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Vaccination key to anthrax prevention

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   April 20, 2011 20:10

     Since widespread flooding is predicted on the Prairies this year, livestock producers and horse owners living near areas where anthrax cases were previously reported may be considering vaccinations as a preventive measure.

But before horse owners make a decision about vaccinating, Dr. Chris Clark of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) recommends that they talk to their veterinarians first.

“Horses are relatively resistant to anthrax, and they’re even more unlikely to get exposed to the bacteria because of the way most owners keep their horses in smaller pastures or paddocks. Consequently the risk is typically very low,” explains Clark, a specialist in large animal medicine who has been involved in previous anthrax investigations in the United Kingdom and in Western Canada.

     “Only people who live in high risk areas and manage horses like cattle and other livestock are at a high risk for anthrax.”

Anthrax is a reportable disease in Canada that’s caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis whose spores can survive in soil for decades. Cattle, horses, bison or deer can ingest anthrax when they graze in areas where flooding or digging has brought the bacterial spores to the surface.

Once ingested, the spores germinate and grow in an animal’s intestinal tract — releasing potent toxins that cause the animal to die if left untreated. Clinical signs of anthrax include bloody discharge from the animal’s nose, mouth, anus or vagina, abdominal swelling and a carcass that decomposes very quickly. The mortality rate in the early stages of an anthrax outbreak is nearly 100 per cent.

According to veterinarians at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), anthrax is different from other reportable diseases. It’s considered to be an environmental disease since its spores are in the soil and they’re available in a wide, geographic region.

In 2006, an unusually wet spring followed by nearly four weeks of hot weather created ideal conditions for anthrax — especially in north-central and northeastern Saskatchewan. By mid-September 2006, more than 900 animals had died — including five horses and one donkey — from anthrax on 174 positive premises in 51 rural municipalities throughout Saskatchewan and Manitoba. CFIA also reported cases of anthrax on a bison farm near Bonnyville, Alta.

  Although anthrax is a non-contagious disease, the bacterial spores can “spread” to other areas through scavengers, migrating birds or flies. Excessive moisture and flooding can also wash anthrax spores from one area to another.

To control the spread of bacterial spores, producers and veterinarians shouldn’t open the carcasses of any animals suspected of dying from anthrax. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, all animals on infected premises are placed under a 21-day quarantine. Carcass disposal is extremely important, and it’s crucial that it’s done very quickly by incineration or by deep burial.

     CFIA vaccinates all animals on quarantined farms and recommends revaccination for at least three years on anthrax-positive premises. Producers on neighbouring farms aren’t required to vaccinate their animals, but during the 2006 outbreak, veterinarians advised producers to vaccinate all herds within 10 kilometres of anthrax-positive premises.

More than 550,000 anthrax vaccine doses were distributed across the Prairies during the summer of 2006. The only anthrax vaccine that’s licensed in North America is manufactured by the Colorado Serum Company (www.colorado-serum.com). The vaccine is available for cattle, horses, mules, sheep, goats and pigs, while off-label use can be considered for bison and farmed elk and deer.

The live culture anthrax spore vaccine, which was introduced in the 1950s, is highly effective and considered to be safe with minimal risk to animals and to humans.

However, Clark points out that the anthrax vaccine typically causes significant reaction (such as local swelling) at the injection site — an issue that can be particularly upsetting for horse owners.

     As well, the vaccine company and the WCVM now advise owners of miniature horses and young foals to use other alternatives for preventing the disease. This warning comes after at least nine miniature horses in the region died of an apparent adverse reaction to the anthrax vaccine in the summer of 2006. The deaths are under investigation, but until more confirmed information is available, Clark says it’s best to take preventive precautions with smaller horses — a recommendation that’s now included in the vaccine’s packaged information.

“If you’re in a high risk area, it’s best to take the small horses — the miniatures and young foals — off pasture and give them preserved feed and hay. They should also have access to water from a water bowl, just to be on the safe side,” explains Clark.

