Updated: Apr 1, 2022
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The EBRA launches its 1st Annual Photo Contest April 1st! Submit your favorite Brabant photos by April 13th and be entered to win fun prizes!
EBRA MEMBER HIGHLIGHT: DEA MARTIN
by Stacy Pearsall with Dea Martin
Between the two Texas cities of Galveston and Houston sits a small farm whose entire mission is turning wishes to reality. At Big Wish Farm, neurotypical, cognitively impaired, able-bodied, and disabled alike mix, mingle and connect over their shared love of horses, all under the watchful eye and guidance of owner/instructor, Dea Martin.
Like so many, Dea’s love for horses began at childhood. While she was the only one in her household to catch the “horse bug,” her family embraced and fostered her passion and supported her as she traversed the American Saddlebred horse show circuit in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. When the time came to fly the nest, she chose to attend the University of Kentucky, majoring in Animal Science. While attending college, she lived at the University’s equine research facility, Spindle Top Farm, where she helped care for over a hundred horses. Upon graduating, she took a job in Texas, joined the workforce, got married, started a family and her horse pursuits took a backseat to life’s bigger priorities. Once her kids got older, however, she decided it was time to get back in the saddle.
When a fellow church parishioner founded a school for children with special needs, she asked Dea to begin a weekly riding program for the students. Since Dea was homeschooling her three children, they too got involved, and soon it was a family affair. In fact, Dea rallied her entire homeschooling network, and shortly thereafter the seed for Big Wish Farm was planted. Dea and her husband of 28 years, Howard, found some land and began building a facility that would later become a community and refuge for folks of all abilities and ages; those who would not otherwise have had a chance to meet, but whose singular love of horses would bring them all together.
Dea is a certified therapeutic riding instructor (CTRI) through PATH International, the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship and every week she instructs a lesson program which includes over 60 students, with group lessons through the SoléAna Stables therapeutic riding program for people with special needs - something she doesn't do alone. She's got the support of her family, her assistant, Audrey Richard, and a loving, dedicated group of volunteers. She also teaches her in-house private and group lessons through Big Wish Farm too that welcomes abilities and ages. Dea especially loves introducing beginners to the world of horses, with an emphasis on safety and equine behavior first.
As Dea’s client base has grown, so too did have her horse partners - in number and size. No two horses in her herd of nine resemble each other. Always a fan of draft horses, she purchased a 7-year-old un-started Spotted Draft sight unseen, from a Dallas-area Facebook ad and named him Abel. Two years later, this pair went on to win a national high point championship in the American Horsemen Challenge, English Division. These competitions are timed equine obstacle course events focused on training, partnership and horsemanship.
Abel’s success is a testament to Dea’s horsemanship ability – a skill and perspective she imparts to her clients from Day 1. Dea’s methods have been developed over time and drawn from her own upbringing, observations, readings, and experiences. She continues to compete, participate in clinics, travel with her horses, and try new things, like sorting cattle.
“I like to push the envelope with my own confidence, putting my horses and myself ‘out there’ in situations that are new to us, maybe a little scary, too," said Dea. "I want to show my students that I’m still learning and striving, building partnerships and pursuing my passion."
Given Dea prefers to lead by example, she often rides with her students during lessons, so she can demonstrate a skill rather than just talk about it. She wants them to see her as more than just a teacher or mentor, but as friend they can share the experience with.
“No matter who I am teaching,” said Dea, “We start with horse-human bonding, connecting, halter and lead rope first. Big Wish Farm is definitely not a ‘show up and ride’ place. That privilege is earned through horsemanship. Every good horse and human partnership is founded on trust: with calm, confident leadership from the human. This lets the horse operate at its best, because it feels safe.”
Now, Dea is setting her sights on the new goal of getting her 100% European Brabant mare, Bee (aka Driftwood Farms Hope 100) in the big arena and competing at top levels too. Coming four in July, Bee is doing well competing in the Junior Horse and Green Horse 1 Divisions. She travels with her pal Abel, turning heads with her big presence, sharp mind and sweet temper.
“Bee is an open book,” observed Dea. “She’s very easygoing. When I go to competition, I’ll take her and Abel. He gets worked up, looking for her. Meanwhile, Bee is in the adjacent stall taking a nap. She’s happy everywhere. She’s like, ‘Oh, there’s food!?
I could stay here forever!'”
Bee’s very presence causes a stir wherever they go. Like many horse people, most have never seen a Brabant in person. Because of this, Dea has become a breed ambassador of sorts, sharing her beloved horse’s storied, ancient history with anyone who’s interested – winning over many new Brabant fans.
“When I show up to competitions, people always approach me asking, ‘What IS that?’” joked Dea. “I’ve had to become very knowledgeable in the breed standard and history. What’s funny too is Bee’s ever-changing coat color. People who know us ask if I’ve gotten another horse because they don’t recognize her. They saw a red Brabant at the challenge in January, then a light grey one with bay markings in March!”
Bee’s chameleon coat is just one of the many fun, unique breed-specific things about her. Like her fellow Brabants, she’s curious about everything and very willing to try anything Dea points her to. Dea enjoys working with Bee under saddle – one specially designed to fit the breed’s distinctive broad frame, low wither and short coupling.
“I want to make sure she’s as comfortable as possible,” said Dea. “I want my horses to be happy and healthy while they’re working. Conscientious horse handling is very important to me. Plus, I want Bee to be around a long time. I am training her with the intent of making her good for kids, students, myself - to climb on her and piddle around – do whatever we want safely with her.”
At just 15.1 hands, Bee will be the perfect size, too. But don’t let her short stature fool you. What she lacks in height, she makes up for in weight and strength. All Brabant tropes aside, Bee epitomizes the perfect therapy horse – a career in which she will surely thrive. Bee will help individuals of every ability unlock their strength, build confidence, foster relationships and bring communities together. She’ll be a bridge builder and a healer.
