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‘‘A BLIND man can see what’s happening, we’re running out of horses.’’ With that stark statement, North Auckland trainer Ray Green issued a warning that unless Harness Racing New Zealand got off its hands and did something to address the problem, the game would quickly die. Green went on the attack this week with the revelation that the number of mares served was down another 6.6% and for the first time in decades New Zealand’s foal crop will dip below 2000. Alarmingly, the number of mares bred is down to 2832, a drop of 28% on 10 years ago. And Green says that’s all down to the wonderful policy HRNZ had adopted to arrest the decline - ‘‘it’s called let’s do nothing.’’ ‘‘Breeders are quite rightly getting pissed off - the owners aren’t there to buy their horses any more because the costs are too high and stakes too low. And HRNZ is the enemy because it has done nothing to counter that.’’ Green, trainer for the powerful Lincoln Farms operation, said they had recently sold talented pacers Medley Moose, Hawkeye Bromac and Imhisdaughter to Australia because it made no sense to keep racing them here. ‘‘Medley Moose is a beautiful horse, I would love to have kept him, but we had a good offer for him and it would have been hard to win that sort of money here. The handicapping system is such that with one more win he would have been up against Terror To Love. You just have to sell them.’’ Green said owners are continually weighing up whether to take a punt and keep their horse or to sell them. ‘‘If an owner thinks his horse can win two more races, and perhaps another $10,000, if an Australian wants to give him $50,000 for his horse, it’s a no-brainer. ‘‘The Auckland Trotting Club, struggling to fill its fields, is offering higher stakes, hoping people will retain their horses. But horses will still be handicapped out of it too quickly and people will still want to sell them.’’ Green cited the case of a two-year-old in his stable who had won three races.‘‘He’s a c2 but if he wins another race over $15,000 he’ll start next year as a c3 horse and to get a run he’ll have to go in standing starts and have Besotted, our c9 horse, breathing down his neck.’’ Crazily, Besotted, who has never won a race over $15,000, is still rated an M0 in Australia and could go to Sydney and win two or three races really quickly. ‘‘They need to create more opportunities for horses to be viable here if they want to keep them. But people will not wait forever. Like cars, horses depreciate as they get older, and the more a horse wins here, the less it is worth over there. ‘‘The game’s going to die unless something is done but  the powers that be don’t seem to be interested.’’ HRNZ chief executive Edward Rennell said Green was completely wrong to say nothing was being done to solve the problem but there was no silver bullet. ‘‘Yes, the number being bred is of concern but what is encouraging is the wastage factor is less.’’ Rennell said the breeding decline was a worldwide problem. In Australia, standardbred breeding numbers dropped by 33% in the last 10 years and by 47% in North America, according to a report it commissioned from the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders’ Association. The thoroughbred code faced the same issue, he said. Rennell said while the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club had introduced a breeders’ bonus - in the last three months 34 $500 bonuses have been paid out to breeders of tote race winners at Addington - HRNZ did not agree that all stake payouts should incorporate the same bonus, a French initiative being promoted by Studholme Bloodstock’s Brian West. ‘‘There is a limited pool of funds and if you pay some of that to the breeders that’s less that goes to the owners,’’ Rennell said. ‘‘And we are trying to make ownership more attractive and viable.’’ Rennell said HRNZ had increased the minimum stake to $5000 this season and stakes were up overall by 6%. It would be examining whether to increase the $80 payout to every starter. HRNZ was also looking at reducing the number of races next season by 2%. In the 2005-06 season, 2435 races were run while that number rose to 2743 last year, putting more strain on field sizes. Discussions were also underway with the Sires’ Stakes Board, the breeders and two principal clubs on whether changes were needed to age group and premier racing. ‘‘But we think that the changes to the handicapping system are working because field sizes are up from 10.4 starters per race to 10.6.’’ While that might not sound much, it was a significant improvement when it covered 2700 races. Rennell said the handicapping sub-committee was meeting next week to review the performance of the new system and its age group concessions and would make a recommendation on whether it thought the drop back provision should be reduced from 10 starts. The challenge for HRNZ was not only to get more horses to the races but to better use the horse population – if every horse raced just once more in a season, field sizes could be maintained. Rennell said the number of horses sold to Australia was actually down on previous years. ‘‘It averages around 850 a season but that’s down 50-100 because of the new import levy.’’  Overall, exports were similar with about 100 sent to China. WASTAGE COSTS BREEDERS $11 MILLION HALF OF all the standardbred horses we breed never get to the races. And that disturbing fact, rather than the continuing decline in numbers, will be the immediate focus for the industry’s main breeding body. The annual cost to breeders of the high level of wastage is put at $11 million in a paper by Kiely Buttell, executive manager of the NZ Standardbred Breeders’ Association. ‘‘At an average service fee of $6000, plus vet costs, stud handling fees and agistment charges of a further $1500, the annual (wastage) cost to breeders is $11 million.’’  While figures show the percentage of the foal crop wasted dropped from 61% in 1995 to 53% in 2005, Buttell says the continuing high level is a major conern. ‘‘There will always be a percentage of the foal crop that is born with defects, die at an early age or suffer accidents that will impinge on their racing viability. ‘‘But we need to understand the percentage of horses that are deemed unviable for non injury related reasons and identify solutions to address this.’’ The NZSBA would also be focussing on conception rates. Only 71% of mares served in the latest breeding season were confirmed in foal, a figure which has been static in the last 20 years despite improvements in artificial insemination in other breeds. "Serving a mare three times and not getting her into foal is a massive cost to breeders.’’ Buttell said the association had engaged Palmerston North trainer and equine researcher Jasmine Tanner to scope a research project to investigate the quality parameters of chilled standardbred semen in New Zealand in order to improve conception rates in mares and increase the economic viability for broodmare owners. Funding would be sought from the NZ Equine Research Foundation but the industry might have to foot some of the bill itself, she said. Evidence suggested it was the smaller hobby breeder who was exiting the game, citing rising breeding costs along with declining stakes. That was a problem when breeders here raced 50% of horses. BARRY LICHTER Courtesy of the Sunday Star Times

