Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Thoroughbreds Beyond Aftercare

    The Retired Racehorse Project started half a decade ago. When you say it that way, it seems like a long time. But in reality,  it has been only a handful of years since the Pittmans spearheaded the newest, most energetic, and now I dare say most successful effort to revitalize the industry and show the inherent value Thoroughbreds.
    Coming off the overwhelming success of the Retired Racehorse Training Symposium at their home farm in 2009, the organization had a slow but very steady start with demos and seminars at the Maryland and Pennsylvania Horse World Expos (always a highlight of my year while I was living in MD, particularly Erin's nutrition talks and Steuart's demos).  At the end of 2011 the website launched, and the first competition, the 100-day trainer challenge, was announced. It was a wild success (I'd rarely seen so many spectators packed in the stands, short of international clinicians). Within a year I saw the price of Thoroughbreds double, even triple throughout the Mid-Atlantic. The entire economy was enjoying a brief uptick, but Thoroughbreds had gone from the very bottom of the market- I bought several nice, already retrained Thoroughbreds for between $1 and $500 in the years directly prior- to competing in the market with Quarter Horses, Paints, and even once again with warmbloods. The "rebranding" of Thoroughbreds had been successful, and a network of education was being built.
     And it didn't stop there. Rather than compete with other organizations, the the RRP has become a bridge not only between trainers and owners, but also between the multitude of Thoroughbred organizations. I think it is this co-operative, symbiotic system that is the RRP's greatest contribution, and the key to their success. This year's "Most Wanted Thoroughbred" makeover contest (also sponsored by Thoroughbred Charities of America) secured the Kentucky Horse Park and attracted close to 200 entries- almost double what was expected, and a far cry from the three horse demos that started the movement. It was, for the first time, international. And truly, astoundingly diverse in disciplines. I have watched friends videos with great envy, and also with great hope for the future of the breed and the industry as a whole.

Bareback fire jump at TB Makeover 2015
Photo by S. J. Zywar

Friday, October 23, 2015

Colors in Translation

     I had to share a few of these. Our names for coat colors seem so normal until we look at them in translation (or try to explain them to a non-horse person! "What do you mean he's not brown?"). We think nothing of calling a horse mouse dun, but pél de rata- coat of rat- elicits a giggle. 

Mohrenkopf = German "moor head," for blue roan.
Windfarben= German "wind colored," for silver dapple.
Alézan Brulé= French "burnt chestnut," for liver chestnut.
Valk= Dutch "falcon," for buckskin.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Purple Potions

    Thomas de Grey's 1684 "The Compleat Horse-man" includes a number of applications for gentians, including as a partial treatment for what sounds like heaves. He gives many possible treatments, ranging from vinegar soaked eggs to the "excrements of a sucking child" - yes, that means baby poop.* Attached to all is the sound advice that the horse's hay and "meat" (i.e., dinner) be wet. Other uses of gentian, he claimed, were the treatment of glanders and as a "purgative."
   The variety in Grey's work barely touches the wild array of uses to which gentians have been put, from treatment of thrush in humans and horses to chicken feed preservative to use as a histological stain to study bacteria to treating WWI soldiers for venereal disease. Most barns probably have at least one gentian compound laying around, in the form of either Blu Kote or Thrush Buster. I'll leave the glanders treatments to the vet, though, especially since mis-applied gentian can cause tattooing.

*Grey, 122.