Healthy Horse Showing, Part 2

Keep your equine partner healthy at horse shows with this expert advice.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Horse shows are fun places to put the partnership between you and your horse to the test and analyze your skill level. It’s important to keep your eye on the prize, but even more important to keep your horse healthy throughout your

preparation and when you arrive at the event. Part 1 of “Healthy Horse Showing” taught you how to prevent ailments at home and ways to keep your horse comfortable at the show. Here are a few more healthy horse-showing tips.

Reduce Exposure to Pathogens

If you want to take an extra step to sanitize your stall area, consider scrubbing the surfaces with a solution of bleach and water.

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. Dr. Frisbie says most major show maintenance crews power-wash stalls with an antibacterial and antiviral solution. Some trainers take the extra step to give stalls an additional cleaning. AQHA Professional Horseman and Team Wrangler member Keith Miller, an all-around trainer, scrubs stalls with a bleach-and-water solution before bringing horses in at major shows.

We use hay nets all the time in our horses’ stalls and trailers. And if they’re tied incorrectly or too low, we’re setting our horses up for potentially serious injury. Learn how to properly tie a hay net in AQHA’s FREE Tie It Right report.

“You can use a bucket with a gallon or so of water and a tablespoon of bleach, and scrub the surfaces with a boot brush of some kind,” Dr. Frisbie says.

Encourage Water Consumption

The experts say watching for dehydration is important at shows. Some horses dislike the taste of unfamiliar water. One solution from Dr. Frisbie is adding a small amount of Gatorade or electrolytes to the horse’s water at home and at the show to mask differences in taste.

Some of our experts recommend bringing your own water in containers if your horse doesn’t like strange water - however, your horse might not like the plastic taste of the container, either.

Watch for Symptoms

Keith observes his horses every day so that when they’re at a show, he’ll notice right away when his horses are feeling off.

“How are they eating?” Keith asks. “How are they drinking? How much manure is in their stall? Are they sweating? Are they running a fever? Do they have any swelling? Are they lethargic? Are they just ‘not right?’ These are all questions we ask ourselves to determine our horses’ health, and if something isn’t right, we always go to a veterinarian to try to get ahead of any possible illness or injury.”

Seek Veterinary Advice

If your horse is sore at home, many times you let him rest for a day or two before calling a veterinarian. Since your window of time for your horse to improve is shorter at a show, Dr. Frisbie recommends calling a veterinarian within the first day of soreness.

Tying buckets is an easy task that can be overlooked. AQHA’s FREE Tie It Right report will show you how to safely tie buckets in your horse’s stall.

“In that scenario, the sooner you start treating it, the better,” Dr. Frisbie says. “If they’re sore, and you treat it within the first 24 hours, you’re ahead of the inflammation starting. If you wait for 48-72 hours, you’re pretty close to the peak inflammation. Then not only do you have to fix the problem, but you have to deal with the inflammation as well. “

“I encourage people to ask a veterinarian about any issues if they’re unsure,” Dr. Frisbie says.

Put the Horse First

If your horse is noticeably lame or sore, most judges will give you the gate, per AQHA rules. If your horse is sore and worsening, Dr. Frisbie says you’ll want to consider pulling from the class. From a sickness standpoint, Dr. Frisbie says a persistent cough or sneeze can risk transmitting illness to other horses, so you’ll want to consider that in your decision. A fever of 103 or higher is also an indication of a contagious illness.

All of the experts say the horse’s well-being is paramount above championship titles. Though it’s tough to pull your horse from a class, the long-term results are more important.

“We must be the horse’s advocate,” Keith says. “We always put the horse’s welfare first. If a horse is sick or injured, we withdraw it from competition. Seeking the necessary medical help becomes the top priority.”