Bullies on the School Bus and on the Trail: Horse Behavior Teaches Children a Good Lesson in New “Quincy” Book by Camille Matthews

Quincy and Buck

Novice trail horse Quincy finds there's more to fear on the trail than snakes and coyotes in the new children's book "Quincy and Buck" by Camille Matthews. Readers learn that bullies can have four legs as well as two. Illustration: Michelle Black.

The animal world is full of bullies. Just look out the window at the dogs playing. Introducing a new cat can be a nightmare. And those hens…

But if you’re looking for bully behavior on the farm, look no further than how a group of horses attack a fresh flake or two of hay dropped over the fence by someone who doesn’t know the herd.

Ears go back. Oh, that squeal. Hooves fly. And one or the other backs off. More often than not, it’s the “other” who is chased away. She circles around and comes in from the other side, only to be met by the shifting hind end of the dominant one.

We accommodate horse behavior quirks by splitting feed, separating horses, distracting them, building elaborate feeders and otherwise just figuring out a way to keep the peace. But we always know that the quirks are there. We haven’t changed the behavior as much as we have avoided it.

Children watch horses do the dance of dominance and shriek: “Meanie! Stop that!” They immediately recognize the behavior of a bully as soon as a favorite pony turns into a hay-hoarding demon.

Perhaps Camille Matthews was gazing out her window when she came upon the idea for the latest in her series of “Quincy” books for children. Quincy and Buck is, on the surface, the story of a young horse’s first day out on the big open trail. He has a long list of things to fear in the desert of the Southwest, but he didn’t expect that his companion horse would be one of them.

The story has a beginning, a middle, a dramatic climax, and an end. It is written to be read along or aloud with a child or group of children.

Talking aloud about the way that each of the horses behaves is a natural lead into how people act in similar human situations. Children’s perceptions of the horse characters might change as they read the book; they might think one or the other of the horses is “beautiful” in the beginning but less so in the end.

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In the simplest of terms, this book leaves some room for the children to fill in the rest of the story from their own experience in life. Much of the bully’s meanness is implied rather than written into the text, so children can give examples of what “the mean horse” might have done to “the nice horse”.

Many of us who are lucky to live among animals or raise families on farms sing the praises of many ways that in enriches children’s lives. When it comes to bullying–whether on Facebook or web chat rooms or on school buses or at Pony Club–children and adults are face to face with it, and wondering how to react and how to recognize a way to avoid it in the future.

If we can’t protect children from it, we can arm them in advance by being able to recognize it, and see how every “Quincy and Buck” situation has a bully and a victim. Leaning on a paddock fence at feeding time is one way to start, and to ask “Which horse acts like Quincy?” and leading up to “What can bystanders do?”

Horsepeople will find the details in the book to be accurate and realistic, and make them yearn for a trail ride through the desert. That said, the mishap on the trail has an ideal outcome. Many of us would be stranded on foot as our horse bolted off into the sunset!

Camille Matthews

Author Camille Matthews

Quincy and Buck is the third in this series for children to learn about life through a horse. Previous titles in the Quincy the Horse series are Quincy Finds a New Home and Quincy Moves to the Desert, both winners of the Mom’s Choice Gold Award.

Children will be intrigued to know that Quincy really does exist. He is an American Quarter Horse who recovered from EPM early in his life. Now 24 years old, he is still owned by author Matthews, who is a clinical social worker and equine-assisted growth and learning specialist.

Quincy and Matthews continue to work together as an equine therapy team at Pathfinder Farm in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Australian-raised illustrator Michelle Black is a former horse trainer who now is devoted to her artwork. She lives in Farmington, New Mexico, where she and Camille Matthews first met. This is their third book together.

If you would like to meet Camille Matthews and have your own autographed copy of Quincy and Buck, look for her at this events this spring:

  • Hoosier Horse Fair, Indianapolis, IN, April 4-6 (“Quincy the Horse” Booth)
  • Equine Affaire, Columbus, OH April 10-13 (“I Make Horse Calls” Booth)
  • Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Lexington, KY, April 24-27 (“Quincy the Horse” Booth)

The book is sold online in the usual places, or it can be ordered directly from Pathfinder Books.

