Monday, February 22, 2016

TheraPlate - Whole Body Vibration Therapy for Horses

A friend of mine told me he was bringing in a young man to demonstrate the TheraPlate on his horses. When he explained basically what it was, I have to admit that I had a recollection of those old television ads where women on stood on a platform with a vibrating belt around their waist.

In any event, it sounded interesting and I said to count me and one of my horses in on the deal as I was primarily interested in seeing one of my react to a vibrating platform. Any affects of the treatment were really secondary at this point as I was unconvinced of any therapeutic value.  

So a few days ago, Travis Gonzales from Las Cruces, New Mexico showed up and explained what the TheraPlate and whole body vibration treatment was all about. Not giving my horse a whole lot of time to think about, I led him onto the platform and Travis began the session.

You would think that as cautious horses are to footing, most would have at least an initial issue to a vibrating plate, but Travis said most horses don't have a big issue with the TheraPlate. Even then  starting at a low motor speed is the ticket. And judging from my horse licking, I think he liked it...even when Travis dialed up the motor. I think he spent about 20 minutes on the plate and Travis moved his hands and fingers all over the horse trying to find sore spots.

For the next horse, see the video on the gray mare below, Travis used a thermal camera powered by an app on his phone. The thermal camera showed heat differences on the horse which can likely detect where the horse is sore due to the inflammation creating higher heat signature.

The photo above shows the thermal camera attached to the phone scanning the horse in the background. You can make out the hot spots (darker spots) up on the withers and in front of the shoulder bone.  Travis can use the camera after the TheraPlate session to show any positive effects of the whole body vibration therapy session.

The TheraPlate website states that their TheraPlate has differences compared to other Whole Body Vibration (WBV) technologies. TheraPlate advertises that their proprietary 4 Zone Vortex Wave design and operation is the result of more than 30 years of working with this same technology in the treatment and prevention of injuries and other debilitating conditions in Horses, and Humans. TheraPlate further states that this therapy does not aggravate injuries and can improve chronic conditions, speed healing, and prevent injuries.

This is not a one time treatment deal. Travis told us that routine therapy is the key, sometimes several times a day, for around 20 minutes at a time, is usually indicated for chronic conditions. My friends said that the two horses they put on the Theraplate seemed to move much freer afterwards so they believe the TheraPlate can help and that they will be brining Travis back - I'm in for that as well. Travis also said that while enhancing circulation, the TheraPlate can help with laminitis and other hoof issues, improve soreness, and reduce pain in joints. You'll have to go to the website linked above to see the complete lists of what conditions and injuries that TheraPlate say's they can help.

Travis Gonzales is based out of Las Cruces, but he travels around with his business called "One Stop Horse Shop", where he also does non-sedation equine and bovine dentistry, and shoes horses.  To reach Travis - phone number 575-973-4403 or on e-mail at

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Equine Herpesvirus - Recent Outbreak and Vaccinations

In Southern New Mexico there has been an outbreak of Equine Herpesvirus (Rhinopneumonitis). As of 10 February 2016, there have been 62 horses confirmed positive for Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) at New Mexico’s Sunland Park racetrack. Sunland Park is adjacent to El Paso, Texas. The outbreak was first confirmed on 21 January 2016 at the racetrack which racing seasons runs from 18 December 2015 - 19 April 2016.

The New Mexico Livestock Board said the animals were confirmed positive through the testing of nasal swabs or blood samples. The infected horses are housed across 19 different barns within Sunland Park, meaning two more barns have been affected since the board last gave an update on numbers. There are 1600 horses boarded at Sunland Park.

Two positive horses are from an adjacent training facility called Frontera Training Center, which is close to the Sunland Park track. Frontera has always been included in the original quarantine perimeter. Two other nearby horse-training centers, Jovi and Lazy S, are also included in the quarantine area according to the New Mexico Livestock Board.

According to a local news press release - of the 44 infected horses, five have been euthanized due to neurological problems. “EHV-1 is not a death sentence for a horse,” Dr. Tim Hanosh, director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Services lab, said. “Most horses will get over the fever. Some will develop minor neurological signs they can recover from. And, unfortunately, a few will develop severe neurological problems they can’t recover from.”

According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) EHV-1 can cause four manifestations of this disease in horses, including neurological form, respiratory disease, abortion and neonatal death. Equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) is another name for the neurologic disease associated with equine herpesvirus (EHV) infections.

Symptoms of EHV.

After getting infected the incubation period may be as short as 24 hours before a horse shows symptoms, however this could be longer, even as long as a week. With respiratory infections there is often nasal discharge but may not be much coughing. There may also be enlargement of the lymph nodes under the jaw.

With the neurologic form there are usually the same respiratory signs but with an increased rectal temperature, greater than 102 degrees, hence the requirement of horses in quarantine having their temps taken twice a day. Other signs of the neurologic form may include: Lack of coordination; Lethargy; tilting of the head; Imbalanced movement; and, if laying down - an inability to rise.

