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Work load for a show horse
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Allen Pogue
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 Posted: Fri Nov 7th, 2008 10:11 pm
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Dr Deb, Would you please read the following information regarding the work schedule of a show horse and tell me what the effect it may have on a horse's overall health.

 This horse is shown wearing pads under his shoes. 

 The horse's real name has been replaced with xxx,

 thanks,

 Allen

xxx is an unbelievable horse and all four of my staff wanted to
compete with him in some manner or another. xxx's average day
started at 5 in the morning with a 20 minute treadmill routine. He
would then be rinsed down for 15 minutes and put back in his stall to
rest until 7 when he would have breakfast. At 9, xxx would come
out and be hitched to a cart and be driven outside 6 to 9 miles for
conditioning. After that, he would drive in the arena for rail work
for another half hour followed by 15 minutes of cool down. Again, he
would be rinsed for 15 minutes and put back in his stall to wait for
lunch. Between 12:30 and 1, he would eat lunch. At 2:30, xxx
would come out for an hour of saddle time and 15 minutes of cool
down. In the afternoon, he would come in for a complete mane-down
grooming for about a half hour. Some days he would have additional
training such as halter posing and lessons with my wife and
daughter. This was xxx's normal routine for his 232 training day
schedule this past year.



 

Paige
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 Posted: Mon Jan 19th, 2009 06:37 pm
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How old is xxx??

Last edited on Mon Jan 19th, 2009 06:37 pm by Paige

Allen Pogue1
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 Posted: Tue Jan 20th, 2009 05:13 pm
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Hi Paige  This horse is 9 years old. My goal was to help convince the owner of this fine animal that he was way overworking him. I am now quite sure the owner, who professes to care deeply is more concerned with show ribbons that the long term health of the horse.

 

Allen

Paige
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 Posted: Tue Jan 20th, 2009 06:28 pm
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This seems excessive to me too, but Dr Deb has said that a well prepared totally mature horse can work very very hard.  But I'm sure there is a line.  I am waiting for a response as I am also interested. 

At least it is broken up thorughout the day and every seesion is different.  I have heard the American dressage team worked their horses twice a day an hour each in the weeks leading to the Olympics- not saying that makes it right or wrong- just bringing up a comparison.

I guess the other question is does the horse seem to like his job?  I'm sure endurance horses are worked for many many hours as well. I think the other consideration is how hard is each workout?  I think a horse could do easy work practiacally all day.  If he is doing anything strenuous than they are just breaking him down.  Race horses only practice about 15 minutes a day but they are immature and it is serious work.  Riding for hours on end is an issue because even with great saddle fit, some capillaries are going to shut off and restrict blood flow, but this horse's work is mounted and unmounted with many breaks.  The more I think about it, maybe it isn't so bad- it is just more than we are used to hearing???

Last edited on Tue Jan 20th, 2009 06:28 pm by Paige

leca
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 Posted: Tue Jan 20th, 2009 09:16 pm
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I agree with Paige.  There is only 1 hour under saddle so thats not excessive. When you add it up its about 3 hours worth done in 3 or 4 sessions and not all of it heavy (depending on the intensity of the work, it could be that none of it is heavy) and it sounds like he gets good recovery periods and feed.  It is also varied a lot so the horse wont find it tedious and boring all that much (guess this depends on the horse though). 

Working stock horses, heavy harness and farm horses, riding school horses even the average kids pony (well my and my friends ponies did ) often do more than this on a day to day basis.

You could be right about where his focus is and if that is the case I hope you can change it, but as you describe them I dont have a problem with the horses work load.  I am prepared to stand corrected though

Tutora
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 Posted: Tue Jan 20th, 2009 10:45 pm
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I agree with Paige and Leca that the workload itself isn't bad, but when is this horse getting to graze and munch on hay for hours and hours during the day? School horses might have to work equally hard, but at least they can be serving a worthwhile purpose. I have to say with Allen that I fail to see any good purpose for the way this horse's essential nature is being sacrificed.

Last edited on Tue Jan 20th, 2009 10:48 pm by Tutora

leca
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 Posted: Tue Jan 20th, 2009 11:05 pm
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There is not enough information given to assume that the horse's essential nature is being sacrificed.  It doesnt actually say that the horse is stabled 24/7, but then it doesnt say that it isnt either. 

There is one sentence that says "In the afternoon, he would come in for a complete mane-down grooming for about a half hour", so maybe the horse does get some pasture time. 

Tutora
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 Posted: Tue Jan 20th, 2009 11:49 pm
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That's true, Leca. I'm assuming some things due to having worked for people who kept their valuable show horses stabled most of the time. Since he wears pads and I think Allen knows Arabians, I thought maybe the horse was a "park" Arab...the park horse Morgan people I've seen don't turn their horses out lest they throw a shoe in play, and I've worked in warmblood dressage barns where the most valuable horses weren't turned out. 

