The Devil Is in the Details

I started writing about EHV-1 outbreaks back in 2003, when there was an incident that killed 12 horses and sickened many others. It touched at least three facilities, devastating horse owners, handlers, and veterinarians alike. Scientists first called the pathogen an “atypical viral strain.” They later developed a test that allowed them to determine that strain differs from the one that usually causes respiratory disease in young horses. Since then, there has been ongoing work to further characterize viruses causing the most severe kind of EHV-1 infection, the neurologic form. 

Be sure to have dedicated grooming equipment for each horse to minimize chances of spreading infection (this applies even in times when all the horses seem healthy). This includes the rag in your back pocket you just used to wipe a horse’s nose, or any sponges.

Photo: iStock

In the 14 years since, our industry has seen its share of EHV-1 incidents, each resulting in a flurry of industry response, quarantines, and eventually resolution. With each new incident comes further planning on how best to control the neurologic form of infection.

Sometimes in my media role I feel like a broken record with charges to adopt biosecurity practices and efforts to explain concepts such as how either variant, wild or neurologic, can cause neurologic signs and, thus, warrant precautionary actions.

But understanding these concepts remains vital. The virus is idiosyncratic; there isn’t a single recipe for response. Every EHV-1 outbreak is different in the way it unfolds. How quickly caretakers detect signs of illness and the way authorities handle the index case—the first confirmed in an outbreak—will dictate how the incident goes. There are other important points to remember:

The index case isn’t necessarily the horse that reactivated (the first one infected). It might simply be the one that was exposed to a shedder—that might have never shown signs—and got infected. So it might not be possible to prevent an index case; it all boils down to our reaction to it.

Promptly removing the index case from the general population and quarantining it well away, ideally on a separate premises, makes good scientific sense. It isn’t always possible.

Color-code everything using dedicated equipment for each horse group. Buy color-coded gear, or mark supplies with colored tape. This can include sets of coveralls. If you have a variety of nationalities represented in your barn, the colors can transcend language barriers.

Think about your habits. Sure, you have dedicated grooming kits, but what about that rag in your back pocket you just used to wipe a horse’s nose? Designate one rag or bath sponge to be used per horse.

Take notes on what worked and what didn’t, if you’re involved in outbreak resolution, and be willing to talk with epidemiologists about the incident. Your involvement helps researchers build a library of understanding so future outbreaks can be handled in the best way possible or, ideally, even prevented. You never know: You might help researchers make a discovery.

Plan now. Yes, a lot of time, planning, and preparation go into preventing an outbreak, but much more goes into resolving one. We’re all busy; don’t wait until an outbreak happens to you.

What equine biosecurity methods do you use around your farm or facility?

This Viewpoint first appeared in the March 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. This edition includes articles on mare behavior, defending against disease, more first-aid basics (part 1 was in the January issue), feeding horses with endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s and equine metabolic syndrome, and more. It also includes as a bonus, the 2016 AAEP Wrap-Up, 52 pages of understandable take-home messages from the equine veterinary convention that concluded in December. If you aren’t already a subscriber, pick up an issue here.  

The Devil Is in the Details

I started writing about EHV-1 outbreaks back in 2003, when there was an incident that killed 12 horses and sickened many others. It touched at least three facilities, devastating horse owners, handlers, and veterinarians alike. Scientists first called the pathogen an “atypical viral strain.” They later developed a test that allowed them to determine that strain differs from the one that usually causes respiratory disease in young horses. Since then, there has been ongoing work to further characterize viruses causing the most severe kind of EHV-1 infection, the neurologic form. 

Be sure to have dedicated grooming equipment for each horse to minimize chances of spreading infection (this applies even in times when all the horses seem healthy). This includes the rag in your back pocket you just used to wipe a horse’s nose, or any sponges.

Photo: iStock

In the 14 years since, our industry has seen its share of EHV-1 incidents, each resulting in a flurry of industry response, quarantines, and eventually resolution. With each new incident comes further planning on how best to control the neurologic form of infection.

