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wildlifer
Dec. 9, 2011, 08:41 AM
I mean, besides the fact that they are, well, horses! :lol:

I see this comment over and over and over -- "there are no truly sound horses at the upper levels" or "no one can keep a horse sound long enough to do X/Y/Z." And the more I see it, the more I think about it. Is that really true? And if it is, why? Is our sport at that level really that destructive to horses that we have to coddle and coax their bodies through? Or do riders over-compete and over-train to the point where the horse has nothing left? Or option C, that I don't know?

Disclaimer: please do not read any tone or accusation in to this. I have never competed/managed a horse above Prelim, I have only spectated/volunteered at upper levels over the years. I am hoping that folks with experience doing such can share and give me a better understanding of what that means? I know the sport is very demanding, like any peak athletic endeavour, but am curious about the foregone conclusion that seems to be written in that "at the top levels, your horse will probably not stay sound."

Clarify for me! :cool:

FlightCheck
Dec. 9, 2011, 08:53 AM
my own non scientific opinion is that the Long Format "weeded out" those who would not stay sound at that level - often weeding them out before they even competed.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 9, 2011, 08:59 AM
it isn't just eventing. I remember watching an FEI job for a big GP show. Most horses there were in contention for a WEG team.....I'm not sure I saw a single horse out of 30 that would have passed a jog at CCI*** (perhaps a few would have been held then passed ;) )

Basically, especially event horses have to be very sound....but how one defines "sound" is different.

Sports at a high level are hard on anyone...by definition you are pushing the limits. And you are far more likely to tweak something doing so.

In addition....riders and trainers at a higher level are more tuned into soundness. There are a hell of a lot of horses I see at low level events, local shows, group trail rides that I do not and would not consider "sound". Sometimes the owners don't have a clue...other times they might. But most are not so "unsound" that it is really a problem and the horses are happy doing light work (and possibly the light work keeps them from being worse!).

I can tell you...I have a nice horse aimed at the ULs who I've lost a year on now. I considered him "unsound" but really--he was sound enough to race, be a show horse, lower level eventing etc. Most people couldn't even tell he was off. But we caught it...and are taking the time to fix it because of his job. The little "unsoundness" is more likely to become a large one and it better if fixed initially even if it means losing several competition seasons.

wildlifer
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:11 AM
Cool, both good thoughts. Thanks especially for those musings, BFNE -- as I spend less time with the upper levels of say, dressage and SJ, I'm less familiar with the horses there, but that's a good point. As is the definition of "sound" -- you can take horse who has some hock issues around BN and he might do just fine, but you will certainly not get away with that, say, running a *** at Fair Hill.

flashwhitelock
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:17 AM
I suspect some changes in the sport has contributed. No time off in the winter, now we have Florida and Aiken. Horses were weeded out early with the long format. the training itself has become more intensive with more hours of higher level dressage movements. More technical courses leading to more time jumping with twists and turns. Even the type of horse in eventing has changed. In the past, almost all TB's now, many warmblood with high draft component.

BestHorses
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:17 AM
Well I can't seem to find a horse that will stay sound for the lower levels! :lol:

Out of the four horses I've bought as an adult only one has stayed sound longer than a year (and I dabble at BN/N) but he hated jumping and became a dressage horse.

I can't speak to upper levels at all but I just think horses are incredibly fragile in some ways. From my experiences I am amazed anyone can get a horse to the upper levels! I just don't think there are that many sound horses out there in general...

Jealoushe
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:23 AM
Quite a lot of horses do a lot of higher level events when they are still pretty young.

I see lots of 6 year olds going Intermediate/Advanced all winter and summer long.

No idea if this is a new trend though.

JP60
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:25 AM
my own non scientific opinion is that the Long Format "weeded out" those who would not stay sound at that level - often weeding them out before they even competed.
This.

What I sense is that the eventing horse of today is required to be more a sprinter trying to run a 10K race instead of a long distance runner. Run and Gun with the dressage being so important that the "generic", but stronger horse is phased out.

TBs in racing have seemed to go the same path. I read an article sometime ago that talked about how the horses are being bred for speed, but that the (avg) top speed of the TB has not changed in 40 years. Yet, the horses are bred in an attempt to be lighter (weaker bones) and faster, the combination which seems to result in more injuries.

It strikes me that the long format set the tone for the type/style of horse needed for Eventing. Dressagie, yes...but mainly needing endurance which would demand stronger legs (bones, muscles, tendons etc). Now, we take a TB (bred as a sprinter) and try to mold it into a completely different style of horse and the body, at some point, cannot maintain that level of effort.

Since the LF wont ever really come back into Eventing then a breed or type of horse well be found that eventually adapts to this more intense implementation of the sport. As I watch some older videos of Eventing what I noticed was that while the horses weren't always flashy, man they were fit and they looked strong. Today I see more horses that look beautiful, fit, and delicate.

magnolia73
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:28 AM
I don't think a lot of top level athletes stay sound, human aor animal. I remember the day after watching my brother do the Ironman... watching all these lean athletes limping around Lake Placid all wrapped up. Even when I trained for a marathon, my hip hurt constantly- but it wasn't awful.

