Do young horses need treatment?

Lots of times when speaking to clients I hear many of the same myths and misconceptions about treatments and animal needs, one thing I often hear is that young horses won’t need treating as they’ve not started work yet or have only just started work. 

I find this surprising, not least because young horses often have significant misalignments and tight muscles. 

Research has found that one sidedness can occur in foals, preferring to place one foot in front of the other when learning to graze, this behaviour can impact the size and shape of their front feet, which in turn can affect the musculoskeletal system. Making one side of the horse more dominant, causing muscle mass to be uneven and affecting gait patterns. 

Horses can get minor injuries playing in the field, or getting cast in the stable, these often go unnoticed until it’s time to work the horse and we find that one side is much stiffer than the other or the horse has difficulty bending in one direction, or the horse flat out refuses to cooperate. 

It may be possible that a young horse going through the starting process seems more challenging than expected or they react negatively to the sight of tack, even though they haven’t done much work to date or only had the rider belly over. 

Instead of signs of a poor attitude towards the starting process, these can all be signs of musculoskeletal discomfort. 

Getting your young horse treated before and during the starting process can greatly improve their attitude to work and being ridden in general, it can highlight any injuries they may pick up along the way.  

Ever wondered why horse insurance premiums are higher for horses going through the starting process? It’s because injuries or congenital disorders such as wobblers are often picked up and investigated at this time. 

It’s the same with us if we start a new training regime, we are bound to get sore at first, but having a treatment can help us recover and continue to train. 

To help with comfort at the time of starting, the saddle should fit well and should be checked by a professional fitter at least every 3 months or even sooner as the young horse adapts to increasing workload while still growing. 

My own young horse, Badger, is going through the starting process at the moment and I find he is much more willing and able to cooperate with the process if I keep him treated, stretched and pay attention to any tightness in his hindquarters or back. I feel this is especially important as he isn’t gifted with the best conformation. 

In summary, it’s important to get young horses treated as they grow, this helps prevent injuries or poor attitude at the time of backing and greatly improve their attitude towards being worked. Not only that, but getting treatments while the horse is still developing can contribute to a long and healthy working life. 

Preventing injuries in agility dogs

Regardless of whether you train for fun, fitness or competition, having your dog pick up an injury can be devastating.  Vets have recently become increasingly concerned about the number of dogs injured whilst training and competing in dog sports.

Careful management of your beloved pet can make all the difference with regards to lowering the risk of becoming injured.

Recent studies have found that keeping your dog within a healthy weight for its breed, height and age is the biggest factor for preventing injuries, especially concussion injuries and the early onset of conditions such as arthritis.

Research into agility has found that  the most common injuries are soft tissue sprains and strains.  A recent survey found that although the majority of competing dogs were uninjured, 33% of dogs in training had suffered an injury, while 58% of those injuries had occurred at a competition.  The shoulders were most commonly injured, followed by the back, stifle (knee), thigh, hip and toes.  The majority of injuries occurred on the A-frame, dogwalk or bar jump.  Training in Flyball on rubber matting was associated with an increased likelihood of arthritis, foot pad and dew claw injuries than those trained on grass, this would probably be similar for agility training, although no studies have looked at training on an equestrian sand surface, where many clubs often train.

If your dog becomes injured STOP.  Do not continue training or competing and seek help from your vet.  Helpful first aid is that anything that feels hot or warmer than usual to the touch should have an ice pack placed against it.  If it is in an area where the dog has less, or thin fur then wrap the ice pack in a flannel to prevent ice burns on the skin.  Try to hold it there for as long as the dog will allow, but no longer than 20 minutes at a time.  Repeat this several times a day until you can see your vet.

There are often signs before an injury happens that owners should pay attention to.  Slower than usual times, knocking poles, slower through the weave or corners are all signs that your dog may not be quite comfortable, or may have a muscle pull or strain.

If your dog is lame, then you need to speak to your vet and get proper treatment for the lameness.  Sometimes your vet may not be able to pinpoint a reason for why your dogs performance has decreased, especially if your dog is not actually lame, under these circumstances you may need to have your dog checked over by a therapist.  Therapists, such as McTimoney therapists, can help to alleviate tight muscles, which in turn can help prevent strain on tendons.  Tendons are more likely to be injured if the muscle associated with it is tight.  Treatment can help increase performance and prevent injury.  The therapist can advise on suitable exercises to help strengthen any weak muscles, this will help improve performance, prevent injury and allow your dog to continue enjoying agility for many years.  Regular treatment, say at the beginning or end of the indoor season, can help to spot any injuries or tight muscles before they prevent the dog from competing.

Following a suitable warm up and cool down routine will dramatically help lower the odds of picking up and injury, as will paying attention to your dogs overall fitness and energy levels, if your dog seems to have less energy than usual it may be necessary to speak to a qualified nutirtionist, veterinary nurse or vet about what to feed to increase vitality or control weight.