Tuesday, March 16, 2010

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Monday, March 15, 2010

One Bolt of Lightning Kills Three Horses in South Carolina

The old saying we all grew up with was "Lightning never strikes the same place twice." But there's no old saying about how many lives a single lightning bolt can take when it only hits once.

How about three nice big healthy Quarter horses, for starters? That's how many equine lives were lost on Friday when a wild line of squalls ripped through Anderson County, South Carolina. The sky cracked open over Welcome Ranch and owner Lisa Cromer watched three horses fall over dead in her pasture as the ground shook and the sound of an explosion filled the air.

I am very sorry for Lisa's loss, but I have a feeling that this weekend's wild weather may have taken other destructive tolls on horse farms along the east coast. I'm sure we will hear more as Monday morning's news takes shape. It sounds like New Jersey is sinking, Pennsylvania is melting, New York is blowing away and here in New England, it's still raining so hard we can't really tell what damage has been done. Except...what's that lobster buoy doing on my front lawn? And didn't I have four chairs around that garden table?

Here's a good blog post to read about lightning strikes and horse trailers--in 2008, six polo ponies in New Jersey were hit at once and fell over like dominoes--and the medical effects of lightning strikes on human health.

One thing you should know: being struck by lightning is almost always fatal to a horse. If possible, bring horses in when storms approach. In this era of horses living out 24/7 for the health benefit of it, that may be difficult, if not impossible. Some people advise against lone trees in paddocks, but that may be your horses' only shade! Perhaps fear of lightning is the reason why there are no shade trees in the paddocks at the Kentucky Horse Park!

You could ask your extension agent about running a wire from the top of your tree to the ground; this will supposedly act like a grounding wire. Some of the most beautiful farm antiques found in rural America are the old glass lightning rods; whether your farm buildings have beautiful old ones or utilitarian new ones, make sure they have them!

And for horse trailers, make sure the horse is not standing on a metal floor. Always use rubber mats. I wonder if you could put a lightning rod on the roof of a horse trailer...

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Friday, March 12, 2010

United Nations Group Recognizes Spanish Riding School as Cultural Icon

by Fran Jurga | 12 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

Here's some good news for a Friday afternoon. The United Nations agency UNESCO has given an iconic designation to the Spanish Riding School of Vienna by adding it to a list of immaterial cultural objects.

The distinctive designation was announced in Vienna today. Maria Walcher from the Austrian UNESCO committee for immaterial cultural values said today (Fri): "It is a matter of a ritual, traditional craft, oral tradition and timeless knowledge in relation to protection of nature," in explaining the reason for UNESCO’s decision.

Of course, it is another in a long list of honors for the Viennese tradition, but note that the award did not go to a building or to an individual person, but to the idea of the School itself, hence the "immaterial" designation, which probably translates also to a concept or institution.

Elisabeth Gürtler, the general director of the school, said: "Employees like our Andreas Hausberger have orally communicated their priceless experience to our students and candidates."

Andreas Hausberger was promoted to the role of oberbereiter (chief rider) at the School in 2007. He is the solo rider that you also see at performances and on videos out of the saddle, as he does the long lining demonstration. During the 2005 SRS tour, he performed the long rein with Conversano Dagmar.

Make way for an icon. It's just like waiting outside a Broadway theater for the stars to arrive at the stage door when the Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School cross the street each day from their stables to the Winter School. The fans wait and wait, and then the sea parts to allow more than a dozen stallions to walk majestically through. That's Hannah Zeitlhofer, the first female eleve, or apprentice rider, leading this one through. The eleves act as stable hands while their riding training begins so they are intimately familiar with the horses' care and routine. Note there is no lip chain, just a short lead on the cavesson. The stallions are trained to be led that way, though it looks strange to those of us indoctrinated to two-handed leading with line to let out, especially on a stallion. But these horses are different. After all, they're cultural icons. Just ask the United Nations. (Great photo snapped two weeks ago by John Harwood--thanks!)

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

2018 Wellington WEG? Campaign Set to Begin to Bring FEI Games to South Florida

by Fran Jurga | 11 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com The promoters of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida would like to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games at their spectacular site. (photo from Winter Equestrian Festival web site)

We haven't even survived the 2010 Alltech FEI Games yet, but that hasn't stopped the energetic people in Wellington, Florida. According to an article in today's Palm Beach Post, Equestrian Sport Productions plans to start working on preparing a bid for the 2018 Games to be held in Wellington, Florida at the site of their Winter Equestrian Festival.

