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Keeping your horse at the top of their game?

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  • Keeping your horse at the top of their game?

    In eventing, horses are under a lot of stress on their legs and bodies which often requires some sort of regime. What do you do to keep your horse healthy other than the basics? For instance, what products do you use for hooves? Or what kind of boots do you use before, after or during your ride? Supplements? Any information at all would be greatly.

  • #2
    Wow, that's a comprehensive question! Depends on the horse, their history, and the level they are competing... The young horses running BN/N usually get minimal care- a preventative joint supplement, some liniment after cross country or a particularly hard work, and that's about it. The T/P horses usually are on a more intensive joint supplement (higher levels of the active ingredients) and often have started getting hock injections or have started Adequan. This is also around the time I usually start poulticing or at least wrapping after cross country in addition to the liniment. They are always booted all 4 legs to cross country school or compete, and if they overreach or interfere regularly they may school and/or compete in open front or splint boots. I have also had a few horses that wore bell boots continuously because they regularly overreached in the pasture.

    My favorite products? I love Bigeloil for liniment purposes, although you have to be careful not to mix it too strong. My gelding is currently on Grand Hoof for his hooves, and it seems to have worked very well- he's keeping his shoes much better and has not had abscesses like he used to. I have to be kind of particular with other supplements- they pretty much have to be pelleted or my horse won't eat them, so that really limits the options. My vet told me Cosequin was the only oral joint supplement he would consider really worthwhile, but of course it is a powder....

    I also keep my horses turned out as close to 24/7 as possible, except in severe storms or excessive heat (think 100+ head indices) since there is very little shade in our pastures, which I think helps. I don't understand the people who bring their horses in when it rains, especially when they want them to be event horses...


    • Original Poster

      And that's a comphrensive answer! Just the type I am looking for!


      • #4
        I think it is all about proper horse management...knowing your horse...conditioning him properly...and having enough knowledge about basic vet care/lameness issues that you can spot something early. I am religiously feeling Pie's legs like a crazy person. Before and after every ride. Every time I check on him in the pasture. I liniment + wrap (or poultice) after every hard ride, show, or XC school. (If you wrap, you must learn to do it properly...otherwise you can do MUCH more harm than good!)

        Proper farrier care is imminent. Know what your horse's feet need to look like. Proper angle, correct amount of heel, etc. Keep him on a schedule... new shoes every 6 weeks. I've learned the hard way about this one!

        Personally, I don't think that feed through joint supplements do much. I have, however, seen Pentosan have a very positive impact for my pasture puff with severe (inoperable) knee chips and arthritis.

        The most important thing is to ALWAYS be learning. Ask your vet questions. Then go home and read, visit COTH, ask more questions. (Get a million answers!!) The farrier wants to square your horse's toes? Ask him why. Be a student! The only way we can do right by our horses is to learn as much as we possibly can about how to take even better care of them.
        Founder & President, Dapplebay, Inc.
        Creative Director, Equestrian Culture Magazine
        Take us to print!


        • #5
          In my world it all depends on the level. Up to preliminary I don't really do much other than good training, appropriate conditioning with road work, regular vet exams, good shoer and a good diet.

          I rarely wrap or use boots after riding until the upper levels. I use whatever hoof oil is for sale. Same goes for grooming products.


          • #6
            Prayer and an ample supply of good wine.


            • #7
              Originally posted by GotSpots View Post
              Prayer and an ample supply of good wine.

              I am a big believer in prevention, especially with young horses. Don't wait for the horse to get stiff joints or sore before you help them. They are athletes too, and you better believe many athletes are taking care of themselves with preventive measures to perform at their best.

              I love Back on Track products, ice legs after XC (and front feet too if ground is hard like this summer!). I normally wrap after a hard jump school or gallop as well. Adequan the weds or thurs before an event. Massage after XC for some horses. I don't do a feed through joint supplement anymore but have recently switched to HA liquid administered directly into the mouth.

              Of course a good conditioning program & regular (4-6 days week) riding is key. Paying attention to the small details, any small lumps, bumps or heat that appear can help catch something before it turns into a bigger issue.
              No Trouble
              2/2/05 - 7/29/13
              Rest In Peace my quirky brave boy, I will love you forever.


