Sound for the Season: Caring for your performance horse.

img_7177Preparing for the show season is an integral part of being a successful competitor, we have spoken about grooming. personal attire and western show events in previous articles, but in this article we wanted to touch on, how important preparation is in the art of keeping your horse physically and emotionally sound through the show season. Below are five tips that may help you and your horse.

cropped-amanda-justice_sarah-ebbett_035.jpgFITNESS… BUILDING STRENGTH TAKES TIME: The single biggest mistake that trainers see amateur competitors making, is taking horses straight from paddock to show and expecting a world class performance. This is a huge risk and it can jeopardise your horse’s soundness due to a lack of fitness and muscle strength. You may experience behavioural issues due to the horse being too physically weak to perform and trying to communicate this with you in the way of evasion, resistance or refusal. Although our finished product looks so effortless and flawless, in reality achieving self carriage, slow legs and cadence is a lot of hard work for these horses. And to achieve the best from your horse, its advisable to bring them in slowly and correctly. If you do find yourself at the show and your horse is still a little unfit, that’s fine. But keep it in mind when planning your events and consider their fitness levels.

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Amber Pearse

MAINTAIN THE MACHINE:  Maintenance is a pretty big deal when it comes to almost everything in our daily lives. We regularly service our cars, maintain our home and gardens and visit our doctors for regular check ups. Maintaining our horses health should be no different. Aside from the general health requirements that all horses need, there may be ways we can assist the performance horse to stay sound long term. South Australian trainer Amber Pearse recommends a number of methods that she uses to ensure her horses in training stay sound like Chiropractic care and body work can help her horses to reach peak performance. Feeding joint supplements and other joint repair treatments can assist with horses longevity.

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Mental Maintenance photography by Ashlea Brennan Photography 

MAINTAIN THE MIND: Mental Maintenance is often overlooked and with the pressures of time and money constraints, this problem is not limited to hobbyists. trainers and professionals also experience the mentally burnt out horse.  Like humans our horses are individuals and cope with stress and pressure in different ways. To keep the mind fresh ensure that your horse is able to be a horse with adequate turn out time. Its not a fun life when all you do is work and be confined. This can lead to many behavioural issues. Switch up the routine and exercises. There is a balance you need to find between being consistent but not robotic. A few ideas for mental freshness are, throw obstacles into your training routine, train on the trail or in the field where safe to do so, and enjoy a trail ride.

NO HOOF NO HORSE: This paragraph goes without saying, but no article on horse health should go without saying it. Hoof health and appropriate trimming or farrier work are essential for keeping a horse sound. Incorrect angles and hoof balance effect the horses stride, gait, effort and efficiency. So this area should never be overlooked.

31914278_2161992400492620_4964379833602670592_nGET THE CORRECT FIT: This is another topic that has been touched on before, its a paragraph about the importance of saddle fit. Many riders don’t realise just how badly saddle fit can effect soundness, and for our western saddles this doesn’t mean we get a saddle fitter out to every horse and a different saddle for every horse in the stable. Its more about knowing what fits and what doesn’t. Educating yourself on gullet width/height, skirt length and the importance of a supportive pad.

Good luck and happy showing. Ace Animal Care would like to thank our resident trainer Amber Pearse for her knowledge and contributions to this article.

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