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Susan O'Hara Bates

Organized a unique educational program designed to teach elementary veterinary medicine to Latin American grooms.


1 -    What is the single greatest change you have witnessed in the equestrian world during your life time?

The trend towards Xenophonism (Natural Horsemanship) with the subsequent trickle down effect thru to grooms and caregivers.


2 -    Do you ride?

With my initial memories of riding being on my father’s back I can’t remember ever not riding. My first horse – a gentle Morgan gelding, carried me all over the Connecticut hills as well as to local horse shows at the age of 11.


3 -    Do you own a horse?

My horse ownership continued uninterrupted from 11 years old through today with the apex of ownership being in the early 90’s with 60 Thoroughbred mares, their produce and four Thoroughbred stallions. Today I am comfortably entertaining 10 horses all of who aid me with my mission to continue to ride until I am no longer able.


4 -    Who is your favourite horse in history?

John Henry, a diminutive plain bay, poorly conformed and ornery gelding who rose to Horse of the Year twice (once at 9 years old) as well as leading money-earner of over $6 million.


5 -    Who do you think was the most influential equestrian human in history and why?

Queen Elizabeth II with her life long love of horses which she passed on to other members of the Royal Family along with her continuance of her father’s “King’s Troup” highlighting horsemanship and ceremony as well as her continued interest in the Thoroughbred racing world and her support with hundreds of winners and bloodstock.


6 -    What was your greatest equestrian influence from books or cinema when you were young?

The Manual of Horseownership/The Official Manual of the Pony Club.


7 -    What equestrian book would you recommend today and why?

On Horsemanship by Xenophon – “The groom should have standing orders to take his charge through crowds and if the colt shows apprehension he must teach him- not by cruel but by gentle handling that they are not really formidable” Xenophon reveals the whole horse from hoof to muzzle and the effects either good or bad grooms and trainers may have on their charges.


8 -    How did you initially become interested in your specific equestrian specialty?

With a never-ending thirst for understanding the equine at age 11, I barraged our farrier with questions. Fortunately, he took the time to lift Piawacket’s hoof and introduced me to my life-long journey of answer seeking. This quest continued into adulthood with answers leading to other questions sending me to research all aspects of horsemanship and horse management.


9 -    What prompted you to enter that field?

This search for equine husbandry was reflected in my grooms’ eyes when I would try to tell them the reasons why they would have to handle our horses in a certain way. They would dwell on each answer and soon I would find they started their own search for answers. With my grooms showing so much interest I was encouraged to gather up resources for them to study. I found that there were absolutely no resources for the people who spent the most time with our horses. The need for a program that would provide these resources for grooms was there.


10 -    Did someone encourage your decision or inspire you?

The grooms themselves would not let it rest. They inquired, pestered and pleaded for more education. Although it was readily available for people with access to education, publications and the internet, grooms had little opportunity to access those channels. It would have to be brought to them at the barns where they worked.


11 -  When did you begin your research, investigation, work?

In the mid 90s I had the privilege to be surrounded by professional horse people who took little convincing that this need was real and with their kind assistance the educational program became a reality.


12 -    What do you think is your most important discovery, achievement or insight regarding your equestrian work?

Discovery – “That grooms WANT to know more about their horses (contrary to what trainers believed)” ; That grooms (especially immigrant) APPRECIATED the opportunity and evidenced an increase in self-worth. Achievement – Developed solid foundation for a program that grew from 1 course at 3 tracks in one state to a diversified curriculum that now includes youth, owners, trainers and prison inmates at 23 tracks and 4 prisons in 18 states with more being added each year.


13 -    What modern technology, techniques and media have you found most helpful?

Power Point technology provided an opportunity to bring information into the and enhance them so the grooms were immediately able to relate the information to their real work. The use of 3-D teaching aids (plasticized horse body parts, some showing actual injuries) gave them additional hands-on experience no book could give.


14 -    What part of your work do you find most fulfilling?

The sincere display of appreciation the grooms give after they willingly take time to expand their knowledge. Knowing that I helped make that possible is very fulfilling.


15 -    What’s been your biggest disappointment in your work?

The lack of industry’s recognition and financial commitment to developing the educational program.


16 -    How do you explain the gulf between academic equestrian investigation and the average horse owner?

Often investigators seem to be more absorbed with establishing their own importance than in relating the information in terms that average horse owners can understand.


17 -    What equestrian subjects are in need of more research and investigation?

The consequences of feed additives, leg poultices, liniments or other manmade ointments on the longevity/toxicity of/to the horse along with the  necessity of knowing the threshold limits of drugs in use.


18 -    Which part of the equestrian world would you like to see reformed and why?

The explosion of the breeding industry and the subsequent casting off of individuals who don’t make the grade.


19 -    How do you traditionally deliver your findings or message and how would you ideally like to do so?

Conventions, local organizations and web site.


20 -    What intellectual, technical or ethical advances would you like to see in the horse world?

The replacement of the use of antiquated metal shoes with the use of more forgiving protection for the equine hoof.


21 -    Do you foresee any difficulties for the horse world in the immediate future?

In the U.S. specific immigration reform that includes equine groom education rather than the “shotgun” immigration approach where all immigrants are treated the same regardless of specific job needs and requirements.


22 -    What is the greatest challenge facing the horse world in the long term?

The retiree horses and the maintenance and management of unwanted horses.


23 -     What books, magazines, websites, etc. can people read and review to learn more about your work? and


24 -    Any final thoughts?

With the advent of the internet, information can be disseminated quickly and access given to all who aspire to help horses.

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