World’s largest horses

30 05 2006

Morocco, 21.2h

Morocco, Percheron/Arab cross, 21.2h

(The world’s smallest horse is here)

How big can a horse get?! Well, here’s your answer. 😉 Morocco, shown at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, measured 21.2 hands (7’2″ or 2.18m) and weighed 2835 pounds, while a Shire named Samson (alive sometime during the 1850s) weighed in at 21.2-1/2h and 3360 pounds. According to the Guinness Book, the current record holder is Priefert’s Radar, a Belgian gelding standing 19.3-1/2 hands (that’s 6’7-1/2″ or just over 2.01m) and weighing 2400 pounds. Aren’t you glad these animals are herbivores?! More info is available at Rural Heritage.

Priefert's Radar

Priefert’s Radar, Belgian gelding, 19.3-1/2h

Update: there may be a challenger to the title! Link via BoingBoing.

Update 2007-03-14: Article and video of Radar at the *cough* Daily Mail.

The Animals in War Memorial

30 05 2006

War Memorial in London
Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle

LONDON’S newest monument, the Animals in War Memorial, honours the millions of conscripted animals that served, suffered and died alongside British, Commonwealth and American forces in 20th century wars and conflicts.

The memorial is situated at Brook Gate, Park Lane, on the edge of London’s Hyde Park and was designed by leading English sculptor, David Backhouse.

As its name suggests, it depicts the many animals that have been used by troops in wartime – horses, mules, dogs, elephants, camels, pigeons and canaries.

None are forgotten, not even the lowly glow worm. For these tiny creatures were used by soldiers in the trenches during the First World War, to help them read their maps in the gloom.

In fact, casualties number in their millions – eight million horses alone are believed to have died during the First World War, from exposure, starvation and disease, while performing their duties, carrying men or pulling loads of equipment and ammunition.

Add to that the hundreds of thousands of carrier pigeons injured as they endeavoured to deliver vital information from the front. One such bird was Mary of Exeter who returned from a mission with a damaged wing and three shotgun pellets in her breast.

For them and countless others like them, this is their memorial. And it comes in the form of a 55ft by 58ft curved Portland stone wall – the symbolic arena of war – upon which the animals are depicted in bas-relief.

Completing the memorial are two life-size, heavily laden, bronze mules that appear to be struggling up steps towards a gap in the wall, beyond which, a bronze horse and dog seemingly gaze into the distance.

The memorial was inspired by Jilly Cooper’s book, Animals in War, and was made possible by a specially set up fund, of which Ms Cooper is co-trustee.


You may also be interested in The Animals’ War at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Shatner believes the Middle East can heal through horses

30 05 2006

JERUSALEM – The captain who dared to "boldly go where no man has gone before" has targeted a new destination: William Shatner believes he can contribute to Middle East peace by helping disabled children through horseback riding.

The former "Star Trek" actor was in Israel on Monday to promote "therapeutic riding." He hopes to raise $10 million for nearly 30 riding programs in the country.

Shatner said that placing injured people on horseback has been shown to improve their conditions. "We know that the use of a horse in their therapy takes them beyond their handicapped body, their injured body, and into another area of health," he said.

Shatner has long been involved with "Ahead with Horses," a Los Angeles charity that works with physically and mentally disabled children through horseback riding.

He hopes his new fund, launched with the nonprofit Jewish National Fund, will contribute to Mideast peace. He stressed that every citizen of Israel, as well as Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians, will be encouraged to participate.

Shatner and his wife Elizabeth are on their second trip to Israel, where they are visiting many of the riding centers and meeting with people that benefit from the treatment.

Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk on the original "Star Trek" TV series, currently stars in the series "Boston Legal."


Were these your first rides?

26 05 2006

Princess's Kiddie Ride, $2500The Carousel Workshop offers cool refurbished coin-operated horses as well as carousel horses and other animals. They also do restoration and repainting of these old treasures.

Gene Autry's Champion, $3495

Sea horses!