“I’m literally brought to tears every week by the progress people make through the horses,” Dea says. “I literally can’t believe what I’m seeing.”
If you would like to learn more about Bee and her fellow equine therapists, please visit the Big Wish Farm Facebook page.
INTRODUCING THE BREED AMBASSADOR PROGRAM
by Rebecca Courtney
The EBRA is proud to announce the upcoming Breed Ambassador Program for those who are interested in promoting their horses, or the European Brabant breed, to the public. Participants will earn points for attending local, state, or national events and year-end awards will be provided to the high point individuals. Don't have a European Brabant? No problem! We're offering our members the chance to earn points in the non-horse division for giving educational presentations and/or taking the breed booth along to regional events. We believe that the Breed Ambassador Program will be a great way to reward our Members for sharing their horses and their passion with others. Watch for additional details to come later in April as the program launches. A huge thanks to our project team: Sandi Austin, Celeste Brucklacher and Kara Waldron-Murray. If you are interested in joining the team, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
ARE YOU OUR NEXT DIRECTOR?
by Stacy Pearsall
Our very first elections are coming up soon and we're seeking a new Director! In case you've not poured over the ByLaws yet, the EBRA BOD has five elected Directors and of the five, one serves as President and one as Vice President. We use a staggered election (classified board) method where one-third of the Board of Directors is up for elections each time, so every Director is placed in one of three classes: Class I, Class II and Class III. After our first official Membership meeting held November 8, 2021, the Directorship terms officially began.
THE WHO: To qualify for a Director position, one must be a Stakeholder Member in good standing and currently own a purebred European Brabant registered horse.
THE JOB: Directorships are elected, unpaid positions. Directors help establish the mission, goals and policies of the EBRA and how it will conduct itself in the process. They develop long range plans, define strategy and a timeframe to achieve goals. They ensure the long term financial stability and strength of the Registry, develop and maintain sources of income to provide for the continuing operation of the organization. Directors must also maintain the integrity, independence and ideals of the EBRA and not allow individuals or organizations to compromise these principles.
THE TIMING: Class I is up for election first on November 8, 2022, which means we're accepting applications between now and July 8, 2022. All nominees must provide a Notice of Intent to Run for a Director position at least four months (120 days) prior to the scheduled election date of November 8, 2022.
THE PROCESS: At least sixty (60) days before the date of the annual election, a list of nominees, along with their qualifications will be sent to all voting Members for consideration via mail and/or email. At Least thirty (30) days before the date of the annual election, Director nominees will be provided the opportunity to speak to the Members directly during a virtual town hall meeting.
THE TERM: Director are elected by the Members to serve a term of three (3) years. No elected officer shall serve more than one consecutive term (3 years) in the same office. An elected officer may be re-elected to the same office after the lapse of one full year. Directors are required to attend scheduled Board of Directors meetings as well as the quarterly Member meetings set at such a time as determined by the Board of Directors.
THE ART OF THE BRABANT
YES SIR, YES SIR, THREE BAGS FULL
by Stacy Pearsall featuring Bonnie Kratz
'Tis the season when our horses are shedding coats by the fist fulls and we're finding their hair in every nook and cranny of our clothes. Season after season, I look upon the piles of wintry fluff and think, "That would make some warm, comfy yarn." Then I grab the leaf blower and scatter it to the wind so the birds can pad their nests. After body clipping Earl last Spring, I decided to package it up and send it to my friend Bonnie Kratz, who happens to be a skilled spinner. She washed, dried, combed, carded and blended my Brabant's cast offs into yarn that's 25% alpaca fiber, 25% sheep's wool and 50% horse hair.
"First I washed all the fiber, then rinsed, spin dried and laid it out on a drying screen for two days," explained Bonnie. "Once ready, I card blended it with some light grey alpaca fiber and fawn brown sheep's wool that I thought would look best with Earl's color."
After Bonnie had the blended hair prepped, the spinning phase began.
"I spun clockwise to make a one-ply yarn bobbins," said Bonnie, "Then I took two of the one-ply bobbins and spun counter clockwise, which created the two-ply yarn. To fuse them all together, I washed and set them and hung to dry."
The process sounds simple when Bonnie explains it, but I can't imagine it's as easy as she lets on. One thing's for certain, it's labor intensive and time consuming. Just the wash and dry phase alone takes a couple days. This is Bonnie's wheelhouse though and she truly enjoys the craft of yarn spinning. She's an artist and it shows in her finished product.
"It's a labor of love," remarked Bonnie.
While horse fiber is course, when mixed with the wool and alpaca it is soft and pliable. I don't plan to knit a scarf from it, but I have used the yarn to create other fun, crafty projects such as quilt appliquéd portraits and crocheted tabletop decoration pieces for around the house - a definite conversation starter!
Share with us some of the fun things you've done with your Spring sheddings!
ALL SEWN UP
by Stacy Pearsall featuring Meggen Ditmore
I love all things arts and crafts and often look to various creative outlets for recreation such as photography, drawing, painting, metal sculpture and more. If I'm not on a work assignment, at my computer or tending to farm chores, I can be found in my craft room. A couple years back, I learned the art of appliqué from master-quilter and instructor, Nancy Austin, of Syracuse, NY.
Essentially, it's the art layering of fabrics to create light, shadow, shape and dimension. That varied tones and patterns of the fabrics can also mimic texture too. The other crucial part to appliqué is the stitching, which can be done by hand or sewing machine. Just like embroidery, there's a variety of stitches that can be applied to create a specific look or effect. Plus, the color thread and the amount of thread changes the look too. There are endless possibilities.
