Monthly Archives: December 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

“Peace on Earth, good will to men…”

Peace. Good will. Sharing. Giving. Selflessness. Joy. Fun. These are all things we associate with Christmas. I just got to thinking that they’re all things I associate with horsemanship as well.

Christmas season is a beautiful time of year when giving is in abundance. We consider our friends, family and children. I know many people that extend gifts to their pets and horses as well. There’s just a good feeling in that. There is a difference, however, between gifting and giving. This time of year my inbox is full of emails capitalizing on gifting. Last minute Sale or Black Monday extended until 2016 with 0% interest for 6 months and a free Toaster Oven if you order in the next 5 minutes offers flood the internet.

Amazing Horse Country - Original 5In recent years it’s become obvious in our family that none of us need any more stuff. My parents recently moved and downsized. My barn is full of tubs of items that I don’t have room for in the house. So gifting is difficult. As an alternative to spending money on items I’d much rather spend time with family and friends…go on a trip somewhere or simply go to a movie or out for dinner. Instead of swapping gifts, why not pool our resources and do something fun? Enjoy each other’s company and make some good memories. It’s easy to hand over a gift. It’s much harder in our busy lives to commit a day or more to spending time with those that we might not see very often.

Regardless, I consider giving a root of horsemanship. In my clinics we learn that if you focus on the success of the HORSE vs the success of YOU, the results will be much more profound. This practice extends to many facets of our lives. Consider a hockey team. If the only thing I ever focus on is how I’M going to get the puck in the net, I’m not an effective team member. To be successful I need to consider the other players so I can make a pass or set up a play so that our TEAM can score a goal. The old saying holds true: There is no I in TEAM.

And so it holds true for our horses as well. As much as we strive for personal success, focusing on success without the consideration of the horse will ultimately limit the amount we can achieve.

Amazing Horse Country - Spud and PonkeyI’ve learned through experience that the success derived, the pride felt and the goals attained are directly proportional to the amount of time given to, or invested in, the horse. Our time, patience and understanding. Pondering what worked, what didn’t and why,  and then setting up situations that support the horse so that he can try and succeed. Our focus on helping him succeed yields far greater results in the end – and much less frustration. Just like giving a meaningful gift to a person, horses appreciate it. It’s true: they learn by repetition and will come to expect that you can provide for them a feeling of success, pride and ultimately peace, when they try.

Not only that, the more you commit to the success of each horse, the more you learn about horses. The more you increase your knowledge base so that you can apply what you’ve learned in training, riding or working with other horses. It’s a recipe for success: You give wholeheartedly to the horse and in turn you receive incredible benefits. A win-win situation, so to speak. A gift exchange, perhaps?

scott phillips and belle

The author and his mare, Belle, at Hole In the Wall, WY

My mare, Belle, has taught me some huge lessons over the years. Years ago, a friend observed us and declared, It looks like you’ve found your soul mate.  In that connection we achieve so much. But it’s not always easy. When I’m focused on a technical element, it’s very easy to forget that I’m sitting on an animal that is thinking, feeling and trying to comprehend what I’m doing. And if I neglect that aspect, then Belle stops trying. This last year I was training with Belle and made the comment, We’re renewing our vows this week!  We went back to the roots of our connection and concentrated on taking it forward into ground work and riding. We reached new levels because she was aware that I was caring for her. The experience was incredibly moving.

Sound familiar? A marriage requires devotion to your spouse. Raising children requires your attention to their thoughts and needs. They are aware when you are truly sensitive to what they’re thinking and feeling.  Horses, also, are very perceptive on that level.

With a horse then, particularly when working on something new, we need to be conscious of that. We need to mix feel and technical in a balance so that we can elevate and maintain our feel within the technical. It requires that we always be alert to what he’s thinking and feeling and that we support that through and within his movement. Not simply before and after, but during.

It might seem that giving that much to a horse is the long way around to achieving some specific maneuver or exercise. In fact the converse is true. It’s the way to build a base of achievements, learning and knowledge…enhancing and adding to our horsemanship repertoire. Showing a horse the way to success, repeatedly, paves the path for trust, pride, effective leadership and so many other great things. Developing these skills can extend past our equine endeavors and enhance our lives and even our relationships with other people.

I consider myself blessed with the horses I own and the opportunity to work with the horses of others. Each one of them continues to teach me so many things. My gift to them is my time. My patience. My desire to understand and support them. My commitment to their success. I extend to them good will…and peace. The product is not only a more capable horse, but one that recognizes me as a good leader, a provider of success and pride…and a true companion.

In turn this yields the best Christmas present I could ever hope for from a horse: that look in his eye that simply says, I like to be with you. I trust in you. I believe in you.

Christmas Horses

Merry Christmas from Amazing Horse Country

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all the family at Amazing Horse Country.

Scott Phillips

December 2015



Equine Infectious Anemia

With the recent outbreaks of Equine Infectious Anemia in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, I get a lot of questions regarding the severity of the disease and its risk factors. Here is a quick outline on the disease, its symptoms, treatment and how you can try protect your horses.

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), what is it?

