The sport of eventing has been in the news lately, and not for good reasons. Only a month after Olivia Inglis, 17, and Caitlyn Fischer, 19, both died during cross country trials in Australia in March and April respectively, Philippa Humphreys, 33, suffered a tragic fall at the Jersey Fresh International Three Day Event in New Jersey. The common thing between all of these incidents is that the riders were all involved in rotational falls, a fall where the horse hits a fence with its front legs or chest and its body somersaults over the fence with the fence acting as a pivot point. Unfortunately, this is one of the risks with the cross-country phase of eventing as riders are piloting their mounts over solid obstacles, unlike show jumping where the fences fall down. There have been some adjustments made to modern eventing as more course designers are using jumps with frangible pins that are designed to give way should a horse hit it. However, these do not always function as planned and not all jumps can be designed with the pins.
One of the other safety precautions in eventing that has been a requirement for a number of years is the wearing of a body protector. There are a number of styles and brands on the market but one of the more recent introductions is that of the “air vest”. Air vests work based on inflation. Vests are equipped with a CO2 canister and attach to the saddle with a lanyard. Should the lanyard be released, the CO2 canister is activated and the vest inflates. Like any other piece of safety equipment, a vest cannot protect you from everything.
One of the new rules Equine Canada has implemented in the eventing rulebook for 2016 is that should a rider wish to wear an air vest in the show jumping or dressage phase, it must be worn over a body protector vest. You can find a copy of the complete 2016 rule book here: http://equinecanada.ca/images/stories/2016_Rules/Finals/2016%20section%20d%20-%20clean%20version%20-%20feb%209%20-%20final.pdf
This has always been a requirement for competitors during the cross country phase, so why is this causing such a stir in the eventing community? As of right now, vests are not required for the stadium (show jumping) phase. In the stadium phase, unless jackets are waived, riders are required to wear their jackets in addition to the vests. Many riders find the traditional body protectors too bulky or too hot, however, even the manufacturers of the air vests have recommended that their product be worn over top of body protector vests, even though the air vest can function properly by itself. The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) also have this rule in place. British Eventing and Pony Club used to have the same rule but amended it in 2015 to say that only during the cross country phase did an air vest have to be worn over a traditional vest.
A petition has recently been started by Mark Greenwood, a distributor for the Hit Air vests in Ontario, asking that Equine Canada follow in the steps of British eventing and amend the rule to allow competitors to use just an air vest for the stadium phase if they so choose. Competitors in Equine Canada sanctioned hunter or jumper competitions are not required to wear vests and there is no mention of vests in the rule book, so one could infer that these riders could wear just an air vest and it would be ok.
Although it is a valid point that if the strictly show jumpers are not required to wear body protectors under an air vest, why should eventers have to in the stadium portion, there are some good arguments for wearing a traditional vest under an air vest. If your horse falls with you or on top of you, the lanyard may not detach, therefore not deploying the CO2 cartridge. Even if the lanyard is released properly, there is a possibility of the canister being defective and either deploying late or not deploying at all. The canisters also make loud pop when deployed, which can spook your horse even more or those around you. Canisters can be expensive to replace and you can only use the manufacturer recommended ones. You can dismount before undoing lanyard attachment (therefore setting it off) and costing yourself even more money.
The air vests on their own are not BETA Level 3 certified, which is why they cannot be used on their own for the cross country phase. BETA stands for British Equine Trade Association. More information on their safety standards can be found here: http://www.beta-uk.org/pages/trade/news/body-protectors-for-the-season-ahead.php. Traditional body protectors are at least BETA level 3 accredited because of the higher level of protection they afford. That being said, the very popular Tipperary eventing vest is not BETA Level 3 accredited (although it does meet ASTM Equestrian Standard ASTM F1937-04 & SEI Certification) because of the possibility of punctures due to the gaps in the foam. Air vest brand Point 2 has developed a hybrid between traditional vest and air vest called the P2-RS, which is BETA level 3 accredited. A study funded by British Eventing found that air jackets are unlikely to prevent a fatality should a horse fall directly on a rider. While an air vest may reduce some impact forces, they will not prevent spinal, clavicle, and pelvic fractures as they are deformable and as such you can still be folded in half until bones break. It is also a possibility that if the horse steps on you, the corks on his shoes can puncture through the air vest.
Comparing the Hit Air vest (left) to the Point 2 vest (right) after inflation
Although riders are less likely to have a rotational fall in hunter or jumper classes where the rails fall down, perhaps Equine Canada should either mandate a similar rule for those disciplines or allow eventers to wear solely an air vest in the stadium phase if they chose to wear a vest. By having this rule, Equine Canada may be preventing riders from wearing any sort of safety vest in stadium rounds, which is not what should be encouraged.
