A Quick Reminder

There’s only a few days left!

But, you can still send your comments regarding any of my e-books by filling in the survey:

Remember, there will be a random draw for an online conformation evaluation at half price ($75 instead of $150) for those who submit a filled-in survey prior to July 21st, 2014.

Thank you in advance for your participation. I look forward to reading the comments.


By Rights…or Buy Rights

The time has come for me to say something about copyrights.

Why? I am aware of at least two books as well as a newsletter, blogs and a website that just helped themselves to photos from my site.

They did not contact me for permission, they did not offer to purchase the rights to those photos, and you can bet that I will see no royalties from sales. Legal action? Sure, if you are doing it strictly out of principle; it is not usually worth anything more than that.

I was even accused of lying about selling the photo – on Google, no less – and not caring about horses by one author who published my photo in her book! This was as a response to an email from me that contained my usual quote: “My goal – as always – has been to do well by the horse. That usually is in the best interests of horsemen as well, though I know that what I say and do is not always (hardly ever!) appreciated in the short run.” James Rooney, DVM.

I do hope I get to meet her in person someday.

Why am I telling you this? So that you understand that because of individuals who do not respect other people’s property or rights, sometimes it is difficult to keep up the spirit of sharing.

I go to a lot of effort and expense to obtain educational photographs, so please respect my rights to those photos.

While writing my e-books, I have been diligent regarding permission for use of any photos I did not take.

If you are curious about who the offenders are, email me and I can put you in touch with them. Maybe they would be interested in your opinion about such forms of theft.

Thanks. Rant over.


This is just a quick note to let you know that I will be sending an email to those of you who have purchased one or more of my e-books in the past.

The intent is to gather information that will help me provide what the clients want in future projects. The Learning by Example Western e-book is nearing completion, and I’m thinking ahead already.

If you don’t get an email from me and want to express your opinion, you can still use the survey:

There will be a random draw for an online conformation evaluation at half price ($75 instead of $150) for those who submit a filled-in survey prior to July 21st, 2014.

Thank you in advance for your participation. I look forward to reading the comments.



It is not uncommon for people to have a list of their favorite things. There’s even a song or two about favorite things. I was recently reminded of one of my favorite horse show classes and thought I would list my favorite horse competitions here for you.

Favorite speed class:
Hands down, my favorite is the 2002 Canada Post Cup at the Spruce Meadows North American with Leslie Howard riding Nick of Diamonds. Imagine a steeplechase sprint race with twists and turns. This is what I wrote at the time: The final contest on Saturday was a speed class, the Canada Post Express (Open Section I), a twisting, turning course set by [Leopoldo] Palacios. Alison Firestone put down the first challenge with an excellent run in 97.13. Beezie Madden hustled Authentic around the course without a flaw, stopping the clock at 93.66, but Spooner and Bradford made quick work of taking the lead with a 93.07 posting and there were only 2 riders left to go. But what a pair to have following you in a speed class! Leslie Howard flew over fences and scooted across the ground in a blur with Nick of Diamonds in an amazing 86.87. Howard, as if to prove that the little grey stallion had more in the tank, with hand raised and a huge grin, opened him up for a flat out sprint on the way back to the gate. Rodrigo Pessoa and Gandini Bianca d’Amaury couldn’t do better than 96.68, settling for 4th place.

Favorite grand prix jumping class:
That would be the last class in the 2003 World Cup Final watching Baloubet du Rouet toy with the courses, bow and flex his neck and even buck due to his exuberance. Here’s what I wrote at the time: Pessoa got a tremendous effort from the Selle Francais stallion, giving at least a foot of air over many of the fences, which cemented him ahead of all others. Nieberg was next, but fence 4 earned him as many faults. Baryard had a chance to redeem herself, but her faults came at the second oxer of the 5A/B combination and she fell into line behind Pessoa. It was all up to Germany’s fair-haired boy, Marcus Ehning, and his chestnut mare [Anka 191]. They were simply faultless, and so it should be with World Cup champions.

Favorite grand prix dressage class:
The 2006 World Equestrian Games with Blue Hors Matine at her competitive best. Here’s what I wrote at the time: The first round produced a few surprises, including the emergence of a young superstar in the form of Blue Hors Matine ridden by Denmark’s Andreas Helgstrand. The 9-year-old Danish Warmblood mare led the way with a score of 76.333%, besting Heike Kemmer (Germany) with Bonaparte, Isabel Werth (Germany) with Satchmo and the reigning World Cup and Olympic champion, Anky van Grunsven (Netherlands) with Salinero. The top 15 from the Special moved forward to the musical kur on Saturday night to the delight of some 40,000 spectators. Seidel, the third rider in the ring, scored an admirable 72.500% riding to the soundtrack of Evita, earning him Є 500 for his 13th place finish. Kemmer scored 78.850%, Helgstrand chalked up 81.500% (silver medal), Werth marked 80.750% (bronze medal), van Grunsven posted an astounding 86.100% (gold medal) and Capellmann came in with 79.900%. Who wasn’t impressed with the 9-year-old dressage mare that was second in the Freestyle?