Quarantine and Sanitizing.

EHV-1 is very contagious and spread by direct horse-to-horse contact via the respiratory tract through nasal secretions or horse snot on a person or tack being transferred to other horses. So quarantining of known or suspected infected horses is very important.

Additionally just as important is the sanitizing of any tack, horse trailers, or equipment, e.g.. water/feed buckets, grooming tools, halters and bridles, etc. Regular disinfectants, detergents and hand sanitizers are effective against the virus. Disposable personal protective equipment such as latex gloves, plastic bags for boots, etc., can all help from spreading the virus between horses. And while the virus can be transmitted via the aerial route (ever have a horse sneeze on you?) it is unknown at what distance the virus can be projected. The New Mexico Animal Health Board and Veterinarians also caution that the virus can normally remain alive for a week 7 and up to a month under optimal conditions for the virus.


EHV vaccinations are common are included in 6 way immunizations which include protection against Eastern, Western and Venezuelan encephalomyelitis, influenza, tetanus and rhinopneumonitis EHV-1 & EHV-4. Initial immunizations are two shots, usually a month apart, followed by annual shots thereafter. I usually have my horses vaccinated every April, unless it is particularly warm then I move the shots up a few weeks.

There is some belief that a booster for mature horses already on a annual schedule can help increase their immunity to EHV, or decrease the spread of the virus. Owners should consult with their Vet on whether this is a good idea in any particular case. However, there is no version of the EHV vaccine that protects against the neurological strain of the virus.

I have cancelled plans to travel to a couple competitions just to be safe. Basically just waiting out the virus and see when the all clear is given for the infected race track and local training farms. Everybody has to make their own decisions regarding the risks they are willing to take, just understand that the horses are the one's actually at risk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Colt Starting Question - Sequence for Starting Horses

Melissa wrote to say and ask" "I have been ground training a two year old Morgan-TB cross and doing very well considering it is my first horse I have received that was not already mature and able to ride. When I get to the point, which will be very soon :), to put a saddle on him should I do so at the same time I am introducing him to a snaffle bit? Or should a get him ok with saddle before I introduce a snaffle bit, or introduce to a snaffle bit before I try and put a saddle on him. Thanks in advance. Monica."

There are many ways of getting that horse ride able, Melissa. If I'm understanding you right, you are thinking that a saddle and a bit at the same time is alot for a young horse to accept, and you would be right, but I think it is all about how you go about asking him. I don't have a checklist or a written in stone sequence of events for starting a horse. I would suggest getting a colt starting DVD's from any number of the top clinicians to help guide you. But in the absence of that, what I might do or might have done all along is to prepare that horse to accept and give to pressure, such as bending him or having him give to lateral flexion, and to accept handling around and in his mouth.

Under a rope halter I would work with the horse on lateral and vertical flexion. You want to be able to tip his head for direction and tip his head in order to disengage the back end to get him to stop. 

I would also put my fingers in the corners of his mouth so he can feel that in his mouth and on the tops of his bars. See picture at left. The first time it may only be a second or two, then you would progress to longer periods of time. The mistake in this is the timing as with all pressure and release.  You want to remove your finger before the horse starts to move, throw or shake his head, as this is teaching him that he can move to avoid that.  So again, start with very short increments of time and progress from there. 
When I am leading a horse under hand, I might stop and occasionally hold a section of the lead rope underneath his jaw and slide a section of that lead rope into the horse's mouth so the first time he is experiencing something across his tongue it is soft. See picture at right.

In the past I have put a bridle on a young horse with a rubber training snaffle (traditional D ring or Egg Butt snaffle with rubber connecting bars) so he could carry it around for increasing periods of time and getting used to that feel. But now days, I don't do that. No particular reason except I want to be around the young horse while he has that get up in his mouth. I am content now with introducing the saddle to the horse and riding him in a round pen with a rope halter. Riding with a rope halter and using just the regular lead rope only allows the rider to bend the horse (lateral flexion) in one direction at a time.

I would even ground drive him with two lunge lines, each ran through the stirrups and connected to the cheek piece of the halter, before I made my first ride on him. Just be careful not to use both drive lines at the same time. You want your signals to be clear to him. I have a previous post and video on ground driving here: Ground Driving Your Horse.

But it all kind of depends on the horse. I may not always ground drive a horse first before I ride him, but would always ride him first in a rope halter. See photo at left. Again, using the lead rope on a rope halter (in effect riding with one rope/rein) doesn't allow the rider to be pulling on the horse's head and confusing him. Using wide, clear signals to tip the head with the lead rope are a good way to introduce pressure from a siting rider.

So I guess if you put this into a line and block chart, the saddle breaking comes first, then getting the horse comfortable with the bit, but not before the horse understands giving to pressure hence the lateral and vertical flexion work every time your handle the horse and prior to introducing the saddle.

