Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Laura Kraut: Master The Course

After the first round, Laura Kraut suggested Daisy Farish work on regaining control of Double Play after the fences. | Amy K. Dragoo

Laura Kraut explains how riders can help their horses over the jumps instead of being passive passengers at the 2016 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session.

Unseasonable Florida heat and humidity were already causing trickling sweat between the shoulder blades of 12 competitive young riders as they tacked up for the final day of the 2016 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session. In George’s absence, Laura Kraut devised a Nations Cup-style format in which riders jumped two rounds each on the Conrad Homfeld-designed course.

“One of my passions is riding in Nations Cups,” said Laura, an Olympic gold medalist. “For me, that’s just the pinnacle of the sport. We were lucky enough to find all of George Morris’ notes that he would read at every team meeting at every single Nations Cup. Last night, we had an hour-and-a-half session going over George’s thoughts and ideas—and demands. I thought it would be fun to make it a competition because, let’s face it, all these kids are competitive. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t high achievers.”

The 12 riders were divided into three teams each with an Olympian serving as chef d’√©quipe. Team Red with Beezie Madden included Kelli Cruciotti, Daisy Farish, TJ O’Mara and Ransome Rombauer. Team White with Anne Kursinski was made up of Victoria “Tori” Colvin, Eve Jobs, Danielle “Dani” Roskens and Katherine Strauss. Lauren Hough was at the helm for Team Blue of Ailish Cunniffe, Lucy Deslauriers, Mitch Endicott and Vivian Yowan.

After team members rode the first course featuring 12 obstacles set at 1.35 meters with a time allowed of 76 seconds, Laura critiqued them, offering suggestions for improving their second rides later that morning. She emphasized that the riders should help their horses over the jumps instead of being passive passengers. Whether it was the timing of a leg to urge the horse forward or the artful use of a half-halt, Laura was all about being a smart rider to help the horse prepare for and master each jump. Time and again, concentration was her advice to the young riders.

The First Round

After poring over George Morris’ notes from Nations Cup team meetings and discussing his ideas and demands with the riders, Olympian Laura Kraut spent the final day of the clinic instructing riders as they each jumped two rounds in a Nations Cup-style format. | Amy K. Dragoo

Team Red’s TJ was first up in the irons, and an iPhone recorded the time of his round at 81 seconds. “To have to go first in a Nations Cup is very nerve-wracking and he’s on a young horse,” Laura said, explaining that it was a strong ride on a borrowed mare TJ didn’t know, Gut Einhaus’ Delinda. She thought he could have been sharper between Fence 4B and Fence 5 by giving the horse a good kick to gallop through the long turn. He used his body and balance to help the mare handle the final vertical of the triple combination, Fence 11C. When they landed, he instantly recovered to get to Fence 12 in seven strides. TJ’s takeaway: Increase sharpness and decrease time by urging his horse forward and helping her balance.

Team Blue’s Ailish came in under time at 74, and Laura thought the left-turn gallop after Fence 4B made the difference. Ailish knocked down a rail at Fence 3, a yellow oxer, and Laura suggested she should have given her horse, Whipstick Farm’s Perfect de Coquerie, more encouragement. “A nickel’s worth more leg there and you would have gotten across the back rail,” she said. “When you are in a Nations Cup and there is so much pressure and you have a fence down, you’ve got to stay on it and you can’t lose your focus. You’ve got to think about whether you give him a kick or a cluck or do something different.” Ailish’s takeaway: Maintain focus.

Team White’s Katherine rode her new young Hanoverian gelding, Executive, who was a little strong, although she finished with no faults in 73 seconds. Laura suggested that Katherine not say “whoa” as she was leaving the ground over an oxer so that the horse didn’t think about landing on a back rail. “He has plenty of scope so I don’t think that was going to be an issue, but the time to say ‘whoa’ is on landing,” she said. Laura praised Katherine’s set-up to Fence 5, the liverpool, when she kept control of her horse and made him wait to jump it. He was losing his shape at Fence 11ABC, the triple combination, when he landed and got wobbly, but Katherine kicked him at just the right moment to get his focus on the last fence of the course and get him up into the bridle. Katherine’s takeaway: Avoid voice aids used at the wrong time.

