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.
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.