Showing posts with label Three Runs Plantation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Three Runs Plantation. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ask the Judge

Questions About Dressage

With Amy McElroy

Dear Amy,

I have a question about some gifts I received for my birthday. I now have a lovely square pad with bling around the sides and my farm's name and logo. I also have a beautiful whip with a bling on the handle, and I have a fun and new pair of gloves with bling on them. I love my gifts, but I need to know if I can use all of these things when I am competing this season? Please advise!

Glittery Togs

Dear Glitter,

This is a very good question as there had been much discussion about saddle pads and bling this year. Let's talk about your saddle pad first. It does sound very beautiful and perfect for the show arena. Is it legal? Let's look at the current ruling regarding the use of saddle pads with decoration.

You might be surprised to learn that saddle pads are not required when competing. Although they are optional, I have never seen anyone compete without a saddle pad, and I don't recommend it. A squared dressage pad or a fitted pad are both acceptable. The pads should be white or of a conservative color. According to the USEF rulebook DR 121, under Saddlery and Equipment, a logo, monogram or name it may appear on either or both sides of your saddle pad. The logos that are allowed must not exceed 200 square centimeters: this is about the spread of your hand, or roughly the size of a 5-inch by 6-inch card. When I look at a logo on a saddle pad, I try to imagine the size of a hand, and if it is smaller than that, I consider it an appropriate size.

You may use a breed logo for horses registered with that same breed. Beware of an inappropriate breed logo! If you have the Hanoverian logo on a leopard Appaloosa, this would not be correct, and you would most likely get a warning. You also may display a national flag if you are a citizen of that country. You can't display a national flag of a country for which you simply have an affinity: Americans can't have an Irish flag on their saddle pads just because they love Ireland.

You may also have the USEF logo. Professionals and amateurs have additional and different logo restrictions. Professionals may have a business or product name, or their sponsors logo on their pad. Amateurs may not have a business, product name or logo unless they actually own the business. Competition award pads are also allowed for both amateurs and professionals, as are pads bearing the name of your stable. No other advertisement or publicity is permitted on any saddle pad.

Other inappropriate saddle pad characteristics include busy patterns or decorations and loud, bright or distracting colors (no smiley faces, zebra print or blaze orange.)

These are the current rulings on saddle pad appearance, effective December 1, 2016 and currently in use.

Now let's consider bling. In the dressage world, "bling" refers to shiny, jewel-like decorations on tack and equipment. As far as wearing gloves, you might be surprised to learn that in classes Fourth Level and below, gloves are recommended but not mandatory. Although many people wear traditional white gloves, any conservative color is permissible. Bling on gloves is allowed, and has become quite common: I think it looks good when done tastefully. (As a sidenote, bling will draw attention to your hands, so if yours are not yet independent, it would be a better idea to wear a more conservative, planer pair.)

In regards to your blinging whip handle: bling is allowed on your handle, providing you meet all the other whip regulations. As with the gloves and the saddle pad, carrying a whip is optional in those classes where it is permitted. (You are not allowed to carry a whip in some classes and circumstances, such as when you are riding in regional championships or the nationals.) When a whip is permitted in competition, the only requirement is that it may not be any longer than 47.2 inches (120 centimeters). This measurement does include the lash. Keep in mind that an adjustable whip is not ever allowed. If you carry a whip that exceeds the length limit, you will be eliminated. This might be a good time to mention that you should not be surprised if, after you have completed your test, the ring steward asks to measure your whip. Depending on the size of the show, steward my check every whip, or every second or third whip. The judge may also request that the steward measure any whip that looks suspiciously long.

For all the current rules on dress and equipment, you can always visit the USEF website under "dressage rules." These rules do change, so check to be sure you are always up-to-date. Also, if you are at a show and you have further dress or equipment questions, you can find the technical delegate and ask: technical delegates are well-versed on all the current rules.

To summarize: assuming you are an adult amateur, you may wear a saddle pad with your farm name and logo on it, providing the logo does not exceed the size limit. Bling on your saddle pad, whip handle and gloves is permitted. Currently the only place bling is not permitted is anywhere on your horse: no hoof appliques, no glitter in his main or jewelry in his tail.

I think you will look very fashionable in your new show clothing and tack and it sounds as if you were lucky to receive such wonderful birthday presents. Go ahead and enjoy them. I hope you shine in the show ring!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Increase your horse's strength with exercise

Any horse can benefit from a simple strength-training routine. Here's how to safely build your horse's muscle power.

Strength training for horses isn't just limited to heavy draft breeds competing in pulling contests. Any horse in any discipline can benefit from a strength-building regimen, and any rider can put together a systematic, safe program to muscle up her mount. Try these simple tips to increase the muscle power of any horse. Stamina has to be in place before strength can be increased, so put some endurance-building mileage on him before beginning power trips.

Undulating terrain is the best equine gym, as a horse must lift his own body weight with each stride when traveling up- or downhill. Start with jaunts up gradual slopes, and increase the grade and length of time spent in "climbing" as the horse becomes more muscular. If your horse has a particularly weak side, negotiate the ups and downs on the diagonal, with his weaker side toward the crest. The "high" side of the body has to exert more muscle to maintain balance. Flatlands riders can use man-made "hills," such as dry drainage ditches, in place of natural terrain; or they can practice jumping or pulling in a harness (drags and harrows, not easy rolling carts), even if their horses don't otherwise use those skills.

