Sunday, 10 November 2013

Time for a new beginning

Best followers and readers!

The time has come for me to move on and end of this blog. Thank you for the interest you have shown for all that Lena and I have written. Every question and comment meant a lot, feedback is a nice gift to receive.

For my part, it has been a busy year with horse's feet and hooves in focus. Since August 2012 I've been sitting with my head above living and dead hooves and a lot of books . During five full week courses in Applied Equine Podiatry (AEP) , I have studied the anatomy, function and structure of the hoof and foot in order to perform a balancing of the hoof capsule to the horse's feet ( = coffin bone and cartilage ) in accordance with the HPT method (Hight Performance Trim) which in turn is based on AEP .

On October 2, I took the practical test in Boden after a final exam on the internet-based theory set forth by the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry, USA .

Kerstin Kemlén, Boden and I have started Horsequality Sweden AB. We both have expertise in AEP and in combination with the rest of our knowledge , we create an unbeatable concept, a company with research, horse health and human as our core.

Kerstin has a background in harness racing , where attention to details is a must when training has competition as a goal - ex diets/feeding performance horses , monitoring heart rate with a monitor and motion analysis , training etc. Kerstin can read horses as few others can and have, after several years of collaboration with veterinary professor Robert Cook, USA, developed bitless bridle for trotting horses in order to minimize physical bit-related damages on performance horses. She is specialist in bit-related behavioral issues and well versed in the research .

My background is in riding and driving. In Horsequality my contribution is the Alexander Technique, which gives riders and drivers good balance and suppleness. I have an education in Equine Touch (and its counterpart for people, VHT), a gentle manual technique that provides muscle tension release , increases circulation and creates wellness.

Horse welfare and habitat is an important area. Feeding, work/discipine, outdoor activity and interaction with conspecifics is important. All horse management involves various degrees of compromise: from our own perspective as a horse owner and  from a horse based perspective.

Horsequality Sweden offering lectures and clinics on hooves and feet, posture, bit, training schedules, new research related to the horse and more. Contact us to learn more.

Thank you for these years and welcome to join us in the future.


Horsequality Sweden can be found on Facebook.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Get your feet moving

This weekend, I learned to run and it was fantastic! Malcolm Balk, a teacher of the Alexander Technique and runner with many kilometers in his legs shared his knowledge with us.

As with everything else my mind slipped over to riding and horse management during the work shop. To run is to bring many small detailes to form a whole and every detail is important for the quality of the whole.

Just as in riding, it is important to know in which direction the movement will take place. For a runner, there should be an upward direction in the body while we want to move forward. If we bounce with each step we are wasting energy. I thought Malcolm said that with a bouncy running technique during a marathon you are likely to have climbed up to the top of the Empire State Building (381 m) and down again.

When we run, there is very little free energy for us to use, compared to cycling for example we can let the bike roll from time to time without stopping completely. The small amount of free energy in running is developed when the achilles tendon is stretched as the heel touches the ground and is released when the heel leaves the ground. In order to make use of that energy, our foot fall needs to be both accurate and fast enough. If we stand for to long on our foot the free energy disappears into the ground and we'll have to work our way to the next step. Besides making it harder to run if we waste the free energy our shock absorbing is decreased and  the risk of injuries such knee pain, shin- and calf muscle problems increases.

As we sit on horseback, we should have an upward direction in our body (vertical seat) while the horse should move forward. The horse's legs store and release more energy than we can in our legs and therefore can provide more free energy into the next step, if we let the horse's direction in the spine be forward and slightly upward. Riding the horse behind the bit, with the third cervical vertebra as the highest point, the horse moves on its forehand and the power from the back legs is pushed into the ground. Just like us, the loss of free energy forces the horse to work more with muscle power to take the next step and the degraded shock absorption increases risk of problems in fetlock and knees.

A good lateral balance is important for running, it increases the chance that the legs are equally loaded during a run. To train lateral balance, you can stand on one leg and then switch leg with a small jump. You should be able to do that transition without wobble and a need to balance yourself with your arms way outside your body. As humans, lateral balance is fairly easy, we have two legs that needs to interact. The horse has four. Shoulder in in walk is a movement that trains the lateral balance of the horse.

Step rate, or cadence as Malcolm calls it, should be 180 steps per minute (90 steps per leg per minute) when we run. If you, like me, is a recreational runner without competition aspirations, it's a good deal faster than what you're used to. Usain Bolt takes 2.5-meter-long strides with a cadence of 240 steps per minute, no wonder that he is the fastest!

