Plaidcast 366: Wendy Murdoch & Dr. Kathleen Anderson by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

Plaidcast Episode 366 Wendy Murdoch Dr. Kathleen Anderson


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Piper and co-host Traci Brooks of Balmoral Farm speak with Wendy Murdoch about how to improve horse coordination and balance while enhancing communication and connection between horse and rider. Dr. Kathleen Anderson, DVM also joins to talk about her practice at Fair Hill Training Center in Fair Hill, Maryland, which she shares with Michael Matz. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!


  • Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine and Traci Brooks of Balmoral Farm 
  • Guest: Wendy Murdoch is an internationally recognized equestrian instructor and clinician for over 30 years, author of several books and DVDs, and creator of the SURE FOOT Equine Stability Program®, Ride Like A Natural® and  The Whole Rider Course®. Wendy’s desire to understand the horse’s and human’s function, curiosity, and love of teaching capitalizes on the most current learning theories. In this way, she can help both the horse and the rider. 
  • Guest: Dr. Kathleen Anderson, DVM is a native of British Columbia, Canada and received her veterinary degree at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan, Canada. Dr. Anderson started practicing in 1986 as an associate with Dr. A. Martin Simensen, the long-time US Equestrian Team veterinarian based at the USET headquarters. In 1990, she migrated south to the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland racing circuits. Dr. Anderson settled at Fair Hill Training Center in Fair Hill, Maryland in 1993 and has actively contributed to the continued success and upgrades at Fair Hill. 
  • Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
  • Photos Courtesy of Wendy Murdoch & Dr. Kathleen Anderson
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  • Sponsors: American Stalls, Purina Animal NutritionAmerica CryoLAURACEA, Wordley Martin Premium Equestrian Surfaces, BoneKare, Laurel Springs School, Show Strides Book Series, With Purpose: The Balmoral Standard, Good Boy, Eddie, World Equestrian Center and Silver Lining Herbs

This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.

Piper Klemm 
[00:00:54] This is The Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of the Plaid Horse magazine, and coming up today on episode 366, I’m joined by co-host Traci Brooks at Balmoral Farm. We’re going to be talking with Wendy Murdoch about how we can improve horse and rider coordination and balance, while enhancing communication and connection with the horse. And then we’re going to talk to Doctor Kathleen Anderson, DVM, about her practice at the Fair Health Training Center in Fair Hill, Maryland, which she shares with Michael Matz. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services.

Piper Klemm [00:03:27] Wendy Murdoch is an internationally recognized equestrian instructor and clinician for over 30 years, and author of several books and DVDs, and the creator of the Surefoot Equine Stability Program. Ride Like a Natural and The Whole Rider course. Wendy’s desire to understand the horses and humans function. Her curiosity and her love of teaching capitalizes on the most current learning theories. In this way, she can help both the horse and the rider. Welcome to the plaidcast, Wendy. 

Wendy Murdoch [00:03:55] Oh, thanks. It’s so great to be here with you. 

Piper Klemm [00:03:57] So talk to us about the Sure Foot Equine Stability program. Where do we where do we get started on that? And what do we need to know? 

