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3rd Quarter 2022

Updated: Jun 29, 2022



Tune in below for a sit down interview with EBRA Members, Jen, Emma and Hein Manders of Koekje Jar Stables in Northwest Ohio.




Story and Veterans photos by Stacy Pearsall
Photos of Turtle, aka AKH Aspen, in the show ring provided by Olga Pushkareva
Photos of Bee and Dee Martin competing provided by Dea Martin

Check out these EBRA Members sharing the European Brabant's skills, versatilities, personalities and love-abilities in so many ways! Over two weeks in May, twenty-one veterans from across the US visited my farm, LowCountry Acres, where I introduced to them to my horses, talked about the breed's history and the Registry's goal of preserving them. The veterans fed, groomed and interacted with my Brabants, which made them and the horses very happy.

Meanwhile, Dea Martin and her Brabant, Bee, braved the oppressive heat and competed in the Gulf Coast Horsemanship Association obstacle challenge. They nabbed 1st place in the Junior Horse Division and are on their way to earning the high point buckle, but no jinxes though. Let's just wish the pair very good luck!

Olga Pushkareva gussied-up her stud, Turtle, for the show ring - complete with EBRA breed show standard double-braided mane, raffia and yarn. He wowed show-goers with his free moving, ground covering trot, expressive eyes and gorgeous presence.

The Breed Ambassador Program is open to all EBRA Members who wish to earn points for attending local, state, or national events, or even hosting their own Brabant-centric educational engagements with or without Brabants. All participating Members will have the chance to earn points in the horse or non-horse divisions and year-end awards will be provided to the high point earning individuals.

For more information on becoming an Amabassador, please contact us at for details. Have you been out and about with your Brabant? Send us photos, so we can share them!


Photo of Monique Buellens by Eva de Smidt

VFBT Judge and EBRA Evaluation Committee Member, Monique Buellens, writes about European show ring protocols, then she breaks down the European Brabant breed standard piece by piece in a seven-part video series and explains what she's looking for when judging and evaluating horses in the show ring.


Article by Monique Buellens
Photos by Eva de Smidt of

In Belgium, and also in the Netherlands, there is a long tradition of showing and judging Belgian draft horses, also known as European Brabants for our counterparts in America. On the one hand, there are the official contests in the nine Belgian provinces organized every year in Fall by the official regional associations (VFBT- Vlaamse fokkers van het Belgisch Trekpaard i.e. the Flemish breeder association and AWCTB-Association Wallonne du Cheval de Trait Belge) with a national competition as a finale. On the other hand, there are many local competitions and shows in Belgium, especially in Flanders, on the occasion of annual fairs arranged by municipal councils.

The horses are divided into series according to age and gender. A team of 2-3 judges evaluates the horses and classify them according to compliance with the breed standard. For the official assessments, the judges are proposed by each of the provincial associations and are appointed by voting at the general assembly of VFBT.

On the fairs, the owners are rewarded for the presentation of their horses with a sum of money, the amount of which depends on the place achieved in the series (e.g. 1st 60€, 2nd 55€, 3rd 50€ and all subsequent 45€). Some of these local authorities provide a relatively large budget for draught horses because they want to contribute to the preservation of the originally Belgian breed. Very often the presentation of Belgian draft horses also attracts a large public interest on these fairs. At the official competitions, there is an allowance for expenses per horse that is the same for all participants, but there the ranking is primarily a matter of honor!

A special organization is the annual stallion approval in Fall where the stallions from the age of two years onward can get approval (on the condition they also get a positive medical report) for the public stud service for the next breeding season. Each of the official judges makes a report on each stallion and the mean of the individual scores is the end result and to be approved the stallion needs to have a score of at least 20/30 (see further on for the scoring system). Offspring of approved stallions and mares registered in the official studbook can directly be registered in official studbook.

Is judging an art?

It is often said that there must be some innate talent to be a good judge. That aptitude is certainly a surplus, but on the other hand, as a judge one must also gain/have the necessary knowledge of the breed and experience in judging. Assessments of horses remain intuitive, with different opinions by different judges and therefore it is very important that one can support his or her assessment with more objective criteria for which the general knowledge of the draft horse with its typical breed characteristics is essential. The final decision is the result of a constructive discussion by the jury members and the justification on the classification to the breeders is reflected as a common decision. It is teamwork!

How to start an assessment?

A first sight of a horse, at several meters distance, provides a lot of basic elements and gives a first general impression that usually lasts in the final result. The whole picture is very important, mistakes can be bad, but one must refrain from judging only mistakes.

In general the evaluation order should be:

  1. The general impression, the type, the expression, the proportions

  2. The quality of the different components

  3. The faults that detract from the whole.

Of course, entirely with keeping in mind the ‘ideal’ picture according to the breed standard (description on EBRA website). In addition to the primary breed characteristics, a horse must also bear the stamp of its gender specific characteristics. A stallion and a mare must each show their own gender specific type, over all breed phenotype and then personality and expression. Those who demonstrate characteristics of the opposite sex are seen as a relatively strong fault.

At official contests, the jury gives points out of a total of 30: 10 points for type, 10 points for movement and 10 points for leg scores. An official report with the main comments (positive and negative) on the three parts is also written. At the other shows, the jury often also gives marks but reports are not requested.

After the first overall impression, the judges will look in more detail, go closer and around the horse and do the assessment of ‘type’, the total of the body characteristic of the breed: head, shoulder, back, chest size, loin, leg position front and back, feet, hooves and also the alignment of the various body parts and correct proportions between them. At the official contests, the quality of the legwork is also considered.