              • #8
                I am finding that a lot of aspects of horses is QUALITY not quantity. So, with horse management, I am finding that the quality of the care is far greater than how much crap you use or feed or do. That being said, I probably do far more for my horse than others, but I know I do far, far less than others, too.

                Toby is trying to be a prelim horse. A lot of things I DON'T do actually have more to do with his skin being very sensitive than with me not believing in them (although, the proof that he is fit as a fiddle and in fabulous condition is proving to me that I probably DON'T need them anyway!).

                I start out with high quality feed (Pennfield!!!) and hay. He is a little hard to keep weight on when in hard work (I tend to over feed him a bit when he's not working as hard so he has some "reserve". Not my standard practice, but it works for us). I discovered Cocosoya earlier this year and love it. He gets quite a bit, both for the added calories and to help with his ever challenging skin. While I feed a great quality timothy, he doesn't love straight timothy, so I supplement him with chopped alfalfa forage, which he thinks is the best thing ever.

                I do feed MSM, but not for his joints, again, for his skin. He gets a digestive supplement which I'm trying to talk myself out of feeding, and a little garlic. Right now he gets electrolytes, but not year round. I do use Pentosan regularly.

                He has a great farrier on a good program. He does have pads on his front feet right now, but I consider this standard practice in the summer here. Our ground turns to concrete! The only thing I put on his feet is anything with a little mineral oil in it before I rinse him off to help protect his feet. All the hosing, the stomping at flies on hard ground, the dew on the grass at night and in the morning, etc, is killer on their feet. My farrier HATES that I hose him off so much- "Why can't you just sponge him!?!"- but Toby's allergic to sweat (yep) so he gets rinsed off A LOT. My favorite stuff is the Huffol (I think). Green tub, and more solid than oil.

                I don't use liniment on him, other than very occasionally rubbing in some Sore No More gel on his legs (probably more to make me feel good than anything...and, of course, while he's not allergic to it, I AM!!! ). I don't even give him soap baths very often because he is so prone to dry skin. I usually use clear water, and spritz with baby oil and water.

                His vet keeps an eye on him and (thankfully) is very aware of my tendency to obsess and humors me. He gets flexed, lunged and jogged with some semi-regularity. I am VERY LUCKY (touch wood) to have what seems to be a sturdy, sound little horse, but I like to know where we stand and try to catch things before they get bad.

                He gets massaged regularly (once a month). I LOVE this because this is a true base line for how he is feeling and what his complaints are. Usually, things I feel under tack have a correlating response to massage. He tends to be tight in his back (some of it is skin related, but both the therapist and the vet understand this and both seem to have developed a sense of when he's being skin touchy, and when he's actually feeling sore), so the massage really helps keep track of that.

                I will pack his feet (when he isn't padded) if I feel the ground was more punishing than I liked (though, I am a freaking footing nazi and will not run him on hard ground. His reaction to a big effort and stingy feet on the backside recently is a PRIME example as to why I am so vigilant). I didn't do much icing or cold hosing or wrapping until very recently- I tend to wait on that until they are jumping bigger fences and galloping faster for prelim. I like to learn their legs and know what is a natural reaction to hard work (Toby's ankles will carry a little fill if he stands in his stall for a few hours after hard work. I wouldn't know this if I was constantly bandaging and icing him!). I will do it more now, though.

                I do a TON of walking. We are lucky to have lots of fairly safe dirt roads, and I will walk him for miles on these roads. I think this is making a big difference in his toughness and soundness.

                The rest of his work is as correct and thoughtful as I can manage. Lots of stretching work to build his top line. Lots of exercises to build his strength and flexibility both in jumping and dressage. I don't do tons of fitness work because he's a small, rangy TB with a penchant for world domination and we don't need extra fitness to cause him to be even more evil (his pasture mate thanks me).

                I am also a big believer in rest and down time. Right now he is getting a mental vacation (can't do complete let off with him as he is just not fun to ride at the end of vacation. Found that out the hard way!). I've scaled back on his number of days he's ridden a week, and the majority of it is hacking, with enough jumping to work on MY problems. He will get another mental vacation at the end of the fall season. Probably much longer and even more relaxed.