Wendy Murdoch [00:04:06] Okay, so let’s start with what you need to know. What you need to know is that the horse’s hoof is a sensory organ. And, yes, it needs to be properly trimmed. It needs to be healthy. It needs to be clean, all that good stuff. But it’s as important to the horse as your nose or your eyes are to you. And that’s the thing that I’ve discovered, is that the hoof is a sensory organ. And like if I was to, you know, if you are used to being able to see and I suddenly said, you can’t see. Yeah, that would be a problem, right. Well, where the horse, his foot perceives so much information, I don’t even think we understand how much information the horse receives through his foot that goes to his brain. And so what I discovered when I started Sure Foot was that not only is this a sensory organ, but it’s constantly waiting for good information, good input. In other words, by placing horses on unstable surfaces, on Sure foot pads, the horses reorganize their balance, behavior and movement. And it can happen in seconds and it can be permanent. Now, you know, like like full disclosure, if everybody goes, how can everything work for everything? It doesn’t doesn’t work for every horse. It’s not going to change all horses instantly. However, by either using Sure foot on a regular basis, by using it when the horse needs help, by using it in your training as warm up, cool down. You know, if you’re going to an event, you’ve trailered him. Trailer rides are hard on horses. You can relax him when you get to the show, there’s so many ways to apply this idea. So basically by using sure foot pads, were inputting information directly into the horse’s brain about where his body is in space. That sense is called proprioception. It’s the thing that lets you grab the candy bar in the back seat of the car out of the grocery bag when you’re driving, you know, 70 miles an hour down the highway. You know where your hand is in space. But that proprioceptive input can get altered due to injuries, due to pain, due to, you know, habits. And so you’re not getting the right information through. And so what that means is, say you have a horse that has difficulty cantering on the left lead, and you’ve done all kinds of training and you’re still struggling with that. Well, that problem could be an. Initiated because of, faulty input from that foot to the brain. And I’ve literally had a horse that came to me in a in a clinic setting, and the woman struggled and struggled with this horse to get the the lead one lead. I can’t remember which one now. And even in the field, the horse only picked up one lead on a consistent basis. So we did sure foot for two days during the clinic. So and when I say, you know, maybe ten, 15 minutes at the beginning of a ride, and after the first day, she watched the horse picking up the difficult lead in the field on its own. And when she came back for the ride on the second day of the clinic, we did sure foot again, and the horse could pick up both leads easily. So was this a training problem or was this a sensory input problem? And while we can’t really answer those questions, what’s clear to me is that so many times horses are, horse and rider struggle with things that actually can be solved and solved in a simple way, by giving the horse more information through the sensory organ of his foot to change his balance, behavior and movement. So that’s why it’s looking for input all the time, or receiving input all the time. We just need to give it something that helps, the horse become aware of the habit its have holding and then how to get back into balance. And we now have actually on top of that, there are two really important research papers that have come out, one in the UK and one in the United States. The one in the UK did an experiment with six horses, and they did shuffle pads a couple times a week, over a forgotten four week period. And not only were the horses more and more interested in getting to the place where they were going to have her foot pads, they were looking forward to the sure foot pads and their top line showed visibly positive improvement. In other words, their top line got better, and their their stride length improved. And then in the other study, they were looking at something called the multifarious muscles, which are these little tiny muscles, that stabilize the spine and are so important to prevent back pain. And they saw an a positive increase in the multifarious muscles using short footpads. So not only can your foot help the horse’s, behavior, because I think all behavior starts with a a balance problem, either mentally, emotionally, or physically. It can help with core stability. It can help with improved back health. Right. Because kissing spine can be that’s a massive problem. Just did a great webinar on that. And it can improve your relationship with your horse. So my favorite part is that when I do share food with the horses, they all like, want to be with me because I brought them something really comforting. And so there’s so many benefits. But, you know, I get that it’s a weird thing. Like, when I started this, I. I put it out on Facebook. Big mistake. But now, now, veterinarians all over the world. Like, I just got a call from a veterinarian in Mexico, and I, he wants to know more about Sure Foot, the rehab that’s understand it from the rehab perspective, which we know from humans, that you have to bring back the proprioception to know where you are in space to fully recover. Strengthening, core strengthening, for sure. And then this, relationship with you, because you’ve brought the horse comfort. And so there’s, so, there’s so many benefits on so many levels. And it’s, you know, it’s just so exciting to me to see that people can do this for their own horse. Like, it’s not difficult. There are some guidelines. But this is something that horse owners can do for their own horses and make huge changes in their relationship and and their balance and their training and, and just general comfort. 

Traci Brooks [00:10:21] When you hear pad, the first thing as a horse person I think of is a pad that is attached to the shoe that goes on the bottom of the foot. Can you explain to us what the Sure foot pad is that it’s actually not that. And tell us how you came up with the idea for that? 

