Thursday, March 29, 2012

UW River Falls II

I did indeed make some mistakes while blogging about UW River Falls and their horse breeding program, for which I apologize. Specifically, I was wrong about Rambo's Smoking Hot being bred twice-- his sire bred two mares. It's still not clear to me whether Rambos himself was bred by UWRF, though you can clearly see here that he was consigned by UWRF. In addition, it's been made clear to me that a large number of horses for sale at the UWRF auction are consigned by others, not bred by UWRF. Again, my apologies.

I also stand by some of my statements.

- UWRF still sucks for breaking two-year-olds. Yes, racehorses are raced at age two, and yes, it does make more financial sense to get horses broke and sold off...but as one other commenter mentioned, that doesn't make it right. Most horses just aren't physically or mentally ready to be broke as babies (literally, since a yearling is about 7 years old in human terms, and a two year old is about 13). There are professional reports here, here and here that say so, and there are many more out there. The New York Times just published a lengthy article here on exactly how awful the racing industry is for horses at many US when racing is used as an example of how horses should be used, it's sort of like using sweatshops as an example of how factory workers should be treated.

- UWRF still sucks for auctioning off unadvertised old school horses. 
Poster JayGirl, a student at the school, commented that this is because UWRF doesn't even know which horses the school will dump until right before the sale. I confirmed this by speaking to faculty member Nathan O'Connor, who told me that they were "still figuring out" which lesson horses would be sold about a month from now, but there would be about 7 available. Of these, he said three would have "been around forever" at the school, and were super nice, calm, very well-broke old guys with soundness issues that just couldn't handle being ridden much anymore. I then asked him whether UWRF would ever consider a retirement program for these guys. He said, "We don't ever retire our horses," but instead try to sell them off before they become "totally unrideable." Well hey, maybe even after selling off their $1,000-$3,500 colts, charging $1,000 stud feeds and collecting tuition money, they don't have money to retire or euthanize a couple old schoolies...but then why not an adoption program, with reference and background checking, rather than selling to the highest bidder? Maybe, with "only" several dozen college kids and faculty members, they just don't have the staff?

I would also like to add to my rant:

- UWRF sucks for not requiring helmets. 
 Seriously, of the dozens and dozens of training pictures, I think ONE showed a girl wearing a helmet. Whether or not you personally believe in wearing a helmet, a state-funded school should be protecting itself, and thus taxpayer money, from lawsuits. These college kids are learning to train horses, on young horses that are not trained. That's what we call an accident waiting to happen.

-UWRF's website just sucks.
Part of the problem in researching any of this is that UWRF apparently never deletes anything online. Searching for current information on their horse program is a hair-tearing hunt through old sales lists, broken links, picture slide shows with no other information, and generic descriptions of the school. Okay, that's mostly just annoying rather than irresponsible, but it doesn't help the school's horses get sold.

 UW River Falls isn't evil. I'm even willing to concede that they're not backyard breeders, and I apologize for calling them that. However, they're not responsible horse owners either. Until they are willing to do something for their old school horses, stop riding two year olds, and get a helmet policy, they won't be.


  1. There is a helmet policy. There are requirements. You do not attend the university, you would not know. For over a month, colt class students MUST wear a helmet. Helmet use is STRONGLY encouraged in all courses offered at all times. Several other courses also make it MANDATORY that students wear helmets. None of this effects you, anyway. Why dont you come meet with faculty if you feel so entitled and offended by the college? You could also write a letter or an email instead of ranting on here. It would be a better means of objection to the colleges' policies.

  2. Why dont you look on youtube for the recent colt videos? All students have helmets on. Spend more time observing that on youtube than criticizing the video of Rambos Smoking Hot and you would see that all of the new 2012 videos have students wearing helmets.

  3. I pity you, I really do. I don't know what it was that spurred you to choose this issue, school, or program but your lack of knowledge about the equine industry certainly shows. It saddens me that someone would want to attempt to tarnish a program that is invaluable to the many students that love and pursue careers with horses. Judging an industry, university or program without getting to know more about it (without needing to prove something or defend oneself) is just as bad as judging a person on how they look. Do you really know them based on skin color, clothing, or hair style? I urge you to take a step back and look at the people you are affecting. The horse industry as a whole certainly has some controversial issues. Please use the appropriate avenues to address them. Attacking one learning institution via blog is not going to accomplish anything and, in my opinion, lays legal grounds for a potential defamation claim.

