Road to the Horse Q&A with the Remuda Veterinarian
Dr. Glenn Blodgett, horse division manager for 6666 Ranch in Guthrie, Texas.
Photo: Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief
The Road To The Horse is a competition among trainers starting Quarter Horses over three days. Organizers are holding the 10th edition of this event this weekend in its new venue at the Kentucky Horse Park, in Lexington. This morning The Horse visited with Glenn Blodgett, DVM, horse division manager for the 6666 Ranch, which is a Road to the Horse partner and, for the third consecutive year, the event’s remuda provider.
Blodgett explained that he and the 6666 Ranch cowboys select and bring 12 horses with them from Guthrie, Texas, to the event. He answered our questions about the history of these horses and their care.
The Horse: How does 6666 Ranch select the horses for the remuda, and is there a certain level of maturity or development these horses must reach before you consider them for the competition?
Blodgett: Well, when they approached us the first time, they had been using 2-year-old geldings, I believe, but they made a decision I think based on prior years that they felt like they needed a little more maturity in their horses, because … everything happens really fast here, they have to put a lot of pressure on the horses in order to complete this thing within a reasonable length of time. So they made a decision to move to a 3-year-old, which we were able to accommodate them on.
We normally start our horses when they’re twos, and I think most people do. But they felt like they wanted a little more mature horse, so … that’s kind of the direction we went in age-wise, maturity-wise. These horses were selected out of a group of about … oh, I think there were 30 or 35 horses in that group, and … I tried to pick just kind of a good cross-section of our horses, so people at the event could see kind of an overall viewing of what we’re trying to raise and produce on the ranch. We’ve got different sires involved, different colors, so we tried to provide a variety.
The Horse: Do you provide colts, fillies, or geldings?
Blodgett: These are all geldings, and that’s all we ever furnished. And to my knowledge, I think they’ve used geldings every year. Fillies could be used, though, possibly, but they’ve requested geldings, and that’s the direction it’s gone so far.
The Horse: What about behavior? Are there particular behaviors you like these horses to possess?
Blodgett: If we knew that there was a real problem individual that we’d identified … in the horse growing up, we might (not select it for Road to the Horse). All the horses we’re trying to raise and produce, we feel like, have good minds and good behaviors for the most part. So, we hopefully don’t have any of those kind of horses, but occasionally you do. I don’t recall in this particular group having to say, “Well, we don’t want to take him because he’s gonna be too tough or too much of a problem or something like that.”
The Horse: So each of these horses, do you know them by name, and, pretty well?
Blodgett: They’ve got a registered name, but nobody ever really uses the registered name. But prior to (selection for the remuda) they’re kind of referred to by … their mother’s name, and maybe some reference to color. That’s kind of how they’re talked about up until they get their nickname (at remuda selection time).
The Horse: How are the horses evaluated by a vet prior to coming to The Road to the Horse, to ensure they’re in good health? Is that you?
It’s by me. We have people that care for them every day, and they’re used to seeing them every single day, and if they identify anything unusual they bring it to my attention, and I also have another veterinarian that works for me there that comes into play. We’ve been around them since they’ve been born.
The things we had to do to these guys prior to them coming up here? They’d gotten into some cockleburs, so we had to clean their manes and tails up a little bit. And it just happened--they’d been running in the same place for a long time, but I guess some of the things they’d started grazing that they weren’t grazing before got them into the cocklebur patch. Anyway, we had to clean those up, and we had a few winter ticks in our area, so we sprayed them, they had a few of those on them. Other than that, we make sure they’re all current on their vaccinations. We didn’t identify other issues with them.
The Horse: What do you mean when you say you sprayed them, in regards to the ticks?
Blodgett: It’s an insecticide that we use, permectrin. We sprayed them before we brought them.
The Horse: What about deworming?
Blodgett: They’re on a regular schedule. The younger horses get dewormed about every three months, and then once they get to be mature horses, 3 years old, we usually put them on an every-six-month program. And while they’re young they get wormed more frequently.
The Horse: What kind of feeding program are the horses on leading up to and during the Road to the Horse Competition?
