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Cynthia Foley Horses Keep Us Grounded
by Cynthia Foley

Cynthia Foley is the Editor-in-Chief of Horse Journal, which focuses on real-life horse-product field trials with buying advice and recommendations. An experienced horsewoman, writer and editor, she competed successfully in the hunter/jumper divisions for many years and, after completing college, moved to Kentucky where she learned the Thoroughbred racing industry, including several years as assistant manager at a major rehabilitation and training clinic outside of Lexington. When she and her husband moved to Virginia’s Hunt Country, she secured a position at The Chronicle of the Horse, where she worked as assistant editor. She is an avid dressage rider.

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Enter at A

By Cynthia Foley, January 03, 2015

Much like the breeding of a champion horse, the development of Horse Journal began with a vision, a picture of what we wanted to do with our creation. We knew the publication would be consumer-oriented, driven by its content, not by advertisers. We were determined that it would be highly informative, offering expert guidance. And it had to be authoritative.


We entered the publishing arena led by creator Timothy Cole, the talented editorial director of Belvoir Media Group, and J. Michael Plumb, eight-time Olympic equestrian and three-day eventing legend. This formidable combination of publishing genius and equestrian brilliance produced the first issue of Michael Plumb's Horse Journal in February 1994.


As that first issue whisked its way to subscriber mail boxes, Margaret Freeman, our associate editor, and I joined the team. With constant coaching from Tim and Mike, we cultivated Horse Journal's content, building its muscle and strength, listening to our readers, and finding select contributors with proven expertise.  We matured, gaining readership every month, growing at a pace faster than ever anticipated.


Over the years, our performance had its highs and its lows. The publication name eventually changed to Horse Journal to reflect our commitment all equestrian disciplines. With hard work, we stayed ahead of the curve in the rapidly changing publishing market. Of course, not all our changes impressed our judges - our sport-bra review in 1999 even shocked our own publisher - but we forged ahead. At our peak, we evaluated over 1,500 products a year.


It would be difficult to name everyone who made a difference in Horse Journal, as so many amazing people contributed over the years. However, there are a few without whom we never would have achieved success:


Although I spent over eight years as part of The Chronicle of the Horse, under the direction of the highly respected Peter Winants, my education in publishing didn't really begin until I met Tim Cole. Still editorial director at Belvoir, Tim is a gifted writer, and his creativity in publication development is unparalleled. Tim's quick wit and smart business sense kept Horse Journal powering forward. He knows how to create impulsion and balance.


Of course, working closely with Mike Plumb has been one of the highlights of my life. I have never met anyone with a greater instinct and talent for horses. At times, I often found myself forgetting to take notes when I was talking with him, as I became wrapped up in the essence of what he was saying. His love of horses and natural ability was evident with his every word.


Associate Editor Margaret Freeman's direction was invaluable. Her equine experience, wisdom and writing/editing talents kept us moving in a straight line, head up and eyes focused on our next challenge. I can recall more than one time she literally saved an issue by catching a critical error just before we went to press. Her commitment was mind-boggling. No matter where she was -- including covering the equestrian Olympics five times during that period -- we always met deadlines.  I remember going over proofs by phone late at night, and at times she was in an airport between flights. She would call me during her breaks when she was judging dressage shows and never complained about scrambling to find fax or Internet service when she was abroad. Horse Journal would not have been the same without her, and neither would I.


Eleanor Kellon VMD, Veterinary Editor, was also an integral part of our success. A fighter for the little guy, she took the bit and ran with it when she joined us.  Over the years, Eleanor opened consumer eyes to problems with joint nutraceutical labels and ingredient levels and proved to everyone that magnesium supplementation for insulin-resistant horses was a no-brainer. And, in perhaps one of the greatest equine consumer articles ever written, Eleanor made the public aware of the potential dangers of feeding organophosphates to horses.


When John Strassburger, former editor of The Chronicle of the Horse, joined us as Performance Editor, he revitalized our copy and produced training articles that reached a broad audience. With his determination that horses are horses, he re-affirmed the value of sensible, reliable training methods and created a loyal following. There isn't an equestrian journalist on earth who can hold a candle to John's talent and dedication.


