Category Archives: Horse Health

Benefits of Horse Joint Supplements for Your Elderly Horse

As your horse begins to age, he may be susceptible to joint problems. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and using horse joint supplements can make a big different in combating these joint problems, and can also help with other issues older horses have. If your horse is growing older, and you want to make sure he is healthy and happy, here are some tips for caring for him.

Joint Diseases and Horse Joint Supplements

There are a variety of joint diseases that affect horses. Horse joint supplements have proven to be effective for treating, as well as preventing,symptoms of these diseases. Here are some of the areas horse joint supplements can help:
Arthritis- Also known as osteoarthritis and degenerative joint diseases, this joint disease is caused by the breakdown of cartilage around a horse’s joints. If your horse develops arthritis, you may notice a change in the horse’s behavior or performance. The horse may have difficulty walking, may have inflammation in the joint, or the joint may have heat in it. Arthritis can affect the following joints:

  • Spine
  • Stifle
  • Pastern Joints
  • Coffin Joints
  • Hocks
  • Fetlocks

Traumatic joint disease- After the age of two, new cartilage is not produced for your horse’s joints. As the horse grows older, the cartilage around his joints takes on a lot of wear and tear. This can make him susceptible to traumatic injuries, which can cause permanent lameness. There are several types of traumatic joint disease:

  • Synovitis, which is the swelling of the synovial membrane
  • Capsulitis, which is the swelling of the fibrous joint capsule
  • Bone fractures
  • Ligament tears

How Horse Supplements Help Joint Diseases

Everyone knows horses love to run. They are an active species who aren’t happy standing in a stall for long periods of time. However, older horses who suffer from joint diseases may find it difficult to maintain an active lifestyle. You can help them by using horse joint supplements.

Horse supplements can help lubricate your horse’s joints, making it easier for them to walk around. They may also relieve some of the symptoms associated with joint diseases, such as inflammation, pain, and lack of flexibility. They also provide nutritional value to increase the overall health of your horse.

Along with horse supplements, it is important to consider other factors that will keep your horse healthy and happy, including:

  • Providing enough open space for your elderly horse to run around. Even though you can’t ride him anymore, he still needs to be able to exercise.
  • Feeding him a nutritional diet
  • Maintaining hoof and coat care to ensure health
  • Taking him to the vet for regular checkups
  • Giving him the love and attention he needs and deserves

When your horse is suffering from joint disease, consider using horse joint supplements. They will help your beloved equine overcome the symptoms of these diseases and get him on the road to recovery.


Equiform Nutrition has been a leader in horse supplements and natural equine health for the past century. We offer a complete range of horse supplements, including vitamin and mineral supplements, anti-anxiety aids, horse joint supplements and other products especially created to support performance.

We create our supplements using the most rigid standards of production and the highest quality and purest ingredients. We never use banned substances, so you can use our supplements with the confidence of knowing you are within regulations with horses running under rule.

Check our full line of horse joint supplements, as well as our immune range, our performance range, breeding supplements, hoof health line, and our other health specialty formulas. We are here to meet the needs of your horse.


Helping Horses With Separation Anxiety: 5 Key Steps to Create Mutual Trust and Confidence

Many horses have some level of separation anxiety. If the anxiety is mild, it may only be annoying or a minor inconvenience. But, if your horse is so herd bound that her behaviour makes you feel anxious, it may be endangering your and your horse’s safety.

It is only natural for your horse to feel safest when she is with her herd. After all, for prey animals there is safety in numbers. So, what can you do to change a reaction that is caused by your horse’s survival instinct?

You build a bond that is based on mutual trust and respect and also builds confidence. Your horse needs to believe that she is as safe with you as she is with her herd. That connection with your horse starts from ground.

Ground work is much more than pushing your horse around a round pen or on a lunge line. It is anything and everything you do with your horse when you are not riding her – grooming, hand walking, lunging, long lining, even just hanging out in the paddock with her.

How you behave, what you ask from her and how you ask it establish whether or not she feels safe with you. Trust and feeling safe cannot come when force or fear are used.

The following 5 steps are the foundation to earning your horse’s trust and respect so that she can feel as safe with you as she does with her herd.

Step 1: Work with her where she feels calm. At first, this will be close to her herd so that her stress level is as low as possible. You may be in the paddock (if it is safe) or just on the other side of the fence.