 “What producers must keep in mind is that this particular vaccine has saved countless lives over the past 50 years. It’s a tested product that’s well documented to work in cattle, swine, sheep, goats and horses. Severe adverse reactions to this vaccine are highly unusual.”

Once animals receive the vaccine, it takes from seven to eight days for them to build up enough immunity against the disease. In circumstances where an animal is already exposed to anthrax, Clark says that it’s better to treat with antibiotics such as oxytetracycline or penicillin, then vaccinate the animal later. “What’s important to remember is that you can not give the vaccine and treat with antibiotics at the same time.”

       For more information about anthrax, please visit the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan’s web site (www.facs.sk.ca) or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (www.inspection.gc.ca). 

Reprinted with permission of Horse Health Lines, news publication for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Equine Health Research Fund. Visit www.ehrf.usask.ca to sign up for the EHRF e-newsletter.



Horse as Healer:

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   April 15, 2011 18:21

exerpt from:


Horse as Healer: An Examination of Equine Assisted Learning in the Healing of First Nations Youth from Solvent Abuse1



Canada is an international leader in providing residential treatment to First

Nations youth who abuse solvents. Of its 8 treatment centres, 5 have been

in operation for over a decade, a laudable achievement given that internationally

most centres close down within the same year they are established

Horse as Healer 83

(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2003). The

Canadian centres are linked through the national Youth Solvent Addiction

Committee (YSAC) network. The network provides theoretical direction for

the treatment provided at the centres and strength-based counselor training

opportunities, emphasizing a culture-based resiliency model. One of the

YSAC treatment facilities, the White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre,

has expanded its programming to include Equine Assisted Learning (EAL).

White Buffalo has partnered with the Cartier Equine Learning Center to offer


In this article, we discuss how YSAC’s culture-based model of resiliency

is put into practice at White Buffalo through the example of EAL. The

application of this model to a horse-assisted learning program is a unique

contribution to the literature. YSAC has expanded the Western concept of

resiliency, which focuses on the individual, to include both the individual

and community. Within a Western worldview, several resiliency dynamics

are associated with an individual, including insight (which is internal) and

external relationships. Within a First Nation’s worldview, an individual is at

the same time their inner spirit (internal) and relations with their collective

community. Resiliency is “. . . a balance between the ability to cope with stress

and adversity [inner spirit] and the availability of community support” (Dell,

Hopkins, and Dell, 2005, p. 5). This definition is operationalized at White

Buffalo through traditional First Nations teachings alongside such programs

as EAL, with specific attention paid in this case to the historic and contemporary

role of the horse within the lives of First Nations people. Both concepts

which comprise YSAC’s definition of resiliency — the inner spirit of an

individual and their community support — are illustrated using the example

of EAL from the intersecting perspectives of White Buffalo’s volatile solvent

abuse program, Cartier Equine Learning Center’s EAL program, and Elders’


Using the example of EAL, we also highlight in this article how YSAC’s

culture-based model of resiliency and a Western health promotion approach

are complementary. Both emphasize the importance of the individual and

the larger community in understanding and responding to health needs. It

follows that there is much to be learned from YSAC’s holistic approach to

treatment and healing that can be of assistance to both First Nations and

Western health promotion responses to substance abuse. A limitation of this

article is that we discuss the theoretical intersections between a culture-based

model of resiliency, EAL, and health promotion, but we do not test them em84

© Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 6(1) 2008

pirically. We conclude the article with five key research suggestions as next

steps to further our understanding of EAL, and in particular as it relates to

First Nations community health.


Volatile Solvent Abuse


According to a 2005 report commissioned by the World Heath Organization,

the deliberate inhalation of volatile solvents and aerosols2 is an increasing

global problem. In Canada, attention to volatile solvent abuse (VSA) among

Indigenous youth was publicly recognized with a widely played media clip in

1993 of Innu youth in Davis Inlet, Newfoundland getting high by sniffing gasoline.

In 1996, a major response to VSA was undertaken on the part of First

Nations people and Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch;

several residential youth solvent treatment centres were established.

