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Talking about death

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  • For those of you that say it is not true horsemanship to "put your horse in a position to get killed," prove your enthusiasm. Stop riding. Pull your horse's shoes and put them out in a field to live their happy life.
    Fine, running your horse at advanced level XC is no more dangerous, statistically than the 2'6 hunters or training level dressage.

    I think that is not true.... and that there is a limit as to what a horse can handle in terms of running and jumping and "answering questions". I think in recent years XC has gotten too difficult to be a good risk for most horse and rider teams, thus a high incident of deaths. If you can name 20 horses that have died in the dressage and/or jumper ring at FEI levels in the past 3 years- great. I'll eat crow and be satisfied that eventing is not a bigger risk.

    It sounds like they made things a little more reasonable this year. Took the difficulty down a notch. Excellent. Now make it a bit easier on the horse's physical systems.

    I think we just all need to agree to disagree. We won't all have the same level of acceptable risk- just please stop alluding to the risk of running XC at Rolex being no more risky than doing other sports.

    Comment


    • Yea, there's a reason some people go eventing while others compete in jumpers or dressage. If it were all the same - just competing athletes at the same level of exertion - the idea of losing eventing altogether wouldn't make some people feel that they were staring into their soul's grave. They'd just say, "Oh No problem! I'll just go do the jumpers instead." XC *is* different. You can't take pride in what it requires of your horse and you and your partnership, on the one hand, but say it's no more demanding than any other equine sport on the other. I do think it's a given that it is more dangerous. However, it's the nature of the sport... not the desired outcome of those who participate in it. I recall a thread months back in which people criticized the idea of safer jump construction because then xc "wouldn't be dangerous anymore... It wouldn't be eventing!" they screamed. "Then everyone would do it... who knows who would go Advanced." I have no doubt that the danger comes into play somewhere in the thrill of going xc, but that doesn't equate to a death wish.

      I hear people asking that the eventing community do whatever necessary to keep the horses as safe as possible given the elevated risk that comes with eventing. They are asking that riders and grooms and vets be as mindful as possible - not necessarily psychic, but *attentive* - of their horses' needs and respect their horses enough to keep their eye on their horse's well-being above any other goal.

      I haven't read the whole thread thoroughly, but I haven't seen anyone suggesting that eventers just don't care at all. I think there are just ways that we can all learn to care *better*. But that's what horsemanship is, isn't it? Always learning more and in turn being better and better 'stewards' if that's what you guys want to call us.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by horsepix76 View Post
        Some may not agree with me, but I still relate these types of deaths to the lack of long format. If the horses had been required to condition and train for the full 4* long format event, chances are, the physical limitation would have come into play long before they ever stepped onto the 4* course. Weak areas on tendons, aneurysms, etc., most likely, would rear their ugly heads before the horse made it to the 4* level if it were required to meet the fitness level necessary for a long format 4*.

        Just my opinion...
        I like the way you worded that. It makes sense to think that soundness issues would crop up earlier and horses would break down in preparation rather then at the actual event.

        Comment


        • Not that breaking down in preparation is exactly a desirable result...
          Blugal

          You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

          Comment


          • Last year I retired my 12 year old Arabian. She was navicular. I searched long and hard for treatment options and eventually gave her to a friend at a trail horse...

            At one point I was discussing pulling her shoes and trying a mustang trim on her. One person had pointed out that you almost never see navicular mustangs. I ran this idea by TWO farriers. Both laughed.

            "You never see a navicular mustang because the wild mustangs die by the time they're 12," was one farrier's response. The others was similar, but more colorful in language and not suitable for public posting

            Our horses are our partners and friends. They are very fragile too though. Yes, Kingpin died of a hemorrhage on a cross country course but the same condition could have killed him at home too. We lost a percheron a few years ago to an aneurysm. He was just standing in the field at the time.

            We form bonds and partnerships and try to keep them as safe as possible but accidents will happen. It is always sad and tragic but the fact is, even if we put them in a bubble, accidents will still happen. Teddy died on his farm at home!

            To stop doing something because it involves risk is a slippery slope to start down. First we say "no long format eventing" and that becomes "no cross country" which will turn into "no jumping" and then "no racing" - do you see where I am going?

