Fireworks and Horses


As much fun as fireworks celebrations can be, it can be particularly terrifying for horses.  If you are worried about how your horses will react, there are some precautions you can take to (hopefully) keep everyone safe this May long weekend.

Try to make sure fireworks aren’t set off near your horse’s field or stable. DO a check to see if there are plans for local displays, and tell neighbours and local firework display organisers that there are horses nearby so they can make sure fireworks are set off well away from them. Anyone planning a display in a rural area should let neighbouring farmers know in advance (hopefully your neighbours are either kind enough to do this, or find a different location to set them off!) If it is possible, you may consider moving them to another property away from the fireworks displays for the evening. If you need to leave your horse in another person’s care during the show, leave clear instructions and contact details for yourself and your vet in case of any problems. (more…)

May 18, 2017 |

Here’s to the Horse Show Mom

horse show mom

My Horse Show Mom

Without my mom, I would have probably never gotten bit by the horse bug.  As a child, I was terrified of animals. Hearing that horses had a therapeutic quality about them, my mother shipped me off to horse camp for a week to “get over it”.  Little did she know!!  I came home at the end of the week with a pet bunny and immediately signed up for another week.  Here I am 22 years later, still riding and involved in the horse world more than ever.


May 12, 2017 |

Waterloo region represented in Kentucky Derby

kentucky derby

If you’re looking for a horse to cheer for this Saturday in the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, why not cheer for the local entry!

State of Honour, owned by Penny and Manfred Conrad of Wellesley, Ontario, will be running in the “fastest two minutes in sports.”  Although he is a long shot to win, the couple is delighted that their horse is ranked 11th out of the 20 horses in the field. (more…)

May 5, 2017 |

University of Guelph Equine Industry Symposium

guelph equine industry symposium

Tri-City Horse Sports was honoured to be a participant in the inaugural University of Guelph Equine Industry Symposium on November 19, 2016. The University of Guelph hosted local and national equine professionals for open panel discussions, plenary speakers and workshops. The event highlighted commonalities within all equine sectors and opportunities to advance and improve the industry as a whole.

The results of the symposium have now been posted and details regarding the 2017 symposium will be released in the coming months.


A talk by Ian Millar on the horse industry was the highlight of the evening, which you can hear in its entirety here:

May 2, 2017 |

GUEST POST – 6 Reasons to Get Out and Try Distance Riding

distance riding

If you’ve ever considered trying out distance riding, there is no better time than now. In her blog post, Eat Sleep Ride Repeat’s Ashley Tomaszewski gives 6 reasons why you should give it a go.

6 Reasons to Get Out and Try Distance Riding

  1. More bang for your buck!
  2. Any horse can do it!
  3. You can compete against yourself or others
  4. Excellent cross training
  5. Boost your horsemanship skills


April 26, 2017 |

How Facebook’s Animal Selling Ban Affects Horse Sales


Facebook’s Marketplace has long prohibited animal sales (you can see the policies here),  but for many years, there has been little regulation of the rule. However, Facebook has now added an option which allows people to report animal sales listed on the Marketplace. Marketplace allows users to post items for sale in a group with a listed price and interested buyers can contact the seller directly through the ad.


April 19, 2017 |

Cara Whitham Receives 2016 Equestrian Canada Lifetime Achievement Award

cara whitham

Cara Whitham is the recipient of the 2016 Lifetime Achievement award, which was handed out at the Equestrian Canada Awards Reception during their annual convention in Vancouver, Canada, on 8 April 2017.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an individual whose contributions to the Canadian equestrian community are considered exceptional by their peers and whose long-term service and dedication have contributed directly to the ongoing growth and development of Canadian equestrian sport and industry.

Whitham is a very accomplished horsewomen. Some of her various achievements include:

  • Being named a short and long-listed rider for the Canadian Dressage Team numerous times
  • Earning Canadian Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle Championship titles
  • Being appointed Chef d’Equipe for Canada’s Dressage team during a four-year European tour leading into the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
  • Lending input into a high performance plan that produced Canada’s only Olympic Team Medal in Dressage to date at the 1988 Seoul Olympics
  • Holding a record as the FEI’s only official with FEI 5* judging credentials for both Dressage and Eventing
  • Receiving FEI Dressage Technical Delegate status
  • Being appointed to the Dressage Ground Jury for the 2003 and 2011 Pan American Games, 2005 European Dressage Championships and the 2010 World Equestrian Games
  • Being appointed to the Eventing Ground Jury for the 1998 and 2002 World Equestrian Games, as well as the 2004 Athens Olympics
  • Being hired as a television commentator for the 2007 World Equestrian Games, and 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games
  • Being appointed as the Chef d’Equipe for the Costa Rican Gold Medal Team at the 2013 Central American Games in Costa Rica.