The horse has different cadence in different gaits and that means walking horse with a lower cadence than that one should strive for is free energy wasted straight down into the ground. An approximate cadence to aim for in walk is 55 steps per leg/minute, in trot 75 steps per leg/minute and at a gallop 95 beats per stride/minute.

The best tool for keeping track of cadence is a metronome, there are small handy digital metronomes that you can attach to your clothing for around 100 sek.

I will be taking a summer break with the blog from today. On the schedule is, in addition to summer vacation with the kids, two practical courses in Applied Equine Podiatry (June and July) and the theoretical part where the final exam is approaching. Next week is a two-day conference on the theme Musicians Health in Piteå that I think will be very interesting. Music and riding has so many connections!

All that remains is to wish you all a wonderful summer, many tropical nights and moderately amount blood-sucking insects. Take good care of yourselves and your four-legged friends and we will meet again in the fall when life slows down for the winter.

Happy summer!

Friday, 17 May 2013

TMJ a joint of great importance and influence

The early summer made a highly acclaimed entrance here in Norrbotten yesterday and we celebrated it with a Preschool day at Tallbackkottarna, where my two older boys have been and the youngest still are. All animals on the farm is enjoying the warmth; horses, cats and dog lounges in the sun. We are waiting for the "big green" to take place and according to the weater forecast it might be happening this very weekend.

The theme for today is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ is an important point in the body for both human

and horse.

Looking at the head from a skeletal perspective, upper jaw and skull is one unity and the mandibular is a separate unity. Temporomandibular joint is the point in which the lower jaw moves relative to the rest of the head. The masseter muscles are so-called anti-gravity muscles, that holds the lower jaw in place. When we chew or talk, it is the lower jaw that moves up, down and sideways. Quite often I see tendencies in people that they lift their head up and away from the lower jaw when they open their mouth. The gesture becomes more evident in some singers who want to get their voice out with some force. Such a motion affects the balance of the body quite a lot because the head itself weighs several kilos (4-6 kg for an adult).

Since the jaw muscles are designed to keep the lower jaw up it is relaxed when the mouth is closed and in work when the mouth opens. This is true for both human and horse. The temporomandibular joint has the ability to move sideways, it is needed so we are able to grind the food with our molars (teeth at the back of the mouth). In horses, eating much larger amounts of rough fiber than we do, this grinding motion is important in getting the food properly micronized.

The concept of having a locked jaw is common in both man and horse, and for both of us a locked jaw causes the teeth to wear unevenly, we get bite problems, which in turn affects the temporomandibular joint, and that in turn affects the muscles around the TMJ and neck and muscular disorder moves further into the body. In humans, tensions in relation to TMJ is a common cause of migraine and we have expressions that connotes with how anger, anxiety and frustration manifests itself in and around the TMJ; having clenched jaws and grind teeth are two examples. By actively biting your your teeth together you can feel the tonus of the neck muscles change.

A poorly fitted bit and improperly thightened nosebands increases the risk of ulceration of the mucous membranes, puts pressure on the bars and tongue and pain causes tension in the TMJ in horses. These tensions locks the cervical spine and since the horse uses his neck as a balance bar, it is easy to perceive the horse as rigid and unbalanced. The horse should have a relaxed, closed mouth to have access to both breathing and a supple cervical spine. Closing the mouth with nosebands is to ignore the cause of, as it is often called, an anxious mouth. An anxiuos mouth is an indicator of an underlying cause that can be found in the horse or rider.

My horses got a check up of their mouths recently and it turned out that my mare had traces of bit related injuries in her mouth that will require careful fitting of a bit, if I ever consider to ride her bitted. The mucous membrane on the bars had slided up against her teeth. A bit like a rug would do when dog would slides it up coming at full speed. She had changes in the bone tissue in the bars themselves, which is almost a guarantee that she would experinece pain in the mouth having to have bit.

Everything is connected in both horse and human. We are basically designed to work, and with an open mind to our own and the horses' signals when something seems to have fallen out of balance and we sence that equilibrium is lost, we should give ourselves the time to investigate before the damage is a fact.