And Quincy the Horse is on Facebook, of course.

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Halt at X for Secret Service: President Obama Signs Farm Bill in Michigan State’s McPhail Equine Performance Center Dressage Arena

President Obama signs Farm Bill in McPhail Center dressage arena

President Obama signed the Farm Bill in the Mary Anne McPhail Center for Equine Performance Gaide Arena at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“There’s a call for you.”
“Tell them I’m schooling. I’ll have to call them back.”
“Um…It’s the White House.”

When was the last time the President of the United States stopped by your training arena?

That’s exactly what happened on February 7, when a Presidential motorcade pulled up in front of the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. President Obama and a few hundred invited guests were shepherded into the famous white-walled, arched ceilinged Gaide Arena for the signing of the long-awaited 2014 Farm Bill.

You can imagine what that does to your footing.

This was a Big Deal for the President, just as it was for the vet school, which is located in East Lansing, Michigan. It was only the second time in his presidency that President Obama would sign a bill anywhere except the White House.

The choice of a vet school for the event was not random; the choice of a dressage arena seems to have been a matter of the best facility for the job, rather than a tip of the top hat to the sport of dressage. This particular piece of legislation has a far-reaching impact on the work veterinarians do every day to protect the health and welfare of both people and animals, so a vet college was naturally on the list.

What was so special about this legislation, and why were so many people cheering at the end of the day?

Michigan State McPhail Center

"POTUS is now approaching the wash rack..." The McPhail Center at Michigan State University hosted President Obama for the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill on February 7.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Farm Bill contains several crucial veterinary research programs that are vitally important for animal health and welfare, including:

• Authorizing up to $15 million annually for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN).
• Authorizing up to $10 million annually to establish a new competitive Veterinary Services Grant Program, which will complement the existing Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. The new grant program is aimed at relieving veterinary shortage situations and supporting private veterinary practices that are engaged in public health activities in rural and underserved areas of the country.
• Expanding the Animal Health and Disease Research/1433 Formula Funds.
• Establishing a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which would provide $200 million in funding for new research projects aimed at addressing key problems of national and international significance, including knowledge gaps in animal and plant health.
• Reauthorizing up to $700 million annually for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which provides grants for research, education and extension work into sustaining all components of U.S. agriculture.

Normally, you'll find a horse at center stage in the McPhail Center. They're usually having their postural sway measured, or how they chew a certain bit. Horses were removed from the big building entirely to "sanitize" it for the Presidential event. (McPhail Center photo)

The American Horse Council (AHC) noted that the horse industry is not as dependent on programs authorized by the Farm Bill as other segments of American agriculture. However, AHC added, several programs important to the horse industry are reauthorized by the bill, including livestock disaster programs, the Market Access Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Hilary Clayton PhD MRCVS

Dr. Hilary Clayton

Hilary Clayton, PhD, MRCVS is McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State, and oversees the beautiful McPhail Center, where she and her staff and students perform research in sport horse science. On any given day, you might see them trotting horses over force plates, videotaping horses in mid-piaffe, or testing a new saddle or bit with high-tech imaging technology.

But all of Dr. Clayton’s high-tech imaging equipment paled in comparison to the security technology that surrounded and filled the McPhail Center that day. The building was “sanitized” of horses, and the arena’s precious footing wasn’t even visible under a false tile floor that was built to cover it all.

You can be sure that President Obama did not leave with bits of footing clinging to his polished shoes.

When the cheers erupted in the arena as the president used an array of fountain pens to sign the bill, it wasn’t just veterinarians who were cheering. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) applauded the new bill, which offers some disaster relief to horse farms after destruction by tornado- or flood-type damage.

2014 Farm Bill

Signing the Farm Bill required a dozen or so pens.