She also founded Equivents Inc., which organizes CDI-Ws/CDI3* dressage events yearly.

Here our interview with Cara Whitham here:

April 12, 2017 |

Nick Skelton and Big Star Retire

nick skelton

It was just announced that at the age of 59, show jumping superstar Nick Skelton will be retiring after more than four decades at the top of the sport.  His horse, Big Star, a two time Olympic gold medal mount, will also be retiring.

Nick’s list of achievements:

  • Olympic Games
    • 2012: London. Team Gold medal with Big Star
    • 2016: Rio. Individual Gold medal with Big Star
  • Alternative Olympic Games
    • 1980: Rotterdam. Team Silver medal with Maybe
  • World championships
    • 1982: Dublin. Team Bronze medal with If Ever
    • 1986: Aachen. Team Silver medal and individual Bronze medal with Apollo
    • 1990: Stockholm. Team Bronze medal with Grand Slam
    • 1998: Rome. Team Bronze medal with Hopes are High
  • European Championships
    • 1985: Dinard. Team Gold medal and individual 4th with St. James
    • 1987: St. Gallen. Team Gold medal and Individual Bronze medal with Apollo
    • 1989: Rotterdam. Team Gold medal with Apollo
    • 1991: La Baule. Team Silver medal with Phoenix Park
    • 1993: Gijon. Team Silver medal with Dollar Girl
    • 1995: St. Gallen. Team Silver medal with Dollar Girl
    • 2011: Madrid. Team Bronze and individual Bronze medal with Carlo 273
  • Junior European Championships
    • 1974: Lucerne. Team Silver medal with Maybe
    • 1975: Dornbirn. Team Silver medal and individual Gold medal with O.K.
  • Volvo World Cup Final
  • Hickstead Derby
    • 1987: Winner with J Nick
    • 1988: Winner with Apollo
    • 1989: Winner with Apollo
  • King George V Gold Cup
    • 1984: Winner with St. James
    • 1993: Winner with Limited Edition
    • 1996: Winner with Cathleen III
    • 1999: Winner with Hopes are High

Skelton currently holds the British Show Jumping High Jump record, at 7 ft 7in 5/16th (2.32m) set at Olympia in 1978 with Lastic.


Last time Nick was in Canada was at the Royal Winter Fair Horse Show where he came in a close second to Kent Farrington in the Big Ben Challenge.  See the interview with him after the event here:

April 5, 2017 |

How To Introduce Your Horse to Spring Grass

spring grass

Spring. The days are getting longer and warmer. The snow is disappearing and the grass is starting to sprout. As appealing as that grass may be to your horse, it can potentially be dangerous this time of year.  How can you prevent grazing grief?

Introduce grass slowly

You need to gradually introduce your horse to grass. Allow them to graze for a short period of time and gradually build this time up. Also be aware of when is the safest time to allow your horse to graze. NSC (nonstructural carbohydrates) levels in grasses tend to increase throughout the day, peaking at about 3 or 4 p.m., and decrease overnight to lows in the very early morning hours. NSCs can be divided into three groups: sugars, starches, and fructans, all of which can lead to metabolic issues in horses when ingested in high amounts.

Supplement with hay

Don’t stop feeding hay entirely once you turn your horse out to pasture in the spring. Your horse’s stomach will need time to adjust from eating strictly hay all winter.

Have a sacrifice area

A sacrifice area is an area with little or no grass. Your horse can spend most of his time here until he is fully adjusted to eating a diet of mostly grass.  Having a sacrifice area will also help your pasture last longer as removing horses will allow your pasture to rest and regrow without being destroyed by hooves or overgrazing.

Use a grazing muzzle

If you are unable to have a sacrifice area, a grazing muzzle will help reduce the amount of grass your horse can graze on. Make sure the fit is correct and that it has a breakaway mechanism so your horse won’t get caught up.