German deer by Carl Muller, ca. 1900, $3695

Big Ben Park in Perth, Ontario

24 05 2006

Big Ben Park, near the Tay River

Perth, Ontario, where Ian Millar makes his home, honours one of Canada's most successful partnerships in Canadian sport and arguably the greatest team in equestrian history. The site was dedicated in September 2005 and features a life-size statue of the pair.


House votes to stop sale of wild horses for slaughter

24 05 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House directed the Interior Department on Thursday to halt the sale of wild horses for slaughter, saying that was not the purpose of the program that makes the horses and burros available for adoption.The measure, part of the department’s spending bill for the 2007 budget year, prohibits the use of agency funds for the sale or slaughter of wild, free-roaming horses and burros.

It was approved unanimously by voice vote.

“We need to stop the slaughter of wild horses and burros not only because it is morally wrong, but also because the program itself is a failure,” said Rep. Nick Rahal, D-W.Va., a sponsor of the provision.

He said the prohibition is needed to counter action by Congress in 2004 that eased animal protections that had been part of the horse and burro adoption program since its inception in 1971. Those changes opened the way for animals to be made available for commercial slaughter.

Since then, 41 wild horses have been slaughtered “and thousands more face an uncertain fate,” Rahal said.

The Bureau of Land Management, the agency that manages the adoption program, has told Congress that in light of the changes made in 2004, it had little control over what happens to the animals after they are sold.

Last year there were an estimated 32,000 wild horses and burros on public lands.


Driftwood sculptures by Heather Jansch

24 05 2006

The first one is life-sized.

Ms. Jansch is a British artist and you can see more sculptures on her website here.

She also works in bronze:

Nevada Pony Express celebration June 3-11, 2006

23 05 2006

Yee-haw! This sounds like it could be fun! The National Pony Express, Nevada Division, will be holding a celebration in June to mark the 146th anniversary of the Pony Express. Call 775-374-0596 or email ponyexpress<at>

There's also a Pony Express Museum in Missouri, and more information available at the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.

One last thought on Barbaro

23 05 2006

Fans posted messages of support Monday at the hospital where he was recovering.

Incidentally, even if he makes it through surgery, and I fervently hope he does, Barbaro might not be out of the woods yet. They want to retire him to stud. Good. But. The Jockey Club doesn’t allow AI, only live cover. He’s got to jump the mares, crudely put. He’s going to have to put even MORE weight on those fragile back legs in order to do so. In other breeds, stallions can be taught to ‘collect’, as it’s called, into a container, er, held underneath him while he stands on all four feet; it saves wear and tear on the horse, particularly older stallions, and saves the mares a bit of bother too. That isn’t an option for Barbaro, at least not if they want racing foals…

Breeding out the usefulness?

23 05 2006

In the wake of Barbaro’s injury in Saturday’s Preakness, this article asks whether modern breeding and training practices have so weakened Thoroughbreds that we may not see another Triple Crown winner anytime soon. If so, this is only the most high-profile example of something which has been going on for a long time, and not just in TBs. Horse races in the 18th and 19th centuries were much longer, i.e. heats of 3 to five miles. A 3 y.o. horse is actually quite young, comparable to a person in their early teens; a horse isn’t fully mature until it’s about six–older if it’s a particularly large one. The growth plates harden into bone from the ground up, as it were; the ones in the spine and pelvis mature last. It isn’t just TBs either; quarter horses are ridden in futurities (horse shows, not racing) as young as two, which means they’re started under saddle as long yearlings. They break down early too. Why? $$$$$  The big TB stakes races are for 3 y.o.s; if they do well, they can be retired to the breeding shed early and also their sires (rarely their dams) see their value go up as producers. They’re raced and shown young to maximize the investment as fast as possible. You’re looking at 11 months gestation, then a year or two of training; there’s a lot of money at stake and you want to see results early. The punters aren’t going to sit still through heats of three and four miles either; where those races are still run, they are the province of stronger, mature animals. It isn’t cruel to run a fit horse that distance either (note the adjective); endurance horses can cover 100+ miles in 24 hours and still be hard to slow down at the end of it. They sure aren’t thoroughbreds though.