May 25, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
Are you itching for some summer learning or just want to learn more about horses? Coursera is offering a free course from the University of Florida called “The Horse Course: Introduction to Basic Care and Management”, starting May 23rd (so enroll now!) According to the course syllabus, this six week session will cover everything from different breeds, physiology, behaviour, feeding management, breeding management and equine health. Coursework consists of video lectures, interactive online discussions with others taking the class and quizzes each week.
While the course is offered for free, students have the option to purchase the course for $64 (CAD). Purchasing the course will allow you to achieve a certificate at the end (although the free version will give you a printable Statement of Accomplishment upon successful completion of the course. The difference between the paid version and free version is that there are more in depth projects to complete and you will need to verify your identity when it comes time to taking quizzes.
I completed the free version of the course in 2014, and although I did find the majority of it to be geared towards people who have no prior experience with horses, there were useful pieces of information that I picked up that I had not previously known. Because anyone in the world can take courses through Coursera, you get students from all walks of life and from different countries. The online discussions are quite interesting as they give you insight into horse management practices from all over the world.
Has anyone else taken this course before? How did you find it? Let us know!
You can find the course on Coursera here: https://www.coursera.org/learn/horse-care
May 21, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
The mayor of Montreal announced on May 17th that there will be a one year ban on the city’s horse drawn carriages as that is the amount of time the city will need to come up with new guidelines for the carriage industry.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
In April a carriage horse was in injured when it collided with a vehicle, prompting this most recent review of the industry. This isn’t the first time the city’s mayor has prompted an inquiry into the safety and welfare in the carriage horse industry. Last year a number of photographs appeared online depicting a horse that had slipped and fallen near a construction zone. (http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/coderre-orders-report-about-health-of-caleche-horses). This particular incident not only caused the mayor to call for a report on the health and welfare of the carriage horses, but a number of animal activists have been calling for a ban on the popular tourist attraction in the city.
The city is divided on the issue as animal rights activists and welfare proponents say that the horses do not belong in the city, while others say the horse and carriages are a part of Montreal culture. A similar debate is taking place in New York as there have been a number of accidents involving carriages and vehicles in the city that have populated the media recently.
What are your thoughts?
May 18, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
Kim Leffley is the current chair of the Canadian Pony Club. She came across the organization while looking for riding lessons for one of her horse-crazy daughters. What drew her to the organization was that it provided comprehensive equestrian training, with members partaking in riding components as well as educational programming. After seeing the confident, disciplined, well-rounded children emerging from the program, Kimknew she wanted to be involved and help promote this wonderful organization.
In this episode of the podcast, we cover such topics as what is Pony Club, what are the costs involved in the program, what the programming is like and the variances in the different clubs across the country and what kids can learn when they get involved.
Kim also discusses with us how she got her start in horses, her role in the organization, and what her visions and goals for Pony Club are.
More information on Pony Club
For more information, please visit their website at www.canadianponyclub.org.
May 15, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
Each year, the first Saturday of June is marked as Canada’s National Horse Day. This year, the celebration is taking place June 4, 2016, which will mark the eighth anniversary of the event. Horse Day was originally an initiative developed by the Ontario Equestrian Federation as a way to raise public awareness and promote the horse. Now it is celebrated across Canada with events and celebrations to allow Canadians of all ages and experience levels to honour, discover and explore the equestrian world. For many people, this is the chance to get up close and personal with a horse for the first time. It is also the perfect opportunity to acknowledge the important contributions made by horses in our nation’s heritage and how people of all ages and experience levels can continue to enjoy horses in sport and leisure.
Horse Day Events to Attend
To find a Horse Day 2016 event near you click HERE and keep an eye on the London Horse Sport event page for events in London and the surrounding area.
Want to host a Horse Day Event?
If you wish to host Horse Day 2016 event, register your event HERE.
There is even a National Drawing Contest for youth between the ages of 3 and 16. Enter HERE!
Check out the Ontario Equestrian Federation Facebook page for pictures from last year’s Horse Day in Toronto.
For more information, visit www.equinecanada.ca or contact Julie Cull, Equine Canada Program Manager, Participation and Equine Development by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-866-282-8395 x 120.
May 11, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
Lyme disease is an infection transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. It is tick season in Ontario and due to the warmer than average winter we experienced, ticks are out earlier this year and there seems to be a higher abundance of them.
Signs of Lyme Disease
Signs of Lyme disease in horses can include lethargy, a stiff gait, hypersensitivity to touch and sound, muscle wasting, ataxia, nerve and muscle pain, nodular dermatitis (bumps on the skin that can be associated with crusting, oozing, and infection), and uveitis.
