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Keeping an athlete

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  • Keeping an athlete

    I am trying to figure out how my young horses should be kept as they go off to school to start under saddle. If you were a human athlete, I doubt you could stay strong and sound if you were kept in the equivalent stall size in relation to your body size/weight with your only exercise being to work out for 45 minutes to an hour 4 or 5 days a week, walked out and confined once more.

    I keep my horses in pasture even when they are working because I cannot seem to believe that the stall life is best. I am questioned on my reasoning.

    Does anyone know the daily routines of the great equine athletes such as Brentina, Lantinus, Salinero, Ravel, etc? Also, what routine leg care would be common for horses of this caliber.
    Last edited by onqhanoverians; Dec. 27, 2008, 12:35 PM.
    Robin Quasebarth

  • #2
    I have no clue about how the top equestrian sport horses are kept, but I do know our racehorses in training are out every day for a few hours after their work. And that is the schedule for most racehorses over here. After one of ours has raced, they are out in the trainer's field for the next couple of days getting to roll and keeping muscles relaxed. Because they're use to it, they don't go crazy.

    And you're on about youngsters. I think leaving them out all day is the only way to go, as you've stated. Most will tell you they get hurt during turnout, which is always a possibility. But they can get hurt in a stable as well. Also, it's when horses aren't use to going out on a daily basis when things usually get ugly. We've had quite a few youngsters we've broken from the field because it wasn't necessary to bring them in during the summer months. I just like them out as much as possible. But I can understand why people keep big expensive show horses in. As I don't have any of these, I'm quite happy for them to be out!

    COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.

    "I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.


    • #3
      You should go to the Dressage forum and read the thread on not turning out performance horses so they don't get injured

      Seriously - keep him out. Keep him out as much as possible. The movement is GOOD for the bones and muscles and ligaments and tendons AND his mind. Turning out after a workout means you really don't need to poultice and wrap and whatnot, because his movement is really good at getting circulation going and keeping body parts limber.

      You'll find on that thread that there is a full spectrum of how top horses are kept - some turned out full time, some kept in except when working, and everything inbetween. Some of that is dictated by where the horses are kept, but some is dictated by what the human feels is best, rightly or wrongly (and personally, I think it's wrong to keep a horse stalled just to potentially avoid an injury which can just as easily happen in the stall).
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


      • #4
        Out is best.

        My eventers live out for upto 12 hours per day. I'd keep them out 24/7 but I'm on an old dairy farm and they get fat on the grass!
        Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


        • #5
          Young horses AND old should be kept out with shelters. Simple. You say your horses are "going out" ? to be trained? I find that another story as any time I sent my horse out for training, he was kept in a box stall and limited time outside and I could tell by his behaviour he was not even getting out as much as they promised he would. This affects his mind, his training. Horses are relaxed physically and mentally when they are free to make their own choices ie. a simple choice to move a body part. This is why I think it is cruel to keep any horse confined on a continual basis at our whim for "training/value" or otherwise. However, farms are not all set up this way...for convenience of the human. Although, I find it MUCH more convenient to use shelters. You are not constantly moving horses in and out of the barn, no need for blanketing as they have the option to stay dry, thus growing a healthy winter coat in winter. I stopped blanketing years ago as soon as I moved here and used the shelter, 24/7 turnout routine.

          When an athlete is working hard, he has sore muscles at least some of the time. No human athlete sits around in an apartment before/after working his body hard.

          As for expensive horses being kept in, they can die just as easily from colic from the stresses of confinement. How many TOP famous (dressage horses in particular) have died from colic at the peak of their careers. There is no room for turnout at the Olympics, is there? Not sure, never been there.

          An interesting study of statistics would be on how horses are kept, turnout or life of confinement, and the reasons they died.

          It may be difficult to find a training barn that is set up so your youngsters can be turned out. If so, I would take them home for frequent breaks to relieve tension of a strange place and confinement. The last time I sent my horse out for training, it took him 2 months to put weight back down. I almost think he may have had a stomach ulcer.

          Good luck with your precious babies. This is such an important part of their life. :-)
          Dark Horse Farm


          • #6
            This is a Dressage Daily article about a top groom's life & schedule...
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            • Original Poster

              dbaygirl: That is my thinking. I send horses for training to a facility only 5 miles from home so I or husband can go over almost every day to check things out. Amazing how many things get overlooked regarding general care. There I rent a pasture for very reasonable but people question why my horses are not in barn like I am cheap or something. Another part, I think, is that trainers do not like going all the way out to pasture to bring horse for work.
              Robin Quasebarth


              • #8
                I take a slightly different view.

                All my mares and youngsters live out with shelters, unless the weather is very bad. I also have a tendency to keep what I bred until they are under tack.

                That said, I am breeding and raising riding horses, not horses to keep or to sell to other breeders. And any horse that is pointed towards a competitive career needs to know how to live contentedly in a stall for extended periods. That’s going to be part of show life. For all I know the horse will sell to the West Coast, where turnout can be limited. To me, this is as much a part of their training as a late 2yo as tying, longeing and trailering were when they were younger.

                So, a month before they are sent off to be backed, they start coming in for some time period, working up to being in for the day, or for the night depending on weather, time of year. By the time they leave for the backers, being stalled for 12 hours is SOP. They spend two months there, then back to my farm for full turnout for the rest of the winter.

