My 2020 plan for healthy horses!

2020 is just around the corner! Every year we make new year resolutions which invariably last a few weeks then they are forgotten! This year, instead of resolutions I'm making a plan. I'm going to plan how I can make sure my two horses Charlie and Clover have a healthy, sound and peak performing year. Okay so not too peak performing as they are both on an extended holiday due to their mum's work commitments but if they are to be competing here is what I think I need to do to ensure they are at their best:

Clover (left) and Charlie (right)
  1. Vaccinations - due to the equine influenza outbreak of 2019 many competition venues require 6 monthly vaccine boosters. To avoid being caught out I plan to give them both a booster in January - they won't be competing or going anywhere until the spring but it means if they are unlucky enough to have a reaction to the vaccination it will not affect any plans I have.

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Charlie having his dental exam

2. Dentals - I'll make sure both horses have their teeth done in January at the same time as their vaccinations. Both horses are done every 6 months as I believe doing their teeth little and often is better than changing too much in their mouth all at once. They both get sedated, not because they are naughty but because I can then be much more thorough and accurate than if they are not sedated. Plus they can both have a mini makeover as both horses are not a fan of having their manes pulled!

3. Saddle Check - Charlie will get his saddle checked, it is a good idea to get every horses saddle checked at least once a year. Charlie is a nightmare because he gets so fat in summer then drops weight in winter so his back changes a lot during the year. It is important to use a reputable qualified professional to check your saddle.

4. Fitness - both horses are very unfit and have been out of regular work. It is therefore really important that I build up their fitness slowly if I plan to get out competing. Charlie will start with a variation of schooling and hacking over a 6 week period, gradually increasing the time and the intensity of his work.

5. Lameness check - due to the amount of time out of work both horses will benefit from a lameness check before they start any work. I think the beginning of the year is always a good time to assess your horses movement prior to the season ahead. I use our lameness locator ( a gait analysis machine) to objectively measure their movement. This gives me something to compare back to if they have any problems during the year, it will also identify any subtle lameness not obvious to the human eye, tell me which leg is affected and during what phase of the stride. It is an invaluable tool for keeping horses in peak performance and identifying problems before they arise.

6. Foot X-rays - we commonly see forelimb lameness due to foot problems, some of which can be prevented by good farriery. The foot conformation and shoeing can be assessed by taking lateral (side on) foot X-rays. This can help the farrier by allowing them to see inside the hoof capsule, the angle of the bones within the foot (hoof pastern axis) and the amount of heel support the shoe is giving. Good farriery can help prevent many lameness conditions so being able to assess how the horse is shod and any changes that could be made could mean the difference between a sound season and one with lameness issues. Charlie will get his feet radiographed just before he is due for shoeing, then I can show my farrier (also my husband!) and together we can decide if any changes need to be made. Another good reason to do this early in the year is to avoid any shoeing changes during the competition season which may affect how the horse moves temporarily.

7. Have a goal - I know every one is different, but for me I need to have a goal in mind to motivate me through the long winter and cold evenings riding. I like to decide what my competition and training goals are and get some things booked so I have something to work towards!

I hope this list gives you some inspiration for making your own plan for 2020, make sure to let us know what you're going to do and keep us updated of your progress via our Facebook Page!

Happy New Year!

Jenny xxx

Veterinary Surgeon, Ridings Equine Vets Ltd