Daisy came in at 74 seconds but Laura said her horse, River Mountain Farm’s Double Play, looked as if he had been against her from the start, and although she did the first line in seven strides as Laura would have recommended for the smaller horse, he wasn’t soft in the bridle. She suggested Daisy work at regaining control after the jumps so she could turn earlier at the ends of the ring instead of pushing her strong horse forward so he could get heavy in her hand. In addition, Laura chided her about the triple, where she knocked down a rail at Fence 11B. “You were riding C before you finished riding B. You sat up and you stiffed him at B and just sat down on it [the jump] behind. The next round, think just maybe use your voice first and then go to the hand and the shoulders to help.” Daisy’s takeaway: First finish the fence you’re jumping.

Mitch rode a borrowed horse, Alexa White’s C’est Blue, who had just turned 7. “When you are riding a young horse, you’ve got to sometimes allow him time to concentrate and get your rideability,” Laura said, adding that Mitch lost the horse’s focus around the turns because he swung wide to set him up. “If I was on a young horse, I would not have trusted that so much. I would have had more impulsion through the turn so I was darned sure I was getting it done.” Mitch’s takeaway: Allow a young horse time to concentrate.

Eve just made the time, and Laura thought her biggest issue was getting her mare, Esprit 373, to coil up or shorten her stride. As the round progressed, the horse became longer, stiffer and more strung out, which affected her rideability. Laura observed that Eve was hesitant to go forward because she lacked control. “She was behind you. You couldn’t put your leg on,” Laura said. “She was stiff and you ended up adding at least one too many [strides] or maybe two too many to the water to cross it.” Eve’s takeaway: Do something. When you ask, ask.

The 12 riders were divided into three teams to compete over the Conrad Homfeld-designed mock Nations Cup course.
Ransome’s word of the day on her borrowed horse, Stansky’s Mission Farms’ Liverpool, was “passive” after her 81-second ride. “You’ve got to learn to make your horse come back to you,” Laura said. “I’m very disgruntled with the way you rode [from Fence 7 to Fence 8, the liverpool]. If you had been on my team I would not have been happy with you. I could have gone out and had coffee. You need to get over, land and send him. Even if you lose some control on the gallop, you can make it up on the hairpin turn back. Risk it.” Ransome’s takeaway: Work on being stronger within the time allowed.

Vivian rode a big mover, Saddle Ridge’s Ultimate Z, around the course in 76 seconds. Laura told her to think about helping her horse more with her legs to balance him around the turns. “You got wrapped up with too much hand and not enough leg,” she said. “The leg is really important.” She reminded Vivian to keep mentally sharp in the second round—to not just think she had a good first round so she could relax the second time. Vivian’s takeaway: Stay on top of it.

Dani had a refusal at Fence 7, but Laura praised her handling of the problem. “When something goes wrong, you can’t dwell on it,” she said. “You just went right around and came back to it.” She suggested Dani try to be softer on the strong mare, Pablo Mejia’s Dynastic Up, by making her fit the stride in [from Fence 6 to 7] to maintain control. “You have to learn some finesse. You started out so aggressive that you were against her and then toned it down.” Dani’s takeaway: Take soft control from the beginning.

Kelli wowed Laura with her 73-second ride on Serenity Equestrian Ventures’ Wallenberg. “That was a riding lesson,” Laura said. “That was fantastic. You never looked hurried, and that’s the sign of a rider who has confidence and who knows her horse.” Kelli rode forward yet held him together to make him go high over the jumps. Kelli’s takeaway: Cut off more real estate at the turn at the end of the ring so you don’t have to gallop.

Laura praised Lucy for her control after her 74-second finish. Lucy’s horse, Hamlet, hit the water at Fence 5, a liverpool, and Laura suggested she was wishy-washy on the turn after Fence 7 and didn’t get her horse back, so she couldn’t create the impulsion to Fence 8, the water jump. “You never panicked,” Laura said of her approach to Fence 9, but she pointed out that she needed to use more leg coming into the turn on Fence 10. “You thought forward and went forward, but he wasn’t in your hand and coming from your seat and leg. When you came though the turn, you were out in front of him. So you had nothing to work with.” Lucy’s takeaway: Commit through the turn and go forward to fix the water next time.

Laura praised TJ O’Mara’s use of his body to balance Delinda. | Amy K. Dragoo
Tori rode the fastest round of the day at 72 seconds. Laura commended her for a strong ride and for getting Allyson Shyroc’s Whisper Z up and in front of her leg. “He never went behind your leg, not once,” Laura said. “You never lost the connection with him and rode him forward. Your shoulders were back and you were strong through your lower back and your arms never even had to move.” Tori’s takeaway: Give your horse a half-halt or two and set him up so you slow down just a little before the oxer.