Monitor spring grazing

Not only should you watch for signs of metabolic issues from eating too much lush pasture, your horse is also more susceptible to weight gain during this period due to the extra calories grass provides.

spring grass

Here is a tip sheet on pasture management from Equine Guelph:

March 31, 2017 |

Strangles in Horses


It is going around that there are some unconfirmed reports of strangles affecting barns in the Guelph, Cambridge, Paris, Woodstock, and St. Thomas areas. Whether or not this is true, it is a good idea to educate yourself on the disease and how to prevent it from coming into your barn. It is also advised that you talk with your veterinarian to discuss the possible risks in your area and whether or not the vaccine is right for your horses and/or situation.

Some good reads:

From the OMAFRA Fact Sheet on Strangles in Horses (


Strangles is a highly contagious and serious infection of horses and other equids caused by the bacterium, Streptococcus equi. The disease is characterized by severe inflammation of the mucosa of the head and throat, with extensive swelling and often rupture of the lymph nodes, which produces large amounts of thick, creamy pus. Strangles is caused by Streptococcus equi subspecies equi, better known as Streptococcus equi (S. equi). The organism can be isolated from the nose or lymph nodes of affected animals, and is usually readily identified in the laboratory by simple sugar tests.

Transmission and Environmental Survival

Horses of all ages are susceptible, though strangles is most common in animals less than 5 years of age and especially in groups of weanling foals or yearlings. Foals under 4 months of age are usually protected by colostrum-derived passive immunity. (1) S. equi is main-tained in the horse population by carrier horses but does not survive for more than 6–8 weeks in the environment. Although the organism is not very robust, the infection is highly contagious. Transmission is either by direct or indirect contact of susceptible animals with a diseased horse. Direct contact includes contact with a horse that is incubating strangles or has just recovered from the infection, or with an apparently clinically unaffected long-term carrier. Indirect contact occurs when an animal comes in contact with a contaminated stable (buckets, feed, walls, doors) or pasture environment (grass, fences, but almost always the water troughs), or through flies. (2)

Clinical Illness

Susceptible horses develop strangles within 3–14 days of exposure. (2) Animals show typical signs of a generalized infectious process (depression, inappetence, and fever of 39°C–39.5°C). More typically of strangles, horses develop a nasal discharge (initially mucoid, rapidly thickening and purulent), a soft cough and slight but painful swelling between the mandibles, with swelling of the submandibular lymph node. Horses are often seen positioning their heads low and extended, so as to relieve the throat and lymph node pain.
With the progression of the disease, abscesses develop in the submandibular (between the jaw bones) and/or retropharyngeal (at the back of the throat) lymph nodes. The lymph nodes become hard and very painful, and may obstruct breathing (“strangles”). The lymph node abscesses will burst (or can be lanced) in 7–14 days, releasing thick pus heavily contaminated with S. equi. The horse will usually rapidly recover once abscesses have ruptured.
Although the disease process described above is classic, some horses (especially older animals) will develop a mild, short lasting disease without or with minor lymph node abscessation. This is thought to be the result of partial immunity although this may also result from infection by S. equi of relatively low virulence. Classic strangles is a severe infection that can be fatal, usually because of a variety of complications that occur.