Favorite barrel race:
That would be a fun run after a combined clinic with former World Champion Lynn McKenzie. One of the horses, a palomino mare, had a tight elbow (on her left side), which caused her to go very wide on her left-turn barrel. Lynn and I worked together to change the pattern for her and how her owner rode her. After a couple of slow practices, the mare figured it out. She figured it out so well in fact that she not only won the jackpot at the end of the clinic, she set the arena record.

Favorite horse race: Even though I considered Zenyatta’s run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I would have to say that standing at the rail with my client watching his filly run in the Canadian Derby tops that. No, my client’s filly didn’t win the Derby against the boys, but she still fulfilled a dream. Two and a half years earlier my client told me he wanted to buy a weanling filly that could run in the Canadian Derby while we were at a sale in Kentucky. I spotted the dark bay filly some time later and said, “That one.” My client paid $1,700 for her and she went on to be the champion 2-year-old filly and the champion 3-year-old filly in Alberta. Even though she did not win the Canadian Derby, I couldn’t have been happier had she won the filly and mare stakes on Derby day, a race in which she would have been the favorite and many said she would have won handily. She is now a broodmare in Australia.

Your Turn Identifications

How did you do?
First of all, I will tell you that all 6 horses are athletes.

#1 – Cutting horse pictured at age 20
#2 – Show Hunter
#3 – Broodmare with Eventing talent (see photos)
#4 – Open Reiner
#5 – International Eventer that competed into his 20s
#6 – Barrel Racer

Que trot (Small)

Que jump (Small)


Since I will be at both the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event and the Kentucky Reining Cup, I thought I would give my followers a bit of a challenge to contemplate regarding the two disciplines I will be covering while in Kentucky.

It’s your turn to do the analysis.

As a starting point: What are the mechanics of each job (discipline) and what physical characteristics are required for a horse to excel in each particular discipline?

Which of these horses do you think would be the best eventers and which do you think would be the best reiners?

Which ones are the most athletic? Where would any limitations occur? Are any prone to unsoundness? What level do you think each horse could attain, and in which discipline (or both)?

How would it be if you rated each horse (#1-#6) on a scale of 1 (not competitive) to 10 (international competitor) for each discipline?

Please share your thoughts – as specific as possible – through the comments option.

Good luck.

Click here for the photo pdf:
Your Turn

Mother Nature


Have you ever tried to put yourself in Mother Nature’s shoes? Your author has been attempting to see things from the grand dam’s perspective in order to understand the big picture more clearly.

The first step was recognizing that the old gal must be extremely patient with her powers. She’s been around since the very beginning and is responsible for all reproduction as well as the adaptations of the various species. Now that’s a responsible position! And one would not want to make uninformed decisions in that role.

She’s been fair over time, allowing for a certain amount of experimentation. She’s let developments occur and encouraged decisions about what works and what doesn’t without losing sight of the big picture. However, she’s been tough on those that did not adapt, were self-centered or refused to play by the established rules.

So imagine how she rues the day that humans evolved beyond the cave. She was suddenly (at least by her timeline) forced to deal with a creature that was capable of radically affecting the evolution of other species – perhaps all species. What did she make of the human ability for ulterior motives and self-delusion?

It seems as though she tries to teach people lessons, but she must get exasperated when they refuse to learn. There’s plenty of evidence that she lets people think they are fooling her, but not for too long.

She’ll allow us to manipulate breeding, to remove natural selection and to create a universal gene pool. And, just when we think we are invincible, she gives us dogs with hip displacement, diabetic cats and deadly genetic diseases in several species, including humans. And that’s just for starters. But how many of us truly recognize our own responsibility in the resulting problems?

With all of that in mind, how does one make sense of the conflicting viewpoints that bombard us now that we have advanced the concept of mass communication?

How does she justify the view of animal protection societies that think a rib should never be seen but ignore the obese? Would Mother Nature agree that overweight is more desirable than underweight?

In fact, she’s given us the information to make that assessment. We can determine which animal – the overweight one or the underweight one – suffers the most long-term ramifications once returned to natural weight. Remember that the old gal encourages the ability to recover from lean times, but has never encouraged gluttony.

Can you envision Mother Nature scoffing at us, thinking that we are fooling ourselves by adjusting the natural weight standards upwards so we can ignore our own waistlines?

And what would she think of the extremes promoted by some animal rights organizations? Would she see the advocated actions as being contrary to her design or would she see merit in their positions? Chances are, given her history, she would prefer moderation over extreme views. Keep in mind that animals-as-pets was a human invention not one of Mother Nature’s primary goals.

And, she is the ultimate recycler. Everything is designed to die…to become food or fertilizer.

Perhaps her patience is most evident when one considers how long she has allowed us to abuse our environment before teaching us just how powerful she can be. We may think we’re invincible, but Mother Nature is really the omnipotent force in the world. And, I suspect that the longer we ignore her, the more we will see the true measure of her wrath.


The road trip – all 8,000 miles or 13,000 kilometers of it – was educational, but it took some sorting and thinking to clarify the observations and identify the potential lessons.