Laura said she was impressed with the riders over Conrad Homfeld’s technical course. Added the 1984 Olympic gold and silver medalist: “I think it’s doing its work properly without overfacing anyone or taking too much out of the horses.” After the riders attended team pep rallies and were debriefed by their chefs, they took a short break from the heat. Then they mounted up for round two.

At the end of the first round, Beezie’s Team Red had a 14-point advantage with six faults while Teams White and Blue had 20 faults each.

Round Two

Laura described Ransome Rombauer’s first ride on Liverpool as “passive” and chided her for the way she rode the turn from Fence 7 to the water. In the second round, Ransome improved. “You looked like a different rider going through the turn,” said Laura. | Amy K. Dragoo
The second round began with the riders tackling the course in the order of those with the highest to lowest number of faults. “It seems obvious that you can come back in the second round and correct your mistakes and make a better round, but that’s not necessarily the case because you’re dealing with a horse,” Laura explained. “You don’t know if your horse is going to come back and let down and become tired and less sharp, or, in some cases, a hot strong horse might know that something important is happening and get overly strong and anticipate. So it’s not really a given that the second round is easier. In fact, sometimes I think the second round can be even more difficult.”

The first up, Ailish came in at 74 seconds again. She knocked down several rails and rubbed Fence 12. Laura said she had hoped the horse would settle down, but instead he lit up at the gallop. “You could have made him straighter and more focused,” Laura advised. “You panicked just a touch and just stiffed him a little bit.”

Katherine was the only rider to have a clean round, which she did in 73 seconds. Laura praised her for being more relaxed and for timing her voice aids properly. “My favorite part is when you said, ‘Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa,’” she said. “You held it and when he went, then you said ‘Whoa.’” Katherine also was lauded for her concentrated control. “He wants to drop his right shoulder a lot. But you then took the time to pick up the right rein and really straighten him and balance him.”

TJ was praised for applying his leg without overdoing it during his 73-second ride. “What you did so well was your ride to the liverpool [Fence 5] because after revving her up and riding through the turn, you then turned the corner and softened her by just using your body,” she said. But then, after Fence 10, he tried to get the mare back, and in the process, he lost impulsion before the triple. “You tried to soften her up and get her back to you and that’s what caused your rail coming in. Just take a breath. Add one more step, get her organized so you have the concentration going into the combination that you need.”

Mitch came in with a time fault at 78 seconds. Laura said he made a dramatic difference after Fence 4 when he put a little pressure on the horse by making a tighter turn. She was impressed with how he gave his young horse confidence. “He rode the water perfectly,” she said. “I don’t think [the horse has] ever seen anything like that, and you were strong and behind him.” She was also impressed that Mitch didn’t panic when his horse made a desperate leap at Fence 10. He got the horse back, kept his composure and successfully jumped the triple.

Eve also finished at 78 seconds, two seconds more than in the first round. “What I love to see is you improved everything from the last round,” Laura said. “You maybe could have cut off a little more space [at the end of the ring]. She made such a big jump on the oxer [Fence 4B], I think maybe you landed and you just didn’t have the control you really needed.” Laura told her to keep riding to the end. “You’ve just got to fight for that last fence. You’ve got to give them that energy to want to clear it. Something in your body has to say, ‘Come on, just one more jump!’”

Laura noticed that jumping the first round took a toll on Vivian’s horse, although they were faster at 74 seconds. “You’re such a great follower of instruction because you did—exactly.” Then, Vivian’s horse started to run out of energy, but she rode him until the last jump, the biggest of the course. “You didn’t give up and you stayed strong and you got there with some energy and you made a nice jump.”

Laura said Dani was tough and focused and her decisions to add power or slow the pace were fantastic on her 76-second round. “There were a couple of places you could have been sharper. Definitely landing from [Fence] 2, you needed to just put your leg on and get over there,” she said, adding that Dani fixed mistakes from the first ride, and they looked like a different horse and rider this round. “You kept her energy, you kept her bouncy and alert and she gave you a great jump. You should be very proud of yourself. That was a great ride and really a good demonstration.”