Treatment of Lyme Disease
There is no equine-approved vaccine. Once a veterinarian diagnoses a horse with Lyme disease, they can prescribe are expensive because the treatment period is long-term. Even if the treatment is successful, the horse could be infected again as contracting the disease does not provide any future immunity. There is also no equine-approved vaccine.
Lyme Disease Prevention
There are steps you can take to help prevent ticks from making a home on your horse. Tick sprays (can be expensive) but some fly sprays may help prevent against ticks. Spraying legs with show sheen can help prevent the tick from attaching to your horse. Check your horse daily and watch for signs of the disease if you find one on your horse. Make your horse’s turnout area an unfriendly habitat for ticks. Keep grass short and trim overhanging branches and tall brush.
TheHorse.com has an excellent primer on this: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/10200/lyme-disease-in-horses
May 9, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
Operating since 1984, D’Arcy Lane started as a skin and body care studio and commenced the School for Registered Massage Therapy, European Esthetics, Cosmetology, Electrolysis, Reflexology and Make up Artistry.
D’Arcy Lane started offering its equine program since 1996. Their equine massage therapy program is the only registered program of its kind in North America and offers the most intensive program to date in equine massage. The program is 2200 hours in length and courses cover a variety of subjects including anatomy, physiology, professionalism and ethics, business management, equine behaviour, in addition to equine massage techniques and treatments.
In this episode of the podcast, Lisa Kavanagh, director at D’Arcy Lane Institute discusses the equine program and what the industry of equine massage entails. For more information, check out their website at http://darcylane.com/.
May 4, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
Lynn Whetham is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Partner at Stepright Capital in St. George, Ontario who is also an avid trail rider. She loves to camp and hit the trails in the Ganaraska Forest just outside of Peterborough, Ontario with her horse, Arrow. In this episode of the podcast, Lynn talks about financial planning and why it is important for equestrians and horse owners, what young riders can do for their financial planning and what the most common mistake equestrians and horse owners make with their money.
More information about Lynn and Stepright Capital can be found on their website (http://stepright.ca/ourteam/lynn-whetham/). If you wish to get in touch with Lynn to discuss your plans, you can contact her at email@example.com or 1-866-218-6467.
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April 30, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
In case you were unable to attend the Equine Canada convention in Montreal this past weekend, here is a taste of what you missed:
The theme of the convention was “change”. In her “Year in Review” talk, Equine Canada CEO Eva Havaris used this word many times. The Canadian sport system is changing and if we want equestrian sport in Canada to be seen as something of quality and relevant, change within the organization needs to occur. At the Awards Gala on the Friday evening, the new logo and name, “Equestrian Canada” was unveiled.
The official launch of the new brand, including a new and revitalized EC website, will take place in June 2016.
Havaris also stated the 5 key priorities that Equine Canada/Equestrian Canada would be striving to work towards in their change are
- Build a best in class federation
- Grow resources
- Offer quality service
- Major games – need to get Canada behind the sport, not just equestrians
- Improve focus and relevance to programs and services
At the Athlete’s Panel, the topic of discussion was “it takes a village”. In order to improve our high performance strategy, we need to pay more attention to the team surrounding the athlete. These high level horses have a whole team behind them, including coaches, veterinarians, massage therapists, nutritionists, etc. but as athletes, we seem to forget to pay the same level of care to ourselves.
The Equine Industry Development Forum touched on two topics. The first topic was pre-purchase examinations with speakers Dr. Mary Bell and Dr. Melanie Barham. The takeaway message from this presentation was that veterinarians cannot legally pass or fail a horse. What the exam is intended to do is help the purchaser make an assumption of risk. There are different requirements of horses that are going to be used for high levels of competition versus a pleasure horse so what may not work for one purchaser may work for another. A horse may have something come up in a pre-purchase exam that may be a career ender for one purchase but another may be able to manage the issue and go on to have many years of success with the horse.
It had been suggested that there be standards and guidelines in place for pre-purchase examinations but standards across the board may not be feasible as the longevity and usefulness of the horse will depend a lot on the management of the horse and how much risk the purchaser is willing to take. Because there are a number of misconceptions about the pre-purchase exam, educating sellers and buyers was seen as a possible solution. Equine Canada will be releasing a buyers guide to be released in the future.
The second topic of the session was biosecurity. Equine Canada has developed a biosecurity standard with a producer guide to come out this fall. The standard is a set of guidelines and recommendations for horse owners and caretakers to protect their horses from dangerous diseases. The producer guide will outline how to implement the guidelines set out in the standard.
April 28, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski
Sarah Corbett is a young rider from the London area who is currently training in dressage. In this episode of the London Horse Sports podcast, we talk with Sarah and learn about her current horse, Woodstock, her goals and training plan, and how she manages to balance school with her riding. We also learn about the Young Riders program and what Sarah’s plans for the show season are.
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April 23, 2016 | Ashley Tomaszewski