How time flies |

How time flies

For the Sept. 26, 2009 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

How time flies when we’re havin’ fun… several happenings I meant to inform you of here have already gone by… how can it nearly be October already?!

In the interest of protecting the innocent, here’s a horse-trader’s warning. A San Diego County California jury recently awarded Tom Selleck more than $187,000 because he claimed “he was duped into buying a lame horse”! According to an AP report, most of this was “for the price of the horse, with the remainder covering boarding costs” …there’ll be yet another trial to “determine how much Selleck should be paid in punitive damages by the owner of the lame horse.”

Better stick to truth in advertising… I don’t know any horse traders who could begin to pay that kind of damages. Next thing we know we’ll be run out’ta business by the cost of ‘malpractice insurance’, like the doctors are!

I’d always rather ride a horse in a hackamore than a bit, so I’ve been kind’a fascinated by the new crossunder bitless bridles. Just found an article on a test conducted last year, with some interesting statistics I thought I’d share with you. This article stated: “Four riding school horses, none of which had ever been ridden in a crossunder bitless bridle, were included in the study. The four riders were Certified Horsemanship Association riding instructors and the judge was a CHA Master Clinic Instructor, a Centered Riding Instructor, and a member of the American Judging Association, with 25 years experience. The test was performed during the Certified Horsemanship Association’s International Conference at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2008.”

“Horses and riders completed a four-minute, 27-phase exercise test first with a bitted then bitless bridle. Each phase was judged using a 10-point scale… “Mean score, when bitted, was 37%; and through the first four minutes of being bitless, 64%.”

“For the sake of both equine and human welfare a crossunder bitless option is recommended,” the authors stated. “Equine organizations that currently mandate use of the bit for competitions are urged to review their rules.”

The Bitless Bridle is a cross-under bridle developed and patented in the United States by W. Robert Cook, FRCVS, PhD, a practicing veterinarian for 53 years, who can be found at The bridle consists of rein straps that loop over the poll, cross beneath the horse’s jaw and pass through rings connected to a noseband, distributing gentle pressure from flat straps over a larger and less-sensitive area.

“The pressure, such as it is, is greatest over the bridge of the nose, less under the chin and across the side of the face, and least over the poll,” explains Cook, professor of surgery emeritus at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. “Essentially, it gives the rider an inoffensive and benevolent method of communication by applying a nudge to one half of the head (for steering) or a hug to the whole of the head (for stopping). It’s painless, but persuasive.”

Jahiel, who is a clinician, consultant, and teacher of eventing and classical dressage, further explains: “When the rider applies pressure on the left rein, for example, instead of a bit pulling against the left side of the horse’s mouth, the left rein acts on a strap that puts pressure against the right side of the horse’s cheek and jaw. This allows the horse to bend and turn quickly and quietly in response to the rider’s use of the rein, without any of the head-tossing associated with mechanical hackamores, and without the need for the rider to use a strong leading rein, as is necessary with a sidepull, jumping hackamore, or halter. Without strong restriction and forced flexion, the horses ridden in The Bitless Bridle do not lock their polls, and because there is no mouth pain from the bit, the horses have no reason to brace their jaws or necks against the reins.”

Braking and steering work is accomplished by various means, Cook states, including stimulation of the sensitive area behind the ears and painless pressure applied across the bridge of the nose.

We’ve all been concerned about the horse market, and news from Keeneland, a bellwether Thoroughbred sale, shows it’s still stressed. Racing authorities say, “As of Sept. 17, following the sale’s [Keeneland’s] fourth session, the alarming symptoms of financial distress included a gross revenue that had nosedived 42.5% from 2008 and an average price that had plunged 31.6%. The median price was down 38.9% while the buy-back rate stood at 34.5%, up from 28% last year.

“It’s a buyers’ market, and it especially will be from here on out,” said Tom McGreevy, a key adviser to Fox Hill Farm’s Rick Porter, of the outlook for the Central Kentucky auction following its Sept. 18 day of rest. “While there is always good demand for a good horse, you can find value if you do your homework. A lot of people are a lot more willing to sell than they were in the past. We’ve bought a few yearlings today that I thought were really top horses that probably, in this market, brought significantly less than they would have last year.”

Keeneland’s director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, called the September auction’s negative trends “amazingly consistent at all levels of the market.” The 703 yearlings that sold during the first four days of the auction, which started with two select sessions, grossed $117,659,500 and averaged $167,368. The median was $110,000. Last year, at the same point, 837 horses had been sold for a gross of $204,698,700. The average was $244,562, and the median was $180,000.

There’s been a lot of negative press about the Thoroughbred industry being strongly responsible for burgeoning horse populations and unwanted horses. According to The Jockey Club, something positive is happening within that industry. In a Sept. 9 report they say the number of live foals is down 8.2% from last year at this time when the registry had received reports for 34,561 live foals. As in past years, The Jockey Club estimates the reporting of live foals, at this point in time, is approximately 90% complete.

“As we announced last month, the North American registered foal crop projection for 2009 has been revised downward to 34,000 and the live foal returns to date reflect that,” said Matt Iuliano, The Jockey Club’s vice president of registration services. “Although breeding activity has been in decline for several years, the rate of decline accelerated in both the 2008 and 2009 breeding seasons so we will see fewer live foals born next year as well.”

On that positive note, we’ve come plumb to the end of this ol’ lariat rope once more…