The forecast has stopped making you shudder, and horses are shedding hair like it’s going out of fashion. It’s the perfect time of year to bring your horse back into regular exercise. Don’t let lameness dampen your fun. Here are three common injuries associated with spring training and tips on how to prevent and treat them.
If you’re bringing a young horse into training for the first time, sudden and unexpected lameness caused by splints. The horse will display lameness while trotting on hard ground, and he will flinch when you probe the lower leg. The splint bone will feel hot and some swelling may develop. Splints are most common in two and three-year-olds.
Between the splint bones and the cannon bone is the interosseous ligament, which is made of a dense connective tissue that ossifies into bone as the horse grows into adulthood. The ossified ligament fuses together with the cannon bone and splint bones; bony fusion is usually complete in most horses by 3-4 years of age. Splints are caused by injury to the interosseous ligament or to soft tissue covering the splint bones. Splints are initially soft tissue swellings which progress to bony swellings. (TheHorse.com)
Rest is the best treatment for splints, but prevention is even better. You don’t want bony blemishes distracting from your horse’s appearance. Keep training session short, keep your horse at an ideal weight (overweight horses are more likely to develop splints) and use splint boots while riding.
We also recommend a product like Shin-Band liniment, which delivers an effective combination of analgesic and antiseptic healing qualities. Paint the front legs with the liniment 30 minutes before a workout to prevent of splints. Shin-Band also helps prevent and treat bucked shins, osslets, big knee swelling, sore tendons, muscular soreness and soft ankles.
2. Body soreness
Just like humans who hit the gym hard in preparation for beach season, your horse’s performance can be greatly hindered by muscle aches and pains. Acting ornery while grooming at tacking up, snatching his foot back when you pick out the hind hooves, reluctance to bend through his body on a circle, displaying a wobbly or unbalanced trot on a circle, taking shorter strides on one leg than the other, reluctance to accept contact on the bit or extend the stride…these are all symptoms of muscle pain.
You can help relieve muscles aches with a few simple stretches. Stretching is a great way to prevent and treat muscle aches. Check out our earlier blog post on shoulder stretches. But just like splints, prevention is the best cure. We recommend giving your horse a sponge bath using a solution of 30 ml 3-in-1 Liniment diluted in one litre of warm water. When applied after a workout, 3-In-1 is stimulating muscle brace that help your horse cool-out free from muscle soreness.
3. Protein deficiency
Horses in hard exercise (racing, endurance and eventing) need a little extra protein in their diet. A protein-deficient horse may experience decreased growth and development (in youngsters), reduced appetite, body tissue loss, slow hoof growth, energy deficiency, a poor hair coat, reduced shedding and muscle deterioration.
Red cell production is also very sensitive to protein deficiency. Overall protein deficiency is probably fairly rare in most horse’s diets but possible if the quality of the grass or hay is poor. Deficiency of specific amino acids is more common. Proteins are assembled from amino acids like stringing beads together to make a necklace. If one of the beads called for is missing, construction of the necklace (a protein, e.g. erythropoietin) will stop. Supplementation with key amino acids lysine, threonine and methionine is wise. (Dr. Eleanor Kellon)
If you train hard and do not have access to good quality feed, ask your vet about adding a mineral supplement like Equicell-R to your horse’s diet. Equicell-R contains synthesized amino acids like lysine, threonine and methionine. Always consult your veterinarian and follow feeding instructions exactly, as feeding too much protein can be just as dangerous as feeding too little. View Equicell-R’s ingredients and analysis.
“Equine Splints: Causes and Cures,” The Horse, 2009
“Blood Building; Feeding Iron to Horses,” Dr. Eleanor Kellon, 2012
“The Power of Protein,” The Horse, 1997