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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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Barn Building

By Cynthia Foley, October 26, 2014

If you're considering building a barn, you've probably done an Internet search and maybe even purchased a couple of books on the subject.  If you did, I hope you were able to find this book: Horse and Riding Arena Design by Eileen Fabian Wheeler.  Of the books I've seen, this one is by far the most comprehensive, sensible and informative available.  It doesn't come cheap, but if you are building a barn, you're going to spend a great deal of money anyway.  An additional couple of dollars shouldn't be an issue.  

I'd bet you already know the design of your new barn. We did. We'd seen a lot of barns and looked at photos of others. We settled on a layout that focused on efficiency, with a 36 x 36 barn: three stalls (for our three horses - if you have extra stalls, you'll likely fill them); tack room, centered water faucet, center aisle loft with a 10-foot ceiling, open areas over the stalls, black steel grill work on the fronts and sides of the stalls to maximize air flow (not aluminum).  We were undecided about a wash stall but decided that would be very useful, especially if we placed the water faucet in the back of it. And it was important to me that the barn was beautiful, as I planned to spend as much time as possible in the barn and this was a childhood dream-come-true. 

One of my friends had recently built a gorgeous new wood 36 x 36 barn with 60 x 60 indoor arena attached. When she shared the cost with me, I realized we could afford that, too.  In fact, when we spoke with contractors, we increased the arena size to 60 x 80, plenty of room for two or three horses. And it would double as a run-in shed, which our horses definitely appreciate.

We decided where we wanted the barn on our land and then got bids from five different contractors, convinced by all but one that metal was the way to go for construction because it was less expensive. And it is - but when you're sinking THAT much money into anything, there's more to consider. All but one contractor visited the site, and those meetings were very educational.

So, we weighed the pros and cons of wood vs. metal construction, and settled on wood for its beauty, natural warmth and traditional appearance.  I thought about the many beautiful old wood barns I've seen - the ones that have been maintained. They have character.  Old steel buildings can become monstrous eye sores as the years go by (my opinion, of course). 

One of the objections a contractor gave us for the wood building was that you have to restain or repaint periodically and it's costly. He was right. However, we found a product promising up to 25 years on the siding and 10 years on other areas.  Once the barn was painted, I knew we'd made the right decision.  

Yes, you can repaint steel, too, but it tends to be more difficult. Good steel buildings have coatings to keep them more resistant to fading, which is important to how it looks as the years go by. But that coating can be difficult to paint over and requires more prep work. 

With metal, you will have dings and dents that are difficult to replace or repair. With wood, you can replace a board relatively easily and paint over it. The barn we were replacing had white steel siding, and it no longer all matched, depending on how the sun hit it. In addition, there were holes and dents in the siding. Bees like those holes. 

We told the builders right from the start that we weren't interested in haggling prices back and forth for weeks. And we didn't; we accepted the initial offer from everyone, and when we narrowed the builders down, we talked with them again and did receive lowered prices.

Because we wanted similar bids, we asked the builders to include everything - site work, electric, water, construction, materials - in the bid.  What we learned was few companies do all that and, when asked to bid like this, they will job out some of it. It's very difficult to compare quotes that way, so you need to keep track of what everyone is offering.

We also learned you do have to be very careful and make sure every single detail is specified in the contract, like steel grill work, not aluminum. One contractor had cut things out of our structure to make his bid more competitive, but I only accidentally discovered that. I asked how he planned to do the loft stairs and he said he eliminated them. Really. I asked how I would get into the loft, and he actually suggested a ladder. Since I planned to use part of the loft for storing winter blankets and such, that would be virtually impossible for me.

We chose a mid-level price builder who promised beautiful wood, and we saw a couple of the wood horse buildings he'd done before.  They were magnificent . . . The final bid included the arena, barn (with stalls) and water. Only a rock base in the indoor, but cement in the barn. Rough backfill around the structure. Cement sidewalks on the sides and front of the barn. No electric, which was fine, as I knew exactly what lights I wanted. No staining/painting. We had to do the base and arena footing, staining the barn inside and out, and the finish site work.

Next, we went to get a building permit. That's when we learned one of our most costly lessons: The first thing you need to do is go to your town building codes office and discuss what you want to do - before you talk with contractors. 

