Tal Michael Memorial Running – Good? Bad?

Why not start 2015 off with a bang and a controversial topic?

Honoring people and events is what we humans do to help us grieve and remember – good or bad.  How and what we choose to do in their memory is often related to the specific person or event.  Tal Hoyt Michael.

Now here’s a short video of the 2014 Tal Michael Run.  This was the 7th year for it and it’s the opening event for the Tal Michael Memorial Rodeo event, that in turn kicks off the Blackfeet North American Days.  I couldn’t find a lot of information and it seemed that originally it was the rodeo stock that were run through town.  As you can see in the video of last year’s event, that’s not strictly rodeo stock they are running, but I don’t think that matters.  I’ve been unable to find out exactly how far these horses are run; a 1/2 mile? a mile?  Here’s a video excerpt from the 2012 run.  It looks a little more sedate and I note the choice a couple of the riders make.  That seems telling, no?

Following are a few of my favorite quotes by people commenting on FB:

“Take another look – the scary police cars are in front of them. THEY are in flight. The horses are chasing them for fun, and to stretch their legs while having the time of their lives with their little ones.”

Clearly this is someone who hasn’t a clue about the flight instinct in animals.  Besides Standardbreds, who are specifically trained to follow tightly behind a pace vehicle, it’s tough to find other horses willingly chasing vehicles.  Just sayin’.

“No worse than you and I running a 5K.”

I don’t run.  Did it as child and even then preferred my bike.  Running gives me shin splints and all sorts of other aches and pains.  So no worse than ‘me’ running 5k, isn’t a selling feature.

“These horses can handle what is given to them and if they don’t feel like doing it they won’t.”

Famous last words, and again, someone who doesn’t have a clue about the horse’s nature.

I don’t actually mind ‘the idea’ of the run itself, but I think it could be done a lot better to ensure the safety of the horses.  I’m bothered by the pavement – road founder, anyone?  I’m bothered by foals being run.   I’m bothered by all the possible accidents along the way.  In a different video I found of the 2012 run, an unleashed dog (later to become two unleashed dogs) runs into the middle of the street and begins barking and nipping at horses’ heels.

I don’t want our world to become bubble-wrapped, and I don’t want people to not be able to have fun with horses, and I certainly don’t want people or history to be forgotten.  But for crying out loud, can we use a little common sense?  And just so people don’t think I’m complaining without giving solutions:  select a small group of mature horses owned by people who knew Tal, and have those horses painted/dressed to represent his heritage and life.  Spend some time training this group of horses and ‘run them’ in a safe area with good footing.  I don’t know what’s available in the town of Browning, but I’m sure something can be found.  A dirt road, a field.  Maybe play his favorite music in the background.

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52 thoughts on “Tal Michael Memorial Running – Good? Bad?

  1. I am going to vote down just because I do not know how long the horses were run on the pavement. Probably a better way to do this stunt. But I did like how the horses were handling that storm drain, future show ring stars here?

  2. Most if the quoted comments came from rebuttals to my FB post about the event. You definitely picked the “gems” of the comments. LOL! I do agree with you.

  3. I have a different perspective on this memorial run. First, Merc pointed out and I also noted that several of the wranglers chose to ride the grass where possible. They are running their own horses on the pavement obviously knowing that the horses are uncomfortable and offering relief where they can. This shows they are fully aware of the discomfort yet choose to be part of this ride despite it.

    Most of us are old enough to know loss of loved ones in our lives and it’s certainly quite painful. We want to keep them close to our hearts and we do this by honoring and remembering them. Whether we do this by frequently visiting their grave sites or carrying on a favorite family recipe, we acknowledge that their lives mattered to us and we wish they were still part of our lives.

    Segway to this memorial….I don’t know who Tai was but he obviously affected many lives and lost his too soon. That said, what exactly did he contribute to society that warrants pounding hundreds of horses’ hooves on the pavement and causing their discomfort? Did he cure cancer? End wars? Eliminate colic in our beloved equines? Not that I’m aware of. He was probably a good guy, well liked, social and involved in his community. I love that he was buried on the ranch. I do believe, however, that there are other less damaging ways to honor him. A dinner party at his favorite hangout with proceeds to his favorite charity or pastime, perhaps?

    The need for heroism in the USA is out of control and we seem to like to sensationalize every situation that crosses our radar. And it is always done publicly, overtly, and seems to be more about the giver(s) than the recipient. If anyone ever honored me after death in this manner and I was somehow aware of it, bet your last dollar I’d rattle some chains in a slew of basements.