Step 2: Encourage her to come into a calm posture by having her poll level with or below her withers. With contact on the rope and using gentle downward pressure, gently rock her head downwards. Do not pull or jerk on the rope!

Step 3: Ask her to respect your space by bending around you and not pushing into you with any part of her body. She cannot respect you if she can move you out of her way. Obviously, your safety comes first – move if you are in danger of being kicked, stepped on or run over.

Step 4: Respect her need to move when she is stressed, but control where and how she goes. Asking a stressed horse to stand still increases her anxiety. Lead her or simply move her around you in a small circle.

Step 5: Gradually increase the distance from her herd. At the first sign of stress, apply the first 4 steps to help decrease her anxiety. If she gets so stress that you get anxious or cannot calm her then go back to where she feels most comfortable.

The more you apply the first 4 steps, the more natural they will become for you and your horse. You can use them in any stressful situation. Your sessions do not have to be lengthy, but they should always end with your horse feeling calm.

The Bottom Line – The absolute best way to develop a true partnership with your horse is by building your confidence and trust in each other.

You can get your Free Instant Access to my webinar “3 Actions You Can Take Now to Build Your Confidence Handling and Riding Horses” when you visit

Brought to you by Anne Gage of Confident Horsemanship ~ Putting you and your horse in good hands.

Equine Joint Injections – Good or Bad?

Detecting Lameness in a Horse“You want to do what to my horse? Oh, I don’t believe in joint injections. My grand prix jumper competed until he was 23-years-old and never needed his joints injected.”

I’ll go ahead and say it. Although I shouldn’t judge, my mind starts going in all directions at such a bold statement. I can’t help but think, that horse must have been a freak of nature to have felt that good for so long at such an upper level of competition. Or… I wonder how lame that horse was while it was competing at age 23? Or… She must of had great success with other less invasive treatments.. Or… So the horse wasn’t injected, but how many pain medications did it receive at the shows?

I listen to something along these lines almost every day. I am an equine veterinarian that focuses in sports medicine. This controversial topic is not an easy nor a simple discussion with my clients.

So, are they good or bad?

If you are an equine competitor, no doubt you have had a horse injected or know another that has. Most would agree that joint injections among the equestrian horse show community have become somewhat “trendy.” They’ve also received a bad reputation. Some would consider the use of this treatment last minute or at the event as a gain in advantage over another competitor with a less “souped up” horse. And in this case, I would agree, joint injections… very bad.

More commonly, you hear the story of the horse that had a joint injected with corticosteroids every 2 months just so it could continue showing… yes, very bad.

The use of this modality to mask pain when a more severe underlying pathology exists forces the horse to use itself harder when otherwise the horse might guard this area and thereby protect itself from further injury.

Comparatively, a competitor that schedules routine veterinary visits to evaluate soundness, rule out injury versus inflammation, and utilizes joint injections prior to an event in this manner… very good.

A horse doesn’t have to be “head bobbing” lame to warrant routine soundness checks throughout the year. You would be surprised how many horse owners do not contribute performance issues to subtle lameness. More often it’s not that they don’t recognize it, it’s that they mis-label the condition. I know several horse owners that won’t acknowledge that their horse is lame unless it is head bobbing or unable to bear weight in one limb. Instead they describe a horse that is “stiff” or are unwilling to perform certain maneuvers. Let me be blunt, whatever words you want to use to describe it, these issues are in fact a form of lameness.

Routine visits allow the veterinarian to recognize slight lameness and subtle decreases in performance. I encourage owners to seek out a veterinarian with special focus in equine sports medicine or specific interest in the performance horse. Systematically, the veterinarian creates a road map for future treatments. Whether you decide to treat that day or not, the area of concern can be monitored throughout the horse’s career. And specifically in respect to joint injections, decreasing significant inflammation early on may decrease the risk of a more catastrophic injury later down the road.

Another point to consider is the medicine used for a joint injection. Not all joint injections are created equal. The rumors surrounding corticosteroid use and its deleterious effects on a joint has caused exceptional alarm. Although study has shown that frequent and inappropriate use of methylprednisolone acetate, a corticosteroid, in a joint may adversely affect cartilage (Colorado State University), alternatively triamcinolone acetate, a different type of corticosteroid, might be chondroprotective (CSU Orthopaedic Research Laboratory).