Early Bird Registration extended to April 7th A Guided Tour of Equine Anatomy is a dissection workshop offered to horse enthusiasts and professionals alike to help them understand equine anatomy first hand. Led by Ontario Veterinary College researcher and anatomy instructor, Dr. Jeff Thomason, this unique educational workshop is offered at the Ontario Veterinary College. Early bird sign up has been extended to April 7th for workshops offered on April 26 and 27, 2014. Well known for his ability to bring anatomy to life, Thomason guides participants through plenty of hands-on exploration of the anatomy of a horse in a way most do not get to experience. An overview of the large muscle groups of the neck, trunk and legs is followed by an exploration of the abdomen and chest. The latter part of the laboratory is designed to allow individual students to explore their areas of interest in further detail. This one day workshop can be followed by a second day of advanced exploration which would allow the participants to get even more specific in learning how different systems function. Some of the second day topics have included looking at the mechanics of the leg or the complexities of the respiratory system. Students leave with a much broader understanding of how form and function intertwine. Dr. Thomason, is not only an internationally recognized researcher but he also teaches anatomy to veterinary students at the OVC and is excellent at explaining basic to advanced anatomy topics. Registration is online at: http://tinyurl.com/anatomyworkshop. For more information about this workshop: http://www.equineguelph.ca/pdf/workshop/Equine%20Anatomy%20Workshop%20Flyer%20-%202014.pdf or contact Equine Guelph. 519-824-4120 ext 54205 email: horses@uoguelph.ca  