Initially I started small with a pin cushion, then worked my way up in scale until I was ready to create a large portrait of my stallion. I printed a photograph I'd taken to use as a guide, then began to fussy-cut pieces of fabric onto the background. Pieces ranging in size from 1 centimeter to 12 inches were fixed in place with fusible web - an adhesive that is ironed onto the backside of the fabric. Once all the layers and shapes were glued in place, I began stitching.
After hours of fabric laying and stitching, the portrait was nearly complete. As luck would have it my sister and very talented crafter-artist, Meggen Ditmore, was visiting from Culver, Oregon, and she helped create the finishing touches. She used some of Earl's yarn that Bonnie Kratz had spun last season to crochet the forelock and mane, then whipped up some delicate flowers to add as accent pieces. Then she meticulously sewed little silver beads into the eyes to create the effect of reflecting light and the portrait came to life.
Finally, the batting, backing and binding were added and the project was complete!
Share with us how your horses inspire your arts and crafts in the comments section!
by Stacy Pearsall
Given my obsession with the equine variety, horses are my number one inspiration and artistic muse. In the wee hours of the morning, before the house wakes up, I'll sit with my cup of coffee and digital sketch pad and draw up new creations. Some of these art pieces I've donated to the EBRA for use on t-shirts and other merchandise to raise money for the Registry! If you've got Brabant art you've created that you'd like to share, please send it in! We'll turn your two dimensional pieces into wearable art.
If you're more of an art buyer than creator, consider purchasing an EBRA shirt!
BRABANT BUSINESS SECTION
INTRO TO BRANDING: HOW TO CREATE FARM IDENTITY
by Stacy Pearsall
When not performing my duties as EBRA President or LowCountry Acres poop patroller, I am plugging away at my day job, which consists of interviews, writing, storytelling, photography, graphics design and branding - tools I hope to freely pass to each of you, my fellow Brabanters! I'm well aware that our community of European Brabant breeders, owners, trainers and enthusiasts in America is small, but I also know we're mighty. The EBRA BOD, myself included, is here to support you, provide resources and help each of you achieve your personal and professional goals. After all when you're successful, the breed benefits!
This quarter, I'd like to chat about the importance of farm identify and branding. I realize we're not selling sodas and shoes however, branding in any facet of sales is essential. Clients who are seeking "something particular" will turn toward a brand they recognize before they pursue an unknown entity. I'd say that's even more true when it comes to livestock. People want to know what they're getting is genuine, good quality and from someone reputable who truly cares about their animals and will back up their product, or in our business, horses.
If you don't already have one, how can you establish farm-brand identity? Let's start with a solid mission statement first. This short statement should define the purpose of your farm, describe what it does and its objectives. Why does your farm exist?
For this exercise, I am going to create a fictitious farm, Big Sky Ranch, located in Somewhere, Wyoming. They specialize in breeding and training Appendix Brabant draft cross ranch horses and their primary mission is to use cow-bred mares to cross with purebred European Brabant stallions to create hard working, docile, big boned, athletic horses with good feet and sharp minds. Horses sturdy enough to carry the big and tall variety ranch hand, but agile enough to get the farm work done efficiently.
A mission statement for Big Sky Ranch could be, "Creating cow horses of substance by combining athletic cow bred mares with the incomparable European Brabant draft horse." It's pretty straight forward if you K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Silly.
The mission statement you develop will shape your branding, so be sure it's true to your farm's vision. The mission statement should also highlight and emphasize what sets you apart from everyone else. What is it about your farm that makes you unique? Is it your unique color genetics, distinguished purebred bloodlines, cross bred athleticism, accrued equine competition wins, advanced skills training, emphasis on breed standard conformation....? You get the picture.
Next, you'll need to define your target market. A major purpose of brand building is figuring out what your farm is all about so you may better reach your target audience. Your brand is what will speak to potential clients and convince them to become one of your patrons. You’ll need to gain a clear picture of exactly who your ideal customer is. Here are some of the attributes you’ll want to address when defining your target audience:
Of course, some of these client characteristics are easier to identify than others. For example, if your farm is located in rural Wyoming, then your immediate target market will likely be out West. And if you only sell Appendix Brabant cow bred horses, then you’re likely targeting ranchers, cow horse competitors, and the occasional recreational rider seeking a good "husband horse." Income levels are a little trickier, since sometimes people with lower salaries will still be interested in “aspirational” purchases. These clients are just as important to develop as those with immediate means to purchase your stock.
Paying attention to things such as goals, values, behaviors, and needs of your client base can help you develop a brand that speaks to those needs and desires. Translating all of this information about your farm and your target audience into an actual brand is the fun part. Let’s say Big Sky Ranch decided that their ideal customer is a male millennial who makes $40,000 a year, loves dogs, country music, trucks, hunting and feels like he can never find a horse that fits his frame. What designs, slogans, color schemes, tag lines and fonts would he be attracted to?
Obviously, the answers to these questions are totally subjective. With millions of colors and thousands of fonts, where should you begin? I suggest creating a mood board made of items from their client's "like" lists.
For instance, you can reference country music album cover art and classic truck ads for inspiration. By reviewing your potential client's likes, you can better nail down the look and feel they'll respond most positively to. Often, your personal likes and dislikes will directly correlate with our client's because most times you'll share similar tastes.
Note the colors and fonts used in your muse board images. When choosing colors for your brand, it’s a good idea to do some research about color theory too, since colors tend to convey certain feelings and ideas, and you’ll want to choose appropriate ones for your farm and target audience. Same goes for fonts, which also connote concepts and emotions that will have a big impact on your audience.
