Horse lameness is probably one of the most frustrating things one faces as an equine owner. Nearly every horse will at some point or another go lame, and it can often be frustrating to figure out why. In the world of lameness, a few ounces of prevention can be worth several pounds of cure. Here are a few factors to consider when trying to prevent lameness in your equine partner.
You wouldn't ask an overweight draft horse to run a racecourse, and likewise you should always be asking yourself if your horse is properly conditioned to do the work you are asking it to do. Improper work can lead to muscle imbalance, strained ligaments, and even stress fractures. When you are bringing a horse into work, make sure you do so slowly and correctly, and that you concentrate on the muscles the horse will need to do its job. It's important to make sure that your horse moves from behind and knows how to carry himself, and one must always be careful not to work the horse too fast.
Your arena footing is more important than you think. Good footing has good shock absorption, is neither too deep nor too shallow, and won't hurt too much if you fall in it. The right footing choice can help keep your horse's joints healthy for a long time to come. Make sure you are not working your horse hard over unforgiving surfaces like asphalt and concrete, and that the footing in your arena is taken care of and has the right characteristics to protect both of you.
Unfortunately, lameness is sometimes just a result of how the horse is built. When you are searching out a horse to take on a career like show jumping or dressage, you want to concentrate on making sure that horse has the conformation to do the job. The pasterns should be neither too long nor too short. The horse should not be downhill nor should he be very uphill. The horse should also have a good loin with a firm and correct connection in the SI joint. Correct conformation will go a long way in making sure your horse stays sound for years to come.
There's an old and true saying that the hoof makes the horse. The right shoes can definitely make or break any equine athlete. Ask for farrier recommendations whenever you are considering someone new, and keep an eye on how your horse looks and feels after a trim. It is also beneficial to learn a little as an owner about what a proper hoof looks like.
These tips won't make or break your horse's soundness, and of course, horses are masters of injuring themselves in creative ways. However, these tips will help ensure your equine athlete stays sound for a long time to come.
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