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Talking Horses at Newton Rigg

30 Aug 2016

Allan Hannah the 1000th member in CumbriaMore than 50 local horsemen and women gathered to listen to an informative and illustrated talk from Rosie Scott Ward, Vice-Principal and Dean at Hartpury College and Sarah Lewin, specialist equine vet at Coomara Practice in Carlisle. 

Allan Hannah the 1000th member in CumbriaBefore the talk began, a presentation marked the one thousand member in Cumbria. Allan Hannah from Great Salkeld has recently joined the BHS and was the lucky recipient of a celebratory bottle of champagne and various BHS goodies. 

Sarah gave a talk focusing on muscle problems in horses, comparing the well-known muscle disease Azoturia (traditionally known as Monday morning disease, or tying up) with the relatively new syndrome, Atypical Myopathy. After explaining the symptoms and treatment of Azoturia, Sarah went on to question whether Atyical Myopathy really is a new disease, or just a different form of the same condition.

Aytipical Myopathy is believed to be caused by the ingestion of sycamore seeds; in particular the immature form and it may be that we are seeing more cases because of an increasing number of horses grazing in suburban environments where there may be more sycamore trees, than in open country. Either way, this is a very unpleasant disease which can cause paralysis and death if not treated quickly.
Rosie explained that Hartpury College is the largest equestrian establishment in the world, boasting extensive modern facilities. With 600 pupils and 230 stables the college runs courses up to PhD level. 

The talk followed the theme of “equine performance and rehabilitation” taking as its premise the fact that all horses, whether they be competition animals or not, need to perform at their optimum - and to do this requires a team effort.  Members of this team are not just the rider, but also the vet, the farrier, the therapist and of course the rider (who may or may not also be the groom).

Rosie emphasised the point that the vet should always be the first port of call – to then refer to a therapist - in order to ensure that poorly-qualified and inexpert practitioners are not relied upon.  In her opinion, physiotherapists who have initially trained as human physiotherapists and then bridged to animals are the best as they will have the extensive theoretical and practical expertise required.

Rosie then showed some fascinating slides and videos of the gold-medal winning superstar Valegro, who visits Hartpury regularly to use the water treadmill.  Training in water is particularly useful as it exercises stomach and back muscles in a different way to regular exercise, and helps with weight control (which can be a problem for Valegro!)

In her final summing, Rosie highlighted three important welfare issues; over-feeding, over-rugging, and poor rider fitness.  It is important that riders get themselves as fit as possible in order to do justice to their horses.  A useful aid to this end can be the use of a mechanical horse which can simulate all the movements of a real horse in a safe environment.
Treena Lang, BHS Cumbria Chairman, thanked the speakers and said she hoped more people would see fit to join the BHS and thereby help promote horse welfare, access, training and safety in Cumbria. 

Photo - From Left; Access Officer Gay Parkin, Treena Lang (Chair), Allan Hannah and event organiser Frankie Hart.

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