Volatile solvent abuse is the deliberate inhalation of fumes or vapours given

off from a substance for its intoxicating and mind-altering effect (National

Drug Abuse Information Centre, 1998). Volatile solvents are a large and diverse

group of chemical compounds located in hundreds of household and

industrial products, including paint thinner, glue, gasoline, and correctional

fluid (Dell and Beauchamp, 2006; Howard et al., 2008). The health effects of

inhaling can be acute, and include frostbite and burns (Albright et al., 1999;

Janezic, 1997), brain and nerve cell damage (Basu et al., 2004; Dewey, 2002),

and sudden heart failure (Ballard, 1998; Wille and Lambert, 2004). The social

effects are equally destructive, and include poor academic performance (Basu

et al., 2004; Carroll et al., 1998), decreased mental wellness (Kurtzman et al.,

2001; Mosher et al., 2004), spiritual harm (Etsten, 2005; Dell and Graves,

2005) and problem behaviour, such as delinquency (Best et al., 2004; Jacobs

and Ghodse, 1998).

The rate of VSA among First Nations and Inuit youth, and youth generally,

is not well documented in Canada. The most recent national survey on

substance use and abuse among Canadians 15 and older found that 1.9% of

males and 0.7% of females reported using a volatile solvent in their lifetime

(Adlaf, Begin, and Sawka, 2005). This is an increase from the 1994 reported

2. “A solvent is a chemical in a liquid or semi-solid state that dissolves other substances (e.g., nail polish

remover). The word volatile refers to the rapid evaporation of chemicals in products to a gas or vapour

when they are exposed to air. . . . Aerosol and spray cans contain a product (e.g., shaving cream) under

the pressure of a propellant. Propellants are typically solvents and are used to dissolve the content of

the can so it can be sprayed” (Dell and Beauchamp 2006, p. 1). Volatile solvent abuse is commonly

referred to as inhalant abuse, since inhaling is the mode of ingestion.

Horse as Healer 85

lifetime solvent use rate of 1.2% of males and 0.3% of females (Canadian

Centre on Substance Abuse, 1994). Canadian research indicates that the majority

of solvent abusers are between the ages of ten and seventeen, with peak

use between twelve and fifteen (Adlaf and Paglia, 2003; Barcelo et al., 1998;

Youth Solvent Addiction Committee, 2004). Volatile solvents are often the

first mood-altering substance used by children and youth because they are

readily available, inexpensive, and easily concealed (Basu et al., 2004; Wille

and Lambert, 2004).

Research and practice have indicated higher rates of VSA among youth experiencing

disenfranchised life conditions. This has been documented among

street youth, inner city youth, and some First Nations and Inuit youth living

in select rural and remote areas of the country (Research Group on Drug

Use, 2004; Manitoba Office of the Children’s Advocate, 2003). VSA among

First Nations and Inuit youth has been linked to high rates of poverty, boredom,

loss of self-respect, unemployment, family breakdown, and poor social

and economic structures (Dell et al., 2003). These issues are connected to

the historic impact of residential schooling, systemic racism and discrimination,

and multigenerational losses of land, language, and culture. For example,

a 2003 report from Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba revealed that

half of the children on the reserve who were under 18 years abused solvents

(Manitoba Office of the Children’s Advocate, 2003).

Given the damaging biopsychosocial and spiritual effects of VSA, and the

myriad of impoverished social conditions surrounding chronic use, the treatment

of youth who abuse solvents has largely been ineffective. The literature

suggests that residential treatment programs for inhalant abuse rarely survive

for a multitude of reasons, including the degree of difficulty that treating solvent

users entails (Beauvais, 1990; Dinwiddie, 1994). Solvent abusing youth

have been typecast as “out of control” and “untreatable.” It has been widely

accepted that brain damage from ingesting solvents is extensive and irreversible,

though recent research (Cairney et al., 2002) and practice (YSAC, 2008)

have refuted this.


