Why is it that? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 08-08-2020, 06:06 PM Thread Starter
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Why is it that?

i was asked something in a private message which has prompted me to start this thread.

Now, I am in my 70s and retired after fifty years as a professional horsewoman and eight years of riding before that.

How things have changed - not always for the better! I am talking about the UK and understand that things might well be different in other parts of the world.

As a pony crazy youngster I spent all my spare time at the riding school. Very few children owned their own ponies, those that did were either from farming families or very rich. Rich kids kept their ponies at a riding school and were under the rules of that place. No questions asked.

Horses and ponies worked no more than 4 hours a day, mostly in the summer. Rest of the time they were kept fit by working two or three hours five days a week with locals and a private girls school.

Saddles,were the old fashioned hunting saddles, often half or quarter panelled. Flat and no knee/thigh rolls to be seen. All bar one pony went in snaffles, the one that didn't, Molly, had a Pelham with joiners.

The saddles were allclear ofmthe withers, none were particularly weight bearing and several had narrow channels yet I can only recall one pony being offmwork with a sore back and that was because his saddle had been badly reflocked. The bigger horses carried heavy adults up over the hills, only at a walk and trot (the walk can be a hard pace with a heavy rider just sitting on top,) yet none of these animals bucked or messed around.

No nuxnahs or pads. Girths were the old string ones, not very comfortable I'm sure but again the only time a horse got a girth gall was if someone over girthed.

The vet was called in when something needed stitching or antibiotics so that was about half a dozen times a year (35-40 animals about the place)

Feeding was of oats and chaff (hay chopped with a manual machine) anything that was inclined to loose weight had barley and/or maize and sugar beet. All lived out without rugs but winters were colder back then and not as wet as they are now.

All competed at local shows and Fox Hunted in the winter.

Lessons were given following the military route. Lots of stirrupless work, grid workmwith no reins and doing exercises as you went up that grid.

There were a lot of very knowledgeable horseman and women around.

We had a lot of remedial animals come to be 'sorted'. Many of these were ponies that kept dropping their young riders (and older ones too!) Itmwas never thought that it was saddle fit or a back problem, you just got on and rode them through it. 99%'of these remedials came good. I can think of three that didn't. One of those had a brain tumour, another two had both had broken their backs in their youth. (Both the latter came from the same place)

The general answer was 'you have the energy to mess around, use that energy working hard. Want to buck? Do so going up this hill!' They soon settled.

We had six JA (top jumping ponies) that all worked in the school. Everything had to earn its keep.

Laminitis was not uncommon but there was no such thing as Cushings or IR though I do recall a roan pony that came that had laminitis and a thick curly coat somshe was probably Cushings but it wasn't known.

No modern workers, those that were around the animals wouldn't eat so they had a plug of tobacco once a year. The farrier did teeth as and when.

As for ulcers, never heard of! I genuinely believe that nothing suffered from ulcers because there wasn't any stress.

A lot of these animals were working well into their late twenties/thirties.

Things changed, as far as I think, hen more and more people bought their children ponies. Found a field to rent or buy and self cared. These children lacked on lessons and as they aged started teaching others with their own ponies to ride. This lead to a downhill spiral.

I am certainly not saying that modern veterinary science is not a blessing. It is as are inoculations, wormers et al. However many vets are not horse savvy in that they are not dealing with them full time. Theynspend about two days studying feed when students this covers everything from a hamster to a horse. Even then a lot of these lectures are given by feed companies pushing their own products.

Ditto for good chiropractors though there are a lot of charlatans out there.

I try not to cringe at some posts though I feel sorry for the persons wallet!

More often than not problems are from inexperience and I know we all have to learn but there are few old horsemen with the experience and inner knowledge to offer advice.
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post #2 of 10 Old 08-08-2020, 08:59 PM
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that is why your perspective is so valuable here.
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post #3 of 10 Old 08-08-2020, 11:08 PM
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Because people back then didn't have extra money to blow and as they did there are always some who want to find a way to get some of it so the start up of all these supplement providers, bagged feeds, chiros, massage therapists, saddle fitters, etc... endless list really. Then they got really good at marketing to convince horse owners that they need all this stuff.