In September, a course in Applied Equine Podiatry (AEP) is held in Boden again. I heartily recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn how the horse foot (= all the tissue inside the hoof capsule) works and the stimulus it needs for the horse togrow a healthy hoof. Everything we do with our horses is a compromise with theiranimal naturel, so the better we become in our compromises the better our horses can stay in tune with their animal nature. Read more about the AEP and sign up via

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The effects of bit

This is an extra blog posting is directly taken from Kerstin Kemlén. Having horses is keeping an animal in captivity. Our decisions forms the captivity, we need to constantly think about how we treat our friends mounted as well as dismounted. We need to be aware of that the horse's life is a matter of compromising with the nature of the horse and our desire to use this magnificent animal's adaptability and ability to cooperate.
This summer - at the ninth International Equitation Science Conference - a new research entitled: "A Method of diagnosing and Measuring Pain in The Ridden Horse" is presented .

The experiment shows that the aversion against bit are very common and signs of aversion to bit is much larger in number than previously thought. In other words:
Many bit-related behavior problems disappear when the bit is removed and this includes those behavior that frequently is included in accidents with horse and rider.

The research results support the fact that
the committees that control the contest rules,
need to review the rules about bit being
demanded in competition!

How did they come to this result - what the scientific method was used?

58 riders were part of a controlled experiment group where they were asked to change from a bridle with bit to the bitless "whole head hug" concept. The experiment lasted from 2002-2008.

The survey included in the experiment was designed based on three years of feedback from riders who switched to bitless and the questionnaire listed 86 behaviors related to bit.

Experiments riders were asked to answer the questionnaire which was divided into two columns - one for the horse's behavior ridden with bit during the time the rider have had the horse in his possession - and another column for the horse's behavior when carrying out similar work when the bit has been replaced with a bitless"whole head hug".

Experiments riders had owned their horses between 9 months to 21 years, median 2 years.
The horses were 3.5 years to 24 years of age, median 8.5 years.
The horses had been testing bitless 1 day to 2 years, median 3 month.
The horses belonged in the disciplines of dressage, jumping, trail, pleasure, distance, eventing

EVERY horse showed fewer signs of pain when ridden bitless.
NUMBER of signals of painful symptoms showed by every horse when being ridden with bit were between 5-55, median 24 pain signals.
NUMBER of painful symptoms showed by every horse when being ridden bitless was 0-17, median 1 painful symptom.
OUTCOME  out of these 58 horses 90% of the signs horse showed of pain vanished when the bit was removed .

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The head leads and the body follows

Within the Alexander Technique we have the expression "head leads and the body follows." The term itself was coined by researcher Rudolf Magnus (1873-1927) in his studies of posture in mammals he found that the head and neck reflexes of mammals cause the body to follow automatically when the head moves.

When we ride, or drive horses, we have control over the horse's head through the head stall. Depending on the task we want the horse to do, the head stall can be a halter or bridle with or without bit.

But the term "the head leads and the body follows" has also a psychological bearing, the brain leads and body follows. Training and education is a coin with two sides, a physiological and a psychological and to get the best effect of training and education these two needs to coincide.I found an image illustrating the two sides of the coin in Hans von Blixen Fineckes book The Art of Training. 

It is a simple image that contains a lot of information. Interesting to me as an Alexander teacher is that he's talking about the conscious brain of both horse and rider. He describes how the motoric action that constitutes our aids is recorded by the horse's sensory nervous system. The information from us to the horse goes through touch and the information from the horse is conveyed to us through feel.
Hans von Blixen-Finecke talking about riding as a language of touch and a prerequisite for this form of communication is calm, within both horse and rider. Calm and presence.

A friend who has vast experience of riding young  race horses think the most important thing in any form of training of horses is that the horse never gets frightened during the early training. It gets a positive attitude to the rider and the work it should do, it will feel safe and it makes the psychological side of the coin interact with the physiological in a beneficial manner. A calm horse can digest information from the rider, a scared and nervous horse is blocked.

 Another friend was at a jumping competition at the weekend and reported with a tired tone that few were actually riding, most engaged in trying to control flight responses with both bit, extra reins and BF&I (brute force and ignorance). The BF&I riders had certainly gained control over the horse's head mechanically but they had totally missed getting the horse mentally.
It is important for us as riders to be in a good balance within ourselves. As we sit on the horseback our own internal weight distribution (skewness) affects the horse's body. Somehow the horse must handle adding our weight to its own and distribute it over his feet. The more equilateral and straight we are aligned around our own spine, the more even our weight is distributed to the horse.

When we ride, and I assume that we are aware of our own bodies, it is the shift in the horse's balance we feel through both seat and hands. The shift signals to us if the horse is in a good self carriage in the current movement.. An untrained, uneducated or a horse that is under rehabilitation have more obvious shifts in the balance than a healthy and more educated horse. By being present in each step, we as riders are able to feel how the horse move and we can with our signals, our touch, give aids that help the horse to place the weight and regain balance.

