Minimising harm to the young horse
Minimising harm to the young horse – a blog post by Cat Walker of Brindisi Equestrian, proudly supported by Animal Therapeutics Online. Thank you to Cat for another fabulous article!
In my massage therapy work, I see many riding horses that are suffering from problems the owner can’t put their finger on, or who benefit from a regular treatment program to keep them performing at their best. However, it’s quite rare that an owner calls me out to check their young horse over before they start their career under saddle.
I find this pretty worrying – how often do we see young horses have a stack while hooning around the paddock? How often do they stick legs in fences and brace their muscles to protect that leg for a little while as it heals? Perhaps they have developed some asymmetry for one reason or another – drinking from a mare who always drops one hip, preferring a particular grazing stance, or hoof balance issues that haven’t been addressed at an earlier stage.
All these seemingly innocuous little factors can have an impact on the horse’s musculoskeletal system before they are even booked in with a horse breaker. At that point, a whole new can of worms can be opened – how many owners consider not only the psychological, but physical impact of foundation training? Are the techniques used likely to cause pain or distress? Is the equipment used appropriate for that particular horse? Could the demands of the work schedule contribute to injury?
Purchasing or breeding and raising a young horse is a costly exercise, and, regardless of the expense, I think most owners would hope that their horse is ready to embark on a successful career as a riding horse when they complete their basic training. With that desire in mind, let me remind you of a few important things.
The vast majority of young riding horses are started under saddle before they are fully mature.
Many owners choose to start their horses when they are visibly, obviously immature. However, these things can’t be judged from the outside – so, you think your horse has stopped growing vertically? That doesn’t necessarily mean the spine and pelvis are mature.
Those innocuous ‘little’ young horse injuries can have a very big impact.
Potentially, not until they are started under saddle and asked to do something that aggravates an old source of pain, or cuts through their coping mechanisms.
FACT: Fear and pain are inextricably linked.
Crystal clear, isn’t it? If we want our young horses to have a positive learning experience when they commence their career, we have to minimise harm at every stage.
Harm minimisation – how?
Wrapping young horses up in cotton wool is pointless – kids will be kids. What we can do is ensure that we avoid creating problems, and address any issues swiftly and thoroughly. Before you send that horse away for training, cover all bases to ensure there are no nasty surprises – general health checks, dental work, hoof balance and musculoskeletal health.
If all seems well? Keep it that way – by using correctly fitted equipment, rejecting training techniques that are likely to cause harm, and employing management strategies that monitor and optimise the horse’s health and athletic performance. Consider it an investment in your horse’s future.
Animal Therapeutics Online can assist you in keeping your horse in peak performance.