I hear this thing called ‘competition season’ is approaching. As a cat, I compete with no one. I am perfection, and I know it. However, I understand things are different in your world. You humans have a thing called horse shows, where you compete for who has the prettiest browband, most silver on their saddle, or most expensive outfit. No wait, that’s not true. You compete for who has the best horse! Oftentimes the most important competition, however, is the one between your current self and your past self. Can you make today’s performance better than your last one? Yep, that was a deeply profound statement from a cat. I am a keen observer of the human psyche, even if it looks like I’m sound asleep most of the time. To prepare you humans for the upcoming competition season, I have prepared Tony’s guide to getting the best performance ever.
Go find a mirror. They’re everywhere. You can even point your phone at yourself and hit the record button if needed. Now, look deep into your eyes and honestly determine your goals for the next year to 18 months. But how do I know if it’s an appropriate goal, Tony? Good question. Goals ask us to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone. Improve upon what we’ve got now, but not go to the impossible. For example, if you and Spot are currently working on how to trot a 20 meter circle, then making the Olympic Dressage Team in the next 12-18 months is probably unrealistic. However, scoring a 65% on a training level test at a recognized show is an excellent goal. Goals must be something you can achieve, or they will annihilate your willingness to try.
I got skills!
I’ve got a goal, I’m good to go. One year from now I will have achieved my goal because I said I have a goal. Yeah, that’s not how that works. Look at your goal. For simplicity (you humans are a simple species), I’m going to stick with the dressage thing. Your goal is to score a 65%. Make a list of the skills needed to achieve a 65% at training level. What are you great at? What do you really, really need to work at? If you can nail a halt from the walk, trot, or canter, don’t spend a whole lot of time on that. If your 20 meter circle looks like something a 2-year-old drew with their eyes closed, you should spend lots and lots of time working on geometry! Making a list of what you rock, what you are OK at, and what you really, really need to work on will help you see how best to achieve your goal.
I mean this in every sense of the word. If you are reading this, chances are you’re a crazy horse person. This means you should probably get some counseling. If you are still reading this, you have now identified some skills you need to improve. Get help to improve them. Go to a clinic, find a trainer, seek out a friend who’s riding skills you admire. Chances are good you aren’t the only one who has trouble with that skill. In our dressage example, riding round circles is really hard. Talk to your trainer (or friend) about where your difficulties lie. Tell a clinician you seem to prefer abstract circles to the round variety, and ask if they have any help for this issue. Keep your eye on that goal. Don’t get distracted and work on your already amazing halts over and over and over again. Work on the things that are holding you back. Practice what you’re bad at.
Keep the Pressure On
When I tell you this next step, I want you to remember this blog is free. That’s right, I give you all this amazing cat wisdom for free. This may be the most important step: Find someone who will hold you accountable. It can be a horse friend, a trainer, a Facebook friend, (probably not your spouse) anyone that will listen to your progress from the previous 10-14 days, your outline for the next 10-14 days, and not cut you any slack on excuses for not achieving. This person will help you ride when it’s dark, cold, and/or raining outside. This person will push you to do more that you ever thought you could. And the best part? You can do the same for them!
No excuses, humans! The weather is great for riding. We have access to amazing talent in Florida for the winter in pretty much every discipline you can do with a horse! The only thing holding you back is you.
Until next week,
P.S. Don’t want to worry about keeping your horse healthy while you two are achieving these amazing things? Sign up for a Wellness Plan now! Save money, have a happy horse, enjoy more time. Click here before our limited slots are gone.
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!
Ever have problems loading your horse on the trailer? Tony reveals all the tricks of the trade!
So, I have a complaint. On Saturday morning my minions came to feed me as usual. But then, as they all headed off eagerly to Canterbury Showplace to set up for my Trailering Seminar, they slammed the door in my face! That’s right, they left me here at the clinic with stinky Teanie! Can you believe it? I do all the work designing and promoting the event, then they leave me behind and take all the credit. Well, in case you too got locked behind your kitty door, here is a recap of what you missed.
How NOT to load a horse
Hanging out and observing all the goings on at the clinic, I have seen many methods of loading a horse on a trailer that are fantastically ineffective. If you stand in front of your horse pulling on the leadrope, making lots of noise, rushing, and trying to force your horse into a dark scary hole, I guarantee you it is not going to work. Other poor choices I have seen include shaking a bucket of grain in the trailer while your horse stands outside terrified of the noisy echo coming from inside the hole where he was already convinced monsters were lurking. Also, using short crops on the shoulder or lip chains on the leadrope, both of which tend to drive horses backwards rather than forwards. Another good way to set yourself up for failure is to try to load a horse that does not yet know how to lead, and to move forward when you ask.
