All posts by Associate Editor

Discover Dressage Joins COTA to Advance Dressage While Fighting Breast Cancer

Team members include Kerrigan Gluch, Sarah Roda, Elena Schiefele and Sophia Schults. Photo by Lily Forado.

When Challenge of the Americas (COTA) organizer Mary Ross approached Kim Van Kampen, the founder of Discover Dressage, to join in COTA’s fight against breast cancer, Van Kampen thought it was a great idea.

The March 9 Challenge of the Americas features teams of top international dressage riders competing in Grand Prix freestyle quadrilles to benefit breast cancer research, and Discover Dressage is a non-profit organization with the mission to inspire American youth to discover the sport of dressage and support healthy competition.

“When Mary talked to me about ideas for the Challenge, I told her I had a quadrille ready to go,” said Van Kampen, owner of Hampton Green Farm, known for the breeding and promotion of the PRE horse. “For USPRE week, held recently in Wellington, Florida, the girls put together a quadrille on four great geldings and had a lot of fun. I thought adding them to the exhibition line-up before the competition would be an excellent way to support the Challenge. Our all-female musical quadrille made up of talented young women will help create awareness among young people about breast cancer.”

The team of Kerrigan Gluch, Sarah Roda, Elena Schiefele and Sophia Schults will ride their own PRE horses or those owned by Hampton Green Farm. They are coached by Maria Lithander.

“It’s very different to ride as a team and it presents unique challenges, but it’s also really fun and rewarding,” Elena Schiefele said. “Since one in eight women develops breast cancer, I think breast cancer research is important not only to those whose lives will be saved, but also to their families and everyone else affected by it.”

Team member Sophia Schults agreed. “Having the opportunity to participate in such an amazing event is unreal and being able to help support such a great cause is a huge honor. The support that both the sport of dressage as well as breast cancer research gains from this event makes a huge difference and I feel very lucky to be a part of both causes.”

Rider Kerrigan Gluch said they had fun creating an entertaining routine and she’s excited to perform it for a worthy cause. “This is my first time being involved with something like the Challenge, so I am very eager to see how it goes. This sport is mostly geared towards competition, so I think it’s great to associate it with breast cancer research. I think good riding, entertaining music, great people – all for a good cause, makes for an awesome night.”

Challenge of the Americas:
challengeoftheamericas.com
facebook.com/ChallengeoftheAmericas

Vanderveen Victorious in CSI 5* 1.45m Jumpers at Seventh Week

Kristen Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Faustino de Tili. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL — February 23, 2018`— In the $35,000 Bainbridge 1.45m Jumpers CSI 5*, 64 entries in the class competed over a speed course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio of Red Hook, NY. There were 12 clear rounds, and the fastest of those was Kristen Vanderveen (USA) on Bull Run’s Faustino de Tili, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion by Berlin x Darco owned by Bull Run Jumpers Five LLC, in 63.88 seconds.

Second place went to fellow American rider Andrew Kocher and Kahlua, owned by Top Line Sporthorse International LLC. They stopped the clock in 64.48 seconds. Finishing in 66.88 seconds, Eduardo Menezes (BRA) and Caruschka 2 placed third.

Musa Scores Another WEF Win

There were 78 entries in the competitive 1.45m class for the two-star division, the $35,000 The Dutta Corp. in association with Guido Klatte 1.45 Jumpers. Musa and Sharapova Imperio Egipicio, a 15-year-old Brazilian-bred mare by Baloubet du Rouet owned by Daniel Aguiar Morelli, were the fastest in the jump-off over a course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio.

Their time was 32.92 seconds, just over two seconds faster than the second place finishers, Luis Fernando Larrazabal (VEN) and G&C Close Up. Third place went to Chaganus and Olympic gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) in 34.98 seconds.

Sharapova Imperio Egipicio has had success in Brazil in their national championships, and this is Musa’s first time competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival. He scored a win just last week with Biscayo in the $35,000 Hollow Creek Farm 1.50m Classic.

