Dressage & Jumping With The Stars - From a Showy's point of view
(published in 'Sports Pony', March, 2011)
I had so anticipated this event. Penmain Posh had been ‘slotted’ for the 4 year old young pony class since he was 18 months old and it was finally here.
I was struggling with the ‘non riding owner’ tag as a back injury has side lined me for at least 12 months and the decision to ride my palomino dynamo Penmain All A Glitter in the dressage at Barastoc, was, upon reflection, a really dumb one, and has set me back in my recovery.
Penmain Posh had been sent to FEI rider Justine Greer in early December after I came back from Equitana all inspired from watching the Stephan Peters clinic. Reality had hit home that I wouldn’t be riding for a foreseeable period of time, the pony’s breaking was far from complete, and he had not even been out to a qualifying event.
Sometime things happen for a reason. After seeing Posh’s first competition in January, I realised that I (injured or not) could not have possibly got him to the point that Justine had in such a short time and I am forever grateful that she took on a young, partially broken show pony stallion with such short notice and got him there.
Justine also took Penmain All A Glitter (Stolly) just 9 days before the D&JWTS event. This poor little mite had only had 4 rides in 6 months in the week before Barastoc. In just 9 days Justine whipped the grass tummy off him and he looked great when he stepped out into the arena for the 5 year old young pony class.
Tuesday saw me arrive to bed down the stables and get everything ready for the Penmain boys arrival. There wasn’t much to do, so, I did everybody else’s boxes as well! If you left shavings in, they got spread!
It seemed strange from a showy’s point of view that everybody went straight into their boxes and there was not a lunge rein in sight. Hmmm I pondered, that would surely change in the morning, Wednesday, the day before the event. That observation turned out to be very, very incorrect!
Wednesday was arena familiarisation day. This could prove very entertaining (and cringe worthy) given that Posh, at his very first competition had shied at EVERY letter in the competition arena to come stone motherless last.
Fortunately there was none of that behaviour seen and both he and Stolly worked well with all the big horses. At least there was some etiquette in the warm-up arena with dressage riders, and there was not a crash in sight for the time I watched, unlike the warm-up arena at Barastoc was a little ...cough...feral.
Wednesday afternoon gave us a first peek at the trade-stands. The operators had obviously cottoned on to the demographic a hell of a lot quicker than I had. There was not a bling browband, a calming supplement, a tube of triptothane or a fancy purple and pink set of leg wraps in sight!
Wednesday afternoon and it was preparation
time. Into Posh’s box to plait and sort his curly
tail out. Damn, Posh already plaited, (Justine and
Lucy had saved the tail for me to plait, I’m sure
just to give me something to do....) ditto for Stolly.
Oh well, at least I could straighten Posh’s false tail
to give it some body (my suggestion that he could
wear a false tail was remarked upon by a look I
came to recognise. Let’s just refer to it as ‘the
look’ from here on. It was flashed at me by a
number of people on a number of occasions!)
Out with the straightening iron which stopped
traffic so it could be photographed! Hmmm, my
showy antics could no longer be undertaken in
public so something akin to stealth would
henceforth have to be employed.....
A quick look around the corner, Justine and Lucy were saddling up one of the big horses, followed by a dash into the float to grab the coat gloss, razor, brushes, hoof black AND hoof shine, into a bucket and back to the boxes. I remember grinning, they would never know!
Thursday morning was competition day, Posh had drawn the first horse in the first heat, a position that would normally cause a showy much consternation and an inclination to scratch. 7:45am seemed very, very early and surely would mean a 4:00am start?
I woke at 5:30am to....... silence. I couldn’t hear the clopping of feet on the driveway,in fact I couldn’t hear anything at all. My phone said it was Thursday, where was everybody?
Time to get up and see what was going on. Well, the answer was, nothing was going on! All horses still in their boxes, all riders STILL IN BED!!!! I remember wringing my hands and feeling a little anxious. The competition was due to start in 2 hours, shouldn’t everybody be up lunging or something?
It took a while, but the thought finally arrived that dressage competitors don’t lunge!Over to the stables at 7:00am (after not having to queue for a shower) to saddle up. I figured on the morning I would get away with the coat gloss in public and maybe a little bit of make up. I cautiously approached with the coat gloss in left hand, brush in right and received ’the look’ mingled with horror. ‘No checkers!’ I raised my hands to ward them off, I was just going to brush! I lamented that I might have to forget the makeup after all.
Posh warmed up beautifully, he was bright and forward, I was so very proud of what he and Justine had achieved in a few very short months.
