Keep your horse sound this summer
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.