What is the cost of that "free" horse you were just given? How can
you take weight off or put weight on him, figure out what leg he is lame
on or what will be required to fix the leg? Maybe he is not really lame;
maybe it's just a behavior issue. More than 800 participants received
guidance on just such questions when they attended the Horses 2007
conference held at the Cook College campus of Rutgers University on
March 31 and April 1.
Once again, the staff at Rutgers' Equine Science Center for
Excellence provided an organized and informative two days of valuable
information for all sectors of the equine community in the tri-state area. One
presentation after another reinforced the respect the researchers and
veterinarians have for this magnificent animal that works so
willingly and adapts so well to domesticity.
As research and technology probe into new areas, a greater
understanding of the horse's psychological and physiological attributes are
evolving and dispelling myths while opening the road for better management and
care of the animal. Saturday was geared toward the new horse owner,
whether in reality or dreams. Seminars were given on the true cost of
owning a horse as well as the basics of the care, feeding and
psychology of the horse.
Over 450 attendees showed up, indicating that there is still a
thriving interest in and desire to own a horse. An almost equal number of
attendees showed up on Sunday to delve deeper into the learning
capabilities of a horse, the fine art of feeding the ailing animal
and the diagnostic and repair tools available for lower limb lameness.
What is he thinking?
Sue McDonnell, Ph.D. from the equine behavior center at New Bolton,
reviewed recent research in this area, and stuffed a tremendous
amount of information into a 30-minute time slot. Key in all of McDonnell's
own research has been the use of positive reinforcement for behavior
In fact, all areas of New Bolton Center now use positive reinforcement
techniques when working with equines. Confirming that the horse can
see color spectrums interested the audience, but McDonnell's greatest
personal surprise was current research proving that the equine can
accurately determine differences in shape, size and textures.
These animals are much more cognitive and perceptive than was
originally thought, and the question now becomes how to use this
information in the performance and care of the horse. The Web site for
New Bolton's behavior clinic is an excellent resource:
He is what he eats
No seminar on horses would be complete without covering the topic of
nutrition and feeding practices. Dr. Sarah Ralston of Rutgers
presented each day: first on guidelines for feeding the easy keeper and then on
nutrition guidelines for the growing horse to avoid osteochondritis
dissecans (OCD), a joint disease. Much of her information is
available on the Equine Science Center Web site, http://esc.rutgers.edu.
Amy Burk, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland, tackled the nebulous
area of supplements, reminding all to proceed with caution, and if more
than two supplements are used for a horse it is time to review the total
feeding program. Mary Beth Gordon, Ph.D., of Purina Mills, gave real
insight into feeding the special needs horse.
Purina's Web site, http://horse.purinamills.com,
has extensive articles in this area and is worth going to for more information. Bridgett
McIntosh, Ph.D., of Virginia Technical Institute, reviewed findings
from her research on non-structural carbohydrates in pasture grasses on
the East coast.
Tools for lameness
Lameness is the number one culprit in curtailing the performance of
the horse. On Saturday, Dr. Dan Keenan of Keenan McAlister Equine
reviewed techniques for an owner to determine which limb was affected
and how to grade its severity.
The subject of detection and correction has progressed dramatically
from 20 years ago when the tools available to determine a lameness
consisted of a good eye, hoof testers and a paring knife and recovery was
limited to bandaging and stall rest. Since that time, x-rays, sonograms,
nuclear scintography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and, most currently,
advanced high-speed videography have been added to the diagnostic shelf.
Three of New Jersey's top diagnosticians and surgeons in lower limb
problems served on a panel to discuss new technology as well as
current and future treatments for lameness issues. Dr. Brendan Furlong of B.W.
Furlong Associates, Oldwick, N.J., captivated the audience with
footage of high speed videography showing a horse's foot falls during
walking, cantering, jumping and stopping. This new equipment produces multiple
more frames per second than the regular video camera.
The results are to see the foot's movements as they have never been
seen before. Just watching the waggle of the pastern and hoof capsule of a
normal trot stride left the audience in amazement at the amount of
loose movement in the foot and the understanding and appreciation for how
easily it can be injured.
The other panel members outlined the intricate repair of injuries in
this area and the costs involved. Of this panel, Dr. Scott Palmer of
New Jersey Equine, Clarksburg, N.J., described current practices with
broken and fractured bones, and Dr. Rick Doran of Mid-Atlantic Equine
Medical Center, Ringoes, N.J. discussed surgeries involving the lower limb
tendon and ligaments.
Each doctor acknowledged the variety of methods and costs to obtain
results and each had a preferred technique. One surgeon's success
with a technique does not imply that all surgeons will have the same success
with that technique. Likewise, traditional techniques in the hands of
skilled surgeons may have better outcomes than new techniques that
have promise but are not yet fully developed.
Horses 2007 proved to be exceptionally well organized in its format
and quality of vendors and presentations. The participation of the
surrounding universities and colleges contributed to the high caliber of
speakers and subject matter. In addition to the presentations listed,
speakers came from the University of Delaware, University of Vermont and
many departments within Rutgers University. The continued interest in
the care and management of the horse in this tri-state area is served
well by the seminars Rutgers and the partnering universities supply.
New this year was a farmland management course running simultaneously
with the conference. Fifty equine farm owners spent the two days
learning about field renovation, manure disposal, pasture rotation
and weed control.
Dr. Karyn Malinowski gave a sneak preview of the state equine survey,
which predicts that the importance of the equine in the agriculture
sector and prosperity of N.J. will continue to grow in importance.
And plans are already underway for next year's equine