                "No matter how cynical I get its just not enough to keep up." Lily Tomlin


                • #9
                  ahf, I very much agree. Yes, in general, the horses need to be out as much as the facilities allow. But you're right, all horses really do need to learn to be stalled for hours at a time. Even if the horse is a keeper, and you have no intention of showing, or only do shows where you trailer in, what if the horse gets hurt and needs a few days/weeks/months in a stall? It would be nice not to have to stall training with an injury
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by onqhanoverians View Post
                    dbaygirl: That is my thinking. I send horses for training to a facility only 5 miles from home so I or husband can go over almost every day to check things out. Amazing how many things get overlooked regarding general care. There I rent a pasture for very reasonable but people question why my horses are not in barn like I am cheap or something. Another part, I think, is that trainers do not like going all the way out to pasture to bring horse for work.

                    EXCELLENT that you are only 5 miles away! I had a very long drive to get to where my horse was so I was quite shocked when I finally got out to see him that he was a BONE RACK with attitude! I felt bad for him. I also bought extra feed for him after that which I am now sure never got into him. NO KIDDING things get overlooked, like...feeding the dang horse?? and turning him out?? (not sure how to use grim faced icon here...)

                    So they think "you are cheap"!! Well, how about, you think they are not in touch with their inner equine beings....ie. major lack of observational skills etc??? Let them think what they like. I find that criticism usually comes from lack of knowledge and brainwashing by people who are in it for the $$.

                    As for the trainers finding it irksome to fetch your horse from the field.... :-) all my horses come when called. Specially the Filly. tee hee...love listening to her hoofbeats as she comes galloping in from the night for her bedtime room service. She's such a treasure. Any horse will do this...by the way. At least the ones I've had. Hmmm...makes you wonder who the trainer is then. Personally, I'm beginning to think I just need some more riding lessons and I can do it all myself. The label "trainer" does not the trainer make. MHO and experience....flamesuit on... :-))

                    Of course, I am not in the higher echelon circles of "pro" riders. Hopefully, they is a much more improved semblance of sanity and order to their routines when not riding their charges.

                    PS to AHF: I totally agree there is stall training for shows to be considered, however, I did find that my yearling filly that I took to her first show in September was placed in a box stall for the very first time and she was fine with it. She did look a little puzzled when she couldn't follow me out and heartily welcomed me back whenever I returned to her stall. She did not freak. I had totally forgotten to "prepare" her for this type of confinement. She found the surroundings so interesting she was kept busy watching the horse go by her stall. But then, she is terribly smart, that one. :-) A real quick study. I think I will trailer my new colt to a facility in '09 before his first show. Just for practice. (I also took Filly for many walks during the show to show her around. She enjoyed that.)
                    Dark Horse Farm


                    • #11
                      ahf, agreed wholeheartedly.

                      I have a breeder friend who keeps all her horses out. Yes, the horses are happy and healthy. But...try taking one of those horses as a 3 year old, bring it in to start under saddle or, heaven forbid, take it to a show! Talk about a herd bound, screaming mess.

                      One super nice wb broodmare mare had trouble and ended up with a grade III uterous. She was put in work to be sold as a riding horse (you know, what they are actually supposed to be). She couldn't STAND being in a stall. She walked the stall endlessly, screamed nonstop and, after a summer of hoping she would settle down, she was sent back out to the breeding farm to live happily ever after outside. If she were mine, I"d probably put her down. I have sport horses, not pasture pets. They either deliver in the ring or in the breeding shed. The only exceptions are those wonderful old mares who have spent their lives performing and having foals. They deserve a life of retirement but they still have to babysit the weanlings. This mare, however, was a relatively young mare.

                      Since horses are supposed to be sport horses meaning they have to go to shows, live in temporary stalls sometimes for weeks on end, they need to learn to live in a barn environment away from their playmates and walk calmly out of a stall on all four legs instead of on two, know how to crosstie sometimes for 30 minutes or longer just standing there, stand there while they are hosed off without jumping around, stand quietly while other horses are led by/tractors go by/bicycles go by/golfcarts go by and radios playing and kids/dogs running around and stand quietly while leg gear is taken on and pulled off.

                      Usually, if your horse is at a GOOD training barn and you think it isn't getting as much care as you think it should, it is because your young horse isn't a very good citizen and the grooms get pissy having to deal with your monster who you didn't teach anything to. They really don't want to get hurt trying to teach your 1200 pound l'enfant terrible to be good and they have upteen million other horses that are good that they have to keep a schedule for and a head trainer that will tear them a new one if they get off schedule.

                      So do yourself and your horse a favor and teach them how to fit into a show barn's routine BEFORE they go there.


                      • #12
                        I also agree that horses need to learn to be comfortable in a stall for a period of time, and all of my youngsters do come in at some point, for a period to be on half day turnout as my stall space allows. In the winter, when we pull them in for training, they have to be cross-tied in the aisle, and there may be no other horses in the barn. They get ansy the first few times, then settle down and relax.

                        That said, I believe working a horse to their maximum fitness all of the time is just asking for injury. If a horse spends hours walking in fields, and on hills, when you work them, they are fit enough to work to the level that the rider has been training them PLUS a good sized buffer that they have put on themselves in their free time. If a horse is stall bound, and only exercising to the fitness level that the rider has put on, they are finishing each workout at their maximum, with no buffer.


                        • Original Poster

                          I understand not just pasture with no human interaction. All my girls get cross-tied, have stall nights or maybe a day during crazy storms which are seldom in Southern Calif. They all get trailer rides, ground work when young from weaning, go hiking, ground manners and are ground driven, long lined starting between 1 and 2. When they go to shows or inspections (in-hand for the young ones) they are fine and well adjusted even in the tiny temp barn stalls. My husband and I do all the kindergarten but we do not start under saddle.

                          I am mostly concerned about optimum physical conditioning for an athlete while training so that the horses are still fit and sound in their teen years and up.
                          Robin Quasebarth