As I share more of our barn-building experience in this blog, I hope you'll learn from our wise decisions and dumb mistakes, as you pursue your own "childhood dream barn." 



Deb M. Eldredge, DVM From The Pile And Beyond
by Deb M. Eldredge, DVM
Deb M. Eldredge, DVM is a semi-retired veterinarian and award winning writer. She spent the first 15 years of her life earning money to buy a horse and never looked back. Deb was involved with 4-H and Pony Club, then moved on to polo at Cornell where she earned her DVM degree. She has competed in Western and Hunter/Jumper, low level combined training and competitive trail rides. She currently lives with six equines. Three are senior horses – an Arab, An Appaloosa and a Quarter Horse. The “youngsters” are a mini horse and two donkeys. View more blogs

Bots Anyone?

By Deb M. Eldredge, DVM, October 24, 2014

Credit: Thinkstock
Normally at this time of year I would be doing the final “bot check” of my horses’ legs. I would be prepared to use my bot knife or sand paper to scrape them off or I might wipe the legs with warm water to force the eggs to open prematurely and die. This year – basically no bots!


I will assume it was our weather. It was a fairly cool summer here in upstate New York with many days in the low 70s and nights in the 50s. My favorite kind of summer though I know many lamented the scarcity of warmer days.


Back to bots. While in vet school, it was actually debated as to whether bots really caused horses any problems. Yes, post mortems with a stomach full of bots looked impressive but did they actually drain nutrients and cause horses discomfort? I know – that seems a bit amazing to us now!


Bots are actually flies (Gasterophilus species) that resemble bees a bit but they don’t sting or really “buzz.” Depending on the exact species, they will lay their eggs on the horse’s legs, mane, nose or jaw area. Nasal bot flies are especially irritating to a horse when the eggs are deposited. On a bad year, a horse with dark colored legs will have obvious solid patches of light yellow eggs.


Most eggs hatch with warmth and moisture – such as your horse nosing or rubbing the area or you using a warm, wet rag to wipe the area. The larvae then enter your horse’s mouth and hang out in those tissues for a couple of weeks. While in the mouth, some horses will develop reactive sores. The larvae are then swallowed or migrate to the stomach.


The next seven or so months see the bots attaching to the stomach or small intestine where they drain nutrients. They can cause blockages if they are numerous enough and in the “right” locations. Ulcers, anemia and colic have all been blamed on heavy bot infestations.

Eventually the larvae pass out in the manure where they sit, then pupate and turn into flies. The flies themselves do not bite but they can irritate horses simply by buzzing around them.


Until safe versions of ivermectin came along for horse deworming, there were separate dewormers just for bots. Most of these were organophosphates. They had to be used carefully and with consideration of any other chemical or medications given to your horse around the same time. Currently, most people simply rely on ivermectin preparations. Even with very few bot eggs noted, you may choose to deworm for them with your usual fall deworming. Simply use an ivermectin product in late fall to catch them in the stomach. Be sure to use a product labeled as effective against both second and third stage larvae, which will be present in the stomach.


It is important to realize that bot infestations won’t show up on a fecal examination like strongyles do. So your veterinarian will be relying on your observations of finding eggs on your horse. You need to carefully check your horse through late summer and into early fall.


Bot eggs are easy to spot on Crispy, our red dun Quarter Horse, or Spice, the donkey’s legs. Not so easy to find on Cinnamon the roan colored Appaloosa or Frodo the pinto Mini horse. Check manes and hairs around the nose and under the jaw as well as legs. Keep an eye out for any of the bot flies themselves.


I did see some bot flies around so I suspect our equines have at least a few of the larvae in their stomachs. So, yes, I will deworm with bot control in mind as well as the other internal parasites.  



Cynthia Foley, Horse Journal Horses Keep Us Grounded
by Cynthia Foley, Horse Journal

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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Monarch Butterflies

By Cynthia Foley, Horse Journal, October 22, 2014

Credit: thinkstock
Monarch butterflies are on the endangered list.
A few weeks ago, I was saddened to see that monarch butterflies were listed in a The Washington Post story as one of 10 species that the next generation may not see.