Tracey Gorin-Byrne and Lalique Take Division Championship in Low Adult Hunter 2’6” Section A

The Animal Medical Center of NY Low Adult Hunter 2’6” Section A division championship was awarded to Tracey Gorin-Byrne and Lalique on Friday morning, February 23.

After acquiring the ride for week seven of WEF, Gorin-Byrne and the nine-year-old grey Oldenburg mare, owned by Elite Equines LLC, claimed a second and third over fences, as well as seventh in both the under saddle and an over fences, to take the division’s top honor.

Equestrian Sport Productions | 561-793-JUMP | news@equestriansport.com | www.PBIEC.com

Ashley Holzer Is Untouchable in the Freestyle on Rising Star at AGDF

Ashley Holzer and Havanna 145. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — February 23, 2018 — On Diane Fellows’ rising superstar mare Havanna 145, Ashley Holzer (USA) recorded back-to-back wins in week seven of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida. They won the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIW, presented by NetJets, under the lights with an impressive 78.2%, with two judges — the British judge Stephen Clarke and the judge from Luxembourg, Christoph Umbach — awarding the pair over 79%. The freestyle highlighted AGDF week seven, which continues through Sunday, February 25.

Holzer’s student, Canada’s Brittany Fraser, finished second on All In, with local rider Shelly Francis and Doktor slotting into third. The class was dogged by increasingly heavy rain, with last-drawn Holzer bearing the brunt of the weather.

Although Havanna, by Hochadel, is only 11, Holzer kept some elements of the freestyle floorplan fairly simple, but still produced 19 one-time changes on a straight line, a half pirouette into extended canter, and finished with a flourishing passage zig-zag.

“We’re so lucky to have horses who work so hard for us even when the weather conditions are bad,” said Holzer, 54. “Luckily the footing here is so good; you can still give it gas, no matter how wet it is.”

Holzer, who found her music by googling “emotional uplifting music” which Tamara Williamson then crafted to fit the floorplan, continued: “The best thing about tonight was that Havanna came out after a strong performance last night and she again tried her hardest. Thomas [Baur, AGDF director of sport] saw her a year ago and told me she’d do it — and he was right. She’s a good egg and she tries her hardest; every time I ask her to try harder, she says, ‘OK’. It’s testament to her incredible upbringing and character.

“I’ve been in this game long enough to be so grateful every time I win,” she added. “We all know you can win one day, and then maybe not the next day. I’m just so excited to be on this mare in such great company.”

Fraser rode her own and Marc-Andre Beaulieu’s 13-year-old All In to 75.85% — their highest ever score at the level. Fraser has had the Tango gelding since he was five, climbing the ranks together, and they have been competing at grand prix for three years.

“He’s a sensitive horse so you’d think the rain would bother him, but he does not care,” said Fraser, 29, who was riding to music by Joost Peters. “I had a little mistake in the twos, but each time I ride the freestyle, I get a higher score so I’m really happy about that. He’s finally saying, ‘OK, I know my job and I know what to do’. He’s trying harder and harder.”

Holzer was quick to praise her pupil’s riding, saying: “That horse has huge gaits and it’s taken a few years to be able to control them. The fact that she can make the collected movements so closed and then go huge in the extensions is really testament to her great riding.”

Francis, who was riding to a Marlene Whitaker soundtrack and floorplan, said: “Doktor felt like he warmed up well and started off good but he doesn’t like the rain; he’s wimpy about that. He’s a fireball and we had a little accident of miscommunication in the twos, but he was really trying. He’s a good little horse and we’ve had a long road together.”

Both American riders are hoping to be on the eight-strong squad making the trip over to Europe to pit themselves against the world’s best riders ahead of selection for the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, in September of this year.

Allyn Mann of circuit title sponsor Adequan® was one of many to praise the AGDF venue, saying: “It’s exciting to be part of this and on the journey. The whole team here does the most wonderful job so that we can all turn up when the conditions are less than ideal and still see some wonderful dressage.”