A veterinarian will look at the legwork in detail and give a letter score which may be AA, A+, A-, B+, B-, C. A score of AA is the best and reflects horses with very dry, unaffected legs while a score of C is considered a horse whose legs are very heavily affected CPL. The jury translates the leg score into a number, while also factoring in the age of the horse (e.g. a horse of 10 years with B+ can get 7/10, while a horse of 3 years with B+ will get 6/10).

To asses the movements, the horse is presented at the walk and trot, on a straight line going away and coming back to the jury in order to assess the movement in the forehand and hindquarters. The movement must be smooth, correct and supple with sufficient power from the hindquarters. The presentation of a horse, and the accompanying assessment, is a snapshot and much depends on the handler and how familiar he or she is with the horse. Both horses and handlers can train this and it is often very clear whether this is done or not! A well-trained horse and handler result in a totally different picture!

A final thought is the importance of horse cleanliness. The horse should be presented to the jury in overall good care as it affects the whole impression very much! It is recommended to wash the horse the day before the show and remove all mud so that the hair on the legs is neat and shiny. Shortly before the presentation, the mane with braided with yarn and raffia at the end laid nicely on the horse's back.


with Monique Buellens

Part 1: Breed Standard Overview

Part 2: Head, Shoulders, and Top Line

Part 3: Body Proportions and Front Leg Conformation

Part 4: Hind Leg Conformation and Movement

Part 5: European Scoring System and Presentation Standards

Part 6: Leg Quality Scoring

Part 7: Horse Review



The following EBRA Members, who are listed in alphabetical order by last name, are running for the Class I Directorship and will participate in a Q&A during the next EBRA quarterly Members Meeting scheduled for July 11th at 8 p.m. EST.

SANDI AUSTIN is a retired Customer Operations Specialist with Cisco Systems who actively volunteers her animal husbandry skills at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She's also the Treasurer of the Monterey County Film Commission and Monterey County Civil Grand Jury. Her special skills are Finance and Accounting, and Business Management.

"I'm passionate about European Brabant horses and would like to help promote and encourage their growth in the United States."

AUSTIN MANTZ is a Regenerative Ag and Telecommunications Consultant and Engineer who actively participates in the American Driving Society and American Registry for Internet Numbers. His special skills are finance and accounting, business management, web design and blog management, farm management, equine management and horse training.

"I would likely bring a different perspective to the group as I have not grown up with horses, livestock, or agriculture as part of my daily life. Three years ago I began my journey to restore the family farm through regenerative agriculture, while being sustainable and self sufficient as possible. I have had to take on many new roles and make decisions based on my research and understanding of how the environment/nature operates. I started with 2 horses in a paddock built with plastic step in posts. I now have 7 horses and a herd of fourteen Belted Galloway grass fed beef cows. Next year, I anticipate adding four foals and another 8 calves. I believe my role at this point is to be a good steward of the land and to the animals which I care for. I often don't have answers for the problems I face, which is why starting with a blank slate is so amazing. I can let my curiosity run wild while soaking up the knowledge of different approaches while finding what works for my use case. I look forward to learning something new every day as well as being able to share that knowledge with others."

OLGA PUSHKAREVA is an Engineer and Project Manager who actively participates in the Gateway Harness Club, USEF and Missouri Farm Bureau. Her skills are equine management and horse training.

"I am passionate about European Brabant breed preservation and support the mission of the Registry. It was disappointing when the American Brabant Association started to emphasize the creation of the new breed. It didn’t align with my objectives. It was great to find out about and join the European Brabant Registry of America. I am looking forward to helping further develop the Registry and promote the breed in the US. We have one 100% US-born stud colt now. Turtle was bred by All the King’s Horses in Pennsylvania. He is turning two years old soon and will be learning the breeding routine this year. As he matures, we hope to be able to take him out in public and travel out of state to showcase his skills and good looks. We hope to add another 100% Brabant either through import or US-born in the next few years."

PLEASE NOTE: If you would like to run, and have not submitted your form, time is running out. The Class I Directorship is up for election on November 8, 2022, which means we're only accepting applications between now and July 8, 2022.




Article and Photos by Stacy Pearsall

I have been a professional photographer for 25 years, so I've spent a lot of time around other pros in my trade. Time and again I hear my fellow photographers say most people are just seeking bargain prices for professional results. When the photographers provide a fair market estimate for their services, the potential clients say something to the effect of, "My Uncle Joe dabbles in photography and he can do it with his iPhone." Can Uncle Joe do it? Sure. Will the pictures be any good? Sure, maybe. Then again, maybe not.

Here's the thing about photography, we all have the capability of taking pictures. Like anything else, photography requires incentive, initiative and practice. And while the Uncle Joes of the world may be creative whizzes, most times the quality of their pictures suffer because they're using the wrong tool - a phone or a camera they purchased in 1999. Average smart phones have decent cameras these days, but the quality of the phones' lenses and files are not on par with even the basic consumer grade point-and-shoot cameras. The moment you zoom into a cell phone picture, they get pixelated and fall apart - just look at the example cell phone image below. Don't forget, a phone's primary function is making calls, not taking pictures. Think of it this way. You can haul your bumper hitch horse trailer with your family sedan, but a truck is better equipped for the job.



This is an example of a cell phone image zoomed in. Note the jagged, pixelated edges. While this image would be okay for a quick social media post, it would not be good for much else.



This sunrise photo was captured with the Nikon Z 9. Note the crisp, sharp edges of the horses when zoomed in. You can see the detail in the hair! That's the BIG difference between photos shot with cell phone and those with a camera - quality.