The first stop was Scottsdale (AZ) and a Saddlebred show at Westworld, where my intention was to attend the line classes to take pictures of a variety of Saddlebreds and Friesians. Unfortunately most of the halter classes were either cancelled or only had one entrant. Not enough for an educational sample. The lack of entrants made me wonder how healthy that aspect of the industry is, and it saddened me.

The next stop was Arcadia (CA) where I stayed at the home of sculptor, Jude Ettensperger (equiarts.com). Thanks, Jude! From that base I covered the Breeders’ Cup races, including several days of attending early morning works at Santa Anita prior to the big races on November 1st and 2nd.

Those early morning works allowed me to not only see most of the Breeders’ Cup horses, but also some of the entrants in the Arabian horse stakes race as well as the general equine population at Santa Anita. What struck me almost immediately was the high percentage of horses with short femurs. Interestingly, hardly any of the Breeders’ Cup horses – save a few two-year-olds – and none of the Arabians I saw had short femurs. Since the short-femur construction shortens the stride (more suitable for sprinting) and leads to injuries to the hind leg, especially from hock down, I wondered about a few things.

I wondered how much of the criticism of the track surfaces at Santa Anita was actually due to the surface and how much was due to the construction of the horses. When UC Davis was conducting their studies on hind leg injuries, I wished they had been open to examining conformational aspects. I knew that would not likely happen as when that venerable institute conducted their study on toe grabs, they did not include any aspects of conformation whatsoever. Wouldn’t it be handy to have a study showing whether certain conformational aspects put a horse at higher risk for particular injuries?

While listening to two media-accredited handicappers discuss the track and its speed bias – speed carries and no one closes – it struck me that in the previous stakes-level sprint races that they were discussing had not contained a single horse without a short femur. My thought: of course there would not be any closers if the entire field had short femurs. In a subsequent stakes race I spotted two horses in the field that did not have short femurs and they closed to finish in the top three. If there truly is a speed bias on the track, good horses built to close can overcome that bias…or maybe there isn’t really a speed bias. It dawned on me that it is likely human nature, and certainly to be expected in the horse industry, to gravitate to one answer and ignore other possibilities. That includes scientists, and I will write about that in a future post.

I also wondered why the short-femur construction was becoming so prevalent. I hypothesized that it may be in part due to an optical illusion, since that configuration gives the impression of a powerful (muscular) hindquarter even if it is not mechanically efficient. That made me wonder if that was a bias that came with some of the big-name trainers who originated in the Quarter Horse ranks. And once again I was saddened by what that trend means to racing and the horse industry in general…and it filled me with dread about what a trend towards short femurs means to horses…and not just racehorses.

The next stop was in southern Texas, where I looked at a small herd of Arabians that the owner hopes to use as a foundation for breeding breed-specific sport horses. Unfortunately I was not full of encouragement, but that is one of the hard parts of what I do. If I say what the person wants to hear, the horses and the industry suffer, so I have to explain what I see even if that means disappointing the person.

From there I went to northeastern Texas to look at a competition horse that is just coming back from an injury. To my eye, the injury was related to the horse’s construction and therefore predictable. It also meant that his previous level of competition was beyond his physical comfort zone and that any dreams of having him move up in levels would be detrimental to the horse. But is that how most people think? I suspect not.

A planned visit to see a client’s barrel race horse did not pan out, so I was off to Lexington (KY) for three different events.

The first event was the US Dressage Finals where I planned on taking halt pictures for conformational analysis of horses of various breeds and at various levels of competition. Unfortunately, despite media accreditation, the allotted photo spots were not conducive to that objective. The warm-up area also did not work and the wind was howling outside.

Next on the agenda was day two of the USEF Young Horse Championship Symposium. There were presentations from the three Olympic disciplines (Dressage, Eventing and Jumping) as well as Driving and Hunters. The agenda stated that these presentations would “consist of details regarding concepts, scoring, judging, etc.”

I put considerable thought into what was observed and stated. As a result, I have done further investigation into the success rates of young horse programs in general and will be writing an article encompassing those results for Warmbloods Today.

And finally, I attended portions of the Keeneland Mixed Sale and met with a couple of clients – one from Canada and one from Australia. The sale itself allowed the opportunity to view and photograph several horses, but, due to an increase in prices, not the opportunity to purchase. As usual, it surprises me how horses, particularly Thoroughbreds at a sale are promoted and purchased based on the pedigree page and not by the individual’s functional characteristics. What saddens me about that is the fact that young horses will be pushed to live up to the human expectations that result from marketing.

The most rewarding part of the whole trip was the affirmations of my work from the clients at the sale. The Canadian client related that the horse I helped him select had been sold to Australia as a broodmare after being Champion Two-Year-old Filly and Champion Three-year-old Filly in a regional market. Not bad for a $1700 purchase. The Australian client told me that I had been accurate (as with the filly mentioned above) about the colt’s preferred distance and style of running. He further said that, after he changed trainers to one that followed my advice, the horse made good money before a brain aneurism ended his career.

In the final analysis, I decided that if just one horse has a better life because of my work, I can’t complain…even if I wish I had more influence for the horses’ sakes.