Sometimes in my media role I feel like a broken record with charges to adopt biosecurity practices and efforts to explain concepts such as how either variant, wild or neurologic, can cause neurologic signs and, thus, warrant precautionary actions.

But understanding these concepts remains vital. The virus is idiosyncratic; there isn’t a single recipe for response. Every EHV-1 outbreak is different in the way it unfolds. How quickly caretakers detect signs of illness and the way authorities handle the index case—the first confirmed in an outbreak—will dictate how the incident goes. There are other important points to remember:

The index case isn’t necessarily the horse that reactivated (the first one infected). It might simply be the one that was exposed to a shedder—that might have never shown signs—and got infected. So it might not be possible to prevent an index case; it all boils down to our reaction to it.

Promptly removing the index case from the general population and quarantining it well away, ideally on a separate premises, makes good scientific sense. It isn’t always possible.

Color-code everything using dedicated equipment for each horse group. Buy color-coded gear, or mark supplies with colored tape. This can include sets of coveralls. If you have a variety of nationalities represented in your barn, the colors can transcend language barriers.

Think about your habits. Sure, you have dedicated grooming kits, but what about that rag in your back pocket you just used to wipe a horse’s nose? Designate one rag or bath sponge to be used per horse.

Take notes on what worked and what didn’t, if you’re involved in outbreak resolution, and be willing to talk with epidemiologists about the incident. Your involvement helps researchers build a library of understanding so future outbreaks can be handled in the best way possible or, ideally, even prevented. You never know: You might help researchers make a discovery.

Plan now. Yes, a lot of time, planning, and preparation go into preventing an outbreak, but much more goes into resolving one. We’re all busy; don’t wait until an outbreak happens to you.

What equine biosecurity methods do you use around your farm or facility?

This Viewpoint first appeared in the March 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. This edition includes articles on mare behavior, defending against disease, more first-aid basics (part 1 was in the January issue), feeding horses with endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s and equine metabolic syndrome, and more. It also includes as a bonus, the 2016 AAEP Wrap-Up, 52 pages of understandable take-home messages from the equine veterinary convention that concluded in December. If you aren’t already a subscriber, pick up an issue here.  

The Devil Is in the Details

I started writing about EHV-1 outbreaks back in 2003, when there was an incident that killed 12 horses and sickened many others. It touched at least three facilities, devastating horse owners, handlers, and veterinarians alike. Scientists first called the pathogen an “atypical viral strain.” They later developed a test that allowed them to determine that strain differs from the one that usually causes respiratory disease in young horses. Since then, there has been ongoing work to further characterize viruses causing the most severe kind of EHV-1 infection, the neurologic form. 

Be sure to have dedicated grooming equipment for each horse to minimize chances of spreading infection (this applies even in times when all the horses seem healthy). This includes the rag in your back pocket you just used to wipe a horse’s nose, or any sponges.

Photo: iStock

In the 14 years since, our industry has seen its share of EHV-1 incidents, each resulting in a flurry of industry response, quarantines, and eventually resolution. With each new incident comes further planning on how best to control the neurologic form of infection.

Sometimes in my media role I feel like a broken record with charges to adopt biosecurity practices and efforts to explain concepts such as how either variant, wild or neurologic, can cause neurologic signs and, thus, warrant precautionary actions.

But understanding these concepts remains vital. The virus is idiosyncratic; there isn’t a single recipe for response. Every EHV-1 outbreak is different in the way it unfolds. How quickly caretakers detect signs of illness and the way authorities handle the index case—the first confirmed in an outbreak—will dictate how the incident goes. There are other important points to remember:

The index case isn’t necessarily the horse that reactivated (the first one infected). It might simply be the one that was exposed to a shedder—that might have never shown signs—and got infected. So it might not be possible to prevent an index case; it all boils down to our reaction to it.

Promptly removing the index case from the general population and quarantining it well away, ideally on a separate premises, makes good scientific sense. It isn’t always possible.

Color-code everything using dedicated equipment for each horse group. Buy color-coded gear, or mark supplies with colored tape. This can include sets of coveralls. If you have a variety of nationalities represented in your barn, the colors can transcend language barriers.