The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years and host the world championships of eight equestrian disciplines. In 2014, they will be held in Normandy, France. The 2010 Games, to be held in Kentucky during late September and early October, will be the first time that the Games have been hosted outside of Europe.

Watch for a formal announcement of the Wellington group's plan this weekend.

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Veterinary Stem Cell Therapy Association Formed at California Veterinary Conference

by Fran Jurga | 11 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

Peek inside Thomas Edison's laboratory in his home in Florida. More than 100 years ago, his ultra-progressive experimentation with electric light, motion pictures and other early forms of technology and communication must have seemed as mystifying as stem cell research seems to most people today. (Photo by Staci)

The following information was provided by the University of California:

A new professional organization, the North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association, has been launched as the result of a recent international conference, co-sponsored by the University of California at Davis, which focused on the use of stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine to treat horses and other animals.

The new North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association will be dedicated to advancing the science and clinical application of non-embryo-derived stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine techniques that use stem cells derived from other sources.

“The association’s goal is to facilitate scientific investigations with stem cells that are acquired from fat, bone-marrow and umbilical-cord sources, and to combine that knowledge with other regenerative medicine techniques that are designed to improve the health care of animals and humans alike,” said Sean Owens, a veterinary professor and director of UC Davis’ Regenerative Medicine Laboratory.

The independent association is open to membership for all regenerative medicine researchers, stem cell biologists, biomedical engineers, clinicians and health technicians. Membership information can be obtained from Owens at sdowens@ucdavis.edu or from Gregory Ferraro, a veterinary professor and director of UC Davis’ Center for Equine Health, at glferraro@ucdavis.edu.

The new association grew out of the March 5-6 inaugural North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Conference, which drew 280 research scientists, veterinarians and physicians from around the globe to California’s Santa Ynez Valley. The meeting was jointly coordinated by UC Davis’ Center for Equine Health; the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center of Los Olivos, Calif.; and Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital of Lexington, Ky.

The conference highlighted the latest in cutting-edge research and innovative clinical applications of non-embryo-derived stem cell technologies. It was moderated by Gregory Ferraro of UC Davis and featured presentations by 25 regenerative medicine research experts from throughout the United States and Canada, as well as roundtable discussions between researchers and practicing clinicians.

“The collaborative setting provided by gatherings such as this will facilitate growth in the field of regenerative medicine,” said Doug Herthel, a conference speaker and practicing veterinarian at the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center.

John Peroni, a faculty member at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, remarked that “regenerative medicine has our industry excited because it holds so much potential for treating conditions that were formerly though to be untreatable.”

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

AQHA Convention: Clones Should Not Be Registered as American Quarter Horses

by Fran Jurga | 10 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

"Get real" was the AQHA's message to anyone planning to register a Quarter horse foal. Cloned horses, regardless of DNA, should not be registered by the AQHA, was the unanimous decision of the Stud Book and Registration Committee at this week's AQHA Convention in Florida. (Photo by Sarah/Sarowen)

What a difference a year makes.

A year of task force review and study of the possibility of allowing cloned horses to become registered by the American Quarter Horse Association ended this week at the AQHA annual convention, held outside Orlando, Florida. It was a year later and the Stud Book and Registration Committee was expected to make a ruling.

Would the clones be welcomed in or left out? The issue was a lightning rod a year ago, threatening to divide the association in a perceived power struggle between "real" breeders and "superhorse" producers.

But gone from the room, gone from the convention, gone from the press, gone from the chat rooms, and gone from the emails was the passion that characterized this issue from 2008 to 2009. Cloning has gone on, and the AQHA has gone on, but where did the passionate arguments go?

Was it the economy? Was it the growing understanding of the issue? Was it something political or corporate behind the scenes? Has the even bigger, even more emotional issue of horse slaughter overshadowed cloning? It appears that the decision's impetus may have only been that the task force was listening to the preference of AQHA members.

According to a news article in Quarter Horse News, and quoted with permission, the committee reported that a survey had been sent to 3,000 AQHA members. There were 1,073 returned surveys and of those, 923 were against the registration of cloning; 89 were in favor and 61 were neutral.