            Just my 2 cents worth....
            The rebel in the grey shirt

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Trixie View Post
              When an event has a death every year, and over 20 horses have died specifically in upper level competition since 2007, not to mention quite a few riders, something needs to be readdressed. You don't see numbers like that in *most* other horse sports, racing sports aside. It's not a reasonable rate.


              Ok...what is a reasonable rate?

              The answer to that question is going to be different for every person...and why there will not ever be an end to this thread. Eventing IS challenging and it IS dangerous. That is eventing. It is why it isn't a sport for eveyone or every horse.

              I agree that movement should always be made to make things safer....of course. That has been done and continues to be done. There are many things about today's xc courses that are far safer than years past...course design, course building and training have improved significantly.....the level of the skills of the riders and the quality of their horses today is very impressive.

              But this sport by its very nature is a dangerous one and there is no way for it not to be one without losing what is the heart of the sport. Eventers do take responsibility for their sport and do work to make it safer but we also accept that it will never be without risks. We also know that the NUMBER ONE safety measure....is developing SKILLS....skill in the rider, skills in the horse...and skills in the horsemanship of the rider to know when they (as a partnership) are prepared or not to handle a course and the risks posed by that course on any given day. And at least of all the eventers that I know....it is one safety measure that we work hard on every day.
              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

              Comment


              • Originally posted by horsepix76 View Post
                Some may not agree with me, but I still relate these types of deaths to the lack of long format. If the horses had been required to condition and train for the full 4* long format event, chances are, the physical limitation would have come into play long before they ever stepped onto the 4* course. Weak areas on tendons, aneurysms, etc., most likely, would rear their ugly heads before the horse made it to the 4* level if it were required to meet the fitness level necessary for a long format 4*.

                Just my opinion...
                Not so! Horses have died on long formats, horses that were invariably well conditioned, well ridden. Aneurysms rear their ugly heads whenever they are ready. They are unpredictable and are rarely diagnosed ahead of time.

                However until recently, little was said about it. Publicity was avoided.
                Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                Comment


                • Once again let me remind everyone that the term "aneurysm" is probably being used incorrectly here. "Aortic rupture" is not as catchy, but is probably more accurate. The word "aneurysm" implies "something that might have been detected ahead of time" whereas I don't think there's any evidence that this is so. Aneurysms can and do develop in horses, but we don't know (yet) if this is an anatomic problem (visible to the naked eye) or a microscopic/tissue-level disorder.
                  Click here before you buy.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                    Ok...what is a reasonable rate?

                    The answer to that question is going to be different for every person...and why there will not ever be an end to this thread. Eventing IS challenging and it IS dangerous. That is eventing. It is why it isn't a sport for eveyone or every horse.

                    I agree that movement should always be made to make things safer....of course. That has been done and continues to be done. There are many things about today's xc courses that are far safer than years past...course design, course building and training have improved significantly.....the level of the skills of the riders and the quality of their horses today is very impressive.

                    But this sport by its very nature is a dangerous one and there is no way for it not to be one without losing what is the heart of the sport. Eventers do take responsibility for their sport and do work to make it safer but we also accept that it will never be without risks. We also know that the NUMBER ONE safety measure....is developing SKILLS....skill in the rider, skills in the horse...and skills in the horsemanship of the rider to know when they (as a partnership) are prepared or not to handle a course and the risks posed by that course on any given day. And at least of all the eventers that I know....it is one safety measure that we work hard on every day.
                    Ah ha! That is really a great question. How much death and destruction do we accept? I've posted that there are some who will not accept even the tiniest risk. I think the risk I am willing to accept is that which occurs after we've done all we can to make the sport safer. So, we have a way to go before I can say " This sport is as safe as it can humanly be made to be." So there is a lot of work to do. Please get involved and do something to help. The risk, however,will never be zero.

                    Comment


                    • Lets not look at the past (long format) with rose colored glasses.