  4. What better way to honor someone who died too young in a road wreck than to try your best to kill or maim an animal not meant to run on paved roads? That kid wasn’t safe on the road after all, why should anything else be?

    And running small foals on hard surfaces, what’s not to love, to quote a spectator, it is just “so cute”.

    People are stupid.

  5. I was wondering about the horses running on pavement…I wouldn’t think it would be comfortable for them. I guess it would be like me trying to run in high heels on pavement…I’d be afraid of slipping and falling. Grass and dirt would be a better choice to run on no matter what you have on your feet.

  6. No need to be snarky and imply that people are trying to kill or maim the horses on purpose.

    It’s the pavement that is the worst part of the equation; they should just find a venue with softer footing and have it there instead. Shouldn’t be an impossible task.

    • No, shouldn’t be hard at all, EXCEPT this is now the SEVENTH year they’ve had this event on pavement. How many chances do the organizers get to consider the welfare of the horses?

    • I blamed stupidity and it sure as hell wasn’t a snarky comment about trying to kill or maim in the sense that I didn’t believe that was a likely outcome. Pavement kills. Why do you think so many cities have banned carriage horses, not just heat and bad tack, but the problems it causes for feet and legs, even though most responsible owners keep the horses at a walk and have special shoes with padding etc to minimize the concussion. In the old days when horses worked for living ‘road founder’ was a common issue, mechanical founder brought on by concussion.

      Black Beauty wasn’t some children’s tale about cute ponies, but an animal welfare book. Horses that slip on pavement frequently suffer serious injuries, such as breaking their knees. The average span of a horse to survive in New York City was 4 years. This is gross stupidity. It isn’t a tribute to anything but stupidity. Horses and pavement aren’t a good combination at any time. Running a horse on pavement is just plain stupid. That people could do something better is a great idea, see if they listen.

  7. Only once have a witnessed the aftermath of a horse running on the pavement for more than a few strides. He got loose and ran (okay, probably sprinted in fear) for a mile. That horse was a painful mess for about 4 wks.

  8. My test for any extreme-seeming event is: would the organizers treat their highly-valued performance horses like this, or is this an event for “no-value,” “feral,” “disposable,” etc horses? If you wouldn’t put a horse you valued in this situation, then you know better, and know that the activity is potentially dangerous. Obviously there are established high-value performance disciplines like steeple-chasing that are high-risk. But this is a good test for all the marginal or one-off events that people say are harmless. I can’t get the video to play, but the comments here say that the wranglers are making an effort to keep their riding horses off the pavement as much as possible, which says that they do know this is not good footing.

    • I also wonder, if this event was done with low-value horses, is anyone even paying close enough attention to those horses to know how they were afterward? I mean, if a horse fell and was dramatically injured during the run, surely that would be noticed… but if a number of those horses were bruised and foot-sore for the following week, was anyone watching them enough to notice or were they just put back in the pasture as “no worse for wear” because they weren’t bleeding or 3-legged hopping lame?

  9. Thumbs down for the combination of a run and pavement. The concept of a memorial event is fine, but if it’s to be done at speed, do it somewhere unpaved. Or if you want to do it through the centre of town, do it at a walk, parade-style.

    Or maybe someone should tell these people about the 2005 Calgary Stampede, when 9 horses were killed while being herded through the city on a reenactment of a historic ride. Some horses spooked and fell over a bridge into the river. Browning Montana is a tiny town and Calgary is a big city, so sending horses through Browning isn’t as obvious dumb as through Calgary, but it still shows the danger.

  10. Am I the only one wondering who the 8 (currently) voters are who feel this event is harmless? Please, speak up and teach all of us bleeding heart types why this is harmless.

  11. I don’t know enough about the event to say whether it is harmless or not – I wonder how many horses were injured over the years.

    Most of the comments are very United States-centric views, which I also had before moving to Europe. In Europe horses are worked regularly on pavement, in metal shoes or without. In fact, large portions of endurance races take place on paved roads and the riders do not slow down when they hit pavement – they’re *racing*. In fact it’s difficult to find a single endurance race in my country that does not include paved stretches. Official horse trails are often paved. I used to get off and lead my horse on the pavement, but it started to annoy everyone I was riding with.

