Particularly in winter it is important to look after your horse’s legs to reduce the risk of injury or infection and keep him sound. It’s simple really – if you don’t look after his legs, you won’t be able to ride him.
With cold, muddy and wet conditions just keeping a closer eye on his legs and feet will pay off.
Here are some of the golden rules to keep in mind:
1. Fitness – is your horse capable of doing the job you’re asking of him? A lot of injuries occur when he is tired and his muscles less able to support the tendons and ligaments in the limb
2. Ground conditions – what’s it like underfoot? Be extra careful on hard, rutted ground and boggy ground. When riding across uneven ground be cautious of the unpredictable and changing loads that his legs will be subject to
3. Protective wear – are you booting up? Seek advice on which boots best suit your horse’s needs, depending on how he moves and what work he is doing
4. Warm up – you wouldn’t walk out of your house and immediately run as fast as you can, as far as you can, so don’t expect your horse to either
5. Warm down – dedicating the last section of your ride to walking will help your horse’s body and muscles cool down, helping to prevent stiffness
6. After care – legs need time to cool off, so remove brushing boots quickly. Consider whether your horse will benefit from turnout after riding and/or cold-water hosing if he’s done something particularly demanding
7. Expert opinion – regular farriery is key, if you leave your horse too long between visits then a long toe and an unsupported heel can cause significant lameness. Also if you notice something amiss, contact your vet. When it comes to your horse’s legs it’s better to be safe than sorry
8. Use a joint supplement containing sulphate, glucosamine, MSM, boswellia serrata or green-lipped mussel
Want to find out more about how to look after his legs? Read the full article in issue 448, available here
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