I once had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Gerd Heuschman, a German equine veterinarian and author, at a California horsemanship clinic. I was already a huge supporter of his work, which is focused on educating equestrians about the negative effects of Rollkur (overflexion of the horse’s neck), which is prevalent in the European and American horse show industry.

In this month’s newsletter, I review Dr. Heuschmann’s new DVD (see review for ordering info.), “If Horses Could Speak“, which shows, with both real-life footage and through use of a 3-D animated model how and why Rollkur negatively impacts the horse, both physiologically and emotionally. Hopefully, Dr. Heuschmann’s will continue to gain followers both here in the United States and worldwide, putting an end to this inhumane practice.

See our secondary feature on the different types of horse feed, and be sure to check our online holiday store for new offerings, including the re-release of “Yes, We Treat Aardvarks (formerly, “Most of My Patients are Animals”)” and a new book of dog cartoons (see below).

I’m also honored to report that I’m the recipient of the 2012 Western Horseman Award. A ceremony will be held at the annual Road To The Horse expo in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, March 9-11.

Happy holidays, from our family to yours.

Order now, using coupon code HOLIDAY2011 and receive 20%

DVD Review: “If Horses Could Speak”

Dr. Gerhard Heuschmann’s DVD, “If Horses Could Speak (produced by JFF Film Produktion)” isn’t an entertaining video, but its value is tremendous from an educational standpoint. It’s the companion to his excellent book, Tug of War: Classical versus “Modern” Dressage (www.horseandriderbooks.com), which is available in English (as is the DVD).

What Dr. Heuschmann documents are the harmful methods that are so common today in horsemanship, especially show animals. This applies not only to dressage and hunter-jumpers—as the author uses as examples—but also to recent trends in Western pleasure horses.

The DVD, like the book, does an effective—if disturbing—job of illustrating that hyperflexion of the horse’s neck (Rollkur) and an excessively low head carriage not only interferes with the animal’s normal gaits, but also causes pain, discomfort, and stress which ultimately lead to premature unsoundness and inability to use routine gaits. Ultimately, Rollkur is inhumane, unnecessary, and violates proper horsemanship fundamentals.

As a veterinarian whose career in equine medicine was largely focused on show horses, I agree with Dr. Heuschmann’s point of view. I’d also add that the worst things I see in the industry are:

  • Starting horses too young and working them too severely

  • Insisting on grotesque and unnatural head positions, most often seen in dressage, Western pleasure, reining, and cutting. Thankfully, Western, stockhorse classes seem to be free of these distortions.

When mules began to get popular approximately 40 years ago, I campaigned against the “peanut rollers” for Western pleasure classes. I’m glad that those classes, as I’ve noticed at Bishop Mule Days, are relatively free of such distorted and harmful head positions.

My hope is that Dr. Heuschmann’s efforts will result in head positions in all horse show classes and disciplines that are less painful and harmful, and which predispose to early unsoundness.

To order “If Horses Could Speak,” click here.

Click Here to watch video on YouTube!

Make sure your horse is feeling his oats this winter

In our increasingly urbanized society, I’ve observed a lack of understanding of the terminology used in feeding horses. Below, a brief breakdown of terms:

  • Pasture: Everybody seems to understand that this refers to growing plants. The pasture may be natural growth, or it may be cultivated, which means that it’s been planted. Pasture may be green and growing, or dry and dormant, as in cold winter months.

  • Hay: Hay is forage that has been cut and allowed to dry. It’s then stacked or baled. It will remain palatable and nutritious for a long period of time if it’s not allowed to get wet and/or moldy. Hay can be made from any of the many grasses (oat, timothy, barley, Bermuda, orchard grass, rye, Lucerne, etc.). Hay may also be made from non-grass forage such as legumes; examples include alfalfa or clover. Some people think hay and alfalfa are different, but in actuality, there’s grass hay and alfalfa hay.

  • Grain: Many people refer to pelleted feeds as “grain.” This is incorrect: grain is the seed of certain grasses such as oats, barley, corn, and wheat. Grain can be fed to horses whole, or rolled or crimped or ground. This processing increases the digestibility of grain(s), although they may also be included in the formulation of pelleted or powdered concentrates. 

    Most feed companies produce concentrated supplements, often in the form of tiny pellets. These contain grain plus other ingredients, but they shouldn’t be called grain because the word refers to cereal grains (the seeds of certain grasses, as described above).

    Wild horses mainly eat grass including the seed (if it’s spring or summer and the plant is producing seed). Ideally, we shouldn’t veer too far from this natural equine diet. On the West Coast, where I live, I recommend a diet of 75% grass (in the form of pasture or hay or both), plus 25% alfalfa (in the form of hay, cubes, pellets, or green). Why the alfalfa? Because it’s a rich source of calcium and protein.

  • Concentrates: If your horse requires them because it’s a working animal, growing youngster, nursing or pregnant mare, or breeding sire, I do recommend supplementary vitamins/mineral mixture to be sure no deficiencies occur, but don’t overdo it.  Ask your vet what he or she recommends.

Question of the Month

Have a question for Dr. Miller? Send it to questions@robertmmiller.com. 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. There are many recommended treatments for the flat, gray skin sarcoids horses tend to get all over their bodies—primarily in the ears. Which one do you recommend?

A. For verrucous (wart-like) sarcoids, a common, semi-malignant skin tumor, I used a prescription anti-cancer drug (Fluorouracil 0.5%), trade names Efudex or Carac. It’s a topical cream, and should be applied with gloves. Lightly rub into the lesion once a day for 30 days, and then wait 30 days. If any tumor remains, repeat the treatment for another two weeks. Only once in practice did I need to do a third treatment; otherwise, I saw remarkable results. Although slow, this treatment is simple, relatively inexpensive, and can be performed by the owner. There are over-the-counter-drugs available, but I find Fluorouracil 0.5% most effective.

New from Dr. Miller, coming soon:

Is It An Emergency? - A Book of dog cartoons by RMM.  Introductory price $10.00 (Regular $11.95). Now taking advanced orders – We are working as fast as we can to get this out, but won’t know for another 7-10 days if we can have this in time for Christmas. Watch this page for the latest updates.  Is It An Emergency?

Coming early 2012 - Causes and Prevention of Lameness DVD

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

Mark Your Calendars!

Interested in catching one of Dr. Miller’s winter or spring lectures?

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M.

February 19-20: 84th annual Western Veterinary Conference, Las Vegas, NV; http://www.wvc.org .

May 31-June 3: Light Hands Horsemanship, “Equine Learning: From Birth to Maturity,” Santa Ynez, Ca; www.lighthandshorsemanship.com

For contact details and other dates and locations in 2012, go to www.robertmmiller.com/appearances.html.


Register by Jan 1st and SAVE

LHH will be hosting it's sixth year May 31 - June 3, 2012. We scheduled it a few weeks later in the year in hopes of "perfect weather." Last year it was beautiful but the past years have been marginal. So in our continued efforts in the “perfect” category we moved it more into summer.  www.lighthandhorsemanship.com

Coming in our February newsletter: Foaling season is coming! Look for the latest in mare care and imprint training tips.

Want to place an ad in our newsletter, or book Dr. Miller for a lecture, demonstration, or book signing?    Contact info@robertmmiller.com.

Please send any comments or suggestions to newsletter@robertmmiller.com.  Have an idea for a cartoon? Send it to cartoons@robertmmiller.com, or visit www.rmmcartoons.com.

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