    Living and working on pavement has been proven to be healthy for hooves (article: http://www.thehorse.com/videos/34609/is-the-hoof-smart-adaptability-of-the-equine-foot?).

    • Everyone here should take the time (almost an hour) to watch the very informative video at the link that Lytha provided. Much like the stills and information provided in the balanced foot piece Mercedes published, but in much greater depth.

      But watch it critically for what it says and doesn’t say. It is reporting on scientific studies by this vet and her review of the literature. It does say not say take horses out of their pastures and run them on pavement to improve their hooves. It doesn’t even say pavement work is good for hooves. It doesn’t say shod horses should be run on pavement.

      It is an informed, but willing to admit that huge areas of knowledge are as yet ‘scientifically’ confirmed and the mechanisms of hoof adaptation are still needing further research, that indicates that hard surface but not smooth surfaces, should be part of the healthy hoof experience. The work has been with unshod horses and in the case of the main study by this vet in 2014, laminitic horses. What you see will be educational, highly informative and hopefully make a difference in how you look at your own horse’s trims, hoof structures, soundness and your management.

      One point in particular I would make is the adaptive nature of the discussion. As with most vet/farrier prescribed changes, some effort is made to introduce changes over time. WIth the laminitic horses, it is an acute and life threatening issue and more radical approaches can be justified. Nevertheless, discussions are about transitioning through boots to barefoot, and the work level introduced was at a walk initially. Also some of the work presented by other vets speaking about the back half of the hoof and the rebuilding of digital cushion, makes it clear that in a poorly conformed hoof (and they will show you plenty so you can undertand what is poorly conformed, go watch the video!!), there is little digital cushion, little frog structure to absorb impact, that there is little sole between the ground and the bones, and that significant concussion can break bones in the feet.

      Do we think the rodeo contractor made sure these horses had good feet, adapted them over time to work on a hard surface, made sure they had plenty of turnout time and exercise before sending the horses at a run over pavement? And the foals, anyone ever notice the immature foot of a foal, with little back half formation, should we run foals on pavement ever?

      The video is great visually to help us see what a good foot looks like, it helps us understand how what we see on the outside of the foot reflects the internal structures. It doesn’t say, take you horses out one day a year and run them on concrete, its good for their feet.

    • I would have to take it that European horses that work on pavement regularly are conditioned for it, though, as they are riding on pavement out of a shortage of undeveloped space. This event is in rural Montana. There would be no reason for horses to be spend any time of pavement. Most of those horses probably spend their time on pasture/ rangeland (with feet/legs in the condition that goes with that), and then were pulled out and subjected to this event. Much like how Mercedes says she’d have a lot of pain if she ran a 5k fun run in pavement. *I* can run a 5k fun run on pavement with no ill effects, but I run on pavement on a regular basis and I am conditioned for it. For that matter, when I got a new dog, I scaled back my runs on paved paths and then increased again gradually so that I could condition the dog up to running on pavement.

        • Did you mean this post in response to mine? Because I certainly never said horses should be ridden on pavement. I meant that even if one can cite cases of horses being ridden on pavement without harm, one cannot extend that to assume that the horses in this case were fine from running on pavement, since conditioning to the surface would be a factor. I don’t ride horses on pavement, except where I have to cross it to get to a better surface, in which case I take it at a slow walk.

        • You’ve clearly never been to Browning or spent time in blackfeet country. Rural though it may be, horses and cattle spend plenty of time free ranging on asphalt, dirt & pasture.

          • free ranging implies a lack of fencing more than running the cattle or horses down the road. Given the acres being ranched, paved roads are a small fraction of the total area. I think you are deliberately creating a false impression that cattle ranching near and around Browning and the Blackfeet Nation involves a substantial amount of time for cattle or horses being on asphalt roads.

            While not Montana, I’ve been in Wyoming while herds were being moved on paved roads as they were the safest and shortest distance on which to drive the cattle in the moutains, but they moved very slowly, no running and I distinctly remember some of the smallest calves being slung over the horses in cowboys’ laps. Even then some of the cattle would slip, plenty of manure on the road and the cowboys would check on the cattle to make sure they were ok.

            The necessity to work on pavement or cross roads while grazing from time to time really isn’t the issue. Speed and circumstances affect how safe the animals and people stay.

