Equine Welfare – Making a Difference in the Horse World

Equine Welfare – Making a Difference in the Horse World

by Dr. Mike Guerini, www.dunmovinranch.com

Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed video sharing, rule change recommendations and conversations about Equine Welfare – all of which have brought forth heated discussions at times. Certainly Equine Welfare is of the HIGHEST importance for all of us equestrians….but resorting to arguments is not the way to get help to the horse.

I do believe that passion about Equine Welfare is great. Enthusiasm about promoting Equine Welfare is great. So a few hours ago I read a note from a person who asked – what can we do when we see bad things happening to horses. This question had me thinking for a few hours and I wanted to share a few of my thoughts.

  1. Use evidence based knowledge/information in your discussions. Do not simply tell someone that something looks bad therefore it must be wrong.  Have reasons why something you are seeing is wrong. Explain how the issue is affecting the welfare of the horse.  But when you explain…stay calm and focused…when you are calm and focused then people listen. As soon as you yell or call names…people quit listening.
  2. Promote equine welfare education. Get involved in groups and organizations that promote equine welfare.  If the organization you are associated with is simply critical – ask them to develop plans to help improve the welfare of the equine.  The International Society of Equitation Science (http://www.equitationscience.com) is one such organization that promotes equine welfare.
  3. Ask someone to explain why he/she is doing something and how it works to “help” the horse. Sometimes when a person has to explain how something is a good thing … when they are asked politely … they may be at a loss for an answer and hours later, they will still think on what you asked and begin to realize that if they cannot explain the concept clearly….then maybe it is not something they should be doing (This is particularly true of training equipment).  Those voices inside our heads can and do help people redirect moral and ethical compasses.  Cause people to think and you will affect how they act.
  4. Show that there is a better way. Get out and demonstrate and explain how your way….is the correct way to do things and betters the welfare of the horse.  Win with class and with horse welfare as your Battle Cry … and people will begin to follow what you are doing.  Rules and laws are not always the way to affect change…sometimes you have to show people the correct way to bring about change.
  5. Report issues to stewards, barn owners, barn managers, and Association representatives. When I say report…I am encouraging you to make a written/formal complaint.  Walking up to someone and telling them what you saw … well it works for about 30 seconds .. but in the end Give the person in charge specifics and information they can use to go and make the change or to help the horse that is in a bad situation.
  6. Speak to the person directly. Talking behind someone’s back is not a way to influence them or to help the horse.  Look the person in the eye and tell them what you think (see #1 and #3 above).

These are just a few thoughts. I encourage you to promote equine welfare. I encourage all of you to work for the horse and to be his/her advocate.

For my part I am a member of the International Association of Equitation Science because I believe in what the organization is doing to promote evidenced based equine welfare.

Share this blog if you think it might help a horse. Thank you.


Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home of the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

Heat Stroke and Cooling your horse

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

This past weekend I was at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento California.  On Saturday I was working with a team of excellent horsewomen (Sher, Alison, Linda, and Karen) demonstrating Western Dressage.  The temperature reached 108 F and of course we kept our demonstration short since we were focused on keeping the horse from being overheated.

As we unsaddled and worked on cooling the horses out we discussed some of the important lessons around cooling and bathing horses as well as dealing with the heat.

1) Never leave the water sitting on the skin as you are bathing or cooling your horse.  We saw a few people dousing their horses with water and then not slicking that water off.  Sure water can help cool but if it is left on the skin, it serves as an insulator and keeps that heat on the horse.  You can actually overheat a horse who is soaking in water when the temperatures outside are hot to extremely hot.  Water is a pretty good insulator and has the capacity to retain heat so get the water off and that thin layer left on the horse will evaporate and help in the cooling.

Spray your horse with cool water — beginning with his legs first — to help lower his body temperature. Scrape excess water off quickly because it soon rises to the temperature of the over-heated horse.

2) Make sure stalls are well ventilated with cross breezes (air can move in and out of the stall) or make sure your horse can move out of the stall on his/her own free will.

3) Keep your horse from standing in the direct sunlight on these extremely hot days.

4) Another reminder is that if you use cool/cold water, do not apply this directly to large muscles that have just finished a rigorous workout.  Lukewarm water is better.  A sudden burst of cold water on large muscles can shock those muscles and cause the horse either stress, pain or injury.

5) If you suspect heat stress with your horse — call your veterinarian immediately.  Always consult your veterinarian for any medical emergencies.

Some signs of Heat Stroke include

  • Temperature above 104 degrees F. (A normal temperature is 99-100.8 degrees F.)
  • Rapid heart and pulse rates that do not recover within 10 or 15 minutes after exercise.
  • Rapid breathing that does not slow down after exercise.
  • Less sweat than expected.
  • Hot skin (might progress to cold if skin circulation shuts down).
  • Signs of dehydration, including loss of skin elasticity, sunken eyes, tacky membranes and cessation of urination.

You can learn more about some of the professionals Dr. Mike worked with this past weekend by clicking on the name here — Sher Bell Boatman

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).