Think about your habits. Sure, you have dedicated grooming kits, but what about that rag in your back pocket you just used to wipe a horse’s nose? Designate one rag or bath sponge to be used per horse.

Take notes on what worked and what didn’t, if you’re involved in outbreak resolution, and be willing to talk with epidemiologists about the incident. Your involvement helps researchers build a library of understanding so future outbreaks can be handled in the best way possible or, ideally, even prevented. You never know: You might help researchers make a discovery.

Plan now. Yes, a lot of time, planning, and preparation go into preventing an outbreak, but much more goes into resolving one. We’re all busy; don’t wait until an outbreak happens to you.

What equine biosecurity methods do you use around your farm or facility?

This Viewpoint first appeared in the March 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. This edition includes articles on mare behavior, defending against disease, more first-aid basics (part 1 was in the January issue), feeding horses with endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s and equine metabolic syndrome, and more. It also includes as a bonus, the 2016 AAEP Wrap-Up, 52 pages of understandable take-home messages from the equine veterinary convention that concluded in December. If you aren’t already a subscriber, pick up an issue here.  

The Devil Is in the Details

I started writing about EHV-1 outbreaks back in 2003, when there was an incident that killed 12 horses and sickened many others. It touched at least three facilities, devastating horse owners, handlers, and veterinarians alike. Scientists first called the pathogen an “atypical viral strain.” They later developed a test that allowed them to determine that strain differs from the one that usually causes respiratory disease in young horses. Since then, there has been ongoing work to further characterize viruses causing the most severe kind of EHV-1 infection, the neurologic form. 

Be sure to have dedicated grooming equipment for each horse to minimize chances of spreading infection (this applies even in times when all the horses seem healthy). This includes the rag in your back pocket you just used to wipe a horse’s nose, or any sponges.

Photo: iStock

In the 14 years since, our industry has seen its share of EHV-1 incidents, each resulting in a flurry of industry response, quarantines, and eventually resolution. With each new incident comes further planning on how best to control the neurologic form of infection.

Sometimes in my media role I feel like a broken record with charges to adopt biosecurity practices and efforts to explain concepts such as how either variant, wild or neurologic, can cause neurologic signs and, thus, warrant precautionary actions.

But understanding these concepts remains vital. The virus is idiosyncratic; there isn’t a single recipe for response. Every EHV-1 outbreak is different in the way it unfolds. How quickly caretakers detect signs of illness and the way authorities handle the index case—the first confirmed in an outbreak—will dictate how the incident goes. There are other important points to remember:

The index case isn’t necessarily the horse that reactivated (the first one infected). It might simply be the one that was exposed to a shedder—that might have never shown signs—and got infected. So it might not be possible to prevent an index case; it all boils down to our reaction to it.

Promptly removing the index case from the general population and quarantining it well away, ideally on a separate premises, makes good scientific sense. It isn’t always possible.

Color-code everything using dedicated equipment for each horse group. Buy color-coded gear, or mark supplies with colored tape. This can include sets of coveralls. If you have a variety of nationalities represented in your barn, the colors can transcend language barriers.

Think about your habits. Sure, you have dedicated grooming kits, but what about that rag in your back pocket you just used to wipe a horse’s nose? Designate one rag or bath sponge to be used per horse.

Take notes on what worked and what didn’t, if you’re involved in outbreak resolution, and be willing to talk with epidemiologists about the incident. Your involvement helps researchers build a library of understanding so future outbreaks can be handled in the best way possible or, ideally, even prevented. You never know: You might help researchers make a discovery.

Plan now. Yes, a lot of time, planning, and preparation go into preventing an outbreak, but much more goes into resolving one. We’re all busy; don’t wait until an outbreak happens to you.

What equine biosecurity methods do you use around your farm or facility?

This Viewpoint first appeared in the March 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. This edition includes articles on mare behavior, defending against disease, more first-aid basics (part 1 was in the January issue), feeding horses with endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s and equine metabolic syndrome, and more. It also includes as a bonus, the 2016 AAEP Wrap-Up, 52 pages of understandable take-home messages from the equine veterinary convention that concluded in December. If you aren’t already a subscriber, pick up an issue here.  