Schenectady, NY – Harness Racing’s top guns descended upon the New York State Gaming Commission public hearing to advance concerns over proposed drug levels for racehorses.  U. S. Trotting Association President, Phil Langley, and Standardbred Owners Association of New York President, Joe Faraldo, led a group of distinguished veterinarians and research experts to counter the “one size fits all” approach being forwarded by the Thoroughbred-based Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) proposals. The appearance of the Standardbred leaders at the public hearing, called by the agency formerly known as the NYS Racing and Wagering board, was to hear “testimony about adoption of per se regulatory thresholds for 24 approved equine medications and amending pre-race restricted time periods for various drugs.” One particular therapeutic substance, respiratory aid Clenbuterol, has been at the forefront of a debate over uniform medication rules approved by the RMTC. Although there is widespread Thoroughbred support for the measures, the Standardbred industry has argued that the two breeds have very distinct differences and therefore should be treated differently.  The proposed rule would prohibit the bronchial dilator from being administered within 14 days of racing, effectively eliminating its potential benefit to Standardbreds that generally race every week. Langley noted that, “Our horses are so durable, they do not even look [like Thoroughbreds.]  Many of our horses race 30 to 40 times each year.  In fact, the leading money-winning horse of all time started 198 times.  We are not trying to get the standards lowered.  We just want to conduct [racing] the way we are.” Dr. Kanter, an expert in equine medicine and pharmacology, with over 40 years of experience as the track vet at Buffalo and Batavia.  “This measure could be denying horses the benefit of years of research of these useful therapeutic drugs, while the efficacy of known substitutes is yet unproven.” Dr. Janet Durso of Goshen, NY, reiterated those concerns.  “Clenbuterol is one of the best drugs for treating blood and discharge from a horse’s lungs.  Remedies would be problematic without it!” One of the contributing factors toward this proposal is the concern that some Thoroughbred trainers are abusing Clenbuterol by overdosing in order to achieve a repartitioning effect, or to build muscle mass.  That appears to be a non-issue in Standardbreds as they race too often for long-term dosages to be administered effectively. Dr. Tobin, a renowned expert from the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, stated, “Clenbuterol did have a repartitioning effect and increased muscle mass, but this did not translate into an increase in performance.  In fact, it decreased performance.” Although the prospect of catastrophic injury of racehorses was discussed, Dr. Tobin noted that “Harness Racing was one of the safest sports in North America.  Only 1 in 15,000 fatal injuries occurred in Standardbreds, where 1 in 2,000 occurred in Thoroughbreds over the same time period.” Several other items were addressed, such as the list of 24 drugs that would provide for the basis of drugs that would have established levels for testing.  All others would be considered “off-limits” for use and result in positive tests if found in race-day blood or urine testing.  In addition, the proposal of special corticosteroid regulations sparked added debate. Of the nine speakers, eight of the experts gave convincing testimony toward the need for separate rules for each breed.  Dr. Dionne Benson, the executive director of the RMTC (Racing Medication and Testing Consortium), was the last speaker and lone dissenter.  She noted that the ad hoc committee for all breeds felt that the thresholds are appropriate, and that the state of Pennsylvania was “on-board” with her groups recommendations. Nonetheless, Joe Faraldo is not convinced that the RMTC proposals are suitable for Harness Racing.  “We heard today that not all of the scientific bases have been covered.  I believe that the [NYS Gaming Board] is cognizant of that fact.  Because this board took the time to listen to all of these points of view, and the science behind them, it is a good indication that Harness Racing will be treated fairly.” by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com