No matter what, once you choose you should stay consistent! Whether you're posting on a blog, social media, horse sale pages, your look, language and brand should be recognizable. That leads us to logos - you’ll want to create a logo! This design will appear everywhere - stamped on your photos and videos, on your horse sale ads, on your social media posts and on your website. Make sure it truly captures the essence of your farm and brand message.
There are a number of free logo development companies out there or you can always create your own from scratch. Below is a good how-to video to watch if you'd like to take a stab at creating your own logo. There's also the option of hiring a graphics designer to create your logo too.
A good business plan will help you evaluate the cost and added value of your branding strategy. A well documented plan should provide you with a roadmap that defines tasks, milestones, measurable decision points and your business’s message. You will learn a lot about your business, your competition and yourself during the brand planning process. It is okay to talk to people in your market and outside of it as you develop your plan. Be sure to make a plan that can accommodate changes in your market over the planned period. Remember implementing a branding plan takes time and in that time things can change.
Also remember almost every business or company that has become a brand-name started with a formal plan and a vision, but started out small. Brand popularity attracts target customers. Because of the customer loyalty, your brand popularity will continue to mature over time. Branding is about getting your target market to choose you over others in the marketplace.
When people consistently have positive experiences with with your farm, they develop farm/brand loyalty.
They are more likely to buy a horse or use a service from you and recommend it to others.
Customers who lack knowledge will usually choose a known brand-name supplier over others. This also means that customers who lack the product knowledge are also your target market.
Even people who have never bought any horses or used services from a specific brand-name farm are likely to recommend your farm or horses only because they are familiar with your brand through word of mouth and social media.
A farm with very good branding helps increase the farm's reach and its horses' value.
Whether you're a fledgling farm, or a well established one, branding is everything. At a minimum, I'd encourage you to have a dedicated business-level Facebook page and Instagram feed that is farm branded and outlines your mission statement. I'd also encourage you to create a Farm Listing on the EBRA website. And if possible, your farm should have a website and/or blog.
First impressions are everything. Consider hiring a professional photographer to document your herd, so you can share high quality images of the horses you're promoting and/or the services you're offering. Caption your images with critical information such as the horse's identification, the farm's name and farm point of contact. Be sure to stamp your pictures with your logo so when they're admired and shared online, people know which farm produced them and who to contact, while also creating brand awareness!
Engage potential clients on multiple platforms, build and foster those relationships, educate them on what makes your farm special and why they should invest in you and your horses. Treat everyone as you'd treat yourself. Word of mouth gets around quick these days and can be a tremendous tool to build your brand base!
Align your farm with other reputable farms and organizations. Perhaps a client is seeking a horse type you don't necessarily breed or training discipline you don't specialize in, but another breeder or trainer does. If you offer a referral, that farm may be inclined to reciprocate. These partnerships can be developed through programs such as the EBRA Membership where you can seek such alliances. We're stronger when we work together and by promoting each other, we're promoting the breed!
Having the seal of approval from a distinguished breed organization such as the European Brabant Registry of America also validates your farm brand too. It demonstrates that you care about quality, record keeping, pedigree and breed standards. Having such brand affinities are definitely quantifiable. If you're a Member with EBRA registered horses and wish to use the EBRA logo on your website, social media, printed marketing hand-outs or other branded materials, you may send an email request for affiliate-usage to Rebecca Courtney at Registrar@EuropeanBrabant.com.
Again, we're here to help you, our valued Members and peers! Feel free to jump on the EBRA Members Only Forum to workshop some of your branding ideas and strategies with your peers. If you're a Member and need help creating a logo or re-crafting an existing one, I'm happy to help too!
Share your own business insights with our readers in the comments below!
by Stacy Pearsall with Tana Caudle-Neas
No matter how well you horse-proof your pastures or fine-tune their diets, horses will get cut on random objects in the field you’ll never find or colic because of an infinitesimal weather change. Let’s face it, they’re accident-prone money pits who never cease to eat and poop and drain our bank accounts. Despite this, we love them, and all we want for our horses are long, happy, healthy lives. Whether they’re pasture pets or hard-working log pullers, accidents can happen. Just when things are going smoothly, the unforeseeable suddenly becomes reality – something I discovered during my own personal tragedy when my imported stallion, Earl, got trapped and pinned under 2,500 pound hay feeder. The accident left him with a fractured neck and ribs, neurological and physiological deficits, partial blindness, rampant bone infections, pneumonia, near-kidney-failure and on and on and on. He was in critical care for two weeks, followed by round-the-clock home care for months to follow. His hospital stay was over $25,000 and medications totaled $10,000 per month.
When I prepared to import Earl, I acquired a policy that was good for a year. I distinctly remember getting the equine horse insurance renewal notice a year later and thinking, “Meh, he’s alright for now. I won’t need it again until he stands at stud for outside mares.”
I closed and deleted the email. One year later, tragedy struck. I had a rainy-day fund for my horses that I burned through in just three days of x-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds, drugs and critical care. Thankfully, many generous and supportive people who believed in Earl’s plight helped cover most of his hospital expenses. I was lucky twofold – Earl was given a chance at survival, and I didn’t have to sell my kidney to give him that chance. Many horse owners who are faced with equine accidents or illnesses don’t have the resources to pay the $2,000 a day critical care bill or $7,000 colic surgery. That’s why insurance is so important to consider.
I sat down with Tana Caudle-Neas of the Ashley Little Agency in Canyon, Texas, to discuss equine insurance and she enlightened me on the ins and outs of coverage. Tana’s wheelhouse is more in the performance horse arena, but she does have draft horse clients. No matter the size, the need for insurance is the same. Back in the day, horse insurance was thought to be for high dollar show jumpers and racehorses, however the high price of medical services today makes every horse a candidate for coverage.