Monitor your horse during his strength training: Heavy blowing or trembling muscles indicate that he needs a break, Next-day soreness tells you that you pushed him too far; scale back next time out.

Strength develops slowly, but after a few weeks of power tripping, the first changes will become visible as increased muscle mass along the spine and greater tightness and trimness of the belly. Your horse's ridden performance will improve as well, with a greater reach in his gaits, more bounce in his jumps and increased control in his turns.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue # 231.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Research Update: Equine Heart Health

Catching up with the United States Eventing Association’s Cardiopulmonary Research Group as it works to solve the puzzle of sudden equine deaths in competition

By Sushil Dulai Wenholz

Two horses lost their lives on the cross-country course at the spring Red Hills International Horse Trials in Tallahassee, Florida, in 2008. The deaths of both horses, Jonathan Holling’s Direct Merger and Missy Miller’s Leprechaun’s Rowdy Boy, were ultimately attributed to heart-related problems. Certainly it wasn’t the first time an eventing horse had died on course or from heart trouble. But those two losses were, perhaps, the pair of straws that finally broke the camel’s back and helped spark a research effort by the U.S. Eventing Association that continues to this day, aimed at preventing such tragedies.

Raising the Question

Not long after Red Hills, the USEA officially launched its Equine Cardiopulmonary Research Group, led by Catherine Kohn, VMD; A. Kent Allen, DVM; Mark Revenaugh, DVM and Eleanor M. Green, DVM.

“If you look back at what was going on in eventing when we started, there were concerns about what seemed to be a surge of horses that died in competition,” says Dr. Kohn. “These were seemingly healthy horses at well-run competitions. Incidents like this are catastrophic for the horse, of course, but also for the rider and the eventing community.”

The CRG was formed, she adds, in an attempt to apply science to the question of what was causing these unexpected deaths. And, since 2008, members have been working toward an answer.

Setting the Stage

CRG members started the project by looking at horse deaths on cross country. They identified two categories: fatalities attributed to injuries from falls and fatalities where the horse did not appear to be injured. CRG research has focused on this second group.

Next, researchers reviewed deaths of human athletes in competition and found that cardiac problems were often implicated. “So we decided to start [our study] by looking at the cardio and respiratory health of horses competing in eventing,” says Dr. Kohn.

At the 2009 Plantation Field Horse Trials, the researchers ran a pilot study, completing electrocardiograms (ECG) and heart and lung ultrasounds on 20 horses the day before and immediately following the cross-country test.

An ECG records the heart rhythm and heart rate. An ultrasound, or “echo” study, uses ultrasound waves to make images of the heart muscle and the portion of the lungs closest to the skin. One type of echo study, an echocardiogram, specifically makes images of the heart muscle as it moves so that the size, shape, quality of the motility of the heart muscle and the functioning of the heart valves can be assessed.

Veteran four-star eventer Allison Springer was one of the volunteer participants at that first trial, competing in the CIC*** with Destination Known. “The study can be successful only with a broad range of data gathered from participants like me,” says Allison, explaining her decision to join the study. “The welfare of my horses is of the utmost importance to me. I feel that participation is a responsibility that I owe to all the amazing horses that compete in my sport.”

Dr. Kohn recaps the results of that first study, saying, “We didn’t find anything egregious in those horses. There was nothing to suggest that the horses tested had unsuspected heart or lung abnormalities that might lead to a catastrophic incident on course. As 20 horses is a small study population, we consider this a pilot study. However, our results did not support the hypothesis that undetected structural heart or lung disease is common in healthy event horses.”

The researchers carried out several other studies, including one looking at levels of cardiac troponin, a protein released when the heart muscle is damaged. In this study, researchers collected blood samples from horses at rest and following the cross-country test at two competitions.

“The horses were all healthy with no obvious heart disease, yet several showed a substantial increase in troponin levels after the cross-country test,” says Dr. Kohn. “We were intrigued by these results. However, we tested horses at additional competitions and did not find concerning increases in post-cross country troponin levels. This information, as well as the expense of troponin assays, led us to decide not to commit resources to this line of investigation. We are hopeful that we may obtain funding for additional troponin studies in the future.”

The Devil Is in The Details—or the Device

The result of those initial field studies was the creation of this hypothesis: Horses may develop transient cardiac arrhythmias (an irregular heartbeat) while on cross country. In this condition, the heart rhythm breaks down, making it difficult for the horse to pump blood efficiently. In some instances, these arrhythmias may compromise exercise tolerance and could lead to falls, injury or fatalities.

How to prove or disprove the theory? “We needed to look at the electrical activity of the horses’ hearts while they were competing to try to answer the question, ‘What’s happening on the field of play?’” says Dr. Kohn.

To do that, researchers needed a recording device that would remain in position on the horse during the twists, turns, ups, downs and speed of a cross-country run. However, such a device wasn’t commercially available and, says Dr. Kohn, “It soon became apparent that the ‘devil was in the details,’ and fabricating a device that would stay in place would be a challenge.”

In fact, it took several years of trial, error and modification to develop an effective system. Two CRG members, Doctors Ric Birks and Mary Durando, had engineered a recording system that they were using successfully on racehorses. They made some modifications to this system for use in event horses during competition.