Taking a broader view, it’s not uncommon for the function to be bred out of the horse for the sake of form. Take the QH halter industry, where the fashion is for huge, muscly horses with tiny feet, which are prone to navicular disease, laminitis, and other forms of unsoundness; the babies are fed a lot of grain early to bulk up, almost like prize steers. More insidiously, you can get this overmuscled look quite easily–with HYPP, aka Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis:

Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), also known as Impressive Syndrome, is an inherited autosomal dominant disorder which affects sodium channels in muscle cells and the ability to regulate potassium levels in the blood of horses. This inherited disease is characterized by uncontrollable muscle twitching and substantial muscle weakness or paralysis among affected horses. HYPP is a dominant disorder; therefore heterozygotes bred to genotypically normal horses will still likely produce clinically affected offspring 50% of the time.

The disease is most common in the bloodline of the famous Appendix American Quarter Horse stallion Impressive, who has over 55,000 living descendants as of 2003. Although the disease is primarily limited to the American Quarter Horse breed and closely related breeds such as American Paint Horses and Appaloosas at this time, cross-breeding has begun to extend it to grade horses and ponies. The spread of the disease is perpetuated by the favorable judgings given to diseased horses in showing, due in part to involuntary muscle twitching which helps to build large, bulky muscles that judges favor.
Impressive (god that's an ugly horse)

Why are HYPP carriers still being rewarded in the show ring, then, encouraging their owners to breed them on and perpetuate the syndrome? There are many QH owners, breeders and trainers who would like to see N/H horses (carrying one HYPP gene nd thus can pass it on to 50% of offspring) made ineligible for registration; currently horses which are H/H (homozygous for HYPP) will be ineligible for registration as of January 2007. While this will help, it still won’t eliminate the disease from the gene pool completely, and if these horses have an edge in the show ring, is there really any incentive to breed it out?! What people won’t do for a damned ribbon.

(QHs, especially those in certain cutting lines, can also inherit a skin malady called HERDA, but compared to HYPP it is quite rare)

Ideal Morgan mare and stallion, as per the AMHA

Other breeds have had their problems; the Foundation Morgan Horse movement was founded in an effort to save rare, pure bloodlines without the popular “show lines”, which have been found to contain legal and illegal crosses to Saddlebreds and Hackneys in an effort to produce high-stepping gaits and “hooky” Loch Ness monster necks for the show ring. Over 2/3 of Morgans now trace back to Upwey Ben Don and Upwey King Peavine. These Saddlebred crosses were legal at the time under the registry rules, but many, many breeders concentrate that blood until the original type is all but lost. The Chantilly Lace fiasco arose when it was discovered that false papers were used to cover up the use of Saddlebred mares. FCF Rhythm Nation was actually crowned Grand Champion Morgan Stallion (one of the judges was his breeder!) and it was later discovered that he was out of a Saddlebred mare! Now, I have nothing against Saddlebreds, or saddleseat, but saddleseat is, for most riders, very “fringey”; the average horse owner shows in Western classes, or hunter/jumper, dressage, competitive trail, etc.; a “saddley” horse isn’t going to appeal to a broad range of buyers, nor will it attract many new people to the breed. High action, flat croups and Nessie necks are not part of the Morgan standard, and the breed did not need this sort of “improvement”. Sadly, this has really split the Morgan breed into “show people” and “traditionalists”, with the former sticking with their version of glamour and the latter scrambling to preserve the old lines while they can.

A German shepherd with floppy ears, short face and a curly coat may be a fine pet but it isn’t much of a German shepherd any more; a horse which is deliberately bred to be unsound or a betrayal of its genetic heritage may be profitable in the short run, but it isn’t doing the animal any favours, and the damage done to the gene pool in the long run can be irrevocable. Let us hope that Barbaro recovers and can go on to a fine career in the breeding shed; let us also hope that he was injured as the result of an unfortunate accident and not a congenitally weak leg, lest the gene pool again be the loser in the long run.

