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Runnin' on empty

March 02, 2004|Bobbie Lieberman

The American Endurance Ride Conference has taken a giant stride toward protecting horses from getting sick or dying during long-distance races.

The problem gained attention at the group's meeting last year when it established a committee to study the matter. The panel found that riders sometimes run their horses too hard.

At least eight horses died in the last year as a result of competing in endurance rides, the committee concluded. Among the causes of death: heat exhaustion, a leg injury and colic. The findings were presented at the group's annual meeting in Reno last weekend.

The organization is considering guidelines for races over the coming year. The board of directors also approved $17,000 for Michigan State University researchers to study about 100 horses at upcoming races to determine why horses get sick and the best ways to avoid injury and treat the animals. That will go a long way to developing safety measures, riders say.

"AERC is no longer in denial about [horse deaths]. We are going to fix this problem," said Stagg Newman, whose 21-year-old Arabian Ramegwa Drubin had just been inducted into the sport's hall of fame.

Laura Hayes, a member of the committee, said: "The everyday rider is no longer going to tolerate the people who are pushing [horses] to the edge all the time."

-- Bobbie Lieberman

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