“In 2013 and 2014, we were able to acquire interpretable recordings of heart rhythm during the cross country in approximately 65 to 70 percent of the horses we tested,” explains Dr. Kohn. “We are very pleased with the performance of this system.”

The recording system consists of electrodes in the area of the girth and on the horse’s back with wires connecting the electrodes to the recorder itself. The recorder is secured inside a small pouch sewn to a saddle pad. Researchers affix the system before the horse goes to the cross-country warm-up, and the system remains in place until after the cross-country test. The researchers are then able to record the electrical activity of the heart at rest, during the less-intense work of the warm-up, during the cross-country test itself and during at least the early few minutes of the recovery period.

Allison, who also participated in a field study at the Plantation Field CIC** in 2015 aboard Cascani, attests to the advancement of the system. “The equipment used to gather information has improved significantly in the past years, allowing for more accurate information-gathering,” she says.

For study participants, Allison explains, the process is simple. “A couple of vets came to my stall when we were tacking up for cross country. They have a thin quilt saddle pad that held the sensors. They were very mindful about me being 100 percent comfortable with the placement of the pad, that the wires were comfortably tucked away and that no piece of extra equipment would influence my performance in any way. The vets were excellent to work with.”

Making Progress

By the end of 2015, CRG members had conducted studies at the 2014 Waredaca Horse Trials, the 2015 horse trials at the Horse Parks of New Jersey and Fair Hill, the 2015 Plantation Field CIC, and the 2015 Fair Hill Three-Day Event. Participants—all volunteers—have included approximately 65 horses competing at Beginner Novice through the CCI*** level. Researchers briefly examine each recording at the event and inform riders if significant heart irregularities are detected.

“Our next task was to determine how many of our recordings were of sufficiently high quality to be interpretable,” says Dr. Kohn. For that step, two to four veterinarians specializing in equine cardiology make a preliminary review of each of the recordings. Those that pass this screening test are then examined in detail by the same veterinarians.

“Recordings vary in length from 30 minutes to as long as 90 minutes,” explains Dr. Kohn. “Detailed review of these recordings is time-consuming, especially considering that all of our researchers are volunteers with full-time jobs. We are currently working on the detailed analyses of our 2015 data.”

The researchers hope that during the 2016 competition season they’ll hit 100 useable recordings—a large enough number, says Dr. Kohn, “to give us a good idea of the electrical activity of the hearts of healthy horses in the cross-country phase of an eventing competition.”

Since the group’s key researchers live on the East Coast, studies to date have taken place in the East for the sake of convenience and to minimize expenditures. The group hopes to extend their studies to the Midwest and possibly the West Coast this year. “We want to give more riders an opportunity to volunteer and thus ensure that we have as broad a population of eventing horses in our study as possible,” says Dr. Kohn.

Looking Forward

“We are very pleased to be able to obtain, for the first time as far as we know, interpretable recording of the electrical activity of the hearts of horses galloping and jumping their way around a competition cross-country course,” says Dr. Kohn. “We are now focused on studying sufficient horses to get our 100 interpretable recordings and an analysis of the large amount of data we have in hand.”

Dr. Kohn refrains from offering conjecture on results from data that is still being evaluated. “Speculation is dangerous,” she says. “Our goal is to be open-minded and approach our data in a scientific way so that our conclusions will be valid. You formulate a hypothesis, test it and then the data proves whether your hypothesis is right or wrong.”

One thing Dr. Kohn doesn’t expect the studies to include: recordings from horses who collapse on course. Luckily, such incidents remain uncommon, she explains, making it extremely unlikely statistically that the group will capture recordings from such a horse during one of the field studies.

Dr. Kohn is also willing to share her hopes: “I hope that we don’t find significantly abnormal heart rhythms or occult heart disease in any recording from our 100 horses. If we don’t find evidence of unsuspected heart disease, then we can conclude that recommending specialized screening tests for heart disease in apparently healthy horses is unlikely to be helpful in preventing equine fatalities during competition,” she says.

In addition, she notes, the group would be able to say that transient, potentially performance-limiting heart-rhythm abnormalities didn’t occur in the study population. That would suggest that such abnormalities are unlikely to be common in healthy competition horses and unlikely to be an important cause of collapse or fatality during competition, she explains.

While Dr. Kohn notes that this phase of the research won’t answer all the questions about why fatalities may occur in horses who are competing, it will provide essential baseline data that’s not currently available. “Defining the range of electrical activity of the hearts of healthy horses in competition is essential for interpretation of potentially abnormal exercising ECGs in eventing horses,” she says.

What Riders Can Do Now

While the study moves forward, Dr. Kohn has advice that event riders can act on today. Most important, she says, know your horse’s heart. Ask your vet to listen carefully to the heart. If your vet finds an arrhythmia or a heart murmur, make sure he or she does a comprehensive cardiac exam, including an echocardiogram.

“Consult with a veterinary cardiologist who has experience working with horses and follow his/her advice for ongoing monitoring of your horse,” she encourages. “You will then have the information necessary to make an educated decision as to whether or not your horse should enter a strenuous competition. Refraining from competing horses known to have an increased risk of a heart problem during strenuous exercise will reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities during competitions.”

Allison explains one of the precautions she has implemented: “I take fitness very seriously and have been regularly using heart-rate monitors on my horses for fitness work.”