If you’re not bored, you’re doing it wrong
Now I am going to share with you and only you, my adoring fans, the great, big, awesome, mind-blowing, earth-shattering, best-kept-secret-in-the-world for loading a horse on the trailer: patience. If you put a very patient person at the horse’s head (like Nancy, who perfectly demonstrated this at my seminar), chances are very good your horse will get on the trailer. Now first, Nancy will have to make sure your horse knows to move forward when asked. Then, your horse will have to get comfortable being close to the trailer, to convince himself that the horse-eating monsters that live inside have left for the day. Finally, Nancy will ask your horse to step into the trailer, immediately rewarding any motion or even a hint of moving in the right direction. For this part, it is helpful to have your second-most-patient friend behind the horse with a longe whip to gently encourage that forward motion, and to immediately release pressure when the forward motion is achieved.
How to haul a horse trailer
Well, I guess I would know what to tell you here if they had invited me to my own event! Apparently Justin did a killer job giving demonstrations, explanations, and hands-on training to the attendees. He taught them how to do this fancy move called an L-turn for backing your trailer into a tight spot. He warned against passenger-side backing, and advised using a ground person to watch your blind spots whenever possible. The biggest take home message that was passed along to me was safety first when hauling: always think about what you are going to do before you do it. Don’t pull into that gas station without thinking about your exit strategy. Don’t pull forward into a narrow spot if you are not comfortable turning your trailer around. Don’t hesitate to get out and walk around the back of the trailer instead of just backing up until you hear a crunch!
I hope everyone other than me was able to make it to this amazing event. But if you missed it, save the date for my next seminar, Wednesday April 19th on Geriatrics! Don’t worry, I won’t let them keep me away next time.
Ah, your mare! You look wistfully back on your history with her. You and your mare have accomplished a lot. She’s made your dreams come true; she’s been there as your partner, and companion through thick and thin. You’re ready for her to carry on her legacy with a foal. You’ve poured through the magazines, you’ve researched performance records, and you’re a pedigree expert. Your perfect stallion has been found and is even 5 panel testing negative! Oh goody!
What the heck is 5 panel testing? Is it a good thing when a stallion is negative? What’s a positive mean? Never fear, your intrepid feline source of information is here.
Why do I care about 5 panel testing?
Long ago, in a land far, far away horses were bred for speed, muscle, good looks, color. You name it, humans have bred for it. Along the way some other stuff was selected for too, on accident. Beginning about 30 years ago, scientists found a way to test genes to see if some of the not so desirable stuff was present in the DNA of a horse.
In 2015, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) took the important step of saying “Hey, we can test for a bunch of bad stuff. Let’s make sure we breed responsibly.” This means that ALL stallions that file a stallion report now have these results available to you the mare owner. Many other breeds have their own genetic diseases that are routinely tested for. Not sure about your breed of choice? Ask the registration association for that breed or check with my minions. My minions work hard to stay up-to-date on this ever changing world.
What does 5 panel testing test for?
The 5 Panel Test covers, shockingly, 5 major genetic disorders common in Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Paints: Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP), Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy type 1 (PSSM 1), Malignant Hyperthermia (MH), Hereditary Epidermal Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA), and Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED).
These diseases are all caused by one teeny, tiny mutation which makes them easy to test for, and they all cause really bad diseases. I put a short description about all of them at the bottom of this blog in case you want to read more about them.
Should I test my mare?
You really should. That’s the short answer. Here’s the long one. You can never have too much information when it comes to breeding. Additionally, HYPP, PSSM, and MH could cause health problems for your mare during pregnancy so knowing if she’s got them can be very helpful to your wonderful veterinarians.
You really, really should do the 5 panel testing if your stallion choice is positive for any of them. If you have found that perfect hunk of a guy for your mare, but he’s positive for one of these diseases, you really need to know if your mare is positive too. If she is, you are definitely going to have to go back to the pretty pictures and find her a different guy.
I’m pretty sure I can now pass a test on this 5 panel testing! Want more information? Call, text, or e-mail my humans. They love talking about mares, and babies, and stallions, okay, pretty much anything horse. Until next week, may your litter box be clean and your food bowl full.
HYPP stands for Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. This disease affects the electrical impulses within the body that control muscle contraction. The defective gene results in clinical signs of muscle tremors and fasciculations. In some severe cases, horses may be unable to stand, or even unable to breathe. Horses can show symptoms with only one copy of the defective gene, but symptoms are often more severe if they have two copies of the mutation. This disease affects mostly halter horses, and can be traced back to the prolific stallion ‘Impressive’. Since Impressive lines were also used in Paint and Appaloosa halter breeding programs, HYPP is found in those breeds as well. AQHA does not allow registration of foals that test positive for two copies of the defective gene (H/H), but will allow registration of foals that are H/N: one defective and one normal gene.
PSSM stands for Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy. This disease causes changes in the way sugars are stored and used by the muscles. It causes frequent episodes of ‘tying up’ if not properly controlled by a special diet and regular low intensity exercise. There are two types of PSSM. Type 1 is caused by a genetically identified mutation, which is testable. Type 2 is suspected to be genetic, but that mutation has not yet been identified by researchers. Most Quarter Horses with PSSM have type 1. Horses will show symptoms of PSSM type 1 with one or two copies of the mutation. Like HYPP, PSSM type 1 is more common in halter QHs than in other lines. Some QHs have been shown to have mutations for both HYPP and PSSM.
HERDA stands for Hereditary Epidermal Regional Dermal Asthenia. Horses with HERDA have defective collagen, an important protein that is part of skin, cartilage, muscles, and tendons. The major clinical sign is skin that is easily injured, torn, or even sloughed off. The skin is also very slow to heal. There is no treatment for the condition, and horses that have it are often euthanized. Horses will only show symptoms if they have two copies of the mutation for HERDA. Horses with only one copy of the mutation are clinically normal. These animals are called ‘carriers’. They can pass copies of the mutation to their foals, and if one carrier is bred to another carrier, the foal might inherit the mutation from both parents and be symptomatic. HERDA is limited mostly to horses with reining and cutting horse bloodlines.
GBED stands for Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency. Like PSSM, this disease also affects how sugars are stored, but in a different and more severe way. It results in abortions, stillborn foals, and foals that are alive but weak at birth and die or are euthanized soon after. Like with HERDA, horses may be carriers for GBED – if a horse has only one copy of the mutation it will be clinically normal. Paints and Appaloosas can also carry the GBED mutation.
MH stands for Malignant Hyperthermia. This disease changes the way muscle cells handle calcium, and thus the metabolism of the cell. Horses with MH will appear normal most of the time, but have specific occasions when they show symptoms. During an attack, horses will have a very high fever, profuse sweating, high and irregular heart rate, high blood pressure, and rigid muscles. Attacks are triggered by certain anesthetic agents or stress, and are sometimes fatal. MH is believed to be less common than either HYPP or PSSM, but the percentage of affected horses is not yet known. Several breeds including Quarter Horses and Paints can be affected. Horses may be positive for both PSSM and MH together, and these animals appear to suffer from more severe episodes of tying up than horses that have PSSM alone.
As a cat I’m pretty much a loner. I understand you humans are what is known as a social creature. You like to be around other humans who like the same stuff you like. I guess I can relate. Teannie and I both enjoy the chair in the inventory room so sometimes we hang out on it together. Where am I going with this? We did a survey of the humans who come to Springhill Equine recently. We found you guys like to do stuff with your horses. And a lot of you like to do the same stuff.
Turns out about 80% of you do something athletic with your horses. It’s about evenly split between barrel racing, dressage, trail riding, and hunter/jumper, along with strong representation by western dressage, breed shows (from Arabians to Paso Fino), eventing, and driving. You guys also simply enjoy the company of your horse. Many of you have horses for companionship (I really think a cat would be a better choice but that’s just me) or are giving your horses the retirement you dream of for yourself. Anyway you are a diverse group!
My minions are a pretty diverse group too. We have Dr. Lacher and Dr. Vurgason showing in the hunter/jumper circles, MJ representing at the barrel races, Kayla and her horse are working on a career choice, Beth enjoys trail riding and hanging out with her horses (and minis), Nancy does western dressage and obstacle challenges, and last, but not least, Stephanie enjoys pampering her horse and an occasional saunter around the pasture. Whew we sure do keep busy with a variety of horse activities!
Why does all this matter? Well to start, it means my minions are a part of the big, huge (though shockingly interconnected) horse community. It means if you’ve got a problem, my minions have a broad knowledge base to pull from. And they don’t look at your horse as a motorcycle with hooves. They eat, sleep, breathe horses. It means they know you have goals, even if it’s that your horse has the longest, most comfortable retirement they can. It also means, they will sit and “talk horse” with you. They tell me you’re never too old to learn more about horses.