My Mustang Isn’t Who I Thought She Was

What a surprise!  My mustang isn’t who I thought she was.

Stellar is my mustang. I adopted her late last summer, or rather she adopted me.

I am a volunteer member of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District’s Resource Advisory Council, a committee that meets regularly to learn about issues and actions the BLM district is facing. As committee members, we do research and provide input.  Early last summer, as part of that committee, I toured a new BLM off-range holding facility for wild horses in Bruneau, Idaho. It’s a well thought-out, well-designed facility for holding horses too old for adoption or otherwise less likely to be adopted—nearly 3,000 of them. The intent is to hold them there until they can be sent to long-term holding facilities back East.

Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 with the older mares.

Photo: Alayne Blickle

The tour was quite interesting and as we were going along it was only natural for me to admire the horses, so many nice-looking ones with good conformation. That’s when I saw Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 which held all older mares. I was struck by her kind, calm eye and beautiful long mane all in dreadlocks. As I reached out to touch her, I realized she wasn’t frightened of me like most wild horses. I touched her face, tentatively at first, then her ears, neck, and shoulders. She stood next to the fence with her eyes half-closed, craving attention as I scratched her withers.

I left her side to continued with the tour but soon realized she was following me, begging for more attention and pushing other horses out of the way to stand as close to me as possible, quietly waiting for me to notice her again.

Eventually Stellar did come home with us, and I’ve been working with her as much as possible, doing my best to teach her to be a solid citizen—to halter, lead, be groomed, move body parts, stand tied, pick up her feet, be saddled, bridled, ground driven with long lines, trailer loaded, hosed off, be ponied (at the walk, trot, and even lope). She’s learned to stand to have her feet trimmed and we’ve even begun riding under saddle. She’s been calm, kind, and so appreciative of attention a along. For me it’s been a blast, an amazing journey I never expected to experience.

Now for the surprise—the cavalry has arrived!

For the most part, mustangs are thought to be descendants of horses brought to the North America by early Spanish explorers. Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place. I recently learned about equine genetic testing for horses where DNA testing is used to determine ancestry. I eagerly sent in my 30-50 mane hairs with follicles, then sat back awaiting my results.

Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place

Photo: Alayne Blickle

How amazing a thing it is to have a peek into my calm and kind mare’s ancestry!  Stellar’s genetic debut revealed something much different than I expected:

  • Selle Français,
  • Hackney, and
  • Holsteiner!

When I spoke with the researcher at the Texas A&M University laboratory where I submitted the test, he explained a few things to me. I wasn’t familiar with the Selle Français and was quite curious about her Hackney and Holsteiner parts. He referred to Selle Français as “French Thoroughbred,” and said they are the genetic backbone of a lot of working horse breeds, including many of today’s Quarter Horses. He also made it clear that all three of the breeds in Stellar’s genetic makeup were imported from Europe to the New World as workhorses (he said Hackneys were used as carthorses) and the U.S. Calvary relied heavily on all three breeds. Stellar grew up in Wyoming in the Adobe Town Horse Management Area—in the 1800s there were several military posts and forts nearby. I picture her great-great-great grandparents pulling heavy military wagons and helping to build forts or railroads.

So, based on Stellar’s DNA typing, my mustang actually carries bloodlines of hard-working relatives in her background—surprisingly not at all Spanish. I wonder if that means Stellar and I have a future in carthorse driving? 

My Mustang Isn’t Who I Thought She Was

What a surprise!  My mustang isn’t who I thought she was.

Stellar is my mustang. I adopted her late last summer, or rather she adopted me.

I am a volunteer member of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District’s Resource Advisory Council, a committee that meets regularly to learn about issues and actions the BLM district is facing. As committee members, we do research and provide input.  Early last summer, as part of that committee, I toured a new BLM off-range holding facility for wild horses in Bruneau, Idaho. It’s a well thought-out, well-designed facility for holding horses too old for adoption or otherwise less likely to be adopted—nearly 3,000 of them. The intent is to hold them there until they can be sent to long-term holding facilities back East.

Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 with the older mares.

Photo: Alayne Blickle

The tour was quite interesting and as we were going along it was only natural for me to admire the horses, so many nice-looking ones with good confirmation. That’s when I saw Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 which held all older mares. I was struck by her kind, calm eye and beautiful long mane all in dreadlocks. As I reached out to touch her, I realized she wasn’t frightened of me like most wild horses. I touched her face, tentatively at first, then her ears, neck, and shoulders. She stood next to the fence with her eyes half-closed, craving attention as I scratched her withers.

I left her side to continued with the tour but soon realized she was following me, begging for more attention and pushing other horses out of the way to stand as close to me as possible, quietly waiting for me to notice her again.

Eventually Stellar did come home with us, and I’ve been working with her as much as possible, doing my best to teach her to be a solid citizen—to halter, lead, be groomed, move body parts, stand tied, pick up her feet, be saddled, bridled, ground driven with long lines, trailer loaded, hosed off, be ponied (at the walk, trot, and even lope). She’s learned to stand to have her feet trimmed and we’ve even begun riding under saddle. She’s been calm, kind, and so appreciative of attention a along. For me it’s been a blast, an amazing journey I never expected to experience.

Now for the surprise—the cavalry has arrived!

For the most part, mustangs are thought to be descendants of horses brought to the North America by early Spanish explorers. Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place. I recently learned about equine genetic testing for horses where DNA testing is used to determine ancestry. I eagerly sent in my 30-50 mane hairs with follicles, then sat back awaiting my results.

Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place

Photo: Alayne Blickle

How amazing a thing it is to have a peek into my calm and kind mare’s ancestry!  Stellar’s genetic debut revealed something much different than I expected:

  • Selle Français,
  • Hackney, and
  • Holsteiner!

When I spoke with the researcher at the Texas A&M University laboratory where I submitted the test, he explained a few things to me. I wasn’t familiar with the Selle Français and was quite curious about her Hackney and Holsteiner parts. He referred to Selle Français as “French Thoroughbred,” and said they are the genetic backbone of a lot of working horse breeds, including many of today’s Quarter Horses. He also made it clear that all three of the breeds in Stellar’s genetic makeup were imported from Europe to the New World as workhorses (he said Hackneys were used as carthorses) and the U.S. Calvary relied heavily on all three breeds. Stellar grew up in Wyoming in the Adobe Town Horse Management Area—in the 1800s there were several military posts and forts nearby. I picture her great-great-great grandparents pulling heavy military wagons and helping to build forts or railroads.

So, based on Stellar’s DNA typing, my mustang actually carries bloodlines of hard-working relatives in her background—surprisingly European and not at all Spanish. I wonder if that means Stellar and I have a future in carthorse driving? 

My Mustang Isn’t Who I Thought She Was

What a surprise!  My mustang isn’t who I thought she was.

Stellar is my mustang. I adopted her late last summer, or rather she adopted me.

I am a volunteer member of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District’s Resource Advisory Council, a committee that meets regularly to learn about issues and actions the BLM district is facing. As committee members, we do research and provide input.  Early last summer, as part of that committee, I toured a new BLM off-range holding facility for wild horses in Bruneau, Idaho. It’s a well thought-out, well-designed facility for holding horses too old for adoption or otherwise less likely to be adopted—nearly 3,000 of them. The intent is to hold them there until they can be sent to long-term holding facilities back East.

Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 with the older mares.

Photo: Alayne Blickle

The tour was quite interesting and as we were going along it was only natural for me to admire the horses, so many nice-looking ones with good confirmation. That’s when I saw Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 which held all older mares. I was struck by her kind, calm eye and beautiful long mane all in dreadlocks. As I reached out to touch her, I realized she wasn’t frightened of me like most wild horses. I touched her face, tentatively at first, then her ears, neck, and shoulders. She stood next to the fence with her eyes half-closed, craving attention as I scratched her withers.

I left her side to continued with the tour but soon realized she was following me, begging for more attention and pushing other horses out of the way to stand as close to me as possible, quietly waiting for me to notice her again.