Moreover, joint injections can be performed using regenerative medicine instead. IRAP (interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein) has become a popular choice. IRAP manipulates the body’s biological mechanisms to stimulate healing by counteracting the destructive effects of inflammatory proteins such as Interleukin-1 (IL-1) within the joint thereby halting the progression of joint disease.

It is obvious that any joint injection poses a risk of joint infection or flare. As with any invasive veterinary service, this is a risk an owner must take. Competent preparation, care in sterility, and proper handling decrease this risk significantly. Many practitioners, including myself, include antibiotics with the other medications used.

In my professional opinion, I do not believe that the incidence of risk is so unacceptable to completely dismiss treatment by joint injection completely from a list of options. Although there are a multitude of alternative ways to treat joint inflammation, frankly, for some horses, joint injection has been the only treatment that has made a significant change in comfort.

In summary, I believe that the benefits of joint injections, used in good judgement, outweigh their bad reputation and low incidence of harmful effects. In conjunction with frequent routine veterinary assessment, proper conditioning, and training, they may help reduce injuries, enhance performance, and essentially create more sustainable equine athletes.

Equine Sport Solutions (ESS) is a veterinary practice that promotes the pursuit of excellence in the equestrian sport by providing expertise in the general care, athletic support, and the restoration of normal form and function after musculoskeletal injury in the performance horse. We customize treatment, conditioning, or rehabilitative programs that fits both the needs of the horse and rider. We strive to always offer the most innovative, state-of-the-art, and progressive diagnostics/treatments available.

You may obtain more information about Dr. Factor and her practice, Equine Sport Solutions, through her website.

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By Brittany T Factor, DVM 

Horse Shows – How to Make Your Horse More Competitive

horsejumping-How to Make Your Horse More CompetitiveBy Brittany T Factor, DVM

I can see you now, the horse crazed individual preparing for one of the most important events of the season. You have an awesome horse. You have spent countless hours in the saddle, sometimes without stirrups. Your trainer’s words haunt your dreams. Your tack has been cleaned and your horse is sporting a new set of shoes. You even spent a little extra on a new show shirt this go round. The trailer is hooked up and ready to go. You are ready. Or are you?

No doubt, attending an important horse event brings out the OCD in all of us equine competitors. Our new year’s resolution typically starts with planning our entire horse show season, strategizing around work schedules and family obligations. Our ever expanding “to do” list has been carefully devised and each task executed and boldly checked off.

We, the most relentless of competitors, have read countless articles on grooming techniques, trends in fashion, even sport psychology. Anything and everything related to horse showing we have queried on Google and Pinterest.

We have planned, prepared, and performed in the show ring… but what went wrong? The show just didn’t turn out how we envisioned. After all this preparation, our beloved horse doesn’t feel right.

Nobody plans on having a sore horse at the show.

As an equine veterinarian that focuses on the performance horse and avid competitor myself, it is my impression that one of the most overlooked aspects of equine competition is prevention. Why do we not treat our equine athletes like some of our football players, gymnasts, or marathon runners? Training and grooming only gets us half way there.

I urge you to expand your resources beyond your trainer and farrier. Utilize your veterinarians more. It is their drive and dedication to provide you with the most innovative, state-of-the art, and progressive diagnostics/treatments available.

Consult with your veterinarian regularly regarding a developing fitness program, intermittent form and function assessments, so that you may recognize and prevent injuries in your horse before they happen.

Research equine sport horse practices available at equine events you attend. There are countless non-invasive therapies available at the shows to enhance your horse’s performance without the use of medication.

Progress your program to ensure your horse feels its best while performing. Focus on creating a sustainable athlete. Add it to your list. A happy, healthy, and sound horse may win you some more ribbons next time.

Equine Sport Solutions (ESS) is a veterinary practice that promotes the pursuit of excellence in the equestrian sport by providing expertise in the general care, athletic support, and the restoration of normal form and function after musculoskeletal injury in the performance horse. We customize conditioning, treatment, or rehabilitative programs that fits both the needs of the horse and rider. We provide in clinic evaluations, traveling, and consultative services.

You may obtain more information about Dr. Factor and her practice, Equine Sport Solutions, through her website.