                      How many horses died at the Rome Olympice? Mexico City?
                      Janet

                      chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

                      Comment


                      • My friends horse is navicular and he is trimmed by a farrier. Not a mustang trim but the farrier and vet worked together and he gets trimmed every 4 weeks and is doing great without a lame step.
                        Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by magnolia73 View Post
                          Fine, running your horse at advanced level XC is no more dangerous, statistically than the 2'6 hunters ...
                          Obviously you don't think it is. My question though is "what do you think horses fear the most?" If you were considering equine welfare from the point of view of a horse wouldn't the most "dangerous" thing be that thing that is most likely to result in what horses fear the most?

                          I don't think horses have a concept of death. They have a basic instinct of survival, but so do squid which aren't noted for much thinking power. I believe that what horses fear is suffering, not death. Suffering they know. Most horses have experienced it to some degree at some point in their life, and they have excellent memories.

                          Since 2'6" hunters is the example given I'll go from there--although I don't think my point is discipline specific. It is not an uncommon occurrence for horses to be lunged excessively before showing in the hunter ring. The purpose is to compensate for a horse with less than ideal disposition, or a rider with less than ideal skill, and/or a trainer who is, well, less than ideal for the task at hand. It's not lunging as a training tool, it's lunging for as much as an hour to wear the horse out for the day so he will behave better. It also prematurely wears the hell out of his joints. All leading to pain and suffering down the road.

                          In contrast, Kingpin at a few minutes after ten in the morning was in the start box feeling as fit and healthy as any horse in the whole world. Less than five minutes later he was dead. Moments after a catastrophic internal failure he was in shock and most likely unable to process any suffering.

                          So my hypothetical 2'6" hunter horse suffers with painful joints for the last decade of his life and Kingpin dies with the briefest moments of suffering. If you fear suffering, but don't have any concept of death which would you find worse? Which activity is more "dangerous."

                          No, I don't think the current statistics are acceptable. Yes, I'm concretely supporting finding answers. No, I don't think either death or suffering are good options. But I do think to proceed in the most moral way with the stewardship granted us we need to step out of our own shoes and try on a pair of size 2's with toe clips and consider priorities. With a species such as ourselves that is so obsessed with death that every major world religion centers around an answer to it, it is very difficult to extricate ourselves from the Dinseyesque form of animal psychology that makes animals just like us, but in outer coverings that look different so that we can consider death from a whole different view point.

                          If death is worse than suffering wouldn't that negate the blessing of well timed euthanasia? Is it our moral obligation to prioritize protecting horses from the dangers they fear most or the dangers we fear most?

                          Comment


                          • Is it our moral obligation to prioritize protecting horses from the dangers they fear most or the dangers we fear most?
                            I think we need to not continue to "test" what horses can do. IMO, 07 and 08 were a push to see just what we could make an event horse deal with... and the sport was pushed to the margin.

                            IMO, running a horse over fences with almost no margin of error to satisfy the want and ego of the rider is wrong. And I agree on the 2'6 hunter lifestyle- and practice what I preach- my girl lives in a giant field and gets longed almost never. And her joints already at age 6 have damage from racing. But yes, horses get longed for hours and end up crippled to satisfy egos. I think that is wrong as well. And I *hate* the Derby.

                            I just wish we could race horses starting at age 6, when they have finished growing, run XC a notch easier, perhaps placing some emphasis on fitness in the score. I wish they would limit hunters to 15 shows a year and enjoy a forward horse with some spirit. Just a little modification that puts the horse's best interest first. It seems like all we do is step a little farther from what is best for the horse instead of getting closer to what is best for the horse.

                            I think it is very hard to compare horse sports to anything else. You have a being that can't comprehend the results of their actions. And I'll be honest- I don't get the mentality that lands off a jump and is thrilled because "man- that was close- you saved my butt".

                            I think there is a scale- 1 being frothy PETA type, 10 being that cruel guy from Black Beauty who whipped the lame horse to win the race. I think probably everyone participating here is somewhere between a 5 to a 7. It's a useful and interesting conversation and important to understand it isn't black and white, but very grey.

                            Comment


                            • 10 being that cruel guy from Black Beauty who whipped the lame horse to win the race.
                              Whaaaat? There was no racing in Black Beauty. Plenty of heinous behavior on the part of humans, though, so point well taken.

                              I'd put myself at a "6", I guess. Slightly on the cruel side of PETA-esque.
                              Click here before you buy.

