Looking after our horses is vital to their and our success, Horses are not designed to be ridden
Getting to know our horses, learning to spot any potential issues and teaching our horses to work in a correct manner that enables them to work and support the rider effectively. By learning to identify our horses vital signs we can help keep them happy, healthy and even prolong their careers in what ever discipline we choose.
Horses have a complex anatomy compromising of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and if one of these components is not working correctly then mobility and ability to carry the rider correctly and perform movements can be affected.
Things to keep a close eye on – Horses Vitals – Temperature (37.1 – 38.6) Resting Pulse Rate (can vary dependant on individuals & fitness levels Average 32 – 36bpm) get to know what is normal for your horse. Breathes Per Min (8-12) Droppings (regular and good formation) Urine (good colour) Eyes (look healthy and bright) Coat (healthy and shiney, not dull and starey) Gums (healthy colour & check capillary refill time by pressing for 2 secs and colour should return in 1-2secs = good circulation) Hydration (pinch test, pinch skin on the neck if skin returns flat after 1 sec horse is hydrated is not horse is not drinking enough water)
Muscle Symmetry, make sure horse is stood square on a level surface then check, has your horse got any muscle atrophy (wastage) or hypertrophy (over developed muscle)
Conformation – be aware if your horse has issues with their conformation could this be affecting their movement and ability to carry the rider? could they be compensating.
Heat or Swelling – regularly run your hands over your horse starting at the head work your way back acclimatise yourself to their heat etc, as you get to know what is normal for your horse you will pick up even the slightest change in temperature or swelling which could be an early indication to an underlying issue.
Ridden Changes – has your horse changed ridden behaviour, i.e., bucking, rearing, reluctant to work forward or work in an outline, hanging on one rein, disunited in canter, reluctant to strike off on the correct lead, stopping when jumping.
How is your horse standing – do they always rest the same hind leg, do they stand square behind or one hind limb more forward these could all be indicators check their back – stand your horse up square place your thumb and forefinger on either side of their spine starting at the wither press down firmly and run your fingers in this position along the full length of your horses back. whilst doing this pay close attention to your horses reactions, is there any pain or discomfort, even slight tensing of muscles could be an underlying problem that need addressing.