Dr. Kohn thinks it’s important to point out that all participants in the research study are volunteers. “We are very grateful to the riders who have helped us. Without them, we can’t do anything,” she says. “So if you’re competing and you see our USEA Cardiopulmonary Research Program sign, come talk to us and, if you can, volunteer to be part of our study. We welcome your participation!”

Jonathan Holling: Gaining Something Positive

Jonathan Holling sat aboard his horse, a 1996 Irish Thoroughbred gelding, Direct Merger, in the cross-country start box at the Red Hills International Horse Trials in March 2008. He had every reason to expect the horse to turn in a clean, fast round, just like the year before. But this time, something went wrong.

Clearing a vertical and heading on a three-stride line to a narrow, the typically brave Direct Merger uncharacteristically ran out. “He got wobbly, reared up and died,” recalls Jonathan, emotion still evident in his voice. “I was lucky that it didn’t happen while he was jumping. I walked away unscathed, physically.”

But for Jonathan, it wasn’t enough to feel lucky. He’d seen other riders not walk away. He wondered what if it had been a kid in the saddle—would a smaller, younger person have been unhurt? And most of all, the question haunting him was why his healthy, athletic horse had suddenly died under him.

“I was so upset at the time,” he recalls. “Every time I would ask a vet—really smart, experienced professionals—they would [give an answer] and it seemed to make sense. But eventually they would all get to a point where they had to say, ‘I don’t know,’ because there is not enough research on this issue with eventing horses.”

When Jo Whitehouse of the U.S. Eventing Association approached Jonathan about the fledgling idea of putting together a cardiopulmonary research group, he knew he had to throw his support behind it.

“This was a way to focus on getting something positive out of it all,” says Jonathan. I couldn’t continue to ride horses and event at the top levels if I was not doing something to help understand why this could happen.

“I was shocked at how amazing people were at the time,” he continues. “The whole equine community. I had to take this outpouring of support and turn it into a push for this study.”

Ultimately, he hopes the study will yield a better understanding of why incidents like this occur—maybe allowing riders to identify risk factors sooner as an aid to prevention.

“I’m so appreciative that these really intelligent people are willing to donate their time and support,” says Jonathan. “Right now, I’m looking at a photo of Direct jumping into the Head of the Lake in Kentucky in 2007. I still tear up about [the accident]. It had a huge impact on my life. But if what happened to my horse had any small thing to do with getting the study going, that helps.”

Jonathan Holling and his wife, Jennifer, run Holling Eventing, a full-service training, lesson and sales business based at Willow Run Farm in Ocala, Florida. Jonathan has competed through the CCI**** level at events including the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Burghley Horse Trials and the Nations Cup™ in Boekelo, the Netherlands. He has also coached the USEA Area IV young riders team to two gold medals.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

7 Myths About Equine Nutrition

To help you formulate your horse’s diet based on the best information available, we debunk 7 common myths about equine nutrition.

In 2008, veterinarians at Tufts University Hospital for Large Animals conducted a survey of horse owners. A total of 67 people who brought their horses to the facility for treatment answered general equine management questions, as well as four designed to gauge their understanding of proper equine feeding practices.

The results were unsettling: Less than half of the owners knew the daily hay requirements for an average horse, and 69 percent were mistaken about the proper role of complete concentrates in the equine diet.

Misunderstandings about feeding aren’t unique to this group of horse owners, say the Tufts clinicians who wrote up the survey results in a veterinary journal. And they don’t stem from lack of concern---most of us do our best to feed our horses properly. The problem, in part, is that horsekeeping is rooted in tradition and, as a result, outdated ideas tend to persist, even when disproven by modern research. Add to that outright incorrect information, disseminated quickly in an era of Internet search engines and blogs, and it’s easy to mistake myth for fact when it comes to feeding horses.'

To help ensure your horse’s diet is formulated based on the most up-to-date information available, we’ve laid to rest the top seven horse-feeding myths. Armed with the truth, you can do best by your horses when mealtime rolls around.

Myth 1: Concentrates or grain form the foundation of a horse’s diet; hay is secondary. This might be one of the biggest misconceptions out there about feeding horses. Ideally, a horse’s diet will be structured around hay rather than concentrates or grains. In fact, retired horses and those in light work may do fine on a hay- or pasture-only diet. Concentrated energy feeds are necessary only for hardworking equine athletes, lactating mares and other horses with higher energy demands, or when the hay available does not provide sufficient calories.

Nonetheless, in a balanced equine diet, concentrates will never comprise more than half of a total ration’s weight (“How Much Grain?” page 42). Although individual requirements vary somewhat, most horses do well if they receive about 2 percent of their body weight in forage per day. Excess intake of concentrates and grain can lead to obesity, colic and laminitis.

Keep in mind that if you are feeding a “complete” pellet---one that contains roughage---according to the manufacturer’s instructions, your horse gets his daily requirement of forage as part of his concentrate. Although these feeds are helpful for horses who are unable to chew hay or have respiratory conditions aggravated by the dust in hay, they may not be the best choice for horses who do not need them. Not only does munching hay help keep a horse occupied, discouraging stall vices, but the bulk this forage provides helps keep his digestive tract working properly.