Eventually Stellar did come home with us, and I’ve been working with her as much as possible, doing my best to teach her to be a solid citizen—to halter, lead, be groomed, move body parts, stand tied, pick up her feet, be saddled, bridled, ground driven with long lines, trailer loaded, hosed off, be ponied (at the walk, trot, and even lope). She’s learned to stand to have her feet trimmed and we’ve even begun riding under saddle. She’s been calm, kind, and so appreciative of attention a along. For me it’s been a blast, an amazing journey I never expected to experience.

Now for the surprise—the cavalry has arrived!

For the most part, mustangs are thought to be descendants of horses brought to the North America by early Spanish explorers. Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place. I recently learned about equine genetic testing for horses where DNA testing is used to determine ancestry. I eagerly sent in my 30-50 mane hairs with follicles, then sat back awaiting my results.

Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place

Photo: Alayne Blickle

How amazing a thing it is to have a peek into my calm and kind mare’s ancestry!  Stellar’s genetic debut revealed something much different than I expected:

  • Selle Français,
  • Hackney, and
  • Holsteiner!

When I spoke with the researcher at the Texas A&M University laboratory where I submitted the test, he explained a few things to me. I wasn’t familiar with the Selle Français and was quite curious about her Hackney and Holsteiner parts. He referred to Selle Français as “French Thoroughbred,” and said they are the genetic backbone of a lot of working horse breeds, including many of today’s Quarter Horses. He also made it clear that all three of the breeds in Stellar’s genetic makeup were imported from Europe to the New World as workhorses (he said Hackneys were used as carthorses) and the U.S. Calvary relied heavily on all three breeds. Stellar grew up in Wyoming in the Adobe Town Horse Management Area—in the 1800s there were several military posts and forts nearby. I picture her great-great-great grandparents pulling heavy military wagons and helping to build forts or railroads.

So, based on Stellar’s DNA typing, my mustang actually carries bloodlines of hard-working relatives in her background—surprisingly European and not at all Spanish. I wonder if that means Stellar and I have a future in carthorse driving? 

My Mustang Isn’t Who I Thought She Was

What a surprise!  My mustang isn’t who I thought she was.

Stellar is my mustang. I adopted her late last summer, or rather she adopted me.

I am a volunteer member of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District’s Resource Advisory Council, a committee that meets regularly to learn about issues and actions the BLM district is facing. As committee members, we do research and provide input.  Early last summer, as part of that committee, I toured a new BLM off-range holding facility for wild horses in Bruneau, Idaho. It’s a well thought-out, well-designed facility for holding horses too old for adoption or otherwise less likely to be adopted—nearly 3,000 of them. The intent is to hold them there until they can be sent to long-term holding facilities back East.

Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 with the older mares.

Photo: Alayne Blickle

The tour was quite interesting and as we were going along it was only natural for me to admire the horses, so many nice-looking ones with good conformation. That’s when I saw Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 which held all older mares. I was struck by her kind, calm eye and beautiful long mane all in dreadlocks. As I reached out to touch her, I realized she wasn’t frightened of me like most wild horses. I touched her face, tentatively at first, then her ears, neck, and shoulders. She stood next to the fence with her eyes half-closed, craving attention as I scratched her withers.

I left her side to continued with the tour but soon realized she was following me, begging for more attention and pushing other horses out of the way to stand as close to me as possible, quietly waiting for me to notice her again.

Eventually Stellar did come home with us, and I’ve been working with her as much as possible, doing my best to teach her to be a solid citizen—to halter, lead, be groomed, move body parts, stand tied, pick up her feet, be saddled, bridled, ground driven with long lines, trailer loaded, hosed off, be ponied (at the walk, trot, and even lope). She’s learned to stand to have her feet trimmed and we’ve even begun riding under saddle. She’s been calm, kind, and so appreciative of attention a along. For me it’s been a blast, an amazing journey I never expected to experience.

Now for the surprise—the cavalry has arrived!