The Stud Book and Registration committee unanimously agreed to deny the recommendation to amend Rule 227 (a) to allow for the registration of clones by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and amend rules 202, 211 and 212 to include SCNT. The ruling will now need to pass before the AQHA Executive Committee at its next meeting.


This ruling effectively leaves clones right where they have always been: out of the AQHA registration picture, in spite of their picture-perfect Quarter-horse DNA. While clones cannot be registered with the AQHA, they can still perform in certain non-breed specific sports, particularly cutting, where clones are not prohibited.

The Jurga Report hopes to have more news from the AQHA Convention, particularly about the Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) and Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED) presentations.

Follow @FranJurga on Twitter.com for more horse health news!

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Peak Performance or Burnout? Diagnosing Overtraining Syndrome in Equine Athletes by Hormone Analysis

by Fran Jurga | 10 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

Researchers at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands created a variety of training and overtraining conditions in a group of Standardbred geldings. They trained them methodically on treadmills, similar to the one in this Erik Buehler photo taken at Kansas State University.

A few weeks ago, I was bemoaning the absence of horses from the landscape of British Columbia during the otherwise-no-complaints 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The more I watched the Olympics, the more I wondered about how the athletes trained during the off (non-snow) season, and how they avoided overtraining.

How do those speed skaters and cross-country skiiers and snowboarders know when to stop training? How fit is too fit? And what about the athletes who do burnout?
It reminded me of what we go through with sport horses and racehorses that are now year-round athletes; the calendars used to allow them a season off, but not anymore.

Are there parallels between horse and human athletes? To my surprise (and delight), I came across some recent research that suggests that future Olympic athletes may have some thanks to offer to our equine friends.

There is a science of training, as any racing, endurance or eventing trainer will tell you, that involves deciding when each horse in your care will peak based on a given training program, and adjusting that training program to fit the calendar for a given competition, as well as changes in terrain, footing, altitude, weather and the horse's mental state because of shipping, breeding or other interruptions.

There's a science, a culture, an industry and a mythology of training when it comes to human athletes. But science has been a little light when it comes to the problem of predicting and reliably diagnosing overtraining.

Equine sportsmedicine thinks that it has something to offer the bigger sports world, and overtraining research is a great example.
The prevalence of both human and equine stress-related illnesses is increasing, so the need is real.

Equine physiology researchers report in a recently published paper that they succeeded in diagnosing equine overtraining syndrome by measuring fluctuations in levels of nocturnal growth hormone secretion.
Until now, no diagnostic test was available to determine overtraining syndrome with certainty in any species.

Researchers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands put a group of Standardbred horses into parallel training programs; some of the horses were worked to peak fitness and kept working. The study ranged through acclimatisation, training, intensified training and recovery period for the horses; there was a test week at the end of each phase. After the training period the horses were randomly divided into a control group and an intensified trained (IT) group. Standardized exercise tests were used to monitor performance. Behavior was also monitored.The growth hormone axis as well as glucose metabolism were monitored to detect hormonal disturbances.

According to lead researcher Ellen De Graaf-Roelfsema's summary statement, "The performance of the horses increased during the training period, however during the intensified training period the IT group showed a decrease in performance despite the fact that the horses were more intensively trained than the control horses. The horses changed their gait from trot to gallop or even stopped during the training. Symptoms are indicative of overtraining."

De Graaf-Roelfsema also noted: "During the intensified training period the IT horses showed obvious changes in mood state. The horses were less interested in the environment and in other unknown horses as was shown in different behavioral changes."

According to the research paper, overtraining syndrome is clinically recognized by reduced performance despite the same or an increased level of training. The researchers found that secretion of the growth hormone was an indicator for overtraining syndrome. This hormone plays a role in both growth and stress. The researchers were able to diagnose overtraining syndrome by measuring the amount of hormone present in the horse’s blood. They found distinct variations between the groups of horses depending on the types and intensity of training programs.

The way that horses and humans express growth hormone under exercise stress could be remarkably parallel and predictable. The Dutch veterinary researchers feel confident that the horse can easily serve as a model for human athletes for studying overtraining or possibly other stress-related pathophysiological mechanisms.