The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) help livestock producers should natural disaster or disease strike. The bill explicitly names horses in its definition of livestock, the NTRA says.

The horse world benefited from another point of view: the land we need for our horses. The Land Trust Alliance reports, “The 2014 Farm Bill will generate more than one billion dollars for saving working farm and ranch lands. The bill will keep working farms and ranches in family hands and reinvest dollars, keeping local communities vital. It will help ensure that local food will be available in farming communities across the United States. Moreover, this bill will help to create and secure jobs, helping to restore and maintain our ways of life.”

The McPhail Center has hosted a long list of celebrities at events: Walter Zettl, Bettina Drummond, Gerhard Politz, Paul Belasik, and Sylvia Loch are just a few who will now find their names next to President Barack Obama.

These cameras were not measuring stride length or counting footfalls. The McPhail Center is beautifully equipped with media equipment to capture horses in motion. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Hilary Clayton)

The Farm Bill event at Michigan State had everyone cheering; there seemed to be something for everyone in the fine print of the huge bill. Even the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) had something to crow about that day: they noted on their blog that the Farm Bill contains a provision to crack down on animal fighting.

And on a more personal level in all our lives, the Farm Bill gives a boost to organic produce and foods. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association smiled as the bill was signed and report on their website: “The bill…reinstates funding for organic certification cost share to all 50 states…The action helps make organic certification more affordable for everyone.”

More than a few dressage jokes and Rafalca reminisces echoed through Twitter on February 7 as the press corps migrated to Michigan with the President. NBC in particular seemed to be in on the joke and tweeted a photo of the treadmill at the McPhail Center while NBC White House news producer Shawna Thomas gave a green light to more dressage jokes.

President Obama may not know a piaffe from a half pass, but all the judges seem to have given his performance a high score that day. It’s a rare test lately when the judges agree  and everyone goes home happy.

And at the McPhail Center, they’ll never forget such an upper-level day.

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Research: Colorado State Study Helps Identify Risk Factors Associated with Post-anesthesia Colic

equine colic

A new US colic study, published in Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) in partnership with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, has identified various risk factors, including delayed fecal output and increasing blood lactate, associated with post-anesthetic colic in horses. This new information should enable vets to implement preventative measures to help reduce incidences of colic in the future.

Gastrointestinal pain, generally referred to as “colic”, has been estimated to occur in 2.8–6% of horses following general anesthesia for elective procedures. The most common cause is impaction of the large intestine, or cecum.

The study Risk factors associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction in horses undergoing elective procedures under general anaesthesia was conducted by surgeons based at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University.

The medical records of 416 horses undergoing general anesthesia were collected over a two-year period and the potential risk factors were examined. The data showed that 8.7% of horses were diagnosed with gastrointestinal dysfunction. This number was higher than previous estimates, probably because the study included horses requiring treatment for decreased faecal output whereas previous studies did not.

Potential risk factors were assessed, including fecal output, which was decreased in 38.9% of cases, along with blood lactate, position during surgery, rectal temperature and breed of horse.

The results showed that Arabian horses, increasing blood lactate, right lateral recumbency, decreased rectal temperature post-procedure and delayed passage of feces were significantly associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal dysfunction.

“These findings should help the clinician identify higher risk horses and be proactive about their management in the post-anaesthetic period,” said Diana Hassel, DVM, PhD, DACVS, DACVECC, Associate Professor of Equine Emergency Surgery & Critical Care, who instigated the study. “This may include pre-emptive nasogastric intubation and administration of mineral oil and/or water and electrolytes. Although core temperature control in horses is difficult to achieve in adult horses during surgery, further research into this field may prove beneficial.”

Professor Celia Marr, Editor of the Equine Veterinary Journal continued: “This study brings obvious and immediate practical benefits for clinicians and the horses under their care. Rigorous monitoring of higher risk surgical cases should lead to a reduction in incidences of post-operative colic, making recovery procedures less difficult and outcomes more favourable.