Wendy Murdoch [00:10:37] Oh, sure. You know, you you remind me way back in the beginning, people would ask me, well, how do you strap them to the horse’s feet? And you don’t. So when I talk about a pad, the pads are two inches thick and they’re ten by 12, so they’re, a fairly good size, but they’re they’re individualized because you want to be able to, like, put one pad under a foot and then you can add two feet, or you can do different density. So if you think about people, you know, if you’ve ever had a surgery where you’ve had to rehab and they put you on an unstable surface, some kind of a pad, that’s what we’re talking about. The horse might only stand on it for 15 seconds. So it’s this two by by 12 by ten, ten by 12 by two pad. Okay. And you place the horse’s foot on it and it stays there. Great. And if he walks off, fine. The first horse I ever did, I timed it for 15 seconds, and it changed my life. Like, it changed the horse, but it changed my life. So how I got started with this is that I’m what’s called a Feldenkrais practitioner. Feldenkrais is a type of somatic body work that, looks at, bringing back function. So, say, you know, you’ve had an injury and you stopped using that shoulder. With Feldenkrais, we would explore the possibility of movement and restore that possibility because those patterns are held in your brain. So as a Feldenkrais practitioner, I have been working with riders for over, well, 35 years. Like, I’ve been practicing the technique for over 20 and, and trained in it. And so the idea here is that it it doesn’t need to be a huge deal. In other words, little tiny things can make a big difference. And in my teaching, I’ve always been exploring. Well, how can I bring this idea of of course. Now, full disclosure, I worked with Linda, Tellington Jones she studied directly with Doctor Feldenkrais, and I have been, practicing Tellington Jones person since 1985. But Linda had taken the Feldenkrais training, and I did that in 2000. So now I have this idea about possibilities of movement, working with riders, helping them find better balance. And so this one day I went to teach a lesson, and the horse was lame in the right hind leg. And it’s a horse. I knew I’d worked with him for three years. I’d given him Feldenkrais lessons to restore his movement. The rider was getting Aids and harmony and her dressage tests, but she decided she wanted to do some jumping. And so she had, ridden the horse for a month in a jumping saddle, and now he was short in the right hind leg. So I looked at the saddle and it was crooked, and I said, fine. Do you have your dressage saddle with you? She did. We put that on. He was still lame in the right hind leg, was going to see her the next day. So that night I went home and I was talking to my best friend, Doctor Joyce Harman, who is an internationally known holistic veterinarian, and she was talking to me. This is in 2012. Okay. So standing desks were not a thing yet. But she was talking to me about a standing desk and that she wanted something to stand on at her standing desk. And while we were talking, she told me about how they were putting dogs on unstable, surfaces to rehabilitate them from, say, cruciate ligament surgery and things like that. And so as she’s talking, I’m tapping away on my computer. I’m looking at these dogs on all these unstable surfaces. And I said to her, Will, do you think it would work for a horse? And she said, I don’t know, the time and for 15 seconds, whatever you do, just keep it short. So I, I went into my set, I grabbed a pad. I just grabbed what I had, I drove to the lesson. I walked up to the horse. The rider was already on. I went to the right hind leg. I picked it up. I stuck the pad underneath. I put the foot down. I timed it for 15 seconds and the horse walked off sound and blew my mind. Okay. Blew my mind. And I was like, I spent the rest of the time it was an hour less, and I spent the rest of the time with the horse was moving very fine. So my next lesson was a Quarter Horse that had a, he had been Western pleasure and woman wanted to do eventing, and his canter wasn’t very, you know, round. So I messed around with him with the pads and we had a round canter in less than an hour. The next horse was a halfling, and, my friend that owned the halflinger is a fellow Feldenkrais practitioner. Her name is Catherine White Clop. She’s also, a PhD in physical therapy, so she’s got lots of letters after her name. And she had this halflinger that she used for therapeutic riding. I used the pads with this horse and we had a round canter, so I had a warm blood, a quarter horse and a halflinger. And in minutes. Their movement completely changed. So I realized right then that I had discovered something that was incredibly important to the horses. And I think that’s what what has driven me so much is that it’s the horses are waiting for us to say something meaningful, and we just have to figure out what that is. And with Sugarfoot, I can approach horses that have had injuries or that are scared or, I even have horses that we’re calling and use the pads and create a change. Now, like I said, it’s not going to work for all horses. Nothing does. And the kind of results I see varies. But one of the people I talked to early on, two people I talked to when I discovered this, was Doctor Robert Bouker, who is up at, he was at MSU now. He’s now retired, and he is a specialist in the horse’s hoof in terms of the neurons. He’s a neuroscientist and a veterinarian. And I asked him, how is this working? And he wasn’t surprised at all. And then I talked to Doctor Stephen Peters, who’s a human neuropsychologist who has horses, and he’s he’s written a book about the horse’s brain, and he studied the horse horse’s brain. And I went to him and I spent a day with him working with his horses. And his first comment was because he had a he knew his horses really well, and some of them were rescues. And he’s like, there are breathing changes in under 10s. And he called me a drug story. So you’re delivering neurochemicals to these horses? Because the horses showed us all the signs of the parasympathetic system. Rest and digest of dopamine. That’s lick and chew, probably serotonin and acetylcholine. So. He recognized that I’d found a channel from that foot to that brain that’s releasing neurochemicals. And that’s one of the reasons we see these changes. So, you know, it was just so astounding to me. And, and I’ve continued now this is over ten years. I have horse people using Sugarfoot all around the world. Veterinarians are now prescribing it for horses. I continue to work and demonstrate this to people and show them. And, you know, people are making positive change for their horse. So it’s just so amazing to me that such something so simple can make such a profound difference to the horses. 