EIA is a potentially fatal viral disease that affects the equine species which includes horses, donkeys and mules. Once the horse contracts the disease it is a carrier for life and becomes a source of infection for other horses. Much like HIV in people, it is incurable, lifelong and continually infectious. It is a disease only of the equine species, so other species like humans, dogs, cats or cattle cannot contract the disease. After a horse contracts the disease, it is likely to die or die of complications from the disease.

Equine Infectious Anemia severity is directly related to the amount of virus contracted. Horses can either be acute, subacute or chronically infected. The acute symptoms are the most severe and are related to the virus’s ability to enter the horses white blood cells and cause them to release pro-inflammatory mediators in large unhealthy amounts. Platelet production is suppressed at the same time by being ‘tagged’ and destroyed by the body’s natural defense mechanisms. The outcome of these effects result in a horse that is lethargic, febrile and has thrombocytopenia (low platelet levels, which are important for clotting during bleeding). These signs can be mild and only last 1-3 days so can be easily missed, but the symptoms often continue to re-occur and as the disease progresses the horse will become anemic, small pinpoint haemorrhages will show up on the mucous membranes, edema of the legs and belly will occur and eventually the horse will become weak and uncoordinated. At this point the horse often dies.

Occasionally horses will not show any symptoms and these are considered the carrier type chronically infected horses. These horses are a major source of infection for other horses. They are rare, but this is the reason we haven’t been able to eradicate the disease because often these rare chronically infected horses are wild ones.

wild horses

Is EIA common in North America?

Yes. It is actually found world wide and is considered to be a sporadic disease among horse populations all over the world. In Canada, EIA has existed since the 1800s with outbreaks occurring most often where wild horses are prevalent. The occurrence of the disease is not high, but fatality if contracted is common.

How does Equine Infectious Anemia spread and get passed from horse to horse?

EIA is spread around by contaminated blood. An infected animal gets bitten by an insect such as horse flies, stable flies, midges or deer flies, the insect sucks blood and becomes contaminated itself. Once the insect is contaminated it can pass on the infection to another horse by biting it and spreading the contaminated blood. Transfer can also occur through humans that use the same needles, syringes or other instruments on multiple horses. Any method of blood to blood contact can potentially spread the disease from horse to horse. Research has also proven that EIA can be transferred through semen on an infected stallion which will infect the foal before it is even born.

Stallion???? flies

What clinical signs can an owner watch out for?

Once a horse is infected, it usually takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks for symptoms to show up. But it can take as little as 1 week or as long as 3 months as well. Horses that are infected may show any or all of the following symptoms:

– Weakness, depression, weight loss, anorexia, intermittent fever up to 41C. Yellow gums or eyes, small pin point blood spots under the tongue and/or eyes, swelling of the legs or bottom of the belly, loss of coordination. Infected foals are usually aborted before birth, or die shortly (up to 2 months) after birth.

yellow eye?? petechia????ventral edema

How can you treat Equine Infectious Anemia?

There is no known cure for EIA and there isn’t a vaccine that has been developed either. Supportive therapy may help individual cases but that horse will forever be a risk to all other horses. The only way to control the disease after confirming the horse is positive is either humane destruction or life-long quarantine. This is why this disease is so devastating.

What control methods are there to help prevent the spread of the disease and decrease the risk of contraction and spread within the horse community?

The best way to control the disease is by testing horses, identifying positive carriers and implementing mandatory testing for imported or captured equines. Controlling insects and other mechanical vectors also help a lot in the decrease rate of contraction. To test your horse a simple blood test is done, it is referred to as a “Coggin’s test.” Many shows now require a negative Coggins result for boarding and participation and most importation/exportation require a Coggins test as well.

blood pull

How can you protect your horse?

The following has been taken from the CFIA (Canadain Food Inspection Agency) website:

Equine owners can take the following precautions to reduce the risk of infection:

  • use strict hygiene practices when vaccinating or collecting blood samples from equines;
  • use disposable needles and syringes, and do not use the same needle on more than one equine;
  • implement insect control measures;
  • test equines as per equine industry standards (i.e., race tracks, shows, events, breeding stables,etc.) and whenever equines from different sources will intermingle;
  • isolate all new equines until they have been tested forEIA;
  • do not breed EIA-positive equines;
  • abide by the national EIA??control program; and
  • consult your veterinarian if you suspect your equine may be infected with EIA.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) imposes strict regulations on the import of animals and animal products from countries where EIA is known to occur. These regulations are enforced through port-of-entry inspections done either by the Canada Border Services Agency or the CFIA. As long as a Coggins result is in hand, exportation/importation is usually not a problem.

EIA is a “reportable disease” under the??Health of Animals Act. This means that all suspected cases must be reported to the??CFIA.

In conclusion Equine Infectious Anemia is a disease prevalent in western Canada. The reason we have been unable to eradicate the disease is due to the carriers present in the wild population which from time to time infect domesticated horses. Spread normally occurs during activities where a large amount of horses will congregate such as shows, competitions and public trail riding areas. To protect your horse make sure you control biting insects as best as you can as well as never re-use medical equipment. To ensure your horse is negative, visit your local veterinarian and request a Coggins test be done.

Hope you found this article informative. If  you have further questions feel free to send a message and I’ll do my best to answer in a few days time.