A good education ultimately leads to an equipage that makes everything look easy, it's two brains joined in movement and although it is the rider who leads it is the sence of trust developed in the relationship that makes the horse participate without fearAt this point the rider can be said to ride the horse's conscious brain and in that context, the rider, if the he/she would like, can remove all the equipment from the horse and ride on.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Perception - to hear the unspoken

Easter holiday and wonderful northern spring means that the blog has had to wait until sunset. The challenge is to capture the good days as a buffer for days of another kind.
In August 2010, I was out riding my anglo-arabian mare. We were out in the woods and rode on nice, gallop friendly sandy pine moore paths and I was so happy. She was alert, responsive and felt wonderful. One day I climbed her up a slight slope, four steps, we took the little slope twice - eight steps all in all.
We walked home and she went from calm and at ease to toss her head and stepping, she became generally annoying. I halted and thought that she would come to her senses, but she began to back up, and in the middle of a forced step back I felt how she lost her left hind leg. I got off her back and started walking home. Confused.
A few years later an acquaintance told me that she, after having taken a course on horses and bits, realized that the bit she liked to use when riding caused the most pain in the horse's mouth. It was incomprehensible to her, she felt that the horse was so soft and smooth in riding.
Another told me that they had discovered that the horse had lesions in the mouth but in riding the horse had felt soft and flexible. Another told me that the horse worked like a dream just to show lameness the day after.
Once is once but twice, three times, four times ... I know that this is not a statistically significant number, but never the less it raises a question in me. How well can we read horse?
Horses have utilized silence as their survival strategy, they are experts at hiding pain and the effects pain have on their bodies. Could it be that all the horses in these examples had showed small signals that something was wrong and since we as riders did not notice them, they moved within their frame of pain, and we considered them pliable and soft?
In my own case, I had taken her outside her framework under and she became very vocal in her behavior.
Had it been possible to discover pain reactions of the horses in the examples above by using a heart rate monitor? Were there some small indications from the horses' side that we missed, were there some big?
It is said that before you judge a horse to be disobediet, you should ask yourself if it understands what you ask for, if it has been trained to do what you ask for, or if it is physically fit to do what you ask for. You can tell by my wording that the way I reasoned in 2010 was disobedience - she was annoying and needed to come to her senses. The fact that it was the pain became apparent to me later, but at the moment disobedience was a closer option.
I have learned a lesson from the incident with my mare. Now I strive to ask me if it can be any of the other reasons that prevent the horse to do what I want instead of disobedience. I'm trying to train my perception, my ability to read horses better.
My new mare, whose feet carried me to AEP, enjoys the benefit of my homework and is also a good teacher. She signals in an ascending scale if I get too close to the edge of her frame of pain. In our training I don't not ask for any gait other than those she chooses to take in the pasture (the scare canter is not included). She has just recently begun to take a trot based on self carriage rather than a trot she jumped into. So we have now added short trot repetitons in our walks. We can take walks up to 1.5 hours, when we started she wanted to turn around after 10 minutes which added up to 20 minutes walk.
When we worked from the ground in a shoulder-in like move one step with left hind was enough in the beginning, one more and she gently nibbled my hand. Now we can take a series of steps in the corners. I propose a move and she adopts or rejects. It is not a question of obedience or disobedience to me, I trust that she knows what she is capable of doing and if I ask for more than she can manage so she shows me.
I see that she trained when she moves in the pasture. She's doing nice rollbacks on the narrow path where the gelding, who can not, must detour into the deep snow. The trot she offers now I long to ride. I really long to ride her, but I'm willing to give her the time she needs to heal. We do this together, she and I, we are a team.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Hooves and humans

It was a busy day yesterday with Vasaloppet for the children and that altered the writing schedule for me, but with that done, I can say that now it's finally spring!

Last spring a new horse came to my farm and she forced me to pay attention further down her legs to the hooves or more accurately to her feet. I have a good friend who dived into Jamie Jackson and Pete Ramey's wild horse model and one that focused on Applied Equine Podiatry (AEP). During the summer last year, I talked to both and juggled my thoughts about the new horse's hooves with them. For it soon became apparent that the traditional blacksmith could not come up with any solution that seemed sensible - or if I'll be completely honest, the farrier I contacted with a veterinarian referral was quote "so tired that he went home instead" end quote. After a response like that, it felt like I myself is my own best farmhand although I actually had big gaps in my knowledge.