                              Comment


                              • Sorry Deltawave, the evil son of Beauty's third owner (not farmer, not nice family with sick wife) rode the snot out of Ginger and caused her to break down. In the movie version it was in a race. I don't have my copy of the book in front of me but IIRC, he ran the snot out of her whipping and spurring in the book but I'm fuzzy on if it was in a race in the original book version.

                                Found the entire book on-line, got to love the internet!

                                Lord George was young and would take no warn-
                                ing ; he was a hard rider, and would hunt whenever
                                he could get the chance, quite careless of his horse.
                                Soon after I left the stable there was a steeple chase,
                                and he determined to ride, though the groom told
                                him she was a little strained, and was not fit for the
                                race. He did not believe it, and on the day of the
                                race, urged Ginger to keep up with the foremost
                                riders. With her high spirit, she strained herself
                                to the utmost; she came in with the first three
                                horses, but her wind was touched, beside which,
                                he was too heavy for her, and her back was strained ;
                                " And so," she said, " here we are ruined in
                                the prime of our youth and strength you by a
                                drunkard, and I by a fool ; it is very hard."
                                "If you would have only one day to live, you should spend at least half of it in the saddle."

                                Comment


                                • I stand corrected--had always thought it was hunting, not 'chasing. But she wasn't lame, just bad back and "wind", IIRC.
                                  Click here before you buy.

                                  Comment


                                  • subk - YES!

                                    subk, your excellent post captures exactly what I think about how we approach responsible stewardship / horsekeeping. Stop anthropomorphizing, and start thinking clearly about our own best and most honest understanding of how horse's experience their lives. It's not the same as humans.

                                    I think the medical / fitness research angle is very important, and I don't find Kingpin's death in some way 'ok', but if he died doing a trot set the week before Rolex of the same cause, would we be talking about banning trot sets?
                                    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                                    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

                                    Comment


                                    • Originally posted by Lori B View Post
                                      subk, your excellent post captures exactly what I think about how we approach responsible stewardship / horsekeeping. Stop anthropomorphizing, and start thinking clearly about our own best and most honest understanding of how horse's experience their lives. It's not the same as humans.
                                      Thanks. People talk about the "bond" eventers seem to have with their horses. I think a big part of it is that when we run xc--a course the horse has never seen before--as rider the better we can understand how the HORSE sees a question and how the HORSE processes the information the more success we will have. Reed talks about XC being the only time he can "BE the horse." You can only BE the horse if for a moment you stop assigning your human priorities and perceptions to the horse.

                                      I know I am bias, but I think of all the disciplines I've come into close contact with eventers seem to understand and respect the distinction between horse and human on a day to day basis the best. And best of all the very essence of the sport encourages that understanding.

                                      Comment


                                      • Originally posted by subk View Post
                                        Thanks. People talk about the "bond" eventers seem to have with their horses. I think a big part of it is that when we run xc--a course the horse has never seen before--as rider the better we can understand how the HORSE sees a question and how the HORSE processes the information the more success we will have. Reed talks about XC being the only time he can "BE the horse." You can only BE the horse if for a moment you stop assigning your human priorities and perceptions to the horse.

                                        I know I am bias, but I think of all the disciplines I've come into close contact with eventers seem to understand and respect the distinction between horse and human on a day to day basis the best. And best of all the very essence of the sport encourages that understanding.
                                        Oh, I LIKE that!

                                        Comment


                                        • Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                          Once again let me remind everyone that the term "aneurysm" is probably being used incorrectly here. "Aortic rupture" is not as catchy, but is probably more accurate. The word "aneurysm" implies "something that might have been detected ahead of time" whereas I don't think there's any evidence that this is so. Aneurysms can and do develop in horses, but we don't know (yet) if this is an anatomic problem (visible to the naked eye) or a microscopic/tissue-level disorder.
                                          DW, you're the scientifically trained medical mind on this. I question whether or not the term "aneurysm" is or is not correct only because people aren't looking for them in horses. If there were the same sorts of diagnostic tools available for horses as for humans and they were used as often, who knows what would be found?
                                          "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                                          Thread killer Extraordinaire

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