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  6. The website doesnt suck for one, it shows our horses that are for sale and thats the point. Rambos Smoking Hot was not bred by UWRF he came from another equine professional. These colts are ready to be ridden and the only people that will side with you are non-equine professionals. The school horses are auctioned off to find better homes where they could live the rest of their life taken care of in a one-on-one situation and ridden lightly if at all. Most of them go to families that just want a horse to love on and feel safe letting their children ride. We do euthanize the ones that just can't make it anymore and its not something we enjoy doing. Maybe you should come check out our program and actually get some factual information. Check out the Legacy Sale and go bi** to them if you really want to start crap instead of solely bashing a great university. They sell more two year olds than we do and for a hell of a lot more money. See what they have to say about your close minded bullshit. Oh and you are violating copyright issues by using that photo, for a librarian you should know that, but you apparently don't have knowledge of your own profession let alone the horse industry.

  7. I agree with AMHx23, and everyone else that has published a comment. It does seem that you do not have a full grasp and knowledge of the equine program at University of Wisconsin- River Falls. Before you publish anything, weither the article be in any academic scholarly magazine, or just on a blog page, make sure you do not first use words like "sucks" or shorten a school or whatever you are criticizing's name. This discredits your stance, shows a lack or research, and that this is just a rant, rather then a thought out paper worthy or intellectual conversation. Before you decide to criticize something else, make sure you do your research. This blog can have some validity, but because you lacked the attempt of research, like visiting the school, joining a class for a day to figure out what the students and faculties stance on issues like the ones you brought up, and knowing exactly you are looking for on our schools specifically's webpage, this blog has no validity of actually having any scholarly merit to it. I hope in the future, you decide to do your research more and have your blog worthy or positive conversation, rather then a one sided attack on a program and an institution.

  8. Seriously?!?!?!? You want to keep going after student upon student has proved everything you keep saying is stupid and wrong?? You are not qualified to say any of this!!! I am a student here, work at the lab farm, and am on the show team!! As a rule here we have to wear helmets in classes. The school should sue you for all the false things you are saying about it. As professor O'Connor said, we are still deciding which schoolies to get rid of. There are many reasons to this, between class size and herd size. We do not need to make final decisions on who to get rid of until the day before the school auction if we don't want to, that is THE SCHOOLS CHOICE!!!!! If you hate the website so bad then contact the appropriate person and complain!! My personal horse was broken in at 2 years old at blackhawk in Illinios, are you going to bash them too??? Shes sound and doing great in my care and she is now 6. Do you own a horse??? Do you have any idea what happens in the equine industry?? UWRF does a wonderful job caring for the horses here and making sure if they are sold, they go to a good relaxing home for retirement. We are a school, we use the horses every day. To keep horses that can not be ridden is a drain on the little money the school has for the horses. Therefor, if we keep retired horses, they are eating and not surving a purpose to the school any more. It is more economical to sell them at the sale to make sure they go to a good home. Remember, we stated before, people who come to the sale are respected trainers and professionals in the industry. You would not know that unless you educated yourself at the univeristy. WHICH I SUGGEST YOU EDUCATE YOURSELF BEFORE YOU POST AGAIN!!!!!

