NCHA takes additional steps for animal welfare

The National Cutting Horse is investigating new measures at shows it produces in Fort Worth in 2014 to protect the health and safety of cutting horses. The steps the horse and cattle welfare committee are looking at include having an official veterinarian on-call during the shows, setting up an emergency treatment area, and having an equine ambulance readily available.

Plans for these new measures were advanced following an incident at the 2013 NCHA Futurity where Miss Callie Cat, ridden by Tarin Rice, colicked during her run in the Open Semi-Finals. Rice immediately ceased working the horse once he recognized her signs of distress, and walked her to the back of the arena. Numerous friends and fellow equine professionals rushed to the horse’s aid, according to Rice, for which he was grateful. The mare was promptly transported to Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, and she immediately underwent colic surgery.

“Evidently, her gut twisted during my run in the Semis,” Rice said. “I knew something was wrong, and when I walked out, she immediately started having trouble. As soon as we got her stable, we got her in the trailer and to the vet clinic. They did surgery and from the time they woke her up, everything has been right on plan.”

The surgery was done by Dr. Ty Tipton who, according to Rice, expects the mare to make a full recovery.

“The cutting horse community rallied to help the mare and make sure she was well cared for,” said NCHA Executive Director Jim Bret Campbell regarding the mare’s colic. “NCHA’s drug testing veterinarian arrived as quickly as possible, and we were also prepared to evacuate the mare from the arena within minutes, but unfortunately the mare wasn’t in a position to be loaded. From a medical standpoint, we were doing everything we could to take care of the horse.”

Lindy Burch, chairperson of NCHA’s Animal Welfare Committee, concurred that the horse’s well-being was top priority throughout the incident, and added that the NCHA is doing everything possible to ensure any future injuries can be treated promptly and efficiently. “Everybody was very concerned about the incident, and it highlighted the fact that we must always be prepared for illness or injury,” she explained.

“We’re fortunate to have some of the world’s best veterinary and surgery facilities within 40 minutes of Will Rogers Coliseum,” Burch said. “Our main goal is to have the best possible way to stabilize and transport a horse to one of those facilities.”

Immediate access to veterinary care, a treatment area stocked with veterinary supplies, and an equine medical transport vehicle are changes being made that Burch said will more than likely be in place for the NCHA Super Stakes, which begins in March. Burch said her committee is also working to develop protocols for a horse to be cleared for competition if it appears to be unsound or in distress, similar to the procedures that are commonly used at racetracks, but putting those procedures into place will take a little more time.

Miss Callie Cat’s colic was the second unfortunate incident for the horse, who had also cut her tongue on baling twine the day before. As Rice explained, the mare was tied outside of her stall while his helpers blanketed her when she grabbed the twine that held up the blanket bar with her mouth. Rice said he’s not sure how it happened, but somehow it caused the horse to cut her tongue.

“It was a very freak deal,” Rice explained of the injury. “I’ve dealt with horses my entire life and I’ve never seen anything like that. I don’t know if it got around her tongue; I don’t know what happened.”

Rice called upon Dr. Chris Ray, also of Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, who was on the show grounds at the time. According to Rice, Ray examined the mare’s tongue and said no further action was needed for treatment. The injury required no stitches, and Ray approved the horse to continue in competition as long as she was drinking and eating properly.

“There was no bleeding on the tongue when I got there,” said Ray of his initial examination of the horse. “I told Tarin that as long as she was acting herself and eating and drinking, that she would be okay to show. She was eating and drinking within hours, and it was our opinion that she was healthy.”

Ray added that the team at ESMS did not feel that the mare’s colic was in any way related to her tongue injury.

“She had a displacement [of the intestine], which is not associated with any sort of injury to the mouth. She was fine before he showed her that night. To have that much displacement that quickly, we believe it happened during her run.”

The injuries that Miss Callie Cat suffered from during the NCHA Futurity were a series of unfortunate occurrences, none of which were a result of lack of care on Rice’s part, he assured. Rice recently reported that the mare is back at his barn and is well on her way to a full recovery.

“We haven’t started riding her yet, but there’s no reason to believe she won’t come back one hundred percent and be able to show this year,” Rice concluded.

“These animals are our whole life, so we take the very best care of them that we can.”