With 2010 officially in the books, TheHorse.com decided to take a look back at a year that was filled with developments in equine medicine, breakthroughs in horse health, and, of course, a few chuckles along the way. With a new year just beginning, five of our fabulous freelance writers took a few minutes to recall their favorite news events of 2010.
The Icelandic volcano was certainly one of the most dramatic stories of the year, and The Horse immediately began checking on whether volcanic ash would compromise horses' health and if travel disruptions would delay horse shows and other events.
One unexpected consequence was the delay of semen shipments at the height of the breeding season. I wrote a story outlining what this could mean to breeders, especially those waiting for semen to arrive.
However, sometimes we forget how our industry looks to those not in it. My sister Shelley Dunn e-mailed me shortly after the story hit the website: "And for this, you went to college - AWESOME. Indeed, I am proud and have a new answer to the question, 'What does your sister do?' Transports semen ... no wait, writes about transporting semen ... I mean, writes about NOT transporting semen."
Marie Rosenthal, MS:
This year I was reminded of two things: Germs are wily opponents, and they do not honor country borders.
For instance, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria can be transmitted from people to horses and from horses to people. We must use common sense around affected animals: wash your hands, wear protective clothing, and isolate infected horses.
Another wily opponent is influenza. Just as bird flu jumped to people, equine influenza virus jumped to dogs. So far, there have been no reports of horses getting canine influenza, but it is a good idea to separate dogs and horses during any influenza outbreak. Because these viruses can spread among several species, one expert suggested that public health officials add canine and equine influenza cases to surveillance and monitoring programs, although there is no evidence that people can acquire either flu virus from their pets.
Finally, we should remember that just as human infections are affected by travel, so are equine infections. Horses cross state and international borders all the time, such as the approximately 800 horses that travelled the globe to get to the FEI World Equestrian Games this year in Kentucky. These horses must be healthy before they are moved to avoid the spread of germs and disease.
It's a small world after all.
In 2010 there was no shortage of news about horses that were rescued from neglectful owners by law enforcement and animal welfare authorities. But even owners that were charged and convicted of animal cruelty crimes remain free to relocate elsewhere--and possibly put more horses at risk.
Law enforcement and animal welfare authorities have scant resources for tracking convicted offenders. But in October lawmakers in Suffolk County, N.Y., passed legislation establishing an online registry for those convicted of animal cruelty crimes. Other jurisdictions have expressed interest in following suit.
That's good news for horses, and that makes the New York abuser registry story my favorite of 2010.
Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc:
The bulk of the news stories I write for The Horse and TheHorse.com focus on recent scientific advances and discoveries that are, despite my best efforts and much to my editors' relief, relayed in a professional, sage tone that leaves little room for humor (I am beginning to think my editors don't find me funny ... ). But deep inside, I am a secretly addicted to Reader's Digest style "Drama in Real Life" stories.
I am inexplicably drawn to the emotionally charged tales that tell about local heroes that come together to save horses' lives. Some of my favorite stories from 2010 reported on these heroes. I won't forget how rescuers worked for hours to save a single, geriatric Appaloosa from drowning in a sinkhole in Maryland. I was equally moved by how rescuers banded together to rescue 80 horses from a barn fire in Utah, and when a helicopter pilot found the 3-year-old Paint who'd been swept off his feet by flash flooding in Nashville.
I love science and scientific studies and I must admit that my heart rate really does increase when I read about PCR and intricate, imaginative studies that can potentially benefit the health of thousands of horses; however, it is only the rare scientific study that proves to be a tear-jerker like a good old-fashioned Drama in Real Life!
I admit I was delighted to write a story about pasturing breeding stallions together. People often joke that there's no better life than that of a stallion that's been retired to stud, but I've seen some pretty unhappy stallions and have heard about even more.
My own colt's sire had once been a "box breeder" in Germany--he only came out of his stall long enough to mount a dummy. And he was only four years old! Fortunately his current owner rescued him from that situation and brought him to a farm where he could be ridden and shown regularly and spend some much appreciated time outdoors. But like most stallions, he still spends most of his time alone, and that's just really so contradictory to what horses--and in particular stallions--are.
I loved discussing this story with the researcher, Sabrina Briefer, DVM, MS, and listening to her stories. Seeing the research videos and photos was like watching colts at play. These horses were really happy--happy to be outdoors and happy to be in a herd. Equine research is definitely making some serious strides in improving welfare, and I'm glad our breeding stock is benefiting from that, too. They might be the most expensive and pampered animals in the world, but they certainly do deserve to feel like real horses.
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.