Using a body to a maximum is going to make aches, pains and compensations. Same with horses. It's making sure it doesn't go too far that is important. Of course, the horses don't have choice, but to a degree, they do- so many act up or start stopping before they start limping.

ake987
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:35 AM
I have also heard and felt this sentiment echoed at times, and as a hunter-turned-eventer for only two years (hunter for 20), my eventing knowledge is amateur at best, and I'd love to see some responses from the COTH big guns that know what they are talking about that take the time to seriously consider this question, as the OP mentioned, in an objective, non-accusatory way.

Obviously, I cannot personally comment on UL horses, but I do know that it took me two years just to get my horse to a place that I feel is the (is this sad?) most sound he's ever been, and I feel comfortable pushing him more and asking for more athleticism. In my very limited, very amateur experience, my horse has only gotten "sound-er" with more miles and proper training, but then we also started with a *lot* of basic issues, such as just restructuring his diet and providing care that was in accordance with his new job (his track owners took wonderful care of him, but obviously he was not in an event-horse training program at the track!), but I've also borne witness to UL horses that, even under the best care, have trouble staying sound. So could that be an individual thing (just like you could have a swimmer with Olympic talent that has a perpetual shoulder injury that will prevent he or she from ever competing at or above a certain level), or is it a this-job-is-too-tough thing?

I remember watching that WONDERFUL video someone was kind enough to share of the Bromont Olympics, and OH-MY-GOSH.. that was an XC course, I would have had to be wearing Depends just LOOKING at some of those fences, yowza!!! Yes, there were more falls, scary falls, certainly, and many that had a nasty tumble and got thrown right back up on the horse. But it does seem to me (again, as a newcomer) that the format has been toned way down. Which is why this question of soundness in UL horses is perplexing to me. Although I think it is important to note, soundness can be an issue in any event horse, even just us LL guys, it can be quite a challenge. ;) There have certainly been times, while dealing with my own horse's soundness, that I've thought "am I just asking too much from him?" But the more I see him improve, and his confidence and athletic ability skyrocket, I think "NO WAY, HE LOVES THIS SH*T!" :lol:

Was soundness such a prevalent issue "back then" when courses were more demanding and included the steeplechase? Or is the fact that all the outlets we have to discuss these things (COTH, Facebook, any horsey news outlet) have increased exponentially in size and technology and it just seems more prevalent because it's just there in front of our faces more, whereas 20 years ago, there was no COTH to post about "did you hear such and such", and post a link to a video 30 seconds after a bad fall occurs that results in career-ending lameness? Or being able to look up on USEA - oh, so-and-so scratched again, must still be unsound. Is that even a logical contemplation? Or, are "we" competing horses of "lesser quality" that are not bred as well for the jobs we are asking them to do, and therein lies the soundness issues? From a researcher POV, I'm thinking it's a complex combination of many variables that contribute to any one horse's soundness issues at any level - but is it as prevalent as it sometimes feels, and, is it more prevalent than it was 20 years ago?

I'm just trying to throw out some potential ideas on the soundness issue from a more ignorant position, because I think it will be interesting to see the juxtaposition of the thoughts a dodo like me has next to.. let's say.. Denny!

Denny - yoohoo! Where are you? ;)

I'm looking forward to some good conversation, thanks for posting this thread wildlifer! Sorry to write a novel!

saje
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:38 AM
Magnolia beat me to it.

My husband is a Sports Med doc and I've been in the horseworld for 30+years. As far as I can tell very few serious athletes, no matter their performance level or species, are truly sound. Even at the high school/college/schooling show levels there is an awful lot of icing, wrapping, anti-inflammatories, & stall rest.

Bodies in motion get hurt, bodies in extreme motion get hurt more often and with greater severity. The ones that DO stay sound are the lucky ones :)

VicariousRider
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:48 AM
I just wrote a long explanation and then hit the back button by accident.... :mad:

Here's the short version (ok - not short. I essentially just re-wrote it):

1. More wear and tear is imposed as a horse moves up the levels in part due to the miles that it takes to get there (going through the levels takes time). Like almost all athletes, there is slow break-down of tissues over time due to wear and tear. The rate of that breakdown is effected by lots of factors but it happens in almost all athletes, horses and non-horses.

2. The increased athletic demands of the upper levels can exacerbate issues that might not be noticeable at novice including conformational flaws.

3. As BFNE said, UL horses are evaluated for soundness more often in many cases. This happens at the jog, in PPEs (where a more thorough exam might be done given the demands and the high price tag), and in regular check-ups.

4. "Not totally sound" in this context is probably more accurately described as the following: if you went over every millimeter of the horse with a fine tooth comb (or an x-ray or ultrasound) you would probably find some "imperfections." This is true of most horses - UL or not - and sometimes the horse has no idea and it's never an issue. But some people want a perfectly flawless report on a PPE and when the horse has done the work to get to the ULs that is often just not going to be the case. There are lots of humans with "arthritic changes" and healed injuries that never become issues, for example. Buying a horse is a risk (on a million levels) and any imperfection increases the risk that the horse will not remain sound. But what is important is to evaluate the likelyhood of that imperfection becoming prohibitive of the horse doing their job and weighing that risk against the nearly infinite other risks that are not even foreseeable at that point. As people say all the time: anything can happen with a horse. You could have a totally sound UL horse that has a freak accident and that is that.