Equine Guelph has launched a new two and a half minute video to help horse owners with parasite management. When a growing resistance to dewormers is cited as a major issue concerning horse owners today, a fecal exam to see if your parasite control program is working makes sense. Collecting a manure sample is easy, but it must be done properly to ensure accurate test results. How to Collect Manure for a Fecal Egg Count (FEC) 1) Write the date and horse's name on the front part of this zip-lock bag. 2) Take another zip-lock bag and turn it inside-out over your hand. 3) With your hand inside the bag, pick up a fresh fecal mass. 4) Use your other hand to pull the zip-lock bag over your hand, turning the bag right side out. Squeeze out as much air as possible. The feces are now in the bag. 5) Zip up the bag. Place the bag into the labelled bag. 6) Store in a cool place, such as a refrigerator but not in the freezer. 7) Deliver your fecal sample to the vet within 48 hours! WARNING! Do not place the sample in the freezer or leave it in your car. Extreme cold or heat can kill parasites, defeating the purpose of collecting a sample. Be sure to request feces are examined for a strongyle egg count in horses aged 2 years and up. Rotate or rest? That is a very good question when it comes to the use of deworming products. After peaking with parasitic disease expert and Ontario Veterinary College researcher Dr. Andrew Peregrine, I am not only eager to pick up more poop but I am keen to have it analyzed. Ontario Veterinary College researcher Dr. Andrew Peregrine says, "Less than three percent of horse owners perform fecal exams and to date this is the only way to find out if your horse is carrying an unhealthy parasite burden." He recommends all horse owners get in the habit of performing a fecal at least once a year. Peregrine advises horse owners to discuss the right parasite control program with their vet to be sure they are following an individual program that is right for their horse. Rotation of deworming products (not just switching brands but switching drug classes) should not be the only point of conversation. Environment and stage of life plays a key role in determining what measures can be taken to keep the parasite population in check. And of course, the starting point is a fecal exam to learn if the egg count warrants action. If the fecal egg count is high - another exam two weeks after deworming will let the horse owner know if what they are doing is working. For more information on parasite control programs read the full article at: http://equineguelph.ca/news/index.php?content=364 and check out the video outlining how to collect a fecal sample attached. Jackie Bellamy

LATHAM, N.Y.—The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine will present a seminar on advances in equine health practices and procedures for horse breeders, owners and trainers on Sunday, Aug. 25th, at Vernon Downs in Vernon, N.Y. The event is sponsored by the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund and hosted by Harness Horse Breeders of New York State The seminar will cover how to protect your horse from infectious diseases, platelets and Equine Herpes Virus Type-1 infection, Alternative sources of equine mesenchymal stem cells, Equine Hepatitis Virus discoveries and their importance to equine health and diagnosis of poor performance in racehorses. It begins at 2:00 p.m., with registration at 1:30 p.m., and includes a buffet dinner. Beverages will be available at registration. The seminar is free and includes learning materials. This equine seminar requires advance registration. For more information or to register, please call Harness Horse Breeders at 518-785-5858 or e-mail info@hhbnys.com. For anyone interested in staying for the races on Aug. 25th, the Zweig Memorial Trot Open and Filly division will take place on the evening card with a post time of 6:45pm. by Betty Holt  

Guelph, Ontario - After declaring 2013 the 'Year of Colic Prevention,' Equine Guelph has announced the release of its latest online health care tool - the Colic Risk Rater.   This free, customized tool is designed for the individual horseperson to rate his/her horse's risk of colic. The Colic Risk Rater assesses and calculates colic risk while providing useful feedback on management practices through a series of questions in 10 categories, requiring less than 10 minutes to complete. The goal of the Colic Risk Rater tool is to provide horse owners a simple way to determine if their horse is at a high risk for colic, given the horse's personal scenario. After each question, the risk rater dial will fluctuate back or forth, revealing the constantly changing risk - and in the end, providing an overall colic risk rating calculation for each horse. Historically, colic became the horse's arch nemesis thousands of years ago when humans started taking horses out of their natural environment. The use and management of modern horses are a huge departure from their wild counterparts, placing them at a higher risk of colic. Logically, it follows in Dr. Christine King's writings from "Preventing Colic in Horses" that 80% of colic cases are management-related. Dr. Crossan, guest speaker in Equine Guelph's colic prevention eWorkshop, concurs with Dr. King's staggering statistic. "Experts agree that the majority of colic's are a result of management practices," says Dr. Crossan. "Prevention through management is the best course of action when it comes to colic." Thus, horse owners can play a major role in reducing colic risk through management. Owners must be aware of the risk factors, especially the ones we can manage such as feeding, housing, parasite control and stress. The Colic Risk Rater is one more crucial tool in the horse caregiver's arsenal, designed to identify the risk factors and provide prevention tips, aiming to minimize needless pain and suffering of our equine companion. Given that colic is the number one killer of horses (other than old age), the ten minute investment in this free tool is invaluable. In addition to funding from Standardbred Canada, investment in this project has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP). In Ontario, the Agricultural Adaptation Council delivers this program. Partners include: Central Ontario Standardbred Association, Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Society of Ontario, Ontario Association of Equine Practitioners, Ontario Equestrian Federation, Ontario Harness Horse Association and the Ontario Veterinary College. To check out the Colic Risk Rater or to find out more about Equine Guelph's Colic Prevention Programs including the upcoming fall eWorkshop, scheduled for September 9 -22, visit http://EquineGuelph.ca/eworkshops/colic/php by Kayla Dorricott Equine Guelph is the horse owners' and care givers' Centre at the University of Guelph. It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups. Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government - for the good of the equine industry as a whole. For further information, visit www.EquineGuelph.ca.  

