Home Current News News Archive Shop/Advertise Ridecamp Classified Events Learn/AERC
Endurance.Net Home Ridecamp Archives
[Archives Index]   [Date Index]   [Thread Index]   [Author Index]   [Subject Index]

RE: [RC] !Robert Miller, DVM on Barbaro &horsemanship today - Mcgann, Barbara

Dr. Miller is my hero, bar none.   I agree with every word he says
here!!  This should be required reading for every horse owner.

Barb McGann

-----Original Message-----
From: ridecamp-owner@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:ridecamp-owner@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Christy H
Sent: Friday, February 02, 2007 14:35
To: ridecamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [RC] !Robert Miller, DVM on Barbaro &horsemanship today

This is a great article by a respected man....

By Robert M. Miller, DVM

The Nation was shocked when Barbaro broke down shortly after leaving the
gate at the Preakness. I saw the repaired fractures in TIME magazine.
What I think happened is that the sesamoid bone fractured, a common
injury. As a result, the fetlock collapses causing the pastern bone to
explode into multiple fragments, probably with the next stride or two.

The last time the general public was exposed to a racetrack tragedy like
this was when the great filly, Ruffian, fractured; the injury eventually
resulting in her death. The news media focuses on great champions like
these, but what most people don't realize is that such injuries are
relatively common occurrences in horse racing. Part of the cause is that
we have bred athletic power into our racing breeds far exceeding what
nature requires for the horse to survive in its natural environment. All
wild horses need to do is outrun a big cat. We have selectively bred for
speeds that the anatomy of the horse cannot always cope with. In
addition, we train and race them long before they are mature.
The immature are often capable of spectacular athletic performance.
Every time I watch an Olympics and I see gymnasts as young as 13, 14 or
15 years of age, I wince at the thought of the damage I know is
occurring to some of their bodies. I started a year of gymnastics at 17
years of age, and I wasn't very good, but I still managed to do damage
that manifested itself many years later. Fortunately, I was drafted into
the Army at 18, which ended my gymnastic career.

Half a century ago, when I was cowboying, "colts" were started at four
years of age or older. Once in a while, one might be started as a
Despite some very hard work, barring accidents, those ranch horses were
still sound and working into their 20's. I'm not opposed to racing. It's
a great sport and has motivated mankind to produce truly great horse
But I am opposed to any
practices which contribute to premature crippling of otherwise healthy

Some years ago, the annual convention of the American Association of
Equine Practitioners (A.A.E.P.) was held in Dallas. The same week, the
national cutting horse futurities were being held in nearby Fort Worth.
Three colleagues from Sweden told me that they wanted to see the cutting
So, one evening, after the day of scientific lectures had ended, I
accompanied the three Swedish vets to Fort Worth. After watching several
horses perform, the senior Swede, a professor from the vet school in
Upsula, Sweden, said, "This is incredible! It must take many years to
obtain such performance from a horse." "But," I answered, "this is a
futurity." "I do not understand this word," he said. "These are colts,"
I explained. "These are just three-year-olds." He looked shocked, turned
to his companions and explained to them in Swedish and then said to me
in English, "I have only two comments: One, it must take great skill to
be able to train a horse to do this in so brief a time. And, two, what
is happening to their poor legs?"

Today, we have all sorts of futurities - reining, cutting, barrel
racing, etc. I have tried many times to get owners to postpone arduous
training to give the colt a chance to mature. Most of the time, I was
ignored. The lure of winning something or making some money was too
great to resist. My strategy when the owner insisted on going ahead with
training and/or competition that I felt was premature was to say,
"That's okay. You go ahead. What you are doing is very good for my

Why is it that the protests against over-using young horses come
primarily from the people who profit from such abuse - the
veterinarians? Is it because we best understand the trauma being
inflicted upon immature skeletons, joints, ligaments and tendons? Just
as I am not opposed to racing, if properly conducted, I am not opposed
to horse shows or competitive equine events. Horse shows, like all
livestock shows, were conceived of long ago to "improve the breed". They
were designed to demonstrate and reward the people who were doing the
best job of breeding, of selecting bloodstock, and of creating superior
bloodlines. Unfortunately, human nature, vanity and greed have corrupted
the horse show industry.