Myth 2: Bran mashes have a laxative effect and help keep a horse warm. There’s certainly something satisfying about preparing a bran mash for your horse on a chilly winter’s day. There’s also a certain peace of mind that comes with offering a bran-based slurry to a horse who tends to have digestive troubles. What’s more, most horses relish bran mashes. But modern research has shown that these mixtures have no laxative effect and do not prevent colic. Nor do bran mashes offer a lasting “heating” effect for a horse. In fact, overzealous feeding of bran can do more harm than good, because its high phosphorus content can lead to serious mineral imbalances.

Myth 3: Horses must be fed at the same time every day. Our horses may have helped perpetuate this myth. Anyone who has heard the ruckus horses can kick up five minutes before breakfast is due can be forgiven for thinking feeding times are critical, but in reality they are not. Horses fed at regular intervals are conditioned to expect meals at certain times, but there is no physiological reason to stick to a strict schedule. A horse fed only two meals a day, with restricted forage in between, may be extremely hungry by the time his meal arrives, but he will not be harmed if it’s an hour earlier or later than usual. It’s better, however, to mimic a horse’s natural feeding schedule as closely as possible, by allowing your horse free-choice hay throughout the day. Not only will he more patient if you’re a bit tardy with his dinner, but his gut will function better and his risk of colic and laminitis will be dramatically reduced.

Myth 4: Alfalfa is too “rich” to be safely fed to horses. This seems to be a regional myth: Many horses in Western states happily and safely eat the very alfalfa that some East Coast horse owners are afraid to include in equine rations. Alfalfa does contain more protein, digestible energy and calcium0 than grass hays, but it is usually lower in soluble0 sugars. Its reputation for being “rich” may stem from the highly nutritious leaves, which are more digestible than most hays and can contribute to gastrointestinal upset and even colic if introduced too quickly into a horse’s diet.It’s wise to gradually introduce alfalfa hay to your horse’s diet, just as you would acclimate him to lush pasture grass. Most horses would get obese if fed good quality alfalfa free-choice, so it is usually best fed in limited amounts, supplemented with grass hay that provides adequate “chew time” to ward off boredom.

Alfalfa’s higher protein and calcium content do result in increased urine output (and water intake) but are not at all harmful to a healthy horse’s kidneys. In fact, it has been reported that the addition of alfalfa to rations of horses confined to stalls and fed limited amounts of forage actually protects against ulcers, probably due to the buffering effects of the higher protein and calcium. Finally, contrary to popular belief, research has shown that alfalfa will not cause, and may actually prevent, developmental orthopedic disorders, such as osteochondritis dissecans in young horses.

Myth 5: Weight issues, such as being too skinny or fat, are solely related to how a horse is fed. It’s easy to look to a horse’s ration to explain weight gain or loss, and often that’s where you’ll find the answers. But sometimes a horse’s weight problem isn’t directly related to his feed ration. A horse who is too thin, for example, may have dental problems that prevent him from chewing his food properly. In addition, parasite loads or systemic illness can cause a horse to lose weight even if he is receiving adequate amounts of quality feed. Anytime a horse has trouble holding weight, a complete veterinary exam is needed to determine the cause. Likewise, an obese horse is obviously being fed more calories than he needs, but simply cutting back his ration is only part of the solution. Some horses have a so-called thrifty gene which allows them to “live on air” and gain weight even on sparse, forage-only diets. They may also be more susceptible to metabolic disorders and laminitis. In these cases, the best course is a weight-control program that integrates an exercise regimen---such as active riding four days a week---along with a restricted diet.

Myth 6: Corn is a “heating” feed. The misguided notion that feeding corn helps to keep horses physically warm probably stems from how behaviorally “hot” this ration can make some of them. A quart of corn weighs much more than a quart of oats, so owners may unwittingly be supplying a corn-fed horse with many more calories---and energy---than another feed provides in the same volume. Speaking in terms of temperature, however, any metabolic warmth generated by corn is minimal and short-lived. Corn has its place in the equine diet, but a far better “heating” feed for winter months is hay. This fibrous bulk is digested comparatively slowly, and the bacteria in the gut doing that work produce heat for a longer period of time.

Myth 7: Letting a hot horse drink cold water is dangerous. Although this myth isn’t strictly about feeding, it is so persistent and potentially damaging that it’s worth debunking as often as possible. Research has repeatedly shown that a hot, sweaty horse who drinks cold water is not at a greater risk of colic, cramping or laminitis. How this myth arose isn’t clear, but one expert postulates that years ago, before the physiological effects of exhaustion were fully understood, water intake may have been blamed for laminitis or colic in horses who were simply overworked. Withholding water can lead to dangerous dehydration. In fact, it’s best to allow your horse to drink when he is at his most thirsty, which is probably right after his workout. Waiting until he is “cool” may result in him drinking less, even if he is dehydrated.

This article originally appeared in EQUUS Magazine.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tight Nosebands May Cause Stress

Studies have shown that too-tight nosebands on bridles can cause stress and other health problems for your horse.

By Sushil Dulai Wenholz

The next time you’re tempted to tighten your horse’s noseband just one more hole, you may want to think twice. According to a recent study by an Australian research team, excessively tight nosebands not only could be stressful but even harmful to a horse’s welfare.