Hope that helps

deltawave
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:54 AM
It's a collision of bell-shaped curves

Among horses, the majority will be of average soundness. Some will be exceptionally sound, some will be exceptionally UNSOUND, with the majority falling in the middle somewhere.

Among upper level event horses, a MUCH SMALLER sample size, the same almost certainly applies. Some will be very, very sound and endure seemingly forever. Others will flame out spectacularly in their first year at the level. A majority will be somewhere in between, and you just don't necessarily hear about the missed weeks of training, the frantic trying to find the right shoeing technique, the couple of shows a year where there's a scratch, etc. These soldiers are "serviceably sound" and carry on, just like the 50 year old joggers you see out there--some of them going slower than they used to, some of them visiting the orthopedist 3 times a year, some of them having to eventually do something else . . .

Competing at a high level in ANYTHING, for ANY species, takes its toll. :)

purplnurpl
Dec. 9, 2011, 09:59 AM
Magnolia beat me to it.

My husband is a Sports Med doc and I've been in the horseworld for 30+years. As far as I can tell very few serious athletes, no matter their performance level or species, are truly sound. Even at the high school/college/schooling show levels there is an awful lot of icing, wrapping, anti-inflammatories, & stall rest.

Bodies in motion get hurt, bodies in extreme motion get hurt more often and with greater severity. The ones that DO stay sound are the lucky ones :)

yuppers.
I burned out from competetive swimming at age 15 because everything was broken. From ages 13-16 I practiced 4 hours a day (2 hours before and after school) and all morning on Sat. That's rough on a body, human or equine.

Repetitive motion breaks you down.
As a kid, I would go to sleep with icepacks on all of my major joints just to hold myself together to make it to Zones and Junior Nationals. Knee injections started at age 14.


The difference?
Human athletes drug the crap out of themselves.
FEI doesn't allow us to do this for our horses. Poor creatures sometimes just need some bute or banamine.

Also, the jog is on concrete. I think it should be on grass.

If the FEI required the rider to show soundness at the jog as well there would be more horse/rider combos spun on Sunday. LMAO.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 9, 2011, 10:07 AM
I will also say that I think that there are a lot of people looking back on the past with rose colored glasses.

I'm not that old....only been involved in the sport since the early 90s...but also have friends from the heydays of the 70s-80s.

There were a lot of "unsound" horses back then too. Competing. There were pleanty of young horses pushed along fast (hell, that is why they made a rule on it).

Honestly, if anything, we have improved to be able to treat horses better. Inujuries that were career ending back then now are often more manageable. We can also diagnose thing better.

I also know most horses DO get time off in the winter and/or spring if they went south. SP in March was once more of the first event of the season for UL horses here in the Mid Atlantic...so you were stuck doing conditioning/training work in the indoor or snow but the horses were put back into work at the same time now as they were 20 years ago and do the same damn thing (3-8 weeks off after the big fall three day, then walking for a couple of weeks, then adding in light dressage etc.---with all the other variations in between depeding on the individual horse). Most that I know are just starting back now after their vacations following Fair Hill--some have been hacking for a couple of weeks. Just now more people go south where it is nicer to put the conditioning on their horses--instead of being in the cold--because they can, and do the horses for a living instead of like the rest of us stuck in our non-moving south job!

Most young horses who are started up down south, will come back north to a time off while the rest of us who have been stuck here for the winter will just be starting to compete.

Yes, there are more events to choose from...so a rider/trainer has to use judgment and not run their horse's legs off. But I'm still seeing good jugdment and bad....just as there was 20 years ago.

ake987
Dec. 9, 2011, 10:18 AM
First of all, a fellow COTHer said.. I HAD A GOOD POINT!!! Well, I can now die happy to have finally had some quasi-worthwhile input on a BB so full of knowledgeable people. :winkgrin:


It's a collision of bell-shaped curves.

What a genius articulation. Is there a clapping emoticon?

Beam Me Up
Dec. 9, 2011, 10:19 AM
I think being sound for any given event (say, an important 3-day) is also more challenging at the upper levels because of the amount of prep required.

If your lower level horse has a hot nail/abscess/bruise/minor cut and loses a couple weeks, as long as you have a couple days to hop on before the event you might just go anyway and see how it goes.

The same minor injury/schedule disruption would probably mean a scratch at a higher level.

Also, I agree with BFNE that in my limited experience (90s on), horses were not necessarily sounder in the LF days. We do have improved therapies, injections, and technologies that may keep horses in the game that wouldn't have been able to hack it back then, but with that I think also comes a tighter definition of sound. IMO there were horses that 20 years ago were considered sound that might raise an eyeball today. "That's just how he goes" seems a less popular attitude.

wildlifer
Dec. 9, 2011, 10:38 AM
These are fantastic responses, thank you so much! So many really great points to think about.