When they’re born, they’re on their mothers on native pasture, out in the northwest part of Texas. At weaning, and during that time, they eat right alongside their mother. We feed Nutrena SafeChoice once a day to the mares and they learn to eat right alongside mom, and at weaning they go on to wheat pasture, if we have it available, with moisture conditions. And we (offer a) free-choice mixture of timothy and alfalfa hay, along with the Nutrena Safechoice and we actually also use some Purina Omelene during one segment of their life, Omelene 200 during about February of their yearling year until August or September. Then they go back onto the SafeChoice program if we still got them. We always supplement alfalfa hay in varying amounts depending on pasture conditions.
Our SafeChoice that we mentioned, we have it manufactured in a three-quarter-inch pellet or cube because we feed these horses in large pastures, and we don’t know where they may be found from day to day, so that enables us to feed it (on the ground) where we find them basically. We don’t have to have feed troughs moving around.
The Horse: What kind of farrier care do these horses receive before the event?
Blodgett: When these guys were foals and when they were halter-broken, we spend whatever length of time it takes to get them halter-broken as weanlings … when that happens, they’re usually 5- to 8 months old. And, the last day they’re handled through that halter-breaking process they get their feet trimmed. During their whole first year of life they may get their feet trimmed a couple more times, so that’s three times. And other than that, unless we identify an individual with a particular problem with his feet, we leave them alone.
We’re able to do that because of where they live. Our terrain (including lots of rocks) and our climate there kind of leads itself to kind of being a natural way of farrier care. Of course their feet don’t stop growing, but their feet kind of naturally break off, the edges. Now, that may sound a little crude or abrupt, but you’d be surprised at how well they do, really. They almost look like they’re getting regular hoof care.
Now, like I pointed out, occasionally you run on to an individual situation that we have to address, but it’s pretty unusual that we do. We have an occasional sole abscess, like anybody does, but they’re not of higher incidence or anything. And once the horses start being handled and cared for on a more hands-on basis, like being ridden and so forth, then they fall into a pretty regular scheme of hoof care and, in most instances even get shod.
Of course, these (Road to the Horse) horses are kind of unique because they’ve gone one additional year where we would’ve normally started at 2. The main reason we (trim them) when they’re young like that is it’s more of a getting them used to that kind of stuff. When they’re real young they often don’t need a lot of hoof care anyway. But because of the areas we house them in, when they’re youngsters, they’re feet tend to grow a little more rapidly and they’re on wheat pasture, which is not the rocky-type environment, so during that time period they may need some more care, and we provide that. I’m going to say at least three times, maybe four. Then after that, they’re turned out. Our pastures are big, they’re large, and they do a lot of moving around.
The Horse: About how big are the pastures at the 6666 Ranch?
It varies, but some of these guys have been in some 10,000-acre pastures this year. And they move around, you know, people think sometimes they don’t move much, but you’d be surprised, they move all over. And besides taking care of their feet, it kind of teaches them how to get around. Because one of the things that I’ve noted over the years is that these horses that are raised in a real controlled environment, where they haven’t seen uneven terrain, they haven’t been around brush and rocks … when you’re riding them they tend to stumble more. They’re not as sure-footed, they’re not as agile on their feet. When they grow up out in that (rugged) environment, they’re much more sure-footed and they’re not stumbling. And they end up being safer for both horse and rider.
The Horse: Of these guys (the Road to the Horse horses), are any of them shod right now?
Blodgett: No, they’re not.
The Horse: What is it like getting here with the horses? Do you ship privately or use commercial shippers? How many hours does it take to get here?
Blodgett: We have our own truck and trailer and we elected to … instead of driving straight through, which we could’ve done, we elected to overnight. And we’ve got a good friend and business associate rancher up in the northeast corner of Oklahoma … almost halfway here, he had a good, safe place to unload and a place we could get loaded out early the next morning in the dark. We left I think around 7 or 7:30 in the morning the first morning and got up to Pryor, Okla., and unloaded around 4:00 in the afternoon. Left out at about 5:00 the next morning and got in here about 4:00. They’re hauled loose because these guys haven’t been handled in a good while, so you naturally wouldn’t want to tie them up. They made the trip good.