          • I’ve never spent any time in Browning itself, but I live just a couple hours north of there in Alberta, have driven through northern Montana numerous times, and have spent time in Waterton and Glacier parks which are right in that area. I know what ranching in that region looks like. I’m sure horses need to cross pavement from time to time but I can’t for the life of me see why they’d spent much time on it? Certainly not enough to be conditioned to be able to run on it comfortably.

  12. I’m glad that jrga took the time to look at that video which states the importance of keeping horses on various surfaces. Hooves are healthier on hard/varied surfaces, but they should be trained to handle extensive work on pavement, obviously. The speaker said how much simply walking a horse daily on pavement helped its hooves. Please see: http://www.rockleyfarm.co.uk/ — today they published their results of rehabilitating lame horses simply by keeping them on various surfaces and working them on such.

    What is the normal movement of those “memorial running” horses? How many come up lame each year, statistically? I think a horse limping along might get the attention of the press.

    jrga, I love the book Black Beauty but I cannot put out of my mind the point made that you can cure a horse of biting its handler by giving it carrots. The book is accurate heath-wise in many areas, but behaviorally not as much, or would you think there is a case where carrots cure biting? It’s a classic book though, I can forgive it that.

    • “…but behaviorally not as much, or would you think there is a case where carrots cure biting?”

      Yes, absolutely it can be done and I’ve done it with several horses. Specifically, I have taught horses that are known to bite people, make bids for human hands etc… by using a food reward system given by hand. YES! All day long, every day.

      The problem is not the carrot or the horse, the problem is always the human.

      • I have a question about expression: I’ve trained my horse Flecha to stretch, step over poles and move laterally for treats, and I trained her to load by feeding her on the trailer. Recently she started laying back her ears while I’m leading her in the ring during a training session- while I was asking her to perform a behavior, she’d have her ears on me and look eager, but if I led her over to another part of the ring to do something else, her ears were back the whole time, sometimes even making a face.

        It looks like the first step towards food aggression, so when she would do it I’d sort of surprise her by asking her to back up and snap her out of it. It doesn’t seem to be very effective though. I’m doing the treat-training sessions less often (like once a week) to try and curb it but I don’t think that’s the answer either.

        Should I be worried? She’s never tried to bite me, ever, and when anyone, adult or child, passes her a cookie a through her stall door she has her ears forward and takes the treat politely. It reminds me of the food aggression I face when I feed the horses at our stable (I do barn chores once a week to help pay off board). Flecha is such a sweet mare most of the time that it’s upsetting to see her put the ol’ rude face on.

        Thoughts on this?

        • It’s hard to say, but certainly you don’t want to reward her for the behavior. The way you described it, it sounded like it was a ‘location’ issue. That when you took her to a certain spot it occurred specifically there. Is that correct?

          It’s also perfectly correct to selectively pick and choose when she is food rewarded. Once they understand the premise, I like save that kind of rewarding for when they’ve achieved something out of the ordinary. In other words, when I ask them to back up for the hundredth time, they don’t get a food reward for backing up. But if I’ve asked them for only the third time to back up into a very tight enclosure, or over a set of poles, or something more difficult and building on previous lessons, then I might very well lavish them praise and a piece of carrot.

          Also it is correct and proper to ask for multiple tasks before rewarding as long as they are sequential. So for a horse early in its training I might reward with a treat after each request, but for one further along, I might ask for three different things before rewarding.

          Does that make sense?

          • Thanks for the advice! It’s actually not the location that’s the issue: say we’re working on walking over a pole, doing one foot, two feet, backing up over it, etc. Once we’re done with that, I’ll walk her away from the poles and practice turn on the haunches in hand. It is while I am leading her off to do another activity that the ears go back. Once we start the next exercise, her ears move around a lot or are forward. I do not allow her to check my pockets for treats while we’re leading or working.

            I hesitate to put up a sign or tell people not to feed her treats in her stall, because she never behaves threateningly when there’s a treat on offer, just eager. And she doesn’t really get them all that often, anyway.

          • Okay, so how about this: when the ears go back you immediately ask her to do something difficult, that perhaps she doesn’t really like to do, and that’s going to require her to concentrate. Might be back up, carousel turn, yielding her weight bearing shoulder…. Then the instant the ears come forward, stop, praise, continue on with previous plan. Rinse and repeat until she connects, ears pinned = difficult/unpleasant task.

