Healthy Horse Showing, Part 1

Help your horse avoid the dreaded horse-show crud with these horse-health tips.

Our horses are incredible athletes. When show season rolls around, you want to ensure that your horses are able to compete to the best of their abilities. An infection or injury can sideline your horse before you even show. What can you do to reduce chances of illness or injury at major shows? These experts weigh in.

Prevention at Home

Long before they arrive at a championship show, these trainers begin a health regimen for their horses. AQHA Professional Horseman and Team Wrangler member Keith Miller, an all-around trainer, works alongside a veterinarian and farrier to keep the horses on a regular schedule for vaccinations and hoof care. He also schedules Adequan injections for joint health as needed.

“We make sure to take a sound and healthy horse to the horse show,” Keith says.

Cow horse trainer Jake Telford begins by feeding his horses top-quality feed and supplements prior to show season.

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“We keep a good eye on our horses’ body condition and their health leading up to the major shows,” Jake says. “If you get there and try to worry about it, it’s too late. A good feed program and vaccination schedule is paramount. You need to do these things ahead of time to help support a good immune system.”

Blanket Up

Especially in chilly weather or air-conditioned areas, you’ll want to cover your horse with a cooler before and after riding and baths.

Jake often shows horses at futurities where the stalls can be cold and the arena warm. He ensures that his horses don’t get chilled by throwing a cooler over them between saddling and riding, and after riding and bathing.

“We pack an abnormal amount of blankets and sheets and neck warmers and coolers,” Jake says. “We might saddle the horse and throw the cooler over him and the saddle and then head to the arena that way. When a horse is done, we might throw a cooler over him and take him back to the barn.”

Consistent Schedule

Keith encourages his horses to blow off steam and have some down time at shows like the AQHA World Championship Show by letting them run around a bit in the show ground round pens. He also makes sure his horses are properly warmed up before stressful exercising and cooled down after.

“We make sure to properly wrap legs and put poultice and standing bandages on after a hard day’s work,” Keith says.

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Dr. David Frisbie is on hand to care for horses at major shows including the All American Quarter Horse Congress and the AQHA world shows. He advises sticking to a routine with feed amounts and times, water and exercise to reduce incidents of colic, stress and dehydration.

Soften the Surroundings

Make sure to use plenty of shavings on hard show-stall floors to reduce soft-tissue soreness.

The most common injuries Dr. Frisbie sees at shows include soft-tissue soreness or trauma, suspensory ligament injuries and ankle injuries. To prevent these types of injuries, he recommends bedding stalls with plenty of shavings and stall mats, if possible. He also suggests watching your horse carefully while it is being longed, as the ground might be a bit uneven, which can lead to strains.

“Taking extra care in those situations - such as lunging - is probably going to decrease the greatest number of problems,” Dr. Frisbie says.

Post exercise, he suggests icing your horses’ legs to reduce soreness.

Stay tuned to America's Horse Daily for Part 2 of Healthy Horse Showing.