I have to admit I'm just generally sorry to see show horses kept in for no reason that seems justifiable to me...so, yes, I did assume some things. If the horse is in Texas, like Allen, I thought, too, that they wouldn't turn a show horse out in the  sun...another assumption. I'm sorry if I'm thinking poorly of some horsepeople who may be good to this horse...I've just seen "decent" people do so much bad stuff to valuable show horses that I'm leery of  how many professional show trainers keep horses.

Last edited on Wed Jan 21st, 2009 12:13 am by Tutora

leca
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 Posted: Wed Jan 21st, 2009 12:46 am
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Yes I know what you mean, there are a few places in Aus that are the same and some even teach horse husbandry/managment with the horses stabled 24/7.  So sad for the horses and for the owners/riders/trainers that live in ignorance. As for the ones who arent ignorant...........lets not go there!!!

Last edited on Wed Jan 21st, 2009 12:48 am by leca

Joe
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 Posted: Fri Jan 23rd, 2009 11:36 pm
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Alan:

As others have said, this guy's life is not strenuous by comparison with the workloads of horses back in the day when they were a real means of transportation, or did the tractor function on farms.  I myself have known farm and ranch animals who spent much more time under saddle on an almost daily basis with no apparent ill effects.

The real surprise is the number of times they wash the beast.  That would give me pause, although I can't state a really good objection in a persuasive way.

Joe

Joe
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 Posted: Fri Jan 23rd, 2009 11:40 pm
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Tutora:

The sun here in Texas is only an issue from June through September.  Many of us pasture at night and stable during the day during those months. 

My own horses of course have a turnout, and one is not locked in -- just walks down the barn aisle and out to the fenced areas behind when he chooses.  They stay in the direct sun more than one would expect, left to their own devices, but it does fade them.

J

Allen Pogue1
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 Posted: Sat Jan 24th, 2009 12:55 am
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Joe et. al.

 Here was my reply  to the message posted on a Yahoo discussion forum about the workload of the horse in question..  what I learned in the intrem was that this is a 1500 lb horse that apparently is not able to sustain the work load without the use of thick pads.

Allen

Dear __________ ( owner)

I have always been impressed with your reasoned approach to the
topics discussed on this forum.

But your post regarding the work load of your horse xxx  is
beyond the pale.

Hopefully your trainers are lying to you in order to pad their
wallets regarding how much time is spend schooling your horse.

There was a time when horses worked long and hard every day and they
were used up like a disposable commodity.

Lets look at it this way..if you wanted to devise a program of work
that is calculated to destroy the mechanics of an automobile, then
all you have to do is to get four different people to drive it hard
every day. In no time at all breakdowns will start occuring because
no one driver will be aware of the mechanincal idiosyncrasies and
make the proper allowances.

Having four different trainers schooling one horse is EXACTLY the
same.

If you want to fool yourself into thinking differently .. then guy
you need your head examined by a competent expert. I think Bozo the
Clown would have high enough qualifications to give you advice on
this subject.

Ok enough of the hyperbole :)

Seriously.. if you want to show horses in different disciplines get
another horse or two and have a go at it.. FORCING one nice horse to
do so much is truly unreasonable.


If you think that  xxx  is a disposable commodity and that you
have something to prove i.e. that one horse can do it all, and that
you will do anything to keep him going, when your own common sense
tells you he needs artificial support to maintain his feet then go
for it..

Before long it will be joint suppliments to forestall arthritis,
then cortizone injections, chiropractic adjustments, bute to mask the
pain etc.. This is dirty secret is quite common in the show world
and especially in the western disciplines.

Is this really the path you want to follow?

what exactly kind of an example are you attempting to show and what
do you have to prove or gain?

My kind regards are in the best interest of your horse.


Joe
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 Posted: Sat Jan 24th, 2009 02:42 am
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Good letter.  Actually, I did not note that there were multiple trainers.

One quibble, though.  Despite some of the horrible abuses of the past (that led to the writing of Black Beauty and the founding of the humane society, lots of people in the 19th century and before had a pretty high regard for their horses and did not use them up like disposables.  There are stories, poems, accounts, and art aplenty to prove this.  And yet, the animals had to work most days.

Just to be clear, I know there WERE some horrible abuses -- and still are for that matter.

Honestly, though, three hours of work a day with breaks for grooming and rub downs really doesn't seem extreme to me.  As a boy, I used to put in quite a few more hours of outdoor physical work than that most days during the heat of the Texas summer.  I wish I were in that condition now.  In fact, I spent more hours in the saddle than that, on happy, conditioned horses.

Still, like everyone else, I'l like to hear DD's opinion.

Joe

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jan 30th, 2009 07:24 am
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Folks -- I am finally getting around to having time to reply to this one. And also, I kind of left it in order to see if anyone else was going to bring up what I am about to bring up.