At first I thought that my two friends had a similar vision of what was needed in terms of trimming, support and stimuli of the feet. I read about both their perspective and tried to insert my own horse's troubles in each framework. We struggeled on the horse and I, and although it was in small steps we progressed.

In September last year, the opportunity to immerse myselves in AEP came and I took it. After that I realized that what on the surface may seem alike can differ tremendously when you go in depth. AEP is a method of hoof care based on universal scientific principles that apply regardless of whether it's hooves, bow and arrow or cars being discussed. Wild Horse model is based on studies of wild horses in their respective environments such as Mustangs in the U.S. or Brumbies in Australia but it is not based on studies of domestic horses and their living conditions.

In Sweden there was a veterinarian who made headlines when he, in an article in an Equestrian Magazine, pointed out the area that created the most problems for horses in general. Can you guess where he was pointing?
In a place just behind the withers above the horse's back - man in the form of a rider.

When the horse went from being a prey animal to become a domestic animal the price it had to pay for food and protection was their lives and health. We have used them in war, to ride on long and arduous hardship and we have shaped them into different breeds to enhance properties that have been beneficial to us.

When farriery developed into the profession it is today, it was in response to the increased demands on the horse as transportation vehicles, a vehicle that would work more in one day and on surfaces that were more "hoof unfriendly" in the form of rough dirt roads, cobblestone, wet clay and so on. Horse managment changed, horses were more tied up in stalls with the consequence that they often stood in wet beds instead of roaming freely in pasture. The science was under construction, industrialization was still in its infancy. What they knew was static, ie load during quiet standing, pull, push and levers.

The farriery met the requirements that were on a hoof of a horse standing still. When the horses were predominantly started being shod long periods of the year, problems arose with ossification, white line disease etc. Everyone knew that it was because of the shoes, but they were seen as a necessary evil and a price you had to be willing to pay.

With industrialization came cars and the development of them brought dynamics, kinetic and now we have developed tools that enable accurate measurements of things that were previously hidden to the human eye.

The results of the scientific development is taken into consideration by AEP when the theory of the hoof and the horse's feet were designed. With the model that constitutes the AEP's basis for the work with horses' hooves and feet  I lcan earn to read a hoof at any time, wild or tame, and see if it is healthy or have defects in the structures. It's like a new world opening up!

Join course and get a new relationship with your horse's hooves!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Winter can be a challenge to horse health

Winter is a time that can lead to an increased risk of colic. Colic is a general term for gastro-intestinal problems in horses and in a previous post, you can take a look at the horse's digestive system.

The increased risk of gastrointestinal problems comes from the quality of forage, feeding routines, including the way the horse is served water, and how much the horse moves.