I watched the old '76 Bromont video too and my response was something like "holy crap!" There was no aerating, no special footing, no people scratching because they hadn't had pristine ground to train on all winter, all these things we hear now. But then again, there was no internet to broadcast it on either.

When I hear barn stories now of upper level events where horses spend the night strapped to an IV bag and standing in ice, my first reaction is, WTF? But then as I think more, I know that at the top of all sports are athletes doing the same thing, like purp and the poor joints.

So do continue the discussion, it is very much helping me clarify my thinking and understand a little bit better where that oft-repeated comment falls in the realm of reality and all the context that entails.

Carol Ames
Dec. 9, 2011, 10:40 AM
They do LOTS of :eek:galloping and jumping , most on uneven "normal"/ hard/ :eek:soft footing; the learning curve is steep:yes:! groundhog holes, tree stumps, hidden rocks/ stones; it takes "only one bad step" those horses have taken and take many in just one season:o; by the time they are upper level the same multiplied by at least 10!:eek:

yellowbritches
Dec. 9, 2011, 10:44 AM
I agree with bfne (shocking), on all parts, especially regarding the "good old days." The dressage standard was low back then, and a lot of people attributed their horses tension or misbehavior in the dressage ring to not liking it or being extremely fit or to wanting to get on to the fun stuff. How many of those horses had sore backs, hocks, feet? How many of them may have seen marked improvement in their dressage, even their jumping, had they been exposed to the therapies we have available today? To that end, also, what about gastric ulcers? Just plain FEEDING in general? There were probably a lot more lame, uncomfortable, or poorly managed (by today's standards) horses back when "men were men".

Also, I have been led to believe that horses DIDN'T last as long. My coach evented a horse at the upper levels in the 80s that was 17, and the horse was considered an oddity because of his age. Charisma was considered too old when he went to Seoul (how old was he? 16?). Food for thought.

And, I agree with the human athlete comparison. Do you all think pro athletes jump out of bed every morning feeling GREAT! Ready to conquer the world! No, probably not. Most probably creak and crack and gimp until they get moving. They stretch and get massages and do physical therapy. They probably live on Advil (if not something MORE), they get knees and hips and elbows and shoulders injected. They are probably not the "soundest" humans on earth, but they use the therapies available to them to keep going. And like purp said, they are allowed to medicate. I bet a lot of NFL players wouldn't be able to move if it wasn't for medical intervention!

Soundness IS relative. I am a lot less forgiving of things then some people and I will be quick to address something I don't like on my horse with the vet, the farrier, or the massage therapist. I can tell when Toby is ready for a massage. I knew when Vernon could do with a shot of pentosan. I put pads on when I feel like maybe they are the tiniest bit foot sore. A lot of the things I pick up on, the average horse owner probably wouldn't. And I am FAR from being a big time rider with a barn FULL of high performance horses. The more of that you are exposed to, the quicker you are to note it and deal with it.

Carol Ames
Dec. 9, 2011, 10:46 AM
Very well said Saje
Magnolia beat me to it.

My husband is a Sports Med doc and I've been in the horseworld for 30+years. As far as I can tell very few serious athletes, no matter their performance level or species, are truly sound. Even at the high school/college/schooling show levels there is an awful lot of icing, wrapping, anti-inflammatories, & stall rest.

Bodies in motion get hurt, bodies in extreme motion get hurt more often and with greater severity. The ones that DO stay sound are the lucky ones :)

vineyridge
Dec. 9, 2011, 10:58 AM
Looking at this from a foxhunter's perspective raises some serious questions. Foxhunting horses do a lot of galloping XC and jumping solid obstacles in much less than ideal footing conditions. The jumps certainly are not as high or as broad or (usually) in difficult combinations, but the horses are asked also to do things that would curl eventers' hair. Many, many hunt horses work two days a week every week during the season for far longer distances than any XC in eventing. And many of them are able to continue hunting until their late teens or early twenties. Now there are probably far fewer studies of the longevity and soundness of hunt horses versus event horses, but my experience is that with a sympathetic rider and a good conditioning program they tend to hold up remarkably well.

I should mention here that the US Mounted Divisions in the old days REQUIRED foxhunting for at least their officers. So an examination of the conditioning programs for foxhunters would be a good place to start.

Personally, I think it's dressage work that breaks horses, not XC.