    1. Being angry is one thing, but expressing your anger is another. This will not make the situation better.

  9. It is funny how you continue to use your increasingly terrible research methods to try and bash our university. It is to my understanding that the money that comes in from selling a colt mostly goes back to the original owner/breeder of the colt. Helmets are there for us to use and it is our choice as whether or not we want to use them except in beginning courses and for most of the colt training helmets are required. It is like any other riding facility you might visit. The instructors let us know that if we feel unsafe at any time to please use a helmet if we are in the more advanced courses. We do not have the funds, time or space for a retirement program of our own and I think selling them NOT dumping them to someone else for a pasture or trail pony is a decent retirement program. Getting rid of schoolies is a big decision just like selling any other horse is. I think it's responsible to take that time. I know that these colts are analyzed carefully to make sure that they are ready for what they are doing at the time. I'm sure if one was not in shape or strong enough to handle the training yet they would move slower or take that horse out of the program completely. Every one of those colts is highly taken care of and on great exercise and diet plans for them specifically. My grandmother was a librarian and I'm sure she'd be quite disappointed in the way you went about researching this. The stud fees are quite reasonable if you consider the studs bloodlines. I believe that you are also wrong in saying that our website sucks. It seems that you came to this conclusion by googling or using some search engine to find information about the colt sale. The current pages of information on our website are the only ones that should be up. It is the search engines that hold onto every past update. If you would like to continue ranting please actually attempt good research methods and please realize that you are not only offending a wonderful Wisconsin University and their programs but also the amazing EDUCATED students that attend this school.

  10. I would also like to add that we have a retired race horse on our facility who is now used for classes. He is a wonderful horse and it seems that the training he received when he was younger has not effected him in the least. I do agree that the racing industry is quite harsh to train their racers at such a young age though, racing is a much tougher life though. The colts here are trained the basics of western riding and are not pushed to the edge of their limits through harsh running exercises. I am not however able to make any comment simply speculate since I don't know enough about the racing industry to compare. I have not ever been to a race or a facility and it would be wrong of me to bash an industry without having experienced it for myself

  11. You must see the error in your words, because it is obvious to me that you will not let any of us show you that you are wrong. It leaves me to believe that you are a close minded hateful person. I am an equine management major and I could not find a better equine program. We all care for those horses, each student and professor treats them as if they were their own. Many of us know all of the horses names, though there are many of them. Please take these blogs down, as a teacher you should know that it is wrong to spread hate... or do you teach your children to hate as you do. Do you teach your children how to be hurtful? You have hurt many feelings with your blog posts and I believe it is completely wrong. You are obviously not educated enough in the equine industry to make any claims to things being wrong, and you definitely don't know anything about our equine program. This is a biased opinion blog with no facts. You have slandered an amazing teachers name who is well respected in the horse industry. Selling our schoolies is a hard decision because we love them all so much, and our stud fees are cheap compared to some but you obviously wouldn't know that.

  12. First point, we arn't training race horses! So therefore we arn't putting loads of strain on the horse. I trained my horse before he was two because he was big enough and he's the sweetest thing on the whole farm. I dare you to call me a bad horse owner when I feed, water and see to his health every day! 2: you say a yearling is like a 7 year old human well isn't that human in school? Training and riding is school for these young ones but we don't push them! If they aren't ready, they aren't ready and they can go into the class next year. 3: if you take riding lessons YOU ARE REQUIRED TO WEAR A HELMET Had to in beginning equitation. If you don't own horses, don't train them, and haven't gone to school to work with them, how would you know how its done? Its hard to decide which schoolies we want to sell because the staff is emotionally attached to all of them, students too. I rode and amazing gelding named Bravo, if I didn't already have two horses I would gladly buy him. We would rather see our horses go to kind, loving families that can afford to keep them for the rest of their lives than keep them at the school, when they can receive one on one attention.