It’s becoming an extremely familiar sight: Heather Blitz (USA) and Praestemarkens Quatero spearheading the small tour prize-giving, sporting the winner’s rug. And so it was, again, in the Intermediate I CDI3*, presented by Wellington Regional Medical Center, as they led the class of 16 starters, scoring 70.784%. A mistake and an unscheduled flying change coming out of the first pirouette couldn’t knock them off the top spot, so accurate, powerful and consistent was the rest of the test. This victory takes their tally to 10 wins from 11 FEI starts for the nine-year-old Quaterback x Rohdiamant gelding.

As per the prix st georges (PSG) the previous day, Canada’s Diane Creech gave Blitz the closest run, finishing just 0.19% in arrears on Louise Leatherdale’s 15-year-old Rubin Royal gelding, Robbie W. Melissa Taylor (USA) rose from 10th in the PSG to finish third on Ansgar, Nicole Polaski’s 13-year-old gelding by Special D.

For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Dufour Destroys the Opposition with Sensational Performance in Gothenburg

Photo: Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and Atterupgaard’s Cassidy. (FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst)

Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour (26) and Atterupgaard’s Cassidy brought the Swedish crowd to their feet with a spectacular performance to win the eighth leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2017/2018 Western European League in Gothenburg (SWE). The pair that claimed individual bronze and team silver at last summer’s Longines FEI European Championships in the same city pinned reigning series champion Germany’s Isabell Werth (48) and Swedish star Patrik Kittel (41) into second and third in the Grand Prix, and they did it again. But this time their winning margin was even more emphatic as the dynamic Danish duo earned a whopping score of 88.200.

That was put into perspective when multi-medaled Werth (Emilio) said: “There is no shame in finishing second on 85 percent!” while Kittel (Delaunay OLD) was ecstatic about his mark of 83.615 that put him in third – “an all-time personal best for me!” he said. Dufour could hardly believe what she had achieved.

“I was nervous because this was the first time for us to do this Freestyle floor-plan. Cassidy can be spooky because he’s a very sensitive horse, but today he was so calm. He was with me every moment of the way and I’ll never forget that standing ovation!” — Cathrine Dufour DEN (1st)

The Swedish spectators held their breath as the Danish partnership performed in complete harmony before exploding with excitement when the horse and rider drew to a halt. Dufour said that Denmark’s Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein has helped her really raise her game over the last few months. “Rune Willum was my trainer for 15 years and he was like my second father, but in December I started working with Nathalie, and now she is my rock!” she explained after posting her second personal-best score of the weekend.

The result has moved her up to 12th place on the Western European League leaderboard from which the top nine will qualify for the Final in Paris (FRA) in April. Dufour is hoping to make the cut even though she doesn’t intend to compete at the last qualifier in ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in two weeks’ time, but Werth will definitely be at the Dutch fixture with Emilio whose confidence and character continues to grow. “Give us one more year to make his canter as good as the piaffe/passage and you will see what more we can do!” said the happy German rider who intends to defend her title at the French finale with her top ride, the Olympic and European gold-medal-winning mare Weihegold.

She’ll be the toughest nut to crack, but Dufour showed that the winds of change are blowing once again through the top ranks of international Dressage and that she and her fabulous chestnut gelding are a major force to be reckoned with.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

McLain Ward Strikes Again in $132k Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 7 CSI 5*

McLain Ward and Hija van Strokapelleken. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL — February 22, 2018 — The 2017 FEI World Cup Finals champion McLain Ward notched another big win during the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on Thursday, February 22, by riding Hija van Strokapelleken to victory in the $132,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 7 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL.

Ward won his second five-star Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup of the season on Thursday, after taking the top spot in week five’s class with HH Azur, his 2016 Olympic team silver medal mount.

Riding Hija van Strokapelleken, an 11-year-old BWP mare by Calido I x Azur de Paulstra owned by Evergate Stable LLC, Ward topped a class of 52 entries and 19 in the jump-off over an Anthony D’Ambrosio-designed course. They finished the short course in 35.20 seconds for the win.

