From 4-H clubs and pleasure riding stables, therapy treatment to thoroughbred racing, the horse industry in Wood County is prolific and diverse.
|Jonelle Nissen (right) leads her horse Meatloaf in an arena at Nissen Quarter Horse Farm in Luckey, Ohio. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
There are at least eight 4-H clubs which operate with a focus on the animals; there are a minimum of three therapeutic equine businesses or non-profit organizations and a vast number of barns and farms filled with the majestic animals.
"Wood County has one of the biggest horse programs in Ohio," said Jonelle Nissen, a junior at Eastwood High School, where she is also involved in the FFA program.
She was born into the equine business and thoroughly enjoys it. She has two horses which she regularly rides for the Horses R Us 4-H Club. Her younger sisters, Jolynn, a freshman and Jonna in seventh grade, are also active with two horses of their own.
The Nissen farm is also home to four Percheron draft horses, which have been shown in the Wood County Fair as well as pulling the farm's wagon down Main Street in the annual holiday parade in Bowling Green.
"We live off horses," Nissen said of the family operation.
The farm also boards horses for others including Jim Sander, an active thoroughbred breeder. Sander says he estimates there are 40 to 50 indoor horse arenas in the county.
"It's quite an industry," Sander says.
As a trainer, Sander has won five Ohio State Fair racing honors. He has been racing thoroughbreds since 1980 and been named as one of the top trainers in the state more than once.
On Monday morning, Sander learned that the colt born to his mare, Miss Duckhorn, early Saturday morning had died.
Sander had great hopes for the young colt as he was born to elite blood lines with ancestry tied to two of the last three Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew and Secretariat, along with other Kentucky Derby winners including Northern Dancer and Native Dancer. Northern Dancer is considered the most successful sire of the 20th century. Both the mare and Stormy Atlantic who sired the foal have ties to Northern Dancer. One of the early favorites for this year's Kentucky Derby, California Chrome, came from very similar roots, including Not for Love, whose grandsire was Northern Dancer. Miss Duckhorn's grandsire was also Not for Love.
Miss Duckhorn had earned approximately $250,000 in her racing career; while the sire, Stormy Atlantic, as amassed about half that total.
|Jonelle Nissen leads her horse Meatloaf in the stabile at Nissen Quarter Horse Farm in Luckey, Ohio.
Sander not only breeds thoroughbreds, having a stable of about seven or eight currently, but is also involved in transporting horses through his business, JJ Sander Family LLC Horse Transportation.
His transports take him regularly to both Texas and Florida.
In addition to the thoroughbreds, there are also numerous harness racing horses raised and trained in the county.
In addition to the Percherons at the Nissen Farm and others in the county, there are also Clydesdales, Belgians and Arabians, to name a few. Beyond the draft horses, there are dozens of other types of horses raised locally.
Having horses involves a lot of work. While each farm may have its own routine, Jonelle Nissen says she and her sisters are active with the chores including both morning and evening feeding as well as countless hours cleaning the stalls and more.
Aside from her work at the family farm, the high school student says she also works at two other facilities. In addition to her school work, she logs a minimum of 25 to 30 hours or more each week.
One major focus of caring for the horses is watching for cuts or other issues with the hooves. Many horse owners do much of the care of the animals themselves, yet a blacksmith (farrier) is also needed from time to time.
A horse who runs quite a bit may new horseshoes every 30 days or so. Other horses may be able to go six to eight weeks between new shoes. An expert farrier has to be able to know what angles and types of shoes are needed, depending on the horse and its activities.
The horses also need to be wormed at least twice a year to maintain their health, and a visit by a veterinarian is also important.
"Most people know the value of having a parasite control, horses are prone to picking up worms from the environment," said Dr. Timothy Stacy, who is based at the Tri County Veterinary Clinic in Fostoria.
He says an average horse should be seen once a year to keep them up to date on vaccinations. Stacy also serves as the official vet for the Wood County Fair.
Unlike humans, horses teeth continue to grow their entire life.
"You need to keep watch on their teeth," Stacy said. "Sometimes they don't wear evenly and the sharp points need to be filed down."
Another key for a horse's health is to maintain good nutrition. He notes, "horses can be too thin or too heavy."
Treating larger animals are always a concern, but Stacy noted that horses, by nature, pose the unique risk as "they are more flight-oriented animals."
He adds, "You need to be able to read their body language to see if they are going to react adversely to a situation."
The horse industry in Ohio has recently been boosted by the income generated through slot machines at race tracks in the state.
Sander says this recent influx of money helps the horse industry in Ohio. Despite traveling frequently to show and race in Florida, he says it is profitable to maintain his base in Ohio.
He notes that hay is roughly $6 a bale here, while it may go from $15 to $18 per bale in Florida. As for the animals, he says the horses can easily handle the temperature differences in this climate.
Both Sander and Nissen also noted the convenient location of one of the premier horse shows in the nation, the All American Quarter Horse Congress which is held in Columbus each October.
All those reasons makes Ohio and notably Wood County a great place to have horses.