  13. In all reality I am just greatly curious on why? Was this subject brought up in order to create a list of readers? To have more interaction on this site? Because there are two ways to create publicity, one is by reporting hard facts about a subject and the other is by producing entertaining fiction. Now over all, yes most of your information is incorrect. The only thing I can give you actual credit for is having an opinion but I can’t say it is right or wrong because frankly it is just an opinion and you are entitled to that. Heck I respect you for having an opinion on some hard issues and not being afraid to state them publicly. Few have the guts. With that being said it is also unfair for your opinion to cloud the truth. Putting an opinion out there and claiming (whether directly or indirectly) that is fact is wrong. Does the University of River Falls have some problems mostly likely yes, everything does. But if you attempt to highlight those problems please do it in a respectable manner. Constructive criticism is a better alternative to trash talk and anyone apart of the horse industry or who has been around it knows that that is what horse people like to do, trash talk. I for one fail to see these blogs about the UW-River Falls being much more than trash talk considering the poor evidence used to support the “claims”. Yes most of us would in a perfect world prefer horses not to be started at 2 and broken by 6. Yes a large majority of us would love it if everyone would wear a helmet because it is safer that way, but twenty years olds are adults that get to make their own choices and even though wiser souls will recommend helmets, thinking that cracking your head open and dying is usually not present in their minds. But something we can change or at least all the people now reading this heated issue (seems you riled up quite a few people), is how we behave about this issues. Let’s not be the trash talkers. Let’s be better people than that. We are all welcome to our opinions and I greatly enjoy reading them all but I think what needs to be clear is what is fact, what is assumption, and what is opinion. You assumed a lot of things about the University in question that were things that had little proof to them. They were as a whole not much better than a rumor with an added toping of opinion. That is fine just don’t claim them as fact.
    Now my two cents on the topics in question, I agree with you breaking out two year olds is something that is acceptable in the industry and maybe shouldn’t be. There are many studies that prove that a horse isn’t fully mature until much later than 2 and with heavy riding these 2 year olds grow up with multiple soundness issues. This is common knowledge and anyone really disputing this is most likely lying to themselves. However, the University’s job is to prepare students for what they should expect in the “real world”. Training two year olds is part of that “real world” so in reality the University and its professors are doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing. That is the function of the University and condemning the school for doing what it is supposed to do seem illogical. If you want to change the fact that the University starts two year olds every year…GREAT! But you can’t change that by trashing the school you have to change that by changing industry standards. If you change the standards in the industry the school’s program will change. Yes it isn’t simple and ranting about it will probably not get you anywhere but that’s the way to make the change happen. Not this.
    Finally I think you are completely right about the website. It is super hard to navigate unless you already know where you are going and it does have a lot of loose links. But really saying that isn’t anything I would really think so offend people.

  14. I am a student at UWRF and I just want to clarify a few points. Rambo's Smoking Hot wasn't bred at UWRF, all colts bred by the school are registered with UWRF preceding their names. I realize that this would not have been clear on the school's website, so I'm hoping that you'll take my word for it.
    As for the schoolies, it's true that they often don't know which ones will be sold until just before the sale. We don't enjoy having to get rid of them, so it does take a while to make the decision. I know that they have debated selling Armani for several years now, but always held back because he's one of our best English horses. However, most horse people in the area are aware that the schoolies are sold at the end of the colt sale, and we have people who come specifically for that reason.
    When the school says they don't have the money to retire their old horses, it's the truth. The money from the colt sale and stud fees doesn't come anywhere close to the cost of running a farm of this size. Every horse on the property has to be useful, we can't afford to keep additional horses. And they still keep raising our tuition. While an adoption program is a nice idea, it really would involve more work than the staff has time for. And when it comes down to it, even with references and background checks, a horse isn't necessarily guaranteed a better home than he would get going through the auction.
    Saying that UWRF does not require helmets is not entirely true. All students are required to wear helmets in the introductory riding class and while doing over-fence work. Students in the colt class wear helmets for at least the first month. Apart from that, wearing a helmet is the student's choice. My choice is to wear a helmet every ride, but we are all adults, and if some students choose not to wear a helmet, that's their choice. We all sign liability waivers before doing any activities out at the barn.
    I do also agree with you in some aspects. I wish they waited to break the colts out until they were three. But as a student, I recognize the value of this class. The students get to start a horse under close supervision from an experienced professional. Nathan O'Connor is very good at what he does, and the colts are all sold with a good solid foundation. They also don't let just anyone take the class. You have to take the Western riding class with Nathan and then get approval before you can enroll in the class. It's all very carefully regulated. The school will continue breaking and selling the colts as two-year-olds until the industry changes. This is what the buyers are looking for, and it's what the owners who send in their colts for training want. You're right, that doesn't mean it's best for the horses. From my perspective, though, it's not feasible to have a three-year-old colt breaking class because they wouldn't get as many horses, and there are a lot of students who want to participate. This is truly a valuable class for students, and I wouldn't want to see it taken away.
    And I will concede that the website is rather poorly designed. I've struggled with it my fair share! The only defense I can offer is that we're Animal Science majors, not Computer Science!
    Overall, UWRF really does have a strong equine program. I've learned how to do so much that will have a huge impact on the well-being of any horse I will own, from nutrition to hoof care, vaccinations to lameness exams.
    I'm sorry that this blog probably blew up way more than you intended it to. I respect your right to disagree with our practices, but UWRF is a well-respected school, and you did come across rather harshly, without being very familiar with the facts in your first post. I would say that the lesson to be learned here is to be a little more careful about your research before you post something.