The study assessed the relationship of noseband tightness on oral behaviors (licking, chewing, yawning) and stress behaviors (as indicated by heart rate, heart-rate variability and eye temperature). Researchers used a dozen horses of various ages, breeds, heights and gender. The horses wore double bridles with padded crank nosebands, a combination often seen in higher level dressage. A double bridle has both a curb bit and bridoon (a narrow, single- jointed snaffle bit) plus a curb chain. A crank noseband has a leveraged buckle that allows for a tighter fit than a plain cavesson. To avoid the influence of previous exposure, the study used only horses who had never worn a double bridle or a crank noseband before.

During the study, horses were assigned to one of four research groups each day based on tightness of the noseband: unfastened noseband; conventional area under noseband, specifically, two fingers of space; half conventional area under noseband, specifically, one finger of space; or no area under the noseband. Each horse experienced each tightness level once over four consecutive days. A heart-rate monitor girth and a video camera were used to record the horses’ reactions during three 10-minute sessions: baseline (noseband not tightened), treatment (noseband tightened according to horse’s group) and recovery (bridle removed).

Researchers found that horses wearing the tightest nosebands demonstrated stress reactions, including significant increases in heart-rate and eye temperature, a significant decrease in heart rate variability and cessation of licking.

Horses in all groups also showed a post-inhibitory rebound response during recovery. Essentially, this happens when the horse experiences a period of restriction and afterward shows an increase in a behavior compared to baseline. It indicates that a horse’s welfare has been compromised during the period of restriction.

For instance, after showing reduced chewing with nosebands on, the tightest groups showed a significant increase in chewing during recovery. The loosest group showed much less chewing during recovery, suggesting that these horses felt less deprivation during the test phase. Yawning, swallowing and licking all increased during recovery, compared to the baseline, for all groups.

Overall, study results suggest that very tight nosebands may cause stress and/or pain and may prevent a horse from performing normal oral behaviors often associated with comfort. However, researchers noted that horses may have been reacting not only to noseband tightness but also to the unfamiliarity of wearing two bits.

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Secret Lives of Horses

Lunch on the Hill: Polo Machine
By Pam Gleason

Lunch on the Hill has it pretty easy these days. The black Thoroughbred mare lives in Aiken at Hilltop Farm, her owner Karen Reese’s 80-acre polo training facility. She shares her 30-acre pasture with 12 other retired ponies as well as a pair of weanlings. At 23, she still looks strong and fit, her back only slightly swayed thanks to her age and the fact that she has had four foals. Sometimes the herd goes into another pasture with a pond, where all the horses enjoy soaking their legs in the water. On hot days, they cool off by rolling in it. The other old horses stick together, but Lunch looks after the babies.

“She knows she’s retired,” says Karen. “But she thinks the foals are hers and she mothers them. When I throw hay out, she and the two babies eat together and the other old horses eat separately.”

But if an observer were to mistake Lunch’s calm demeanor for quietness, or were to assume that her age and experience had made her laid back and easy going, they would be in for a surprise. Lunch has always been both a top athlete and a quirky horse who is not shy abut letting her rider know that she is the one who is ultimately in charge.

“If I saddled her up right now, she’d throw an NFR [National Finals Rodeo] show,” says Karen with a laugh. “She’s still a snort. She could probably still be playing polo under a young person but I couldn’t do it because every time you turn her out and bring her back in you had better be prepared, because the old lady can buck.”

Lunch on the Hill was bred in Midland, Texas by Bart Evans, a former 8-goal international player, trainer and breeder who is in the National Museum of Polo Hall of Fame. The Evans family breeds horse for the racetrack as well as the polo field, and Lunch on the Hill was originally destined to be a racehorse. She is out of a mare called Dining Out by State Dinner. Her sire, Worthingtonhills by Mr. Prospector, never amounted to much on the racetrack himself, but he was so well bred and well put together that he sold for $180,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland in 1984.

As a young horse, Lunch on the Hill was an athletic beauty with a gleaming black coat and a distinctive white blaze, but you could not add the word “tractable” to her list of attributes. When it was time for her to learn to be a racehorse, she let everyone know she was having none of it.

“They broke her at the ranch and she was such a bronc, they tell me she bucked out of a 9-foot round pen,” says Karen. “She didn’t jump it. She bucked so high she went up on one side of the fence and came down on the other side.”

Miguel Silverstre, a well known polo pony trainer who worked for Bart at the time, eventually helped Lunch decide to allow people to ride her, and she had her first polo lessons under him. Before long, she was playing in practices with the Evans family. They played her in Texas, and they brought her to Florida where Robert Evans, Bart’s son, played her at South Forty, a private polo club in Wellington. It was there that Karen first saw her.

“I was making horses for Julie and Tommy Boyle at the time and I was playing against her and seeing her every day,” says Karen. “She was absolutely stunningly beautiful. She was this super shiny black thing with a white face and she could fly. She was pretty sassy to ride in the beginning of the season and very powerful and forward. I loved everything about her. I was always saying to everyone, ‘I love that mare.’”

Lunch on the Hill was for sale, but she was definitely a big ticket item with a serious price tag. Aside from being a little difficult early in the season, however, she also had a tendency to hit herself when she was running. As a consequence of hitting herself, she would damage a tendon, and need months of rest and rehabilitation. This happened more than once. About two years after Karen first saw her, Robert gave her a call.

"Do you still want that mare?” He asked.