LATHAM, N.Y.-The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine will present a seminar on advances in equine health practices and procedures for horse breeders, owners and trainers on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013 at Vernon Downs in Vernon, N.Y. The event is sponsored by the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund and hosted by Harness Horse Breeders of New York State. The seminar will cover infectious diseases at home and on the track, platelets and equine herpes virus type-1 infections, alternative sources of equine stem cells, diagnosis of poor performance in racehorses, and a hepatitis virus discover and its potential importance to equine health. There will be open question and answer opportunities available. The seminar begins at 2:00 p.m. with registration at 1:30 p.m. Beverages and snacks will be available at registration. The seminar is free and includes materials and a meal. This equine seminar requires advance registration. For more information or to register, please call Harness Horse Breeders of NYS at 518-785-5858 or e-mail info@hhbnys.com. For anyone interested in staying for the races on Aug. 25th, the Zweig Memorial Trot race will take place at the harness track with post time at 6:45 pm. by Betty Holt  

Finding out just why horses do the things they do is the focus of Advanced Equine Behaviour, a 12-week course being offered by Equine Guelph that has been designed to increase your knowledge through evidence-based research as it relates to horse behaviour, learning theory, and related welfare issues.

Have you thought about making your farm more environmentally friendly?

Master Horse Trainer David Lichman is coming to town to perform with his three personally trained horses for the first time in his 25 year career of helping people achieve extraordinary results with their horses.

With reference to Equine Guelph's report of a case of Equine Herpes Virus 1 in a horse in Ontario, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) has determined that this case does not involve a racehorse.

Equine Guelph's interactive youth education attraction wrapped up 2012 at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this past November with a record number of volunteers.

Rotate or rest? That is a very good question when it comes to the use of deworming products. After speaking with parasitic disease expert and Ontario Veterinary College researcher Dr. Andrew Peregrine, I am not only eager to pick up more poop but I am keen to have it analyzed.

April 6th, 2013 Equine Guelph presented an exciting full day of seminars at the University of Guelph, featuring Ontario Veterinary College researchers who have starred in the popular 'Report on Research' video series.

Due to an overwhelming positive response, Equine Guelph has opened registration for a second offering of their eWorkshop on colic prevention. Over 80 students from local and international background gained valuable knowledge over the course of 2 weeks in March to combat the number one killer of horses (other than old age!) with Equine Guelph's new eWorkshop on colic prevention.

Equine Guelph is pleased to announce that Intercity Insurance has become an 'Education Patron' of Equine Guelph. Mike King of Intercity Insurance has been a loyal supporter of Equine Guelph and its educational programs for many years as an instructor and sponsor of the Hoofprints tribute program. Now King has made the commitment to support Equine Guelph's education program at the next level.

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