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Winter Horse Care

By: Nancy Griffiths

findaroutineWinter Horse Care
For most of us Winter and Summer mean totally different routines with our horses.

The change from 24 hour turnout to a mix of stabling and turnout can be as disruptive to you horse as it is to you, so keeping it interesting and workable for both is important.

Find a routine that is manageable for you; your horse will adapt, so don’t set yourself goals you cannot achieve.

Enlist the help of other riders, friends and family – dark nights and early mornings can get pretty tiring by the end of Winter and it’s nice to be able to take turns to have a night off or a lie in.

Try to do as much as possible when you have spare time, as leaving things until the last minute does not allow leeway for the unexpected.

I always make my feeds up in the morning, then if I get held up, someone can put a feed in for me, rather than end up with an agitated horse wondering where her tea is.

Fresh air and/or good ventilation are major requirements for horses. They can tolerate considerable cold if they can move around and are dry. Avoid drafts, but allow sufficient air exchange to move stale air, humidity, and ammonia out of the horse’s environment.

Keeping the stable clean will keep ammonia levels low and there are some very good products available that destroy ammonia without harming your horse, even if ingested. I use a fresh smelling product that can be sprinkled onto the rubber matting or mixed in with the bedding. It not only reduced the bacteria but smells nice too.

Try to turn your horse out as much as possible. The lucky ones will have an area for adequate exercise well drained or with a hard standing area and access to a shelter. Most of us however will probably make do with a muddy paddock, but that can be better than standing in for hours. Remember to still have your horses hooves checked regularly, and pick out mud and stones when they come in as they will be uncomfortable and potentially cause damage to your rubber matting if you have it.

You may need to clip your horse according to how much exercise it is getting but then you will need to rug up to compensate. My horse usually has a full clip at the end of Autumn then a blanket re-clip later in Winter, as she grows a very heavy coat and is a hot horse when exercising.

Don’t neglect your grooming just because your horse is rugged up. It’s a good idea to take rugs off daily and check for any rubs or damage. Dry mud will brush off easily with a stiff brush and I find that applying a bit of coat shire mud repellent lotion really helps. I find it very soothing to have a chat with my horse whilst grooming her – she’s a great listener and it makes up for the reduced time we spend riding.

The change of diet from grass to hay/haylage can cause colic or digestive upsets, so try to make the change gradually. As Autumn sets in the grass will probably be very sparse anyway so you could start to put out some hay/haylage in the field. Keep an eye on your horse’s condition through the Winter and adjust the quantity or type of feed, depending on whether your need to increase or decrease your horse’s weight. Better to keep it under control, than to have to suddenly make drastic adjustments. Be particularly careful if you have a horse that could be potentially laminitic.

Ensure that you horse has access to drinking water, particularly when temperatures drop and external water supplies may freeze. I have read that warming water to at least 60 degrees F will increase water consumption by 40 percent to 100 percent. Dehydration (lack of water) is apparently the chief cause of impaction colic in horses.

Try to maintain a programme of exercise for your horse that fits in with your lifestyle. You may be restricted to road work, but a good brisk walk will do wonders for your horse’s fitness, and avoids risking damage from too much trotting on hard ground. Do plenty of flexion exercises at the walk and trot using leg yield and shoulder in if you can find a safe quiet lane. If you have access to a schooling area, use the time to do some groundwork exercises, lunging, free schooling or long reining.

Remember to warm your horse up slowly and thoroughly before asking for serious work. You may need to use an exercise sheet to keep the hind-quarters warm, and they have the added benefit of providing protection from the rain and if you use one of the fluorescent ones, aid visibility to other road users.

Hot horses need to be cooled down thoroughly then brushed to stand the hair up again before turning them back out. Fluffy hair traps air and keeps the horse warm; hair plastered down flat or wet lets body heat escape.

Adapting your routine to take into account weather changes, work schedule, turnout schedule, and feeding programs mean that there is no reason not to enjoy your horse as much in Winter as in Summer.

Nancy Griffiths

About the Author


I have owned my horse for 4 years. My articles are based on experiences of my own and fellow riders. I operate a free listing directory of articles and information for everyone with or interested in horses


(ArticlesBase SC #106859)

Article Source: Horse Care


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Detecting Lameness in Friesian Horses


As owners and riders of horses, we all dread to think that our horse may become lame. Having a horse that is lame not only means that our horse is in pain, potentially large vet bills and time spent treating the problem, but also lost time we could be having fun with our horses – whether it be riding, training or just enjoying them in the paddock.

