Monday, October 26, 2009

Benefits of Bitless Bridle

Traditionally, bitted bridles have provided the main means of controlling ridden horses. The metal bit applies focused pressure on areas of sensitive tissue within the horse's mouth.

According to Dr Robert Cook, Surgery Professor Emeritus at Tuft's University in Massachusetts, the bit is to blame for numerous problems in the horse, including headshaking and upper respiratory obstruction.

For the past ten years Dr Cook has been researching the adverse effects of the bit and the advantages of communicating without using a bit. He developed a new type of bitless bridle that differs from hackamores and other traditional bitless bridles in being painless and incorporating a crossunder principle.

Is the bitless bridle as effective as Dr Cook would have us believe? Two small-scale studies have looked at how horses behave and perform in bitless or bitted bridles.

Read more..

Thursday, October 22, 2009

British racing whips microchipped

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that a modified whip will be made available to British jockeys over the next few months. Initially, the new whips will be supplied to flat jockeys, followed by jump jockeys.

The new whip, which is a modification of the existing cushioned whip, will include a microchip of the same type used to identify racehorses. This will allow the Authority to monitor how the whips wear. Of particular interest is how well the cushioning properties last.

The cushioned whip was introduced in 2004 for Jump racing and in 2007 for Flat racing. Its success has been shown by the widespread international adoption of the principle of cushioned whips in horseracing and other equine sports.

Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare for the Authority, said:

“At present we do not know if the cushioning effect is sustained over time. Identification of individual whips via the microchip will allow objective assessment of whip age, allow estimates of the number in races where it has been used and ultimately avoid any whip wear that might affect horse welfare.


Days numbered for hot iron branding?

A recent study found that hot iron branding inflicts more pain than does inserting a microchip and concluded that the practice should be abandoned wherever possible.

The study, carried out at the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark, compared the behavioral and physiological responses of seven horses that were subjected to both hot iron branding and microchip insertion.

The researchers found that the horses showed significantly more signs of aversive behavior after hot iron branding than they did after microchip injection.

Also, hot iron branding caused significantly greater skin sensitivity around the treatment site compared with microchip injection. For 48 hours, there was significantly more heat and swelling of the skin where the hot iron branding was carried out than there was at the site of the microchip injection.

Heart rate increased at the time of branding or injection, but returned to normal quickly after the microchip injection. It remained high for five minutes after hot iron branding.

The researchers conclude that hot iron branding caused more pain than microchip injection. They recommend that hot iron branding should be abandoned if possible.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saving the Suffolk Punch.

Researchers at the Animal Health Trust, based in Suffolk, England, are working with the Suffolk Horse Society to develop a breeding program to help safeguard the future of their local native breed.

The Suffolk Punch, an ancient draught breed is on the Rare Breed Survival Trust's "critical" list. At the last count there were fewer than 300 breeding animals left in the UK.

With such limited numbers, inbreeding risks limiting genetic diversity. Eventually this could lead to health problems.

Dr Sarah Blott, leading the research in the Department of Genetics, said " Our project aims to help breeders make the best use of the genetic knowledge in their quest to conserve the breed."

More details...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Body condition scores fail to detect weight loss

Existing body condition scoring systems may not be sufficiently accurate for monitoring weight loss in dieting ponies according to researchers at the Liverpool Vet School.

This was one of the findings to come out of a study into the use of a restricted diet for producing weight loss.

For twelve weeks, overweight ponies were fed a chaff-based complete diet, with their intake limited to 1% of body weight.

The ponies achieved the desired weight loss. Their girth measurements decreased over time, as did measurements of subcutaneous fat. However, body condition scores remained unchanged.

As a result of the study the research group is developing a new condition scoring system designed specifically for ponies.

Read the full article in Equine Science Update