The main and often fatal complications of strangles are:
• Bastard strangles, which describes the dissemination of infection to unusual sites other than the lymph nodes draining the throat. For example, abdominal or lung lymph nodes may develop abscesses and rupture, sometimes weeks or longer after the infection seems to have resolved. A brain abscess may rupture causing sudden death or a retropharyngeal lymph node abscess may burst in the throat and the pus will be inhaled into the lung.
• Purpura haemorrhagica, which is an immune-mediated acute inflammation of peripheral blood vessels that occurs within 4 weeks of strangles, while the animal is convalescing. It results from the formation of immune complexes between the horse’s antibodies and bacterial components. These immune complexes become trapped in capillaries where they cause inflammation, visible in the mucous membranes as pinpoint haemorrhages. These haemorrhages lead to a widespread severe edema of the head, limbs, and other parts of the body. Purpura can also be a complication of routine vaccination.
Minor, non-fatal complications include:
• Post strangles myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscle), which may follow strangles in a small proportion of horses. An electrocardiogram (ECG) can determine that a horse can return to heavy work or to training after an episode of strangles.
• Purulent cellulitis (inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue), which is an unusual occurrence where infection spreads locally in the subcutaneous tissue to the head.
• Laryngeal hemiplegia, which involves paralysis of the throat muscles. It is commonly referred to as “roaring”. The condition may follow abscessation of cervical lymph nodes.
• Anaemia (low red blood cell count), during the convalescent period because of immune-mediated lysis of red blood cells.
• Guttural pouch empyaema (filled with pus), which may be concurrent with classic strangles, or follow in the immediate convalescent period. The 2 guttural pouches are large mucous sacs; each is a ventral diverticulum of the Eustachian tube. They are present only in Equidae and are situated between the base of the cranium dorsally and the pharynx ventrally. (3)They open into the nasal pharynx and each has a capacity of about 300 mL. (4) Persistent infection in the guttural pouch may lead to inspissation (drying) of pus and, in some cases, the formation of a solid, stone-like, concretion called a chondroid. Animals that have persistent infection of the guttural pouches become the carriers, the major source of infection to spark outbreaks in susceptible horses with which they are mixed.
Apart from the problem of long-term guttural pouch carriers, discussed below, recovered horses may shed S. equi from their nose and in their saliva for up to 6 weeks following infection. Therefore, isolate all horses that have had strangles from susceptible animals for 6 weeks following infection.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis can be confirmed by culturing pus from the nose, from abscessated lymph nodes or from the throat of clinically affected horses. Although S. equi isolates are thought to be genetically identical, isolates may vary in virulence and atypical isolates occur, which differ in their sugar tests from typical S. equi.
There is argument among veterinarians as to whether or not to treat an animal with strangles with antibiotics. Many veterinarians think that treatment will impair the development of immunity and may predispose an animal to prolonged infection and to bastard strangles. Treatment of a horse in the early stages of strangles is usually effective and is not associated with untoward effects. The causative agent is highly susceptible to penicillin G. If the disease is more advanced, then most veterinarians will not use antibiotics but rather will recommend nursing care and trying to hasten the development of abscesses (which can be drained) by poulticing. Antibiotics may, however, be used if complications arise.

Prevention of Strangles

Detection of carriers
In recent years, work in the United Kingdom has added substantially to the understanding of the carrier state in strangles. (5) This work has shown that carriers are usually horses that, following recovery from clinical illness, remain with persistent infection of the guttural pouches. This infection is associated with persistent, purulent inflammation in this site or, in some cases, with the presence of chondroids. These carriers can be detected either by culture or by detection of S. equi DNA using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. PCR is a more sensitive test but also is currently more expensive. The combination of these tests may be even more reliable, but is expensive.
Because the organism is adapted to the horse, a system of control based on detection, isolation and treatment of carriers could potentially be used to eradicate the organism on a continent-wide basis. Horse owners and veterinarians have not yet organized to take advantage of this new understanding. However, vaccination with a live vaccine may interfere with the detection and eradication approach to control.
A series of 3 nasopharyngeal swabs (e.g., swabs introduced through the nose and collecting material from the back of the throat), evenly spaced over 2 or 3 weeks, will result in the detection of about 60% of carriers using isolation and identification of the organism, or of about 90% of carriers using PCR. For the detection of carriers, the laboratory should use a selective medium (Columbia blood agar with nalidixic acid and colistin).

Investigation of carriers should be done either before a new animal is introduced into a stable or herd, or at least 30 days following recovery of a horse from strangles. Animals should be isolated until there have been 3 consecutive negative cultures and/or PCR reactions.
If an animal is positive, endoscopic evaluation of the guttural pouch is recommended, chondroids removed, and guttural pouches treated by flushing and infusion of 5 million units of penicillin G in 3% gelatin. In addition, these horses should be treated with penicillin G intramuscularly for 7 days, isolated for 30 days, and then retested with the 3 consecutive series of nasopharyngeal swabs and culture. PCR is not usually recommended in these animals because it is so sensitive that it may identify dead bacteria and so give a “positive” reaction. Animals that remain positive should go through a repeat treatment and culture cycle.
This system of identification of carriers by culture and/or PCR, while not 100% reliable, is more reliable than the usual recommendation for the control of strangles. These are to isolate or quarantine new arrivals for 2–3 weeks, look for evidence of strangles-like upper respiratory tract infection, and carry out one or more nasal swabs that are used for culture. Your veterinarian will be able to give you the current laboratory costs per test for bacteria isolation and for the PCR test. Owners may not be prepared to take this route to control strangles due to the financial costs.


Both a killed and a live vaccine are available for the control of strangles. The only killed vaccine currently available in Canada is StrepguardTM by Intervet. Killed vaccines, in general, are administered with an initial series of intramuscular injections followed by an annual booster. There may be adverse reactions at the injection site (marked pain, even frank abscesses). Some animals have even developed purpura haemorrhagica following vaccination. The killed vaccines do not provide complete protection because they do not result in the local, nasopharyngeal antibodies thought to be important in protection, but they do reduce the severity of clinical illness should it occur.