I know sometimes when I have been riding or watching one of my friesians, he or she hasn’t felt quite right, and sometimes it is difficult to know which leg they may be lame on if you don’t know what to look for! So, if you think your horse is lame, what do you need to do? Do you panic and call the vet, the farrier, or just someone to help?

For starters, as long as your horse doesn’t appear to be on three legs (if he is, then of course call the vet!), it is both a good idea to lunge him each way to see if he is favoring a particular leg, as well as getting someone else to trot him away from and towards you if possible. Make sure you are on a level, even surface, and that you look at your horse carefully at both the walk and the trot. It is important to make sure your horse is on a loose lead, as being on a tight lead prevents the horse from moving normally, and you may not see what is really going on.

This can be a little difficult in friesians, especially if you are used to seeing the way other breeds move – friesians have a totally different head carriage and leg movement to most other breeds. However, the general assessment for detecting lameness is the same for all breeds of horses – whether you have a giant shire horse, or a tiny miniature!

For forelegs, generally you will be able to tell which leg your horse is lame on by what is generally known as the ‘head-bob’!! As he puts down the leg that is sore, his head will bob up – like he is trying to get away from the pain on that leg! He also may not put that leg down for as long on the ground, or extend the leg as far forward as the other, sound leg, so you will be able to hear the uneven footfall of his stride. For the friesians, who have very high head carriage, the head-bob may not be as obvious, but should still be detectable. Friesians also have very high leg flexion or lift, and if they are lame this may not be carried as high – it depends on where in the leg they are lame.

For hind legs, it is a little trickier to determine if he is lame and on which side. This is why I like to have someone trot him up and back for me as it makes it a bit easier to see. If your horse is lame on a hind leg, he may display a ‘hip-hike’ motion in his back end. When you watch from behind, one hip will hike or dip more than the other, and when watching from the side, the sore leg may not be brought forward or track-up as far as the other one – again the horse will have an uneven footfall too. Again, with friesians the hip-hike may be a little more difficult to detect, as they were originally carriage horses and tend to have very well-covered rumps – however, you should still be able to detect a dip in one side if the horse is lame.

For all legs, the most common site of lameness is below the knee, with the hoof being the most common culprit. It is important to feel for swelling or heat all the way up the leg – this will help you to determine where in the leg the horse is sore. You can also determine if your horse is in pain as he will flinch away from pressure on the sore spot. In the hoof, look for cracks or bulges, and odour is also important. Check the sole for foreign objects and pain too. If you are at all concerned after examining your horse, always call the vet!!

Natasha Althoff
Ebony Park Performance Friesians
where dreams are made reality

Beating muscle injuries for horses: [25 common muscular problems, their cause, correction, prevention]
Concise Guide To Tendon and Ligament Injuries in the Horse (Howell Equestrian Library)
The Injured Horse: Hands-On Methods for Managing and Treating Injuries
First Aid for Horses
The Best Way to Wrap Hoof Injuries / EVA: A Silent Health Threat / 6-Point Crisis Action Plan / Da Vinci's Horse for the Ages / Anti-Snorting Strips May Help Horses Win By a Nose (Equus, Issue 267, January 2000)

Equine West Nile Questions

1. How do the horses become infected with West Nile virus?

The same way humans become infected-by the bite of infectious mosquitoes. The virus is located in the mosquito’s salivary glands. When mosquitoes bite or “feed” on the horse, the virus is injected into its blood system. The virus then multiplies and may cause illness. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds or other animals.

2. How does the virus cause severe illness or death in horses?

Following transmission by an infected mosquito, the virus multiplies in the horse’s blood system, crosses the blood brain barrier, and infects the brain. The virus interferes with normal central nervous system functioning and causes inflammation of the brain.

3. I have a new horse with no vaccination history, how should I proceed?

If no history is known it is safest to assume previous vaccinations have NOT been given and give the two shot series of the Fort Dodge or one of the Vetera to establish protective titers. In some cases a simple phone call to the previous owner to establish past vaccination history can be helpful in creating a vaccination protocol for your new horse.

