Category Archives: animal welfare

Bundled up and ready to go! How to dress for winter riding

With an early blast of Old Man Winter this week, we are reminded that it’s important to dress for the weather. Many people will stop riding in the winter, in fear of being too cold; however, if dressed appropriately, winter riding can be fun – especially after a fresh snowfall out in the fields!

The first thing to keep in mind is to dress in layers so that you can maintain a comfortable body temperature. Layering allows you to add or remove clothing easily as your body temperature changes. On top, I usually suggest a turtleneck or high-necked shirt followed by a zipped sweatshirt or fleece top. For those riders who wear protective safety vests (which on their own add about 10 degrees to your body temperature), wear your vest on top on your turtleneck, followed by the zip top so that you have 1 less layer to remove as you warm up. For the final top layer, a down vest or winter jacket would be best. This piece will also keep you warm before and after you ride when you are grooming your horse or pony.

Since your head allows much of your body’s heat loss, fleece helmet covers will help maintain some of your body temperature, and can also keep your ears warm! Some riders will also add an ear band underneath a helmet and as long as it doesn’t interfere with the fit of the helmet, it’s another way to keep the ears warm.

For pants, I prefer to ride in “winter riding breeches” which are nylon on the outside and fleece on the inside. I don’t like to promote specific brands but will acknowledge ones that have been great for me over the years. After riding through many cold winters, the “Kerrits” winter riding breeches wash up the best, last the longest and are super comfy to wear. For added warmth, both on top and bottom, you can also add long underwear in cotton or silk. These natural fabrics add warmth and pull moisture away from your skin so that as you ride and get warm, you won’t get chilled when cooling down afterwards.

For me, what get cold the quickest are my hands and feet so it’s important to find the best gloves and winter footwear. For gloves, try to look for products that are rated for a minimum of -10 degrees. My favourite ones are SSG’s “10 below” winter gloves. They keep my hands warm and stay relatively dry. I also like the sheepskin lined deerskin gloves, but unless you are good at keeping track of your things, they can be a bit pricey.

Winter riding boots come in many different brands and styles. Some riders prefer winter paddock boots (short boots) while others like to ride in tall boots. Either way, the key is to wear good socks and to have lots of room to keep wiggling your toes. Both Mountain Horse and Ariat have many different styles so it’s a good idea to figure out if you want short or tall boots and then try on different brands. It WILL be difficult to get 1/2 chaps over most winter paddock boots so keep that in mind when selecting your style. Some of my students bring “Hot Shots” to lessons which keep their hands/feet warm and I know that many parents “buy in bulk” at Costco and keep a good supply in their rider’s “barn bag”.

All this being said, I admit that I AM a wimp when it comes to winter riding but when I dress properly, I warm up quickly. When I go out to teach, I am bundled up from head to toe from my Foxwood toque, down to my full-length parka and Sorel boot and I also added snow pants to my winter teaching wardrobe.

So, bundle up to stay warm and have a great season of winter riding!

Until next time,
Robyn

You CAN lead a horse to a “Drinking Post” to save you time AND money

The trees are budding, the birds are chirping, the horses are shedding – spring has sprung! With spring on the farm, comes lots of work: from cleaning tack, harrowing paddocks, grass cutting, and tidying up the Foxwood horses and ponies after a long winter season. With so much to do, there never seems to be enough time in the day!

I like to think that I am fairly progressive when it comes to trying new methods of working around the farm and if I can implement something that is going to save me time AND money, why wouldn’t I try it?

In the fall of 2015, I read about a watering system for large animals that had originated in Western Canada, mainly for cattle, but was becoming popular at horse farms. If you’re familiar with how a frost-free yard hydrant works, then you already understand the concept of how the Drinking Post Waterer works; however, unlike a regular frost-free hydrant, the Drinking Post Waterer has some amazing differences:

Frost-free yard hydrants/drinking post waterers are installed to provide water to various locations on a farm during all seasons of the year. They are manufactured and installed in such a way that they will operate throughout the winter without freezing and because the water is coming up from below the frost line, the temperature remains at 50 degrees Fahrenheit year round. The main difference between the 2 systems is that to use a frost-free hydrant, you then need to have a trough. A trough that needs to have a heater installed in the winter time, to keep the water from freezing. And, a trough that needs to be cleaned and dumped out, especially in the summer, to avoid algae growth (not to mention standing water which increases the likelihood of mosquitoes).