Full title and authors: Risk factors associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction in horses undergoing elective procedures under general anaesthesia B. B. NELSON, E. E. LORDAN and D. M. HASSEL, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, USA.

The study can be accessed at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/evj.12162/abstract. The research was presented on December 11, 2013 at the American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Connecticut Governor Files Legislation to Counter Impact of “Horses Are Vicious” Court Decision

vicious horses in Connecticut legislation

A sign of the times? Connecticut horse owners have been baffled by a court ruling last fall that declared horses as an inherently vicious and dangerous species. That ruling opened horse owner to potential insurance and legal problems. John F. Braun photo.

Connecticut Governor Daniel P. Malloy announced on Tuesday that he has introduced legislation designed to protect horse owners and the state’s associated agriculture industry by clarifying into law that domesticated horses are not wild animals and as such as are not “inherently dangerous.”

The proposal, currently being considered by the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, stems from a 2012 Appellate Court decision, which found as a practical matter that all horses are wild. That ruling, currently being appealed to the state Supreme Court, could negatively impact thousands of horse owners and associated farmers in Connecticut.

Significantly higher insurance premiums or even the possibility of becoming uninsurable are possible consequences of the court decision.

Under the Governor’s proposed legislation, the law would clarify that civil cases involving horses who cause personal injury should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Governor Malloy

“Connecticut’s agriculture sector contributes $3.5 billion to our economy, accounts for about 28,000 jobs in our state, and is an industry with tremendous growth potential,” Governor Malloy said in a press release. “This legislation will protect owners of domesticated horses from a precedent-setting state court decision that unfortunately used too large of a brush to paint an entire species of animals as wild, threatens an industry, and would treat these owners unlike any other state in the nation.”

The legislation, House Bill 5044, An Act Concerning Domesticated Horses, may be read or downloaded at this link.

Connecticut has been known as the state with the most horses per square mile. The Connecticut Horse Council has published a background document, Connecticut’s “Vicious Horses”, which is available for download and explains the previous court rulings.

Read the court decision summary.

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Multi-Mom Dressage Mare: First of Five 2014 Foals Born to Edward Gal’s Dutch Grand Prix Star Sisther de Jeu via Embryo Transfer

Jubilee de Jeu

Jubilee de Jeu is the first of five foals to be born to Edward Gal's Dutch Warmblood grand prix partner Sisther de Jeu via embryo transfer.

They’ll just be one big happy family.

Dutch Warmbloods (KWPN) are taking a page from the American Quarter Horse breeding technology book this year as Edward Gal’s Grand Prix partner Sisther de Jeu prepares to give birth by proxy to five foals in her first year of retirement. The first, a filly by Charmeur, was born last night in Friesland in northern Holland.

Owner Emmy de Jeu of De Jeu Dressage in The Netherlands provided some exclusive information to The Jurga Report about the mare and her utilization of the embryo transfer process. Sisther de Jeu competed at the Grand Prix level with rider Edward Gal, including winning a bronze medal for team dressage in the 2011 European Dressage Championships.

Gal and Sisther competed until fetlock arthritis made training and competition uncomfortable for the Gribaldi-sired mare.

“She was in pain and not enjoying life anymore,” de Jeu said. “I agreed with Edward and Nicole (Gal’s trainer, Nicole Werner) to pull her out of the sport and try to start breeding with her. I am a breeder and that’s why my late husband bought her as a foal from the famous breeders Huub and Tiny van Helvoirt; (they were the) breeders of Jazz and Charmeur.”

On February 17, 2013, Gal and Werner announced Sisther de Jeu’s retirement. The mare left the high-powered world of international dressage and transitioned to a countrified life at Stal Seldsum, the farm of veterinarian Esther de Melker in northern Holland. Sisther was paired with a 24-year-old Friesian horse as a pasture companion.

“She was settled in a few weeks and very, very happy to have a friend,” Emmy said.