Residential Treatment for Volatile Solvent Abuse in Canada


In 1996, the decision to build several residential treatment facilities for volatile

solvent abuse created significant unease about which model of recovery

they should operate under. There was a dearth of research on effective treat86

© Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 6(1) 2008

ment approaches for youth VSA on which to draw, and conflicting theories

about youth substance abuse residential treatment in general (Dell and

Graves, 2005). There was some consensus among clinicians and researchers,

however, that residential treatment can be helpful for individuals who

have special needs or require intensive programming (Jumper-Thurman and

Beauvais, 1997). In response, the emerging solvent treatment facilities in

Canada formed the national Youth Solvent Addiction Committee (YSAC) as

a mechanism to develop an overarching culture-informed approach to treatment,

and to share individual centre successes and lessons to treating youth

who abuse solvents. YSAC’s mission is to provide culturally appropriate,

therapeutic, inhalant treatment and community-intervention programming

for First Nations youth and their families. YSAC comprises treatment centre

Directors, field experts, and representatives of Health Canada’s First Nations

and Inuit Health Branch.

In line with the literature and understanding, the majority of youth who

enter into the YSAC programs have extensive histories of mental, physical,

social, and spiritual abuse (YSAC, 2008). Focusing on the cultural foundation

that the centres share, and their commitment to a strength-based approach

to treatment and healing, YSAC guided the centres’ early development with

the concept of resiliency, that is, how well a person can recover or bounce

back in spite of significant stress. YSAC began with the work of Wolin and

others on the seven resiliency dynamics (Wolin and Wolin, 1998; Resiliency

Center, 2002). These dynamics were found to coincide with parallel conceptions

of traditional teachings and holistic healing within First Nations3 culture

(Banai, n.d.) (see Table 1).

Key to YSAC’s development of a culture-based model of resiliency was understanding

the role of an individual’s inner spirit; inner spirit is the “motivator

and animator of one’s life” (Dell, Hopkins, and Dell 2005, p. 5) and that

it is nurtured through traditional First Nations teachings and healing. Within

YSAC’s model, inner spirit and community cannot be disentangled from one

another, as is commonly done within a Western worldview. An individual’s

inner spirit is intertwined with their family, community, and the land and

cannot be understood apart from them. YSAC’s holistic concept of resiliency

is suggested to “assist youth in uncovering their inner spirit [and] strengthen

their spirit by drawing on available community resources” (Dell, Hopkins,

and Dell, 2005, p. 5) (see Figure 1).

3. Anishinabe teachings.

Horse as Healer 87


Colleen Anne Dell, Research Chair in Substance Abuse, Department of Sociology

University of Saskatchewan*

Darlene Chalmers, Faculty of Social Work

University of Regina

Debra Dell, Coordinator, Youth Solvent Addiction Committee

Ernie Sauve, Executive Director, White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre

Sturgeon Lake First Nation

Tamara MacKinnon, Program Director, Cartier Equine Learning Centre


1. Contributions: This article is a collaborative community-based effort of the identified authors, with

Ernie Sauve representing Elders Herb, Gladys, and John (a pseudonym), staff and members of the

Board of Directors of the White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre, and Tamara MacKinnon

representing the staff of the Cartier Equine Learning Centre.

Acknowledgement: Two of the authors of this article, Darlene and Colleen, were driving from Saskatoon

to Sturgeon Lake First Nation to meet with two of the Elders who are trusted with providing spiritual

and cultural guidance at the White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre. As they passed a roadside

cross (referred to by Darlene as a shrine) to mark the passing of an individual(s) through a motor

vehicle accident, they began a discussion that observed how these “shrines” would not exist to the

extent they do if there were no vehicles, and, in place, horses were once again the primary mode of

transportation. When their morning meeting with the Elders was coming to a close, a final thought

was shared by one of the Elders, Herb. He said that the iron horse (i.e., automobile) has contributed

its share to the illness (e.g., materialism) that plagues society today. Another of the Elders, Gladys, reflected

that all is interconnected in life, and everything (e.g., seasons) comes full circle. In many ways,

this article represents a piece of the circle of life for each of the authors. We are happy to be able to

share this with the reader, and are grateful for what we have learned in the process.