“Anyone who doesn’t have $7,000 in their savings account for a colic surgery should really consider coverage,” said Tana. “A basic mortality policy will cover your horse for theft or death and up to $5,000 for colic surgery. You can also add an additional $5,000 colic coverage for $100. It’s worth it."
I’ve been saving to rebuild my horsey "oh-crud fund" since Earl’s accident, so I fall into the aforementioned category. Therefore, I will be getting insurance. Unfortunately, Earl’s pre-existing conditions from the accident won’t be covered, but the rest of him will. If Earl unexpectedly succumbs to his preexisting injuries a year, or two, or five from now, I will not recoup anything for his death either. That’s just how insurance works, and it’s understandable. However, if Earl dies of old age (God willing), I will be covered.
On the other hand, my broodmare, Leah, has no preexisting conditions, so I can get her fully covered for everything. She’s fifteen, so her rate will be slightly higher as and aged mare, but she’ll be covered colic and even the high-risk of foaling. I can even have Leah’s foal examined by the veterinarian once they’re born and purchase a policy on the baby within 24 hours. Granted, foals are delicate and unpredictable, so their policies are a tad more expensive and bloodwork is required for coverage, but it’s nice to know it’s an option.
I’m a small-timer, with just a few horses and donkeys, but let’s think bigger. For instance, if you have a herd of five broodmares and a stallion who are all under the age of 15, you could get basic coverage for a yearly premium of $2,800. It’s more affordable to cover a herd of six than to pay for one colic surgery out-of-pocket. Just food for thought.
“No matter what,” advised Tana, “Read your policies.”
The fine print can kick you in the teeth if you’re not careful. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a cabinet stockpiled with Banemine, antibiotic creams, and other equine first aid paraphernalia. If your horse takes to rolling, you dose them with Banemine, hot-walk them for a while and monitor their bowel movements. If push comes to shove, then you call the vet. If the colic ultimately requires surgery, your bill won’t be covered. Not one dime. Most insurance policies stipulate that all medication and vaccines of insured horses must be administered directly, or under the guidance of, a licensed veterinarian. By administering Banemine without seeking your veterinarian’s supervision, you are voiding your horse’s coverage. In short, call your vet straight away – that’s something I do habitually now anyway, so I’m good.
I know I’m harping on colic here, but I feel it’s the most common source of life-threatening horse illness that we can all relate to. While Earl’s accident was crazy and nearly killed him, something like colic taking his life is much more realistic. In fact, it was an impaction that nearly killed my mare, Leah, after her 2020 foal was born. Leah’s IV fluids and supportive care totaled $3,000+. If only she had been insured; I wouldn’t have had to dip into my horse-emergency funds. Just like Earl, she’s my baby and I’d sell my kidney before letting anything worse happen.
“It’s important to know that a horse’s colic coverage will be suspended for a period of six months following the illness,” explains Tana. “Horses who require colic surgery will have their colic coverage suspended for a year post-op.”
As I sorted through the forms needed to purchase insurance policies on Earl and Leah, I paused on the “value” section of the application. For Leah’s policy, it was straight forward. She’s an American-bred 75% European Brabant, healthy, proven broodmare, 15 years old, broke to ride and drive. She could potentially foal four or five more times. Current fair market value for a mare like her would be $12,500-$20,000. Just in case you’re wondering, she’s not for sale. Sorry folks, she’s with me for the rest of her life.
On the other hand, valuing an imported 100% European Brabant like Earl (pre-accident of course), was a bit trickier. Given the rarity of the European Brabant, and the difference in value from Europe to America, I wondered how accurately European Brabants were valued by insurance companies. Earl’s purchase price in Belgium was substantially lower than his valued price once he was imported into the USA. His value basically doubled, if not tripled as a weanling. When I took out his original shipping insurance, the insurer based his coverage off the bill of sale. The difference in Earl’s value on paper at the time of purchase verses his USA value was disparaging, so I asked Tana for guidance.
“Most underwriters will go off the bill of sale value for the horse,” said Tana. “Other factors will be the horse’s show records, points, earnings, and the like, so be sure to keep records of everything. The more the horse is trained, the more functional and essential it is, the higher the value. Typically for foals, they will be three-times the stud fee. For yearlings, it may be four-times the stud fee. Once they are three years old and headed to training, their value will be assessed once again. Often performance horses are reevaluated every six months or so."
No matter what, some coverage is better than none. Take it from me, I know. While a basic mortality and medical policy may cost a few hundred dollars per year, I’ll sleep better knowing that if my beloved Brabant decides to topple a 2,500 pound hay manger onto themselves, I’ll be covered and won’t have to sell a kidney to get them fixed.
What's your take on insurance? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
BRABANT HEALTH AND WELLNESS SECTION
COLD LASER THERAPY
by MJ Aylesworth
Hi I'm MJ, a certified practitioner of several alternative equine therapies. Along with all of my certifications, I am also a licensed veterinary technician with an Associate’s Degree in Animal Science. I've been invited by the EBRA to share with you some information regarding alternate therapies, which may be beneficial for your European Brabants, and I thought I'd start with cold laser therapy.
Cold laser therapy is a low intensity laser therapy that stimulates healing while using low levels of light. The technique is called “cold’ laser therapy because the low levels of light aren’t enough to heat the body’s tissue. The level of light is low when compared to other forms of laser therapy, such as those used to destroy tumors and coagulate tissue. This therapy can be used on humans and most animals.
Different wavelengths and outputs of low intensity level light are applied directly to a targeted area. The body’s tissue then absorbs the light causing any damaged cells to respond with a physiological reaction. This therapy can help with tissue repair, wound healing, pain relief, stimulation of acupuncture points, reduce inflammation, arthritis, skin rejuvenation, accelerates healing, tissue/ligament regeneration, muscle tears, neurologic injuries and so much more.