Piper Klemm [00:18:03] You’re almost like watching them do bodywork to themselves, in a way. 

Wendy Murdoch [00:18:08] Oh yeah. Yeah. You know, they’re self-correcting. And this is what I find fascinating. Now, obviously, you know, you need good training. The feet need to be in balance. The teeth, the feet, the back, the saddle around. All those things need to be attended to, right? Sure foot isn’t going to solve a bad fitting saddle. Sure, foot isn’t going to solve square feet that are totally out of balance. However, it can alleviate stress. It can help restore function. It certainly can address habits that the horse has. And yes, when you’re watching these horses, they are self-correcting. It’s it’s kind of weird to talk about equine self-awareness. Like the horse is aware of himself and therefore making changes, but that’s what’s happening. They get really soft. They close their eyes, they’ll sigh, and then you’ll watch them. And you have to be careful because you can make them sore. Because you’re activating the little tiny postural muscles in the beginning. You’ve got to keep the session short. And I mean like 15 30s per foot. But you’ll see them start to sway a little bit, and you’ll see them shift their balance and find a better stance. I mean, I have pictures of horses that I this was one horse when I was in New Zealand. It was so out of balance. I had a massive head and it was so out of balance. It was running the owner over. Right. And we would call this disrespectful. We would say, oh, that horse is being disrespectful. When I looked at that horse, I was like, oh, this horse is really out of balance. He’s falling constantly. It’s a controlled fall, but he’s falling right? And the owners being run over because he’s losing his balance. We I had two horses in the arena. I have an hour with the two of them. Maybe he spent ten minutes on the pad total. If you added it all up because they I have them stand and then go for a walk. I think the movement’s really important for integration into the nervous system. This horse went from completely out of balance, could not stand still to standing almost perfectly square and being able the owner was, you know, out of the shot, she was six feet away at the end of the line and he was standing and quiet. And so this is where, you know, we we tend to want to say, oh, that horse is being disrespectful. Oh, that horse is just ornery. Oh, that horse just, you know, does that because or oh that horse always falls through the shoulder. And we don’t stop to think about the fact that all buildings have to be built on a solid foundation, that the horse’s relationship to the ground, the horse’s connection to the ground, the way the horse meets the ground is going to determine how that horse moves through the world, how that horse reacts to things, what happens with his mental balance. So if I was to have you, like, lean all the time, like you’re leaning over a cliff, like you might fall, you would be nervous and tight and anxious and probably not moving or listening to me. Right. And then if I just brought you back into balance, you take a breath and you can think. And so I find that with the horses so often, it’s not that they don’t know how to do the thing we’re asking. It’s they can’t do the thing we’re asking because they’re out of balance, either mentally, emotionally or physically. When we allow them the opportunity to rebalance themselves, they do the task. And I mean, I have people that was like horses that wouldn’t load in a trailer. You do sure footed. They load new trailer horses that can’t pick up their lead to do sure footed. They can pick up their lead horses that are recovering from APM. You put them on pads, they’re back to second level. You know, it’s it’s funny that we why someone else hasn’t figured this out before me. I don’t know, but it seems now, in hindsight, how simple and important it is that the horse feel secure on his feet, on the ground, and that while we again recognize the foot has to be healthy and well trimmed, we haven’t thought about it as an organ, as a sensory organ that. Maybe has lost that sense of balance. Or, you know, horses grow and when they grow, if they grow really, but high and down in the withers, they’re on the forehand, that becomes a habit. Then we’re constantly trying to get them off the forehand. But their nervous system is adapted to this pattern. And with the sure foot pads, we can bring in that new awareness. And they let their necks go and their heads down. I mean, like I said, it’s it’s not going to solve everything, but, like 90% of what I see is, is aided or helped or another way to say it is I get clues if a horse would stand on pads, I’m like, wow, that’s kind of interesting. Maybe I need to call the vet and have my horse checked out, because we’ve seen that where a horse had an injury and he was, loved the pads before. Sure foot couldn’t do the pads after he got injured. Turned out he was neurologic, had nerve impingement, and then we could use whether or not he would want to stand on pads as a gauge for his, his recovery. And when he had a setback, he wouldn’t do them. And when he was feeling better, he would. So there’s so many ways that we can use this as feedback to gain information, in addition to watching the horses when they’re on the pads. So, you know, when I look at a horse standing on pads, I’m watching the sternum. I’m assessing when I pick up their foot. How easy is it if the legs braced, that I know something’s going on the nervous system. I want to tell you about some really cool research that kind of fits in with this. There’s a hormone released by the bones called osteo Calcin, and osteo Calcin triggers the flight reflex in adrenalinectomized mice and people, not the adrenal glands. In other words, these mice and people don’t have adrenal glands. And yet you can trigger a panic reflex because of the hormone osteo calcin that’s released from the bones. What does that mean? To me? It means that when I go to pick up a horse’s leg and it’s really stiff, I already know that the nervous system has released some of this hormone and is putting the horse in flight, even if he’s standing quietly. And so what we think of as a brace is actually a great way to recognize where is my horse in his nervous system? Is he in rest and digest parasympathetic, or is he actually in flight even though he’s not moving? And so when I pick up a foot to put it on a short flight pad, I’m assessing the quality of that leg, the ease with which I can pick it up, what he does with it, does he pull it back or push it forward? Does it does. Can I step on the pad or does he step off? All these things are clues into what’s going on in that horse that I can then, watch and see. Well, how does this change if I, if I do this, does it change? If it doesn’t change? Well, then I need to think about why isn’t it changing? But there’s, there’s so many clues waiting for us to just discover and observe that can help us have such a better relationship with our horse. And I think that that’s one of the things that for me, that sure, if it’s all about is having that time where a horse has a voice and a choice, the horses are allowed to refuse the pads. They’re allowed to step off. We have to limit how long they want to stay on if it’s new to them, because we can make them sore. But we give them a voice and let them say no. And I can’t tell you how many times a horse will go. No, no, no. And then it’s like, well, how about this? But. Oh yeah. Please. So if I just listen and observe, I can learn so much. And I think that that’s another one of the things that Sure Foot’s it’s taught me so well. 