If it's quality you're after, I suggest ponying up and investing in a decent camera and practicing. Photography is really fun, plus it's cost effective in the long run. You can buy a decent certified used camera kit, or even a brand new one, for steal.

Would you take an online horse photography class if we offered one?

  • 0%Yes, please

  • 0%No, thank you

There are lots of free online photography classes available that cover the fundamentals, along with a wide range of other fun techniques. Click HERE to get started!

The alternative to doing the photography yourself is hiring someone to do the job for you. Please remember that most professional photographers have gone to school to learn their craft, they have invested a great deal of money in professional equipment and know their way around a camera. That's what you're paying for - not a pedestrian iPhone shot. Just look at the example below. On the left is lit portrait of my filly, Opal, taken with two studio strobes and my favorite Nikon Z 9 and 24-70mm lens. Opal's lead rope has been digitally removed and the picture toned to perfection. On the right, it's the same cute filly, but photographed outside using a cell phone. The two just don't compare.

Hey I'm not gonna lie, I take a ton of happy-snaps with my iPhone. It's a tool I always have on me. However, when it comes selling a horse and needing a good advertisement photo, or just wanting to have a pretty portrait to frame and hang on my wall, quality DOES matters.

A side-by-side comparison of a Nikon Z 9 camera with NIKKOR 24-70mm lens and an iPhone camera shot of the same horse. Note: The most ideal light when shooting outside is full cloud cover. The clouds reduce direct sun and harsh shadows. Even under the most ideal light, the iPhone photo doesn't compare to the camera-captured image.

Here are a few tips when shopping for the right photographer:

  • Seek a photographer who specializes in horses, or at least animals - photographing animals is a horse of a different color and you want someone who knows their way around the four-legged kind.

  • Find a photographer with an online portfolio whose work and style reflects your own taste. Most photographers have a signature style, so be sure their art is the kind you respond well to.

  • Ask the photographer for references if there are no reviews available online.

  • Most photographers have packages that encompass shoot duration, number of horses included, image editing, licensing, usage, and prints. Remember, cheaper photographers aren't always a "good deal". You may spend a few hours getting your horses primped, a few hours holding horses for the portrait session and then find out the cut-rate photographer you chose with the bottom-dollar package didn't manage to get one good wall-hangable picture. Pay for knowledge and experience. Pay for the quality and results. Pay for a pro!

There is the Equine Photographers Network, where you can find a horse photographer in your area, or a simple Google search for "Horse Photographers Near Me" will generate some choices.

Here are a few recommendations for those who are ready to take the plunge into photography and looking to purchase a dedicated camera:

There are several manufacturers and models to choose from, and this can get a bit overwhelming. Much like the car manufacturers, Nikon, Canon and Sony share similar, often comparable, systems. I've been a Nikon user my entire career, so I will be referencing their models.

  • Point-and-Shoot: Point-and-shoot cameras are compact, lightweight, all-in-one, plug and play platforms.

    • My Recommendation: Coolpix P1000, which offers a good quality image and video too. The built-in lens can shoot wide at 24mm and zoom way-in, super close at 3,000mm. It also has Bluetooth technology that allows you to share your images with your phone, so you can edited and share to your pics on social media.

    • Perks of a Point-and-Shoot: Everything you need is in one compact kit.

    • Disadvantage of a Point-and-Shoot: Depending on the camera you choose, there may be limitations such as ISO, megapixel (file size) and lens focal length. Be sure to do your homework before buying.

If you don't know what ISO is, don't worry. In lay terms, ISO impacts a camera's ability to shoot in dark areas. The darker the scene, the higher the ISO you need to get an image that isn't blurry. Nevertheless, most point-and-shoot cameras will still have better latitude in the dark than your smart phone's built-in camera.
  • Mirrorless Camera and Interchangeable Lenses: The mirrorless platform is lightweight with all the bells and whistles that make picture taking much, much easier. There's the added advantage of being able to change out lenses too.

    • My Recommendation: A camera with interchangeable lenses such as the Z 5 is more of an investment over the point-and-shoot model. However, its capabilities are more expansive to include:

      • Top-notch image quality.

      • Animal Eye Detection Focus, ensuring sharp focus every time!

      • Super-fast shutter speeds, so can freeze horses on run.

      • Bluetooth technology, so you can send your favorite photos to your cell phone for posting to social media right away.

      • ISO that goes over 51,000, allowing you to shoot in some very low-light situations ie: indoor horse shows and early morning foal births.

      • You can take several photos in rapid succession that will allow you to capture your horse as they gallop across the pasture.

The list of reasons to have a good camera on-hand goes on and on. Like I said, you can check out the used camera equipment for sale. Nikon has refurbished gear available and most companies like B&H, Adorama, Samys, Robert's Camera and others have used gear too.


PHOTOGRAPHY TUTORIAL: The Blurry Photo Conundrum

Tutorial, Illustrations and Photos by Stacy Pearsall

Do you ever have blurry pictures and wonder why it's happening? The best way to understand why, is by learning about the three elements of photographic exposure, which are ISO, F-Stop and Shutter Speed. Let me break it down as simply as possible.

All cameras, whether a cell phone camera or a DSLR, require light to capture an image. Each camera has a maximum light sensitivity capability known as ISO. The iPhone 12 for instance, has a maximum (ISO) of roughly 8,000. At 8,000, you can probably get a passable picture of your horse standing stock still at sunset. However, if your horse is running zoomies in their pasture at sunset, they will be a blurry, dark, unreadable mess.