                Boots for everything other than turn out and dressage at shows. And, it takes a lot in me not to boot for turn out since he has injured himself and missed last fall acting like an idiot on the way to his pasture. Nothing special about his boots other than no neoprene (allergy).

                So, to sum up- good diet, proper conditioning and exercise, sparing use of "products", judicious, thoughtful use of bandaging and cold therapy, liberal use of good professionals (vet, farrier, etc). Toby's baby cousin is coming to summer camp with me this weekend. He will receive much of the same care. And, any baby horse in my future, same thing.


                • #9
                  Reading these responses reminds me that the answer to the OP's question is so much based on good horsemanship and then the knowledge to accomodate the needs of different types of horses. In my experience, EXPERIENCE with lots of different horses in great training programs (whether UL or not - and in some cases, foxhunters, steeplechasers, etc. can teach you a lot of useful info., too) is really what gives you a well-rounded knowledge about horse care.

                  OP - see if you can get into a position (summer work, grooming, Working Student, etc.) where you can be exposed to good horsemanship. You will learn SO much about what you are asking and you will also develop your OWN opinions about what is good (example: I LOVE using baby pads or a saddle cloth with a sheepskin half pad 90% of the time because I find it to be the right amount of padding with MUCH easier laundry loads).

                  ETA: I just looked at your blog and you really look like a dedicated rider. Your goals are great and it's awesome that you are working to support your riding! Very cool.
                  "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant


                  • #10
                    I'll second the working student idea- I learned so much that way!!


                    • #11
                      I totally agree with Vicarious about the care of our ponies being about good horsemanship. And the best way to learn that is to get into a program that can teach you the basics then keep teaching you and to make sure you never stop learning. I grew up with pony club (and I'm working towards my A) but it's not for everyone.

                      Anywho, my guy is a 15 year old OTTB who evented Intermediate from 2007 until I bought him in March 2012. Right now we are getting to know each other (and trying to survive Florida summer) at Training and plan to move up to Prelim in January 2013.

                      I feed him a high-quality grain and coastal hay, and he is outside in his field about 15 hours a day. While I am skeptical of supplements he does get a joint supplement, which I have seen help him with his stiffness, and a anti-ulcer supplement. I also use horse quencher, which helps him drink lots of water.

                      My farrier and I have a program for his feet that we made when I first bought him, and the only thing that has changed from that plan is that we pulled his pads off for the summer. Otherwise he gets his feet done every 6-7 weeks, with four shoes drilled and tapped, small trailers on the back shoes, and in Septemeber we are planning on putting rim pads on his front feet.

                      Always boot when I ride, no matter what. Most of the time I either use woof/ nunn finer boots or the fleece sport boots. No bell boots, they rub his sensitive red feet and the prince doesnt like that. After a gallop, hard jmp school or a competition I will liniment or poultice his legs and wrap them, I love the Sore No More products. Otherwise I make sure that I rinse his legs off really well, the Florida sand irritates his skin.

                      Otherwise I make sure that I walk him a lot, once a week we go on a 2 hour walk and I try to walk him for 45 minutes after anything else we do.

                      Oh and I make sure I keep the resident peacocks away from him, he doesn't like them

                      RIP Beaming Sportsfield (1998-2012)


                      • #12
                        My horse is a lower level horse at the moment. We're currently going Novice and look to go Training next year.

                        He gets about two handfuls of Purina Horseman's Edge twice a day because he is quite the air fern and will get super fat and super crazy if he eats much more grain that that. He gets about a half bale of good quality second cut hay spread throughout the day. Probably about a whole bale on days when he's stuck in his stall all day. He gets turned out for about 12 hours a day on a hilly acre and a half which is all grass with one other horse, a TB mare that he adores.

                        He doesn't get booted for turnout, I feel like they need to learn how to negotiate their bodies out in a hilly field on their own. If we boot them up and protect them 24/7, when they're just out being horses, how can we expect them to learn how to carry a rider effectively if they can't even handle themselves on their own in a field?