HJAlter84
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:04 AM
Flame suit on for this one, in my experience, which is very limited, eventing UL, Is tough on the horses. Grew up in the eighties riding jumpers. Not much money so my boys came off the track, both free, brought them up to do Jrs and mini prix. When I went to college they were in their mid teens, sound, and taking new kids up the levels. In their twenties both were still teaching kids the ropes on the local circuit. No supplements, joint injections, or other therapies available today. As an adult finally had enough money to buy the horse of my dreams, which as luck would have it, was way to much of an athlete for me at that point in my life. He went to an event trainer where he competed successfully to advanced and a long format cci one star. By 9 he needed joint injections, by 10 he blew his first suspensory, by 13 he was retired to dressage and low level jumping, and by 16 he is pasture sound only and enjoying his retirement, with the help of joint supplements and the occasional joint injection. I loved the people I met eventing, the horse loved his job, so no regrets, but based on this would I ever ask it of another horse, absolutely not. I've been around enough upper level eveners to know a lot of them are held together with vet work, chiro, whatever, and many are broken relatively early in life. I don't know, did they make them sounder back them? Or maybe we gave them more down time, I know my jumpers got a few months every winter off, and when the eveners ran a full format they got a few months down time afterwards.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:11 AM
Looking at this from a foxhunter's perspective raises some serious questions. Foxhunting horses do a lot of galloping XC and jumping solid obstacles in much less than ideal footing conditions. The jumps certainly are not as high or as broad or (usually) in difficult combinations, but the horses are asked also to do things that would curl eventers' hair. Many, many hunt horses work two days a week every week during the season for far longer distances than any XC in eventing. And many of them are able to continue hunting until their late teens or early twenties. Now there are probably far fewer studies of the longevity and soundness of hunt horses versus event horses, but my experience is that with a sympathetic rider and a good conditioning program they tend to hold up remarkably well.

I should mention here that the US Mounted Divisions in the old days REQUIRED foxhunting for at least their officers. So an examination of the conditioning programs for foxhunters would be a good place to start.

Personally, I think it's dressage work that breaks horses, not XC.



I know a LOT of fox hunters. A lot that are not all that sound too....they get some bute the day of hunting and after. They get injections etc. Most wouldn't look so good trotting on concrete for a jog...and especially wouldn't look good if you put them on a 10 meter circle.


Many people do fox hunt their eventers around here. Most of us at least take our youngsters out cubbing or hound walking (I don't hunt because I work--and hunting around here is an all day affair starting at 11 am!). Also once you are competing at a certain level, your horses are given down time during the fox hunting season...and/or are already working hard enough that they don't need to hunt on top of it.

gold2012
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:22 AM
Here is some other things that contribute as well, at least I think so.

I wanted to add, I don't think dressage necessarily breaks them more, though it is schooled a ton, but rather the type of horse needed to be competitive, ie good at dressage, genetically doesn't really go back to horses used to run long distances.

With the long format, trials were never ran back to back weeks. They were never ran in one or two days. After, horses were given breaks, weeks, even months.

Now, it isn't uncommon to see a horse run back to back weeks in intermediate, or run intermediate one week, and go advanced the following. LONG breaks can't happen much, if you are going for Rolex in the spring, and some 3* in summer, and maybe overseas for a 4*. We also do not have the wonderful warm-up roads and tracks provided.

We are pushed to start them younger with FEH classes, and this is the modern day eventing. The money being offered, like the FSBC? Rewards a point system, so you chase that, if you are any good, so doing how many big events? If you are involved with a list, the current system pushes hard to see who is left standing. Many riders feel compelled to inject a joint at the slightest sign of injury...which CAN start you down a slippery slope.

Modern veterinary technologies offer alternative medicine, stem cells, the like, vs. Older, turn EM out and let's see in 6 months. Often getting them back into competition faster! Maybe/maybe not a good thing. Veterinary supplements, feed additives that advertise helping to keep joints healthy. yet no real proof that this occurs. Giving us a false sense of security.

And then all the rest above.

Lisa Cook
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:24 AM
I don't think a lot of top level athletes stay sound, human aor animal.

I'm seeing this right now in my 15 year old, who is on 2 ski racing teams, but is WAY far away from the top levels of ski racing. He has a wrist in a brace & is going to physical therapy for his knees....

I can only imagine what the top level ski racing kids go through for maintenance....either that, or my kid is the equivalent of a fragile OTTB....

wildlifer
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:28 AM
The more I think about and read here, I'm seeing a combination of both things. (1) Sport is hard, yes, and injuries and wear will happen. But (2) horses are getting pushed and campaigned very hard and there is no long format followed by a month off to regulate their schedule. As another poster said, there are most certainly a plethora of compounding variables.

Robby Johnson
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:33 AM
Magnolia beat me to it.

My husband is a Sports Med doc and I've been in the horseworld for 30+years. As far as I can tell very few serious athletes, no matter their performance level or species, are truly sound. Even at the high school/college/schooling show levels there is an awful lot of icing, wrapping, anti-inflammatories, & stall rest.

Bodies in motion get hurt, bodies in extreme motion get hurt more often and with greater severity. The ones that DO stay sound are the lucky ones :)

Agree agree agree. I turned 40 this year (it's true). I was surprised that ascending/descending the spiral staircase in the house I bought earlier this year would bring on a new bout of "aching knees." When I finally figured out the slight rotation on my right knee - the stabilizing leg - as a result of climbing the stairs had inflammed the joint, I started an icing protocol (true story, if I could've given myself DMSO I would've too) and changed the way I access the upstairs loft. I know walk sort of sideways to 3/4 ways so that I don't simultaneously stabilize my body weight and rotate on the knee ... which is a joint that really shouldn't "rotate." Point of this story is: muscular deterioration/atrophy is very much a part of the aging process and there isn't anything you can do to prevent it. You can ward off its effects of course through proper diet and exercise, but proper exercise is NOT pound-pound-pound reps-reps-reps. It's a combination of strengthening and stretching to support the joints to their fullest capacity, and to be realistic in the functional tasks your body can perform.