After hitting a rail with Perfect de Coquerie, Ailish Cunniffe resolved to maintain her focus throughout the course for her second ride. “When you are in a Nations Cup and there is so much pressure and you have a fence down, you’ve got to stay on it and you can’t lose your focus,” said Laura. | Amy K. Dragoo

Although Laura had worried that Daisy would have a time fault because she was trying to soften her ride from the first round, she came in at 76 seconds. Laura was especially impressed with Fence 5, the liverpool. “I thought you did [it] very well because he was wanting to get a little bit stiff again on you, but you softened your hand and you made a nice jump,” she said. “You didn’t take for granted that he was just going to jump it, you put your leg on and made him jump it.”

Ransome made the horse go straight to the jumps and she kept her focus as well as her horse’s. “You looked like a different rider going through the turn,” Laura said. “You feel the difference? Because that’s really important, and that’s just thinking. That’s just making yourself get that done. You did it perfectly.”

Lucy was spot-on with quick reactions without over-reacting. Her horse made a short turn into the liverpool and wanted to jump the water high, so she added a perfectly timed half-halt before the jump. “He accelerated his pace after the water and became a bit more rowdy and difficult to ride,” Laura said. “But you fought for it and you trusted his carefulness and his scope and he gave it to you.”

Laura praised Tori for another great ride with a time of 72 seconds but with four faults. “Horses can make a mistake just like we do,” Laura said, adding that Tori improved her position and took suggestions from Beezie, who taught on the second day of the training session (see “Gymnasticize Your Horse, May 2016), to heart. “Yesterday helped you because you are sitting taller and stronger and you look like Beezie when you go around,” Laura said. “You remind me of watching her, and I think you’ve got that same composure that she has.”

Laura said Kelli and her horse weren’t as relaxed and smooth as in the first round. “This is something good to know about him—that in the second round, you are going to have to work on relaxing him and figuring out how to keep him calm,” Laura said. “I think you gave up when you had 12 [faults] down. Twelve is better than 16! Many times on Anthem I would have a first clear round and 16 on the second.”

In the end, Team White rallied and won with 28 faults. Katherine was the only rider to ride a double clear. Team member Dani rode a 19-fault test in the first round and came back with only four faults in the second round. Eve and Tori rounded out the team’s winning performance. Team Red came in second with 32 faults while Team Blue finished with 41 total faults. The winning team was awarded limited edition George Morris and Rio action figures, all signed by Laura and the three chefs d’√©quipe.

Laura was impressed with the way Mitch Endicott rode and gave confidence to a borrowed horse, Alexa White’s C’est Blue, who had just turned 7. She stressed the importance of allowing a young horse time to concentrate to develop rideability. | Amy K. Dragoo

“I’m thrilled with how it went today, and I thought it was fun to see the team so far behind come forward to win because that can happen,” Laura said. “It gives you that inspiration to know that it’s never over until it’s over.”

Laura said she would have loved to have had an opportunity like the three-day training session when she was young. With Christine Traurig teaching about dressage and flatwork on the first day (see “Develop Your Athlete with Dressage,” April 2016) and Beezie explaining to the young riders how to gymnasticize their horses on the second day and Laura giving each rider helpful tips and suggestions for a more competitive ride, the participants gleaned a wealth of information from the three Olympic athletes.

“I hope George would be proud,” Laura said. “I think he would have enjoyed it.”

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in Practical Horseman. It is reprinted here by permission.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Probiotics Explained

Although much still needs to be learned about supplements that contain “friendly” bacteria, their potential benefits for ill or stressed horses are widely accepted.

  • You’re preparing your horse for a 200-mile trailer ride to your new home. You know the trip will be stressful, but you plan to wrap his legs carefully, make sure he’s up to date on his shots and even give him a preventive dose of antiulcer medication. Is there anything else you can do to safeguard his health during the trip?
  • The cut on your mare’s chest was deep and dirty, but your veterinarian arrived quickly. The wound is now stitched closed and your mare is on a course of antibiotics to combat infection. During the weeks of nursing care to come, can anything else be done to support her overall health as her body mends?
  • Your schedule couldn’t be any busier this fall. Each week, it seems, you’ll be at a different show, clinic or event. Your horse’s new routine will be no routine at all. What can be done to help prevent his hectic, constantly shifting schedule from dragging him down?
In each of these scenarios, one relatively new option may be helpful in safeguarding the horse’s health: probiotics, dietary supplements that contain beneficial live microorganisms, usually bacteria, but also sometimes yeast and other fungi.

