Acknowledgement to Ricki Lechler posting this to FB.

This is an important writing with the trend in the Peruvian breed to very heavy large horses. Also the possibility of improper conditioning and overwork of young horses, both combining to increase the incidence of lameness and breakdown.

The Peruvian horse is a light riding horse type breed. The trend now is the production of taller heavier horses despite the evidence in the Peruvian breed itself and other breeds that the smaller individuals of a breed have been superior in performance.

In many cases a Peruvian horse in good body condition is now seen as underweight and will be overlooked for a sale or in the show ring. This needs to be reversed for the good of each horse and for the breed.

Please read the excerpt from the article, "Dr Robert M Miller April 20 ·
The Risk of Overworking Young Horses"

"Actually, I think many riders – perhaps most – ride larger horses than necessary.

A fifteen hand Thoroughbred once won an Olympic Gold Medal. Yet most jumping horse riders want a much taller horse. A fifteen hand U.S. Army mule once set the world’s never broken high jump. It was just under nine feet. Many of the best reining horses, cutting horses, and roping horses stand between fourteen and fifteen hands.

It isn’t the rider’s weight that breaks most horses down. It is their own body weight combined with excessive work, especially in the immature horse.

Big draft horses, with nothing on their backs, are susceptible to sidebone, ringbone and other forms of limb unsoundness.

I have seen less lameness in the smaller breeds such as the Arabian, the Morgan, the Peruvian Paso, the Rocky Mountain Horse, and even in the larger pony breeds than in the heavier and larger breeds of horses. And, some of these smaller horses were carrying rather heavy riders.

Nature intended wild horses to weigh between 600 and 850 pounds. Truly wild horses are that size. Even feral horses (domestic horses gone wild) usually run under 1,000 pounds. A lot of mustangs today, under 900 pounds, are accomplishing spectacular performances in every conceivable discipline.

If we want to really prevent lameness in horses, DON’T WORK THEM TOO HARD AT TOO YOUNG AN AGE.

My most recent video, and the only one I have made not dealing with equine behavior, is Lameness – Its Causes and Prevention.

In this video I list eleven causes of lameness. Ten of these are well recognized and much is said and written about them. They are:

Poor conformation
Injury due to an unsafe environment
Inappropriate ground surfaces (too deep or too hard)
Inadequate foot care
Genetic Predisposition
Poor Horseshoeing
Lack of exercise
10. Old age
But, in my lifetime of experience, more lameness is caused by number eleven: Too much work in the immature horse. The problem is worsening because it is money driven. Breeders and trainers want to get the job done when the horse is as young as possible in order to maximize profits."

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Hold on to your hats... I couldn't agree more. I have a mare - who turned out to be a little tank - that I didn't start riding until she was nearly 7. She was just too slight and narrow. How many people want to feed, vet, farrier, a horse for 6 years before they even think about riding? Not many.

We all know these horses mature slower than other breeds. So how can breeding mares and stallions lauriado out of showing by the time they are 7 or 8 years old? And what shape are they in when they are 10 or 12? We don't know because they aren't shown anymore.

I currently have a mare that is significantly larger (about a hand) than both her parents. No one was trying for bigger. Was it better nutrition? Different grass? I don't know.

Luckily for her, I was in a horrible car accident about the time she turned 4 and I was going to start working her. She didn't get ridden until she was 9. Good thing. It took that long for her to grow into her brain!

What's the solution? It's difficult to wait until a horse is 6 or 7 years old to train... and then STILL have them "break down" in a couple years. I think it goes back to my usual rant. Breed better horses.

I am respectfully holding my hat in my hand while saying I do not believe we are in agreement over the implications of the article for the Peruvian horse.

The trend I see is for a larger, heavier horse. Many times to make the horses look larger they are made grossly overweight. A trend which makes little sense as the years ago top horses were shorter and fine examples of a light horse breed. Making even less sense is the fact the overweight horses especially if overweight from a young age have a so much higher chance of suffering lameness issues and possible breakdown as they age. As was noted in the article, the heavy horse breeds have a higher chance of leg issues caused just by their heavier weights.

Combine the overweight horse that is not properly conditioned with the weekend or inexperienced rider that may overwork said horse and the possibility of leg problems is greatly increased for a young or an older horse. The immature young horse is at the greater risk.

Now to say "Breed better horse" is unfair to most breeders. The owners of a horse have the responsibility to keep their horse at a correct weight, properly condition the horse, not to overwork the horse, and provide proper hoof care. The breeder can educate the owner of these responsibilities but have no control of the owner following their advice. Lameness and breakdown may not be the breeder's fault but falls on the poor practices of the horse owner. The horse owner also has the responsibility of early recognition of a leg problem and proper treatment and finally of leaving the horse alone until the problem is completely healed.

The breeders do have the responsibility to not breed horse with conformation faults and most importantly to not breed bad legged horses.

Could it be the problem in the Peruvian horse is horses being overfed, over supplemented, having inexperienced owners and riders and thus being an overweight horse being overly worked.

The solution? Could the NAPHA  work to bring the Peruvian horse in the U.S.A. back to being a light riding horse breed (rather than trying to make it a smooth riding QH). Could the NAPHA could develop educational programs on correct feeding, weight, conditioning, riding, and etc.  Maybe that is a start, what do you think?

Thanks to Chris Austin for the kind remark.

We are on the same page... and there is definately plenty of blame to go around. I just place more of the responsibility on the breeders. Most horses aren't sold as foals. They are started by the breeders then sold. So it is the breeder starting the horses before they are technically "ready".

And what about the tradition of breeding 3 year old mares before starting their training? Weight of a baby and weight of a rider? Always seemed too much to me. If the breeders are selling young, untrained horses, I feel they have a responsibility to guide the novice owners about their purchase. When you buy a car, they tell you about oil changes, tire rotations, breaking period, octane requirements and give you a book for all other questions. Would be nice if new horse owners got something besides the horse!

YES! People over feed their horses. It makes me crazy when an obviously over fed, metabolic horse is displayed with the proud owner remarking about the horse's awesome arched neck. Arched? You mean fat crest? A full bodied horse is not the same as a fat, heavy horse. Too many people equate feeding their horse with loving their horse. Unfortunately, they are loving their horses to death.

For years, I have been saying NAPHA needs to have information on caring for the Peruvian horse. To be blunt, we need a "Peruvian Horses for Dummies" booklet! It should address equine metabolic syndrome and feeding Peruvian horses, proper hoof care and trimming, health issues like Selenium deficiency, allergies... I have also begged for someone out there to look through their old papers to find the PPHRNA document that was basically Peruvian Horses for Beginners.

The PPHRNA had all sorts of great articles and documents that "vanished" after the merger. But someone out there MUST still have them. There are also great articles, books, videos that already exist. They should be easily accessed on the NAPHA website and here on Peruvian Horse World - even if it's for purchase! NAPHA doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, just secure the rights to reprint or reproduce what exists and consolidate it in one spot.

I have a huge personal library. I have tried to aquire copies of all the old videos, books and magazines. I have tried to print hard copies of all the amazing articles like the one Cheryl Aldrich (GOD rest her) wrote explaining gait. It's out there. Great, helpful, educational information is sitting there. People who own Peruvians are starving for any information to help them take care of their horses.

The board has previously discussed putting together a packet of information similar to what you mentioned above. However, we just didn't have the manpower to pull it together. Please contact me if you are interested in working with me in putting together a committee that can make this idea a reality. :)

Great topic Brad, thank you for sharing.


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