So, like, those long hacks on the buckle? Good things. Long-and-low breaks during a dressage school? Good things. Resisting the urge to run XC at a HT one more time (especially if it's for rider confidence) before a major culminating competition? Good thing.

vineyridge
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:38 AM
How much actual road work do event horses do as part of their conditioning programs these days? This is probably over simplistic, but my foxhunting conditioning program for me and my horse (when I WAS foxhunting) built up to five miles on hard surfaces at the rising trot. If both the horse and I could do that comfortably, we were in condition. IMO, it's absolutely the best thing that can be done for legs, both horse and human.

I do know that road work is a very big part of British race horse training (or was). Do British eventers spend much conditioning time in road work?

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:43 AM
With the long format, trials were never ran back to back weeks. They were never ran in one or two days. After, horses were given breaks, weeks, even months.

.

I guess I remember things differently and I'm sure it is different depending on where in the country you are.

Around here....I remember MOST HTs running in one day. Hell, I qualified for more than one LF CCI* without EVER stabling over night.

And there were lots of events on back to back weekends. There were fewer of these events running over 3 days.

Most did not run a long format CCI event back to back....and most I know still don't run CCI events close. A CIC is the same as a HT.

And I still see most eventers giving their horses breaks.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:44 AM
How much actual road work do event horses do as part of their conditioning programs these days? This is probably over simplistic, but my foxhunting conditioning program for me and my horse (when I WAS foxhunting) built up to five miles on hard surfaces at the rising trot. If both the horse and I could do that comfortably, we were in condition. IMO, it's absolutely the best thing that can be done for legs, both horse and human.

I do know that road work is a very big part of British race horse training (or was). Do British eventers spend much conditioning time in road work?


most I know are doing the same level a road work now for the short format that they did 20 years ago. Going for long hour long hacks at the walk/trot....still a part of most programs I know.

If you ask Phillip, Jimmy and Bruce....they will likely tell you they are not doing things much differently than before. I think that was one of the things discovered was that the fitness level still needs to be the same regardless of whether it is short or long...but of course they now need to be better at the dressage too!

And many will warm up for a short form CCI not much differently....going for a long hack before xc, doing some sprints in the warm up etc.

gold2012
Dec. 9, 2011, 11:48 AM
I guess I remember things differently and I'm sure it is different depending on where in the country you are.

Around here....I remember MOST HTs running in one day. Hell, I qualified for more than one LF CCI* without EVER stabling over night.

And there were lots of events on back to back weekends. There were fewer of these events running over 3 days.

No one ran a long format CCI event back to back....and most I know still don't run CCI events close. A CIC is the same as a HT.

I guess I was thinking more along the lines of UL events...CCI types. I remember those one days.....grin, ride hard all day, and that night....the fun!

PhoenixFarm
Dec. 9, 2011, 12:03 PM
I think a lot of the high points have been hit, but a few I'd like to add or re-emphasize.

1) While I'm not going to argue the LF vs SF format thing, again, I will say, as someone who's fitted up horses for both, while the net sum of conditioning is about the same, the SF requires a LOT more speed work. In addition, as the horses have started having less and less "blood" to them, that has required additional speed work as well. My assistant has done a CCI** two years in a row, last year on a Westphalian, this year on an Anglo-Arab. The difference in the amount of speed work required between the two was striking, and not hard to see why one of them is sounder than the other.

2) As the dressage has increased in importance, the conformation of the horses has changed to allow better gaits, more sit for the collected work, etc. This conformation is not necessarily conducive to long term soundness galloping over terrain, doing fitness work, jumping, etc.

3) There is, and always has been a difference between sound enough to do the job happily and comfortably, and sound enough to have a completely clean PPE. I wouldn't expect any horse competing above Novice for any length of time to not have some changes or wear and tear, and to have findings on a PPE. And the higher up the levels or more years of competing the horse has, the less I expect from the PPE. In truth, seeing a horse's show record that shows it running consistenly for many years without gaps tells me more about it's relative soundness than any PPE could ever do.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 9, 2011, 12:25 PM
PF--I was going to note that I've seen maybe more speed work. But I wasn't so sure that was just because of the type of horse more than the format. I seem to remember others in LF days on some draft crosses or heavier Irish guys doing more speed work than those on the OTTBs....and I'm not too sure that is different today.

What most do around here is gallop up hills for the "speed" work. Nelson's hill is still the place in my area...is Paris Mountain still open in VA? I know folks have been struggling as always to find good hills to gallop.

deltawave
Dec. 9, 2011, 12:42 PM
A lot of "dedicated" hunt horses also have six months of very light work, if any, each year. Whereas eventers (as has been noted elsewhere) are pretty much going year-round now, if not competing then schooling.

