Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Because of Horses

Mar 1, 2019

In this week’s episode, Elise has the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Phil McLoughlin, a central scientific figure in studying and protecting the wild horses of Sable Island.


Sable Island is a small, narrow strip of land off the coast of Nova Scotia, renowned for its history of countless shipwrecks and for the 550 wild horses who roam its 26 rugged miles. Considered by biologists to be home to one of the last herds of completely wild horses, Sable Island is a treasure trove for Population Ecologist, Dr. Phil McLoughlin, and his team from the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Biology.


What’s so interesting about the wild horses of Sable Island is that there are a number of conflicting theories about how the horses came to be on the island. Did they swim there in the 1700s, following one of the island’s many shipwrecks, as a popular theory states? Or were they deliberately introduced to the island around that same period of time? Whatever the origins, the horses of Sable Island are incredibly hardy and thrive in an inhospitable environment and the herds are not managed or subject to human interference of any kind. This makes them incredibly interesting to study as they exhibit a true and natural range of both behavioral and physiological characteristics.


In today’s episode, Dr. McLoughlin shares his studies of these horses’ importance from a scientific perspective as well as their potential for providing meaningful data with broad-reaching uses within the horse world.


Topics of Discussion:

[:18] About today’s guest.

[1:41] Dr. McLoughlin’s thoughts about the horses’ (of Sable Island) origins, as well as the value of studying them.

[6:40] How Sable Island horses compare to other horses of similar populations.

[8:19] Advantages to studying these wild horses and why, in particular, it is especially of interest that they’ve never received any antibiotics.

[11:37] The broader ramifications for understanding what Dr. McLoughlin (and his team) are observing, learning, and studying. And why Dr. McLoughlin originally became interested and invested in studying the horses of Sable Island.

[16:33] Elise shouts out some recent listeners who have left nice reviews on the podcast!

[18:03] What Dr. McLoughlin’s experience was like being in Niobe Thompson’s movie, Equus: The Story of the Horse.

[20:02] How the conditions on the island have impacted how the horses live on the island.

[24:05] Why is that the horses on Sable Island stick to their two coasts of the island? Especially with one being significantly more difficult to live on with the limited resources available to the horses?

[29:40] How long are the lifespans of the horses of Sable Island? And what is the usual cause of death considering there are no natural predators for them?

[31:37] Some of the rough conditions, such as the rough grass that wears the teeth down.

[34:40] The similarities and differences between the parasites found on the Sable Island horses versus mainland horses.

[37:37] Dr. McLoughlin’s thoughts on whether or not the island would exist as it is today if it wasn’t for the horses or if the horses are an invasive species, ultimately damaging the habitat of the island.

[42:30] About Elise’s book, A Parent’s Guide to Riding Lessons!

[43:57] From a biologist’s perspective, is there a difference between a domesticated, wild, or feral horse?

[46:16] How the public’s view of the Sable Island horses has evolved over the years and how Dr. McLoughlin sees it evolving in the future.

[53:30] About next week’s episode of Because of Horses!

[54:21] Where to learn more about Sable Island and follow Dr. McLoughlin’s studies.


Know Someone Inspirational, Whose Life Has Been Forever Changed Because of Horses? Because of Horses would love to get to share their story!

To recommend someone please send an email to


Mentioned in this Episode:

Sable Island

University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Biology

Equus: Story of the Horse (film series by Niobe Thompson)

Because of Horses episode with Niobe Thompson

A Parent’s Guide to Riding Lessons: Everything You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive with a Horse-Loving Kid, by Elise Gaston Chand

United States Pony Club

Young Rider Magazine

Next week’s episode of Because of Horses

Dr. McLoughlin’s University of Saskatchewan Profile


Like what you hear? Because of Horses would love to hear your feedback!

Please email to send Because of Horses your thoughts.


To Support the Podcast:

  • Donate on Paypal to help keep Because of Horses running — all amounts are welcome!