Among the more than 200 symptoms described for overtraining syndrome among human athletes, not one has yet been determined to be specific to the disease’s clinical picture. For humans, a Profile of Mood State (POMS) assessment tool is used to diagnose overtraining syndrome. This tool measures changes in behavior and mental state, which so far appear to be the most reliable indicators of overtraining syndrome.

Further study should reveal whether measuring nocturnal growth hormone secretion, as is done with horses, can also be applied to humans.

The lead author of this study,
Ellen de Graaf-Roelfsema, received her PhD from the University of Utrecht by studying overtraining in horses, particularly the role of growth hormone and glucose.

To learn more: E. de Graaf-Roelfsema, P.P. Veldhuis, H.A. Keizer, M.M. van Ginneken, K.G. van Dam, M.L. Johnson, A. Barneveld, P.P. Menheere, E. van Breda, I.D. Wijnberg, J.H. van der Kolk: "Overtrained horses alter their resting pulsatile growth hormone secretion" in American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. (Click on link to download a PDF file of the complete paper.)

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Merial and Intervet to Merge in Animal Health Corporate Move by Parent Companies

by Fran Jurga | 9 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

The face of the pharmaceutical side of horse health is set to change again in the next year, following an announcement today:

"(The French firm) sanofi-aventis and that sanofi-aventis has exercised its option to combine Merial with Intervet/Schering-Plough, Merck’s Animal Health business, to create a global leader in Animal Health. The new joint venture will be equally-owned by Merck and sanofi-aventis.

"The formation of this new animal health joint venture is subject to execution of final agreements, antitrust review in the United States, Europe and other countries and other customary closing conditions. The completion of the transaction is expected to occur in approximately the next 12 months.

"The enterprise value of Merial has been fixed at $8 billion and the enterprise value of Intervet/Schering-Plough at $8.5 billion, leading to a true-up payment of $250 million to Merck to establish a 50/50 joint venture. An additional amount of $750 million will be paid by sanofi-aventis, as per the terms of the agreement signed on July 29, 2009. All payments, including adjustments for debt and certain other liabilities will be made upon closing of the transaction.

"This new joint venture will offer a broader portfolio of animal health products and services in pharmaceuticals and biologics, as well as the ability to capitalize on growth opportunities in all fields and countries around the world.

"The worldwide animal health market reached $19 billion in 2008. Products for companion animals accounted for 40 percent of total sales while products for production animals accounted for the remaining 60 percent of total sales. This market is expected to grow at around 5 percent per year over the next 5 years, driven by a growing demand for animal proteins, as well as a strong consumer needs for companion animal health care. The companies said that both Merial and Intervet/Schering-Plough will continue to operate independently until the closing of the transaction." (end of quoted announcement.

You can read the full announcement at the Merck web site.

What does this mean to the average horse owner? Probably not much. The animal health divisioons of these companies have been speculated on for over a year now following the acquisition of the bigger whole. Could and would and should the animal health companies be merged? Can agricultural vaccines and wormers and kitty flea products live under one roof?

We will find out.

In the cynical view, it might mean less competition for pricing for wormers and vaccines, but another way to look at it is that these companies are the economic engines that make many of the horse shows, rodeos, conferences and education events possible in the horse world. Their success is not just important to the average horse person--it's required.

The same is true of the feed companies, supplement makers, saddlers, and on down the aisles of any trade show that you can think of. Companies may merge or appear and disappear but the economy of the horse world depends on the trip you make to the feed store every Saturday, or the time you spend on the computer comparing prices, or the regularly scheduled vet appointments to keep your horses up to date on shots and worming.

A portion of the everyday money you spend on your horse's health goes around and around in a big endless circle. When that money stops, this blog stops. Your trail rides and horse shows stop. And your vet's continuing education meetings stop.

Let's wish Merck and sanofi-aventis the best of luck. We're all somewhere in their equations, let's hope their forecast of a bright future is correct for all animals, especially horses.

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Nicki Henley: Veteran Eventer Returns from Tendon Injury for a World Cup Qualifier Win

by Fran Jurga | xx month 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

Watching the results of the Red Hills International CIC***-W Horse Trial at Tallahassee, Florida this weekend had me scratching my head a bit. There was Mara Dean's name and she was riding...Nicki Henley? I remember that horse from Rolex, ages ago. Where's he been?