“Absolutely,” Karen replied. “I want you to know she has a fresh bow,” he said.

“I don’t care,” said Karen.

And so Lunch on the Hill came to Aiken, a gift to Karen from the Evans family. Originally, the idea was that she was to be a broodmare, but Karen got her late in the season and was unable to get her into foal immediately. Looking at her feet and her legs, she thought that she could return the mare to soundness, and so she called Robert to ask him if he would mind if she tried to fix the tendon and play the horse. He told her he didn’t mind and so Karen began a careful rehabilitation program.

And it worked. Lunch stopped hitting herself, stayed sound and proved to be everything that Karen had dreamt of and more: fast, handy, beautiful and strong, with a great mouth and an exceptional sense of the game.

“She’s a really competitive horse,” says Karen. “She was one of those horses that really loves polo and knows the game. There were no holes in her game and she could pretty much play without you. She could play with anyone and she played unbelievably under any kind of rider. She could read the play better than most people!”

Lunch knew the game so well, she would always take you to the next play very quickly, whether you knew what that next play was or not. If you hit a neckshot, she knew how to stay on the line of the ball. She even knew when a game was important and when it wasn’t, playing her heart out for a tournament game, but only giving a small percentage in a practice. She loved to run, and she was fast as the wind. But after a goal was scored, and it was time to go back to the throw-in, it would be at a leisurely canter back and she couldn’t be persuaded to to pick up her pace.

“It cracked me up. It was like she was saving herself. When the ball got thrown in, it was game on. But from the goal to the throw-in: hand canter. You could urge her on and even whip her, but she never went any faster.”

Lunch on the Hill played every kind of polo and excelled on every field and in every arena, winning 11 Best Playing Pony awards in her career. She was so much fun to play, Karen often loaned her to visiting players, including women who came for the Aiken Ladies Invitational tournament, and players who participated in an annual 30-goal exhibition that was played in Aiken during the late 1990s and early 2000s. People who rode her included the 10-goal player Memo Gracida and Lesley Ann Masterson Fong-Yee from Jamaica.

“I think I only played Lunch once,” says Lesley Ann. “She was indeed a great pony. I knew her better with Karen playing her in so many of the tournaments we played together. Karen has had many very good horses pass through her hands but when she got on Lunch on the Hill, her handicap literally went up a goal. She had so much confidence in her that she would go for and make plays that she wouldn’t attempt on other horses. It would give the entire team a boost to know that Karen was coming out on Lunch next. If we were behind it was a chance to catch up, if ahead consolidate!”

In 2002, Lunch went to Saratoga, where she was BPP in the women’s tournament under Karen, as well as BPP in the 22-goal and the 8-goal, playing under Justin Pimsner, who was married to Karen at the time. It was the height of her playing career: she was a 10-year-old powerhouse: fast, strong and living up to her full potential on the field.

And then tragedy struck. In August, Justin packed up the trailer and headed home from Saratoga. As he drove down route 87, his truck tire blew out and he lost control of the rig. The truck and trailer went off the road and turned over. Justin was trapped in the cab for several hours and was badly injured. Six of the 10 horses on board were killed or euthanized on the scene. Four, including Lunch on the Hill, were transported to Saratoga Equine Clinic. Lunch was badly injured with deep lacerations, contusions and scrapes. One of her hooves was mostly torn off and her right hip was sliced through. But, with the help of the veterinarians and a device that the farrier Randy Greer made to support her injured hoof, she began to recover. She was the only one of the ten horses on the trailer that day who would not ultimately die from her injuries.

“It was terribly traumatic for all of us,” says Karen. “I try not to think about it.”

After five weeks at the clinic and another few months recovering at a farm in New York, Lunch came back to Hilltop to begin her new life as a broodmare at long last.

“For me, the biggest thing after the wreck was her stepping back on a trailer,” says Karen. “She walked right on. To me, that just said, I trust you to get me home.”

For the next four years, Lunch had babies sired by Hilltop’s stallion Toga: Picnic in the Shade, Table for Two, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Yum Yum. Her foals inherited their mother’s quirkiness, proving themselves difficult to break and almost as “bronc-y” as their mother. But once they submitted to training, they were exceptional polo ponies. Today, Breakfast at Tiffany’s plays in Aiken under Paul Shealy. Yum Yum found her way into Adolfo Cambiaso’s string. Adolfo, 10 goals and usually considered the best player in the world, rode Yum Yum to the Gaucho Best Playing Pony award at the 22-goal Coronation Cup in England in 2014.

After Yum Yum, Karen felt that she didn’t need to break any more broncos, and so she decided to see if Lunch could come back to work as a polo pony. She saddled her up, endured the expected rodeo episode, and then legged her up for polo. Karen’s plan was to allow her daughter Tess, now 16, to ride the mare, who had so much to teach a young player. For the first year, Karen made sure she played conservatively, which was not to Lunch’s liking. But the second year, the mare seemed to realize that she wasn’t a high goal horse any more and things were going to be a little easier.

“When I brought her back the second year, she turned into a completely different horse. She used to be a freight train. But when she realized it was just going to be Tess and I, she turned into a push ride. I played her and Tess played her. She really helped Tess step up her game.” And she wasn’t done winning Best Playing Pony awards either: she won her last one at 18 in a 4-goal at Aiken Polo Club in 2011.

