December 2011
Featured Articles

A Winning Ride

River Region Horse Council Scored Well With Their First Clinic


Natural Horseman and radio personality Jim Swanner,right,  Victoria Matthews of Tuscaloosa and Herschel Pack visit in the round pen at River Region Horse Council’s first clinic. Top, Peggy Verdonck Riley.

"Dr. Gary Koepp, Jennifer Cole and all the volunteers did a great job organizing this versatile event," said Peggy Verdonck Riley of Montgomery, one of the demonstrating riders at River Region Horse Council’s first clinic. "There was a little bit of everything. From the excitement of the drill teams, the education of training demos to learning about different breeds with the parade of breeds. I believe the crowd learned lots of new things about horses in just one day. A true clinic."

Recently formed, the River Region Horse Council caters to the horse communities in Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery Counties.

The clinic offered a variety of training and riding demonstrations, lectures on different aspects of horse care, opportunities to ask vets on site questions regarding equine care, and booths with information and horse supplies.

"I think they did a good organized job," said Linda Wilson of Wilson Performance Horses. "I’ve been pleased with how many people are here and open to show everybody the different opportunities available for horses and for the people who ride them — and just open them to new ideas and new ways of enjoying their horses."

Peggy Verdonck Riley of Montgomery  demonstrates Western Dressage to attendees at River Region Horse Council’s first clinic.


Riley demonstrated Western Dressage with a beautiful, elegant ride.

"This demo might have been a little boring to some people, but I believe it is very important for people to learn about training techniques that can make them a better rider and their horse a better ride," Riley said.

Natural horsemanship trainer and radio personality Jim Swanner was one of the clinicians.

"Natural horsemanship is symmetric to the horse," Jim said. "We have to get rid of our ego — get rid of our macho — get a machoectomy, so to speak, and just understand."

Jim hosts a radio show called "All About Horses" airing on WKAC 180 AM radio in Athens and is streamed online worldwide on Mondays at 9:30 a.m.


Jim Swanner demonstrates his training methods to attendees at River Region Horse Council’s first clinic.

To find out more about Jim’s training, boarding and lessons services as well as his radio show, visit

In a lecture titled "Elements of a Lameness Exam," Dr. April Andrews of Alabama Performance Horse Services explained what horse owners should expect if they ever have to take their horses to the vet for a lameness exam.

"We watch them walk and trot in-hand on a hard surface, through a turn, on a straight — and then we do a series of flexion tests to try to narrow down where the lameness may be coming from," Andrews explained. "From there, a lot of times, we institute different blocks — whether joint or nerve blocks — to try to localize it further. After we determine where the lameness is, we may decide to take x-rays or ultrasound it or possibly send the horse for a nuclear scintigraphy or an MRI — different things like that — whichever sort of diagnostic modality we think would be best."

Ernie Russell of Nutrena Feeds gave a lecture titled "Today’s Economic Challenges in Equine Nutrition."

When ingredient markets have been affected by factors like drought, flooding and world conditions, the price of feed increases, Ernie said.

As a result, there is a knee jerk reaction within the horse community to try and save money by switching to a cheaper feed. Horse owners do not necessarily save money by switching to a cheaper feed. Owners must take the nutritional makeup of the cheaper feed into consideration. The nutrients horses need for optimal growth, reproduction, energy and stamina among other factors may not be present in the cheaper feed.

"My advice is to look at the feed and then search recommendations of how to feed the product properly," he concluded. "If there ever was a time to feed according to body weight, now is the time to help the health of the horse."

Dr. Betsy Wagner, an equine nutrition professor at Auburn University, gave a lecture on horse nutrition titled "Knowing the Right Weight."

"One of the problems I keep encountering time and time again when I do talks to different groups about horse nutrition and horse feeding programs is a lot of people don’t understand how to figure out how much a horse weighs and if there is a right amount of fat a horse should carry," Wagner said.

She informed attendees that horses receiving hay as well as concentrate need to consume at least one percent of their body weight per day.

There are horses that will consume that entire amount up to two percent of their body weight in hay or pasture, Wagner added.

Knowing a horse’s body weight is helpful in figuring out how much feed horse owners need to buy and store now to last through the winter months.

Wagner covered the problems associated with horses being either too thin or too fat.

"We know performance horses that are too thin may not have the energy to do the work we need them to and there’s been some research to substantiate that," Wagner said.

Thin mares will also have trouble coming into foal.

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.