Peter Pletcher and River Capture Green Hunter 3’3” Win

Peter Pletcher and River, owned by Shaw Johnson Price, kicked off week seven at the Winter Equestrian Festival in style with a championship win in the Green Hunter 3’3” division. The pair won a first in the under saddle and a first, second, and third over fences. Havens Schatt was awarded the reserve championship aboard Tyrion, owned by J T Farm, with a first, first, and fourth over fences and a fifth in the under saddle.

Equestrian Sport Productions | 561-793-JUMP | news@equestriansport.com | www.PBIEC.com

Ashley Holzer Posts New Personal Best on Promising Mare in Week Seven of AGDF

Ashley Holzer and Havanna. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — February 22, 2018 — Ashley Holzer, who switched nationalities a year ago to ride for the USA instead of Canada, heard the American anthem ring out after she topped the FEI Grand Prix CDIW, presented by NetJets. Holzer and Havanna 145’s victory came under the lights, marking the opening day of week seven of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida.

The charming, bouncy mare is only 11 years old and their winning 72.826% represents a new personal best for the pairing who have only been at international grand prix since April of 2017.

“She’s an incredible mare; she always fights for you,” said Holzer, who will now contest the showcase freestyle class on Friday night. “People always told me that when you get a mare that’s amazing, they’re really amazing. I’ve had a few mares who weren’t so amazing, so I didn’t really believe them, but she has changed my mind. She’s a huge trier; every day I get on and have a great ride.”

When Holzer and owner Diane Fellows went to try the daughter of Hochadel almost a year ago at the previous rider Jessica von Bredow-Werndl’s barn in Germany, the plan was for Fellows to ride her.

“When we tried her it was for Di,” said Holzer, “and Di said she had to have her because she was like riding a dream, but I told her she didn’t really need a fancy grand prix horse. She suggested I ride her for a few years, and then she takes over. Havanna has exceeded every expectation in the short time we’ve had her.”

At 11, there is still plenty of time for the horse to gain ring experience, but her potential is already evident.

“She’s so green, but she just keeps trying for you. I came into the piaffe and she got a bit stuck, but she’s so smart that I asked her to move a little forward and stay in piaffe, and she said, ‘OK’. At the end I thought, ‘My horse rocks!’” added Holzer, who hopes to make it into the top eight to join the American squad in Europe ahead of selection for the FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) on home soil in Tryon in September.

However, Holzer has a few more aces up her sleeve as she will shortly debut three brand new grand prix horses, all of whom she plans to campaign in Europe this summer.

“It’s amazing to me that at my age [54] I can still get on and go round this ring and have the best, most fun time. I watched [American winter Olympics skier] Lindsey Vonn’s speech when she had finished her last downhill race and she said she can’t keep going because her body can’t take it, and she was crying. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, how lucky am I that I get to keep going?’ I feel very fortunate and everything felt pretty nice tonight.”

Loxahatchee-based Shelly Francis finished 1.1% adrift with Doktor, while Canada’s Brittany Fraser posted her third plus-70% grand prix test score at this year’s AGDF on the 13-year-old All In to finish third.

It was extremely tight at the top in the Grand Prix CDI3* class presented by Chesapeake Dressage Institute, with home rider Olivia LaGoy-Weltz on the 14-year-old Lonoir (by De Noir x Loran), coming out on top. The rider, who trains with Debbie McDonald, had been trending on over 74% mid-way through the test, but mistakes in the canter zig-zag produced a smattering of twos from the judges, bringing the score down.

The fact they finished with 71.652% was testament to LaGoy-Weltz’s sensitive, quick-thinking riding that rapidly refocused her horse’s attention. Second-placed Arlene ‘Tuny’ Page was only 0.2% behind riding Woodstock — particularly impressive given that she was riding with a fractured heel. Canada’s Jill Irving was the third and final rider over the 70% barrier, finishing with 70.609% on Degas 12.