He's been in his stall back home in Round Hill, Virginia, as it turns out. Nicki Henley was injured while representing the USA at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro and Mara gave him more than two years to recover. Tendon injuries can be highly variable in the amount of time needed for full healing, and nothing stresses a tendon more than the life of an advanced event horse.

Nicki Henley started on the comeback trail last fall and now look at him go! And look what he's wearing!

Mara Dean's victorious Nicki Henley navigated the World Cup show jumping course in this shanked hackamore.
(FEI photo/StockImageServices.com, used with permission)

The FEI had some super photos, including one closeup of Mara and Nicki Henley after the win in show jumping, where you can clearly see that the 15-year-old Irish sport horse is fitted with a padded cavesson and hackamore--no bit in his mouth--although he is clearly wearing a bridle and bit in the photos of him in dressage and cross-country.

In this day of almost all the horses having their mouths clamped shut with flash nosebands, figure-8s, and who-knows-what in and around their mouths just to steer (or try to stop) them, this photo was like a breath of fresh air. The fact that the hackamore horse was the winner, and that the competition was the first leg of the HSBC FEI World Cup™ made it that much better.

“He stays softer all the way through his body [with a hackamore]. When he gets tight, he doesn’t jump as well behind,” Dean explained in an interview on the US Eventing Association web site. “With the hackamore, you lose the steering a bit and that was a bit of a panic in the middle, but he did stay very relaxed.”

For the cross-country and dressage phases, Nicki Henley was fitted out with a bridle and bit. (FEI photo/StockImageServices.com, used with permission)

Nicki Henley won the Jonathan R. Burton Trophy for the USA National Young Horse Eventing Championship in 2002. There's a chance that Mara may decide to run Nicki Henley in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event next month at the Kentucky Horse Park. Stay tuned!

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Tough Break for WEG: Zara Phillips and Toytown Will Not Defend Their World Championship This Fall

by Fran Jurga | 8 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

This video is two years old, but if you change a word here and there, it fits for today's news from London.

It's like deja vu all over again. It was sad to write then, and it's sad to write now.

A year and a half ago, I wrote a heartfelt blog post announcing that one of my favorite Irish sport horses, Toytown, would not be headed to Hong Kong as part of the British team for the 2008 Olympics. Most people don't know much about Toytown, because he is so overshadowed by the fame of his rider, England's Zara Phillips, who happens to be the granddaughter of the Queen.

Oddly enough, her father, Captain Mark Phillips, is coach for the US eventing team.

But Zara and Toytown are something else. They are the reigning world champions of eventing, having won at the 2006 World Equestrian Games at Aachen. And they were European eventing champions before that. But since then, Toytown's soundness has been spotty, and he was pulled from Hong Kong after making the team.

Now you can watch that BBC video and just substitute "Kentucky" for "Hong Kong" wherever it appears, and "Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games" for "Olympics".

That's right. One of the expected stars, who would have guaranteed WEG front page, above-the-fold coverage in media around the world, announced today that Toytown's soundness issues are too much to push him to qualify for Kentucky. The beautiful big guy may even be retired.

Click here for Pippa Cuckson's coverage of today's announcement in the British Telegraph newspaper.

Does Zara have a horse waiting in the wings who can make the team in time for Kentucky? There is always that chance; let's see if her name is on the entries for Rolex Kentucky, or if she plans to run at Badminton. But she'll be competing against a legion of top riders who have been campaigning for Britain's Kentucky team on seasoned horses. No country has the depth of rider-and-horse combos that Britain's team selectors have.

Zara's announcement was made this morning at her training center at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, at a press conference held by Rolex, one of her sponsors. Zara is associated by sponsorship or advertising appearances with the Royal Bank of Scotland, Rolex, Land Rover and Musto clothing. She was the first member of the Royal Family to appear in an ad.

And Toytown has been the horse who has been identified with her international success. All the vets in the kingdom haven't been able to keep him sound and while it is disappointing for everyone here in the USA that she almost certainly will not be riding for Great Britain next fall, how nice for Toytown not to be stressed and stretched for one more notch in her royal belt.

This is a repeat for this blog, but Zara Phillips and Toytown starred in a commercial for Land Rover and British Eventing a few years ago that is probably the most popular horse sport ad ever. Toytown can probably have a new career in advertising if he can sneeze on command like this--how many takes do you think it took to get this scene right?

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