More recently, a live, attenuated S. equi vaccine (PinnacleTM I.N. by Fort Dodge) has been introduced as an intranasal vaccine for the prevention of strangles. The vaccine is administered twice, at an interval of 1–2 weeks. This approach to vaccination is intuitively more attractive than a killed, intramuscular vaccine since it produces the local antibodies necessary for protective immunity. Because the vaccine is a live but attenuated (using a low virulence organism) S. equi, take care to avoid contamination of injections elsewhere in the horse. Concurrent injection of other vaccines has resulted in S. equi abscesses at these sites, presumably through inadvertent contamination. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to not administer other vaccines or injections at the same time as administering the intranasal vaccine — or to be very careful about preventing contamination of injection sites. Other adverse reactions have also been reported. According to the manufacturer, adverse reactions occur at a frequency of about 5 per 10,000 doses. These include submandibular and pharyngeal lymph node swellings, with or without abscessation, purpura haemorrhagica, which may be severe, and even bastard strangles. Since the live organism may persist in the nose, approaches to control that involve detection of carriers may not be effective in horses immunized with this vaccine.


After developing strangles, most horses eliminate infection fairly rapidly (i.e., within 30 days after recovery). Approximately 75% of horses develop a solid enduring immunity to strangles following recovery from the disease. (2) However, individual animals may remain with infection persistent within the guttural pouch, and may secrete the organism in nasal exudate or saliva for months or years. These carriers show no evidence of clinical disease and are the major source of infection for other horses with which they are mixed.

Control of Strangles

Isolate clinically affected animals or identified carriers immediately in a quarantine area, and clean and disinfect their water buckets or feed containers daily. Bedding can be burned or alternatively composted under a plastic sheet (to prevent spread by flies). Scrub with water and detergent any areas contaminated by infected horses, then disinfect by steam cleaning and/or applying effective disinfectants. Fly control is required to prevent spread during an outbreak.
Under optimal conditions, the bacteria can survive probably 6–8 weeks in the environment. Jorm (1991) has shown that S. equi survived for 63 days on wood at 2°C and for 48 days on glass or wood at 20°C. (6) The organism is readily killed by heat (60°C) or disinfectants (particularly povidone iodine, chlorhexidine). Rest contaminated pasture areas for 4 weeks, since the natural antibacterial effects of drying and of ultraviolet light will kill the organism.
Have quarantine area staff change their coveralls and boots before leaving the quarantine area, and wash their arms and hands carefully with chlorhexidine soap.
Approaches used to control strangles will depend on the circumstances of the individual horse or horse farm, but all people involved with horses need to maintain constant vigilance. These approaches involve a combination of knowledge of the history of individual animals and their source of origin, general hygiene, quarantine, and immunization, with appropriate action if an outbreak occurs.
Farms with large populations and movement of horses, particularly of older foals and yearlings, will want to maintain a routine immunization program of all horses to reduce the incidence and severity of disease. On these farms, depending on the vaccination program including the type of vaccine used, all incoming horses should be isolated for 2 to 3 weeks and, although expensive, a series of nasal or preferably nasopharyngeal swabs taken during this time for demonstration of the organism or its DNA. Only then should these isolated horses join the rest of the group.
Where a few adult horses are kept together and are uncommonly mixed with other horses, immunization may not be required since all immunization carries a slight risk of adverse effects. Incoming animals should be quarantined for 3 weeks, during which time nasal swabs should be assessed for the presence of the organism.


1. Timoney JF. Equine strangles:1999. Am. Assoc. Equine Pract. Proceedings 1999; 45:31-37.
2. Timoney JF. Strangles. Vet. Clin. North Am. 1993; 9:365-374.
3. Sisson S, Grossman JD. Anatomy of the Domestic Animals. WB Saunders Co., Philadelphia 1953; p901.
4. Habel RE. Applied Veterinary Anatomy. Robert E. Habel, Ithaca NY 1975; p57.
5. Newton JR, Wood JLN, Dunn KA, DeBrauwere MN, Chanter N. Naturally occurring persistent and symptomatic infection of the guttural pouches of horses with Streptococcus equi. Vet. Rec. 1997; 140:84-90.
6. Jorm LR. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Equine Infectious Diseases, Cambridge, 1991; p39.

March 24, 2017 |
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