About 10 years ago, when I had a new well drilled on the farm, I had frost free hydrants installed in 3 of our paddocks. At the time, I thought this was fantastic as it meant that I no longer had to drag hoses out from various tap locations and during the winter months, I simply had to put the heater in the trough and all was good…well, until a power outage when the heater would then stop working, causing the water to freeze within the trough. Or in the heat of the summer, if I happened to be away for the day, and the horses would drink the trough dry. As horse owners, we know that having fresh, clean water accessible to our horses all the time is important for their health so something needed to change.

I took that leap in November 2015 and purchased 1 Drinking Post Waterer from System Fencing. I was skeptical at first – not knowing if they would all drink from it. Many of my horses had been at barns in the past with automatic drinking systems in their stalls, but none of them had access to automatic outdoor systems. Leading one horse at a time up to the Drinking Post Waterer, I was amazed at how quickly each and every one of them learned how to work it.

To operate, a horse simply presses their nose on the paddle inside the bowl and as it fills with water, the horse can drink. When they are done drinking, the paddle is released and the remaining water drains down through the interior of the waterer and into the ground below. It’s simple and has so many benefits:

Constant cool, fresh water at 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit, all the time. Horses will consume considerably more when at that temperature

Clean drinking water ALL THE TIME. No algae growth and no having to scrub out water troughs.

No standing water which equals no mosquitoes

AND cost savings due to no hydro requirements!

So, yesterday, I had my Drinking Post Waterer installer back to Foxwood. We put in 3 more drinking posts! One in every paddock so that now, I can rotate pastures in the summer without having to drag around the troughs to the hydrants. I no longer have to clean out algae, I don’t have to worry about water freezing in the winter…and with a decrease in my hydro bill this past winter, I can buy more crazy socks and saddle pads;)

Until next time,
Robyn

5 minutes…saving our horses one letter at a time

Slaughter. A term used for the killing of animals for food consumption. Pigs, cows, chickens, goats, and yes, horses – not just in Europe but here in Canada. In fact, Canada is a world leader in the production of horse meat with approximately 67,979 horses having been slaughtered in Canada in 2015.

I’m sure many of you are shocked to hear that our beloved pets and riding companions, can end up from paddock to plate but this business, very sadly is growing. Horse meat exports brought in $85 million last year, as per Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada with more than 12 million kilograms of the product being shipped. The majority of horse meat is still being sold and shipped to Europe but what has become most alarming in the last year is the increase of LIVE transportation of horses to Japan for sushi.

In Japan, “premium consumption,” a philosophy in which consumers do not mind spending large amounts of money on trendy products or services, is on the rise. The Japanese are embracing “members-only” clubs and resorts upwards of ¥355 billion ($4,176,200,000 CDN), up 13 percent from 2015. Horsemeat is increasing in popularity in Japan due in part to a boom in these exclusive and often secretive dining clubs.

Canada is the ONLY country that ships LIVE horses for slaughter.

Every year, approximately 7000 horses are transported by air from Canada to Japan. These shipments are often conducted weekly, with up to three to four large draft type horses crammed together in wooden crates. There is little room to move around, let alone lie down. No food or water is provided during the often 30+ hour journey overseas. Canadian legislation permits horses to be transported without food and water for up to 36 hours and sometimes, due to flight delays, the 36-hour period is breached.

Canadian legislation prohibits horses over 14 hands high to share a crate with other horses; however, the majority of horses being shipped to Japan are draft or draft crosses who exceed the height restriction.

They must be shipped individually if over 14 hands. Their heads must not touch the ceiling of the crate. They must not be deprived of food and water for any longer than 36 hours.

The law says all of the above things.

But for reasons of profit (up to $20,000 per horse shipped to Japan), Canada ignores the law.