In 2010, we became part of the Equine Network, a massive, powerful conglomeration of equine holdings, including EQUUS, Practical Horseman, U.S. Rider and more. Around that time,  Grant Miller DVM and Deb Eldredge DVM took over our veterinary content, focusing heavily on horse-owner education and the value of wise product choices. We again forged ahead as a leader in practical veterinary care, product evaluations and recommendations.


But, despite this amazing team, our niche began to erode. Print publications everywhere were struggling and, as the economy crashed, people dropped subscriptions and sold horses. Our subscriber base slowly disintegrated. We couldn't compete with look-alike product reviews in other publications and the information-monster Internet that was crammed full of opinions from anyone who cared to share them - whether they could spell or not.


Last year, our publisher moved us from print to digital, and we became a subscriber-only website. The hope was that we would meet the demands of a digital-crazed nation and be more readily available to subscribers making buying decisions in tack shops. In many ways, it was fitting for Horse Journal, as we always prided ourselves on taking chances, and we gave it our best shot. However, the gut feeling of our editors prevailed:  People like to read on paper.


So, as we make our final turn around the arena, I thank our loyal subscribers for their support over the years.  Horse Journal has been an indescribable part of my life, and this exit is melancholy for me. I will miss you, our readers, and I encourage anyone interested to communicate with me at  


As we promised in our initial issue, these last two decades have been "a helluva ride." I'm proud of what we did, and I'm grateful I had the chance to be part of it.  Thank you.


Halt. Salute. Exit at A.

John Strassburger The Equine Things That Matter Most
by John Strassburger

John Strassburger, Horse Journal’s Performance Editor, is a graduate A Pony Clubber. He currently competes in eventing at the Intermediate level. As editor of The Chronicle of the Horse for 20 years, he covered six Olympics and thousands of competitions. With his wife, he operates Phoenix Farm (, a breeding/training facility in California.

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Don’t Forget to Reward Your Horse

By John Strassburger, December 29, 2014

Be sure your horse knows when he’s answered your aids correctly.
While I believe that some horse owners go overboard in making a fuss over their horses every time they do something right, I do think that, sometimes, some of us forget to reward our horses when they do something right.

For instance, we have one student who is such a perfectionist that she can rarely acknowledge when she and her horse have done an exercise well. Instead, her mind congers up five or six ways she should have done the exercise better, so I often have to remind her to pat her horse, to tell that she, at least, performed well.

Training horses is very much a carrot-and-stick game. You have to reward them for answering your aids or commands correctly (with the figurative or literal carrot), but they also have to know that there is punishment for not answering correctly (the figurative or literal stick).

I always preach to our students that they must be in command of their horses, both on the ground and on their backs. Horses want to have a leader, and if you don’t fill that role, then they will, because nature abhors a vacuum. And part of leadership is telling those in your command when they’ve done something right—rewarding them.

I’ve always found that reward is particularly important with young and green horses, and your reward often needs to be effusive—lots of pats on the neck, repeated “good boy” or “good girl,” or food treats. Why? Because their understanding of proper and improper answers and behavior is limited, so every time they give you a right answer, you need to tell them. As horses get older and become more experienced, they need for effusive reward becomes less because they know when they’ve answered correctly. But you should still confirm, at least in a small way, that they’ve answered correctly.

In the photo you see here, I’m patting my wonderful mare Alba on the neck in the middle of the intermediate cross-country course at the Woodside Horse Trials here in California. This might seem to be in direct contrast to what I just said, but we’d just completed a rather difficult combination at which, in our previous run there, I’d pulled her out at the second jump because I’d made a mistake approaching the first jump, making the stride impossible to make to the second one. I’ll admit that I was probably congratulating myself as much as her, but I wanted make sure she knew that I was proud of her and pleased with her excellent effort.

On course, I would often reward Alba with my voice or a pat, because she galloped around big courses on her heart, because she’s a brave and eager little horse who believed in me and trusted our relationship. So I always wanted to keep adding glue to the bond we had between us.

Similarly, my previous star Merlin was oddly lacking in self-confidence, despite the fact that his physical gifts towered over Alba’s, and I always rewarded him on course for his efforts, especially when he was a young horse. I wanted to be sure that he knew that he’d been brave, and I always felt it was an important ingredient to adding to his trust in me.

On the other hand, my current intermediate horse, Amani, is a different sort. She’s very confident in herself (I often joke that she truly believes the sun rises every morning just to shine on her beautiful back), but when she was young her first answer to new jumps was periodically an emphatic “No!” I literally used the stick to convince her that that was absolutely the wrong answer and that she could jump anything I’d ever point her toward with one leg tied behind her back. After a few months, she decided I was right, and she hasn’t had a cross-country jumping fault since she was 4 (she’s about to turn 8).

