Equilibrium Products’ Equine Physiotherapist, Victoria Boakes BSc(Hons) AdvCertVetPhys IRVAP considers some good general principles of how to ensure horses stay sound on hard ground
Does your horse need a bit more support from top to toe, inside and out now that the competition season is well underway? Is your horse feeling the strain now that the harder ground has set in?
The Shock Absorption – With the harder ground that summer brings many horses are starting to show the strain of working and competing on an unforgiving surface. When the ground is hard it does not absorb as much of the impact of each footfall your horse makes. The shock has to go somewhere, so the horses’ legs end up taking much of this but so do the muscles in the shoulders and back.
Tension in the back – At this time of year lots of horses suffer from back tension and this can be attributable to the increase in work at this time of year, the decrease in rest days and the increase in travel which tires the horse greatly.
Our responsibility – As owners, it is therefore our duty to ensure we prevent long term damage from hard ground and the other general stresses that the competition season imposes on our horses.
Magnetic and Massage Therapy – It is vital to look after your horses back at all times, but especially when the ground is hard and your horse is competing. Regular treatment from a qualified equine physiotherapist will help to ensure your horse is at his optimum performance level. An equine physiotherapist will also highlight any areas of weakness your horse may have. You may be shown some massage techniques or stretches to carry out on your horse to help maintain a good back and free and supple movement. As well as this the Equilibrium Therapy Massage Pad, Massage Mitt, Magnetic Pad and Magnetic Chaps can help keep the body flexible.
The Massage Pad is clinically proven to promote relaxation, improve back flexibility and can help increase stride length. It works by stimulating the muscles on the horse’s back and can be used in conjunction with the massage mitt to alleviate any stiffness in the horse’s shoulder, hindquarters and hamstrings. The Magnetic Back Pad can be used as part of a non invasive maintenance programme to help maintain good muscle heath, and the Magnetic Chaps can be used to help alleviate stiffness or swelling in the legs for chronic conditions. The movable Vitaflex® magnets used in the range possess strong, circular and permanent magnetic fields of alternating pole sequences that can increase cellular activity, thereby improving the cell’s ability to regenerate. Read more
Keeping Cool – Taking boots off as soon as possible after fast or intense work is vital. Research has shown that as soon as fast work is finished the temperature of the distal limb starts to rocket and if your horse is still being walked off wearing boots the temperature will continue to rise. In an ideal world we wouldn’t opt to wrap material around an area so vulnerable to the effects of overheating, but we do need to minimise the impact of knocks and scrapes to the legs. When using a boot for protection it should be one that has a breathable material such as that used in the Stretch and Flex range, or the combination of materials used in the Tri-Zone range.
Breathe Like a Leaf – Stretch and flex bandages and wraps are carefully designed to offer supreme comfort and support for horses working on the flat, uniquely wicking away moisture and becoming more breathable as the horses temperature increases. Unique Stomatex® material is used for the wraps and is designed to mimic the way a leaf breathes. Originally developed for human athletes, Stomatex® was designed to provide four-way stretch, to enable use around mobile joints, plus excellent support for active limbs, and an outstanding ability to keep the skin dry, so it could be worn comfortably for many hours. By imitating the process of transpiration used by leaves, Stomatex® is able to overcome the problems of perspiration and over-heating traditionally associated with the use of Neoprene. It can therefore ensure that the body heat, blood flow and compression remain consistent during a wide range of activities.
Ice cold – Once the boots are off, it is vital to have an icing or cold hosing regime in place. There are many ways to decrease the temperature of the distal limb but research tends to suggest that cold hosing for approximately 10 minutes remains the most effective.
Feeding for flexion – Diet is also a vital part of keeping your horse’s joints more flexible. Ensure he gets a good quality diet with plenty of protein to aid tissue repair and strengthening. Supplements such as glucosamine and MSM are commonly known for their joint supporting properties. Glucosamine is naturally occurring in the horses’ body and is used to help lubricate the joint and keep existing cartilage healthy. When your horse’s joints are under extra strain additional levels of glucosamine may be needed in the diet in order to assist with repair. MSM is a form of sulphur that also assists in the lubrication of the joint and can decrease the risk of inflammation and soreness to a horse’s joints when it’s in hard work.
Fleximunch™ blocks are made from top quality Timothy hay and contain glucosamine and MSM as well as boswellia, rosehips and ginger all known for their joint supporting properties. It can be fed to help support the horses existing feed regime and can help give an extra top-up as a reward after hard work over hard ground. Fleximunch™ is also ideal if out competing as is stored in 1kg sealed bags so can be transported easily in a lorry or trailer. It can also acts as a treat if the horse has tried hard at a competition and helps get some forage into their stomachs to keep the gut healthy.
- Limit excessive amounts of exercise associated with increased concussion
- Ensure you are taking precautions to keep legs cool post exercise
- Find the most appropriate boot for the exercise your horse is doing taking breathability and support into consideration
- Ensure your horse is given adequate rest after competition and during your training programme to allow any damaged tissue to repair and strengthen
- If travelling a distance, allow your horse plenty of rest time when you arrive on site. This is an occasion that the Equilibrium Therapy Massage Pad becomes invaluable
- Consider your horse’s dietary requirements during the summer months
- Finally and most importantly, familiarise yourself with your horses muscle tone and the tendons in their lower legs so you get to know what’s normal for them, this way you can quickly pick up any heat or swelling and if they are becoming sore or tight.
For more information see www.equilibriumproducts.com