4. Can pregnant mares be vaccinated?

Yes, there is NO scientific evidence that West Nile vaccinations cause abortions or deformities.

5. What age should I begin vaccinating foals?

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends that foals start the vaccination series for West Nile at 5 months.

6. My horse is vaccinated against eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), western equine encephalitis (WEE), and Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE). Will these vaccines protect my horse against West Nile virus infection?

No. EEE, WEE, and VEE belong to another family of viruses for which there is no cross-protection.

7. Is West Nile infection treatable?

There are several treatments aimed at minimizing symptoms and arresting progression. At this time there is no specific cure for the disease. While some horses make a complete recovery, others survivors may have long term deficits. Approximately 33% of horses that contract West Nile disease will die or be euthanized.

8. There is a horse in my barn diagnosed with West Nile, is my horse at greater risk?

The virus is not transmitted from horse to horse. Horses are known as “dead-end hosts”. This means that horses do not create enough virus particles for mosquitoes to transmit West Nile virus from an infected horse to a healthy horse. However the conditions in your area may be right for local birds to carry the disease. Your best protection is proper vaccinations and strict mosquitoe control measures.

Dr. Garfinkel is a graduate of the highly regarded College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. She has been practicing in the East County of San Diego since 2000, and has built a reputation of providing high quality and compassionate care.

Visit her website at and sign up for her free monthly newsletter.

Designing Your Horse’s Spring Training Program


Levels of equine athletic training are becoming more acutely researched, more competitive, and more geared towards the longevity of the athlete’s career than ever before. To be ahead of the herd, a horse needs cross training and other varied forms of exercise to achieve the all-around competitive level required in most sports. The components of optimal fitness are cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and ideal weight.

In order to reach optimal levels of cardio-endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility at an ideal weight, workouts need to be calculated, and increased over time. This includes the frequency, intensity, and duration of every exercise. It sounds complicated, but can be easily monitored. By keeping track, you can carefully build on each component which adds gradual strength with less threat of injury. Listening to your horse, your instincts, and how you both feel has a lot to do with each workout. If your instincts tell you not to workout, don’t. If you remain conscientious, while sticking to your long term plan, missing a workout won’t affect the end result.

The Components

Cardiovascular Endurance is the ability of the heart and lungs to provide oxygen to exercising muscles for a prolonged period of time. This is achieved by long, slow rides, as well as fast, explosive sprints. This type of fitness is required for just about every sport, and should be started slowly to allow the connective tissue of the legs, and the cardio-respiratory system to adapt without stress. A strong foundation and a strong heart is what keeps a horse strong during competitive events. In events lasting several days, this strong foundation can be what separates the healthy winners from the injured drop outs.

In the event that you or your horse are not quite in the mood to do whatever exercise that you have scheduled for a specific day, a long, slow walk is always more beneficial than nothing. This will keep the foundation strong and help to prevent injury in the long run.

Muscular Strength is the maximum amount of force a muscle can overcome during one single contraction. This is achieved by a variety of modes. Up hill training is an excellent way to achieve strength in the limbs and specifically the core muscles of the back and abdominals. Muscular strength is required in just about every sport. Sprints, rollbacks, and resistance training can be incorporated into an effective strength training program. With increased strength adaptation on hills, explosive exercises can be added gradually.

Muscular Endurance is the number of repeated contractions a muscle can perform against a resistance without fatiguing. This is achieved by a combination of cardiovascular and explosive sprint work meant to take the levels of both strength and cardio-fitness to the highest levels. Through aerobic exercise and strength training, muscular endurance will occur naturally. This type of work is added after the foundation work has been done. The foundation work depends on your horse’s starting point, but a couple of weeks of long walks, three times a week is a good start before you start getting more aggressive.

Flexibility describes the range of motion of a joint. Increased flexibility is achieved through various static stretching (stretches held for 30 seconds) exercises done by the rider. Stretching the legs is heavy work for you to perform, but you’ll find that your horse will not only enjoy it, but will learn how to stretch himself out in the paddock. Research has recently shown that static stretching not only aids in flexibility, but has shown to add overall strength to the body.

Dynamic Flexibility is like stretching because it helps the horse to be more flexible, but this type of flexibility exercise is done through bending exercises under saddle. Serpentines, circles, figure 8’s, and various drills up and down the arena are a perfect example of a dynamic flexibility exercise.