I would make sure the horse received a dental exam and have his wolf teeth removed.  Even if you can't see wolf teeth they make be just under the gum waiting to erupt, and sometimes they won't be apparent (or erupt) until the horse is three years old. A bit clanging into them is not going to work to his or your best interests to say the least. So having a Vet dental exam and even rounding some of the teeth (making a bit seat) is a pretty smart thing to do prior to putting a bit in his mouth. Good luck and let me know how it goes for you and your Morgan/TB cross. Safe Journey.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Horse Rescue's - A No Win Situation

I started this site six years ago with really several purposes in mind. The primary reason to help those horse owners who had no where to turn for help so they could have a resource for a more functional knowledge about horses, develop a better relationship and generally provide a better life for horses.

I ventured into writing about subjects that interest me or I am involved in,....... see "Army Scouts and History", "Mantracking", or "Mustang-Wild Horse Issue", and I have even included some humor along the way - or what passes as humor to me.

One of those subjects that I write about from time to time is Horse Abuse which greatly saddens me.  It's hard to describe abuse - it comes in many forms. Sometimes you just have to say, you'll know it when you see it.   Sometimes it's poor feeding, evident by a poor body condition (like the horse pictured above) or a lack of fresh water.  Sometimes it's very harsh handling where some one else may believe it's just strict training.  Some people look at a horse as just property and not a thinking, feeling animal.   I think that people who keep horses in a small area, like a 12x12 stall, and especially by themselves is a form of abuse.       

In February 2012, I wrote a pretty critical article, Starving Horses in El Paso Texas, on those responsible for abandoning more than 60 horses in West Texas and I received a couple long winded negative replies on that article. I left those comments up in the interest of being fair and letting someone have their say even though they played loose with the facts. In fact, I have only deleted two comments in six years. One time some jerk wrote a reply with filthy language and another time some jackwagon insulted one of my horse. Other than those two comments, I'll let replies stand and let the readers sort it out.

In December 2013, on a request from a reader, I wrote an article about Rough Start Horse Rescue. The reader who asked me to write the article assumed it could provide some (likely not much) exposure for contributions.  The requestor was known to me, however the rescue was not. That article has generated many replies, from the gamment of total support for Rough Start, to derogatory comments, accusations of fraud, and personal attacks on the Rough Start management. I have left those comments up for all to read and sort through.

While I do not run a horse rescue, and likely never will, I do have two horses that are basically rescues. One that a lady kept for almost two years and couldn't keep anymore, so I bought him from her, and another horse that was basically abandoned by a border. However, I have a great deal of respect for people who run legitimate horse rescues. By legitimate I mean people who care for horses, provide a fair life, and work on rehabilitation to either find these horses a home or they will keep until a natural death.

My experience with rescue people are that the constant exposure to abuse, suffered by horses at the hands of humans, takes a heavy toll. I see in dog rescues as well. Animal rescue people sometimes don't possess the most refined people skills, but that, if true, an be chalked up to the abuse of animals by man that they see repeatedly.  And again trying to be fair, there are some people who fall on hard times which prevent them from giving their animals a fair life. Some of these may not know where to turn to for help.

I have also seen or heard of people who have personal problems with local horses rescue management, who sometimes actively work within the community or on social media to degrade these rescues. So the obvious questions may be "Do you have personal knowledge of immoral or fraudulent practices of the rescue? If so, what are those facts?" Or, if you just disagree with how they manage their horses or facility then "Have you tried to help? What have you done to make things better for those horses?"

More than likely there are some horse rescues who use the fa├žade of a rescue in order to fund their hobby with horses. However, the four local rescues I personally know spend a large portion of their own income, not to mention all their time, towards caring for horses nobody wants. The lack of a humane method to get rid of horses, meaning the ban on U.S. based slaughter, certainly does not help the issue of a growing population of unwanted horses. I have written about this as well and I am on the side of re-opening horse slaughter plants for the humane disposal of unwanted horses.......this is different than the shipping of horses to Mexico where they are cruelly treated and even more cruelly slaughtered.   Re-opening U.S. based slaughter plants is in opposition to many rescue people who want all horses to live to a natural death. That is preferred in a perfect world, but not possible in the world we live in, or at least the world as I see it.

Previous articles on the Horse slaughter issue: 

Horse Slaughter Update, December 2011

Slaughter Ban Saving Americas Horses? December 2014

When I ran a large public barn, I had to deal with a diverse group of horse owners, from those who thought their version of horsemanship was superior to all others and deserved special waivers to the rules, to owners who would not provide adequate feed, vet care or farrier services.  I found myself making assumptions based on the poor care of horses that often stemmed from just a lack of experience.  In any event, I could not make a difference in those horses until I figured out the whys of the problem.  So I guess I'm saying when it comes to horse rescues, people may want to find out the facts for themselves and volunteer to help if needed before making harsh judgment calls on these organizations.