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Thursday, May 14, 2009

High Maintenance Horse

I know there are all levels of care different horses need depending on what you do with them, but I am pretty sure mine is on the high end of the "needy" scale. There is quite a routine involved to keep her sound and happy.

Every horse is different, but this is what works for my horse. I have had her for 10 years, and finally have a good formula for her soundness. Her legs are the most delicate part of her, which can be challenging when her job is jumping. She had a tendon injury about 5 years ago, which is why I am so careful with her leg care. Even though horses are big, strong animals, their legs are surprisingly delicate. The muscles and tendons that make up the legs can get injured quite easily. Performance horses are more at risk for lameness and need more precautions. It sometimes amazes me that horses' legs don't snap when they land off a jump. Before every ride, I inspect her legs. Noticing a subtle change in a tendon shape/size or new fill in a joint can be instrumental in detecting the early signs of injury. "Knowing" your horse is the best protection. Once you know what is normal, you will easily detect what is abnormal.

Kylie currently wears supportive T-Boots, which conform to her leg and work well for her. They have a lightweight, kick-resistance outer shell, and a T-foam lining. This advanced technology provides maximum hold up, disperses pressure points and reduces rubs like no other material. Correct boots can deter many injuries and avoid physical stress. I have tried many types of boots on her, and after a while they give her rubs or irritate her.


Proper warm-up is important. I always get on 15-20 minutes before my lessons so I can walk her and stretch out her ligaments, joints, and muscles. The ‘cool down’ is equally important in getting rid of the excess heat built up during exercise. As we all know, if we don’t keep moving after exercise our muscles stiffen up and can cramp.

Careful conditioning helps keep tendons and ligaments tight and healthy. It is very hard on a horse to work and then have time off, and then be brought back into work again. Consistent work, appropriate to the horse’s ability, is extremely important in maintaining soundness.

No lunging (vet's orders)...It is hard on the horse's legs. I'm not a huge fan of longing anyway. It is used too often as a shortcut or cop out over getting in actual saddle time. I also think it can become a crutch, and people over look training issues and instead opt to lunge their horse until they are tired enough to ride despite the training issues. Of course, there are times is is useful, I just think it is overused.


Immediately after riding, her legs are iced, because the tendons and ligaments are "more" prone to injury when the horses legs get hot. In veterinary studies of tendons, exercise decreased pH, and increased core temperatures of the tendons beyond physiologically healthy limits. This heat and the lowered pH lead directly to the breakdown of tendon fiber. Icing also reduces any inflammation, which is a normal sequel to physical exercise.

Depending on her workout, she either gets poultice or Iron Tendon (see prior post about this), then standing bandages. Their purpose is the keep the legs from swelling after work and while the horse is "standing" around.

Other things that add to her continued soundness:
Shoeing every six weeks with high-tech hoof pads that fit between the shoe and the hoof to absorb concussion and dissipate force. Kylie had Primary Nonseptic Pedal Osteitis, which typically results from severe or chronic sole bruising sustained from repeated concussion during exercise. Result of lots of horse showing.


A good joint supplement: I use Recovery EQ® Extra Strength with Hyaluronic Acid. Recovery®EQ contains Nutricol®, which decreases trauma - from chronic lameness, surgery, injury & over-training - by both increasing the cell's resistance to damage & improving it's ability to repair damage. It also includes glucosamine, MSM, vitamin C, vitamin E, TMG & elemental magnesium.

I think that Adequan and Legend always have some benefit for a horse in training. Adequan is the initial drug of choice whenever either a preventative or treatment plan for degenerative joint disease (arthritis) is needed. Adequan has been shown to go to joints once injected and actually be incorporated into production of new cartilage and heal damaged cartilage. Legend is Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is the major component of normal joint fluid and an anti-inflammatory for joint related issues. The duration of its anti-inflammatory effect when given IV is anywhere from 2 to 7 days maximum, then it is gone, so it is good to use right before a horse show.

Footing is sooo important. It needs to be consistent, not too hard, not too soft. Good footing reduces impact, increases traction, and lessens the chance of injury.


I always think turnout is great—horses are meant to be out and moving around--it is good for both their body and mind.

And with all that said, there is no guarantee that an injury won't happen. I can just do as much as possible to avoid one.

Wow, that was way longer than I intended....


I rode Kylie in the field tonight. It was beautiful out.

7 comments:

Kate said...

Thanks for your very thoughtful post. Much of what you say is also applicable to other disciplines and even to horses who are not performing - especially the advice about knowing your horse and the details of its legs, warming up and conditioning. I no longer jump or show, but did many of the other things you do when I did. Your horse is very beautiful, as well!

Stephanie said...

Kylie is beautiful and she is one lucky horse to have such a great owner as you!
I think Kate is right, these 'guidelines' really do apply across to all horse disciplines, and it would be so nice to see all horses so lovingly taken care of. We ask so much out of them, I don't think it is too much to ask for in return.

Great Post!!

Five O'Clock Somewhere said...

I agree that most horses would benefit from this type of care. I know that everyone has their own opinions about caring for their horse, so I didn't want to say my way is the best way, it is just what works for my horse. Like the old saying "The horse world. Two people. Three opinions."

storybeader said...

you two must be very close, all that time together. I'm sure she appreciates it! And she is beautiful!

Paint Girl said...

Kylie is so beautiful and big! Wow!
I also agree on the longing, too many people use it as an excuse to not ride. I longe my horses, but only if I haven't ridden them in awhile, than I longe to make sure they get the bucks out. I also will longe if I don't have time to ride and I just need to get them out to exercise. Unfortunately, I am not set up here to have a quick ride. From where my arena is to where I have to keep my tack, in the garage, it takes me at least an hour and a half to 2 hours per horse, if I ride, to get them groomed, tacked up, to the arena, ride, than back to the garage to untack, groom etc. Whew! If only I had that barn!
I totally agree with all details on warming up, cooling down, and leg protection!
I am so anal, that I sometimes wonder if I overdue it!

Julia said...

You are not even kidding about a system with your horse... Luckily I have never had to undergo such a regiment. I think another integral part of leg health and long term soundness is free turnout in something a like a half acre in size all day long BUT I know not everybody has access to it. I think my horses soundness has been strongly associated with my ability to have them walking around all day long in a large area.

But great you have got your horse figured out to be sound. :)

Donna said...

Great post! My horse is also fairly high maintenance but it's all worth it in the end if they have a good happy life.

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