The last several years, the town of Pueblo, Colorado has hosted the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals Rodeo. Heartwarming, wholesome, family-oriented, hard-working, and inspirational are only five of countless words to describe both the participants and volunteers for Hope Counts of NLBRA. Some 2,000 kids, between the ages of 5 and 18, from 21 states compete in more than 275 “Little Britches” rodeos every year. Their most recent Finals Rodeo was held in July and members of Spalding Labs were again on hand to help with the Hope Counts Crisis Fundraising. According to Tom Spalding, President of Spalding Labs, “Of all the events we do every year, Little Britches is the most fun.”
The Hope Counts - Crisis Fund of the NLBRA was founded by Sydnee Christensen of Utah when she was a mere 12 years old. She wanted to help injured rodeo kids and their families facing catastrophic events. Sydnee started brainstorming ideas, lit a fire under her mom, and they began putting together the business side. Sponsorship Coordinator for the NLBRA, Sarah Faith Wiens, had this to say about Sydnee’s endeavor, "It's one thing for an association to start up a crisis fund, it's quite another to have a 12-year-old member start one. It makes me so proud to be a small part of an organization that has members willing to help one another in such a large way. The sport of rodeo is dangerous, there is no getting around it. Anytime you mix livestock, kids and a competitive atmosphere there are bound to be accidents and when that happens it's comforting to know that families aren't alone. NLBRA is truly an association where character is developed, western traditions live and legends begin!"
Sydnee’s base idea for fundraising was cleaning trailers for rodeo participants using Spalding’s Bye Bye Odor as they were checking in. Everyone who made a donation received the Hope Counts signature Blue Feather. The volunteers worked hard, cleaning trailers, for three days. Their youthful teamwork and dedication to serving others touched the heart of Spalding’s video director, Berry Landen who was on location shooting the Finals Rodeo. On the spot, Landen decided to produce the “Hope Counts: Kids helping kids get better” video.
Both Spalding Lab’s video and Blue Feathers went viral at that year’s NFR in Las Vegas.
Expanding on Sydnee’s trailer cleaning concept, Larry Garner with Spalding Labs, suggested they not only donate the Bye Bye Odor used to clean the trailers but then sell Bye Bye Odor at the event giving 100% of the proceeds to Hope Counts for unlimited fundraising possibilities. Garner said, “It’s a win-win-win. The kids raise money to help others. Spalding’s Bye Bye Odor cleans the trailers which means less flies, better smell and happier animals. We all know happier animals are better competitors.” The premier year’s overwhelming response was thanks to the many Little Britches alumni, now top professional cowboys and cowgirls who wore the blue feathers at NFR. The buzz in Las Vegas that year was, ‘what are all these blue feathers for?’ generating enormous baseline awareness for Hope Counts.
Again this year Spalding Labs had plenty of donated Bye Bye Odor on hand, along with some additional man power to help the kids clean the trailers, and raise over $4000. Hope Counts not only gives back to the rodeo community in need, but also teaches kids teamwork, volunteerism and selfless acts of service. Wise beyond her years, Sydnee states “Aristotle said ‘virtue is its own reward’ I think we all may get a little extra reward here.”
Angelea Walkup is a US Dressage Federation gold medalist best known in the horse world as web series host of HorseGirlTV and producer of the equibarre workout. She is a career content creator and holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. You can connect with her on Twitter @AKwalkup or her Facebook Page.
We blinked and summer happened. Right!? Well, hello fall! Here are 5 tips to help you get your horses ready for the winter months ahead. Burrrr!
It's officially fall! Time to start getting ready for winter! In this episode, Jenni Grimmett DVM explains her practice's winter healthy horse check list to get your horse ready to go into the colder months. Watch Fall Veterinary Horse Check List With Equine Veterinarian Dr. Jenni Grimmett.
Dr. Jenni Grimmett is an incredibly approachable veterinarian, a wonderful teacher, and talented Cowboy Dressage horse woman. You can watch her series at On The Road with Jenni Grimmett with new episodes every week!
Some species, including Homo Sapiens (That is US!) can, if the individual is healthy, tolerate sudden changes in diet without problems. But, other species, especially the herbivores (grazing animals) can suffer if the diet is changed abruptly.
The horse is a good example. Because horses depend to a great extent, upon the billions of microörganisms within their digestive tract to process what they eat, any sudden change in the diet may preclude those microörganisms’ ability to break down the consumed food.
It is these microscopic residents of the equine digestive tract, which enable the horse to do something that we humans cannot do. That is, to break down grass and other plants into chemicals, which horses, can thrive on, and even become obese from over-eating.
Having seen thousands of colic cases, many of them fatal, foundered horses, and other serious problems caused by too sudden dietary changes during my practice career, I have become obsessive, and, I confess, rather paranoid about making dietary changes in my own horses.
Now, the good part of that is that never have I had one of my own equines suffer illness as a result of a too swift change in diet.
The bad part is that other people, including my ranch employees, think that I am some sort of nut.
For example, I not only take a full week or two of gradual substitution when changing diets, such as hay to pasture, or from dry forage to green, but I even insist that a new batch of the same kind of hay be introduced very gradually. So, today, just before I wrote this, my horses have been primarily on alfalfa hay. But, I opened a bale from a different delivery (from the same dealer) and I fed them ¼ flake of the new bale and ¾ flake from the old bale.
Excessive? Yes, I admit it. Unnecessary? Well, having had many horses and mules for the past 60 years, and never had one colic or founder is good reason for me to be so cautious.
Besides, horses are very aware of changes in the source of water, or the stage of growth that the hay derived from, or any other change in what they consume, so it is worth it to me to see them feeling secure and content.
