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Top tips to reduce turnout injuries

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New veterinary research shows that horses sustain injuries more often then we think – and may lead owners to reconsider their management methods.

Vet Rosie Owen of Liverpool University studied 652 randomly selected competition and leisure horses.

She found that 40% of horses suffered a “traumatic injury” – anything from a graze to a fracture – in the course of a year. Of those, 47% required veterinary treatment.

But what will come as a surprise to many horse owners is that 62% of injuries occurred while the horse was turned out in the field.

How to reduce injury at turnout

  • Avoid changes to the composition of the group and make any changes gradually

  • Turn horses out in protective boots
  • Don’t turn too many horses out together – they need space to escape from aggressive behaviour
  • If you provide hay in the field, create additional feeding areas to reduce competition between horses
  • Keep the amount of turnout as consistent as possible
  • If all else fails, buy a cob or a pony – they are statistically less likely to injure themselves

Case study: when turnout out works

Wendy Searle keeps her dressage horses – Trakehners Finesse and Talisman – at grass with ponies.

“Finesse had never had never been turned out when we got her. She was so neurotic that we just threw her out with the ponies and she settled very quickly.

“Talisman was gelded late and went ballistic when first turned out, but within a fortnight had settled to the same routine.

“They are both out 24/7, rarely go silly because it isn’t exciting and have never seen the vet, except for vaccinations.”

Case study: When turnout doesn’t work

“My horse fractured his pedal bone a couple of years ago in the field. I saw him do it as he was cantering towards me and suddenly went wonky,” said owner Hannah Gatt.

“It resulted in six months’ box-rest, although he is fully recovered now.

“I also lost my previous horse, Oliver, through a turnout accident, when another horse kicked him and broke his leg.

As you can imagine, I’m quite picky about where and with whom my horse is turned out now – I would never turn out in a big herd again.”

To read the full article on injuries at turnout see the current issue of H&H (1 December 2011)

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Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk