How Horses Hurt Humans

How Horses Hurt Humans

Tuesdays with Tony

While doing a little late night reading on the computer, I came across a research paper titled, The demographics of equestrian-related injuries in the United States: injury patterns, orthopedic specific injuries, and avenues for injury prevention. It proved to be fascinating reading. It also led me down what you humans commonly refer to as a rabbit hole. I spent most of the night reading up on how horses hurt you humans, and had to spend the rest of the following day sound asleep on the bench in front of the Clinic. To save you from a sleepless night, I will share with you some of what I learned.


Keep your arms and legs inside the ride


About 15% of injuries happened while humans were on the ground. Of the non-riding injuries, the majority were to the feet. This made sense to me. If you stand in the Clinic long enough (and by that I mean about 15 minutes) you’ll see a horse stand on a human foot. Many of these foot injuries led to long-term pain. When it came to riding injuries, arms and legs were involved a whopping 46% of the time. This also makes sense if you think about what humans do when they fall off a horse. Arms go flailing, and legs usually get stuck in a stirrup.


Mind your melon


I’m going to get to the traumatic brain injury part of things, but first it seems if horses don’t stomp your foot, they whack you in the head. In one study around 25% of non-riding injuries were to the head (they also had a mid-facial area but that seems like another word for head if you ask this cat).

For riding injuries, the head came in first for reasons a rider showed up at a hospital. In this study it was 17.5% of the cases. However, head trauma was responsible for the majority of hospital stays, and increased the length of hospital stay. I will say nothing more than wear a helmet when you ride. I know it’s not cool in all disciplines, but horses and head injuries go together.


Your age and gender as a factor


This should come as no surprise to anyone involved in horses: women and girls were massively over-represented at 89.5% of injuries! Turns out you also don’t get smarter with age. One study found the peak incidence of injuries at 14 years old. However, another found early 20s, followed by late 40s and early 50s to be additional bumps in the injury incidence.


Wild Horses


There were multiple studies that looked at the human’s level of horse experience, and personality matching of horse to human. Now this is a tough thing to do. However, they found some interesting stuff. The more you actually know about horses, as defined by hours spent with horses in formal training environments, the less likely you are to have serious injury. When humans described themselves as “self-taught” they were more likely to have horse related injuries. Even more fascinating to this cat was this entire paragraph:

Similarly, humans tend to devalue the importance of equine safety at point of sale, possibly where sellers can be seduced by financial return. For example, human desire for financial benefit might result in knowledge of undesirable horse traits and/or dangerous behaviours being withheld from a buyer. Alternatively, it may result from a buyer’s desire to own a horse regardless of such concerns (perhaps due to high self-efficacy in addressing them). More naively, selling unsuitable horses to riders may be facilitated by a lack of buyer expectation and devaluation of safety.1


How do you avoid injury?


Be aware of the fact that horses are big, and have a major flight or fight response. Look at situations from a horse’s point of view, and try to anticipate your horse’s response. This will give you some advanced warning. Speaking of your horse’s point of view….working with your horse to acclimate them to this weird human world will help reduce those fight or flight moments.

Work your brain, too. “The more you learn about horses, the less you know.” – George Morris. This George guy is somewhat famous in some horse circles, but he speaks the truth. Seek out great horse people to teach you more about horses. Then protect that knowledge by wearing a helmet.


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  1.  Preventing and Investigating Horse-Related Human Injury and Fatality in Work and Non-Work Equestrian Environments: A Consideration of the Workplace Health and Safety Framework

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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Ground Manners Matter!

Ground Manners Matter!

Tuesdays with Tony

Ground Manners Matter!

Cats are the perfect killing machine. Look at my sleek physique, my taut muscles, and my powers of concentration. My reflexes are a thing of legend. They aren’t cat-like, they’re Original Cat. Being a predator animal means I take a surprise well, unlike a horse. Despite many, many conversations with the horses that come through the Clinic here at Springhill Equine, I still don’t understand how a falling leaf can be confused with a fire-breathing dragon. Yet every horse explains to me that it could happen, and they need to be prepared! Being prepared for the sudden appearance of dragons can make veterinary care difficult. Read on to learn how to ward off dragons! Spoiler Alert, I have included some graphic pictures of what happens when horses confuse humans for horse-eating tigers.

Save the Toes

Ground mannersToes are perfectly positioned on the end of the human foot to make an excellent target for the equine foot. Add to that the unique ability of the horse to leap up into the air and land with a hoof wherever a human foot happens to be. This ability is compounded by a unique choice in human footwear known as a flip-flop. I’m not sure why you humans even wear these things. You may as well go barefoot. Needless to say, the flip-flop offers no protection to those toes, and shouldn’t be worn around horses. You can also help keep your toes alive by ensuring your horse is respectful on the ground. Training your horse to do the basic showmanship maneuvers will teach them to move away from you, rather than onto you. Pro-tip: your veterinarian will also appreciate it if your horse happily walks and jogs on a lead, and has decent ground manners!

I have included this picture of a toe to reinforce your showmanship work, and proper shoe selection.

A Sedated Horse Can Still Kick

Ground mannersMy Docs often have to do things to horses which said horse doesn’t appreciate very much. The Docs will often use powerful sedatives to help your horse agree that this is something they can do. You will notice that even when your horse is sedated, my Docs still act like they could get kicked. Sedated horses are still very able to kick. They’re less likely to, but they certainly still can, and with surprising speed. Super fun part about sedated horses: they don’t give you any warning before they kick. This means for some procedures, in some locations (especially lower legs, and back legs) my Docs may elect to fully anesthetize your horse. Most of the time the anesthesia lasts for about 20-30 minutes, and then they slowly wake up. This gives the Docs time to fully evaluate and repair a laceration, for example.

How can you help? Always be aware of where you are in relation to the feet. If you’re helping hold for one of my Docs, pay very close attention to how your horse is standing. If you notice anything to indicate a kick is coming, feel free to speak up loudly and quickly!

For this one, I included a lovely kick to a thigh by a very sedated horse during a sheath cleaning.

Needles are your friend

I’m going to start with this lovely picture here:

This was done by a horse who overreacted a wee bit to a needle. I mean seriously, it was a little tiny needle. For the record, this isn’t one of my Docs, but it is a veterinarian. This is why we take needle shyness very, very seriously. When giving shots in the neck, or drawing blood, my Docs are standing in the perfect place to get pawed (that’s what happened in the picture). This is why we bribe horses.

You may have noticed my Docs and their amazing techs feeding your horse treats, and using a clicker. This is to help desensitize them to the stick of a needle. You can definitely help your horse be prepared for needles with a little training! Any one of my minions can show you how to start the process, but basically it involves teaching your horse to tolerate the feeling of the “stick.” This is usually done by gently pinching the skin in the area where the shot will be given, and offering a food reward when they relax. The pressure of the pinch is increased until your horse is pretty sure it’s no big deal.

It’s important to remember that horses are really big, move really fast, and can hurt humans (and cats) really badly. I know what you’re thinking: My horse would never do that! Maybe, and maybe not, but a little bit of training before an accident happens, and a whole lot of paying very close attention to them can go a long way. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting the horses taken care, and getting the humans home safe!

Have you subscribed to my blog? If you say no, that’s the wrong answer. You can easily fix this wrong answer by scrolling down a little farther to the subscribe button.  So easy, even a human can do it. HAHAHA!!!!

Until next week ~


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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

Tuesdays with Tony – Trailering Seminar

Tuesdays with Tony – Trailering Seminar

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.



Tuesdays with Tony – 5 Panel Testing

Tuesdays with Tony – 5 Panel Testing

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.


Tuesdays with Tony – Staying Fit for Your Horse

Tuesdays with Tony – Staying Fit for Your Horse

Whew, boy am I sore! Kevan Knudsen, personal trainer extraordinaire, had us doing squats, lunges, stretches, and all manner of exercises at our “Exercise for Equestrians” event on Saturday. Technically, I am not an equestrian, so I thought I should have been exempt. But the humans demanded my participation *eye roll.*

Kevan also taught us a great deal about nutrition– one of my least favorite subjects. Turns out lean meats, fruits, and vegetables should make up the majority of your diet if you are a human. Tuna is a lean meat, right? I’m totally in! Your macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) need to be in the right ratio for your body to function properly. Most Americans are eating foods they are intolerant to on a regular basis (dairy, white bread, and artificial sweeteners, for example). Simply eliminating these foods from your diet can result in significant weight loss and better health. As Kevan summed it up, “don’t eat processed crap!”

Of course your mental health is as important as your physical health, especially for riding horses. Horseback riding is one of the only sports requiring the participation of another sentient being. It’s not like running where you can take your frustration out on the track. You need to be in the right frame of mind before you set foot in the saddle. Kevan recommended working on positive self-affirmation, realistic goal-setting, anxiety management, and interpersonal communication. I already practice most of these on a daily basis, in between cat naps.

If you missed me at this enlightening event and would like more information on personal training from someone experienced in working with equestrians, contact Kevan Knudsen at (971) 221-5451, or Your horse will thank you for getting fit and healthy! As for me, I’m just fine with my current lifestyle of eating, sleeping, and occasionally walking out to the end of the driveway. Now to ice these sore quads…


Tuesdays with Tony – The 21st Century Barn

Tuesdays with Tony – The 21st Century Barn

Let me just start off by saying that despite it being the 21st century and all, a barn cat is still the best way to keep the rodent population down.  But there are areas where the fancy gizmos and gadgets of 2016 can really benefit the modern horse farm.  I had always thought that most of this stuff wasn’t anywhere near affordable until I crunched the numbers myself and converted Kitty Coin currency to American Dollars.
Everyone likes barn work (I guess?), but what are the jobs that you just wish were a little bit easier?  Do you get tired of dragging out the garden hose, standing in the sun filling up the buckets, and rolling the hose back up twice a day?  Well for one, I don’t know why you don’t have the water spigot closer to the buckets, but secondly, you could have the water monitored by a ‘smart’ watering and monitoring system.  BTW, calling these automated devices ‘smart’ is just as brilliant as calling an owl wise.  Again, it’s your feline friend that is the master mouse hunter.  But regardless of what we are calling it, smart watering systems are only the beginning.
Ever heard the bang of thunder at 2am and are fighting the inner conflict of laziness verse desire to check on your horses?  Well, you could stay in bed and look at the barn cameras right on your ‘smart’ phone or tablet.
Did your horse miss an afternoon shower and need to cool off?  You can have a misting area in your barn or paddock to cool down your equine friend.
Wondering if that mosquito that just bit you was carrying the Zika virus?  Worry not because you didn’t get bitten, you had an automated fly repellent system.
Traveling the national show circuit but concerned about the retired horse back home who doesn’t like the heat?  Install some new high-efficiency paddle fans.  Don’t want to leave them on and run up the electric bill?  I did say “high-efficiency”, but still you can have them turn on and off automatically when horses are present through occupancy sensors.
Have you ever walked into your tack room and thought you entered a walk-in-freezer?  Or worse, a sauna?  No problem, you can monitor and control the room temperature remotely and prevent anybody but you from making any adjustments.
Kept up at night by the thought of a barn fire or other natural disaster?  That’s why there are smoke, fire, gas, and unfriendly tomcat detection systems that can alert you, as well as fire suppression systems and breakaway gates to minimize damage in such a tragic event.
You left the barn lights on and already got into your kitty print PJs?  No problem.  You have a lighting control system and have a button to shut the whole barn down right in your bedroom.
You have to walk all the way to the corner of the paddock to call one of our veterinarians because your horse cut himself and you don’t get good service at the barn?  Why not install a cell phone booster?  Or hey!  Bring WiFi out to the barn then you can use WiFi calling (check your carrier for rates and compatibility) or browse FaceBook because you still haven’t gotten an automated water bucket and are standing there with a hose!
Ah, the 21st century.  I think I’ve only scratched the surface with the many things we can do that my parents sure couldn’t in their day.  Now if I can just convince the doctors we need a 4K TV in the office….
– Tony