A horse needs to eat 2.5 -3% of their body weight of dry matter ie fiber to keep the digestion working. Feeding routines are very important for the horses wellbeing. A horse has a need to chew, in the wild the horse eats around 14-18 a day. It is noticed that time spent to eat is slightly longer in the winter and it is explained by the fact that horses stay warm through the fermentation that occurs in the colon and therefor they need to eat and chew more. Horses do not keep warm by moving, if they have no reason to move (read: food or water) they are most likely to stand still. As in us humans movement promote intestinal activity and being still increases the risk of constipation.
One way to extend eating time is to feed the forage in hay net placed in various places in the paddock. This increases the time spent eating and chewing as well as movement. To fed the horses in the pasture with hay you have to spread it out in several small piles with a distance between the piles. It gives a slight increase in the time spent eating and when the hay is eaten the horses tend to wander around and look for any left overs. Giving all the hay in one or two large piles allows horses to eat faster and then they stand still and wait for the next feed.
A number of hay net or piles of hay makes the stress connected to feeding decreases. Horses with lower rank is chased by those with a higher rank, if there are plenty of net/piles to eat from the low ranked horse gets a chance to eat in peace.
Water is often a concern in the winter. Horses prefer luke warm water and in the winter it can be difficult to keep water ice-free and with a comfortable drinking temperature. Although the temperature is not perspiring in the winter, training with winter coat and drier feed increase the need for water. Nowadays, there are heated water troughs that will keep the water from freezing and warmer than ice cold. (You can get ideas of how to make those water troughs yourself on the internet.) Even in the winter you need to clean the water troughs, bacterias grow in luke warm water.  If you have many horses in the pasture you should have a couple of water troughs in order to ensure that even the low ranked individuals are getting enough water.
The access to food and water can affect both the horse's abdomen and the risk of injuries among horses. If horses gets stressed by shortage of food and water it increases the risk of conflict, if the horses are shod, they also have studs, and studs can cause major damage.
The origins of this post is a tragic loss that a friend of mine experienced when a gastrointestinal disorder were treated as constipation instead of a colon inflammation.
If you live in a horse-dense area, you may have access to veterinarians who are expert on horses but here where I live, most veterinarians have a general skills and their horse knowledge varies. This means that there is a standard procedure in gastrointestinal disorders in horses, giving paraffin and water to dissolve any constipation.
As a horse owners you need to do careful observations if the horse is showing signs of pain in the abdominal region. What about the horses droppings? When was the last time he defecated? How does it look? How does it smell?
If the horse does not defecate and have almost non-existent bowel sounds, it is most likely a form of constipation colic. But if the horse feces gets looser and looser and smell sour and acidic, it is an indication that there is a disturbance in the fermentation in the colon and then a treatment with praffin and water is akin to extinguish fire with gasoline.
Diarrhea is a sign of an ongoing faulty fermentation in the colon, the horse's natural bacterial flora is eliminated and it may be due to mold in roughage killing intestinal bacteria (penicillin is a mold). The faulty fermentation in turn leads to acidosis, a toxic condition and an increase of gases in the colon. The toxins formed in the colon, is transported via the blood into the body and may for example lead to laminitis. The gas that is formed in the colon can cause the colon to swell and actually prevent the diaphragm to move enough and thereby render in breathing difficulties.
If your horse have diarrhea, you should see it as a serious condition! One way to try to help the horse through the crisis is to give it analgesic and antispasmodic. In human health care any form of laxatives is prohibited unless you are absolutely sure it is an issue of constipation, instead you give fluid with electrolytes that will help to buffer against toxic substances in the intestines. That may be applied to horses and to aid the horse's intestinal bacterias you can give 0.5 kg normal yeast solved in water.
Now this winter is coming to an end but it'll return. Do what you can to prepare for the next winter. Buy forage of good quality, adjust your feeding routines and plan for a good solution for the supplie of water.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Ethics, moral and the law

Maybe daily reflections on ethics/moral and law would help us see what's going on in front of our eyes. The news in Sweden has been dominated by the story of horse meat being used in fast food under the name of beef, on Facebook images and movie clips that show questionable horsemanship are being spread and on Swedish television the program "Pony Panic" is commented.

I feel I need to mention ISES Conference 2010 again. There was a lecture on ethics and moral in horse handling and trainig and the lecturer pointed out that even if it is unethical or immoral it is not necessarily illegal. And it is important to keep that in mind when the blood is boiling within or when the heart bleeds that the things one long to do in the name of ethics and moral may well be illegal and therefore punishable.We start with the  horse meat in lasagne from Findus and adds a couple of Swedish meat scandals and take a look at them. In the case of Findus, changing beef to horse is illegal. Beef is cow meat and nothing else.I myself have been to a restaurant with a butcher and she said that I did get pork but not fillet as said on the menu. There was a short talk with the chef who offered the evening's dessert when they realized they just couldn't win. It wasn't an illegal act but  an immoral.We have had minced meat that passed best before date and was given a new date,  expired meat that has been turned into minced meat and pork that has been dyed and sold as fillet of beef. All this is both illegal, unethical and immoral but particularly questionable in the case of pork, because it can have trichinae which really can affect people. The fried pork is no problem but how many people do not usually like to have their beef a little red in the middle? Then fillet of pork a problem ...In the case of lasagne something happened, the bias in the news became more on the unethical than illegal aspect and I think that is due to our attitude to eating horse. Horse meat is not dangerous for humans to eat, unlike pork.Now over to the horses that are still alive and whose life is documented and passed around on Facebook. An image etched into my memory is the image of the Iberian horse placed with his forehead against a brick wall and a string tied around the lower jaw and over the withers. The horse will probably move in this position and be seen as well ridden and maybe even be applauded when ridden but the way that outline was acchieved  - beneath contempt.Movies on blue tongues, role kür, slide stops straight up to the walls, too many turns in the spin, corrections with such harsh hands that the bit must cut like razorblades in the horse's mouth, spurs hacked into the horse's sides. And this, my friends, is just a few examples, and probably only the tip of an iceberg. What appears on riding courses and competitions grounds are founded at home ..."Pony Panic", is a programs with a good purpose but I never the less thinks it misses the target. The program is based on problems that can be either in the child in the form of fear or in the horse in unwanted behavior. Now it is important to remember that this is television and that means there is  a lot that has been filmed and from that material appropriate scenes are selected. What happens between the chosen scenes we really don't knowI have not followed this season, I just quickly looked through some of the programmes and I think the pattern from previous years (nota bene: in what is presented) is followed. The horse is held responsible and it is the one that should be corrected. In a situation (section 5) a professional rider is brought in to ride a horse with bucking issues. She rides the horse with auxiliary reins a so called rubber band, the chin is brought to the chest - a common sight. It is not illegal to ride horses squezed together with the reins, but I think it goes against ethics and moral.From the sequense I saw when the horse bucked it was the rider who had not learned to mount properly and the horse was hind shy (if that's an expression that works in English). To me, it would have better to deal with the two issues separately, teach the rider to mount and desensetice the horse.The majority of these young riders would benefit from a basic course in seat training. As I see it many problems is due to a bad seat, which results in poor balance and suppleness, which in turn creates tension and fear and it all ends with the ponies being held to much in the reins.With regard to competitions it is generally known that the winner earns money and the winner may also be lucky enough to have a sponsor that allows a full-time venture. We are all consumers, if we turn to the sponsors with our views on horse management and ask them if they really want to be associated with morally and ethically questionable methods it may be a more efficient way to go than via the equestrian channels. It is not illegal to tell those who pay dearly to be seen that we are not seing them because of what's going on in the arena...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A short note on training