                        He gets ridden 6 days a week. Usually jumps once a week, sometimes gridwork, sometimes coursework, sometimes cross country schools, etc. Sometimes we'll skip a week jumping if he just did an event or he's worked particularly hard that week. I usually let one day be a trail day, even though we don't have much to work with. Just one short trail in and out that leads to a little stream crossing and then a dirt road. More just for his brain than anything. I wish I could walk for two hours straight but its not an option for us, and our real roads are much too dangerous to ever walk on. One day is a conditioning day, unless he's a little too fit and I'm trying to let him down a bit which is happening now. I got him a bit too fit this spring in the prep for the new season and he's now a little too strong for what we're doing.

                        The remaining days are variations of dressage work. Sometimes we'll run through whatever test we'll have to perform for our next event, sometimes it'll just be simple w/t/c, other days it'll be polework or working on more complicated things like renvers/travers/shoulder-in/half-pass etc. I try to mix it up as much as I can both for the mental state of the two of us, and the building of all of his muscles.

                        He doesn't get booted for flatwork unless we're doing poles, then he'll just get polos. I boot in front for jumping and trails (we just walk) and boot all around for galloping. For cross country he gets booted all around but no bell boots. I feel like he's more likely to step on a bell boot than his shoe.

                        As for supplements, he gets an electrolyte (Stress-Dex) during eventing season and he's got ulcers so he gets Neigh-Lox all year round. That stuff is like a miracle worker and is much cheaper than GastroGuard/UlcerGuard. I really don't think feed through joint supplements do much of anything aside from Cosequin, which gets incredibly expensive. By all means, if my horse needed it, he'd be on it, but if he doesn't, then I'm not going to pay all that money for preventative measures. I just don't think its necessary.

                        After a xc school, event, or other hard work I use the Absorbine Liniment Gel and turn him out. The best thing you can do is let them move around after they pound on their legs quite a bit. If turnout isn't an option (its late, or we're at a multi-day show, etc.) then I may wrap depending on what exactly we did.

                        He gets groomed every single day whether he's working or has the day off. I always feel his legs, and run my hands over him all the time. I've caught a lot of crazy little things very early by doing this.

                        I don't do much with his feet other than throw some Hooflex or Fiebing's on them if its been really dry and sandy or particularly wet.

                        I like to think I'm a minimalist and just give my horse what he needs. I can't stand all of the people who throw all this garbage at their horses or bubble wrap them. When your horse is on his way to Rolex or the Olympics, then go ahead and bubble wrap, but please just let your Training packer be a horse.

                        Good for you OP for trying to learn as much as you can about good horse care.


                        • #13
                          I knew nothing about really caring for a horse properly until I started working at the track.

                          Cooling out, gradual conditioning, aftercare, and how much to train and when are some of the things I learned there. You don't know how to wrap a leg until you have put away 10-12 horses every day for a bunch of years.
                          Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                          Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                          • #14
                            He gets groomed every single day whether he's working or has the day off. I always feel his legs, and run my hands over him all the time. I've caught a lot of crazy little things very early by doing this.
                            This is actually one thing I don't do (the grooming part). Especially when Toby's work load is high, I leave him alone, other than to say hi and check his legs and stuff cookies into him. I feel it is day off to be a horse. To be dirty and relaxed, so, I don't mess with him. Now, part of that is grooming is not his favorite activity, so why do it to him if he doesn't need it? His coat doesn't suffer at all for missing a day or two of grooming, so I don't worry. I have had some clients who are constantly fretting over their horses, and I feel like sometimes the horse is looking over their owner's shoulder at me as if to say "Can you PLEASE help me out here?!"


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by retreadeventer View Post
                              I knew nothing about really caring for a horse properly until I started working at the track.

                              Cooling out, gradual conditioning, aftercare, and how much to train and when are some of the things I learned there. You don't know how to wrap a leg until you have put away 10-12 horses every day for a bunch of years.

                              I have to respectfully disagree about not knowing how to wrap a leg unless you wrap 10-12 horses at the track...plenty of us know how to wrap legs correctly from training through PC, trainers, and practice.
                              No Trouble
                              2/2/05 - 7/29/13
                              Rest In Peace my quirky brave boy, I will love you forever.