ISO has a sensitivity range based on your camera's capabilities. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive to light it is. So the higher numbers are best for shooting in low-light areas like your stables or inside show arenas. The lower the ISO numbers are less sensitive. So the lower numbers are better suited for those outdoor, high noon horse pulls. Check out the graphic below to better visualize what I'm saying.

The second element of an exposure that will impact whether your image is blurry or not is the Aperture. The lens Aperture is like a human pupil. When in a dark room, the pupil dilates, and opens up wide to let more light in so we can see. The same goes for camera Apertures. The opening of the Aperture is referenced with a numeric scale known as an f-stop such as f/4 or f/11 for example. When you set an aperture on your camera, you are telling the lens diaphragm, or pupil, how wide to open the aperture. A small number like f/1.4 is a very large opening, which would allow in lots of light. If your camera is on f/22 and you're trying to take pictures of your horse in a dark, shaded barn, it's likely you'll end up with some blur. Check out the illustration below, which shows the various Aperture settings.

Lastly is Shutter Speed. Back in the day, all cameras had internal mechanical shutters that protected the roll of film from being exposed to light. To make an image, that shutter would have to open for a fraction of a second to create the image, then close again. Still with me? Let's go back to the human eye analogy. Think of your eyelids as a camera shutter. The shutter speed would be the length of time it takes for you to open your eyes, see what's in front of you and close them again. The longer your eyelids are open, the more light will be let in.

A high shutter speed like 1/1000th of a second is super-fast, so this would equate to a super-short duration of light, thus minimal exposure. Whereas a lower shutter speed like 1/20th of a second will be letting in more light over a longer period time. If you're in the bright sun, a faster shutter speed is needed. If you're in a dark room, a slower shutter speed is best.

Here's the kicker. Slower shutter speeds pick up movement!
Trackside at the Kentucky Derby photo by Stacy Pearsall

Let's say you're at the Kentucky Derby, trackside at the finish line and the sun is shining. After the horses leave the starting gate, you close your eyes. As you hear the thundering hooves near, you open your eyes for a split second, then immediately close them. Behind your eyelids is a snap shot of the horses crossing the finish line. The bright sun has burned a momentary image on your retinas. It's a ghostly freeze frame. That's what a fast shutter speed is like.

Now that I've explained the fast shutter speed, let me break down the slow shutter speed. Picture this, you're at a nighttime rodeo and the arena is brightly lit - so bright, it could be daytime. The rodeo queen bearing the American flag comes galloping in at full speed when suddenly the lights go out. By the time your eyes adjust to the darkness, the cowgirl and her horse are on the other end of the arena. That's what slow shutter speed is like. It takes time to see in the dark.

The slower the shutter speed you have, the more likely you are to have blurry images.

Sir Prize is captured using a slow shutter speed and panning technique.

BLURRY IMAGE PREVENTION TIP #1 - If you're shooting with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, Increasing the ISO allows you to set a faster shutter speed. As an example, let’s assume you are shooting in relatively low light such as twilight. You are handholding your camera so you need a shutter speed fast enough to prevent motion blur. You open up the aperture to its widest setting, but the shutter speed is still too slow. If you then increase the ISO you will see a faster shutter speed displayed!

BLURRY IMAGE PREVENTION TIP #2 - If you're shooting with a smart phone camera, there isn't too much you can do as a phone doesn't allow you to adjust the ISO light sensitivity. That means your only choice is to increase the amount of light where you're photographing. Turn on all the lights, use a flash light, headlights, have your friend turn on their cell phone light... Just add light.

Have a camera question? Feel free to drop me a line at




Article and Photos by Stacy Pearsall

Are you seeking a five-star forever home for your beloved Brabant? Here are a few easy ways to improve your client reach, nab legit nibbles and secure the price you want.

  1. PHOTOGRAPHS: Imagery is everything! Just visit and tell me which horses stand out from the crowd. I guarantee you, it's not the picture-less ads. If you're looking to sell your horse for say $15,000, $20,000 or $30,000, then hiring a photographer for $500-$750 isn't much in the grand scheme of things. Studies have shown that professional images increase sale values by at least 18%. Making the investment up front can add $2,000-$5,000 value to your asking price. That's not a bad return on investment.

    1. Provide quality conformation photos. For a good tutorial, CLICK HERE.

    2. Share relevant photos of the horse at shows, field days, breeding etc.

    3. Provide a 30-second video of your horse under saddle and/or in harness working

    4. Provide a 30-second video of the horse free lunging without tack

    5. Share a clear, readable picture of the horse's registration paper(s)

  2. DESCRIPTION: Don't just write, "Brabant mare for sale, 16 hh and broke." A description should be a summary of all information about your horse. Think about what you would like to know about a horse before buying them. At a minimum, the write up should include:

    1. Full registered name

    2. Date of Birth

    3. Where registered and registration number(s)

    4. Sire and Dam

    5. European Brabant Percentage

    6. Imported or Domestic Born

    7. Gender (date gelded if applicable)

    8. Genetic/DNA Testing on File

    9. Health Report(s)

    10. Training level (if any)

    11. Applicable skills

    12. Proven breeder (if applicable)

    13. Any vices

    14. Reason for selling

    1. EXAMPLE: Peggy (EBRA Registered BS0056) is a four-year-old maiden blue roan (Rn/Rn) mare standing at 16 hh and roughly 1850 lbs. She just returned from three months at the trainer. She has been started in harness and under saddle, but is still green and will need an experienced horseman to finish her. Peggy is vetted, sound, PSSM n/n, JEB neg., and has a full color panel test on file with UC Davis. She is DNA parentage verified at 88% European Brabant out of a 75% European Brabant Stock and American Belgian dam, Jane, and imported 100% sire, Jack. She's approved as a Qualified Mare through the European Brabant Registry of America and has cleared for breeding by our vet. She has excellent ground manners, loves kids and would make an excellent all-round family horse. We are retiring from horses so at no fault of her own, we are seeking a five-star home for our five-star mare.