That’s the reason I make any feed change gradually. For example:
If they have been primarily on hay all winter and I am ready to introduce them to the green Spring pastures, I allow them only 5 minutes the first day, and increase it by 5 more minutes during the following days until they have been in pasture a full hour. Yes, that takes time and patience, but it also means healthy horses. If they go into a different pasture with different kinds of forage (I live in a canyon, moist at the bottom and dry above), I repeat the gradual process.
And, again, even if I buy a new load of the same kind of hay from the same feed store, I make the change gradually.
Am I obsessive? Yes! I have seen too many horses damaged by too abrupt feed changes. Thousands of sick horses, as I said earlier, and many died, or were permanently damaged as is the case in laminitis. It’s not worth the risk.
Think about wild horses. Say it is at the end of the dry season. Then at last, it rains. Soon new green grass emerges from the ground. The horses nibble it, but hunger causes them to fill up on the old abundant grass. As the new grass grows, they gradually switch on to it.
That’s why, in feeding equines, I try to emulate nature. I have seen enough colics in my long career to ever see one of my own equines experience it.
When I was young, starting previously unhandled colts on summer jobs for cattle ranches in several states, the term “colt” usually referred to 4 or 5 year old horses. Occasionally, one was older, maybe 6 or 7, or, rarely a 3 year old.
The exception was at the racetrack. Racehorses and only racehorses were started as 2 year olds. The term “futurity” was limited to racehorses.
Today horses are usually started under saddle as 2 year olds, in all breeds and all disciplines, and I see an increasing tendency to ride them even younger, at 22 months of age for example.
There is a popular misconception that, if the growth plates (the epiphyses) of the leg bones are closed, as revealed in radiography, that the colt is “mature”.
That simply is untrue. It just means that the end of the bone, which has been x-rayed is no longer growing, but other bones plus soft tissue structures such as tendons, ligaments and muscle may still be quite immature.
In my long career as an equine veterinary practitioner, I found that the most frequent cause of lameness in horses was damage done by excessive work at too young an age. And, this is increasingly true. How many times, examining a qualified performance horse, which moves soundly at 5 to 7 years of age, have I found that when I flexed a limb, the horse winced with pain. Subsequent radiographs revealed the very early signs of joint deterioration.
A very generous client who had become a good friend once offered me and my wife a free reining horse, a mare who had competed successfully until the age of 5. Then she had been bred and I was told that we could have her as a gift, as soon as her foal was weaned.
She moved soundly, but, when I flexed her right fetlock, she said, “Ouch!” And, after sustained flexion, she walked out lame. I turned her down and, two years later, I was asked to examine her for chronic right fore lameness.
Horsemanship, in our society, has greatly improved in most ways during the last four decades with one exception. We are starting colts younger, working them harder (one reason being that we have selectively bred for better performance; faster, more agility, and all of this damages the immature body.)
Selling younger horses is profitable for the breeder, training younger horses is profitable for the trainer and easier than waiting for full maturity, but it is a disaster for too many of these young horses.
The epidemic of young horses becoming unsound is also a disaster for the owner, who too often defers to what the breeders and trainers recommend. Only the veterinarian and the pharmaceutical industry profit by this increasing phenomenon. Too much stress at too young an age.
You may hear deceptive results from “scientific studies,” that exercise is “good for growing colts”.
Of course! Exercise is good for all horses. But reining, cutting, jumping, etc. an immature horse is damaging.
I never started one of my own colts under three. Most were 6 to 12 months older. And, I never overworked them. At 5 I would turn them over to a selected trainer to begin their discipline training.
The one time I failed to do this was with the first mule I raised. Because I mistakenly believed that mules were “tougher” than horses, I broke her to ride at 2 and turned her over to one of my clients to be trained as a hunter-jumper.
She had a very successful career, winning English and Western shows, often beating horses, going on pack trips and round ups, and even cutting cattle without a bridle.
Great! Right? But she went lame in middle age, prematurely, because of too much, too soon.
I have a library of books written by famous horsemen. A while ago I went through every book looking for the colt starting ages they recommend.
Why does the Spanish Riding School recommend starting their Lipizzaners at age 5 and not subjecting them to really hard work until age 7? Here’s why: The horses evolved on the Plains of North America. They survived successfully despite the constant presence of carnivorous predators, mostly of the cat and dog family. This included huge species like the cave lion and the primitive wolf.
They survived because of an effective defense. They were fast, agile, bonded in herds, and had very, very perceptive senses to detect possible predators and respond with high-speed flight. They could outrun most big cats and canines.
Also they are a precocial species, able to run, follow mom, and escape and learn, soon after birth.
So, obviously, exercise is beneficial for the young horse. Indeed, it is essential for normal development.
However, “exercise” does not mean excessive sprinting, longeing, or twisting and turning or sliding stops. It means walking, trotting here and there, and running and playing once in a while.
Excessive exercise, which unnaturally stresses the young body is damaging: a common problem seen in human athletes, talented but not yet mature enough for competition they can survive when older.
So, if you love horses, if you care about them, if you want them to still be sound and working at 20 or 25 years of age, wait. You can do so much valuable training on the ground. Don’t rush them.
I am presently, as I write this, 90 years of age, and I treasure Scooter, whom I started at 4 years of age. She is now going on 30! (Together we are almost 120 years old.) I am so glad I waited. So glad I periodically worked her on the ground, producing such a calm, reliable, trustworthy, patient, capable old mount. I love riding her and hope we have more time together.
Incidentally, I was a gymnast at 16, a pole vaulter at 17, a rodeo contestant at 20 and have endless orthopedic problems. That’s one reason I still ride. It hurts to walk.
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