I'm still a BIG believer in giving horses a season off every year. Off meaning OFF . . . out standing in the grass, barefoot, shaggy, and untouched.

CANTEREOIN
Dec. 9, 2011, 01:04 PM
There are too many comments that are spot on for me to quote all of them, so I won't.

Another thought is our access to information... Years ago an event would happen, we would see the results and if it was big enough, we would see video highlights.

NOW, I have so many ways to know, almost instantly, what it going on... who did what and why. I never knew who got spun in the trot-up before unless it was a well known combination. Now, within hours, I know everything. And if I don't, I can post on some bulletin board and get the answer within minutes.

I don't know if its different... I suspect that part of the perception is that we know more now than we ever did before.

purplnurpl
Dec. 9, 2011, 01:10 PM
I bet a lot of NFL players wouldn't be able to move if it wasn't for medical intervention!



also, the teams trainers shoot the players up with lidocaine if they have an area that is bothering them...

so that they can go out on the field, give it their all without feeling the pain, and deal with the issue in the off season.

kookicat
Dec. 10, 2011, 05:17 PM
I don't think a lot of top level athletes stay sound, human aor animal. I remember the day after watching my brother do the Ironman... watching all these lean athletes limping around Lake Placid all wrapped up. Even when I trained for a marathon, my hip hurt constantly- but it wasn't awful.

Using a body to a maximum is going to make aches, pains and compensations. Same with horses. It's making sure it doesn't go too far that is important. Of course, the horses don't have choice, but to a degree, they do- so many act up or start stopping before they start limping.

I agree with this. I was an elite gymnast in my teens and I hurt somewhere quite a bit of the time. Every top athlete is going to have aches and pains- you just have to manage them so they don't become debilitating. Catching minor things before they turn into something serious is very important.

Rue is an intermediate horse and he's very sound. I keep him turned out as much as I can and limit how much I jump and school at home. I'd rather school out on a hack than drill endlessly in the school. It seems to be working! (And I bet I've just jinxed myself by saying that! :eek:)



How much actual road work do event horses do as part of their conditioning programs these days? This is probably over simplistic, but my foxhunting conditioning program for me and my horse (when I WAS foxhunting) built up to five miles on hard surfaces at the rising trot. If both the horse and I could do that comfortably, we were in condition. IMO, it's absolutely the best thing that can be done for legs, both horse and human.

I do know that road work is a very big part of British race horse training (or was). Do British eventers spend much conditioning time in road work?

I do lots of road work. Combined with interval training, it's a great way to get the horses fit and harden the legs.

scubed
Dec. 10, 2011, 05:20 PM
I don't think a lot of top level athletes stay sound, human aor animal. I remember the day after watching my brother do the Ironman... watching all these lean athletes limping around Lake Placid all wrapped up. Even when I trained for a marathon, my hip hurt constantly- but it wasn't awful.

Using a body to a maximum is going to make aches, pains and compensations. Same with horses. It's making sure it doesn't go too far that is important. Of course, the horses don't have choice, but to a degree, they do- so many act up or start stopping before they start limping.

This. Only one mlb player played all games this season. Look at any pro sport injury reports. I know olympic athletes in 3 sports and few of them are truly sound, certainly not all the time

Rainier
Dec. 10, 2011, 05:55 PM
I agree that its not that different with people. I have been a professional athlete in two sports (neither of which had anything to do with horses!) and I haven't been really even remotely "sound" since I was in high school (and not even all the way through HS). I would definitely fall into the "kept sound through some pretty intense maintenance" category.

I too freak out about the fragility of horses, especially when I venture to think about selling mine now (who has never ever had a soundness issue) and buying a new one. I just try to think about myself and how I would have never passed a PPE from the time I was 16 ;)

wildlifer
Dec. 10, 2011, 06:06 PM
It is definitely valid to point out the commonalities between all athletes, keeping in mind of course, a human athlete is only responsible for herself and has full control over her choice to participate. I am wondering if we should be okay with that, but I also know that if a horse really doesn't want to do something, there is no force that can make him do it (oh how I have had that demonstrated to me). Now, some are more generous natured than others and will keep going longer even if they are struggling. I suppose that is where management decisions come into play -- you watch your partner and you walk that fine tightrope and you decide when it is too much to ask anymore. If you have a relationship with that partner, I know at least for me, it is VERY clear when they just don't want to play!

Rainier
Dec. 10, 2011, 06:07 PM
I'm still a BIG believer in giving horses a season off every year. Off meaning OFF . . . out standing in the grass, barefoot, shaggy, and untouched.

Thanks for posting this, DW! I'm doing this for the first time this winter, and I'm having a hard time with it. My horse is barefoot with no blanket (and I own blankets for him to cover just about every 10 degrees difference in temperature!) for the first time since I got him as a baby. He's getting the winter entirely off. I'm not hauling him to indoors or anything. It just feels weird, but hopefully it will help him stay sound mentally and physically and it will give me some time to focus on skiing and getting back into shape myself!

kookicat
Dec. 10, 2011, 06:35 PM
I wouldn't pass a vet check either now!