Credit: Simko/www.visualsunlimited.com
Probiotics have been studied for more than a century, and their use is now common for food animals, such as cattle. For the past decade or so, veterinarians have been administering them to horses, too, to aid recovery from serious intestinal illnesses. Described in academia during the 1960s and ’70s as any organism or substance that benefited the intestinal microbial balance, the generally accepted meaning today is “a live microbial supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance.”

However, how probiotics can help horses is still under study. “We are honestly at our infancy of understanding how we can use probiotics to benefit the horse,” says Kelcey Swyers, head nutritionist at Ranch-Way Feeds in Fort Collins, Colorado, and a PhD candidate at Colorado State University. “While research does not yet have a solid recommendation for probiotic supplementation in the equine diet, it cannot be disputed that an owner might see a benefit from offering probiotics to their horses in a real-life setting.”

Billions of bacteria, protozoa and fungi, often referred to as the intestinal flora or microflora, live in the horse’s gut. These organisms break down foodstuffs to make nutrients available, prevent growth of harmful bacteria and produce vitamins and amino acids. Probiotics are administered "to manipulate the normal intestinal flora in such a way that is beneficial to the health of the horse," says equine nutritionist Kelcey Swyers.

Probiotic bacteria colonize the mucous layer of the equine intestines.

Intestinal flora

“The main goal of administering probiotics is to manipulate the normal intestinal flora in such a way that is beneficial to the health of the horse,” Swyers says. “With that said, researchers are looking for ways that we can use probiotics to improve the digestibility of feedstuffs, reduce the incidence of digestive upsets that could lead to colic or diarrhea, and act as a natural alternative to administering antibiotics, just to name a few areas of interest.”

The inside of a horse’s gut is home to colonies of bacteria, protozoa and fungi, often referred to en masse as the intestinal flora or microflora. “It has been estimated that there are approximately five billion organisms per gram of digestive fluid in the mammalian digestive tract,” Swyers says.

These tiny organisms are engaged in the usual activities of life: consuming one set of substances, excreting another and reproducing. Together they create a complex, symbiotic web. The excretions, called metabolites, produced by one organism may feed another, which in turn produces a third that may be a nutrient necessary to the horse’s life. For example, the complex molecules in starches and cellulose cannot be directly absorbed by the horse’s intestine—they must first be broken down by the flora into components that he can use.

Credit: Eric Erbe/USDA In addition to producing many of the vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients the horse needs, the intestinal flora help keep potentially damaging bacteria, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli, under control.
In addition to producing many of the vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients the horse needs, the intestinal flora help keep potentially damaging bacteria, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli, under control. They do this in several ways, including colonizing the gut wall---by attaching themselves to the epithelium0, they block spaces that might otherwise be occupied by invaders. Some of the bacteria also produce lactic acid, which maintains the local environment within a narrow zone of acidity that is comfortable for the beneficial bacteria but hostile to the pathogenic ones.

Maintaining a balance

Intestinal microflora function in a delicate but constantly fluctuating balance. For example, if a horse who usually eats mostly hay gets more pasture grass one day, the organisms who thrive on that particular mix of foodstuffs thrive while their counterparts decline. Most of the time, these fluxes are harmless and self-correcting.

At other times, however, the balance can be tipped in a direction that can cause harm to the host. The classic example is the horse who breaks into the feed room and gorges on grain: Suddenly, there is too much starch to be digested in the stomach and small intestine, and it passes into the hindgut. There it fuels accelerated population growth among certain microbes, which results in greater volumes of lactic acid and a lower pH, killing off other good bacteria in the vicinity. This can begin the cascade of events that leads to devastating digestive-related illnesses, including laminitis.

Credit: www.fotolia.com
But there are many other factors that can alter the microbe levels in the gut. “Anything that changes the pH, interferes with gut motility or affects the fluid levels---all would change the balance,” says Kathleen Crandell, PhD, a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research. In addition to sudden changes in diet, specific events that can upset the microflora levels include the administration of oral antibiotics, dehydration, fever and ingesting feed tainted with molds or bacteria.

Even stresses, such as those associated with travel and competition, can have an effect. Going on the road tends to disrupt the horse’s routine: He may not drink as much, he may be getting different hay or grasses, his anxiety may keep him off his feed entirely for atime. Also, stress produces measurable changes in levels of hormones, body temperature, immune responses, heart rate and other functions, all of which may cause the populations of beneficial bacteria to drop.