For the most part, mustangs are thought to be descendants of horses brought to the North America by early Spanish explorers. Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place. I recently learned about equine genetic testing for horses where DNA testing is used to determine ancestry. I eagerly sent in my 30-50 mane hairs with follicles, then sat back awaiting my results.

Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place

Photo: Alayne Blickle

How amazing a thing it is to have a peek into my calm and kind mare’s ancestry!  Stellar’s genetic debut revealed something much different than I expected:

  • Selle Français,
  • Hackney, and
  • Holsteiner!

When I spoke with the researcher at the Texas A&M University laboratory where I submitted the test, he explained a few things to me. I wasn’t familiar with the Selle Français and was quite curious about her Hackney and Holsteiner parts. He referred to Selle Français as “French Thoroughbred,” and said they are the genetic backbone of a lot of working horse breeds, including many of today’s Quarter Horses. He also made it clear that all three of the breeds in Stellar’s genetic makeup were imported from Europe to the New World as workhorses (he said Hackneys were used as carthorses) and the U.S. Calvary relied heavily on all three breeds. Stellar grew up in Wyoming in the Adobe Town Horse Management Area—in the 1800s there were several military posts and forts nearby. I picture her great-great-great grandparents pulling heavy military wagons and helping to build forts or railroads.

So, based on Stellar’s DNA typing, my mustang actually carries bloodlines of hard-working relatives in her background—surprisingly not at all Spanish. I wonder if that means Stellar and I have a future in carthorse driving? 

My Mustang Isn’t Who I Thought She Was

What a surprise!  My mustang isn’t who I thought she was.

Stellar is my mustang. I adopted her late last summer, or rather she adopted me.

I am a volunteer member of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District’s Resource Advisory Council, a committee that meets regularly to learn about issues and actions the BLM district is facing. As committee members, we do research and provide input.  Early last summer, as part of that committee, I toured a new BLM off-range holding facility for wild horses in Bruneau, Idaho. It’s a well thought-out, well-designed facility for holding horses too old for adoption or otherwise less likely to be adopted—nearly 3,000 of them. The intent is to hold them there until they can be sent to long-term holding facilities back East.

Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 with the older mares.

Photo: Alayne Blickle

The tour was quite interesting and as we were going along it was only natural for me to admire the horses, so many nice-looking ones with good conformation. That’s when I saw Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 which held all older mares. I was struck by her kind, calm eye and beautiful long mane all in dreadlocks. As I reached out to touch her, I realized she wasn’t frightened of me like most wild horses. I touched her face, tentatively at first, then her ears, neck, and shoulders. She stood next to the fence with her eyes half-closed, craving attention as I scratched her withers.

I left her side to continued with the tour but soon realized she was following me, begging for more attention and pushing other horses out of the way to stand as close to me as possible, quietly waiting for me to notice her again.

Eventually Stellar did come home with us, and I’ve been working with her as much as possible, doing my best to teach her to be a solid citizen—to halter, lead, be groomed, move body parts, stand tied, pick up her feet, be saddled, bridled, ground driven with long lines, trailer loaded, hosed off, be ponied (at the walk, trot, and even lope). She’s learned to stand to have her feet trimmed and we’ve even begun riding under saddle. She’s been calm, kind, and so appreciative of attention a along. For me it’s been a blast, an amazing journey I never expected to experience.

Now for the surprise—the cavalry has arrived!

For the most part, mustangs are thought to be descendants of horses brought to the North America by early Spanish explorers. Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place. I recently learned about equine genetic testing for horses where DNA testing is used to determine ancestry. I eagerly sent in my 30-50 mane hairs with follicles, then sat back awaiting my results.

Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place

Photo: Alayne Blickle

How amazing a thing it is to have a peek into my calm and kind mare’s ancestry!  Stellar’s genetic debut revealed something much different than I expected:

  • Selle Français,
  • Hackney, and
  • Holsteiner!