Irving had further reason to be cheerful when fellow Canadian Brittany Fraser rode her horse Soccer City to a 70.392% unanimous victory in the Prix St Georges CDI1*. The 11-year-old gelding by Sir Donnerhall x Weltmeyer is being competed by Fraser while Irving concentrates on her two grand prix horses, Degas 12 and Arthur.

Heather Blitz (USA) bolstered Praestemarkens Quatero’s thus-far stunning record, having won nine of his 10 FEI small tour starts. The latest was a 72.255% victory in the Prix St Georges CDI3*, presented by Wellington Regional Medical Center. Imported three years ago, the Quaterback x Rohdiamant nine-year-old stallion is proving remarkably consistent at the 2018 AGDF under Blitz, 49.

For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Equestrian Aid Foundation Helps Farrier Get Back on Track after Serious Injury

Trevor Lent and Blue. Photo courtesy of Trevor Lent.

Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 22, 2018 – Trevor Lent made his living as a farrier until the day he was kicked so badly that both his kneecap and femur shattered. After an initial unsuccessful surgery, his doctor performed a total knee replacement that left him temporarily non-weight bearing and permanently unable to return to his livelihood of shoeing horses.

Without income from his work, the once self-reliant cowboy’s life fell apart. He lost his house and his marriage. For a period of time, a truck and stock trailer served as home to Trevor, his horse and his dog.

Then, a friend told him about Equestrian Aid Foundation and how the organization helps horse people facing financial catastrophe from illness or injury. Trevor asked – and Equestrian Aid said yes.

“The Equestrian Aid Foundation was a tremendous help to me during a tumultuous time,” he said.

After several years of hard work at odd jobs and with the support of Equestrian Aid Foundation and his friends, Trevor purchased a small tract of land at the foot of the Datril Mountains in New Mexico. Slowly but steadily, he built a barn for his horse and a shop. Trevor now works repairing tack and leather goods, and he creates custom tack for pack horses and mules. Eventually, he built a small home. Today Trevor lives there with his wife Tova, whom he met on horseback.

“I like living here,” Trevor said. “It’s big country and it’s beautiful. There’s not a lot of people and the people here are survivors. They have to be.”

Trevor will never be sound again but he, too, is a survivor. Despite the devastating physical, emotional and financial aftermath of his accident, he has rebuilt his life.

For more information, please visit EquestrianAidFoundation.org.

Diego Vivero Wins on Opening Day of WEF 7 CSI 5*

Diego Vivero and Bijoux. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL — February 21, 2018 — The seventh week of the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) began on Wednesday, February 21, and opening up competition with a win was Diego Vivero of Ecuador on Bijoux in the $35,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m Jumpers CSI 5*.

There were 67 entries in the final class of the day in the International Arena, and they competed over a course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio of Red Hook, NY. In the power and speed format, the fastest over the second phase of the course was Vivero on Bijoux, a 12-year-old KWPN mare by Cartani x Athletico owned by Javier Estrada, in 30.35 seconds.

Second place went to Andy Kocher (USA) and Kahlua, owned by Top Line Sporthorse International LLC, who were just behind in 30.74 seconds, while McLain Ward (USA) and Cerise, owned by Sagamore Farms, were third in 30.92 seconds.

Equestrian Sport Productions | 561-793-JUMP | news@equestriansport.com | www.PBIEC.com

Diamond Year for CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show

CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show returns to the private grounds of Windsor Castle from 9-13 May as the iconic Show celebrates its 75th year.

This renowned equestrian event was launched in 1943 to support ‘Wings for Victory’ – a war time campaign to raise money to purchase Hurricanes and Spitfires for the Royal Air Force. Since this first Show, the event has grown in international prestige to become the UK’s largest outdoor Show, with Her Majesty The Queen, the Show’s Patron, attending every year since its creation.

Over the 75 years the Show has maintained its objective to raise funds for charity. ABF, The Soldiers Charity is supported every year and an equestrian charity is chosen to support by the Committee annually. This year the equestrian charity is the Free Spirit Horse Memorial.