NB: definitely see Dr. Deb Bennett’s excellent article on conformation, growth, and the history of horse racing.

Update: check out this article from The Sporting News, Barbaro’s Injury Forces Racing To Examine Itself as well as my followup post on this topic.

Amazing handmade saddles

22 05 2006

Good Luck sidesaddle

Have a look at the beautiful handmade saddles at Skyhorse! They're almost too pretty to sit on.

Cloned mule trains for first race at San Joaquin fair

20 05 2006

Alex Breitler
Record Staff Writer
Published Friday, May 19, 2006

 Jockey Dionicio Navarro rides Idaho Gem out of the San Joaquin County Fair gates for the first time Thursday morning STOCKTON – For someone who chews with his mouth open and gnaws on a wooden post, Idaho Gem commands attention. Gem, a bay-brown mule with a quick kick, is guarded by three security cameras mounted above his stall, unlike any of his neighbors in Barn Q of the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.

He is the first member of the horse family to be successfully cloned. Gem has quietly taken up residence at the fairgrounds as he trains for his first race next month.

Mule racing has become a popular, big-money attraction at fairs throughout California. But the scientists who cloned Gem and two of his brothers say their work could assist them in another race: that of a cure for cancer.

Gem is unaware of all this, of course. He knows only the predictability of his daily routine: jogging on the racetrack in the morning, chomping five buckets full of hay and barley each day and showing off for visitors who snap his picture just like they did when he was only hours old on May 4, 2003.

“Some people say he’s just a mule,” said his trainer, Ruby Thomas of Sacramento. “He’s not just a mule. He’s special, and I treat him like a god.”Gem and one younger cloned brother, Idaho Star, will race against each other and other mules in Winnemucca, Nev., in early June. That’ll be the first athletic competition between clones of any kind, proponents say.

Read the rest of this entry »

Horses frolic on new Nevada state quarter…

20 05 2006

…but not everyone is happy with the design.

Nevada quarter

Things you could put on an Ontario quarter, if they ever got around to issuing one: A Timmy’s cup. A Queen’s student crossing against the light, while sipping from a Timmy’s cup. A mosquito. A bored suburban kid wearing $250 boots while panhandling outside the drugstore. A grow-op. Potholes. A sleazy landlord cackling over a bucket full of money.

They saved horses: now the casualties of Operation Cowboy finally get their due

20 05 2006

Leaders of the great horse raid, whose sacrifice has finally been recognized: Left, Lt. Col. Walter J. Easton, Commander, 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Group. Right, Col. Charles H. Reed, Commander, 2nd Cavalry Group.

Disney was clearly more interested in tugging heartstrings than in recounting history when it released the 1963 action movie Miracle of the White Stallions, about the Allied effort to save hundreds of famed Lipizzaner horses from the Nazis in Czechoslovakia during the last days of World War II.

Now, 61 years after the event, the mayor of a small west Bohemian town and a handful of war veterans want to reframe the conventional version of the mission to honor the soldiers who lost their lives to save a piece of European culture.

Rest of article here…

Equine miscarriages linked to common caterpillar

20 05 2006

DALLAS – In March one case of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome in Florida was confirmed by University of Florida researchers. Two others are strongly suspected. Now Texas’ veterinarians and the state’s equine industry are keeping a close eye on the problem.
Mare and foal
That’s because MRLS, as it is commonly called, is believed to be caused when horses ingest the eastern tent caterpillar, a native Texas insect that is found throughout the eastern half of the state.

All three Florida cases occurred this spring in Alachua County. Two involved septic foals, or foals with internal infections, which had to be euthanized. The third case was a late-term abortion.

The diagnosis was confirmed by University of Florida pathologist Dr. John Roberts, who worked at the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center during an outbreak of MRLS in the Bluegrass State in 2001-2002.

Click to read the full article

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