When I spoke with the researcher at the Texas A&M University laboratory where I submitted the test, he explained a few things to me. I wasn’t familiar with the Selle Français and was quite curious about her Hackney and Holsteiner parts. He referred to Selle Français as “French Thoroughbred,” and said they are the genetic backbone of a lot of working horse breeds, including many of today’s Quarter Horses. He also made it clear that all three of the breeds in Stellar’s genetic makeup were imported from Europe to the New World as workhorses (he said Hackneys were used as carthorses) and the U.S. Calvary relied heavily on all three breeds. Stellar grew up in Wyoming in the Adobe Town Horse Management Area—in the 1800s there were several military posts and forts nearby. I picture her great-great-great grandparents pulling heavy military wagons and helping to build forts or railroads.

So, based on Stellar’s DNA typing, my mustang actually carries bloodlines of hard-working relatives in her background—surprisingly not at all Spanish. I wonder if that means Stellar and I have a future in carthorse driving? 

My Mustang Isn’t Who I Thought She Was

What a surprise!  My mustang isn’t who I thought she was.

Stellar is my mustang. I adopted her late last summer, or rather she adopted me.

I am a volunteer member of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District’s Resource Advisory Council, a committee that meets regularly to learn about issues and actions the BLM district is facing. As committee members, we do research and provide input.  Early last summer, as part of that committee, I toured a new BLM off-range holding facility for wild horses in Bruneau, Idaho. It’s a well thought-out, well-designed facility for holding horses too old for adoption or otherwise less likely to be adopted—nearly 3,000 of them. The intent is to hold them there until they can be sent to long-term holding facilities back East.

Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 with the older mares.

Photo: Alayne Blickle

The tour was quite interesting and as we were going along it was only natural for me to admire the horses, so many nice-looking ones with good conformation. That’s when I saw Stellar, in lucky Pen 13 which held all older mares. I was struck by her kind, calm eye and beautiful long mane all in dreadlocks. As I reached out to touch her, I realized she wasn’t frightened of me like most wild horses. I touched her face, tentatively at first, then her ears, neck, and shoulders. She stood next to the fence with her eyes half-closed, craving attention as I scratched her withers.

I left her side to continued with the tour but soon realized she was following me, begging for more attention and pushing other horses out of the way to stand as close to me as possible, quietly waiting for me to notice her again.

Eventually Stellar did come home with us, and I’ve been working with her as much as possible, doing my best to teach her to be a solid citizen—to halter, lead, be groomed, move body parts, stand tied, pick up her feet, be saddled, bridled, ground driven with long lines, trailer loaded, hosed off, be ponied (at the walk, trot, and even lope). She’s learned to stand to have her feet trimmed and we’ve even begun riding under saddle. She’s been calm, kind, and so appreciative of attention a along. For me it’s been a blast, an amazing journey I never expected to experience.

Now for the surprise—the cavalry has arrived!

For the most part, mustangs are thought to be descendants of horses brought to the North America by early Spanish explorers. Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place. I recently learned about equine genetic testing for horses where DNA testing is used to determine ancestry. I eagerly sent in my 30-50 mane hairs with follicles, then sat back awaiting my results.

Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place

Photo: Alayne Blickle

How amazing a thing it is to have a peek into my calm and kind mare’s ancestry!  Stellar’s genetic debut revealed something much different than I expected:

  • Selle Français,
  • Hackney, and
  • Holsteiner!

When I spoke with the researcher at the Texas A&M University laboratory where I submitted the test, he explained a few things to me. I wasn’t familiar with the Selle Français and was quite curious about her Hackney and Holsteiner parts. He referred to Selle Français as “French Thoroughbred,” and said they are the genetic backbone of a lot of working horse breeds, including many of today’s Quarter Horses. He also made it clear that all three of the breeds in Stellar’s genetic makeup were imported from Europe to the New World as workhorses (he said Hackneys were used as carthorses) and the U.S. Calvary relied heavily on all three breeds. Stellar grew up in Wyoming in the Adobe Town Horse Management Area—in the 1800s there were several military posts and forts nearby. I picture her great-great-great grandparents pulling heavy military wagons and helping to build forts or railroads.

So, based on Stellar’s DNA typing, my mustang actually carries bloodlines of hard-working relatives in her background—surprisingly not at all Spanish. I wonder if that means Stellar and I have a future in carthorse driving?