2008: A Year in Equine Health News

What a year it has been. The equine industry has had its ups and downs--from the losses of Eight Belles and Teddy O'Connor, to the amazing story of 37-year-old superhorse Elmer Bandit, as well as the incredible display of equine talent at the 2008 Olympic Games.

These are the most-read news articles out of the nearly 2,300 posted on TheHorse.com in 2008:


Horses Seized from Another Colorado Rescue

Operators of another Colorado horse rescue have been accused of animal cruelty, less than a month after a similar case occurred in the state. Now, one rescue industry operator in that state says the two seizures illustrate the plight of well-intentioned rescuers who become overwhelmed when their herds significantly increase.


Hands Off: New Research on Impact of Human Intervention on Foal Behavior

Human interaction with foals at a critical early developmental age appears to be a stressor, whereas positive human interaction with the dam creates a strong model for the observing foal, according to a series of ongoing research projects at the University of Rennes in northwestern France.


Study: Farrier Selection Impacts More Than Hoof Shape  

Choice of farrier may have a significant influence not only on the shape of a horse's hoof, but its soundness and athletic ability as well, according to new research carried out by veterinarians in Switzerland.

Elmer Bandit, pictured at age 35

We first met Elmer Bandit, a 37-year-old gelding going for a record, at the start of the competitive trail season in April.


Controversial Massachusetts Horse Case Pushed Back to May Date

The controversial Massachusetts animal cruelty case involving a geriatric mare that some animal welfare advocates maintain should be euthanized was continued to May 6 during a pre-trial hearing today in Uxbridge District Court.


Theodore O'Connor Euthanized  

Theodore O'Connor, the 13-year-old eventing "super pony" was euthanized today as a result of an injury sustained in an accident at Karen and David O'Connor's barn in The Plains, Va., according to a statement released by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.


Brain Dysfunction in Cribbing Horses Gives Researchers Something to Chew On  

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the United Kingdom have discovered that cribbing horses learn differently than horses that don't crib.

some of the horses seized from the Trexler property

The cost of horse seizures adds up quickly, particularly when dealing with large herds in poor condition.


Tail Blocking Gone Wrong  

No one likes a rebellious horse, particularly in the show ring, and excessive tail swishing or wringing is often penalized by judges as a sign of resistance. To avoid this penalty, or simply to ensure low tail carriage, trainers and exhibitors sometimes have a show horse's tail area injected with a substance designed to temporarily paralyze the tail to some degree ("tail blocking" or "nerving") so it lies flat and quiet during the show. Unfortunately, this procedure is not without risk of permanent damage.


Four Olympic Jumpers Suspended after Prohibited Substance Found  

It's stormy here in Hong Kong, and not just because of impending Typhoon Nuri, which threatened to disrupt the individual jumping final, but looks as if it will hold off for most if not all of the Aug. 21 evening competition.

About an hour before the jumping final got under way, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) announced that four horse/rider combinations that had qualified for the individual finals had been provisionally suspended, and therefore will not compete, because of doping/medication-control tests that indicated the presence of an illegal substance in each horse.

Clone of Gem Twist

Show jumper Gem Twist was one of several champions cloned this year.


Men Face Charges in Pack Horse Cruelty Case  

Four horses are recovering in the care of the Bitter Root Humane Association of Hamilton, Mont., after they were found alongside a trail and stabled at a storage facility along the Montana-Idaho border in August. Meanwhile, two men, each charged with four counts of animal cruelty associated with these horses, await their pretrial hearing set for Oct. 9.


Horse Owners Look to Save During Economic Crunch  

The current economic climate and tight credit markets have everyone looking for ways to live more frugally, and horse owners are no exception.

"Nervousness about loans and housing is certainly affecting people," said American Horse Council president James Hickey Jr. From industry meetings, Hickey has observed that there is a general concern that horse sales are flat and show entries are down. In times like this, Hickey notes that people are going to cut back. "Horses are not a basic need," he said.