Piper Klemm [00:26:03] Well. And it’s interesting. This is really cutting edge research on monitoring how mammalian osteo calcin binding sites work. That was what my undergraduate research project was on about. 

Wendy Murdoch [00:26:17] Wow, I didn’t know that! 

Piper Klemm [00:26:19] Yeah. About a directionality of where the tripocollagen binding sites are. And did a lot of transmission electron microscopy of this and that wasn’t we didn’t know and I didn’t find it either. But it was subsequently has been published. In the last ten years, we’ve had a number of papers talking about how these are release and binding and, and interacting, and we just simply didn’t have the, the technology or the knowledge, you know, ten years ago to understand what was happening here. 

Wendy Murdoch [00:26:51] Wow, that is so cool. I didn’t know that you worked on that. And so, you know, like when I discovered these papers and started reading about it, I was like, oh, this it makes so much sense in terms of understanding horse behavior. And my question keeps coming up is, well, if osteo calcin is causing the flight reflex, what switches it off? And that’s I don’t know if that there’s any research about that is there?

Piper Klemm [00:27:18] I don’t think so. Not yet, but I’ll, I’ll keep my eyes out because I think, you know, we, I think that some of the most fundamental questions weren’t answered and then you couldn’t really build on it. But now that we’ve gotten so many more of the fundamental questions answered and then published and their references to that, I think we can absolutely. We’ll start seeing the more complex answers like what you’re talking about. 

Wendy Murdoch [00:27:43] Yeah. Because that’s the thing is, is, as I put horses on pads, what I, what I observe is that the ease of picking up the leg gets, gets it gets easier and easier. Horses start offering me their feet. Horses that are difficult for farriers don’t need to be drugged anymore. Right. That’s another benefit. I don’t have a lot of farriers now. And barefoot trimmers that are using sure foot in their work, because a comfortable horse is a safer horse and a sore horse is not safe. So anything we can do to make their job easier, it’s tough enough as it is and help the horses find that ability to stand for them. But that was that was the thing that I kept thinking about is if this is what’s causing the the osteo calcin is causing this flight reflex, then if we can down regulate that, then we know that we can get back to that relaxed state, which in horses is so, so important. And, you know, it’s it’s had a mechanism. I happen to believe that it is given my experience. But sure, if it’s a mechanism to switch that system, however that’s happening so that the horses can find that that rest and digest that parasympathetic state. And it’s so obvious to me when I pick up their limbs where they are, because that’s the thing that, you know, I’ve done I don’t know how many horses I’ve lifted the legs on now. But it’s the thing that I pay attention to over and over again. And the correlation between the softness in the joints and the relaxation in the horse, and the mental change along with the behavioral changes. Right. It’s all tied together. 

