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How do you manage your dressage horses?

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  • How do you manage your dressage horses?

    I'm curious about what people do to make sure their dressage horses are sound and happy at all time (well, or most of the time) on a daily basis and during competition, liniment? before? after? bandage? supplement? cold therapy? hot therapy? Anything else?

    We had a rather disappointing show at the most important show of the year (Morgan Grand National) last year. Prior to the competition, I moved him to a stable where there was an indoor arena to ensure that I could ride him throughout bad weather. We had had a glorious year prior to that so I had very high hope at the National. Unfortunately hard footing at the new barn, plus more vigorous training caused my horse to be very sore at the show. We scored OK (62%~65%) at trainig level instead of high 60s or low 70s as I fully expected. I know some may say 62%~65% not to be bad but please understand that that was the biggest competition of the year for Morgans and competition was fierce. All training/1st horses had to have earned score above 60% at rated shows to be qualified.

    That was fully my mistake and negligence/ignorance not to have managed him better, and that is a mistake I don't intend to make again. So I'm turing to the vast knowlege of this forum to seek some guidelines. I am interested in knowing what you do daily to minimize the negative effects of trainig (sore/swelling/heat/pain), and what you do at the show to ensure their best performance. Thanks.

  • #2
    I tend to leave well enough alone. Unless I have a horse with an underlying issue, I don't do anything. Even an FEI horse.. I'll take good care of him/her, but there is no pressure bandages, liniment, special booster electrolytes etc. As long as I know I don't' over work the horse ant any time, and I slowly build them with good food, and a good regime that will make them fit enough to compete in a show... I don't add a thing to the natural balance of the horse.
    "The ability to write a check for attire should not be confused with expertise. Proficiency doesn't arrive shrink-wrapped from UPS and placed on your doorstep."


    • #3
      My three dressage horses (ranging from 4 year old just backed to 15 year old working towards Advanced Medium) have magnetic boots on their hind legs at night. I know you are not supposed to leave them on for this long, but all three of mine have shown benefits of having them on in this manner.

      My 15 year old can get a bit of stiffness when stood in, so they help her keep mobile. The next one had a severe case of lympangitis and cellulitis as a 5 year old (causes her legs to fill when stood in) and since using magnetic boots she does not have any swelling at all! The 4 year old uses them more as a maintenance she is a huge moving baby.

      All three are on TopSpec 10:10 (joint supplement) and their Balancer as I am a great believer in this company. My horses look outstanding at the moment, their coats are gleaming and they rarely get brushed!

      With regards to before a comp, I don't think I really change anything. I try to keep everything as constant as possible, even if I am stabling them at a competition venue.

      I don't cold hose at all (unless they have bump or swelling) but I do use some luke warm water to remove any sweat marks after middle horse got severe girth galls last summer (she is orange so is prone to everything).

      My biggest thing though is warming up and cooling down properly. I also use an Equilibrium massage pad a few times a week on each horse to just give them some chill out time.


      • #4
        I'm a footing Nazi. I keep my horse where I do primarily for the footing. It's a good boarding stable all the way around, but there are things I tolerate for the footing. There are several indoors near me that I haul to in really bad weather, but never more than twice a week because they all have crap footing. I also don't school super hard when I'm there, just keep the work in her head without too many days off, little canter, etc. My girl doesn't interfere and is barefoot, so I don't wrap in front for regular sessions. I do wrap all around for clinics and lessons, just in case. I wrap behind for all my rides because she tends to get puffy if I don't. I ice behind after every ride. I use standing wraps behind overnight with an alcohol/witch hazel rub if the puffiness turns into real swelling. (usually after a lesson or a day where we do alot of collected canter work). Every horse is different. I wouldn't just do the above on any horse. My girl has shown issues behind, so I deal with them.
        Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


        • #5
          I palpate my horses often, check for heat and such.

          Mostly, when I find something is a little tender, I give em a day off and keep checking it

          Im not one to ride when I sense there is a problem, I tell you thats saved me vet bills ALONE! LOL

          I even had a mare that was jumping 3 ft sound, but I noticed a little fluid in her leg and it wasnt going down.

          I pulled her out of training, and called the vet, he said she was nearing a bowed tendon and I caught it just in time.

          The trainer had thrown a fit, said I was a wacko about my horses health...

          ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


          • #6
            Yes, I agree. I'm a footing Nazi too. Most important factor to keeping soundness in my opinion. I also give Legend and Adequan alternating one then the other every week (two weeks at most if not doing much work). I do believe in individual turnout to keep the joints moving. Injury is a risk there--but I think the mental and physical benefits of turnout are worth it. Also, I don't ignore minor lameness issues. They're frustrating and expensive, so many people turn a blind eye--- but I don't think that usually works out well.


            • #7
              Oh, I have been known to have the shoer put pads on when I know the footing at a show is going to be a little hard. I won't show at facilities where the footing is too deep or unacceptably hard.


              • #8
                I make sure my horse gets turned out in pasture everyday.


                • #9
                  My horses get boots for riding and that's it.
                  No liniments, etc.

                  They get turned out daily.

                  They ALWAYS get the day off before a show; ideally the whole week before a show will be light. Just a little lateral work here and there, with a jump course or two sprinkled in to loosen the back.

                  I took them to a schooling show this past weekend and I think I slightly over-prepared the one horse. He did have his day off beforehand, but in preparation I gave him a more intensive dressage week than normal and I think it took a few points off his scores. Yes he still scored 62 and 65 at 2nd level but he had more in there at the beginning of the week.

                  I should add that both of my horses are in consistent work, going 5-6 days per week for 30-60 minutes at a time. Thus a light week is really a light week for them. They don't ratchet up from light work/effective retirement to get ready for a show; they are show ready all the time and then they get a light week to rest up in preparation.
                  The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                  Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                  The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


                  • Original Poster

                    Hi you all gave me a lot of things to think about and re-evaluate what I have done with my horse. Thank you so much for that

                    My horses are turned out 24/7 at home. I'm normally a very minimalist. They live outside, have free access to hay/water, get fed grain once a day, barefoot except during showing season. Never had any problem in the past. And except for occasional chiropractic work, that is all. But I can see there are some things I can change...

                    1. Shoe with pad. I put shoes on my show horse when competing. They seem to have helped at venues where footings aren't optimal, but he can still get sore footed. I think I will try pad this year.

                    2. Light work or no work right before the show. I think my major mistake was working him too hard right before the show. I had mind to show 1st/2nd this year so I was schooling him pretty hard 1st/2nd or even 3rd movements, even though we were showing training then. I need to back off and give him time off.

                    3. Footing. This is going to be hard to overcome. The footing at home is decent but I don't have indoor arena so that make consistent work tough. There is barn nearby that has good footing but they will not entertain the idea of outsider trailering in for insurance reason, nor will they entertain the idea of one or two months of boarding. The stable I took him to belongs to a good friend of mine and they offer good service, except... the footing was not up to my liking... Ummm not sure what I can do...

                    4. NOMIOMI1, your post bring some grin to my face. My horse has developed some puffiness around his cannon bones these days, presumably due to going back to work after a long winter lay up. In the past, I was able to keep him rather fit throughout winter going fox hunting but this year.. sigh.. the weather of this winter has been the worst nightmare... I was freaking out but my husband kept telling me I was worried too much. If he does not improve, I am going to call the vet. He can frown at me all he wants. Damn it.

                    5. JetSet, I'm intrigued about the magnetic therapy. I know some swear by it but others say they are just well B.S. Can you turn them out with those magnetic boots?

                    Anything else? Please keep coming Thanks a bunch.


                    • #11

                      Sometimes it is nothin, and thats good news when that happens

                      My horse in full time turnout gets puffy even so now that he is older, but its alway good to be on the safe side if its new
                      ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                      • #12
                        Turnout, trail riding, a laser

                        Oh and I'm a footing maniac.

                        Regular trail riding, turn out every day, regular attention by the farrier, proper saddle fit, a therapy laser for if they get sore.
                        Oh and of course super supplements!

                        But good footing is a must, not too hard, not too deep, just right.
                        Melyni (PhD) PAS, Dipl. ACAN.
                        Sign up for the Equine nutrition enewsletter on www.foxdenequine.com
                        New edition of book is out:
                        Horse Nutrition Handbook.



                        • #13
                          Excellent nutrition and good hoofcare are my biggies. My mare has become more sensitive to too much alfalfa, soy, and sugar as she has gotten older, and she's also very very tense naturally. She also has oval fronts and trips if I don't keep her toes back enough.

                          I too have become a believer in rest before shows, as when I have schooled more she just doesn't have enough gas in the tank. So she gets easier work the week before, and even the day before a clinic is an off day, with just some hacking and light schools the week before. She just doesn't hold up to as much schooling as she used to.