Thoroughbred Adoption Service Launched for FREE Horses  

Thoroughbreds are great athletes, and they also are great pleasure and companion animals for those who love horses.

Bloodhorse.com and TheHorse.com are teaming up to bring Thoroughbreds in need of homes to the attention of hundreds of thousands of horse owners across the United States. Creating this database was the brainchild of Antony Beck of Gainesway Farm.


Test Reveals Arabian Sire as Carrier of Neurologic Disorder  

A prominent Arabian horse breeding operation based in the United Arab Emirates recently became the first to publicly announce one of its stallions is a carrier of cerebellar abiotrophy (CA). Albidayer Stud released the news that World Champion Arabian stallion Marajj is a carrier for the inherited neurologic disease, for which a DNA test recently became available.

Staff picks:

Kimberly S. Brown, Publisher/Editor

"Thoroughbred Adoption Services. This isn't just a story; it represents what is going on in the horse industry and how The Horse is responding.

There is a problem with unwanted horses across the board in the United States, with Thoroughbreds being a very focused and high-profile part of the problem. With a bit of innovation--and a lot of dedication and caring--we developed the first phase of the Thoroughbred Adoption Services on TheHorse.com. While it's not pretty or complete, it has already saved 36 horses. That's a drop in the bucket, but that's how the bucket will become full. We hope to expand this service to help horses of all breeds and disciplines.

At the same time we encouraged those giving up horses to check references and try to find a qualified new owner who could give the horse a good life. That falls within our mission of the health, care, management, and welfare of horses."

Chad Mendell, Managing Editor

"The injury sustained by Eight Belles following the 2008 Kentucky Derby greatly increased public interest in racehorse welfare. In the days and weeks that followed, we heard a lot of people citing inaccurate information to try to make their points. In order to highlight the actual research occurring in this field, we put together a special report on catastrophic injuries. Highlighting the ins and outs of the issue, as well as the efforts well under way to further understand and prevent these injuries, this report is the go-to resource for accurate information on the subject."

Stephanie L. Church, Copy/Features Editor

"In 2008 I have been impressed with the steps that several horse rescues have taken to address quality-of-life issues for horses and even overbreeding. I applaud the work of NorCal Equine Rescue to offer low-cost euthanasia and castration clinics, which were well-received, from what I’ve read and heard. For the horses that are comfortable, volunteers are looking to find homes, and for those animals that are clearly suffering, a peaceful (and affordable) end is possible. It’s no surprise that animals suffer even more in trying economic times, and I'm encouraged that groups in the industry are addressing the problems at hand in a positive way--with less finger-pointing and more action. I hope that 2009 brings more stories of horse people looking for solutions to improve horse welfare in our country."

Erin Ryder, News Editor

"While infectious disease, accidents, and welfare issues are undoubtedly the most important issues we cover, I simply love a good happy story. These stories of hope and dedication remind us, from time to time, why we persist in loving these fragile creatures. And in 2008, one happy story stood out about the rest: Elmer Bandit, the incredible 37-year-old Half-Arabian who broke the record for competitive lifetime mileage, due in no small part to the meticulous care provided by his lifetime owner and rider, Mary Anna Wood. I'll freely admit, I was holding my breath all summer and autumn, not daring to believe he might actually do it--but then he did. What a story!"

See all the Elmer Bandit articles.  

Megan Arszman, Photo/Newsletter Editor

"My favorite part of 2008 was the launching of TheHorse.com Photo Store. As Photo Editor, I receive hundreds of photos every month from freelancers for the print magazine. It's been fun to get in touch with a few photographers, including some big name professionals like David S. Stoecklein, Paula da Silva, and Marc Manning, and work with them to sell some of their favorite photos to everyone. I'm always working to improve the photo store with new images and new photographers, and I'm looking forward to a bigger and better year in 2009. (Don't forget, through January 31, use the coupon code THDec08 to take 20% any photographs or photo products!)"

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