The choice of Stal Seldsum was no accident. Esther de Melker has experience with embryo transfer and has been very successful the past four years.

“We started (breeding) Sisther with Charmeur as they are both bred by Mr. an Mrs. Van Helvoirt, as is Sisther,” Emmy recalled. ”I thought it would be honoring their name if I brought these two horses together.”

That was just the beginning. “After two Charmeurs, we switched to Jazz; (he was) also bred by van Helvoirt. Jazz is still very fertile and the best stallion of the last decade in Holland, with lots of offspring at the highest level. So, two Jazz embryos were successfully placed also.”

foal ultrasound monitor

Baby on board! Ultrasound is a critical tool to monitor the mare's pregnancy; the embryo will be flushed and transplanted to a waiting recipient mare. (de Jeu Dressage photo)

When the next cycling opportunity came, de Jeu decided to be more adventurous, and try a young stallion. “We took Glock’s Zonik as he is doing very well with HansPeter Minderhoud and he was going to compete for the five year old World Champion Young Horse in Verden on a wildcard.” Zonik finished in the top ten with Minderhoud.

Glock’s Zonik (Blue Hors Zack x Blue Hors Romanov) had been purchased for the Glock Performance Horse Center from Andreas Helgstrand in Denmark after he had topped the Danish Warmblood young horse championship, including a “10″ score for his trot.

De Jeu was named KWPN “Dressage Breeder of the Year” for 2013. She had a busy year, including selling seven mares or fillies to Australia, as well as planning Sisther’s breeding schedule and partners.

Emmy and Sisther de Jeu

Dressage horse owner and breeder Emmy de Jeu has designed a breeding program for her star Dutch Warmblood mare, Sisther de Jeu, who competed at the international level with Edward Gal for The Netherlands.

While we know about Sisther de Jeu, who are the mares carrying the foals on her behalf? “I mostly used my own mares: two three-year-olds, two older ones and one I swapped with Esther (she took one of mine),” Emmy answered. “Esther is very good in synchronizing the mares and I am happy with the fact they are my own mares. I know them  and I know their quality, which is also important for a foal.”

Jubilee’s dam of record is Sisther de Jeu; her birth dam is Fabelle de Jeu, a four-year-old by Fürst Romancier x Serano Gold, from the de Jeu Dressage broodmare band.

How common is the practice in The Netherlands? “Embryo transfer is done in The Netherlands regularly  but it is not common,” she replied. “It costs quite a bit of money and you only want to do it with special mares like Sisther or when a mare is too old  and you would like an offspring of her.”

The offspring are accepted into the KWPN studbook, de Jeu said.

Sisther de Jeu and Edward Gal 2010

Sisther de Jeu competed at the international grand prix level with Edward Gal. They were part of the bronze team medal for The Netherlands in the 2011 European Dressage Championships. (File photo, The Jurga Report)

De Jeu is very pleased with the first of her foals. “Jubilee is a spitting image of Sisther: dark bay, broad neck, beautiful face with even a star and sneb (“snip” in English) as Sisther has, and super bright,” she reported. “She was standing within 15 minutes and drinking within 30 minutes after birth–also cantering through the box the whole day, she has a fire going on already.”

Sisther de Jeu’s prolific year brings to mind an April Fool’s joke from a few years ago, after Australian Olympian Lucinda Fredericks’ superstar eventing mare Headley Brittania mothered several foals via embryo transfer. Horse and Hound stuck its tongue in its British-humor cheek and announced that an exclusive new four-star three-day event would be held in England. What’s the hitch? All entrants must prove that record-setting Badminton and Burghley winner Headley Britannia is their mother. April Fool! But one day, it just might be possible.

That was back in 2008. Those foals are now six. Perhaps we will make note of multiple high-performing get of mares as well as stallions in years to come. Emmy de Jeu would be happy if we started with the 2014 crop of her beloved Sisther de Jeu.

Remember that name.

To learn more:

World Horse Welfare campaign bluntly asks horse owners: “Do you really need to breed?”

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