                          She also appreciates keeping things varied with trail rides and some small jumps.

                          As for back soreness, I'm still working on maintaining that. With the jump from 1st to 2nd she started getting back sore. She's 19, so I backed her down some. I also just put front shoes on her and am going to put hinds on soon.

                          I wish my footing at home were wonderful though. I am stuck with a grass pasture. At least it has sand underneath and excellent drainage.


                          • #14
                            good footing, well fitting saddle and correct riding (which is not easy)
                            I am not in to wrapping but I do use Legend and make sure to have a good blacksmith
                            Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. –Sebastian Junger


                            • #15
                              Good footing, good shoing (which is difficult on my horse as she shoots toe), good nutrition, turnout (so she stays happy), free choice hay, a well fitting saddle (looked at 2-3 times a year), once or twice a year flexions, twice a year dental (by a vet/dentist). Additionally, I use a massage pad on her, tend to wrap her with Back on Track boots whenever we do any of the "ps", and she gets adequan every other week for prevention, and daily oral joint supplements (corta-flx, msm and flex force HA). Every now and again I have the chiropracter and masseuse work on her.

                              When she works extremely hard and we are building or learning something new, I might give her buteless for a few days, or double her MSM. At shows, I always give her equioxx to combat the tiny show stall/lack of turnout/different footing, althought I do handwalk about four or five times a day at shows. She gets wrapped at night as well. And I give her Ulcer Gard or ranitidine at shows.

                              This year, I did a gastric conditioning, which included a panacur powerpac (I had not done that with her), and herbs/probiotics and a course of psyllium. She now has dapples for the first time!!!


                              • #16
                                Good daily care with attention to detail without OVER attention. Finding the balance between micromanaging my horses and letting them "be horses".
                                It's critical to their physical and mental health........and lots of love too!


                                • #17
                                  Additionally, I wanted to say that your management needs typically increase as you move up the levels and the work is more demanding. If you remain at the lower levels (below second level), you probably don't have the same concerns as someone consistently working above that. By FEI level, yes, you have to do lots of extra things.

                                  One of my trainers who represented her country and trained in Germany with an Olympic medalist said that they start doing adequan every other week at age 6 or 7--legend is weekly during show season. I don't do the legend yet, but I thought the adequan was an excellent idea. Her horses stayed sound, at international levels of competition well into their late teens.

                                  I also want to add that several of my trainers at the FEI level have remarked that is is important to pay extra attention when you work the P's--so then I ice or cold hose, and wrap with linament. I love the First+ ice boots. At shows, I generally cold hose, unless I am with a friend or trainer who has the Game Ready! I tried to put ice in baggies and use my First+ boots, but it didn't work so well and hosing is better. You can get a special nozzle for cold hosing that makes the water come out like a whirlpool!


                                  • #18
                                    Good management is good management.
                                    Many folks are delusional about their own skills and attempt to ""overcontrol"......some of this type of behaviour can give the horses and barn mgt. ulcers!......
                                    Those who are truly competitively successful often have a different regime from those who are "pretending" they are better than they really are.......however, if it makes folks feel better to imagine success......who really cares eh? .....
                                    I'm not sure it really matters what level you show when one wants to know how "good care" is defined.....It's particularly sad to see horses that are supposed to receive the "best" of care develop thrush problems......to me that just indicates some stable mgt. issues.........


                                    • #19
                                      All of the horses at our barn, from the little pleasure horses to the fancy GP horses, are turned out 24/7. They come in twice a day to get looked at and eat, and when they get ridden. They are partially clipped and wear blankets in the winter. I have seen almost no lameness issues in the year I've been working there.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Silver~Image~Farm View Post
                                        Good management is good management.
                                        Many folks are delusional about their own skills and attempt to ""overcontrol"......some of this type of behaviour can give the horses and barn mgt. ulcers!......
                                        Those who are truly competitively successful often have a different regime from those who are "pretending" they are better than they really are.......however, if it makes folks feel better to imagine success......who really cares eh? .....
                                        I'm not sure it really matters what level you show when one wants to know how "good care" is defined.....It's particularly sad to see horses that are supposed to receive the "best" of care develop thrush problems......to me that just indicates some stable mgt. issues.........
                                        WTH are you talking about? YOU sound delusional with your weird allusions to poseurs in the dressage world. Seriously.

                                        Sounds like good solid management is the key at the lower levels, and a serious up in the ante for the higher levels of competition. Thanks Cowgirl for the info, sounds like you know what's going on.