"My stallion's legs were badly traumatized during a terrible accident, resulting in immense swelling which then caused open, oozing sores," explained Stacy Pearsall. "The vets had him on mandatory stall rest for weeks and weeks, which caused even more stocking up. MJ came to LowCountry Acres and performed cold laser therapy once a week, which improved his circulation, reduced the swelling and provided him much needed relief. I attribute the quick healing of Earl's legs to MJ and her mad-healing-skills."
Lasers are classified depending on the power or energy of the beam and the wavelength of the emitted radiation. The class of laser has nothing to do with the efficacy of the treatment.
Class 1: Incapable of producing damaging radiation levels.
Class 2: Emits radiation in the visible portion of the spectrum.
Hazardous if you look directly at them for a long time.
Class 3a: Usually doesn’t cause injury if looked at only
momentarily without eye protection.
Class 3b: Can cause severe eye injury if beam is viewed
directly or if light is reflected off of a shiny surface.
Best suited for therapeutic applications.
Class 4: A hazard to the eye from direct view, refection
and sometimes diffuse reflections. Can start fires and damage skin.
Best suited for tissue destruction.
Do you use alternative therapies? Share your stories in the comments section!
FOAL SPEED AHEAD
by Rebecca Courtney
For many breeders, foaling season is well underway. Others have a few weeks to go yet. Either way, you’re probably ready to enjoy seeing a new crop of foals hitting the ground this spring! For old and new breeders, it’s a great idea to review a summary of the foaling process ahead of time. That way you know how to act if and when signs of trouble arise.
SIGNS OF FOALING
As mares approach their foaling date, you will see a variety of changes. One of the first signs, beginning even a month out from delivery, is the development of the udder. As the mare gets closer to foaling the udder will begin to fill with fluid that will eventually be milk for the foal. Although stripping out a lot of milk is not a great idea, many breeders use a couple of drops daily on a water test strip to monitor pH and milk calcium levels. A drop in pH below 6.4 and/or milk calcium above 300 often indicates a foal within 24-48 hours.
The mare’s teats will also become engorged, and often the tips show little beads of ‘wax’ in the days just prior to foaling. In addition to udder development, as foaling nears the mare’s belly will drop into a ‘v’ shape as the foal positions itself for delivery. The muscles and ligaments in the rump and around the tail head will become soft and spongy. Often, the tail can be lifted with little to no resistance as everything relaxes. The mare’s vulva will also elongate and soften in preparation for delivery.
THE FOALING PROCESS
Foaling itself can be divided into three distinct phases.
Phase 1 is preparation for delivery- it can last several hours and can be difficult to detect unless you’re watching carefully. It is marked by restlessness and discomfort in the mare as the foal positions itself internally. You may see the mare getting up and down more often, urinating frequently, or kicking or biting at her belly. Some mares will go off feed while others are perfectly happy to foal out right at the hay bale!
Phase 2 is active labor, beginning with the breaking of the water bag and release of amniotic fluid. This is the stage where the mare will push hard and expel the foal. The delivery process in a mare is very quick and if you don’t have a foal on the ground within 15 minutes of the water breaking you should suspect a problem.
Phase 3 of delivery is the passing of the placenta. Some mares will expel the placenta immediately, others may take a hour or two. A retained placenta is one that is not passed within 3 hours of foaling and you should notify your vet for appropriate treatment, as this can be a serious issue for the mare.
SIGNS OF TROUBLE
Thankfully, the majority of foalings are uneventful. However, because of the speed of the process any issues that occur must be dealt with immediately. There’s no space to go into all of the potential problems, but a few to be aware of include:
Red Bag Delivery: This occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus before the foal is expelled. Placental separation means that the foal is not getting oxygen and the condition is a true emergency! In a normal delivery, the first thing you see as the foal presents is a white/grey sac surrounding the foal. A red bag delivery is so named because the placenta arrives ‘inside out’ and instead of the light-colored sac you see the bright, velvety red of the placenta. If a red bag is noted you must act immediately to tear the sac and gently but firmly pull the foal out. Until the foal is clear of the mare they will not be able to breathe! Red bag foals should be examined by a vet to detect any additional complications or problems resulting from the oxygen deprivation.
Malpresentation: In a normal delivery, the foal will arrive with it’s two front feet first, and the head cradled in the middle. On occasion, a foot or a head will be turned back. The foal can also present with rear feet first or as a true breech baby (no feet, just the rump). Some positioning problems can be corrected by a knowledgeable foaling attendant while others will require vet intervention or perhaps a c-section. It is wise to know your own abilities and call the vet as soon as possible if a problem is detected. Time is of the essence.
Dummy Foals: Sometimes, a foal is born that seems to lack interest in the mare or nursing. These foals may circle, stand with their head against the walls, or just appear listless. A common treatment for dummy foals is called the Madigan Foal Squeeze, and involves wrapping ropes tightly around the foal and squeezing. This simulates the birth experience and will send the foal into a ‘sleep’ for 20-30 minutes until the ropes are removed. Often, the foal awakes bright and alert and ready to go!
POST FOALING CARE
Care of the foal after delivery is very important. Although often the mare and foal will take a few minutes to rest, the foal should shortly attempt to stand and nurse. On our farm, we follow the ‘1-2-3’ rule of foaling, stating that the foal should stand within 1 hour, nurse within 2 hours, and the placenta should pass within 3 hours. While it’s generally best to allow the foal to figure out nursing on their own, at times you may need to assist them to find the udder and latch on. Early nursing is critical as the first milk, or colostrum, contains vital antibodies against disease and can only be absorbed by the foal for the first 12-24 hours of life.