Looking for something to do with your horse? We can point you in a direction. Heck just this weekend, I had people at the Cops for Cancer benefit trail ride and a hunter/jumper show at Canterbury. I’ve got my paw on the pulse of stuff to do with horses! You horse people are a passionate lot and at the end of the day, even this cat is happy to be a small part of the horse community.
Folks, you’ve been following me for a while now. I think it’s time I let you in on one of my deepest, darkest secrets: I am addicted to food. Yes, it’s true. If it weren’t for my human minions constantly rationing my meals, I would be in the running for the world’s fattest feline. I have already been diagnosed with diabetes (twice), and the humans only feed me 2 tiny bowls of prescription cat food a day. I constantly beg and try other methods to get their attention: sleeping in or on the docs’ trucks, laying on the computer keyboards, sitting in the chairs, climbing on the X-ray and ultrasound equipment, and often standing right in their path so they can’t ignore me. But to no avail. They are absolutely starving me here!
In my valued opinion, addiction to food is one of the most difficult addictions to fight, because you have to put some of the substance you are addicted to into your body every day in order to survive. I often hear our clients compare their addiction to horses to other addictions such as alcohol, hard drugs, caffeine, chocolate, etc. But there’s no way your addiction to horses can be as rough as my addiction to food, right?
Let me ask you a few questions to get an idea of how severe your substance –in this case horse– addiction is…
1) Does time with your horse ever interfere with your daily activities? i.e. Spending time with family, attending social events, eating a healthy diet, practicing average hygiene (such as washing the horse manure off of your jeans before going into public), or getting enough sleep. Yes? Hmmm OK, next question…
2) Have you ever lied to cover up your addiction? For example, “Yes honey, I’ll be back from the barn in 2 hours.” *5 hours later you are oiling your tack and braiding your horse’s mane*. Yes? OK this may be more serious than I thought…
3) What would you be willing to do to get back to your last high: that amazing ride, that winning round, that flawless trip, that moment of perfect harmony that you and your horse shared? Wow, just about anything? OK, you really may have a problem!
Don’t worry, Springhill Equine can help! No, not with your addiction…you might need a professional for that. But our docs can help you get back to that high. Whatever is standing in your way: lameness, disease, improper nutrition, or conditioning- let the docs help you get back to that moment of glory with your horse.
Well, after my questionnaire I have a newfound respect for people who claim they are addicted to horses. It might even compare to my addiction to food! I truly hope you find the help you need.
It’s that time of year when you humans like to work on some goals for the upcoming year. I listed mine out to show you how easy it can be: 1. Improve human response time to food demands, 2. Get better at using the computer so I can order my own cat treats, 3. Continue to find new and improved sleeping locations. Now see how easy that was? Look at what’s going on that you feel needs to change or improve and write down a goal to address it. OK, here we go.
Eat better. Beth looks at equine diets all the time and her mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify. Most of you humans like to make life sooo complicated. Go with quality hay, then add quality concentrate, then add supplements only if your horse needs them for a specific problem. This plan makes life easier and so much less expensive. Don’t believe me? Check your inbox later this week for Beth’s amazing breakdown on how much cheap feed costs!
Exercise more for the fat horses (like this cat). I struggle with this one, mostly because I hate to exercise. As a black cat living in Florida, it gets hot and I whine a lot and I end up spending the day laying around in the air conditioning. And that’s how I ended up with diabetes. The average horse needs to slow jog for about 15 minutes 3 times weekly to prevent founder and other serious fat horse problems. Commit to that time with your horse and you will stop so many problems in their tracks.
Exercise more for those show horses. Injuries happen at exhaustion. When your horse gets tired, muscles don’t respond like they should, legs end up going weird directions, and BAM! an injury occurs. Do your horse a favor and put in the time needed to have them truly fit for what you want to do. A good general guideline is to be able to do twice as much as you need to do in the show ring. Be sure you aren’t just drilling on “horse show moves.” Cross training is important! Riding horses on different types of terrain and footing helps them learn how to handle anything you crazy humans throw at them. Jumping your dressage horse, or trail riding your western pleasure horse helps keep the brain engaged and builds up different muscles than their normal, everyday work.
Learn something new. This is mostly for you humans. There is always a ton of research out there about the equine athlete. Oddly, there’s not much on the feline athlete. Look for a new exercise for you and/or your horse, read the latest science research on horses, get a lesson or sign up for a clinic. Step outside your comfort zone. You will be a better human for it.
One last New Year’s Resolution: Get your horse a Wellness Plan. With one simple call, e-mail, even text you can cross Better Health and Save Money off the list. You won’t have to remember when your Coggins is due, wonder if you have all the right vaccines, and you have freed up time and energy to eat better, exercise more, and learn something new.