Into the main arena in groups of three, Posh first and into the commanded test, followed by an instruction to unsaddle and return for the material element.
I had not been to this event before and was intrigued by how it was done. A walk up and back and then line up. The visiting European judge, Ulf Moeller from the major sponsor PSI, took the microphone on behalf of the judging panel which included Mrs Helen Heagney and another major sponsor and huge supporter of the ponies, Mrs Jill Cobcroft, and addressed the riders in turn. WOW, that was really confronting, to be scored and commented on in front of everybody. WOW!
4 eights and a seven, for a total of 7.8. It was a really good score and was good enough to leave Posh standing in first place out of 22 starters for the first round andgiving him a ticket into the second round for the guest rider to sit on.
Stolly’s turn came later in the morning, starting first horse, last heat. He did such a super job in front of a gathering crowd for a final round score of 6.4, giving him 4th place and leaving him just out of the second round after failing to score the required 6.5 to continue.
Friday was busy with Posh being prepared for the guest rider’s round later in the day but I found enough time to sneak into his box and cover him in coat gloss, only to be informed by Lucy when she was saddling up, that she too had applied coat gloss; ah, two lots of coat closs, this showy was in heaven!
The guest rider was Annabel Frenzen
who was, well, TALL! After a minor
hiccup to start (a pigroot which bought
the inevitable “OOOHHHH” from the
crowd, resulted in me falling off my
seat, and bringing a smile to the face
of the rider), Posh performed
beautifully and was awarded an 8 for
rideability. A Championship win for
Penmain Posh in the 4 year old
dressage pony section!
The win gave us a start in the Champion of Champions which would ordinarily have comprised the winners of each age section however, a problem with the calling of the 6 year old and the poor drafting of the rules, (the same rule which left Stolly out of a second round place), claimed the scalp of the 6 year old starter, who also failed to receive 6.5 in his first round.
The Champion of Champions awarded to Baxters Grand Image who performed foot perfect in the commanded test against Posh, who was a little overawed with the atmosphere. The award very well deserved by the eventual winner.
The event has certainly given me a taste for dressage and its exciting times ahead for the stud. Penmain County Squire owned by Melinda Etherson and Penmain Fabian owned by Berni Saunders are both starters for the 4 year old next year. Posh will return to continue his training with Justine after a spell, to compete in the 5 year old.
We already have a galloway earmarked to start in the 4 year old for 2013!
Posh has returned home to his band of brood mares and Stolly continues his education with Justine and is offered for sale.
The ponies are fast becoming a force to be reckoned with. To the knockers I say, get out there if you think you can do better, to the ones competing, congratulations there are plenty of ponies out there that can, and will, train and compete at FEI.
Insulin Resistance (published in 'Sports Pony', September, 2011)
The following is based on my own personal experience. It was my first insight into Insulin Resistance in horses and I have to say, quite shamefacedly, that I was woefully unprepared for a condition that is manageable with a little bit of knowledge of what causes it, the very (now) obvious symptoms and management strategies to prevent it, and some superb expert advice that I received along the way.
Laminitis is a ‘dirty’ word in both the show ring and to those that own ponies that do very well on very little.
There are so many things that can trigger a laminitic event. My own experience with show horses and the amount of feed and management they need to maintain optimum weight for the show ring, and ponies that needed management coming out of winter ready for that inevitable flush of spring grass, gave me some experience into what to look for. However, I was terribly ignorant of why it occurs (apart from the obvious, overfeeding).
It was a real light bulb moment when, bringing myself up to speed on some of the causes of laminitis and its rather simple management strategies, it really left me sitting back in my chair into the wee small hours of the morning. WOW, was it really THAT simple????
So what caused me to be sitting up on a number of nights researching insulin resist- ance and laminitis you might ask? It’s a rather interesting tale and I will start at the beginning, but first a word of warning.
The pony that is the subject of this story received some fairly aggressive treatment which was undertaken on the advice of my specialist equine vet, my farrier Paul Walker from Bluegrass Arabians in Healesville, Dr Nerida Richards, an Equine Nutritionalist from Pryde’s EasiFeeds and Chris and Gary Hartigan from Kohnkes Own. I am forever grateful for their assistance and support. In the early days I wasn’t even sure that we could turn this mare around.
