once gleaned from a near-constant exposure to horses through all stages of their development. We study the evolution and domestication of the horse to better help us appreciate the horses we have in our hands today. Evolution and domestication provide a basis for the understanding of equine behaviour. Man has attempted to refine his relationship with the horse ever since the first kid grabbed a mane and swung atop a horse. To become a partner with the flighty, powerful (but trainable and tamable) grazer of the plains remains the horsefolk goal.
Appreciation and sensitivity to all of our caballine horses' evolved preferences results in optimum behavioural health and soundness, and therefore optimum performance and minimization of risk to both horse and human. A horse cannot be coerced to win the Kentucky Derby. The people must work with the horse, and from the horse’s view. If we understand equine behaviour, we understand what makes horses do our bidding, and do it well. To this day, content horses seek to appease their domesticators. Horses are willing learners. This learning behavior is a result of evolutionary development of a complex social lifestyle. More recently, selective breeding has influenced equine behaviour. The nature of the horse is enhanced by the horse’s social development. Appropriate socialization with other horses in herd pasture setting best prepares horses to be subsequently trained by horsefolk. Pastured horses train up and learn more efficiently than stabled horses. The appropriate, efficient, and considerate training of horses is highly dependent on their previous socialization by the dam and other horses, as well as their current husbandry situation. Trainability is heavily influenced by the intensity and type of stabling and husbandry, not to mention the type of training. In the latest revolution of horsemanship, the area of appropriate socialization and stabling has not received the attention it deserves.
Horses are a quiet species. They prefer calm, and learn most efficiently in tranquil, familiar settings. Horses must know and be comfortable and secure in their environment to be able to learn as horsefolk hope them to learn. Horsefolk all know what we want from our horses, however in this paper I shall present the science of what our horses want and need from us, the science of equine behaviour. Equine behaviour is not only the basis of training and trainability, but also the very basis of equine health. To succeed in our endeavors with horses (whatever the our equine goals or pursuits), our horses are best served to receive what they preferentially need and want behaviourally, nutritionally, socially, physically, environmentally, visually, and metabolically. In order to properly care for horses and successfully teach and train horses, horsefolk must know horses. They must know who the gregarious grazers of the plains are. They must know how to properly socialize horses through their growth phase to ensure that their horses grow up to be horses. Horses raised out of the herd context are vulnerable to behavioural insecurities later in life. Most behavioural wastage is due to improper socialization and husbandry.
Rather than dissimilar to us, horses are much like us. In this article, I will focus on humankind's social and communicative similarities to horses. As with people, strong social bonds develop between individual horses and groups of horses. This herd nature results in intense social pair and herd bonds. Horses need other horses. Horses require other horses for security, comfort, and behavioural health. Horses need friends throughout their entire life, first their mother, and then their herd. Today’s domestic horse needs horse friends and human friends, although horses do retain the wherewithal to survive just fine without horsefolk. Horses need friends so preciously and constantly, that horses allow horsefolk to substitute as friends. This is because man shares a sociality with domestic horses. We speak their gesture language, and horses speak ours. We share a language of movement.
Domestic horse is no longer man’s prey, and has not been for thousands of years. Horse has been brought into the circle of humanity, along with a dozen or so other domesticates. Horse and man have co-evolved together for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. Each knows the other, well.
The importance of constant locomotion is paramount to appreciating equine behaviour and learning. Locomotion. Horses need movement. In addition to friendship, they require near- constant movement. If we do not allow or facilitate abundant daily movement in horses, horses will move in ways that are prone to injure people and themselves. Interdependence exists between horse health, behaviour, and locomotion. Horses evolved to be near-constant walkers and grazers. If this is taken away, horses can become a danger to themselves and to humans. The last place a horse evolved to be is alone in a stall. Despite domestication and selective breeding for docility and captivity, horse health remains dependent on locomotion. Locomotion is inherent to grazing. Locomotion is inherent to digestion, to respiration, to metabolism. If horses are not allowed to move about freely and socialize with other familiar horses grazing and chewing as they evolved to do, they become troubled. Horses deprived of locomotion and constant forage ingestion develop strategies to maintain the motion and oral security they feel they need to survive.
The primary premise of equine behavioural health is this: In natural settings, horses walk and graze together with other horses two thirds of the time. They take a step and graze, then another step or two grazing and moving along, always observing their surroundings, grazing while in touch with other members of the herd unless playing, dozing or sleeping under the watch of others. Horses that are not afforded the opportunity to graze and walk much of the time take up with behaviours to replicate essential locomotion. When stabled, some of the horse's long- evolved survival behaviours become unwanted and unwelcome. When behavioural health is maintained, risk to both horses and humans is minimized.
Horses require friends, forage, and locomotion to stay healthy, content, and productive. In rural settings, these requirements are easy to fulfill. Open grasslands and steppes are the geography and environs that the most recent predecessors of Equus caballus evolved. The further we remove horses from their social grazer of the plains preferences, the more health and behavioral issues develop that require treatment and management by veterinarians and horsefolk.
Stabling, stalling, hospitalization and transport all deprive horses of their preferences for friends, forage, and locomotion. Although convenient for horsefolk, stabling is inconvenient for horses. When stabling is required, horses are best served to have their natural needs re-created in the stable. Once our horses behavioural needs are understood, appreciated, and fulfilled the learning and training can begin. Enrichment strategies re-create the needs of stabled horses. Those strategies that best replicate the grazer of the plains scenario promote the best health and performance.
Locomotion is essential for both horse health and healing.
Husbandry, healing, and rehabilitation nearly always benefit from appropriately managed and free choice locomotion strategies that are constantly tailored to the horse's healing process. Locomotion is required not only for normal healing, but for normal digestion, respiration, hoof health, circulation, and all other physiologic functions of the horse. Stall rest is at the expense of many systems, especially the hoof and metabolic systems. Digestion and respiration are compromised by confinement and restriction of movement. Metabolic, digestive, circulatory, hoof health, musculoskeletal, and nervous, systems, as well as the all other systems and functions of the horse, are dependent upon adequate and appropriate locomotion for normal functioning and/or healing.
For horses that are hospitalized, paddocked, stabled, and corralled; active implementation and re-creation of the social pasture setting is required to optimize and maintain behavioral and physical health and promote healing. Medical conditions are apt to deteriorate in the face of the deprivations of forage, friends, and locomotion created by stabling and hospitalization. Unwelcome behaviours are minimized when the nature of the horse is fulfilled, making everything safer for both horse and human. Re-creation of a natural setting in the stall is the biggest challenge veterinarians face in maintaining the health of stabled horses while reducing the risk of injury to both horse and human.
Stalled horses not only heal poorly, they behave poorly, often transferring their need to move and socialize to aggressive behaviour towards their handlers, putting both at risk. Locomotion, social, and forage deprivations create problems for horses andhumans. In addition to appropriate medical treatment, veterinarians and horse program managers must creatively provide horses with abundant socialization, forage, and locomotion to maintain behavioral and physical health. Maintenance of the horse’s nature facilitates healing and behavioral health within the parameters of acceptable medical and surgical treatment. Restriction of locomotion to facilitate healing necessitates the implementation of enrichment strategies to simulate locomotion, including massage, passive flexion, and a wide variety of physical therapies.
Horses also heal horsefolk, and those horsefolk that implement these healing strategies often experience a sense of healing themselves. The human/horse bond runs deep. Domestication of the horse is a co-evolving evolutionary process. The human perspective is being shaped by the horse's perspective these days. Appreciation and application of the science of equine behavior and equitation are encouraged to support the renewed interest in equine medicine and welfare, and to facilitate the veterinarian’s role of providing horses with their essential needs, and to minimize risks when horses and humans mingle and interact on a variety of levels.

