Rider to Rider: Your Horse’s Well-Being

Practical Horseman readers share their biggest worries about their horse's well-being.

Safe and Sound
My horse, Leo, has soundness issues in his hind end and tends to get really sore. He’ll be moving nicely one minute and then all of a sudden he feels off. So, for me, keeping him sound, healthy and happy is a challenge. Don’t you just wish they could talk?
Maddie Goebel, Ohio

Brenda Lynn Pettijohn-Christenson, Indiana

Her legs. I drove our barn owner nearly crazy last summer by asking her every day to check the legs of the pony I was leasing, even if nothing felt wrong. Even though it may cost everyone at the barn his or her sanity, when it comes to my horse’s health, I can never be too careful.
Margaret Murphy, South Carolina

Joint health and excellent farrier care. I have an OTTB who raced 64 times before I bought him off the track. We show in Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, showmanship and trail. Shoeing is so important and tricky with him because he has a long toe, typical of many Thoroughbreds. In terms of joint health, my goal is to be preventive so he can feel his best whether he’s still competing or just pleasure riding. He’s my horse of a lifetime, so I work hard to make sure he’s in great health.
Monica Southwick, Massachusetts

The Golden Years
At age 5, my aspiring jumper Thoroughbred gelding fractured a carpal bone in his knee. After six months of stall rest he walked out sound, but I knew that his career and longevity would depend largely on his maintenance coupled with a conscientious work and show schedule. We had several years of successful showing (even at the 4-foot level), and he rarely took an off step. I attributed that to the effort I had put into his soundness. He always received oral joint supplements, regular injections of Adequan or Legend, cold hosing after any jumping and showing with plenty of time off between shows.

Now, at age 18, he just had X-rays, a knee injection and had fluid removed for the first time since his original injury. The vet was astounded that at his age he was sound at all after a knee fracture, much less still jumping and loving it. Now we jump and gallop on trail rides, and he does it with gusto–but we seldom show because that extra money is spent on his staying sound, which is the most important thing to me. Whatever I have to do to keep him happy and comfortable takes priority.
Pam Marion, North Carolina

I have a 19-year-old Quarter Horse gelding. I am concerned with his overall health due to his age. He’s still in full work, including jumping, and enjoys being ridden. I make sure that he’s eating without problems and digesting it without issues, too. I look after his joint health to keep him happy and moving freely. I make sure that he’s happy, healthy, eating, and moving like he should. I feel I owe it to him to keep him as healthy and happy as possible.
Melissa Houts, Michigan

Best Foot Forward
Proper shoeing for a Thoroughbred with bad feet.
Rachel Grant, Massachusetts

Foot care is vital to me. I lost a horse because of complications from an abscess that led to a bone fracture that required stall rest, which then caused him to colic. My kingdom for the best farrier ever
Julie Stephenson, New Jersey

Mental Health
My horse’s mental well-being is very important to me. He’s been having soundness problems, so we’ve had to take him out of a group pasture situation and put him in a stall, with only about 20 to 30 minutes of walking per day. To keep him from going stir crazy and developing vices, he has a stall right near the entrance of the property so he can see the goings-on during the day, and he is able to interact with his neighbors over the top of the partition. Teaching him tricks like giving kisses and nodding “yes” and shaking head “no” has also helped keep him mentally stimulated while he heals.
Rachael Knopf, California

Proper turnout and exercise.
Liesha Cornetto, New Jersey

Trying not to feel guilty when I can’t find time to ride. It’s difficult to find a happy medium between family and horses.
Karen Maw, British Columbia

Letting a horse live like a horse. That is why I don’t have one now–I’m in the military and am stationed in Hawaii. I refuse to have a horse if he can’t live in a pasture, eat grass and roam. I had horses in Tennessee for 15 years; they were pasture-kept with access to a barn at all times. We never had a single case of colic. When and if I ever move to a place where a horse can live as he should, I’ll get one!
Jennifer Ashmore Blazewick, Hawaii

Stress level. When a horse is stressed, he is more predisposed to colic, ulcers, weight loss, mental instability, flight-or-fight issues (that could lead to bodily injury) and just overall loss of immunity protection. I care for my horses the same way that I care for myself and my family, keeping in mind that stress is the number one precursor to myriad health issues.
Janice Griny?r, Wisconsin

Various Maladies
Scratches. I have a Thoroughbred who gets it worse on one leg. Sometimes I feel like it comes right back every time I think I’ve gotten rid of it.
Lynae Zebertavage, Pennsylvania

Being able to afford a big vet bill!
Kathleene Grafton, Florida

Worms. I know it sounds archaic, and my barn does an excellent job of “worm management,” but for some reason my 9-year-old Appendix Quarter Horses is sensitive to every kind of worm that finds its way in to him. He loses weight and becomes dull. It’s quickly and easily fixed, and my vet has worked very closely with me to keep this under control, but I worry all year long about it.
Diana Van Cleave Pasternak, Pennsylvania

Lyme disease. My horse had it, so now I get so nervous when I find a tick.
Alicia Sundelin, Rhode Island

Good Eats

Feeding the right diet for on my horse’s activity, age and weight.
Alberto Vega, Mexico

Making sure they get the right amount of grain and hay, plenty of water and a good grooming.
Lauren Wear, Rhode Island

My mom and I have a 29-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. Our biggest concern is making sure he is on good pasture (or at least has very choice hay) because his teeth are going. We board him at a barn 30 minutes away and spend quite a bit each month for board, but it’s worth it to know he is eating well and can live the rest of his life in happiness.
Sophie Galep, Wisconsin

My horse colicked in 2006 and required surgery. Knowing that I cannot afford another surgery, I control the things I can to make sure he does not colic again. I make sure he always has clean, fresh water and good food. Most importantly, I make sure he gets lots of turnout in his grass pasture. I believe that allowing a horse to be a horse is the best defense against colic.
Kelly Abernethy, Illinois

General Care
The most pressing concern for my horse is her overall well-being. She was injured a few times at her old barn–she had a near-fatal knee injury in her stall where we couldn’t find a cause. She went to the vet hospital and $800 later, she is still alive. She is now back in the hunter ring and doing great, but ever since that injury, I have been worried.
Chloe Brinson, Nebraska

Mother Nature and outside elements. I live in the Midwest where the weather is always changing. That makes it difficult to decide whether or not I should let the horses out while I’m at work during the day. In addition, opossums and raccoons always seem to find their way to our barn in the middle of the night causing mischief, which concerns me about diseases. Outside elements would be things such as worrying about nails and such on the roads/grasses where I ride, or in my pastures.
Amanda Day, Missouri

Living in what one cannot exactly define as the horse center of the universe, I obsess over my ability to properly care for my horses. My concern is that I am simply not giving them the best possible care that they deserve. I am afraid that I lack important education on up-and-coming issues, maybe even older topics and will miss some kind of important memo…something, I am afraid, that may have a detrimental effect on my horses’ health and well-being. In an attempt to battle this concern, I work hard to keep myself updated with a library of books, respectable websites and magazines, such as Practical Horseman.
Abby Gates, Arkansas

Read more answers in the October 2010 issue of Practical Horseman.

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