There are a lot of factors that may inhibit flexibility. Sometimes the joint itself has lost mobility, sometimes the muscles have lost elasticity, and worst of all, sometimes fat gets in the way. I like to incorporate dynamic flexibility exercises into the cool down, and also during the rest periods in endurance work. Once the muscles are warm and full of blood, they can achieve great gains in flexibility. Instead of just walking your horse during the little breathers in sprint training, you can ask him to walk in circles to keep his rib cage open and flexible.

Sport Specific Training

Sport Specific Training is specifically performing the sport that you’ll be competing in. It is necessary for developing motor skills as they relate to your specific sport, but doesn’t include all of the components for a balanced fitness program. By performing the movements used in your sport, timing and balance are developed. This type of training should be focused during the horse’s schooling sessions which will be incorporated into the off days of the exercise schedule. Schooling and workouts are two different forms of training and should be practiced separately. Schooling is teaching the horse how to perform specific movements, and workouts are performed for the purpose of gaining strength and fitness. By taking an un-schooled horse into the arena and pushing him or her through a specific sport routine at the maximum levels will never teach him or her to be accurate in their specific sport.

A barrel horse needs to be strong and powerful, but if he isn’t schooled in how to turn a barrel properly and with precision, he’s not a great barrel horse. He should be taught how to do this separately from his workout.

He needs some added flexibility exercise in order to bend more effectively. If he’s too muscular, he’ll create excess heat within his body which may lead to early fatigue. A barrel horse needs a good cardio program so that his body efficiently delivers oxygen to the muscles and organs.

He needs a good strength program to accommodate the explosive forward movement and speed, and he needs the flexibility to be able to bend around the barrel tightly. Once that’s all done, he needs to cool down and be stretched out so that his muscles aren’t stiff and shortened for the next bout of competition.

This horse needs a program that’s divided up into segments over one week periods, then tied together to make up several months. One trick is to keep the horse from peaking too soon or losing too much weight, while balancing the workouts to include schooling, aerobics, strength, endurance, and flexibility. During this time, the horse’s chemical metabolism will be responding to each of your exercises which will affect how much water he should drink, what and how much he should eat, and how much massage and stretching is indicated.

Any animal, any breed, any age, any size, can be brought to their own level of optimum fitness if given reasonable goals. It will be your responsibility to set the goals, and follow through with gradual progression to safely achieve those goals. The overload should be designed so that the body can adapt to a slow progression of increased challenges without causing injury.

Mix It Up

Like humans, a horse’s program should include time on the track, the weight room, and whatever strategy that you can implement that includes flexibility training. Of course, you will need to improvise with hill work and explosive work instead of a weight room, but you will become creative as you witness your horse getting stronger.

This should be fun for you and your horse. Of course there are rules, and there are definitely some things that are forbidden, like stretching a cold muscle, but this time together is yours to enjoy, and you should remain open to substitutions and changes as circumstances change.

One of my favorite things to do is ride my horse in an arena with loud music blasting. I love to focus on patterns, and challenges. Fortunately for me, I’ve always had a horse that enjoys the same thing. Once my horse is strong, I (sort of) let him choose the plan for the day. In my own fitness programs, I’ve substituted a day of skiing or a long hike for an aerobic class. Why not? As long as you include all of the important components, and maintain the current intensity, your horse will appreciate the variety of trails, hills, and arena work.

Keeping an open mind as you go, you can change things according to weather, illness, injury, or whatever else comes up. Be sure to record the exercises as you normally would, and note when you made substitutions.

Avoiding boredom is one of the main challenges faced during a long term fitness program. Timing is another important factor. Each body part requires specific training strategies. The muscles, including the heart take up to 6 months to reach their peak, connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) take one to two years to develop their maximum strength, and bones take up to 3 years to fully develop. This is why it’s recommended that horses not begin intense physical exercise before the age of 4.

Be aware of the types of surfaces in which you are training, and choose grass or wood chips over dirt when possible. Deeper footing adds to intensity, so pay attention to how your horse feels, and make wise choices when possible.

Establish Your Starting Baseline

In order to measure improvements, you need to establish your starting position. You can then set your goals for the future. A veterinary consult is helpful at this point, and you should start recording everything.