The original Show, which required competitors to hack to the Showground as there was no petrol to spare, took place on only one day. Since 1944 the Show has expanded dramatically in terms of length, spectator attendance and competitors. One of the first competitors was HM The Queen who successfully competed in the Single Private Driving Class driving Hans, a Norwegian Pony, to victory in 1944. Other members of the Royal family have also competed including HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Princess Royal, Zara Phillips, and most notably, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh who introduced international carriage driving to the Show in 1972, in which he also competed (and won the Horse Teams class in 1982 with HM The Queen’s team of Bays).

From 1943 onwards, the Show has grown both in size, now hosting over 120 Showing classes, and in stature, placing itself firmly on the international competition circuit, with its augmented status as a 5* event. Royal Windsor Horse Show is now the only Show in the UK to host international competitions in Show Jumping, Dressage, Driving and Endurance.

The annual event now hosts the Rolex Grand Prix, the pinnacle of the week’s calendar, with a prize fund of €300,000, compared to a top prize of £15 in Show Jumping classes in 1944. The increased number of entries is a sheer reflection of the Show’s popularity and prestige, seeing 3,300 entries in 2017, including many of the world’s best riders, compared to 884 entered horses in 1950.

Mr Clive Lidstone, one of the 300 original founding members of Royal Windsor Horse Show, said:

‘I’ve attended the Show every year since it was first created in 1943, where I actually competed in the Gymkhana. I left school early to get there that day. It’s brilliant to see how much the event has grown over the years, not just in size but globally, attracting many of the world’s best competitors.’

Nowadays, more than 55,000 spectators travel to Windsor annually to catch the world-class equestrian action, growing from a noted 8,000 spectators in 1944.

At the event the Organisers are putting in place a series of displays and exhibitions both in and out of the arena to commemorate the 75th anniversary.

To find out more about Royal Windsor Horse Show, or to book tickets, visit www.rwhs.co.uk. Tickets can also be purchased by calling the box office on 0844 581 4960 from the UK and +44 (0)121 7966290 internationally. Windsor residents should call the Windsor Information Centre on 01753 743589.

For more information, please contact:
Gayle Telford gayle@revolutionsports.co.uk +44(0)7717 776928

The Basics of Botulism

Basic management measures, combined with vaccination, will reduce your horse’s risk of contracting this deadly form of poisoning.

Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce the deadliest biological toxin known to man. When ingested, botulinum toxin causes botulism, a fast-acting, often fatal form of food poisoning. Horses who consume feed tainted with botulinum toxin may die within hours or days unless they receive fast, appropriate treatment.

And then there’s the really bad news: The types of C. botulinum most dangerous to horses are present in the soil and in the grasses and hays that they eat. Especially if you live in or purchase forage grown in a region where C. botulinum is endemic, eliminating the bacteria from a horse’s environment is impossible.

But the news isn’t all bad. C. botulinum proliferates and produces botulinum toxin only under specific conditions, which can be prevented with basic management precautions, and vaccination of at-risk horses offers an additional layer of protection. So botulism is fairly rare in horses, and with a few basic steps to keep your horse’s food and water fresh and clean, you can greatly reduce the risk that he will ever have a problem with this disease. Here’s what you need to know.

Profile of a killer

Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobe, which means it thrives in the absence of oxygen. And, when environmental conditions aren’t right for it — when it is in a dry, oxygen-rich atmosphere, for example — it goes dormant, encasing itself in a tough, protective outer membrane called an endospore. In this form, the bacteria do little harm to a horse.

But when external conditions change in its favor — that is, in anaerobic conditions with the right amount of moisture — C. botulinum emerges from its dormant state and multiplies rapidly. As each individual bacterium matures and dies, it releases its deadly toxin.