Today, Lunch is fully retired – the days of polo and having babies are behind her, as is the trauma of the catastrophic accident that nearly took her life.

“The Evans family gave her to me, and in return, I promised her safe haven for the rest of her life,” says Karen, whose business is buying and selling horses. “I have never had her for sale, and I would never sell her. She has been a horse of a lifetime for me.”

Of all the horses that Karen has owned and ridden, where does Lunch on the Hill stand? Karen does not take long to answer.

“She’s at the top. She’s at the top for one reason and it’s that she had a heart that would never say die. She had a core of steel and she was a bottomless pit of “try.” She could fly; she was super handy, had a great mouth, and she was super fun to play. She’s a one of a kind horse. They don’t make them like her anymore.”

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Greatly Appreciated Note from a Three Runs Property Owner

Happy Fall! While our friend Diane is happy training with an FEI rider on the West coast, we are living in her house and preparing to build on our lot next door. Every morning we enjoy a brisk walk on the trails with our dog, and out the windows of Diane’s kitchen we see bicyclers, joggers & others getting their morning exercise & walking their dogs as well. Throughout the day riders come and go from the arena, some taking lessons, others doing a bit of schooling before enjoying a hack on the trails. Our competition riders are out doing gallop & trot sets in the cooler morning air, and from our location at what will eventually be the center of the development, it’s already a hub of contented equestrian activity, gaited horses go whizzing by to access the trails, riders gallop and school the cross country fences and the occasional team harnessed to a carriage rolls by. Maybe contented people don't speak up as much about their experience because they're so busy being content. This is an amazing place to live, and if I'd known it existed when I was a little girl, I would have dreamed of nothing else.

Forgive us if we get so busy enjoying life here that we forget to pause and say thank you.

U & E

Testimonial for Equestrian Community in Aiken, SC
Testimonial for Equestrian Community in Aiken, SC

Visit her website at

Winter Edition of Equestrian Quarterly

We wanted to share this fantastic article about Aiken, South Carolina in the Winter Edition of Equestrian Quarterly. Enjoy!

Read The Article

Palace Malice, Aiken Trained Horse of the Year

Palace Malice (Jockey Mike Smith)
2013 Belmont Stakes
Three Runs residents Mike and Kari Schneider are owner partners in Dogwood Stable's thoroughbred, Palace Malice. He has been selected the 2013 Aiken Trained Horse of the Year.

The 2013 Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes winner, Palace Malice, becomes the second Dogwood Stable horse to receive the distinction, with the first being Limehouse in 2005.

The ceremony will be held on Sunday, March 16, 2014, at the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. 

Matariki Finished 7th Place

Kathy and Mattie competing cross-country at Pine Top in Georgia.
Photo by Kristy Rathkamp.

Another Three Runs Plantation resident, Kathy Viele, and her mare Matariki have also had a great year! 

They won the Heart of the Carolina Training Level Three-Day Event in May and finished the year in 7th place on the USEA Training Leaderboard for Master Rider and 10th Place for Master Amateur Rider!

Mattie is a homebred mare. Kathy also uses her as a staff horse whipping-in with Whiskey Road Fox Hounds and Why Worry Hounds. 

Saphira is the USDF 2013 Dressage Horse of the Year at 4th Level! | 1/23/15

Saphira and Heather McCarthy taking a victory lap at Nationals in November.
Three Runs Plantation residents John McGuire and Dr. Marilyn Johnson are the proud owners of Saphira, a 9 year-old Oldenburg Verband mare. 

Saphira, ridden by Heather McCarthy, has had a fantastic year...she is the USDF 2013 Dressage Horse of the Year at 4th Level!

Saphira is also a National Champion at 4th Level and Prix St. Georges. She will be showing in Wellington, FL in February to begin her quest for making the 2015 Pan Am team. The games will be held in Toronto. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Aiken Real Estate | 10/10/2014

By Pam Gleason

The most successful equestrian development selling in Aiken today is Three Runs Plantation. Three Runs is unique in that lots there have been selling briskly, even through economic and real estate downturn. The first two phases of the development are sold out, and only a handful of lots and a few builder homes remain in phases three and four. Demand is so great, phase five will be available soon. The development's master plan encompasses 2,400 acres of land bordering Cedar Creek with many acres left in conservation.

Why do so many people want to live in Three Runs? One thing is certainly the equestrian amenities. These include a professional dressage arena as well as a jumping arena with show quality jumps and competition footing. There is also a six acre fenced schooling area with a cross country schooling complex desgined by Hugh Lochore, an FEI course designer. For trail riding or carriage driving, there are 30 miles of groomed trails, complete with maps and picnic shelters. When not enjoying their horses, residents of Three Runs can enjoy various "lifestyle amenities." These include a clubhouse, outdoor pavilion, pool and cabana. There is a strong community feeling at Three Runs, which has attracted an amazing assortment of horse lovers from across the United States and around the globe.

Equestrian real estate in Aiken can be divided into different areas, each one with its own unique flavor. Back before the real estate boom of the 2000s, most horse people wanted to live in town. They bought gracious old estates in the historic district, staying close to the Hitchcock Woods and to downtown's charming shops and restaurants. Some of those estates are on the market today, attracting horse lovers who can afford to reinvest their stock market earning in a $1 million plus property.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.