  3. PRICING: Price your horse according to market value for the breed, percentage, pedigree, health, training, performance record, fertility and import fees (if applicable).

    1. MARKET VALUE provides a basis for the price the seller is ultimately willing to accept when selling. So what's your bottom dollar? Tips on how to price your horse:

      1. Average price of comparable horses on the market should be considered. However, your horse's value is worth what others will pay. Finding the right buyer is often key, and that may take time. If you're looking to off load your horse quickly, price to sell. If you don't mind holding on to your horse, then set the bar high. Remember, you can always come down, but it's hard to go back up.

      2. Have your horse appraised by a professional. An equine appraiser is familiar with the market value of horses and knows how to evaluate your horse’s quality and characteristics. You’ll have to pay for the service, but if you’re selling a horse that you believe has significant value, it will be worth the investment.

      3. Ask your horse colleagues what they would see as a fair price for your horse. If the answers are all fairly close together, this can give you an idea of where you may want to price your horse. Sometimes we can be a bit proud of our horses, which clouds our ability to be super critical. Having outside eyes and opinions helps part those clouds.

    2. REGISTRATION documents proving the horse's pedigree is important and raises the value of the horse over those who are undocumented. Several sources cited a four-to-five times value increase of a registered horse over those who are unregistered. Side Note: That's not to say the unregistered horses aren't lovely animals. This simply means that horses with traceable pedigree, verified bloodlines and provenance bring a premium price.

      1. The EBRA makes it easy to register your Brabant draft horses online, CLICK HERE to get started today.

      2. The EBRA also accepts Brabant crosses who are >25% in the Appendix Record, so CLICK HERE to learn more.

    3. HEALTH can raise or lower a horse's value. For example, if a horse has chronic lameness, they're likely not going to fetch a full market price.

    4. TRAINING costs money and time. The more a horse knows, the more value.

    5. PERFORMANCE RECORD says a lot about the horse's ability to work and thus adds value. Be sure to include all favorable competition or show results.

    6. FERTILITY can add value or decrease value in a mare or stallion. If the mare or stud are proven, then the value increases even more.

    7. GENETICALLY TESTED horses with DNA, PSSM, JEB and color panel testing on file can also draw more value, especially if they're a hotly desired color!

      1. The EBRA offers a wide range of genetic tests, CLICK HERE to order your tests now.

  4. LISTINGS: List the horse where the buyers are looking. If you have a Brabant for sale, list it on the EBRA sale page. If you're a Member, you get some ads for free! If you choose to list on Facebook, beware. There will inevitably be tire-kickers and naysayers. If you're prepared to answer every inquiry, then post your listings on draft horse groups and other dedicated Brabant pages.

    1. Be sure to respond to everyone - even the tire kickers. While you can put a disclaimer on your listing, that won't stop all of them.

    2. Be kind and courteous, no matter how many times you've answered the same question or whether the answer was already written in the listing.

      1. Create an FAQ response to help the correspondence go more quickly.

      2. Set a time of day to field phone calls with interested parties.

      3. If you're in the business of selling horses, create a list of people who reach out, so you can contact them about future horses.



A graphic illustration of the equine lymphatic system by Stacy Pearsall


Story and Photos by Stacy Pearsall

The equine lymphatic system is a web of vessels and lymph nodes that act as a super highway for the lymphatic fluid to carry oxygen and nutrients to cells and remove toxins and junk. This lymph network is essential to the health of a horse's cells and fluid balance. Too much fluid and edema occurs. This is something we draft horse owners are very familiar with, especially if our horses are stalled for long periods or are more sedentary.

After my stallion's accident, he was on stall rest for weeks and weeks. Between the trauma he sustained to his legs during the accident and the prolonged inactivity afterwards, his legs swelled to epic proportions. Here's why.

Earl's hind leg two weeks after his trauma and subsequent stall rest.

Horses have a significantly lower number of smooth muscle cells that make up the walls of the lymphatic collector vessels. Research shows that the cutis, or compressive bandage, of the horse's skin are made from about 40% elastic fibres, which stiffens and exerts force when the horse is mobile.

"You can think of this like a corset that gets tighter when you breathe in heavily and looser when you breathe out – the extra pressure generated when you breathe in helps to compress the lymphatic vessels and gives them a bit more support," said Rebecka Blenntoft.

This means that the horse requires far more physical movement to activate its lymphatic retraction apparatus and encourage the transport of lymphatic fluid. These elastic fibres are assisted by a “pump mechanism” in the hoof and the fetlock joint, which assist lymph travel up the collector vessels. This high proportion of elastic fibres may have developed because there are no muscles in the lower limbs of the horse to aid with the contraction of the vessels, according to the European Seminar In Equine Lymph Drainage (ESEL).

Like all horses, Earl is meant to be in motion. Keeping him stabled, with limited exercise, compromised his lymphatics and led to other secondary complications such as massive edema, broken skin, sores and rampant infection. If I'd not acted quickly to treat the edema and infection, scar tissue would've certainly developed.

Many horses restricted to being stabled will suffer from “stable fill”, or swollen legs, just like Earl did. When they start to walk again, the lymphatic retraction process normalizes, and lymph starts to move out of the limb. To combat the edema, I began turning Earl out into a small paddock twice a day and used compression wraps overnight. In all appearances, the wraps worked. After researching for this article, I discovered that may not have been the case!

