When try­ing a new sport with your horse, your vet­eri­nar­ian can be an im­por­tant re­source.

EQUUS - - Equus - By Chris­tine Barakat See Kath­leen An­der­son, DVM, at work in our up­com­ing “Ride Along” video se­ries, spon­sored by Zoetis, on equ­us­

Help be­yond heal­ing

After years of trail rid­ing, you’ve de­cided to do some­thing dif­fer­ent---you want to try your hand at bar­rel rac­ing. You’ve lined up a trainer, bought a new sad­dle and out­fit­ted your arena with bar­rels for prac­tice. Now, there’s one last thing you need to do: Talk to your vet­eri­nar­ian.

“An un­der­stand­ing of what a horse is asked to do on a daily ba­sis is crit­i­cal to his care,” ex­plains 2016 Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Equine Prac­ti­tion­ers Pres­i­dent Kath­leen An­der­son, DVM, who is also a found­ing part­ner of Equine Ve­teri­nary Care PC, in Fair Hill, Mary­land. “It’s al­ways valu­able to out­line your com­pet­i­tive goals with your vet­eri­nar­ian so they are aware of your ex­pec­ta­tions and can of­fer ad­vice re­gard­ing man­age­ment for the best out­comes.”

Not only will shar­ing your plans help en­sure that your horse re­ceives any spe­cial at­ten­tion he may need, but “it is of­ten an op­por­tu­nity for your vet­eri­nar­ian to re­search and learn more about a sport un­fa­mil­iar to them if they have the in­ter­est,” says An­der­son. Of course, you’ll need to do your part, too: “Spend a week­end at an event, with­out your horse, to re­ally un­der­stand it and know what will be asked of your horse,” she rec­om­mends. “Find re­sources within that com­mu­nity that can help you learn. That re­spon­si­bil­ity is on you.”

If you’ve cho­sen an ac­tiv­ity that is some­what ex­otic in your area or a sport you’re sure your vet­eri­nar­ian knows noth­ing about, con­sider ask­ing for help in find­ing other as­sis­tance, says An­der­son. “You can say some­thing along the lines of, ‘I’m think­ing of try­ing some cut­ting next year. Do you have any sug­ges­tions for any­one I can speak to re­gard­ing things I’ll need to know?’ This will open up the door­way for your vet­eri­nar­ian to men­tion a col­league more fa­mil­iar with the ac­tiv­ity if they think that could be help­ful.”

Down the line, if your dab­bling in a new sport ul­ti­mately turns into a se­ri­ous pur­suit, you may need a dif­fer­ent vet­eri­nar­ian. “For treat­ing and pre­vent­ing in­juries at the up­per lev­els of a sport, a deeper un­der­stand­ing of it be­comes im­por­tant,” says An­der­son. “Dres­sage horses and cut­ting horses, for in­stance, can both de­velop hock prob­lems. But they are two very dif­fer­ent prob­lems caused by two very dif­fer­ent sets of forces and stres­sors. At that point, a vet­eri­nar­ian does need an un­der­stand­ing of the sport to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the two and de­velop an ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment plan.”

In the mean­time, how­ever, any vet­eri­nar­ian can pro­vide good, ba­sic care to any horse, re­gard­less of oc­cu­pa­tion, says An­der­son: “A lac­er­a­tion is a lac­er­a­tion and a colic is a colic, no mat­ter what type of horse they hap­pen to. And good nutri­tion, par­a­site con­trol and vac­ci­na­tions are the foun­da­tion of any horse’s well-be­ing. A vet­eri­nar­ian doesn’t have to have a dis­ci­pline-spe­cific fo­cus to pro­vide this care.”

Ex­plor­ing new ac­tiv­i­ties can be fun, for you and your horse, and the ex­pe­ri­ence can en­hance your part­ner­ship. And rest as­sured that when ven­tur­ing into the un­fa­mil­iar you don’t need to leave be­hind the sup­port of your vet­eri­nar­ian. Un­til you reach the higher lev­els of a new pur­suit, you can stick with the pro­fes­sional who has taken good care of your horse through all your other ad­ven­tures.

EX­PER­TISE: Kath­leen An­der­son, DVM, who has been in­volved with horses since child­hood, be­gan prac­tic­ing ve­teri­nary medicine in 1986.

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