Yes, I do quietly reward Amani for answering my aids correctly, but not nearly as effusively as with Alba or Merlin. Just a quiet “good girl” or a scratch on the neck with my pinky finger.

Trailer training is another place where rewards are a good idea, especially if the horse is an anxious or uncertain loader or shipper. In the last few years, I’ve had two horses who would go on the trailer but not back off it. One was an older mare who could be quite stubborn, and the other was a young horse whom we’d bred. With both, I taught them how to back up on my command all around the barn, at first using a chain over their nose and a dressage whip to encourage them to respond by backing up, and then rewarding them with my voice, hand and treats when they did it right. And for awhile I made sure to have a treat when they backed off the trailer correctly.

The bottom line: Be sure you’re in command of your horse, but remember to reward him for obeying you.

Farewell with Parting Tips

By Grant Miller, DVM, December 31, 2014

This marks my final post for Horse Journal - it has been a wonderful four years of collaborating with a truly exceptional group of horse experts.  

I hope that our no-nonsense approach to everything equine has proven valuable to you, our loyal readers.  Of course, I won't pass up this opportunity to impart the best advice I can think of, taking into account my experience and training as a horse vet.  Here goes:

 1) There is no such thing as a silver bullet.  Trite?  No.  Tried and True?  YES.  When some guy at a county fair tries to sell you raspberry juice and tells you that it will cure everything that ails your horse, please remember that this is the oldest archetype in the book.  The fabled panacea - oh how it has given veterinarians headaches over the years!  Many a horse have been puzzled as to why they are being given the concoction, many owners have pulled all-nighter blog fests trying to convince everyone that they have found the fountain of youth, and many, many sales folk have laughed (hard) all the way to the bank. 

2)  With that said, keep an open mind.  There are new products, devices, therapies and methods emerging every day.  While some are, ahem, minimally useful, others can actually help.  As you come across new ideas, take some time to really look into them.

3)  Always talk to your veterinarian when researching new items.  In fact, you should talk to your vet about anything that concerns you with your horse.  A scab that isn't healing could be just a minor issue of management.  But then again, it could be cancer.  So skip the chat rooms, don't worry about the opinion of the woman with eight horses who reuses paper towels to save on expenses, just pick up the phone and ask your vet. 

4)  If your horse is acting up, whether it is under saddle or in hand, don't pull the "behavior" card until you have thoroughly explored all physical possibilities for the behavior.  Teeth.  Ulcers.  Hocks.  The list goes on and on.  If your horse is basically happy, yet uncharacteristically acts out only under specific circumstances, it is possible that pain may be involved.  Check it out - you may be surprised at what you find.

5)  Remember that horses age just like we do.  If your horse is older, his or her needs may change.  Dietary, medical and management practices should evolve to match your horse's needs.  For instance, an older horse may need a blanket, and just because he or she has "never had a blanket before" does not negate the present requirement.

6)  Finally, from the sum of everything I have come to know about horses, enjoy each and every day with your horse because you never know which day will be the last.  I have seen things happen to horses that I would have never imagined possible, all of which serve a reminder that our time with them is fleeting.  Take some time each day to enjoy their presence in your life - it is a truly special gift.

 And with that, my loyal friends, I bid you farewell.

Margaret Freeman Stepping Out of the Judge's Box
by Margaret Freeman
Margaret Freeman is a USEF “Senior” dressage judge living in Tryon NC.She was recently elected Secretary of the U.S. Dressage Federation. She earned her USDF Silver Medal on a horse she bred and trained herself, and she continues to compete at FEI-level dressage. She has covered the equestrian events at seven Olympics for the Associated Press. She’s an experienced show organizer, is on the committee of the Youth Dressage Festival (NY), and was on the founding committees of CDCTA (VA) and Dressage at Devon (PA). View more blogs

Christmas Portrait

By Margaret Freeman, December 24, 2014

Margaret Painting What's the ultimate Christmas present? Well, I guess it might be that dream pony that many of us once asked for every year but few of us ever got. Sometimes later it became a dream horse for Christmas. Maybe the dream horse arrived on some other occasion, or maybe we bought or bred our own dream horse, but that Christmas wish always seems to float through our hearts every year no matter how old we are or how many horses we have. It can be kind of tough for those who love us to come up with the perfect gift. (Can anything really match a pony with a bow around its neck!)