I still use the KISS method.

R.I.P. JC 5/19/85 - 12/9/14. You made my life better.
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post #4 of 10 Old 08-09-2020, 04:41 PM
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I'm about 20 years shy of your age @Foxhunter , and I live in Canada, but I cringe a little when I hear people talk about the good old days. My daughter's coach (my age) still gives her horses sweet feed because that's how she always fed them. Sure, she has a horse in her 30s that is proving us all wrong, but she also just put down two horses that were not even 20 because one had Cushings and the other, heaves.

I also believe in the KISS method. But I remember when I had horses in the 80s, 20 was considered very old, at least in my parts. Animals were put down without a second thought if they had outlived their use. My dad shot a few of our dogs, cats, and rabbits between the eyes. I was told that I shouldn't let my horse out for more than a couple of hours away or it would be too "wild" (granted, this may have been particular to this one person who happened to give me lessons - she was the only one who knew enough to do so in my area). My parents bought the first saddle they saw at the tack shop, but it was so heavy that as a young child, I could barely lift it. As a result, I spent a lot of time riding around bareback and without a helmet for that matter. My horse got a twitch when it had its teeth floated which led him to really dislike the vet. Horses wore shoes. Period. Whether they needed them or not.

I think that probably, the truth is somewhere in between. Some people took great care of their animals back then, but some did not. Things were certainly simpler, but then again, a lot of horses probably suffered and were put down needlessly because people didn't know better. Kids were more free, and that was a good thing. I spent my days out in the woods finding old roads and trails with my horse and it was awesome. But having a cell phone and wearing a helmet have probably saved lives.

We could all relax a little more about letting kids be kids, and letting them have fun with their horses rather than driving them from competition to competition. But knowing more about hoof care, feeding, saddle fit, and rider safety - sorry, none of those are bad things.
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post #5 of 10 Old 08-09-2020, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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I never said they were bad things at all.

I stated that modern medicine had done great favours to all animals and people too.

As for euthanasia, I am a believer it it. I would rather an animal was euthanised a week early than a day lete.

Within 5 weeks I had two dogs pts, one had liver failure, the other was not really enjoying life anymore. The first was a shock as there was no sign she had a failing liver, she was just shy of her 13 th birthday. The other was my GSD, suffering with degenerative myolopathy, had a bad tooth. She was out of breath most of the time and just not enjoying life. I could have kept her going possibly for months but she deserved better.

It was the same with the riding school animals. If they couldn't work they had the summer at grass and were shot on site.
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post #6 of 10 Old 08-09-2020, 04:56 PM
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I'm with @Acadianartist here. I wouldn't trade my carefree young days when we kids just hopped on our horses and rode off in a pack, for anything. But in California horses lived rough and died early. Lessons were for rich kids, not us. Vet care was really primitive compared to now. I'm old enough to remember tube deworming. When I think of how well I could care for the horses I had then, if they were mine now, it makes me cry.

So they were good old days because I was twelve and had my own horse and you could still ride all over the place because the population hadn't quadrupled in that part of the world yet. But not because they were necessarily better for the horses. The world was different. The main difference is there's a lot more people than there was then. Like billions more. Fewer children, fewer horses, less open land, and a lot more people.
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post #7 of 10 Old 08-09-2020, 05:03 PM
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Very interesting information for thought :) It's nice to hear your perspective as someone in the younger generation. I do think that some of us horse people can get a bit...neurotic... for lack of a better word in how horses are dealt with. I think two very big things have occurred that has changed things to what you are currently seeing.

