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I was completely surprised and overwhelmed by the tribute given me by Grammy-nominated songwriter/singer Mary Ann Kennedy. She contributed a beautiful song dedicated to me, followed by a short film produced by Spalding Labs and Barry London. Thank you, my friends.

I have said for some time that this event is the high point of the year for Debby and me, and we look forward to next year’s Lightness gathering.

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The warmest months of the year are ahead of us, and with them come flies. These pests aren’t just annoying to both people and animals; they carry and spread disease. A good fly control program is an obligation that comes with livestock ownership.

From the horse owner’s standpoint, there are two species of fly: those that breed in manure, and those that don’t. For flies that don’t breed in manure, such as horseflies, the best protection for your horse are repellent sprays (I use different preparations over the animal’s body), or protective covers such as head nets or fly sheets for the body.

Some repellents claim efficacy for up to two weeks, but be aware that they don’t remain on the horse’s coat for that long. Instead, spray lightly, on a daily basis, and use ointments or gels around the eyes and on and inside of ears.

Manure-breeding flies like the common house fly or the stable fly, can be minimized in several ways:

Pick up manure or cover manure piles with dirt (sand can result in colic if the horse should ingest it for any reason).

Follow the label directions for all repellents and insecticides, and don’t over-apply. Switch them up routinely to avoid resistance.

Practice regular use of fly traps and Fly Predators, the tiny insects that feed upon fly larvae (I order mine from Spalding Labs.). If using Fly Predators, do not spray insecticides on the premises, as it will kill them.

If you don’t use Fly Predators, spray the premises with insecticide, unless there’s drainage into a nearby watershed.

During fly season, I use repellent spray on my horses and mules every morning, and I distribute hatching Fly Predators all over my property once a month. This has not only tremendously reduced the fly population (I also convinced my neighbors to use them), but eliminated the need for toxic premise spraying. This is important, because my property drains into a lake and I don’t want to contribute to contamination.

One of the most pleasurable warm weather activities that can be done on horseback is a pack trip. I’m a mountain lover, and there’s simply no better way to enjoy that type of scenery than from the back of a horse or mule.

I’ve done all kinds of pack trips. During college, I worked as a packer, taking tourists up into the high country of Colorado to fish and photograph wildlife and scenery. With my family, we’ve packed as tourists, mainly in the High Sierras. Sometimes we rode the outfitters horses, and sometimes we rode our own animals. I’ve also done pack trips with veterinary and other special interest groups.

Doing a pack trip on your own requires experience, expertise, and very well-trained animals. For most people, even if they’re experienced riders, it’s best to go with a professional for safety’s sake. It may cost more, but believe me, it’s the best way to avoid getting lost, mired or crippling your mount, or any other number of potential disasters (I should note that packing itself is not inherently risky; it’s being in the wilderness, with its attendant dangers, that poses a problem).

A good outfitter takes care of all of the details, from loading the animals to cooking, and ensures his or her guests are well-cared for. Moreover, an outfitter’s horses and mules should be well-seasoned. That’s just as crucial as finding a packer with solid experience.
For more information on finding a reliable outfitter, click here for an article written by my daughter, Laurel, a journalist and the Gear Editor at American Cowboy magazine.

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We apologize that due to volume, we can’t guarantee Dr. Miller can respond to all emails, but we are building a more comprehensive FAQ page on our website to address your needs. All questions may be edited for clarity and space.

Q. What’s your opinion of the current anti-shoeing movement? Is barefoot better?

A. There are various factors that determine the answer to this question. Some horses don’t need to be shod because they aren’t ridden that often. Some horses are damaged by poor shoeing. Some owners do damage by leaving shoes on for too long, usually to save money.
That said, some horses must be shod. Why?

Because they are used heavily.

They need to be shod for certain events, like competitions.

They have defective feet (very common). This may be congenital, or due to orthopedic disease.

Mark Your Calendars!

Interested in catching one of Dr. Miller’s summer or fall lectures?

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M.

For contact details and other dates and locations in 2013, go to

Coming in our September newsletter:

How to safely switch your horse’s feed.

Interested in booking Dr. Miller for a lecture, demonstration, or book signing?

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