I can remember having the vet out to Asp because she was a bit off. He took one look at me and asked. "Am I here to see you or the horse?" :lol:

yellowbritches
Dec. 10, 2011, 07:03 PM
It is definitely valid to point out the commonalities between all athletes, keeping in mind of course, a human athlete is only responsible for herself and has full control over her choice to participate. I am wondering if we should be okay with that, but I also know that if a horse really doesn't want to do something, there is no force that can make him do it (oh how I have had that demonstrated to me). Now, some are more generous natured than others and will keep going longer even if they are struggling. I suppose that is where management decisions come into play -- you watch your partner and you walk that fine tightrope and you decide when it is too much to ask anymore. If you have a relationship with that partner, I know at least for me, it is VERY clear when they just don't want to play!
Keep in mind, though, that humans can and do take various pain killers so they can keep on going, while we cannot compete our equine athletes on much at all (basically nothing for FEI competition). While we do all, I am sure, give them the occasional gram of bute or give them a course of previcox, for the most part it isn't enough to mask a true injury AND be able to legally compete them (not that there aren't those who don't cheat, but that's not he discussion here). We provide them the best care we can without masking real pain, while a human athlete will mask real pain, at the risk of injuring themselves further, to compete.

I threw away my crutches within about 48 hours of spraining my ankle (a soft tissue injury). I was riding within a few days, despite a great deal of pain. I dosed myself up with fistfuls of advil, and kept on going. Now, Toby gets a minor case of tendonitis (in the scheme of things, my injury was probably far more acute than his), yet he was forcefully rested for six weeks (stall rest), and his exercise was kept to VERY controlled walking. He was SEDATED to keep him from over exerting himself. He will probably never really have an issue with that leg again, while I still feel my over doing it in my ankle...almost 3 years on!

Humans DO choose to be athletes, but we also can and do choose to over extend ourselves either to the point of injury or when we are injured. With our horses, at least most decent horsemen would sooner kill an ant with an atom bomb when it comes to an injury of a horse than risk a bigger problem. Most people rather miss a few weeks or months than risk a career ending injury OR risk souring a horse to its job (the other often little thought of side effect to pressing a horse who doesn't feel 100%).

subk
Dec. 10, 2011, 10:44 PM
The increase in speed work means more challenges for soundness. The faster they go the higher the rate of injury, so if conditioning is really calling for more speed work then that has to be considered a factor.

In the dressage world once a horse begins working in collection the difficulty in keeping them sound rises significantly. Now that eventing dressage is truly demanding collection I think that's a big challenge too.

Personally, I think the stress on an upper level horse has increased in the past few decades significantly but at the same time our veterinary abilities have increased at a similar rate, keeping the rate of soundness pretty steady. I don't think the horses could have done today's sport 20 or 30 years ago.

ACP
Dec. 10, 2011, 11:25 PM
My husband is 75. When he was in college - about a hundred years ago, as he puts it, instead of 55 years - he played baseball and was a pitcher. They would ice his arm after every game, and did all sorts of things with heat, massage, Epsom salts soaks, etc. He always had to warm up slowly, and be very careful. He didn't pitch any after college. One arm is longer than the other by almost an inch, and he still has a creaky shoulder, elbow and wrist.

Bobthehorse
Dec. 11, 2011, 02:07 PM
).

Honestly, if anything, we have improved to be able to treat horses better. Inujuries that were career ending back then now are often more manageable. We can also diagnose thing better.

I think this is a big one. There was a time when all you could do was try rest, or retire the horse. So treatment options for mild unsoundnesses just didnt really exist, and these horses ended up out of the sport. Now there are lots of ways to keep these horses feeling good despite their issues.

However, I feel this can also have an ugly side, of medicating and holding together a horse that just cant handle the stress. It can be a very line between helping a horse stay comfortable in their job, and pushing a horse past their physical limits with technology. People seem very quick to inject and push on rather than assess the situation and the workload for the horse. In previous years if they got a little sore they might get a few weeks off, but now the first thought is of medication. I think rest and time off is underused now that we have such advanced vet care.

GotSpots
Dec. 11, 2011, 03:55 PM
The other side of the coin is that there are horses living useful and more comfortable lives a lot longer than they did a number of years ago, thanks in large part to the advances in veterinary medicine. My old guy, for example, who will be 17 on January 1, still happily jumped around Preliminary this year (after a career of more than 70 events, including more than 55 at Preliminary-Advanced and 5 long format CCI* and CCI**). That wasn't from running him into the ground either: he's just been a pretty consistent dude, who ran between 5-10 events a year at most over the course of his career (after he came off the track).

If we didn't have the ability to inject his hocks or didn't have the help of things like Adequan/Legend, he'd have been pretty creaky/stiff, and likely developed other compensation type issues - many of which would've developed regardless of what level he's competing. The way he's built, he's going to be a bit hard on himself just hanging out, and he would be a lot less comfortable without vet help. While I'll keep him and throw him out in a field the day he tells us he doesn't want to play anymore, in the meantime he's much happier having a job to do and I'm going to keep him as comfortable as I can.