References and suggested reading.
McGreevy, Paul, (2004) Equine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians and Equine Scientists Philadelphia: Elsevier Limited. ISBN 0 7020 2634 4
Olsen, Sandra, Horses and Humans, The Evolution of Human-Equine Relationships, 2006, Sandra Olsen, Grant, Choyke, and Bartosiewicz, BAR International Series 1560, Archeopress, England, ISBN 1 84171 990 0
McGreevy, Paul; McLean, Andrew, Equitation Science, Wiley Blackwell, UK, ISBN 2009048321
McGreevy, P.D. et al, (2007) “Roles of Learning theory and ethology in equitation” Journal of Veterinary Behavior 2, p. 108-118.
McGreevy Paul D., (2006) “The advent of equitation science” The Veterinary Journal 174 p. 492-500.
Waran, N., McGreevy, P., & Casey, R.A., (2002) “Training Methods and Horse Welfare”, in Waran, N., ed., The Welfare of Horses, Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers (2002) 151-180.
Magner, D. (2004.) Magner’s Classic Encyclopedia of the Horse. Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books, 2004.



Dr Gustafson is a practicing veterinarian, equine behavior educator, and novelist. The application of behavior science enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Behavioral and nutritional strategies enrich the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses who are willing to learn and perform.

Dr Gustafson's novels, books, and stories