Piper Klemm [00:29:22] Amazing. So, Wendy, where can people learn more and find out more information about sure foot? 

Wendy Murdoch [00:29:27] So we have a website. It’s sure foot They can go there and find out a lot more information on the Sure Foot Equine YouTube channel. One of the things I did during Covid was, try to understand Sure foot at a deeper level. So I’ve done over 300 webinars with Wendy to understand it. Not that we came up with answers, but, a lot of questions, and a lot of great information about, fascia and foot and hoof and all that. But there are instructional videos there on the Pure Foot Equine YouTube channel. You just have to go to the playlist, that’s for sure. Foot educational stuff. And on Facebook, we have the sure footage. And if you want to be able to ask questions, we have fans of Sure foot Group on Facebook. It’s a fantastic community. We have veterinarians and farriers and trimmers and people out there. So, you know, if you pop up a question, somebody is bound to answer it for you. And if they can’t answer it, I jump in and give you the answer. So yeah. 

Piper Klemm [00:30:28] Awesome. And and you give clinics also, if people want you to come out to their farm and show them how to do it. 

Wendy Murdoch [00:30:35] Yeah, I’m, I, I am working toward, kind of resetting all that to do. Sure. Foot workshops and teach people how to use your foot in demonstrations. So if people are interested in that, they can drop me an email at Wendy at Surefoot, that’s Wendy at Surefoot And just I need to know where you are. So I’m getting people to ask me if I can come in and or kind of a, you know, kind of a hike. So just let me know where you’re located. It really helps.

Piper Klemm [00:33:01] Doctor Kathleen Anderson is a native of British Columbia, Canada, and received her veterinary degree at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan, Canada. Doctor Anderson started practicing in 1986 as an associate with Doctor Martin Simonton, the long time U.S. equestrian team veterinarian based at the USET. headquarters. In 1990, she migrated south to the new Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland racing circuits. Doctor Anderson settled at Fair Hill Training Center in Fair Hill, Maryland in 1993 and has actively contributed to the continued success and upgrades at Fair Hill. Welcome to the plaidcast, Doctor Kathleen Anderson. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:33:35] Thank you. Glad to be here. 

Piper Klemm [00:33:37] So you spent more than 30 years providing, ambulatory and outpatient services, for various, equines through equine veterinary care. And you talk a little bit about what some of the day to day experience is like with that. And, you know, we all don’t want to think about our horses not being well, but but what does that look like when you’re seeing it all the time? 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:34:01] Well, I’m very fortunate that I have been at Fairhill since 1993, and we have a very, you know, a great core base of horses, about 700 in the summer and about 350 in the winter. And, and generally speaking, they’re in a very well managed environment. So the routine health care is pretty easy. They’re you know, they’re well fed, they’re well shod, routine. All the vaccinations, everything like that is easy. The goal for our practice is not only to provide health, and health care, but also to optimize athletic ability. So we do look at a lot of sport horses and a lot of race horses. And one of the things that we kind of focus on our but, you know, the easy way to look at it is lungs and legs. So we do a lot of endoscopic exams of upper airways checking for respiratory health and function. And we do a lot of leg checks. Either, you know, soundness exams, radiology, ultrasounds, that type of thing. And over the course of time, technology has changed and we have really been fortunate to kind of be on the leading edge of many of the new diagnostics and new therapies. We are about to put a standing CT in our new clinic. This spring. And I’m very excited about that because I think that’s going to be the gold standard within probably five years. 

Piper Klemm [00:35:28] Tell us what you can see or how the standing CT makes a difference. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:35:33] So, when I graduated from Vet school, which was 1986, we had, you know, dipping tanks for radiographs. And that was standard of care at that time. By 1998, we were looking at digital radiology, and that just changed the game in terms of the ability to manipulate images, store images and, use referral consultations, kind of, you know, on a very quick turnaround basis. Standing CT is just the next iteration of imaging, meaning that it now instead of just looking at a three dimensional, radiograph, it’s actually doing the slices. So cross-sectional slices, which allows us to look inside the bone. And in areas where we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see with, with clean radiographs or digital radiographs of any kind. So it’s just going to the goal for us is to try to, preempt or get in front of, stress fractures, pathology that’s developing. But it hasn’t actually, expressed itself yet. 