The first being the internet. People have so much information available to themselves now for free at one simple search and for the common person, this also means they have the opportunity to read some more current research. Research is both easier to obtain and faster to obtain. All one really needs to do now is search up on google, one of the research sites (like pubmed) or have access to a database and you have 100s, if not 1000s of articles available for you on a specific topic area. I'm in my late 20s now and I remember when computers were just starting to become more of a popular thing. All of the sudden there was a ton of stuff to see.. at the wraith of dial up haha. But computers have advanced VERY quickly. I don't think obtaining research articles and information was as easy back then. Usually, you'd hear about the results from a book/magazine, a subscription journal, word of mouth, a university library or be connected to the area of research somehow, whether than be involvement or in application. But the common person? They might hear about it from vets or a magazine, but many would not be up to date on that sort of information. The internet has allowed more people to become aware of things like saddle fit, nutrition, metabolic issues etc. And ulcers and metabolic issues can have quite subtle symptoms - not all horses exhibit the tell tale signs, but it can affect them nevertheless.

Also connected, the advancement of technology has enabled some aspects to be better evaluated in the field. Previous technology may have not really been the best way to measure whatever variable the researchers were hoping to isolate. In other words, there could have been faults in construct validity. research topics would have been intrigued, but it takes more than one study for conclusive evidence. Time and the equipment for a deeper look into the research area will and has given researchers better insight. Again, I'm just speculating, but between technology advancement opening up exploration opportunities and that research becoming more widely available to bring to the public, I think it could explain why so many people are now aware and ready to explore underlying health issues before they jump on behavioural.

BUT, I think there has also come a clouded area where everyone ASSUMES that if they are having an issue with their horse, then there MUST be a fix and people almost always want that simple, quick fix. For example, if a horse is bucking, then they assume that it stems from a pain issue. Many times it does and it certainly doesn't hurt to explore it, but reacting in such a "poor horse, let's not push him because he is sore" kind of way fuels those behavioural issues even further due to the negative reinforcement. All this new information on saddle fit, nutrition, etc is now in the hands of the inexperienced too, so it is a bit of a double edge sword. People with less experience have all this information to make more informed decisions, BUT it can take experience to know how to evaluate the situation and hand. For example, people will try magnesium for an excitable horse and it works for their horse because their horse is deficient in magnesium. Then, they come online and tell someone else to try it without really knowing why it worked for their own horse, hence the ever persistent myth that magnesium 'calms' the horse. And when people come here or on other forums for answers, we can't see the situation at hand. I think a lot of us prefer giving them the conservative advice and direct them to a professional who can see it. The consequences of pursuing behavioural issues before health/pain issues is far more vexing and could be worse for the long-term. Dealing with chiro/saddle/vet is the much safer option of the two.

As for your comment on vets/farriers/ chiro, I agree. It has taken me a long time to find ones that are knowledgeable.
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Last edited by Jolly101; 08-09-2020 at 05:13 PM.
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post #8 of 10 Old 08-09-2020, 06:31 PM
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@Foxhunter , how many adult beginners or "re-riders" would you have seen during your professional time running riding schools?

As one of those, I would hypothesize that the growth in riders like me makes a huge difference in the neurotic "extra" stuff some horses are subject to. I would trade so much to have been one of those kids you and others describe who grew up sticking it out with ponies and hacking around for hours without a care in the world. My family didn't like or understand horses, grudgingly gave me some lesson packages (generally in two month blocks, then I waited until the next Christmas for the next gift certificate from my grandparents) but I never had a sustained, free range experience around horses. And I didn't really ride at all through most of primary/secondary school/university, until I was more financially stable as an adult.

I'm a nervous rider, I need things "just so" to feel confident. I'm fortunate that I've had a professional career that allows me to afford horses, and I have a really nice, appropriate horse right now that's grown my confidence exponentially. But you could put me on one of the very nice, well trained horses owned by another Forum member, and you'd probably look at me like I was a beginner rider. I missed out on that ride anything, ride all day formative period and you can't recreate that in your 30s.