82 © Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 6(1) 2008





Equine Assisted Learning - What is it!

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   April 8, 2011 19:35


Very little literature exists that specifically defines and describes EAL. Much

of what has been written is vaguely identified within the broader area of

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). AAT is an area that has, for the most part,

been based on an understanding of the use of small companion animals

within the context of healing relationships between animals and humans.

The first documented empirical study that investigated both the healing

benefits of animals and the potential benefits of animals as cofacilitators in

therapy was published in 1962; Boris Levinson used his dog in therapy with

Horse as Healer 91

children (Hallberg, 2004; Heimlich, 2001 as cited in Schultz, 2005; Levinson,

1984; Morrison, 2007). With ongoing interest and research into understanding

the contributing factors that may enhance a person’s sense of physical,

psychological, and spiritual health and healing, the role of the animal has

evolved to a place of significance with its inclusion in a range of therapeutic

interventions and programs. Although a long-standing and growing body of

literature exists related to the use of small animal companions in increasing

one’s sense of wellness, a more recent and less studied phenomenon gaining

international growth and attention is a movement toward the inclusion of

horses in learning programs. These programs specifically aim to develop and

enhance an individual’s communication skills, self-awareness, and ability to

interact with others.

Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is a relatively new field within the area

of equine-assisted programs and draws primarily on the tenets of experiential

learning — learning through hands-on experience. While resonating

with some of the “core values” (MacKinnon, 2007, p. 1) found within

other equine-assisted interventions (e.g., Equine Assisted Psychotherapy,

Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy), in general terms EAL is an educational

program that is facilitated within a group format and focuses on ground activities

rather than riding. In EAL programs, participants engage in structured,

facilitator-led sessions that include constant feedback related to participants’

experiences (EAGALA, 2008; Horses and Humans Research Foundation, 2008;

MacKinnon, 2007; NARHA, 2008). The sessions provide opportunities for participants

to become involved in situations that require interaction with the

horse and the group, and to reflect on these experiences. The overall intent is

to create opportunities whereby participants, through direct experience with

the horse, learn about self, internalize this awareness within the sessions,

and generalize it to other life situations (EAGALA, 2008; MacKinnon, 2007;

NARHA, 2008).

Given the horse’s superior intuitive nature, direct interaction with it

is a unique experience. Yorke (2003, p. 2) describes the essential difference

between horses and humans based on categories of predator and prey, in

that “humans are predators and horses are prey which has required a significant

degree of trust despite domestication.” The horse’s intuitive nature

has evolved as a mere function of survival; it is constantly attuned to its surroundings

and the subtle communication within the herd as a response to

ever-changing environments. In this way, horses have been observed to have

acute communication skills within their social structures and highly adaptive

92 © Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health 6(1) 2008

behavioural responses within those structures (MacKinnon, 2007). Thus the

horse has the ability to respond intuitively to human behaviour and intent,

which results in immediate feedback from the animal (Frame, 2006; Graham,

2007; Hallberg, 2004; Kersten and Thomas, 1997; MacKinnon, 2007; Shultz,

2005; Tramutt, 2003). This response creates opportunities for an EAL participant

to react both cognitively and behaviourally in relation to the cues from

the horse. In the broadest sense, EAL is an approach aimed at increasing life

skills through hands-on doing, and has been identified as useful in building

communication, problem-solving, and team building skills, as well as enhancing

personal awareness and a sense of self (MacKinnon, 2007; NARHA;

Rothe et. al., 2005).


exerpt from

"Horse as Healer: An Examination of Equine Assisted Learning in the Healing of First Nations Youth from Solvent Abuse1"

Colleen Anne Dell, Research Chair in Substance Abuse, Department of Sociology

University of Saskatchewan*

Darlene Chalmers, Faculty of Social Work

University of Regina

Debra Dell, Coordinator, Youth Solvent Addiction Committee

Ernie Sauve, Executive Director, White Buffalo Youth Inhalant Treatment Centre

Sturgeon Lake First Nation

Tamara MacKinnon, Program Director, Cartier Equine Learning Centre