Piper Klemm [00:36:44] Do you use contrast agents in horses? 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:36:48] Yes, yes, we can. We certainly do. But most of that is, is, limited to the foot and to Bursa and soft tissue. We we don’t do a lot. And so obviously the other form of imaging that we do not do but is available is, nuclear stratigraphy. And that’s using a radio opaque, markers to identify, inflammation. And we also do not have an MRI. So those are kind of advanced imaging. And what I like to think of as our facility is, is basically state of the art intermediary, care and imaging or diagnostics. 

Piper Klemm [00:37:29] As you said, you’ve been at Fair Hill for many years. You started, providing veterinary care to Michael Matz’s horses when he arrived there in 1998. Can you talk a little bit about that vision of, of working together and and building something together? I feel like a lot of, you know, vet client relationships, are almost the fear based in today’s world and sort of like collaboration based. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:37:58] Yeah. And I guess that that may. Be true in, certainly in, in some spheres. Again, you know, because I’ve got long standing relationships with most of our, of our trainers and clients. You know, most of them are pretty collaborative, which is really a good thing. But with Michael, Matt in particular, obviously, I was well aware of his show jumping, theme and expertise. So I had. Seen his horses, as he was just breaking into the thoroughbred racing here and there at different racetracks. But then he sent a small string out to Fair Hill in 1998, as you said. And that was when I first really began to work with him. Really enjoyed working with him because he’s an excellent horseman and he is competitive. You know, he has a goal and it is generally to win, whether that’s show jumping or racing. But always with the horse in mind. And that’s the really important thing that, has always been a really great, pillar, I guess, in our relationship is that we we are we both recognize that that’s the, the most important thing. So in 1998, we began working together. That’s speaking of Michael Matz. And going to have to turn him off. There he goes. So anyhow, the, in 2003, after he had been there for about five years, he had a string at Delaware Park and really was of the opinion that he would like to have all of his horses at Fair Hill. So he approached me about going part in a partnership with a building where I would have a vet clinic, and he would have, training stalls and we could, you know, basically share the overhead expense of the construction. And then, I could kind of keep an eye on things during the winter and that type of thing. So in 2005, we actually moved into that, that building that, you know, he initiated the vision on. And, it’s been a very good partnership over the years. 

Piper Klemm [00:40:03] Tell us about the American Association of Equine Practitioners. I think a lot of horse owners might not have heard of them or don’t really know what they do. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:40:13] Well, it’s a it’s a very, large it’s basically the umbrella group for all equine veterinarians in the United States. We have about 6 to 7000 members. And, obviously they’re they have many roles in our in our profession. But one of the first is continuing education for equine practitioners. Another is benevolence and taking care of, horses that need support, which is often third world countries, retirement organizations, that type of thing. They’re also involved with the research and development of, cutting edge equine therapies and diagnostics. And then, of course, trying to bring on young and young veterinarians through scholarship programs. I was fortunate to have worked within the organization for many years, working as a director in 2005 and then as the president of the association in 2016. So I’m a real proponent of the the value of the organization not only to our doctors, but also to all horse owners. 

Piper Klemm [00:41:29] What do you see with what some of the layers of that how how has all of that changed? And over the last, over the time you’ve been there, you know, how has that changed for students coming in? Or how have these pathways improved? 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:41:41] It’s it’s, shifted a lot in many ways. Specifically with the, students and the young veterinarians coming up. There has been a real gender shift. So when I graduated, it was definitely, minority female. And now it is a majority, female or put differently, a minority male, profession. The profession has changed in terms of, need to provide, a better balance with home, home life and work life. And I think that has challenged the profession, because horse owners are used to having people that are veterinarians that are available 24 seven, kind of at their command. And I think that what we are seeing is a real shift to emergency coverage, like they’ve done with small animals, where you have a specific veterinarian who will only do emergencies. Not your not your regular veterinarian or the requirements to have to ship your horse to an emergency clinic. So that’s one of the ways it’s shifted. I think another way is the cost of, getting a degree in veteran medicine has just increased, you know, very, very dramatically. And therefore, students are graduating with a higher debt load. And that is. Of course, going to impact how how they what they can afford to work for in terms of being able to pay it back, which then rolls into the business model of costs, for practices to provide that salary under the current, fee structure to their clients. So there’s sort of a lot of ties in there. 