  15. Alright lady, enough is enough. Spend your time doing something productive for once and leave the University alone. This is absolutely ridiculous. If you're that interested in the program I reccommend you get your ass off the computer and see it for yourself, just so you can stop making a damn fool of yourself sitting behind a keyboard. Seriously, your done.

  16. It's pretty clear to me that all the while your blogging and spewing,literally...your entire blog is full of primary like rantings while your profile clearly lists you as being a librarian and a teacher...hmmm...should that not make you a bit more eloquent and versed? Never mind the fact that you are clearly so uneducated on the topic of which you blog about- your parents I am sure would be horrified that you even list yourself as such...did they really pay for that education? Because your clearly not using the appropriate resources to educate yourself before trying to educate others...guess that sets the course for how the rest of your career will go, not very far I am sure. I mean really ,have you considered the ramifications of your uneducated words and what kind of effect this will have ? Sorry honey it's too late you just can't take stupid away once it's been blasted over the internet.

  17. I understand that you are upset that UWRF breaks colts at age two. I do want to point out that some in the sale are three or even older, which is up to the individual owners consigning the horses to decide when the horse is mature enough to be started. Instead of being upset with UWRF for this issue, what you really should be angry with is the horse industry as a whole. As someone else said, if the program did not accept two year olds, the program would not get quality horses, because the owners expect their two year olds to be started and able to sell as started horses by the time they are almost 2 1/2. If this wasn't an option, those owners would send their horses elsewhere in order to stay competitive. While it is easier to pick on a smaller organization, that is really just a "symptom of the problem" and even if RF changed their ways, it would not change the fact that most horses are started as young 2 year olds, and if your horse isn't started then, then you may be looked at funny. I also realize that this is not something one person can change, and I'm sure you're frustrated with it, so you are trying to do what you can. Like others said, it's good to dig in and really research something before posting about it (negatively or positively) so you are providing factual information. Plus, if you had done more research, you may have been less upset in the first place.

    If you want something that will "ruin" horses, or cause them to be retired earlier than some other disciplines may, check out competitive jumping. I'm not talking about the small jumps used at RF, but the higher jumps used in competitive jumping. THAT is hard on horses, and will "ruin" them much quicker than breaking at two. Just my 2 cents.

    And yes, any time we are in a situation that is not as safe (in the beginner riding class, any time over fences, doing something new such as working horses with tarps, or on young unbroke horses, we are required to wear helmets).

    And of course the program has ways it could improve, as does anything. Doing an actual program evaluation by someone training in assessment may be a better way to make change happen.

    Also, I'm not sure why it bothers you that the "schoolies" are not advertised. Had you ever been to a sale you would realize that it's not necessary. The advertisement is by word of mouth. There are plenty of buyers there looking for the schoolies that know some are auctioned off each year. Why waste money (that could be spent on the horses) on advertising when it's not necessary...that's would fail a cost-benefit analysis.

  18. The only point I will comment on is the auctioning off of school horses.

    To me, that seems irresponsible. A better alternative would be to have the horses put down (which can be free depending on how it is done) as any horse (especially ones with soundness issues) has the potential to wind up in a bad situation without proper screening of homes, or an understanding that the horse is not to be sold to slaughter. People rescue from auctions for a reason, it's because anyone with some spare cash can buy horses and they don't neccessarily provide good homes. I have a mare with soundness issues and I had only owned her for a year and 5 days before she became mildly (but permanently) lame, I would never think of auctioning her off because I know that with an auction I can't control anything. She's living out her days in a big green pasture. Perhaps when the horses are auctioned off any buyers should sign an agreement stating that the horse will be offered back to the school first if it is ever sold on? That would take a very minimal amount of time and money and it would ensure that the horses have a safe future.

    Don't feel bad North horse, you are just standing up for your beliefs.