As swollen legs in horses are generally not considered to be a disease per se, many owners will try to reduce swelling by using stable bandages over some form of padding. However, what really happens is that the swelling is pushed through the superficial lymphatic vessels to higher up the leg and gives the illusion of having dispersed. In short, wrapping the legs only redistributes the edema, according to the European Seminar In Equine Lymph Drainage (ESEL).

"In 2006, a large veterinary study was undertaken to examine the effect of different types of bandaging on the lymphatic vessels of the lower leg. Horses bandaged with the elasticated bandages were found to have significantly impeded lymph flow, compared to those bandaged with specially designed compression bandages. This is due to being no muscles below the knee and hock to provide protection to these vessels and they end up being squeezed to such a point that they can no longer function properly. The authors of the study recommended that in the future, the materials and construction of both veterinary and equine sports bandages be reconsidered, due to the detrimental effect that elasticated bandages have on the deep lymphatic vessels."

All I can say is movement ultimately helped heal Earl's edema problem. With additional support from MJ Aylesworth of Spotted Ponie Therapies, who provided cold laser therapy and lymph massage, we got the secondary infection and major swelling under control. Of course, in the back of my mind was the potential for the development of the dreaded CPL.

As a Brabant owner and/or enthusiast, you've likely heard or read of the condition CPL, which is short of chronic progressive lymphedema. So what is it exactly? Well it's all in the condition's name. Chronic means that it's a recurring condition and progressive suggests that it will continue to advance in scope or worsen over time. Now lymphedema is a two-parter. Lymph is the system I just outlined above while edema is a fluid-induced swelling.

One of Earl's radiographs from his two-year-old EBRA Leg Health Report.

Because Earl had prolonged fluid retention, which sometimes leads to skin thickening, I was worried he'd develop CPL. From my research, CPL is multifactorial disease. One of those factors to the onset of CPL is skin thickening. Yikes. Thankfully Earl underwent an EBRA Leg Health Evaluation when he was two, so we have a baseline prior to his trauma to reference moving forward. At the one year mark post-trauma, his legs will be re-evaluated radiographically. However, physical exams have shown no signs of or onset of CPL. Phew. In the meantime, I will continue to treat Earl preventively, which is something we can all do with our Brabants.

Knowing my horse's leg health is ________________ important to me.

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The short of it is we must support our horses' lymphatic system at all times in sickness and in health!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:

  • Diet: Use feed products that are low in sugar and starch

  • Feather Maintenance: Keep the feathers clean and dry by routinely washing and brushing them. Remove tangles and mats. Use a drying agent such as Coat Defense powder

  • Wound treatment: If your horse has wounds such as scratches or mud fever, shave off the feathers so legs can be properly treated and "air out."

  • Prevent Mites: Mites thrive in hot, moist areas like long feathers and skin folds.

    • Use a topical anti-parasitic application such as Frontline (methoprene) or permethrin, which can readily be found at most livestock stores. Please note that most of these pour-on treatments are not approved for horse use. WARNING: never use AMITRAZ products on horses as it's toxic to them.

      • Topical acaricides have a short residual effect, i.e. there efficacy does not last more than a week, if ever. And they often do not kill mites remaining deeply inside thick scabs and crusts. Therefore it is highly recommended to repeat the treatment once or twice with an interval of 2 to 3 weeks. This is also important because some mite species can survive off the hosts for several weeks and re-infest the animals, and because acaricides do not kill the eggs, which will hatch and re-start the infestation. If thick scabs and crusts are present the product should be vigorously brushed on the affected skin for the acaricide to be able to penetrate the thickened skin and reach the mites.

    • Lime Sulfur dip is another topical product used to treat mites. For one or two horses, the legs can be soaked in a bucket with the dip (diluted according to the product directions). For treating a large number of horses, it can be easier to put the mixed product in a small garden/weed sprayer and soak the legs that way. Feather should be soaked and the product applied down to the skin from the knees/hocks down, paying special attention to any areas with crusty skin. This treatment is also best repeated, due to the life cycle of the mites, at least 3 times at 5-7 day intervals.

    • Oral ivermectin wormer is effective against Psoroptes and/or Sarcoptes mites

    • Remember, mites are contagious, so treat your entire herd

  • Supplements: Certain herbs can stimulate moisture removal like cleavers and nettles, which will reduce the accumulation in the legs.

  • Movement: Being able to move a lot is a must for horses because movement stimulates the moisture-transporting capacity and improves the blood circulation. Simply keeping your horse in spacious paddock or pasture makes all the difference in the world.

  • Lymph Massage: Find a certified practitioner to perform manual lymph drainage. It both stimulates and enhances performance of the lymphatic system and generally take 30-45 minutes.

Article References

  • The Equine Lymphatic System And Treatment Of Equine Chronic Progressive Lymphoedema (CPL) By Rebecka Blenntoft - European Seminar In Equine Lymph Drainage (ESEL)

  • Berens von Rautenfeld, D., Fedele, C. Lymphologie und Manuelle Lymphdrainage bein Pferd. 2. Auflage, Schlutersche Verlagsgesellscaft (2005)

  • Berens von Rautenfeld, et al. Manual Lymph Drainage in the Horse for Treatment of the Hind Limb. Part 1- Anatomical Basis and Treatment Concept., Pferdeheilkunde 16 (2000) (Jan-Feb) 30-36.