Another routine task is dipping the naval stump in an iodine or chlorhexidine solution several times in the first day, and then once or twice a day until the stump dries up. It is also good practice to do an IGG test to measure the amount of antibodies the foal has absorbed from the colostrum. This is part of a standard vet check if you have the foal examined in the first day of life, while other breeders choose to purchase the blood test and perform it themselves. Mare care may include offering some feed, if her energy levels are low following foaling, or possible administration of banamine/bute if she is uncomfortable. Any concerns or delivery problems should be discussed with your farm vet to ensure appropriate care for the mare and foal.
Foaling is an exciting, but also a stressful time! Due to the high stakes and the number of things that can go wrong, it is highly recommended that every foaling be attended if possible. There are several tools out there to help breeders with this job. Many farms install cameras in the foaling area, allowing the manager to monitor horses from a distance without needing to disturb the herd unnecessarily. There are also foaling alert systems that monitor the mare’s position, temperature, or other foaling indicators and alert the manager when a mare is in labor. These tools are invaluable but should also be used with a good bit of common sense, as they can be prone to both false alarms and times when the mare doesn’t proceed ‘normally’ and a foaling is not detected/alerted. A combination of experience, visual aids, and technology often produces the best results.
COLOSTRUM QUALITY CHECK
by Stacy Pearsall
The Brix Refractometer (pictured left) can be used to measure IgG in colostrum. The scale in a refractometer is designed to measure the amount of sucrose in a solution, but the values can be related to IgG in colostrum. To use a refractometer, just place a few drops of colostrum on the prism, lower the sample cover and hold up to the light. The Brix value is read at the line between the light and dark areas that appear on the scale. Many companies make Brix refractometers, and they are available in both digital and optical models. Studies have show the digital and optical Brix refractometers provide similar results. However, the digital models may be easier to use.
"I always wanted to purchase a refractometer to check mares' colostrum quality, but was reluctant due to the expense," said Rebecca Courtney. "However, I found a cheap version on Amazon that's used by wine and cider makers and it works great!"
"It’s been years since I was designated to mare watch," said Lori Scott, "But somehow I always got the 2am to 7am shift. That was when I did my homework. I was in middle school/high school, so it was a thermos of coffee, (a big one. That was KEY to being alert) a box of Stella Doro breakfast treats, lantern and my back pack. I sat just outside and to the right of the stall door, where the mare could not see me. I cozied up on the hay bales and did homework before chores and then off to school. Bathroom breaks were super stressful 'cuz I just knew she was waiting to drop until I walked away for a second."
Dr. Hernando Plata's Top 10 List: Must Have Items for Foaling
Pulling straps: Nylon Straps are easier on both foal and mare than chains. The 1-inch width spreads pulling tension over a wider area of the foals's legs to help prevent bone fractures and soft-tissue injury.
Fleet enemas or soapy enemas: It is recommended that foals be administered a sodium phosphate or warm soapy water enema within the first 3 hours after birth either routinely or if they have not yet passed meconium. Administration of an acetylcysteine retention enema is recommended for foals with refractory cases of meconium impaction.
Frozen Colostrum from Previous Foaling: Alternatively, collect colostrum from mares which are good milkers. Collect one side of the udder and leave the other side for the newborn foal. If the foal is weak or appears in distress, don't milk the mare. Mares "leaking, dripping, or losing" colostrum over 1-2 hours before foaling should be milked and the colostrum refrigerated until the mare foals. The foal should be given the colostrum via tubing, bottle, or allowing it to drink from a bucket.
Small Oxygen Tank: An oxygen tank with the ability to supply oxygen directly to the foal's nostrils can save many foals from developing dummy foal syndrome.
Lube: High quality lubricant, suitable for both vaginal & rectal examination of mares and is helpful if the foal needs to be repositioned during birth. Lube is useful in the treatment and prevention of diarrhea in foals and horses.
Towels: It really is helpful in those mares that have torn off a good part of the amniotic sac when they stand up after foaling. A wet towel tied to the umbilical cord adds a gentle tension to the placenta which helps it to detach, as it mimics the weight of the amniotic sac dragging on the placenta.
Banamine: Flunixin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, analgesic, and antipyretic used in horses
Rompun: A non-narcotic compound, is a sedative and analgesic as well as muscle relaxant. Its sedative and analgesic
Domperidone: Lactation can often be stimulated in mares with poor milk production by administration of domperidone twice daily for 2 to 4 days and then once daily for the next 6 to 8 days. Domperidone therapy may be initiated prior to foaling if limited mammary development is noted as a mare approaches her due date.
Cell phone: To call for reinforcements if needed!
Dr. Hernando Plata's Top 10 List: When to Call the Vet during Foaling
Premature dripping of milk is a sign of impending abortion
Lack of Mammary development near or past the due date
Colic signs and pale mucus membranes before during or after foaling - these are signs if bleeding or sings of intestinal issues
More than 15 minutes between the water breaking and the presentation of fetal parts (ie: legs)
Presentation of one leg only
Presentation of both legs and no noise
Lack of active contractions from the mare
Red bag or early detachment of the placenta. The allantois is presented before or at the same time with the fetus. This can be signs of fescue toxicity.
Foal not responsive or not breathing
Mare with retained placenta
"My foaling essentials are Banemine, iodine and thermometer," said Corrina Anderson
by Rebecca Courtney
The Birth Watch system is a foaling alert that operates on the principle that a mare's temperature will drop shortly before foaling. We ran across this system when we travelled to Europe in 2019, and it is very popular among Brabant breeders in Belgium and the Netherlands. In fact, one of the developers/marketers is a Brabant breeder. We put in an order for several systems and were excited to give them a try!
