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Rutgers' 'Horses 2007' A Success, 800+ Attend

By Beverly Saadeh

Reprinted Courtesy of Horse News

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 changes.

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: http://3.vet.upenn.edu/labs/equinebehavior.

 

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 educational seminar.


 

 

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© 2009 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Items may be reprinted with permission from the
Director of the Equine Science Center:

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The Equine Science Center is a unit of
Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.