These fluctuations, too, would likely self-correct in time, but meanwhile the horse might be somewhat “off,” perhaps enough to affect his performance, to inhibit weight gain, or to contribute to digestive upsets. “[Another] goal of giving probiotics to a horse is to add organisms—seed organisms—to form new colonies and rebalance the beneficial bacteria,” says Crandell. The thinking is that by helping to restore the populations of beneficial bacteria sooner, the probiotic supplement will offset any potential negative consequences of the disruption to the microflora.

Credit: Miloslav Kaleb/www.visualsunlimited.com Probiotics contain living organisms. The bacteria may be in a dried, dormant state, but they can still die if mishandled. Heat is the biggest threat: "Don’t let them sit on the dashboard of your truck on a 100 degree day," says Kathleen Crandell, PhD, a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research. Even some tackrooms might get too hot—if you can, keep your probiotic refrigerated. Light can also be damaging. Keep the product in its original (opaque) container out of direct sunlight and even away from bright indoor lights. Finally, don’t forget the expiration date: Make sure you purchase the product well ahead of the "use by" recommendation.

Does your horse need probiotics?

Although research into probiotics for horses is still ongoing, there is general agreement that they can be useful in the following ways:

  • To give young digestive systems ahead start. Foals acquire their intestinal flora from their environment—that’s one reason why they sometimes eat manure. A probiotic may help populate the young digestive system more quickly.
  • To aid recovery from illness or infection in horses who have received oral antibiotics. Medications that kill harmful bacteria sometimes do collateral damage to beneficial organisms. After the course of antibiotics is finished, a probiotic may aid in faster recovery.
  • To compensate for the effects of stress. Dietary changes, travel and/or competition can put stress on a horse’s system. To give the probiotics time to colonize, it is best to start administration two to three days ahead of the stressful event and continue until it is over.
  • To reduce digestive upset in horses susceptible to chronic diarrhea and/or mild colics. Probiotics may stabilize the microflora and promote a healthier environment in the gut. They may also be a good preventive measure in horses who have experienced serious colics.
  • To help old or unthrifty horses better utilize nutrients. A probiotic may improve the efficiency of digestion and aid nutrient absorption in aged horses and others who have trouble maintaining weight.

Consult with your veterinarian about giving your horse probiotics, just as you would when making any other dietary change. If your horse is not holding weight or has frequent mild colics or diarrhea, a probiotic may well be part of the solution, but you’ll also want to address any underlying medical issues.

On the other hand, says Crandell, giving a probiotic to a healthy stay-at home horse can put unnecessary stress on your wallet. “There’s no reason to give a probiotic if your horse is healthy, he’s not traveling, he’s holding weight, etc.,” she explains. “Sometimes horse owners will not see a benefit from offering probiotics, and this can simply be because their horse is already healthy on his normal diet, so no additional benefit can be realized.”

On the market

A wide variety of probiotic products for horses are now available. Some are pure cultures with only one or two bacterial species; others contain up to eight or more; many are mixed with other substances, including vitamins, yeasts, electrolytes, enzymes and prebiotics.

Living microorganisms include any of several species of bacteria, often Lactobacillus spp. as well as Enterococcus spp., Bifidobacterium spp., Lactococcus lactis, etc. Sometimes bacterial species are listed individually on the label; other products will identify only the class, such as “mixed lactic acid bacteria.”

Yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Aspergillus spp.) offer well-established dietary benefits, including improved performance during exercise and the production of better quality milk in mares; yeasts are often included in regular horse feeds.

Prebiotics are nutrients that aren’t necessarily absorbed or utilized by the horse but instead “feed” the beneficial bacteria. You’ll often find these identified on the label as some sort of oligosaccharide, but bacteria themselves can also have a prebiotic effect if they produce by products that in turn nourish other bacteria.

Your veterinarian or equine nutritionist may well have experience with specific formulations and can advise you about which ones might best suit your situation. For example, Crandell recommends that foals be given a product that also contains dried egg yolk antibodies and, in general, she believes that products with a wide variety of bacteria or a combination of probiotics and yeast are more likely to be effective. Once you’ve got that input, it’s a matter of choosing a product and keeping close watch on your horse to see how he does.

Swyers advises caution with products that might promise too much: “Probiotics are not considered a drug, so be leery of marketing claims that state a probiotic supplement will do specific things for your horse, such as‘reduce your feed costs, reduce the potential for your horse to get colic, or enhance the performance of your horse.’”