To use the Birth Watch system, you need the receiver box, the sensor probe, a mare harness (optional) and access to the website or mobile app. The receiver is connected either via ethernet or a wireless internet connection. The temperature sensor is a probe of around 8" in length that is inserted into the mare's vagina. The probe can be attached using a harness that the mare wears or a single stitch. When active, the probe sends a temperature reading to the receiver every 5 minutes. The system then calculates the mare's average temperature over time and if the reading drops more than a given amount from the mare's average for that time of day a foaling alert will be sent via email, text message or phone call. Generally, the system will alert within an hour of foaling.
Our experiences with the Birth Watch system have been mixed. In general, the principle of the temperature drop has been very accurate and when working properly we've never missed a foaling! However, we find that we also get a lot of false alerts. We attribute this in part to the environmental variability of spring in our regions - it can go from 70 degrees one day to 40 the next, which seems to have some effect on the temperature readings apart from foaling. It's also important to begin using the probe a few days before foaling in order to establish an accurate baseline but if applied too early, the mare can experience some rubbing from the harness and general discomfort from wearing the system for an extended time. These are issues that we are working through and adjusting our system to account for some of these variables, but it's good to be aware of them ahead of time. Because this system is used primarily in Europe, it can be challenging to get feedback from other users or tips to improve the setup, and questions or problems can take some time to get a response from the manufacturer.
Overall, while not a 'silver bullet' we find the Birth Watch system to be a useful tool for our foaling season.
EQUIPAGE FOALING ALARM
by Mike Cook
The EquiPage Foaling Alarm consists of a transmitter, repeater and a pocket pager. The transmitter hangs from the halter in a small pouch, under the mare's jaw. When the mare lies down during foaling, the transmitter sends a signal to the repeater, which then activates the pocket pager.
In addition to the EquiPage Foaling Alarm, we also have a wireless camera in the foaling stall, which is fed to a television in the house. The transmitter activates 8-10 seconds after the mare lies down. Mare who lie down to sleep will prompt false alarms. In those cases, the camera allows us to check on the mare before going out and disturbing her if she is sleeping.
The repeater is powered by 110 volt electric with battery backup, just in case of a power outage. The transmitter and pager are battery powered. Kee-Port, Inc., is from Arlington, WA. EquiFone is another foaling alarm that they offer. It works the same as EquiPage, but instead of a pager it calls your phone and leaves a pre recorded message. Kee-Port, Inc., designed these alarms for their own farm.
MILK TEST STRIPS
by Stacy Pearsall
If you have a pregnant mare, one thing you would like to know is when she going to foal. Even if you have a breeding date, there is still a lot of variabilities and this causes a lot of sleepless nights. According to a study conducted several years back, scientists found the decreasing pH of mammary gland secretions was directly associated with parturition and therefore correlated with electrolyte concentrations in pre-foaling mares. During the study, fourteen pregnant mares were monitored daily from 310-320 days of gestation until parturition. Pre-foaling mammary gland secretions were collected, and pH was immediately determined with a pH meter and pH strip test. There was significant reduction in pH of mammary secretions on the day of foaling, and most mares (eleven of fourteen) with a pH ≤7 foaled within 24 hours. Based on the data, it is proven that daily evening pH measurements of the mammary gland secretions can predict foaling in most mares.
These pH milk tests use a very small amount of milk out of the teat, which is then applied to the test strip and is read immediately. It requires no mixing, unlike calcium test strips. If the pH is less than or equal to 6.4, the mare has a 97.7% likelihood of foaling within the next 72 hours. If the pH values greater than 6.4, then there's a 99.4% chance the mare will not foal within the next 24 hours.
There are several companies who offer foal predictor kits, which include calcium and pH monitoring strips. While the pH strips do not require any mixing, the calcium tests do. Below are some of the foal prediction kits presently available in America. However, you can always grab pool pH test strips from your local hardware store too - they'll get the job done too!
We want to hear your foaling tips & tricks. Share them in the comments below!
REGISTRY WATER TROUGH
by Rebecca Courtney
The Qualified Mare designation was created by the EBRA for a subsection of European Brabant Stock mares whose offspring, when sired by a purebred European Brabant stallion, are eligible for registration in the purebred European Brabant studbook. The designation applies to mares of 87.5% or greater European blood as this is the minimum percentage necessary to produce a 93.75% (purebred eligible) foal when mated to a 100% stallion.
Horses can enter the European Brabant studbook in one of three ways.
100% European Brabant horses (imported or US bred) are automatically registered in the purebred studbook
Horses of 93.75% or greater European Brabant blood that are sired by an EBRA registered stallion and out of an EBRA registered purebred or Qualified Mare are granted automatic registry in the purebred studbook
Horses of 93.75-99.99% European Brabant blood whose parents are not EBRA registered can complete the Breed Standard Evaluation process and, if approved, will be entered into the purebred studbook
Offering the Qualified Mare option allows owners of a mare who consistently produces offspring that are eligible for the purebred studbook to complete the Breed Standard Evaluation process with the mare rather than on each foal individually. The Breed Standard Evaluation confirms that the mare exhibits the European Brabant breed type and therefore is approved to produce purebred foals when bred to a purebred stallion. It is important to note that the Qualified Mare designation does not alter the mare’s registration in the European Brabant Stock studbook, it simply denotes that she has been evaluated and approved as a producer of purebred offspring. Mares that do not pass the Breed Standard Evaluation can still have their foals evaluated on an individual basis for entry into the purebred studbook.
Have questions about the Qualified Mare program? Feel free to ask in the comments!
SAVE THE DATE!
Our 2nd Quarter Members Meeting will be held April 11th at 8:00 p.m. EST
WELCOME THE NEWEST IMPORTED ARRIVALS!
Koekje Jar Stables welcomed Venna uit de Vinkenpeel and Emma van de Beek from The Netherlands in February and Rode-Em-In Ranch welcomed Neil van de Vinkenbossen from Belgium in March. Congratualtions on your beautiful additions!