Taking care of your horse

Whatever the season and whether your horse is resting or not, it's important to take good care of it through regular maintenance. This can include things like vet checks, but also something as simple as daily inspections of your horse. We at Healthy Leathers have listed some things below that may be useful for you to consider.

Get to know your horse's habits and body

Daily visits

The most important thing is to get to know your horse's body, which you can do through daily visits. When brushing, you can create a habit of running your hand along the horse's body and legs. You do this to feel for any differences from how the horse normally looks. For example, if there are sores or heat that are not usually there. Some horses will always have slightly swollen legs, but without daily visits you may miss that the swelling is warm, which could be a warning sign of possible inflammation. Jerking your horse is very good for circulation as it helps muscles, joints and many other things in the body. 

The most important thing of all is to get to know your horse's body and you do this through daily visits.

Behaviour and habits

In order to give your horse the best possible conditions to feel as good as possible, you need to get to know all its signs. What does your horse look like when it is well? What is a common behaviour for your horse? Does the box tend to be messy to muck out or is your horse clean? Does your horse tend to drink a lot or a little? Does your horse usually pee a lot? Also look at the appearance of the coat, eyes and nostrils. Does your horse eat all the food? All of this may sound like a lot to keep track of but it's very easy once you get it into your routine, and especially once you get to know your horse.

Since all horses are different, it is impossible to say that unusual movement in the stall is a sign that something is wrong. This can be an indication of anxiety and stress. But it could just as easily be that some horses move around a lot in the box. That's why it's extremely important to pay attention when you bring a new horse home. Partly to get to know it and its habits, but also to be able to notice any changes.

It is extremely important to pay attention when you bring a new horse home, both to get to know it and its habits, but also to be able to notice any changes.

It is common for horses moving to new stables and owners to react to changes. Changes such as a change in feed, more grass than before, new outdoor times or different riding. What is also common is for horses to get arthritis when they have recently changed owners/riders. This is not because the new rider is riding incorrectly, but simply because the horse is being put under stress in a new and unfamiliar way. Avoid problems by taking it easy when you bring a new horse into the stable. Be extra vigilant and inspect the legs closely daily for small changes in heat/swelling.

What can I do to prevent injuries and help my horse's body?

Regular checks

Make regular checks such as:

  • Vetchecks - Eva Skiöldebrand, veterinarian and researcher at SLU, recommends checking your horses twice a year.
  • Dental visit - Should be done eonce a year unless your horse's dentist recommends more.
  • Visits by the Equine Therapist - How often depends on how much your horse needs. Often the horse is treated a few times for a short period of time and then stopped for a few months. 

Review your equipment 

Check your equipment and especially your saddle at regular intervals. A saddle that is out of place or pressing down not only creates problems in the area it is stressing, but can also cause strain injuries. When the horse tries to relieve the pressure point, it can misload its joints, which can lead to joint inflammation. It is therefore a good idea to take a saddle fitter out to look at how the saddle lies on your horse(s). A saddle may lie perfectly at first but as the horse's body and musculature changes, the saddle may not lie as optimally anymore. If you have young horses that are still growing, you should also pay attention to the fit of other equipment. 

Supplements

You can also help your horse a lot with the help of carefully selected supplements. If your horses walk in grassland or pastures with a lot of sand, it can be helpful to give flea seeds to avoid sand colic. We at Healthy Leathers also recommend giving your horse joint supplements with high molecular weight hyaluronic acid from the moment they start working. This is to maintain safe levels of joint fluid. A good base is daily administration of Conquer 200Pro and/or Chondrogen 100Pro to support the horse's joints during exertion. 

We at Healthy Joints also recommend giving your horse joint supplements with high molecular weight hyaluronic acid from the moment they start working. This is to maintain safe levels of joint fluid.

Stretching

The benefits of stretching your horse include strengthening and softening the body, increasing flexibility and stretching the muscles. You can stretch your horse before or after your riding session and of course on days when you are not riding. Examples of some stretching exercises could be:

  • Stand next to your horse with a treat and let the horse reach for the treat around you towards its hind leg. By letting the horse reach around you, you force it to stretch out its whole side and not just bend its neck. 
  • Entice your horse with a treat to reach his head down between and past his front legs to stretch his back and neck. 
  • Pull a finger, pencil, hoof crate or similar under your horse's belly to make it arch its back and do the horse version of a situp. 
  • Run your fingers along the horse's tail to achieve a similar effect to the above. 

Try to get the horse to hold the position for a few seconds so it doesn't slip and you lose the effect of the movement. You rarely need to do the exercises many times; 1-3 repetitions are usually enough. 

Movement

Horses are made to be in constant motion and it is therefore important to give them these opportunities. Daily exercise in the paddock is important for the horse both physically and mentally. If your horse has a rest day, it is still a good idea to walk it or put it in the walking machine if available. If you have a riding machine on the farm, it is optimal to combine pasture, riding machine and riding. 

How can I ride to prevent injuries and maintain my horse's body?

We often use the expression ride a lot and practice a little. As we mentioned above, horses are made to be in constant motion but not for constant stress. It is therefore important to vary the riding sessions and not to push the horses too hard too often as this will lead to overuse injuries such as joint inflammation. For example, you can include walking breaks during the hard passes and ride these passes briefly and intensively rather than daily for long periods. 

To straight much is both good for joint function and recovery. At a walk, the joint is better able to transport waste products out and nutrients into the joint. When the horse is walking, the joint can naturally work to maintain even levels of joint fluid. Walking for at least 15 minutes before and after a riding session is optimal for the horse's joints to soften and recover. 

Tips!

  1. If you notice heat and swelling in any joint during your daily inspection, you can give your horse a Conquestkur (two Conquest Start Up syringes and one Conquest Follow Up). 
  2. After a harder workout or competition, give a double dose Conquer to boost joint fluid.