Ask the vet about your horse’s weight, conformation, and movement as it relates to your fitness plan. The next step is to determine if there are any risk factors that require special attention. Some risk factors would be pregnancy, recent injury or surgery within the past 6 months, diet (how much, special requirements, required supplements), and special needs like shoes and tack.

Voice all of your concerns to the vet during this pre-program vet check. Tell the vet what your goals are. Ask him or her if your goals are realistic. Ask questions about your horse’s resting heart rate as opposed to what the vet might estimate the maximum heart rate to be.

If there are any questions about the horse’s tack or hooves, be sure to consult with a reputable professional before beginning the program. Having these items analyzed in advance can prevent some painful and expensive issues later in the program.

Keep Records

Height/Weight When you have the vet do the initial consultation, you will have them do the initial height and weight reading for recording. A height and weight tape can be purchased at most feed stores or catalogs for your follow up measurements.

Resting Heart Rate Take resting heart rate for 5 consecutive days the first thing in the morning to determine normal resting heart rate. Again, because of the nature of the beast, size, breed, and fitness level, there isn’t an exact average resting heart rate. Each horse will have its own normal. Be sure that you document this morning resting rate because later in the program, you will be monitoring the morning rate. An elevated heart rate in the morning can indicate over training, and this is something to watch closely.

Take Photos

You will be really happy to have your success recorded.

Put It Together

This is the fun part. Take the freedom to be creative with this. Start slowly, be sure to warm up properly, and then put it together according to what you and your horse choose. Once the foundation has been laid, you’re free to do as you choose. Here are some ideas;

For the first couple of weeks, lay the foundation with walking three times a week

Add one day of schooling. By this, I mean to take one day to slowly take your horse through his specific sport movements in a calculated and organized way at about 60% of his maximum.

You are now ready to add some strength work either by getting more aggressive and explosive in specific sports movements or by adding some hill work. Utilize the cool down time for dynamic flexibility like serpentines and figure 8’s.

After the under saddle cool down, while the horse is still somewhat warm, add some stretching to keep the horse flexible and not too bulky and stiff.

As time goes on, you can perform the sport specific exercises more and more aggressively to improve the horse’s endurance until you’re performing at 100% while still maintaining the precision that was taught during the schooling segments., Kathy Duncan is the author of The Fit Horse Companion, a manual for horse health and fitness including massage therapy and hydrotherapy.

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How Do I Measure My Horse For A Rug?

As we head towards winter, it’s time to start thinking about your horse’s winter wardrobe. Do they need a new stable rug or turnout rug? Getting the right size and fit is essential to protect them fully and safely through the colder months. A rug that fits incorrectly can cause problems, like discomfort and chaffing if it’s too tight, or slipping and getting caught up in your horse’s legs if it is too big.

So if you’re in the market for a new horse rug, here are some tips on achieving a great fit. Your horse will thank you.

How do I measure my horse for a rug?

You have two options here:

  • If you already have a rug that’s a good fit for your horse, lay it flat and measure it from the middle of the chest at the top end down the length of the rug to the opposite end.
  • Or to measure your horse, use a soft tape measure starting at the centre of your horse’s chest measuring horizontally along to your horse’s rump where you would expect the rug to end.

Horse rugs are sized in feet and inches, going up a size in 3 inch increments. Select the size closest to your measurement. Generally it is best to go up rather than down to the nearest size if your horse is in between sizes. However, use your discretion here – if your horse is quite slight, it may be wise to go down slightly to the smaller size. Likewise, if your horse is very sturdy it might be an idea to go up a size.

Trying a horse rug on

After purchasing your rug you need to check you’ve got the right fit. When trying it on your horse for the first time leave the tags on and try it on over a thin summer sheet if possible. This will stop the rug getting hairy and will mean that you should be able to return it for an exchange or refund in immaculate condition if it doesn’t fit. To test out the size, check the fit around your horse’s chest, withers and shoulders by running your hands around and under the edge of the rug. The fit should be snug enough that it doesn’t slip back, but not so much that it restricts movement or rubs. Get a second opinion on the fit from an experienced horse owner if you’re not sure, you don’t want to end up with a costly mistake!

By   writes about Equestrian Products.

The Old Dairy Saddlery specialise in providing the best quality horse riding equipment at affordable prices. For a great range of horse rugs, visit the website.

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