  • Brandhorst, B. Manual Lymphatic Drainage after Ventral Midline Laparotomy in Horses. Inaugural Dissertation, The Veterinary University of Hannover, Vet. med. thesis. (2004)

  • Braun, J. Characterisation of the Lymphatic System of the Equine Integument Using Scanning Electron Microscopy. Inaugural Dissertation, The Veterinary University of Hannover, Vet. med. thesis. (2004)

  • Fedele, C. and Berens von Rautenfeld, D. Equine MLD for Equine Lymphoedema - Treatment Strategy and Therapist Training, Veterinary Education 19 (1) 26-31 (2007)

  • Fedele et al. Influence from Cotton Wool Bandages and Elastic Stockings on Lymph Flow in Horses Legs. Pferdeheilkunde 22 (2006) 1 (Jan-Feb) 17-22

  • Harland, M. Immunohistochemical-Morphometric and Ultrastructural Characterisation of Deep and Superficial Lymph Collectors in the Horse's Hind Limb. Inaugural Dissertation, The Veterinary University of Hannover, Germany, Vet. med. thesis. (2003).

  • Helling, T. Morphological and Radiological Identification of Lymph Vessels and Effectiveness of Manual Lymph Drainage in the Digital Flexor Tendon of Horses. Inaugural Dissertation, The Veterinary University of Hannover, Vet. med. thesis, (2008).

  • Risse, M. Concerning Pathogensis of Acute Lymphangitis in the Horse - A Histological, Immunohistological and Transition Electron Microscope Study. Inaugural Dissertation, The Veterinary University of Hannover, Vet, med. thesis, (2004)

  • Rotting, A. et al Manual Lymph Drainage in the Horse for the Treatment of the Hind Limb. Part 2 - Findings and Treatment in Horses Affected with Chronic Cellulitis", Pferdeheilkunde 16 (2000) (Jan-Feb) 37-44.

EBRA supporter, Coat Defense, is offering a one-time 15% discount to our USA-based readers. Simply use the code: BRABANTUSA and if you sign up for the Coat Defense newsletter, you'll get another code for 10% off!

How do you support your horse's lymph system? Share in the comments section!



Article and Photos by Stacy Pearsall

As the heat rises, so too do the chances of heat related equine emergencies. As a resident of South Carolina, where summer temps rise into the 100's with an average humidity of >77%, I'm well accustomed to the various heat threats and how to combat them. Since I receive a lot of messages regarding heat-related questions, I figured I'd share them here. I'd like to remind everyone that I'm not a vet. Much of what I've learned, and am about to share, was taught to me by vets, other experienced hot-state-horseman and my own tried-and-true methods. If you have any questions, concerns, or doubts about the wellness of your horse, please call your vet right away!

Knowing the heat index, or "feels like" temperature, which is a crazy formula that involves the temperature and relative humidity, is important. I often reference the National Weather Service (NWS) chart above, which I keep saved on my smart phone for quick reference. As I write this, it's 10:30 a.m. and already 78 degrees and rising with a humidity of 85%. My phone's Weather Channel app says it's going to be a high of 91 degrees today. Based on the NWS chart, we're already climbing into the "extreme caution" zone and will certainly achieve "danger" status by lunchtime.

Here's my Summer routine. Whether hot or not, I always soak my feed. This helps keep my horses hydrated year-round and reduces the likelihood of choke. In addition to feeding a balanced diet, I have trace mineral and salt blocks scattered around the barn, loafing sheds and pastures.

Fact: A horse can lose 8-12oz of salt per day with moderate to heavy sweating. A horse in moderate exercise will lose 6.8-9 quarts of sweat and may require about 2oz of electrolytes per hour. You should supply your horse with 2-3oz of salt on a daily basis to encourage adequate water consumption and help maintain electrolyte balance, says Richard G. Godbee, Ph.D., PAS, Dipl. ACAS-Nutrition

When it's a Caution or Extreme Caution day, I add a lunchtime forage cube tea that consists of six alfalfa cubes in 3-4 quarts of water (soaked and soupy) with a 1/4 teaspoon (6 teaspoons per ounce) of salt added to encourage additional water drinking. As they're having their cube-teas, I give them all a midday hose down. During Danger or Extreme Danger days, I add a Guinness beer at breakfast and lunch to help support their bodies against heat stress and also up cube teas to three times per day.

All of my horses have access to grass. Most grass pastures are approximately 60–80% moisture, which provides my horses a decent amount of water while grazing. In contrast, grains and baled hay contain far less moisture, which means horses need to drink more to meet their water needs - hence another reason why I always soak my feed.

Fact: Guinness is made from yeast (Saccharomyces cervisiae —strains of which are often found as probiotics in feed and supplements). Yeast provides much of the B-vitamin complex, an important nutritional component in helping horses recover from stress, and provides important probiotic support. Because beer has its foundation in grains such as barley, these convey a flavor that horses often find attractive. As to getting drunk, horses have large amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme in their livers to process the by-products of microbial fermentation and therefore are surprisingly capable of metabolizing the alcohol present in beer.

During the summer, I work and train my horses during dawn and dusk hours, always offering fresh, cool water throughout our sessions. Danger and Extreme Danger days offer little respite from the heat, even during the dawn and dusk hours. Given the coolest time of daylight hours is in the morning, I transition all my horse work to mornings only. For instance, it was a tolerable 68 degrees this morning, so I trained horses from 6:30-8:30 a.m. and was done before the temps hit 80 degrees.

My horses who are working or training get trace clipped, which is a very minimal clip that just shaves the hair from underneath the throat latch and neck, and a little bit of the chest and under the belly. It helps a horse cool down if it’s still getting sweaty in really cold temperatures or is in light work. The horse still has most of its coat to reduce direct sun exposure to the skin, but there’s a bit of an air channel to help it cool down.