When we went to Tennessee (the prior venue for Road to the Horse), we hauled straight through. It was pretty hard. But these guys, it was a lot better on them, I think the cowboys and the horses both made the trip probably better. (It’s good that) we’re traveling in a time when it’s not real hot. When we stop for fuel we monitor them.
We left on Tuesday and got here Wednesday evening, and they had all day Thursday (to acclimate). The cowboys brought three to ride.
The Horse: To describe what it’s like to those who aren’t here spectating, how are the horses stabled when they’re at the Road to the Horse event?
Blodgett: They’re kept in one big corral together. They just cut ‘em out each day. Really, the clinician, the only time they have really any contact with (the horses) is when they’re out there in that arena in the round pen.
The Horse: Who cares for the horses during the event?
Blodgett: It’s a combination of the Road to the Horse staff and our men. They provide free-choice hay and we brought some cubed alfalfa hay, which the horses are used to eating at home, and we feed some of that during the winter. Also they’re fed the Nutrena SafeChoice.
The Horse: I saw where Hagyard (Equine Medical Institute) and Rood & Riddle (Equine Veterinary Hospital), here in Lexington, are the official veterinarians for the event. Is there an emergency protocol if a horse gets injured or sick during Road to the Horse?
Blodgett: They have an on-call veterinarian so that person is called if any issue develops.
The Horse: Have you run into any health issues at this event the past two years you’ve participated as the remuda provider?
The (first year) we had one horse develop mild colic … not long after arrival and we took that horse out of the competition (before the trainers selected their horses). Last year, they had one that colicked in the night before the second day. They scratched that horse and then the clinician got to pick another one, but he was behind. They let him work with (the second horse) really early on Day 2 in the morning and during the afternoon, too. He got caught up. They were both mild colic episodes, and neither one required any further treatment other than the stuff that happened initially (they weren’t referred to a hospital; the colics resolved at the facility).
This year (to prevent colics) we broke the trip up into two legs, and we got a little larger pen than they’ve had in the past … I know we’re trying to get them out and exercise them a little more. We can turn them in the arena and let them run around when there are not a lot of people in there.
The Horse: What happens to the horses after the competition is over?
Blodgett: Sometimes the clinicians elect to buy them themselves … that’s what happened in prior years. Then sometimes we sell some of the other unselected horses to other people at the event.
The Horse: It’s a pretty involved crowd, and they’re excited about the horses.
Blodgett: Yes. Now this year, we’re trying something a little different. The clinicians still can opt to purchase their horse, if they want. Then (for) the other horses, they took applications for what they’re calling “wild card” contestants. And those people—I think they had well over 100 applicants, and they selected only eight people—and then they drew for selections, just like the clinicians draw for the four, for pick, and then those (“wild card”) people are going to take the horse for a year and bring the horse back here next year and then compete among themselves in some kind of (judged) designated pattern. And whoever wins that competition will be eligible to compete in the big one (the main Road to the Horse event). During that year that they’re working with the horse, I think Nutrena is furnishing some feed, and Zoetis is furnishing some vaccine and dewormer. The horses, then, will be sold, but the wild card contestants, just like the others, they have the option of buying their horse, too.
So, hopefully when everything is all said and done, all of them are sold. Some of them may not be sold for a year, and some of them will get sold right away. More than likely this morning (Day 2 of the event) … some of those clinicians will have made their decisions about whether they’re going to buy their horse or not.
The Horse: Earlier you alluded to the stress of the training event. Compared to a slower approach—weeks and months as opposed to hours or days—to backing and training a horse, does this quick training progression cause additional mental and physical stress for the horses?
Blodgett: There is, certainly, and because (these horses) are mature, and in the way these horses have been raised, they haven’t been pampered … they’re conditioned the way they’re raised to stand a little extra pressure like (the trainers) put them under. These clinicians know that they’re actually being judged and if they’re moving too fast and putting too much pressure on them, it’s not good … it’s going to hurt their score. But, no, I don’t think they’re putting any undue pressure on (the horses). Everything looks good to me.
About the Author
Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.