        • Mercedes got this right, but I will re-enforce this. Never hand feed your horse a “treat” unless the horse had done something to deserve it. Allowing her to be fed cookies in her stall will start her thinking, “hey, I got a cookie for doing nothing. Why do I have to do this to get a treat.” Of course with the understanding that there are some horses out there that will know the difference, but the kind of good ol boy horses that I prefer will turn sour pretty fast if they start getting something for nothing.

          Also, I am a pea gravel convert, love it.

        • Haley

          what do you do when you are just leading her? Is there something about your technique, where you stand, how and where you grip the lead rope that she finds fault with? Death grip under chin, wandering side to side in front of her, in her blind spot off to the side? She should be comfortable with you just about anywhere in the long run, but she may need some work with you being conscious of being in a spot where she can see you and not blocking her in any way and then enlarge her comfort zone.

          • Good point! I keep the lead rope loose, so I don’t think that’s the problem, but next time I work with her I’ll experiment to see if where I’m walking makes a difference.

    • agree with Mercedes and acknowledging that there is much controversy to this day about hand feeding horses, but all my horses learn to eat hand held treats. It does require teaching them what kind of approach results in the reward, the carrot or other treat, and what kind of approach by the horse results in no reward. Horses can sort a blade of grass or leaf of a weed out of their mouth as they eat, they know the difference between fingers and carrots, which just need to teach them that it is important to never touch fingers, only the treat. So yes, I believe you can teach a horse to stop biting by teaching them to properly take a carrot from the hand. I also don’t start teaching a horse to eat treats immediately, lots of other rules are instilled first, such as not bringing their head into my space without an invitation.

      I also believe that the speaker concentrated much more on more natural hard surfaces for rehabilitation, rocky areas, but rocky areas of specific types, such as rounded pea gravel so they are without sharp edges, and pea gravel of course has more give than many modern pavement types. And walking under control as part of rehabilitation, not a run on pavement.

      Same for horses that ride pavement as part of their normal exercise, one assumes that the riders take care to introduce the horse to pavement, walk first, build up time of exposure and monitor their horses for soreness and other signs of trouble.

    • I went back and re-watched the video, nowhere did the vet say they walked on pavement. She mentioned walking the horse(s) in two different scenarios but never said on pavement. The diary calves self exercised over a stretch of rocky road to get their grain, prresumably mostly at a walk, but she didn’t say.

      Rocks in a dirt road, pea gravel, all have different characteristics than typical pavement. Concrete is different than asphalt. It matters when discussing what are positive stressors for adaptation of the hoof that this is tested scientifically. It goes well beyond the doctor’s work and conclusions to say it is proven that working on pavement is healthy, especially without qualifiers as to starting with a healthy foot, appropriate gait, potentially protection of boots ,etc., being part of the plan.

  13. I’m all for memorializing people and doing events to honor them. But this is just dangerous in every way. Bad for horses (shin splints, road founder), not to mention one of those horses could slip and fall on the pavement at anytime and could cause a major pile-up. Have you ever SEEN a horse who was torn up from falling on pavement? I have – I had a horse who had hundreds of stitches in her hind quarter due to a fall. And foals? Seriously? All those horses are in Fight or flight mode with those noisy sirens going. This could cause one or all of them to spook and run into the crowds standing on the road. Do you seen how many children are watching this? SMH
    Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now, but I think the organizers of the event should try to figure out a different way to do this…..thanks for the info on this event!

  14. I grew up with the idea that riding our shod horses faster than a walk on asphalt was bad for their legs and hooves (we had lots of rock, dirt and mud trails, but needed to cut through paved roads to get their). Then one of the girls at our barn gave her horse a bad case of road founder by going on a long ride up to the suburbs where she lived, then dumping him into his stall and hurrying off. By the next day, he was in pain and walking on his heels, unusable for the rest of his life. So that also put a big scare into me. Coming back to riding, I’ve seen the new evidence that some amount of walking a barefoot horse on asphalt can help toughen up their feet, and that some limited trotting of a barefoot horse might not end in disaster. I still don’t like the idea. And I would think that this kind of run, using feral or basically excess horses, who is ever going to be monitoring to see what the long term effects are? As long as the horses don’t actually slip and break a leg, the organizers will say they are unharmed. I doubt anyone is out there the next day looking for hot tendons or windgalls or signs of stress on all these horse’s legs, and then cold-hosing! Or doing before and after MRIs. So the fact that the organizers say no horses are harmed is not something that we have real data on. Will watch video when I have a moment, thanks for the link!