A short note on training as a response to a question ont he Swedish blog.

Anyone who can say with certainty how we can train our horses, for whatever purpose, without causing damage need not worry about their livelihood. There are as many training philosophies as there are trainers and what works for one horse do not necessarily fit another.

A horse can always move with their own weight on their legs, so to speak. A good paddock can encourage  and help horses to train themselves. In many training stables they build paddocks that are long and narrow and place them in a row next to each other. In this way, the horses gallop back and forth in the pasture and if one starts to run the others soon follow. Another way to encourage movement, be it at a slower pace, is to have food and water and shelter located far from each other. In this way, the horses must walk to satisfy their needs.

Training is basically about preparing a body for the work it is expected to do. In the body there are different tissues that require different amount of time to adapt to the loads it is subjected. Heart and lungs = condition, it is quick to respond, while the tendons, ligaments and bones take longer to adapt to an increased load.

The foundation for all training is walk, a walk with good impulsion works as stretching and strength training at the same time. The work in walk can be varied. It may be in hand walking, long reining, work over cavaletti, work in hand with sideways movements or a walk infront of a wagon /sleigh.

Walk is beneficial for all horses regardless of orientation. Other training varies with the chosen ara of competition or use. A good friend of mine has been a training rider at Janow in Poland. They worked the race horses under rider 6 days a week with fast job on Monday and then reduced the pace down to a ride in the woods the day before the day of rest. Each day, the horses was placed in a walker.

Something that I think is valuable when training horses is to have learned to feel the horse's muscles systematically. It makes it is easier to notice changes in muscle tone early, thus preventing injury. I use Equine Touch when I run through my horses. I also think a heart rate monitor can be useful, the horse's heart rate tells a lot about the state of fitness. Is there an infection in the body an light job gives a higher heart rate, an indication that you might need to take it easy.

Another relevant question is, am I too heavy for my horse? The answer to that question depends on how well balanced you are as a rider, how often and how long you ride, what you do when you are riding and the horse you have. Do you know that you are heavier that you figure your horse can handle pay attention to the horse's reactions during the ride. If the horse bevomes tired, lowers his back and raise its head (become U-shaped), it does not help to pull down the head with draw reins (something I actually seen) - it is much better to dismount and work the horse in hand for a while and gradually extend the time mounted. No matter how light or heavy we are as we mount we put pressure on the horse's muscles in the back and push away the blood from the tissue.

What we should keep in mind when we train our horses is to vary the work, switch between mounted and dismounted, vary surfaces and tempo and give the horse the opportunity to rest, preferably in a field that encourages movement in the gait the horse choose.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Horse conformation

Yesterday we had the kick-off meeting for the course in Applied Equine Podiatry, June 15 to 19 in Boden. This really is a course I recommend all horse owners (and horses interested for that matter!) . The course is not primarily about learning to trim yourself, even if it is a part of the curriculum, but to learn to recognize a healthy hoof. We collected a few hooves yesterday and I'm really looking forward to see and hear the story hiding in those feet, because they all had something to say!

I had a question on the Swedish blog on horse conformation and weight bearing ability and riding trotters,  it'll be the topic for today.

