Real! Equine! Science!

For equines! FOR SCIENCE!
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Supporters of training techniques associated with Tennessee walking horse “big lick” showmanship now have a champion in U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Blackburn recently introduced House Resolution 4098, or the Horse Protection Amendments Act of 2014, to counter HR 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act.

The PAST Act is the results of efforts by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and others not just to minimize soring—a practice that creates the exaggerated “big lick” gait through pain—but to bolster the 1970 Horse Protection Act in a way that extinguishes soring from the Tennessee walking horse arena.

Blackburn’s bill, endorsed by the walking horse industry’s premier show, the Tennesee Walking Horse National Celebration, addresses soring not as an industry epidemic but the sin of a few.

The AVMA is not buying it. “This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to maintain the status quo in an industry riddled with abuse and will ensure that the broken system of seeing horses sored at an alarming rate does not have to answer for its crimes,” reads an AVMA letter to its members.

The Blackburn bill calls simply for an increased use of technology to identify soring during horse show inspections. It also dials back the restrictions of the PAST Act to allow for the continued use of stacked, weighted shoes and chains to train horses in the walking horse gait.

AVMA Executive Vice President Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA, said last year during his testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee that banning the use of pads and chains—often used in congruence with soring—would eliminate much of the incentive to sore a horse.

Those in support of Blackburn’s bill contend the shoes and chains do not harm the horses and doing away with them would eliminate a whole segment of the show horse industry. Further, they claim that PAST Act restrictions would destroy the culture and commerce of states heavily involved in walking horse shows.

What proponents of the PAST Act hope it will destroy is a culture of soring. Forty years after the Horse Protection Act became law—banning the transport, exhibition or sale of a sore horse—soring violations still cast a shadow, say veterinary and animal welfare leaders, and some of the industry’s most well-known trainers have been indicted for the practice. The result? The PAST Act is absolutely necessary, DeHaven says.

The AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division sees the introduction of HR 4098 as a diversionary tactic by the “big lick” crowd. The PAST Act has received bipartisan support in Congress with 268 cosponsors in the House and 50 in the Senate. “AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division is working hard to get at least 100 Republican cosponsors on the PAST Act in the House because we have been told by leadership that then the bill may receive consideration,” says Whitney Miller, DVM, assistant director of the division. At press time, the Republican tally was up to 96.

“At the AVMA, it is still our top priority to work on getting the PAST Act passed and signed into law,” Miller says. “We are happy to see even more people, even within the walking horse industry, rally behind us in this cause.”

Click here to see the list of horse organizations, veterinary health professionals, animal protection organizations, horse industry professionals, newspaper editorial boards, lawmakers and celebrities that endorse the PAST Act. Click here to read Blackburn’s HR 4098 and go to for more information on the PAST Act.


The riddle of zebras’ stripes

Why zebras have black and white stripes is a question that has intrigued scientists and spectators for centuries. A research team led by UC Davis, has now examined this riddle (in a very systematic way).

Many hypotheses for zebra stripes have been proposed since Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin debated the problem 120 years ago. These include:

  • A form of camouflage
  • Disrupting predatory attack by visually confusing carnivores
  • A mechanism of heat management
  • Having a social function
  • Avoiding ectoparasite attack, such as from biting flies

After analyzing the five hypotheses, the scientists ruled out all but one: avoiding blood-sucking flies. The scientists found that biting flies (such as horseflies and tsetse flies) are the evolutionary driver for zebra stripes.

Why would zebras evolve to have stripes whereas other hooved mammals did not? The study found that, unlike other African hooved mammals living in the same areas as zebras, zebra hair is shorter than the mouthpart length of biting flies, so zebras may be particularly susceptible to annoyance by biting flies.

Yet in science, one solved riddle begets another: Why do biting flies avoid striped surfaces?

[images via headlikeanorange and gif-book]

(via thescienceofreality)


Any followers I have may know that I am not a large animal person. I honestly feel like if I look at a horse the wrong way, they’ll just colic on me & die instantly. Is that likely to happen? No, but I still feel like the horse gods would make an exception & just let it happen to mess with me.

ANYWAY, part of my large animal medicine final is studying all the vaccination procedures/protocols for adult equids. This chart is actually one of the most helpful things I have ever come across. Just thought I’d share it in case anyone else might get some use out of it as well.


Having a lecturer with a wicked sense of humour makes pharmacology all the more fun!

Some of you who have been following this blog for a while may have noticed that I used to tag extensively and stopped doing it a while ago. I am slowly going back and fixing that and I’m going to try to keep up with tagging in the future. There is a page that lists all the tags I use (which is linked in the sidebar of the blog) in case you want to use it for reference or if there is a particular thing you want to blacklist.

For the record, the “graphic injury” tag has been the most broad tag that I have used when it came to gross stuff. Since it’s so broad, I am going to replace those tags with “gore.” That will include injuries, infections, deformities, and anything that might be upsetting that is not a surgery or dissection. “Gore,” “surgery,” and “dissection” are the 3 tags I will use for anything squicky.

- Q


Draining a Peri Tracheal Abscess: This is when knowing your anatomy is helpful, there are some things in there you don’t want to cut.


Brain lesions have the most disgusting gross pathology presentation.  This photo shows cerebral abscesses from a foal that was infected with Streptococcus equi also known as Strangles.


Brain lesions have the most disgusting gross pathology presentation.  This photo shows cerebral abscesses from a foal that was infected with Streptococcus equi also known as Strangles.


My stupid horse and his fucking friend just ran right into each other. People used to ride these things into battle. People used to be depended on these beasts for transport and the plowing of fields. People write novels and poems about these morons. Steven Spielberg made an entire movie based on how majestic and proud these creatures are. What a bunch of useless pieces of crap.

(via pourqua)

Much like the human version… depression in animals spans the full spectrum of severity, from brief and shallow periods of low mood to long and intense stretches of depression. Animals also experience the same hormonal changes that depressed humans do, including higher secretion of steroid hormones and dampened immune system function. Perhaps most interestingly and indicatively, the body clocks of depressed animals — their circadian rhythms, which we already know are of tremendous importance to human well-being — are so disrupted that they produce the same irregularities in body temperature and sleep-wake cycle seen in depressed humans.
Can pets be depressed? The science behind what every pet-owner intuits. 

(via pourqua)