  15. About hand-feeding treats. I’ve been playing with clicker training, which requires treats treats treats. One of the first things you’re meant to teach is for the horse to back off and wait for the treat (clicker folks call it “the grownups are talking”). Horses learn this very fast, that if they back off and wait in a relaxed way they get the treat, and they don’t if they start pushing and nibbling. I’ve had quite a bit of success with girthiness by rewarding the Paint Mare for just standing and doing nothing, not snapping at the air or me while I put on the saddle. No level of reprimand worked as well as positively rewarding standing calmly. It’s still not 100 % fixed, but a huge improvement, to the extent that she actually nickered in anticipation once when I tightened the girth. So, yes, i would say that treats can work well as positive reinforcement in a program of modifying a horse’s behavior, including not biting the handler on the ass :).

    • I heard it described this way to me the first time: To get the treat, I must leave the treat. For the grabby/mouthy horse I like to wait for them to turn ever so slightly away from the hand. I had one particularly smart mare, very food oriented, who would turn her head as far away as she could from my hand while still maintaining one eyeball on me. Truly hilarious.

      • I have enforced a variation of this with my mare who, when not hand fed treats, is very respectful at treat time ( she goes immediately to her bucket) but when getting treats by hand on occasion (such as for doing new stretches) she can push boundaries. Not a big deal for me because one quick correction and she goes back to waiting…BUT I have a 2.5 yo daughter who loves to feed treats. Ruby is very gentle but still…don’t want her frisking the kiddo for treats, especially when the kiddo doesn’t immediately toss it. Ruby has learned to put her nose near the ground, where I’ve taught my daughter to toss the treats, and does so before we even open the stall door. Very cute…even cuter is shell let my daughter bang on her face with a brush, but I have to use only the gentlest of brushes. Ha!

        • I should clarify. ..I taught Ruby that in order to get a treat from my daughter, she must only take it from the ground. So even if the treat is held out to her, she can’t take it. She gets treats when she backs up out of my daughter’s space ( more than normal..im paranoid of an accident), and as an aside, has also started immediately lowering her nose to the ground. Somehow this behavior was rewarded, but I like it.

  16. Yes, exactly, to all of this. The point being that you can give positive re-inforcement to desired behavior by using treats, if you are clear about training for the behavior (and sometimes horses improvise behavior that you appreciate, in the horse’s ongoing effort to train the human to reward them 🙂 ). It’s different from the Black Beauty scenario of “if you treat the horse nice by feeding carrots, the horse will come to love you and treat you nicely in return.” That’s a nice idea about teaching the horse to wait to take the treat from the floor. I’m going to remember that one, as it would work well with clicker training too where the click says “yes, *that* was the behavior I wanted, and the treat is follow-up. It would also work well if you wanted to get the horse to stand and wait at a distance from you; you could click and then toss the treat. Of course, if the footing was too deep the treat would get lost.

  17. I wasn’t joking about horses learning how to train humans. The Paint Mare is constantly improvising, and she likes to initiate training sessions on her own by asking “do you remember how to give me a treat for this? How about this, then?” Rigorous clicker trainers say you should ignore the horse’s attempts to initiate sessions, but I find it’s a bit more fluid than that, and if her mind is going to be busy busy anyways, I’d rather she’s thinking about ways to please me.

    • I think this re enforces my comment on hand feeding, horses are quick to figure it out, and it should only be done when you kinda know what you’re trying to get the horse to do.

  18. “To get the treat you must leave the treat” works great at feeding time as well. I feed seven horses in a pasture. Each horse goes to their “assigned” feeder and waits for me to bring them their feed. I walk up to the feeder and the horse backs up and does something. I don’t care what some turn their head, one smiles, and one puts their nose on the ground. They don’t do their behavior, they don’t get fed. Everyone knows this and it makes feeding time zero stress and safe for me and the other horses. I have fed in pastures where chaos rules and you had better watch your back. I like feeding in the pasture with the horses instead of over the fence so I can better assess their health as I feed.

    • That’s it exactly!! And you’ve provided a great example of how a simple training technique can be applied to other similar, yet different, situations. I heartily agree with your organized feeding regime in pasture, that’s how it should be done.

  19. I voted that the Tal Michael Memorial Running is an okay event with little to no lasting damage to the horses involved for the reasons given below.

