January 2015

HBOC logo with text 2017
 The 35rd Annual Alberta Horse Conference took place January 13-15, 2017 in a new venue and location at the Strathcona County Community Centre in Sherwood Park, and the changes were exciting! Over 400 horse lovers gathered for a great weekend of Equine Education and Enjoyment! Presented by the non-profit organization Horse Industry Association of Alberta, the conference was attended by equine enthusiasts who were able to enjoy a wide variety of educational topics and speakers. New this year was the very popular live demonstration by Jim Anderson at Ash-Bren Equine Stable. 

The Friday evening reception kicked off the popular conference. Participants and public were treated to a video welcome by Sherwood Park Mayor Ms. Roxanne Barr, greetings from Horse Racing Alberta, and a picture/music montage by the sponsor, the Alberta Trail Riding Association. The conference is an opportunity for people from all horse breeds and disciplines to meet new friends, network, and get up to date on everything equine.  The variety of sponsor booths, speaker topics, and the diversity in the people attending the conference gave everyone a chance to exchange ideas, satisfy their curiosity or learn new ideas about old topics.

The conference presentations ranged from the development of new and cutting edge veterinary advancements and products, to the age old question about when to deworm your horse.  Horse welfare was a popular subject, and there were some lively discussions about marketing, farriery, horses used for therapy, and when to make the painful decision to euthanize. 

The 40 sponsor booths included Breed and Riding Associations, Equine Health and Veterinary Medicine, Post-Secondary Education and Training, Feed, Tack and Supplies, Publications and Equine Facilities. There really was something for everyone!  

For the past 34 years the Annual Alberta Horse conference has been dedicated to delivering current, quality, unbiased equine information to all horse enthusiasts in western Canada. Regardless of breed, discipline, industry involvement or interest in horses: the 35th Anniversary Horse Conference promises to deliver.
For the full history of the horse conference click here. Be sure to visit the Horse Industry Association of Alberta or Alberta Horse Conference Facebook page  and Twitter .

luristan1By Carolyn Willekes, Ph.D.


The bit is an essential part of our equine equipment.  No matter what discipline you ride, chances are you have at least one bit tucked away in your tack room.  Most of us bridle our horses without entirely understanding the purpose of the bit, let alone why we are using a specific style of bit, or even how the bit came to be in the first place.  When you stop to think about it equines are the only animals we control by placing something in the mouth.  All other pack/draft/riding animals are controlled by forms of nose pressure, nose rings/pegs (oxen, water buffalo and camels), or canes/staffs (elephants).  So then, where on earth did the bit come from?

When humans domesticated the horse around 5,500-6,000 years ago they were already familiar with the concept of riding and driving animals, thanks to the earlier domestication of donkeys and bovines.  It makes sense that these early riders and drivers transferred familiar ideas of control to the horse.  In the ancient Near East this took the form of the nose ring, but this did not work due to the shape, placement and delicacy of equine nostrils.  In Central Asia and Eastern Europe early horsemen played around with a different control mechanism, one that took the shape of the equine jaw into consideration.  They discovered a fleshy gap between the molars and incisors on the lower jaw (the bars) and realized they could place something directly in the mouth to control the horse by means of pressure on this area.  These prototype bits were not made of metal, instead they were leather thongs, bone or wood tied to cheek pieces made of antler.  Early evidence for the use of bits comes from the site of Dereivka in the Ukraine where archaeologists have found 5,000 year old equine remains with evidence of bit wear on the second pre molar teeth.  The wear patterns on these prehistoric teeth have been tested against wear patterns crated by both metal and organic bits on modern horses and the results are remarkably similar.  The first metal bits appeared around 1300 BCE and were made of bronze, and later this changed to iron.  


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A total of 486 horse enthusiasts left their farms and convened at the 33rd annual Horse Breeders and Owners Conference in Red Deer for a weekend filled with fun and education. Delegates came from all over BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Yukon, and even one from California. The exhibit hall hosted over 50 booths sponsored by equine businesses and organizations.  

Friday night’s “Open Barn” Welcome Reception was hosted by Horse Industry Association of Alberta. Delegates and the public were welcome to get their first look at the trade show and were treated to popcorn and beer. Early bird draw prizes were distributed to the lucky winners and delegates entered additional bucket draw prizes. 

Saturday’s sessions began with Stacy Pigott, who spoke about training practices in the public eye, sponsored by Alberta Equestrian Federation. After the coffee break, which was sponsored by Western Horse Review, delegates had the choice of attending a session on the young horse given by Dr. Bob Coleman or Dr. Rebecca Gimenez educating about emergency preparedness. Thank you to break-out session sponsor Canadian Horse Journal, who sponsored Dr. Gimenez’s session. 


Airdrie, Alta. – On January 10, 2015, at the 33rd annual Horse Breeders and Owners Conference, the Horse Industry Association ofDistinguished Service Award Alberta (HIAA) proudly presented the Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Wayne Burwash in recognition of his lasting influence and contributions to the equine industry in the province.

Dr. Burwash grew up on a mixed dairy farm in Balzac, Alberta. He graduated with distinction from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) from their first graduating class in 1969 and, after an internship, joined The Animal Clinic in 1970. Early in his career, he was the first to do Commercial Embryo Transfer in Canada with Bob Church from the University of Calgary. In 1977, the clinic split up from being a mixed practice and Dr. Burwash decided to open his own clinic specializing in equine: Burwash Equine Services.



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