Horses can be described in many ways, the starting point may be the color, breed, conformation, performance or behavior. The exterior that we see when we look at a horse is a mixture of bone structure and musculature. A skinny horse can look dreadful, but have a better skeletal conformation than a seemingly well-muscled and athletic horse.

From a sustainability standpoint, horse conformation is important but actually not always conclusive. Beyond question that a horse with well aligned bones, good relationship between the different parts of the body, a well-set neck and a muscle suit that is proportional is well equipped to take the strain of an active life. But there is no guarantee. Hambletonian, a fantastic breeder in harness racing, had plenty of exterior deviations but it did not prevent him from being both strong and fast.

The horse's skeleton consists of 205-210 bones, depending on how they are classified.

The horse's engine sits in the back, the angles that is talked about is how the pelvic angle affects the angle of the femur and it in turn affects the horse's ability to carry weight and pushing the horse forward. Power is transmitted via the lumbar spine - the part of the spine that allowes for some movement between the vertebrae. The legs are responsible to take the horse forward and the way the bones of the legs are stacked affects both movement patterns, hoof form and shock absorbing. Here's a spread that shows different leg conformation from the book The horse exterior by Lars-Erik Magnusson.

No horse is actually designed to carry any other weight than their own, be it trotters or riding horse. Since we choose to mount up and ride them, it is important to be observant of how the horse reacts to our training and to vary both training and ground we train on.

I would like to quote a farrier in Luleå, Bengt-Erik Källsenius. "You do not buy a retired trotter, you buy a bred trotter." Trotters can be very fine horses, provided that those who train them remember that they are bred to trot fast, and it has brought exterior customizations and a movement pattern that corresponds to the requirement.

Trotters are usually lower in height (about 155 cm), has a strong back to be able to handle the power coming from the hindquarter. A trotter usually begins its training in early years and made it in a reasonable manner based on the young horse it will build the body, both in terms of bone mass and muscular strenght. A trotter trained for racing, even if it does not measure up to race quality, can become a nice riding horse, with the advantage that it can also be harnessed and driven for a change.

I recommend Lars-Erik Magnusson's book The horse's conformation and a book in English The Horse Conformation Handbook by Heather Smith Thomas. And it's never wrong to take a crayon and mark the various joints, bones, etc on a real horse, and then measure the angles, lengths and widths. All that trains the eye and makes it easier to see the horse as it is.

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Happy new year! Right now it's a beautiful winter day in Kalix with moderate -10, winter blue skies and sun-kissed pine tops. Hope your Thursday is as beautiful where ever you are!

For my part, I started as early as 1 January with something that I think will be a theme for the year, hooves.

Here are the hooves that I, along with Kerstin Kemlén and photografer Anki Lundberg, where evaluating. At a first glance they look like completely normal riding horse hooves to me. For the evaluation, we looked at; heel (landing), frog, bars, hoof walls on quarter and toe, coronary band, sole and toe (push off) and we use a score from 1-9.

When the legs are separated from the horse and it is not a horse you know from before, it is actually not easy to know what is the right or left side of each pair. I certainly thought that would be the easy part...

The picture above is of the hind feet and you can see how the nails are set in the white line. It is not unusual that the nails ends up there, though it  does not cause tendering preassure it means that bacteria have a way into the white line and the risk of white line dissease increases markedly.

In this picture you can also see that the outer bars has fallen and that the shape of the hoof is deformed in both the outer regions, the hoof capsule is a bit rotated and the toe is cut at an off angle relative to the frog.

A toe that is cut in this way robs the horse of its push off ability at the front of the hoof. In turn, this means that the work load will be more directly on the front of the coffin bone and it was visible in the sole, nature had padded the coffin bone by adding on to the sole.

Since I am new in the area and most hooves I've seen looks like these I missed all this with the toe, sure, I could see that the toe was cut off angle - but the consequence of the cut and removal of the tip of the toe for the horse Kerstin enlighten me of.

Here we nippered the toe of the hoof, the structures you can see in the picture are (from folding rule and down) the insensitive sole, the blood supplied part (red dots) of the sole nearest the coffin bone, inner wall and the black stripe at the end is the outer hoof wall.

In the current hoof the hoof capsule had migrated forward more than 2 cm in relation to the foot. I guess the feeling for the horse is as if I (size 39) would walk around in a pair of 45's, I would have a hard time knowing where I really have my feet and where I put them in the world.

As with anything else, it was life itself that brought hooves in focus and I'm learning everything I can to give my horses hooves that fit their feet. Everything under the motto: No hoof, no horse.