So, enter stage left the star of our story, Miss Muffet (not her real name—I’ve always wanted to say that!) Miss Muffet was booked in to be covered by one of our stallions in October. Her owner was due for a visit and we talked about how the mare was travelling in relation to her cycling. Her owner was worried about her as the mare had been out in a paddock during the winter, stabled on some of the wetter nights and she was currently under lights at night. She had been well rugged and well fed in preparation for her rendezvous with her future husband. Her management for breeding had been perfect.
A couple of weeks prior, the mare had shown some signs of soreness in her front feet which had progressed to pulsing and heat, despite the reduction of grain in her feed and limiting her access to pasture.
We discussed the weather in general and we both agreed that some of the night time frosts had been quite spectacular, resulting in ice being knocked off the smaller water containers. The frosts in my area are infrequent but often occurred in the mare’s area of the state. This part of our conversation ended up being pivotal in working out quickly what was causing the tenderness in Miss Muffet’s front feet.
She was in relatively good condition and seemed bright enough in herself. The week before her arrival at our stud, she was placed on a course of Bute which appeared to have very little, if no effect on the sensitivity of her front feet. The farrier had been five days earlier and the mare’s lameness had gradually worsened. I suggested that the owner bring the mare here where she could be monitored and treated if necessary. Miss Muffet duly arrived the next afternoon.
My heart sang when I went into the float to untie her and she neighed out in recog- nition (she is a bit of a favourite), but quickly sank when she hobbled off the float. The first sign that something was very seriously amiss was the distorted shape of her front feet. She was proppy on all four, but her fronts seemed to be giving her the most trouble. The heat radiating out of them could have warmed a small room. All four feet had bounding pulses, she was reluctant to walk and her front feet had turned outwards. There were a number of recent (2 to 3 months worth) of stress rings starting to appear on the hooves. Some of the reason for this became very apparent when I looked at the underside of the worst of the front feet. She had been cut back so hard on her heals that she was being forced to walk on the bulbs of her feet with bruising to the bulb area evident. It was impossible to tell whether or not at this point the soles of her feet had dropped or that the walls had simply been taken back too far. At least 60% of the sole was carrying the horse’s weight! The terrible shape of the foot indicated some rotation of the pedal bone was very likely, but that could not be assessed by any visual means other than sighting the pedal bone through the sole, and can only be confirmed by x-ray. I had very real concerns that this was about to occur.
The pony’s crest was rock hard. She was in fairly good condition, not show condition by any means. She was carrying a lot of weight on her crest and, quite strangely, a lot of weight around her tail area but not an equal amount of weight anywhere else.
The nicely prepared stable that awaited Miss Muffet wouldn’t be used for a little while given her clinical signs. The fact that she had not responded to Bute, the best thing to do for her at the very start was to try and get the heat out of her feet and find out what was causing the laminitis symptoms.
I felt bad putting her in our very deep cattle yards. They had been unusable for some months, not sopping wet, but very deep. Standing in the cold would give her immed- iate pain relief from the bruising on the bulbs and the almost certain rotation in her pedal bones.
I fed the poor little thing in the centre of the yards to stop her making an island up against the rails.
I spoke to both the vet and the farrier who both agreed that this was the best course of action. The mare was removed from the yards twice daily to have her feet washed and the soles inspected. There was nothing that could be immediately done for the angle of her feet as there was nothing left to shape. The vets approved another course of Bute, together with an ulcer preventative with a review in five days time.
Now to sort out her diet. She had arrived late in the afternoon and had been given a good feed of cereal hay which, after my extensive research that evening, was swiftly removed from the yard at about 3:00am and substituted with lucerne chaff until I could source some lucerne hay the next morning.
So what did I discover? Well, as I said earlier, it sat me back in my chair. The symptoms were so obvious, the thick hard cresty neck, the large amounts of fat being carried across the rump (but with the pony being far from fat), the chronic lameness, the previous diet of good quality oaten and grass hay, the feeding of white chaff and grains, the heavy frosty mornings on grass.... WOW, it all added up! Insulin resistance.
This mare needed dietary intervention and she needed it urgently. It would not ordinarily be recommended to change any horse’s diet suddenly as to do so can create significant problems on its own, but this mare was eating herself to toxicity and rotation of the pedal bones.
Ron Major from Pryde’s answered a very early morning call from me and together with the Pryde’s EasiFeeds Equine Nutritionalist Dr Nerida Richards, a plan evolved that morning. NO white chaff, NO grain, NO cereal or grass hay and drastically limit the sugar intake with NO grass. Feed lucerne, but not the first cut. Soak all lucerne hay and soak all lucerne chaff to reduce its already
comparatively low sugar levels. Introduce, SLOWLY, the low sugar pellet Pryde’s EasiSport into the lucerne chaff and start the mare on a hoof supplement. I used the Pryde’s product Polished at the medicinal rate (double dose) to promote growth and hoof health. I did not feed more that was recommended. I was advised that I would see a drastic improvement within a week.