Seven distinct types of botulinum toxin have been identified — designated by letters from type A through G — but only types A, B and C are likely to produce illness in horses in the United States. Types A and B both reside in soil, but your risk of encountering them depends largely on where you live. Type A is more common in the West, and type B is seen more frequently east of the Mississippi River, especially in Kentucky and the Mid-Atlantic States. Type C is found in animal carcasses and bird droppings, which can be anywhere. However, up to 85 percent of all cases of equine botulism are caused by type B, which means that the risks are highest for horses in the eastern United States.

Botulinum toxin can cause illness in three ways:

  • Food poisoning (botulism). Botulism is most likely to occur in horses who eat forage stored in a moist, anaerobic environment that encourages the proliferation of C. botulinum. This might occur, for example, if hay is baled while still moist or stored improperly; the wetness at the center of the bale causes spoilage and creates the ideal conditions for C. botulinum. Improperly processed haylage or silage — fermented forages normally fed to cattle — may also cause botulism in horses, as can clumps of grass clippings left by mowers. A far less common threat is feed or forage that has been contaminated by bird droppings or an animal carcass.
  • Toxicoinfectious botulism (“shaker foal” syndrome). Foals are vulnerable to this form of botulism when they ingest the endospores as they nibble on grass or other things in their environment. The bacteria may activate and form colonies in gastric ulcers or the intestines.
  • Wound botulism. Dirt and contaminants can carry endospores into a wound; if the surface heals over, an anaerobic environment may be created that allows the bacteria to gain a foothold within the surrounding tissues. This is more likely to occur with punctures and other deeper wounds.

A deadly threat

No matter how the botulinum toxin gets into the horse’s body, the effects are the same. The toxin binds to the synapses of the nerves that control the muscles, blocking the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscles. With no source of input, the muscles go flaccid, causing paralysis. Signs may appear within hours or days and often begin with the inability to swallow. A foal might have difficulty nursing.

As the toxin spreads, the effects begin to appear throughout the body, with signs such as muscle tremors, generalized weakness, a limp tail and gait issues. The severity and extent of the paralysis depends upon the amount of the toxin that a horse consumes. If he ingested only a little, he may just become less active and eat less before recovering after several days. A large dose of botulinum toxin will likely cause a horse to become recumbent. In the most serious cases, the cause of death is often suffocation, as the toxin paralyzes the muscles that facilitate breathing.

The early signs of botulism — difficulty swallowing, lack of eating, lying down, flaccid muscles — can look like other conditions, such as choke, colic or neurological disorders. Signs more specific to botulism include muscle tremors and weakness in the tongue; if you gently pull the horse’s tongue out of his mouth, he won’t be able to retract it. Even if you’re not sure it’s botulism, it’s best to call your veterinarian right away if you notice any of these signs, however subtle they might be.

If you suspect botulism, remove all food from all animals on your farm, including cattle and other livestock, as you wait for the veterinarian to arrive. Botulism often occurs in outbreaks when multiple animals are fed the same tainted forage. You’ll also want to keep the horse quiet and still to avoid exhausting his weakened muscles.

The only effective treatment for botulism is to administer an antitoxin, which must be done as soon as possible. The antitoxin works by binding with botulinum toxin that is still in circulation in the bloodstream, preventing the toxin molecules from binding with nerve cells and preventing the disease from progressing. Nothing can be done to treat neurons that have already been blocked. If treatment is delayed, the horse may be beyond help. If multiple horses have been fed from the same source, your veterinarian may suggest administering the antitoxin to all of them, in case others have ingested the toxin but are not yet showing signs of illness.

If the affected horse can be kept alive, the damaged nerves will heal within a few weeks, and he can make a full recovery. In the meantime, depending on the severity of his signs, he may require extensive supportive care, including nutrition and fluids via intubation.