Credit: Michael Abbey/www.visualsunlimited.com (center) www.fotolia.com (bottom)
If your horse does not respond to one product, he may do better with another. Even if the bacterial species are the same, there may be other ingredients in the formulation that affect how the product works. But keep in mind that you may not see results right away: “The benefits of administering probiotics to horses can only be seen when given for a prolonged amount of time, and generally when administration of that supplement goes away, so do the benefits,” Swyers says. “So feed according to the manufacturer’s label, and feed for the whole amount of time that your horse could benefit from it.”

And, she says, “like anything, just because giving ‘some’ could be good, giving more is not necessarily better. No matter what supplement you might give to your horse, it is a good practice to always follow the manufacturer’s feeding or dosing instructions as indicated on the label. And, if there are any concerns, to consult a trusted veterinarian or nutritionist.”

The next few years ought to bring more answers about the best uses of probiotics in horses. In the meantime, if a probiotic is helping to keep your horse happier and healthier, there’s no reason not to keep offering it.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in EQUUS Magazine. It is reprinted here by permission.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rafter Y South

Annie Goodwin's Next Step

By Pam Gleason, Photography by Gary Knoll

For Annie Goodwin, who trains eventing, dressage, and showjumping horses, the relationship you build with your horse is the most important thing.

"You have to have the utmost respect for your horse," she says. "It's not necessarily that I love one discipline over the other; I love each of them. I love them for the relationship with the horse. When you go out on the cross country course, you have to trust your horses just as much as they trust you. When you come off cross country and think about what you've just done, you realize it's pretty incredible to have that relationship with a horse, to get them to trust you so much that they do the things you asked them do to. That is the most rewarding feeling to me. But honestly, I can get the same feeling after riding a dressage test."

Annie Goodwin, who is 27, owns and runs Rafter Y South, a 33-acre training farm on Aiken's Southside. Set far back from the road and surrounded by trees, the facility provides an ideal environment for horses in training. It has a comfortable barn with roomy stalls, several grassy paddocks with run-in sheds, an outdoor jumping area and a covered dressage arena. Annie purchased the facility (formerly Xanadu dressage) at the beginning of the summer of 2016 and has been working ever since to adapt it to her needs. She put a trotting track around the perimeter of the property and a gallop path through one of the fields and up a hill ("It's really cool, because there are not a lot of places in Aiken with hills, so that's great for my horses.") She is currently planning to build some cross country obstacles for schooling, as well as a second barn and a house.

Although Annie is new to owning her own business, she has been deeply involved in the horse world almost from the moment she was born. Her mother, Tina Goodwin, was formerly a steeplechase jockey and professional event rider. Her father, Putter Goodwin, is an all-around horseman, cowboy and former polo player. Annie started riding when she was very young at Rafter Y Ranch, her family's 1,000-acre property in Banner, Wyoming, just outside of Sheridan.

When Annie was still in preschool, her parents divorced, and her mother began to pursue an eventing career in earnest. When Annie was about 5, they moved to Southern Pines in North Carolina, where Tina worked for the upper level eventer David O'Brien and trained with Jack Le Goff, a former coach of the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams and a member of the United States Eventing Hall of Fame. From there, they went to British Columbia, where, for two years, Tina continued to ride and train with some of the best eventers in Canada.

"I had my own horse all this time," says Annie. "I was very young, but I was riding and living the dream, following in my mother's footsteps."

But then, her mother had a devastating accident on the cross-country course, breaking her neck and ending her riding career. While her mother started on the long road to recovery, Annie moved back to live with her father in Wyoming.

"I saw the accident," she says. "I didn't want to have much to do with riding afterwards."

But she lived on the ranch, surrounded by horses, mountains and the spectacular open range. From mid-June to the end of August, the ranch was opened to guests who came from all over the country to spend time enjoying the outdoors. Rafter Y could accommodate 20 guests, and most of the time it was completely booked, often with families. They would go on daily rides escorted by Putter or one of the people who worked for the family, and Annie often rode along. They went through cattle pastures and into the hills where they startled herds of wild antelope, sometimes taking day-long excursions. Annie's fear gradually disappeared.

"My dad never put any pressure on me to ride," says Annie. "He didn't force me back into it in any way."

Throughout middle school and into her high school years, Annie, who describes herself as "super competitive" focused her energies on other sports: soccer, basketball and volleyball. She is from an athletic family (her grandfather was the longtime coach of the Stanford University golf team: he recruited and coached Tiger Woods) and she was good. When she started seeing other kids her own age competing in equestrian events, she caught the riding bug again. Soon, she took up barrel racing and whenever the local shows had English riding classes, she competed in them, too.