I do not work horses during full-sun hours on Danger or Extreme Danger days. Here's why. Horses normally cool themselves by sweating. The sweat evaporates from the skin surface and causes a cooling effect. Less sweat evaporates during times of high humidity. A horse that is working hard in a hot environment can lose 2 to 4 gallons of sweat per hour - even more for draft horses. As heat and humidity increases, so too does their ability to cool themselves. See the chart below.

Chart sourced from the University of Minnesota Extension.
FACT: Heat is lost due to evaporative cooling. Heat is also lost by conduction. Hosing your hot horse down with cold water doesn’t cause any ill effects. The colder the water, the more conduction heat loss occurs.

A horse’s normal body temp is between 98.5 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit. I monitor my herd by taking rectal temps on hot days. After all, extreme temperatures can damage a horse's brain and organs. Helping them get rid of that heat, whether through evaporative or conductive cooling, is essential.

Normal breathing rates for adult horses is 8-18 breaths per minute. On Danger and Extreme Danger days, it's not uncommon to see my horses standing stock still, panting. I give cold water hose downs 3 times, sometimes four times per day as needed. I have the luxury of working from home, so popping out to the barn to hose my horses is doable. For those who can't get out to the barn during work hours, you can always set up a tripod sprinkler system or misting system set on a timer.

Shade is essential. All of my horses have access to shade, whether provided by trees, shade sails, loafing sheds or barn run-ins. All of these structures are designed for maximum air flow with high roofs and open or slatted sides. My big barn has power with large fans moving air during the scorching days. I'm presently working to get power to my loafing sheds so we can run fans there too. In the meantime, I prioritize who needs additional supportive care and bring those horses into the barn-access pastures.

For instance, one of my horses has anhidrosis, so I keep her under the fan. Since foals are heat sensitive, they too have access to fans.

If one of my horses has temp of 102 or above, I'll take immediate, aggressive action. I add a bottle of rubbing alcohol to a bucket of ice water, which I then sponge over the horse's back and neck. The ice cold alcohol-water mix promotes evaporative cooling - just be careful to keep it away from the horse's eyes. I then put them under the fan while I check for signs of dehydration. First I pinch test the skin to see how quickly, or slowly, it recovers. If the pinched skin stays tented for four seconds or longer, I know they need fluids stat. Second, I'll check their gums. If they're tacky, that's yet another sign of dehydration. To get them back on course, I mix a five gallon bucket of prepackaged electrolytes. CLICK HERE to see the top ten equine electrolytes on the market. Another trick I use to encourage hydration is two quartered apples in a five gallon bucket of water and the other is soupy cube teas. If they refuse to drink or eat soupy cube teas, I call my vet as they may need IV fluids.

Fact: Some people give their horses Gatorade thinking it will help. However, horses' sweat consists of 10 times the potassium that is found in human sweat and 3 times the sodium and chloride levels. That's why Gatorade is helpful to humans, but perhaps not so much to horses.

Electrolyte-Replacement Checklist by Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD

Your horse loses electrolytes along with water as they sweat. Their cells function like small batteries with different concentrations of electrolytes inside versus outside the cell. There are even differences in concentrations between the structures inside the cells. Another function of electrolytes, especially sodium, is to “hold” water in your horse’s body. To maintain proper hydration levels, their brain constantly monitors sodium concentration. Thirst is triggered if the concentration of sodium gets too high; salt hunger is triggered if sodium gets too low. There’s a place for electrolyte supplements, but they have to be used correctly. Use this checklist to get started.

  • Use plain salt to meet your horse’s baseline sodium and chloride needs. Give them 1 ounce (6 teaspoons) per day in winter, 2 ounces (12 teaspoons) per day in summer.

    • Note: You must factor in all sources of salt in your horse's diet, from feed and supplements, before adding loose salt.

  • If your horse is working two hours or less at low sweating rates, or one hour or less at moderate sweating rates, add 1 extra ounce of salt for each hour of low sweating work, 2 ounces for each hour of moderate sweating.

  • If your horse is working longer than the times above, feed the extra salt only to meet the needs of the first two hours (or the one hour of moderate sweating), then use an electrolyte replacement for any additional work above that level.

  • Give your horse as much water as they want, as often as they want it.

I have 100 gallon water tanks in all my pastures, which I check morning and night. I do not use auto fillers for the expressed purpose of monitoring water consumption. If I notice the water line hasn't moved, I will skin pinch my horses to see if they're dehydrated and once again take steps to get them drinking.

We get algae and moss growth pretty quick in South Carolina, so I clean debris from my water troughs every morning with a pool skimmer and then dump and scrub them every Sunday. I pressure wash them quarterly to remove the tenacious algae growth. This routine ensures my horses have access to clean water at all times.

Fact: The average size horse drinks 10 to 12 gallons of water per day. However, draft horses may drink up to 15 to 20 gallons of water a day. A lactating mare or a horse that has sweated a lot will drink more.

Even with all these preventive measures in place, the old proverb, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink," still applies and horse can colic and go down from a dehydration induced impaction. I know my horses' personalities and can easily spot when something is off. As you know, draft horses are stoic animals and often require an eagle eye to notice subtle changes. Here are a few signs you can use to know when your horse is in heat distress.

Signs of Heat Stress:

  • Profuse sweating or anhidrosis

  • Hot skin, or cold if skin circulation shuts down

  • Muscle weakness

  • Stumbling

  • Droopy ears

  • Rapid breathing