I try to keep my horses simply, they live outside all the time and have a basic diet, but I do fret over how much vet care to do, whether a weird step is a pinching saddle or an uncomfortable hoof boot, or worse, my bad riding, but having them at home has been a good lesson in humility. It can't be perfect, so every day I'm trying to figure out the standard of "good enough" to keep a happy horse who tolerates me for who I am. And I think there are a lot of adult re-riders like me who finally have the money to afford horses, and we do have the feeling that we want "the best" for them, even if it's just a fad or slick marketing. How to figure out where that line is can be hard without a lifetime of experience.
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post #9 of 10 Old 08-09-2020, 07:09 PM
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@Foxhunter I'm not that much behind you in age and it sure was simpler 40 years ago. We had a farrier named Bobby Stroud. He learned to shoe from his father who was also a farrier and he from his dad. A more knowledgeable man in horses you couldn't find. If he said he would be out the second Tuesday of next month at 2:00 he would be there at 1:50 (try that today). When he was shoeing he'd answer anything you asked. When done he would ask do you need his teeth checked? He'd check them and if they needed a float he would pull a file out and do it. If the hooves needed anything he would tell you what to do and what medicine you needed. If more involved he would do it.
As far as lessons we learned by what we read from a book and lots of riding. What a great time to live!
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post #10 of 10 Old 08-10-2020, 02:17 AM Thread Starter
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Egrogan, I can proudly say that I have had many, many adult riders start or, restart riding again. I have never done anything but encourage them. I wanted anyone who mounted a horse to enjoy themselves.

My father was a low wage earner so, I could only ride every other Saturday. So, instead of having presents for Christmas and my birthday I had a course of lessons (12) each time. This paid for the 'other' weeks so I could ride every week. I did two paper rounds before school weekdays, in the summer evenings picked up litter on the beach for extra money to pay for competing.

The rides were always accompanied and only for an hour. The extra time was when we sneaked riding the ponies when they were turned out and even then it was only in their fields on the Downs.

We worked hard at the stables, our reward was an extra 30 mins attached to a paid hours ride at the end of the summer holidays.

I gained more experience than most because I would ride the remedials, didn't care if I fell, rarely cried, would just climb back on and try again. These were free rides so who was I to complain?

I did not want to infer that the modern progress is a bad thing. What I want to say is that so many spend so much hard earned money on so many things that are probably not necessary.

Modern saddles are so much more comfortable than the old flat ones - for riders and for the horse. Great - however, saddles with deep seats, knee and thigh rolls, can give a false sense of security.

A few years ago there were several people killed eventing when horses had rotational falls cross country and the riders were smashed. Every one of them was riding with deep seated saddles with thigh and knee rolls. They were secured in that saddle and unable to fall clear. All sorts of safety matters were brought up but no one looked at the saddles. I wrote a letter to the Horse and Hound with my theory on this. Many older riders agreed and now (not saying I had anything to do with this) cross country saddles are flatter with small knee rolls and no thigh rolls.

On here I read people asking about how many saddles they need to start eventing. They are under the impression they need three when their every day saddle is fine at entry level.

I read that a vet told an owner that her horse needed fillings in its teeth. I never remarked on it at the time but this is just a total con. Horses do not have nerves in their teeth. Only very low in the roots. They are constantly growing somany filling will fall out in a couple of years.

I would love to meet that vet and have a discussion about this! I would lay any odds you like, had I been the owner, it would not have been mentioned.

We all want the best for our animals, that I agree with! However what is 'best' can be debated. The animal world is not all sweetness and light. It is tough and often cruel in nature. Believing all one reads and hears about can lead to an empty wallet.

When my Lab was sick it happened very fast. Walking the dogs she didn't want to go. I brought her home and she seemed OK. She ate her food that evening but very slowly. That was a big indicator something was very wrong. About four hrs later she up chucked and it smelled awful. I had had this happen with another dog and knew her liver had failed. I took her to the vet. She was examined in the car. They took her to X ray and draw bloods. I went to pick her up later and the vet said her liver was 90% gone. She had a small growth on her pancreas which was very small.

I asked to have her pts. The young vet immediately told me that they should have her in for treatment. I asked what was the point? If they had her in for a week they were not going to get her liver functional again, all that would happen would be that she would spend a week in a crate amongst strangers, being prodded and poked for little or no improvement.

Chances were that at the end of the week they would say nothing more could be done and best to euthanise. Dog would have had a miserable week, I would be given a bill for thousands. The only ones to have gained were the vets. Sorry, I do not fall for that. My animal deserved better.

That is the sort of thing I am saying happens more today than some years ago.
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