Lucerne to a founder pony; basically as much as she wanted?! Oh my, I still cringe tossing it over the fence.
Gary Hartigan from Kohnke’s Own also recommended Cell Salts. This recommend- ation was also a bit of a god send. It increased Miss Muffets water intake by about 40% and helped flush out her system of all the toxins that were building.
I was somewhat sceptical about the seven days that Gary and Nerida had both assured me when I would see a drastic improvement. To be honest, I truly expected to see a pedal bone workings its way outwards and it was with a pounding heart that I washed and dried this mares feet at least twice every day.
Seven days on and the improvement was drastic. Even by about day four I could see that with careful management she could be saved.
Ron from Pryde’s EasiFeeds and Gary from Kohnkes Own rang me often to see how she was going. I was almost teary with relief the first time we spoke about her improvement.
Miss Muffet has now been with us here at Penmain for eight weeks. She has pro- gressed from the very disgusting cattle yards to a stable, then a shaded laneway and finally out into a well grazed paddock. Her diet is still lucerne, EasiSport pellets and Polished along with lucerne hay. She shows no signs of the chronic lameness that was so nearly her downfall. Her hard cresty neck is now soft and has receded to about 30% of what it was. Her current hoof growth shows none of the stress rings that were to be such strong indicators that something was terribly wrong.
The turning in her front feet is now rectifying itself and she carries her weight properly in all the right places.
I can’t talk about why insulin resistance occurs in horses as I am not a vet and there are people far wiser than me that will explain scientifically why it happens and why certain symptoms present as they do.
Sometimes we can make our horses and ponies ill by being overly kind and not being tuned in to their bodies indicators when things are not right. The hoof rings for example, indicate that there has been, or is, a stress in the animals life. It might be that they were weaned, their pasture or feed has been changed or they were, or are currently sick. It could be that their paddock mate is causing them angst, they are not coping with work or stress or it could be something else entirely.
Carrying excessive weight in some places and not others needs investigation. Tenderness or lameness needs investigation, especially if feed is suspected.
I encourage every horse owner to read the two fact sheets that I came across in my research on this particular pony. The internet is full of useful information on equine health, but I stress that nothing you read or see should take the place of a few professionals that you must select with great care. Your vet, your farrier and where necessary, a nutritionalist, should become your new best friends for life.
I am lucky enough to have a couple of specialist horse vets that will take my calls and work with me on problems. If necessary, they will attend immediately, and if delayed, provide useful advice on first aid treatment.
I could also kiss the ground that my farrier walks on. He says it how it is and is more than happy to discuss strategies in managing particular horses. If you can’t ask questions and receive clear advice from your farrier about what he is doing and why he does it, then it really is time to start looking for a new one. Saving a couple of dollars per trim is false economy if your equine friend requires hospital type treatment for an extended period because of mistakes or fashions.
Most of the larger feed companies now employ nutritionalists to provide free advice to horse owners. I spoke to Nerida from Pryde’s as I use a number of their products. Nerida not only spent the time evaluating what to feed this particular mare, but also explaining why it was that she was providing this recommendation. Certainly the presence of sugar in commercial feed, and indeed in the grass and hay that horses eat, is information that I have utilised for all the horses here at the stud, and will be stored in my memory bank for ever.
The Pryde’s EasiSport pellet is now routinely fed to all the ponies that are particularly “good doers”.
Nutrition experts should provide advice specifically for your horse on a wide range of products. I would be wary of any advice that recommended feeding only a certain brand of feed of the experts own making.
And finally a word on supplements. They absolutely have their place, and in my instance a specific type of supplement for a specific purpose was needed. I truly value the time Gary from Kohnkes Own spent with me to explain the do’s and don’ts of supplement feeding.
And just a quick note for political correctness. Neither Penmain Riding Ponies nor myself receive any support or sponsorship of any kind from the products referred to in this article. I do use and recommend the products in this article and have expanded my range of feeds at the stud to accommodate a tweaking of some of the diets based on my own research. This article was written from my own experience and is totally unsolicited.
The Australian Sports Pony Registry has, and continues to receive sponsorship from Pryde’s EasiFeeds and Kohnke’s Own products, for which we are eternally grateful.