How to preserve your horses’ soundness
in the short and long term!
The anatomy of the lower limb of the horse is such that it does not have a lot to protect it. Whether your horse jumps, barrel races, gallops or dances in the sand, we are asking a lot of their legs. It is therefore up to us as riders to do everything we can to ensure the soundness of our equine athlete.
There are a few simple measures every rider can take to reduce the risk of injury and preserve the soundness of their horse:
In my mind the most important measure is the simplest and the cheapest – it costs nothing!
Know your horses’ legs
Know what is normal for “your” horse. Whilst horses have the same basic
anatomical structure, they will have bumps and lumps but knowing if they were there yesterday, are bigger or hotter today could be the difference in ensuring the long term soundness of your horse. Take the time to run your hands down your horses’ legs every day. Feel the lumps, bumps, scars,
temperature and everything in between. Know what is “normal” for that particular horse. Pinch your fingers slightly together as you run your hand down the back of the leg to feel the tendons. Make note of what things feel and look like. Take photos if you need to so you can compare later.
You need to do this every day before and after you ride. The smallest change can be an indication of something bigger so the quicker you get onto it the more likely you are to minimize the damage. You can’t do this as
effectively if you are not aware what is normal. You might say that this is common sense, but how many of us actually do it??
Nourish your horses’ legs
There are a million joint supplements on the market and I will not try to tell you which is best. I can tell you which I prefer and it is purely based on results from my own horses and many, many customers that say the same thing. For me the magic is Epitalis Forte because it gives results that I haven’t had with other supplements. This is not however saying that it is the only one. Read labels for active ingredients. Based on this Oziflex by Natures Farmacy rates very highly and I have many customers that use and love this also. When it’s all said and done it can be a matter of opinion and all horses are different after all. The point is regardless of the product you decide upon, you NEED to nourish and protect your horses’ legs and joints from the inside.
Protect your horses’ legs
Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that boots and bandages do very little to support the internal structures of the horses legs,
however if you do not choose your leg protection wisely they definitely have the ability to cause injury when you are trying to prevent it. With this in mind, boots and bandages are providing impact protection so choose something that is going to provide this based on the material they are made of. Look at your boots and if they have splits etc it’s not doing the job. Other things to consider when choosing leg protection:
- Light weight – boots should be lightweight so as not to add extra weight and therefore effort to the legs whilst they are being ridden.
- Breathable – they should be breathable so as not to heat the internal structures of the leg up, potentially causing injury. Most materials boots and bandages are made of don’t allow air flow so the legs are getting hotter and hotter all the time. If you take your leg protection off and your horse is sweaty underneath, they don’t breathe and you need to look at other options.
- Slings limit the range of motion of the fetlock joint. Anything that limits the horses’ natural range of movement is not a wise choice.
Finally, if you are a matchy, matchy person, this is making you happy not the horse (unless you adhere to guidelines above). Keep the fashion statements to the rider not the horse.
Post workout care
Icing is used for a number of reasons. Number one is it reduces pain
associated with the work the horse has undertaken. However the main reason for icing is to encourage vasoconstriction. This means to
encourage the narrowing of blood vessels. During exercise the blood vessels in the legs are widened to allow for the blood flow needed, when exercise ceases however, it is vital that these vessels are
narrowed again to prevent unneeded fluids accumulating.
There are many products on the market to help you do this. My choice are Hidez Ice Compression socks and Ice-Vibe Circulation Therapy Boots as both cool and encourage circulation out of the lower leg
(instead of just cooling) where blood flow is limited back to the body. Best practice is to ice for the first 20 mins (pure ice is colder than cold packs) when the horses heart rate is still elevated from exercise and thereby still assisting blood flow. After 20 mins when the heart rate is returning to normal Ice-Vibe boots are amazing at continuing to
promote the blood flow out the lower leg whilst still cooling. This is particularly important in horses that have worked hard and fast and have elevated heart rates.
If icing is not an option, running cold water over the legs post exercise is also beneficial.
Many people believe that icing is only used when your horse has an
injury. Preventing damage from exercise and the associated heat and jarring is so much easier and cheaper than treating damage once the horse has an injury. BE PROACTIVE – icing should be part of your daily routine.
Poulticing is another means by which to cool the legs post workout. Again there are many on the market. Most are clay based so research the ingredients and understand what each
ingredient does in order to make your decision. My favourite is Cool as Clay because it is made with Kaolin which is denser than other poultices made with different minerals. It is this denseness that holds the coolness in the leg for longer, reducing inflammation and swelling.
Whichever you choose be sure to remove the poultice as soon as it is dry as the dry clay will trap heat.
Using wraps or boots post exercise can be useful, however be aware why you are doing it not just because someone else does. Bandaging your horse with pads and bandages is creating compression to prevent the build of up of fluids.
My issue with bandages is that if done wrong they can cause even further damage. If you are not confident get someone to show you the correct technique or use another option. Hidez Compression Socks are an ideal easy solution to achieve compression without the risk of bandaging
incorrectly. I can also highly recommend Rambo Ionic Stable boots which encourage circulation. These are ideal at a
competition when your horse is stabled or yarded and can’t move around as much as normal. They encourage circulation and therefore prevent stocking up. You do need to make sure your horses legs are at a regular temperature before putting these on.
There is a lot we can do to prevent injury and preserve the soundness of our horses’. The measures outlined here are just
basic good horsemanship. Always, always ask yourself why you are doing something, read labels and ask questions to make good choices. Our horses’ legs are continually put under stress and exertion. It is this repeated exertion and stress that needs to be addressed each day so the effects don’t accumulate and result in injury.
BE PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE
OVER TO YOU
If you require any further information on how to care for your horses legs or would like to discuss your options in this regard, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we would me more than happy to find the perfect option for you and your horse.
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