It reminded me of a trail ride decades ago when we experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event: the migration of the Monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico. 

The butterflies had stopped to rest (I assume) on trees all around a large open field we were riding into.  There had to be hundreds of thousands of them, orange and beautiful. Even the horses seemed to be mesmerized by the site.

We stopped and watched.  Whether it was time to leave or they noticed us invading their privacy, I don't know. But after a few minutes they took flight, and the sky was filled with butterflies. It was indescribable. 

Would I have seen such a thing if I hadn't been privileged to be riding my horse through the woods on that day and at that time? I doubt it. I haven't seen anything as wonderful since then.

It saddens me greatly that not only are the areas to ride in open spaces becoming more difficult to find (that field is now a development full of houses on half-acre lots), but the creatures themselves, the Monarch butterflies, may not be there in coming years.


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.

Email John

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Really, You Should Take Lessons

By John Strassburger, October 22, 2014

Credit: Thinkstock

 As Mike Rowe likes to say, “What could possibly go wrong?”


Here’s a warning: Given that my wife and I make our living as horse trainers, the following blog may seem self-serving, but I want to discuss a phenomenon that we find perplexing.


In all the years I’ve been involved in horses, one of the things that has consistently confused me is that a rather small percentage of people who ride seem to think they need any sort of training assistance to learn how to ride and care for horses. Horses are large, reactive, prey animals, and they’re capable (usually unintentionally) of doing great harm to a puny human. And yet Americans, in particular, seem to feel that they’re capable of managing this animal with minimal instruction or experience.



I often think of it this way: What if, instead of drivers’ training classes, when kids turned 16 we just handed them the keys to a car and let them figure out on their own how to make turns and navigate highways. And let’s say some of them got weakling 1980s-era Ford Escorts, some got tank-sized Suburbans, and some got super-fast and powerful Ferraris. Oh, and let’s also say that they’ve rarely ridden in a car, so they have only the vaguest concepts of gas and brake pedals, turn signals, steering wheels and the rules of the road.


As Mike Rowe likes to say, “What could possibly go wrong?”


But I’ve often encountered people who don’t take any lesson at all, let alone work regularly with a trainer of any kind, and they’re fiercely proud of that fact. I’m not saying everyone who rides needs to be in a serious training program or should be striving for some high competitive goal, but the idea that a total novice needs no assistance is, frankly, crazy. Downhill skiing, surfing, baseball—is there another sport where someone would expect to just walk in and do it with no instruction? And yet it happens with horses all the time.


That’s why people regularly get scared of their horses, and they often get seriously hurt.


The problem usually starts with horse selection—without a depth of understanding about horses and how to assess their individual personalities, strengths and issues, people often rely on anecdotes and emotions: “I’ve always wanted a Friesian; they’re so beautiful.” “I’ve heard Quarter Horses are easy.” “My cousin has Arabians.”


While some breeds are certainly generally user-friendlier than others, every horse is an individual and the product of their personality and training (or lack there of). There are hot Quarter Horses, dead quiet Arabians, packer Thoroughbreds—and people with a lifetime spent observing and working with horses have a much better shot at assessing that than someone with minimal experience.


And then, once the horse is acquired, no matter how amazing its temperament and training, if none of that is consistently reinforced, it won’t last forever. Just like a kid who’s never asked to do math after first grade, they’ll lose the skills and the motivation to use them. Again, that doesn’t mean the horse has to be ridden by the trainer all the time. But it does mean a pair of experienced eyes, and perhaps the occasional tune-up, can make sure everybody stays on the straight and narrow.


This attitude of “I’ll do it myself with my horse” is a particularly American phenomenon. Most European countries have very regimented structures to teach people to ride—even recreational riders—and it is assumed that you will learn to ride in this manner, not just set off for the hills on your own. Even in places like Ireland, with its deep horse culture and foxhunting, kids learn to ride in Pony Club before being set loose in the wilds on their ponies.


I believe this is why natural horsemanship-type systems are so popular. People would, apparently, rather shell out money for magic halters and sticks, and books and DVDs, to feel like they’re embodying the independent spirit of self-training, rather than paying a local, qualified professional for a lesson once or twice a month, or more. Perhaps it’s because a DVD will never tell you that you’ve selected the wrong horse for your needs, that you may be in over your head, or that you need to learn to ride better.