I follow an amazing woman on Facebook. Her name is Dr. Judith Samson-French and she is a veterinarian who is based out of Western Canada. She advocates for ALL animals, sharing well informed articles, posting petitions to be signed and making the “average” person aware of situations such as the live transportation of horses to Japan. Below, is her Facebook post from today with a letter, for her Facebook followers, to address to Dr Cornelius F. Kiley, of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

In sharing all of the information with you on this blog, my hope is that you will copy, sign and email the letter (or write in your own words) to Dr. Kiley and perhaps, we just might help make a difference:

“Can you spare 5 minutes?

Please read the letter below, if you agree copy, sign and send away (email address at the bottom).
Thank you so much!

Attention: Dr Cornelius F. Kiley, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

I am writing to comment on the following: Amendments to Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations, which pertain to the transport of animals, are now in the public comment phase in the Canada Gazette, Part I, Vol. 150, No. 49.

There are a number of concerns with the proposed regulations. Firstly no provisions have been made to prevent transport of animals in weather extremes. In Europe, transportation of animals is not allowed in weather extremes and trucks have to be temperature controlled. They are required to have on board ventilation systems. The proposed regulations do not deal with the issue of temperature extremes in Canada, and the kind of conditions (extreme Canadian cold and heat) that it is inhumane to transport animals in.

Secondly, the length of time of animal transports is still a concern. While there has been a proposed reduction in the times animals can be transported without food and water, it is still 28 hours in the case of horses and pigs. Considering the clock is re-set to zero when shipments of animals leave Canadian borders, slightly reduced Canadian travelling times will not make any difference to the actual travelling times between countries. For example , there will still be horse shipments to Japan from Alberta that are approximately 30 hours long from the time of loading at feedlots until arrival and unloading in Japan (longer if there are flight delays). Numerous studies have shown that horse health and welfare deteriorates significantly after 8 – 12 hours of travel without rest (for example the European Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare (SCAHAW) and Stevenson: ”Long Distance Animal Transport in Europe. A cruel and unnecessary trade”2008).

Another concern with the live draft horse shipments is that horses are not being segregated currently, and I believe under the new regulations there will no longer be any requirement to segregate horses over 14 hands high. According to veterinarians, this practice of loading multiple horses into crates, while obviously cost effective and financially beneficial to the exporter, is detrimental to horse welfare in airplanes. From FOIP documents it is apparent that horses in the live shipments frequently go down during takeoff and landing, and with multiple horses in crates there is greater potential for injury if they are not segregated or no divider is used.

Another regulation that should be kept, not eliminated, in the horse shipments is the regulation requiring sufficient head space for horses, especially considering the fact that they will be standing in one position in the same wooden crate for approximately 24 hours (from the time they are first loaded into the crates until they are unloaded in Japan). It would be inhumane to have the heads of taller horses bent in unnatural position the entire 24 hours.

I am unclear as to how things will be improved for animals with the new transport regulations, and in fact with proposed removal of some of the existing regulations (segregation and head clearance) designed to protect horses during live horse shipments to Japan, the situation could become even worse for these animals. If Canada is going to make changes to animal transport laws, please ensure that they make significant improvements to animal welfare instead of maximized profits for exporters and producers.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
YOUR name here, address & phone number
email to: animaltransportanimaux@inspection.gc.ca
and you can cc: lawrence.macaulay@parl.gc.ca
PM@pm.gc.ca ”

“Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

And it only takes 5 minutes,

Until next time,
Robyn

PS – you can also make a difference by emailing Atlas Air, the American company that provides the majority of the horse transportation from Canada to Japan:

Peter Beckett Senior Director Charter Sales and Marketing Email: peter.beckett@atlasair.com

And signing the petition at Change.org
https://www.change.org/p/richard-broekman-staff-vice-president-commercial-development-and-charter-sales-email-richard-broekm-peter-beckett-senior-director-charter-sales-and-marketing-email-peter-beckett-atlasair-com-jo-ask-atlas-air-to-end-the-shipment-of-live-horses-f?recruiter=309243881&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_res

Horses enroute from Canada to Japan

Horses enroute from Canada to Japan