    I think many you are reading too much into the riders moving their horses onto the grass. There is a huge difference between a ridden horse and a horse carrying a rider and tack. A rider affects the horses balance and significantly increases the weight and therefore the impact on each hoof. So it’s a no-brainer for a rider to find grass or another surface for their horse to run on. However, it is probably not essential, but better safe than sorry.

    As for the horses running on their own… IMHO none of them look spooked or frightened. They aren’t running flat out with ears pinned with the whites of their eyes showing. They are basically doing a hand gallop as a large herd down a road. From the video I viewed, the entire herd seems to be in good general health and spirits.

    I watched the video and was intrigued. I don’t know what animals are running in the event besides the rodeo stock. I don’t really understand why there are foals running in addition to the rodeo stock. I also can’t seem to find out how far they run. Really, I can’t seem to find much information about the event in general. However, I’m not terribly concerned with the event in general. It would be less controversial for those with concerns if the running were done on dirt or grass, but then you’d still have nay-sayers arguing that the horses shouldn’t be run at all… Just as there are nay-sayers against carriage horses, race horses, rodeos, jumping horses, dressage horses, riding horses in general, pet horses, etc. No matter what someone is going to object.

    Running on pavement for a short distance – a mile or less, even without conditioning, will most likely not injure the horses in question. Unshod horse hooves are amazing at their ability to absorb shock and concussion. The unshod hoof is also excellent at gripping whatever surface it comes into contact with – even if it appears smooth like pavement. Even shod hooves flex as much as they can within the limits of the steel shoe. Additionally, the ligaments and tendons of horses’ legs are designed to absorb the shock and concussion of the horses weight at a full gallop over varied terrain every bit as hard and unforgiving as pavement. Even the arrangement of the bones – particularly of the hind legs – is designed not only to give the horse power, strength and flexibility, but also to absorb shock and concussion without injury. As for the foals, there has been some research indicating that concussion to the rear portion of the hoof at an early age helps the development of the digital cushion for the horse as a mature horse. So running on varied terrain, including pavement, as a foal would not be a negative proposition. Overall, the design of a well conformed horse is well capable of withstanding challenging footing for a short gallop.

    As some of you have already indicated, this has been going on for 7 years. In those 7 years, I’m sure the organizers have heard concerns such as yours and answered them. From what I’ve pieced together, the horses running are rodeo stock and perhaps the riders or towns people’s personal stock. In a small ranching community like Browning, I seriously doubt the ranchers or community in general would do anything to injure their stock. Those in charge of the event in memorial for Tal Michael, from his obituary, seem to be familiar with horses and unlikely to risk them in an effort to honor Tal. It is uncharitable to assume all those participating in the event and sponsoring the event would intentionally harm the horses involved. This community doesn’t just love Tal, they also love their ranching and rodeo way of life. That way of life does not coincide with putting animals in grave danger. It would be nice to have some hard data from the run about the well-being of the animals after the run. However, the silence is telling… Had animals been injured it would have been news-worthy. As others pointed out though, horses that were just footsore later would not necessarily be reported. However, although being footsore is not a positive outcome, it is not a long-lasting injury.

    • A reasoned response. I had voted down just because I did not know how long they were run on the pavement, but some people put horses in bubble wrap, as a trail rider, I do not.

      • People aren’t asking for horses to be put in bubble wrap here. All those shock absorbing abilities of a horse’s feet, tendons, etc. they developed through eons of evolution over mostly grass/turf based travel and less on rocks. It suits humans to bring horses with them, so they ended up on rocks and dirt, but dirt doesn’t compact in most circumstances to the hardness of pavement. Rocks as discussed by the vets is rounded pea gravel, not rocks. And yes, feral horses survive it, wild horses survive, but we all know the rules in nature are cruel, suffer an injury and you are the horse eaten by the predator. Since our horses aren’t feral, aren’t kept for 6-12 mos. and slaughtered for food, we tend to want to take precautions to maintain their soundess.

        And as horses were evolving they weren’t shod. Not all of those horses in the run were shod either, but an actual study done and reported showed three times the concussive force in a shod foot at a walk over a bare foot in a trot. So now, you look at what a natural foot might be able to absorb, and then look at a canter in a shod foot. Why look for trouble, why risk injury by running on pavement. And concussion is only one risk, slips didn’t happen in the videos put up, a couple of bobbles did, why trust luck instead of using some precautions?

        As a trail rider, how many half mile stretches at canter or hand gallop do you do on roads with significant rocks or pavement?

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