Piper Klemm [00:43:30] So do we. You know, at what point do we need more people going to vet school or. You know, I think it’s the same kind of mirrors what’s going on with doctors in this country right now, too, if there’s a demand of work, you know, but then it’s also. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:43:47] I think a lot of it comes back to passion. And when I, when I speak with students, when I speak with, you know, non veterinary students, but people who are just looking to find their path in life, the best advice I can give them is follow your passion and whatever it is that will provide you with a very meaningful life. If you’re, you know, if you’re fortunate to have all the stars align. And I think speaking to that, you know, as we all know, most many horse doctors have come from a horse background and there are lots of, I would like to call them naysayers that say it’s difficult to, you know, to have a successful veterinary career and still have time for your horses. And I dispute that. I know, you know, many veterinarians that, are able to do both. And I believe that if you truly love what you do, then it’s really not work. So I don’t know whether that’s maybe sensationalizing the answer to your question, but, with human doctors, I, I’m sure that there is the same passion. I’m just not familiar with it. 

Piper Klemm [00:44:51] Shifting gears as I look at, you know, you talked about horses that need help. And, I look at all the disciplines right now, and that seems like every discipline is breeding so specifically and so far to an extreme for for their own judging standards or their own, their own priorities. And then we kind of see these horses as not having many other career opportunities. The way I look at it, you know, from. 20, 30 years ago. If a horse failed at something, you know, it could be repurposed or do another job or something like that. But we’re breeding these horses that are so specialized. Is there any sense of kind of trying to bring this, the silos of our, of our industry together at all? Because I feel like we do not interact, anywhere near or not. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:45:45] Well, I think, you know, again, you know, it depends on your sort of scope of, experience. But the American Horse Council, which operates the United Horse Coalition, is a great example of multiple breeds coming under one umbrella to provide, avenues for all of those horses within those breeds, within multiple disciplines, if you can follow that. And I know within thoroughbreds there was a time where they would be repurpose, as you said, 30 years ago, to become jumpers or event horses or, steeplechase horses. That kind of dwindled. And as we had more and more sport horses come in. And I do think that, the advent of, different breeding techniques has really changed. You know, we have embryo transfers, we have mares that continue to compete, and they’re, there have surrogate mares that raise their babies, that type of thing. So those absolutely are specialized breeding applications. But I do think that there’s been a resurgence, certainly in the thoroughbreds and I think in many breeds, with horses coming back around to a second and third career, through those organizations. So I guess I’m pretty optimistic that we’re we’re coming almost full circle back to, to a good spot. 

Piper Klemm [00:47:07] And what do you wish every horse owner would think about, or what is something that you, you see as, as an issue that, you know, the average owner might not be might not have on their radar? 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:47:19] There’s, there’s obviously, you know, routine care, which I think most owners are very familiar with. I think then there’s the crisis care or emergencies and obviously having a plan for how to not only, get that horse cared for, meaning have it have the veterinarian on, you know, in your program that is available to take care of an emergency, but also having the transportation and the funding available to make that happen is is really important. And I think then going on, you know, horses live a long life. And we need to be responsible for them throughout that life. So when we raise a full and we then sell it, then that responsibility is transferred to the next person. But when they get to the end of the road, which is typically in their teens, who’s going to who’s going to keep that horse safe and healthy, in their sort of twilight years. And I think that’s where we don’t probably give enough thought to, planning. And I think that when people age and I’ve had a number of clients that have been lovely, wonderful breeders, wonderful caretakers, but unfortunately when they die, they don’t have a contingency plan in place to take to care for those horses. So I think, you know, it sounds a little bit morbid. Estate planning for your horse is pretty important. So that’s that’s I guess if I’m just talking on a practical basis, those are the kinds of things that I think fall through the cracks. On a day to day athletic and, kind of competitive basis, it’s sort of gung ho. And I don’t know that there’s a lot to add to what what everybody is already engaged in. 

Piper Klemm [00:49:09] I always say the first horse you rescue should be your own, you know, make sure that your horse never needs any care besides what you what you are providing for it. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:49:18] Right? And I think, you know, I circle back around over the years and make sure that the horses that have left my care, meaning they’ve gone on and gotten another job. I’ll check back in on them at ten years later and make sure they’re still in a good place. They may have gone to to two more homes since I left mine. But I think we just need to recognize, you know, a real stewardship of the horse. That’s that’s our job. We need to make sure these horses are kept safe. 

Piper Klemm [00:49:45] Doctor Kathleen Anderson, thank you for joining us on the plaidcast. 

Dr. Kathleen Anderson [00:49:48] You’re very welcome. Thank you. 

Piper Klemm [00:51:48] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit You can find show notes at Follow the plaid horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine at Please rate and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it. And if you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends. I will see you at the ring!