Once she was back on a horse, riding began to take up more of her time. She rode and played various sports at her boarding school, and when she came home for the summers, horses took center stage. She groomed polo games at the Big Horn Polo Club, both for her father and for other players, and she rode every day on the ranch, by herself, with her father or with guests.

"Being an only child, each family that came in I became a part of," she says. "It was fun for me. I wuld immerse myself in these other families. I also learned, from a very young age, how to be a gracious host."

In her senior year of high school, she gave up volleyball to focus on riding. The school she was attending had an excellent riding program, and it brought her back into the eventing world. For her 18th birthday, her father gave her a horse: Nike, an off the track thoroughbred that was too big for his polo string. Although soundness issues limited Nike's potential, he was a project for Annie, and one that taught her a lot about horses and about herself.

"I realized how much I really enjoyed working with young horses," she says. "I attribute a lot of my success with young horses to my dad: I learned a lot from him about patience and about natural horsemanship.

Annie went to college in Arizona for two years, but all she wanted to do was ride and train horses, so she left after her sophomore year to become a working student for Elizabeth Iorio, an eventing rider who was training at Full Gallop Farm in Aiken.

"And that is how I started out on my journey,"she says.

That journey brought her back to the heart of upper level eventing and exposed her to some of the top talents in the business. While in Aiken, she met Kadi Eykamp, a 4-star eventer, trainer and coach based in Dallas and ended up working for her. Annie had her own two horses at the time, and she had the opportunity to compete at lower levels herself and groom for Kadi at some of the most prestigious events in the world, including Rolex. "I thought this was where I wanted to be," she says.

Then, she took a job with Will Coleman just after he returned from competing for the U.S. at the London Olympics in 2012. "That was where my riding grew the most," she says. "I was given the opportunity to ride lots of different horses and to be in the ring every day with phenomenal riders. I'm a very visual learner I learned so much. Will definitely respected that about me: he knew he didn't have to teach me every day."

After a few years with Will, who splits his time between Aiken and Virginia, Annie came back to Aiken full time, taking a job riding showjumpers for Daniel and Cathy Geitner.

"Showjumping was definitely my weakest discipline, but I learned so much there," she says. "The job was a lot of individual reflecting: you had to figure out how to ride each horse to make it more successful. It was a lot of really good miles for me and it gave me more confidence in the ring."

While working for these other trainers, Annie also had her own horses to bring along, including Bruno (Fetterman B), a Dutch Warmblood that she imported from Holland as an un-backed 3-year-old in 2013. Although she had no definite plans for when she would start her own business, by the beginning of 2016, she knew she was coming to a point in her career where it was time to do something different, to make some kind of larger investment in herself. Last spring she saw an advertisement for a farm for sale in Aiken, and something about it spoke to her. On a whim, she called her father for his advice: he surprised her by telling her to take a look at it. She did, and she fell in love. By June, the farm was hers.

By this time, Rafter Y Ranch in Wyoming had been sold. It had been in the Goodwin family for five generations, but no one in the youngest generation really wanted to live there. When the opportunity to pass it along to someone who would appreciate it presented itself, selling was the only logical answer. So when Annie took possession of the former Xanadu dressage, it naturally became Rafter Y South, a tribute to the place where she grew up and where she learned, and re-learned, to love horses.

Today, Annie is busy riding and training. She is coming off a successful competitive season: Bruno, now 6, has proven himself a phenomenal jumper, and moved up this year to compete, and win, at the Preliminary Level. She has another horse, Giselle, who is 5 and not far behind. Her goal for the spring is to take Bruno to the one-star level and to compete at the Bromont CCI*. She has some off-the-track thoroughbreds that she is hoping to debut at schooling events over the winter. She also has two talented young dressage horses who are ready to enter the show ring this year. "I'll be working towards my medals and pursuing my goals in the sand box as well: she says.

Meanwhile, Rafter Y South is quietly gaining its own reputation in Aiken. There are regular dressage clinics given by Gabriel Armando, an FEI judge, trainer and rider who comes up from Florida. Clients have started bringing horses for Annie to train and show. The business is just getting started, but it is nothing if not a solid start, backed up by a lifetime of hard work, passion, and dedication.

"I'm really excited to be here," says Annie. "It's a lot to take on, but being as competitive as I am really keeps me going; I never get bored. I'm trying to be as successful as I can be.