We see grotesque caricatures of the original character of each breed.
Stock horses, the working ranch breeds, are shown in Western Pleasure
classes traveling in a manner that would drive a working cowboy crazy.
With lowered heads, going in a downhill manner, these horses greatly
magnify the forces placed upon the forelimbs. Once again, good for us
vets. It produces income, but the horses suffer. The wonderful Tennessee
Walking Horse is shod and shown in distorted gaits that can only be
called "grotesque".

If it weren't for the frequent veterinary checks, which are mandatory,
can you imagine how many endurance racing horses would die because of
their riders' consuming desire to win? I remember the early endurance
races. Saddlebred, with surgically distorted tails, and gingered anuses,
are exhibited with the pupils of their eyes dilated with atropine. How
many people who sincerely consider themselves to be "horse lovers" wean
foals at three months of age, or even earlier, which nature never

How many horses, a gregarious species, spend their lives locked in box
stalls? How many horses in the U.S.A, like so much of our human
population, are damaged healthwise by excessive nutrition?
Such abuses exist in ever breed, every discipline, in every equine
sport. We need to step back and analyze what we are doing. One of my
clients was a prosperous, educated couple. They were very congenial, and
they owned three Quarter Horses. One day, they called me to come to
their home to worm their horses and check them over and booster their
vaccinations. When I arrived, I found only two horses, so I asked where
the third one was.

"Oh, he's in training as a reining horse, with ____________ " (a
successful and notoriously brutal trainer who also happened to be one of
my clients). I said, "Oh, I see." Then the wife said, "We know how cruel
he is to the horses, but he wins!" I never felt the same toward those
people, again. This same trainer (he's been dead for many years) once
said to me, "Doc, why can't you guys cut the tails on my horses? Why do
you make me drive 300 miles round trip to get my tails done?" He was
referring to the illicit surgical paralyzing of the tail, common in
reining horses so they can't switch their tails. ALL of the horses in
his barn had their tails cut. I said, "Were you ever beaten in a show by
a horse that you knew had its tail cut?" "Oh sure," he said. "Lots of
times." "Well," I told him, "I didn't cut the tail nor did my partners.
We won't do anything against the association rules." This same guy, a
world-class competitor, kept every horse in his barn on Serpecil, a
tranquilizer not approved by FDA for use in horses. I have no idea where
he got the drug, but somebody was selling it to him.

I believe that a conspiracy exists in the horse show industry. The
trainers are judges, and the judges are trainers. Too often, they
scratch each others' backs. If Western Pleasure horses were shown as
they were 50 or 60 years ago, a good amateur could turn out a champion.
But it takes a real pro to produce the freaks seen in today's Western
Pleasure classes. And, after the horse goes back to the owner from the
trainer and is no longer winning, it has to go back to the trainer for a

A few days before I wrote this article, I got back from Bishop Mule
Days, a unique event I attend every year that has no equal anywhere in
the world. I had the pleasure of seeing Western Pleasure mules that WERE
NOT "peanut rollers". The trend began some years ago, but the mule
people balked at it and ruled it out. GOOD FOR THEM! You see, to be a
mule lover, you REALLY gotta love horses!

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2006 edition of
<http://www.equine- reproduction. com/cgi-bin/ AX/ax.pl? 
http://www.cowboymagazine.com/> Cowboy Magazine

Valentine's Day -- Shop for gifts that spell L-O-V-E at MSN Shopping


Ridecamp is a service of Endurance Net, http://www.endurance.net.
Information, Policy, Disclaimer: http://www.endurance.net/Ridecamp
Subscribe/Unsubscribe http://www.endurance.net/ridecamp/logon.asp

Ride Long and Ride Safe!!


Ridecamp is a service of Endurance Net, http://www.endurance.net.
Information, Policy, Disclaimer: http://www.endurance.net/Ridecamp
Subscribe/Unsubscribe http://www.endurance.net/ridecamp/logon.asp

Ride Long and Ride Safe!!


[RC] !Robert Miller, DVM on Barbaro &horsemanship today, Christy H