While there are elite trainers often aren’t interested in working with a non-discipline-specific riders who lack strict goals, there are plenty of trainers happy to help a variety of recreational riders. Shop around, watch people teach, look at horse-and-rider partnerships created by those trainers, and pick one most in line with what you would like to accomplish with your horse.


You and your horse will be happier for it.



Grant Miller, DVM Vet Check
by Grant Miller, DVM
Grant Miller is a Veterinary Editor for the Horse Journal and currently practices in Northern California. His areas of interest include acupuncture, chiropractics, performance horse medicine, geriatric horse care, and forensics. He grew up riding in the Pony Club and studied dressage until he attended veterinary school at UC Davis. In 2007 he founded The Sonoma County CHANGE Program to assist his local animal control department with equine humane cases. View more blogs

Equine Melanoma: What Options Have We?

By Grant Miller, DVM, October 20, 2014
Whether we care to admit it, virtually 100% of grey horses either have, or eventually will have melanoma.  The white hair and black skin which define a grey horse prime it to get this form of cancer by optimizing ultraviolet light penetration into the skin.  Melanoma tumors are encapsulated masses made up of cancerous pigment producing cells.  They can range in size from a small pea to a baseball and are most commonly located:


·        In the perianal/ rectal area

·        On or under the tail

·        In the croup area

·        In the throatlatch region just below the ears and extending down the curvature

         of the jaw (mandible)

·        In the commissures of the lips

·        In the sheath


Make no mistake about it- if you see a melanoma on the surface of your horse’s skin, there are going to me more internally.  In other words - there is never just one.  Also keep in mind that benign, dormant melanomas that are not disrupting body functions do not necessarily need to be addressed.  You and your veterinarian must make the determination for your horse based on individual circumstances.  In general, if melanomas are disrupting eating, defecation, urination or are inhibiting performance, treatment should be considered. 


For decades equine veterinarians had very few options to treat melanomas. But as our horse population continues to survive longer due to advances in veterinary medicine and better horse husbandry by owners, the push to find options for horses stricken for melanoma has led to some promising treatments.  They include:


1.   Many veterinarians are setting up routine minor surgeries to remove melanomas by traditional scalpel blade excision.  This can be done with the horse standing under sedation using a local anesthetic.  Often the veterinarian will take between 5 and 10 melanomas out of the lips, tail and perianal area.  As time progresses, veterinarians and owners get a handle on the melanomas and remove them when they are small.  This option is less useful for larger melanomas or for situations in which multiple melanomas have coalesced.


2.   Laser removal is also gaining popularity since it cuts and cauterizes in one procedure, leaving the horse with a burn/ scab rather than a row of sutures that are put in place with traditional scalpel excision.  Lasers are precise but require an operator who has training and experience in using them.  They are often utilized for larger melanoma removal or for palliative excision of multiple clusters of tumors.


3.   Melanoma vaccines are being developed and tested in several veterinary schools around the world.  The vaccines are generally designed to prime the body to target and attack antigens (in this case a foreign protein) on the melanoma cell surface.  To determine if a vaccine is available through a veterinary teaching hospital in your area, contact the large animal clinic of a school in your area and inquire.


4.   Intralesional chemotherapy: Veterinarians now have the ability to inject or implant chemotherapeutic agents directly into the tumors.  Cisplatin beads are one such example.  Some chemotherapeutic agents are easy to obtain while others require veterinarians to obtain special authorization from health authorities.  They do not result in systemic illness that is commonly experience by people taking chemotherapeutics.


5.   Intralesional gene therapy: This involves injecting DNA segments that code for interleukins (molecules that promote an inflammatory response) directly into equine melanomas.  While in early stages of development, clinical trials of gene therapy show very promising results in getting tumors to regress.


If you own a grey horse, perform routine thorough checks of the entire body by running your hands over it to check for firm nodules or bumps.  If you find a suspicious mass, having your veterinarian take a look and developing a treatment plan early on is best.  If your horse already has multiple melanomas, knowing where and how many there are can be useful in determining how aggressive the malignancy is.  This may influence your decision on treatment(s).

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