Well, even a couple years later, I still remember the feeling when I opened my "ultimate" Christmas gift. My husband Henry had a portrait painted of me and our first foal Midnight, a Hanoverian cross by Abundance out of my wonderful grade mare India. The painting is based on a photo taken by my brother Tom 35 years ago, and it has always been a favorite of ours -- my brother had asked me to see if I could get Midnight to face the camera. I had a rope in my hand to catch him, but I put my arm around his neck instead. He rubbed against me and I started laughing. It was a perfect moment captured in the photo.

A neighbor of ours in our home in Tryon N.C., Richard Christian Nelson, is a wonderful artist with a national reputation specializing in portraits. Henry somehow arranged for Rich to do the painting without me finding out. Rich doesn't normally paint horses, but I feel he nailed this painting. I am amazed how much more it makes me smile than I even do when I see the photo.

I am reminded of a favorite quote of mine from the play "Harvey" - "A photograph shows only the reality; a painting shows not only the reality but the dream behind it." I feel Rich's painting catches that feeling I had that this wonderful colt was my future. (Henry and I were both in the play in our high schools - 3,000 miles apart - and we still have the scripts. We even went to see the play on its Broadway revival last spring.)

Actually, Midnight had already focused my future, since Henry had a lot of fun the year before telling everyone we had to get married "to provide a home for the baby." India was already pregnant when we started dating, and when we got married we combined the resources of our two townhouses to buy a farm. Henry's mother came up with the next great gift - her wedding present to us was a stud service so that we could breed back and maybe get a matched set. By the next spring we had two full brothers.

Fungus Among Us

By Grant Miller, DVM, December 30, 2014


Thinkstock Photo
Credit: Thinkstock Photo

Most of the country is experiencing the throws of winter with cooler temperatures and high moisture content in the air.  Long hair coats and blankets worn round the clock provide a perfect environment for fungi to flourish, especially if your horse gets wet.  Commonly, a horse may sweat underneath a blanket or a blanket may fail and let moisture through to the skin.  Body heat can then incubate fungal hyphae, which then rapidly grow.


Most of us are familiar with the signs of skin fungal infection or “rain rot”- it causes hair loss and itchy, red skin.  The hair comes off in clumps and literally breaks off at the root with a kind of dusty, crumbly powder being left behind.  Sometimes the horse’s coat will even smell like mildew.  Rain rot can pop up just about anywhere on the body and in extreme cases, can become fulminant.  There is nothing more for a horse (and its owner) than having to walk around looking like a lizard!  Here are some tips on managing rain rot:


1.   When over the counter medicated shampoos and sprays are not doing the trick, move to more powerful products available through your veterinarian.  Fungal hyphae can be incredibly resilient but can respond well to antifungal medications such as chlorhexidine or ketoconazole.

2.   If you use betadine scrub to treat fungal infections use caution and be mindful that betadine used daily will dry skin out and create its own problems. 

3.   Air out blankets since most of the time the fungal hyphae incubate and replicate in an environment with little oxygen.

4.   Spray athletes foot spray on the inside of blankets.  It is an antifungal and can slow down the rate of hyphae growth.

5.   Consider having two blankets for your horse so that you can launder each regularly but still keep your horse protected from the weather.

6.   Wash saddle pads and clean tack regularly since they can both serve as physical vectors for fungal spread.

7.   Grooming your horse daily will reduce rain rot because it physically removes fungal spores from your horse’s coat.

8.   Routinely clean brushes by letting them soak in water with dilute bleach (usually 1 part bleach to 9 parts water will do the trick if you soak for 2 or more hours.)

9.   Don’t share blankets, saddle pads, tack or grooming equipment with other horses- sharing can potentiate the spread of fungus.

10.  Bathing horses in medicated shampoo may not be possible this time of year due to weather constraints.  In this situation, treating fungus “hot spots” with medicated sprays or ointments is the next best thing.  Veterinarians all have their favorite brands- consult your vet to find out which topical treatment would be best for your horse.


With winter solstice just past, we are on our way back to warmer weather… eventually. For the time being, keep your horse’s skin as healthy as possible by following the tips above.

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