Keep your horse sound this sum­mer

EQUUS - - Contents - Adapted from pre­vi­ously pub­lished EQUUS ar­ti­cles.

With all those shows, trail rides, play days, clin­ics and other events, sum­mer is the busiest sea­son of the year for most eques­tri­ans. And this flurry of ac­tiv­ity has the po­ten­tial to leave a horse tired, lame or in­jured. So if your next few weeks are fully booked with rid­ing plans, you’ll want to take some pre­cau­tions to make sure your horse stays sound and happy through that pe­riod and for the rest of the sea­son. Es­tab­lish a sen­si­ble sched­ule. Sit down with a cal­en­dar and fill in each event you’d like to do, al­low­ing for days of rest, as well as lighter rid­ing to keep your horse lim­ber, be­tween ma­jor ac­tiv­i­ties. Make sure your tack and trailer are in good shape. A sad­dle that doesn’t fit quite right or a trailer with a bone-shak­ing rat­tle is never good for a horse, but on top of a heavy work­load, a mi­nor prob­lem can turn into a ma­jor is­sue.

Keep his hooves in good shape. Sched­ule a visit from your far­rier be­fore your sched­ule fills up. If you have trim­ming or shoe­ing done be­fore your busy pe­riod, you may avoid some of the po­ten­tial ride-lim­it­ing post-far­ri­ery-work sore­ness. Of course, if your horse has a hoof is­sue dur­ing your peak rid­ing time, such as a loose shoe or a de­vel­op­ing crack, have it ad­dressed im­me­di­ately. Con­sider start­ing a sup­ple­ment or up­ping his dose. With a packed sched­ule ahead, now may be the time to start a sup­ple­ment de­signed to help keep your horse lim­ber. If your horse is al­ready on a joint or other sound­ness-re­lated sup­ple­ment, talk to your vet­eri­nar­ian about re­turn­ing to the higher “load­ing” dose dur­ing your busy time. This ex­tra boost may help keep him com­fort­able. Be ready to change your plans. Even if you’ve care­fully mapped out your horse’s sched­ule, be ready and will­ing to change it as needed. Even if it’s dis­ap­point­ing to miss an event, it’s the right thing to do if there’s any chance your horse can’t phys­i­cally han­dle it with ease. Lame­ness and re­cov­ery

If, de­spite your best ef­forts, your horse does sus­tain an in­jury this sum­mer, the timetable for his re­cov­ery will de­pend on sev­eral fac­tors.

Ob­vi­ously, the main de­ter­mi­nant will be the lo­ca­tion and sever­ity of the in­jury. But other things can in­flu­ence the prog­no­sis of an in­jury and the rate of a horse’s re­cov­ery.

The bet­ter in­formed you are about the na­ture of your horse’s prob­lem, the more ef­fec­tive any ther­apy or treat­ment reg­i­men is likely to be. What­ever the source of the spe­cific un­sound­ness, con­sider th­ese fac­tors and how they will af­fect heal­ing: The ex­act lo­ca­tion of the in­jury. The prog­no­sis is less fa­vor­able if the prob­lem in­volves sup­port rather than pe­riph­eral tis­sue, bone in­stead of soft tis­sue, or if it’s in a joint rather than on a “straight­away.” The anatomy of the horse’s

limb as well as his over­all con­for­ma­tion. Flaws in an in­di­vid­ual’s skele­tal de­sign fur­ther stress a weak link, es­pe­cially if they con­tributed to the orig­i­nal in­jury.

The ex­tent and sever­ity of the ac­tual dam­age. A bro­ken bone, for in­stance, may be no more than a scarcely de­tectable crack, or the bone may be shat­tered be­yond re­pair.

Com­pli­ca­tions. In­fec­tion, se­ques­tra­tion (in which a piece of bone or other tis­sue breaks off and is treated like a for­eign ob­ject by the body), ad­vanced age or de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness can cloud the po­ten­tial out­come of an in­jury. In­flam­ma­tory stage. From three to five days after in­jury, a horse will ben­e­fit—and suf­fer—from his body’s attempts to mend his in­jury. This es­sen­tial in­flam­ma­tion ac­ti­vates lo­cal pain re­cep­tors, in­creases the per­me­abil­ity of the blood ves­sel walls and sends im­mune chem­i­cals and cells to the site via a rush of fluid that causes the area to swell. New cells mul­ti­ply and re­pair the dam­age. The chal­lenge is to me­di­ate the re­ac­tion so that it does not be­come self-destructiv­e.

in­jury. An acute prob­lem heals rel­a­tively quickly with rest and proper re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive ther­apy. A suba­cute or chronic in­jury, in which lame­ness de­vel­ops grad­u­ally and tends to re­cur, has a more ques­tion­able out­come un­less the un­der­ly­ing cause is de­tected and treated. De­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tions, which pro­gres­sively worsen re­gard­less of treat­ment, have the poor­est prog­no­sis.

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