Vaccinate “at risk” horses

Currently, only one vaccine against C. botulinum is approved for use in horses in the United States. The vaccine, which works against C. botulinum type B, is about 95 percent effective, and though it may not prevent all cases of botulism, it can reduce the severity of the illness and increase a horse’s chances for survival. The vaccine does not provide cross protection against C. botulinum types A or C.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) includes botulism on its list of “risk-based” vaccines, which means it is recommended for those horses most likely to come in contact with the bacteria or toxin. However, according to the AAEP, “Vaccination is warranted for all horses, as C. botulinum type B can be found in soil samples from many areas of the country and movement of horses or forage from non-endemic to endemic regions occurs frequently.”

What that means, says Amy Johnson, DVM, DACVIM, of the University of Pennsylvania, is that “it would be reasonable to vaccinate any horse for botulism, even though certain areas of the country are very low-risk. Since horses move around so much these days, it is possible that the horse would end up in an area of the country where botulism is more common. Likewise, hay and other forages can be shipped long distances, so it is possible that a horse in a low-risk geographic region could be exposed if fed hay from a high-risk geographic region.”

In Kentucky and the Mid-Atlantic States where botulin type B is most common, veterinarians may recommend the vaccine for all horses. “That is because the organism is so prevalent in the soil that sporadic botulism cases occur even in adult horses who are not fed high-risk feedstuffs, such as fermented feeds or large bale hay,” says Johnson. “Also, any horse fed high-risk feeds should be vaccinated.”

Vaccination is also recommended for pregnant mares, especially in endemic areas, to protect their foals against toxicoinfectious botulism. Foals can receive a three-dose series at four-week intervals, beginning at the age of 2 to 3 months, if the dam was vaccinated, or as early as 2 weeks of age if she was not.

Ask your veterinarian whether vaccinating against botulism might be advisable for your horse. If there’s any doubt, consider vaccinating anyway. “The vaccine is not that expensive and almost never causes adverse effects,” says Johnson.

Other preventive measures

  • Discard damp or moldy hay. If a hay bale gets moist, the anaerobic conditions at the center create ideal conditions for the growth of C. botulinum. Large round bales are especially susceptible to retaining moisture at their centers. Even if your hay is dry now, any previous dampness may have harbored bacterial growth, and the toxins left behind will still be present. The toxin itself will not detectable by color or smell, but the damp conditions that fostered the bacteria will leave hay smelling musty or moldy. Examine each flake as you peel it off the bale, and discard any hay that is moist or smells funky.
  • Protect stored hay from the elements. Periodically check for leaks in the roof and walls of your hay storage area. Stacking hay on wooden pallets will help air circulate and prevent moisture from accumulating underneath.
  • Offer hay in feeders. Hay dropped on the ground can easily become contaminated, and rain and mud will help foster the growth of bacteria. Instead, provide hay in a commercial or homemade feeder that keeps the forage dry. Especially if you live in a wetter climate, consider investing in an enclosed feeder that will keep out the rain and snow. Clean up dropped hay regularly. If your horse has a condition, such as heaves, that requires you to soak his hay, do not soak more than he can eat in one meal.
  • Avoid high-risk forages. Haylage — grass that is baled with a higher moisture content and sealed in plastic — is typically meant for cattle or sheep, which are less susceptible to botulism than horses. Some people do feed haylage to horses, especially if they need a low-dust alternative to dry hays, and haylage that has been properly processed and sealed ought to be safe, but the risk of botulism remains, even when the forage seems fresh. Definitely do not feed horses any haylage from bags that have been torn open or that look or smell spoiled. Also, don’t let your horse graze in areas where clumps of cut grass remain from a recent mowing, and warn your neighbors against tossing grass clippings over the fence as “treats” for your herd.
  • Watch out for dead animals and bird droppings. Botulism type C is fairly rare, but you do want to avoid feed or water that has been tainted by carcasses or droppings. Discard any hay or bagged feeds if you discover body parts from dead animals, and routinely check water buckets or troughs for drowning victims. (A mesh escape ramp built into the side of a large trough can help small animals who fall in to climb out safely.) Prevent birds from nesting in areas where a lot of droppings would fall onto feeders or stored hay, and do not use poultry manure as fertilizer on hayfields or pastures.

This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of EQUUS (Volume #481).

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