The concern here for me is not WHAT is being asked of the horse, but rather HOW it is being asked.

The whole attitude of the horse's owners/handlers seems rigid and mechanical, hurried and perfunctory. Where is the warm, intimate, and forgiving relationship, as of two friends, that should be there? Where, even, is the place in the schedule or protocol as given, that would be there in even the coldest laboratory study, where the animal is monitored for his feedback as to his physiological status?

There is always something wrong when the horse winds up being treated as if it had no innate value, meaning, no value as a creature unto itself. When any creature is not valued for itself, then if it is valued at all, it must be valued only for what it can do for the owner or rider -- i.e., how it can perform, how it can be an emotional "object", how it can raise the social status of the owner and make them look good, etc.

If any of you have listened to the old tape from the Larry Mahan TV show, where he is interviewing Tom Dorrance, they get onto this subject. And Tom in his quiet way says, "....some of those people, if the horse don't win, the horse don't mean that much to them."

And I once heard Tom's brother, Bill say this which I have always remembered: "nothing scares a horse more than realizing that his feelings are not going to be considered."

These bits of wisdom pretty much constitute the grounds for my objection to "sports conditioning" of all types. It has been my observation that every person I ever met who really could train a horse, had no "particular" need to physically condition that horse. In other words, the horse does not need to be physically conditioned apart from actually doing the activities, or sub-parts of the activities, he'll be expected to excel at when he is actually put to work.

And as to getting the necessary feedback: My friend and senior colleague Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, who has been an Olympic competitor on the American team in Enduro, has sagely said: "don't count on accurate feedback coming from any source other than your horse." This was Matthew's reaction, in part, to the fad or craze that was out there for a while where every long-distance rider had to have a heart monitor on their horse. They were reading the monitor and not the horse, and that resulted in killing or nearly killing a number of animals. If you have no intimate, no feeling, no friendly relationship with your horse, you will have NO REAL OR ACCURATE means of knowing what's going on with him. This is yet another place where "riding by feel" comes in and where learning about the horse's Birdie comes in.

As to physical activity itself: By far, the most important training gait/activity/exercise is the walk. I smile as I remember how many times, while mounted upon my horse, I have overheard snickering or even ridicule from people who boarded their horses at the same facility I might have been at with Sadie or Painty. "She talks a good line," says one rail-gossip to the other, "but all you ever see her do is WALK." "So what good is that?" sneers the other.

And yet, oddly enough, at every one of those barns, my horses remained sound when other peoples' horses were lame. My horses could jump, safely go in a parade, take you for miles across country or on trails without shying or trying to run back to the barn, without kicking at other horses or trying to rush ahead. They would cross water, open any type of gate, pull a drag, or pony another horse. In the arena they would collect easily, and could perform the whole repertory of movements of the High School, plus a dozen so-called "tricks". All this from the contemplation and practice of the walk!

There are thousands, perhaps millions, of possibilities inherent in the walk. I encourage everyone who aspires to great horsemanship to explore them, and to seek out the counsel of any horseman who can expand your knowledge of the walk and how to use it, whether you find that counsel in another horseman to whom you can talk, or in a book or DVD.

The key to success with horses is that you have to love them. You can say this to the people that Allen has been writing to -- they need to love their horse instead of "conditioning" him -- but I guarantee you that their response will be one of shock and indignation that anyone would ever imply that they don't love their horse! Why, aren't they doing everything in the world for him!

So therefore, what is said here is said among ourselves only, because only here do we have a group of people with ears to hear this: you have to love your horse. That does not mean that you lay your trips on the horse -- obviously -- like the people with the protocol are doing. The surest route to failure and injury is to expect or demand that a horse fulfill your dreams, fantasies, desires, or ambitions. You will fail if you expect or demand that a horse follow a protocol or schedule; horses never heard of clocks, and for them, the only time there ever is, is "now".

Precisely because of this fact, the smaller the detail you detect, the smaller the detail you perfect, the more solid and reliable your horse's responses will become. You train in order to perfect yourself and your horse on small details. Ray Hunt says, "in the last five minutes of your ride, what would you have kept? And what would you have changed?" If you want to succeed, you will learn to live by this.

I was recently giving a lesson to someone where I was encouraging this insight, and I said to her several times, "the devil is in the details." But in fact, I should not have said that. What I should have said was, "Heaven is in the details."

Hell, for horses, is in a protocol. -- Dr. Deb

 

Annie F
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 Posted: Fri Jan 30th, 2009 08:46 pm
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Dr. Deb,

Thank you for a beautiful, down to earth, and inspirational post.  I'm about to leave work for the day and I can't wait to get to the farm and give Cherry a big hug and a scritch and tell her how much I love her. Thank you for reminding me that it's not only ok to love my horse, but essential.

Best,

Annie F

(You got me so choked up I finally coughed up the cash to become a real paying member of ESI a few minutes ago; sorry it's taken so long! :-)

 


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