Working for Long-term Soundness

A forum for discussion of training in dressage
piedmontfields
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Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby piedmontfields » Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:31 pm

I actually think this is an important topic that MC raised in another post. I have thoughts on the topic, but am certainly not an expert. Also, I see approaches I respect and ones I avoid.

What have you learned (through education or experience or both) about best methods for long-term soundness of the dressage horse?
How has your perspective on this developed or changed over time (if it has)?
Have you used management and training strategies that promote soundness in your view, but ended up with soundness challenges anyway?
What say you?
Last edited by piedmontfields on Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby musical comedy » Wed Jul 04, 2018 9:34 pm

LOL Piedmont, 12 views so far and no posts.

Clearly there's some luck involved in keeping a horse sound. There's also good management practices.

Ever since the internet and keeping my horses at home, I've become educated a lot on horse health, so my opinions haven't changed much over the last 30 years.

For starters, a horse's conformation plays a role I think in whether it will stay sound. Of course there are horses with bad conformation that stay sound, but the odds are stacked against you if you buy one of those.

I lean towards overkill when it comes to caring for my horses. I have my vet here frequently for every little thing. I have my vet look at my horse on the lunge and do flexions a couple times a year, just to stay on top of things. If there are some changes in the joint (which pretty much can't be avoided when you have a hard working horse with age), then I do regular xrays to see if things are progressing.

I am very pro joint injections in the hock low-motion joints when needed. If inflammation is there, it isn't going to miraculously go away doing nothing and the oral stuff doesn't work and the IM/IV stuff is more for maintenance. You need to get the medicine into the joint.

I have owned a lot of horses and I have never had a soft tissue injury (knock wood). I contend the reason for this (besides luck) is that I am super careful. I do not go trotting and cantering my horses in crappy footing. I have my ring harrowed daily. I'm anal about it. (Yes, I know so-and-so says you should ride on different terrains).

I ride regularly and if I have to give more than one day off, I am careful about what I asked the horse to do when I start back to work. For example, it's been so brutally hot here that my mare has been off two days in a row. I'm planning on riding a bit later tonight. I will walk and walk and walk, then do some stretchy trot and that's it.

I wouldn't dream of giving my horses more than a couple days in a row off unless they are sick or something. I'd pay someone to ride or lunge them or put them with a trainer. That said, this has never happened. Again, knock wood, I've never been sick or laid up for extended time and I don't go on vacations ever (never did).

I'm careful about over schooling difficult movements and try to vary the work I do each ride.

The other thing I do is give my horses free choice freedom. I have an open barn. They go and come as they please. That's not an option for those that board, but at least try to find a place that turns out. I know lots of show barns around me have horses standing in 23 hours or 48 if not worked that day. Not good.

I get the best farrier I can find. Luckily, I live in a horse mecca and there are plenty top notch farriers around. Again, I am fortunate that my guy will come to my place for just two horses.

Lastly, I think no horse in work is 100% sound. There is always some little thing wrong. I think there are a lot of people riding horses that could use some medical intervention but owners are either in denial about it, clueless about it, or don't want to spend the money.

Edited to add: I spend a nice chunk of change on my horses. Thus, I need to protect my investment. You wouldn't spend 40k on a car and then not service it would you.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Chisamba » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:33 pm

I only just looked at it, and as always am willing to give an opinion. When I grew up in Zambia, i never met a vet, we just did not have one anywhere close enough to our vicinity to provide care. I remember being fairly young, by american standards, and my parents were away in Lusaka for business, which is a long days drive away, and one of the young horses galloped headlong into the windmill. she cut layed her chest neck and forearm open from knee to mane. I knew it needed to be stitched, but could not find the suture material we kept on hand. One of the older natives who lived on the farm went and collected a huge bucket of what we called " matabele" ants. they are very large army ants able to strip a carcass to the bone in a day. anyway, i held the flesh together, he held an ant by the abdomen, it bit with its pincers. neatly stapling the skin together, and he twisted the body off, leaving the head and pincers holding the flesh, we made this neat little row of ant bite stitches all the way down the wound, leaving the bottom open to drain. then we smeared it with honey.

By the time my parents came back, they did not have anything to take care of, we had to make a bib so she did not bite the stitches out, but it healed perfectly. while honey is now known to be healing, in those days a vet would have scrubbed with iodine, and pooh poohed using honey.

silly story to share on a thread about soundness but the point is, having had to deal with, treat and cure horses in the absence of a professional, i am poles apart from MC. We ordered hoof trimmers from a catalog, they were snail mailed to us, took three months to get there, and we trimmed feet from an instructions in an old veterinary manual my father had bought. We rode miles and miles and miles over various terrain, galloped through long grass, crossed railway bridges with no bottom, stepping over the gaps on the sleepers, and crossed rivers full of crocodiles. We had one horse go unsound after stepping on a cobra and being bitten in the tendon. You know what, I never knew a thing about joint disease, arthritis, ringbone, spavins, navicular, the horses just did not go lame. We had arabians, polo ponies and off the track thoroughbred horses and two really mean nasty ponies, twenty horses in all. We rode to visit friends, six miles away, played, and then rode home. We herded cows, and my brother and I met a leopard walking along a fire break. He crossed to the left edge, we crossed to the right edge and we passed each other like strangers on the street.

anyway, it is my opinion that if a horse makes it to around ten or twelve and is still mostly sound, they will probably stay sound for the rest of their life pampering or not.

I do agree with MC that many horses have some form of gait anomaly.

as for joint injections, having bad knees myself and knowing how worthless oral supplements were versus joint injections, I also advocate for joint injections if a horse is showing any sign of joint pain.

Now as to working or not working, if a horse gets sufficient turn out, and is not kept in a stall "for reasons of soundness" then I do not feel that going a couple of days between being ridden is detrimental nor would i think a rested horse had to have only walk walk walk and light trot after a couple of days off. I would be more worried about potential azoturia if a horse were in hard work and then got one day off a week.

Are my horses sound? I am lucky because most of them are. actually all of my own horses are but I am afraid of jinxing myself. Do i think dressage helps, yes I do, because the horse learns to be more supple, carry its weight more evenly an develop muscle that helps soundness.

I have a lot of love and emotion invested in my horses, which in my opinion is as important as how much i spent to purchase them.
Last edited by Chisamba on Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:40 pm

I like some of MC's points especially the one about conformation, regular work schedule, and giving them free choice in as many things as possible. And I agree that no horse in work is 100% because rein lameness is a thing. There are more subtle versions of it all along a spectrum of severity. I even saw a horse limp with one saddle and not limp with another within a few minute time span. I still can't explain that. I am not talking not raising the back and then that ramifying elsewhere... I am talking limping on one specific leg.

One over-arching idea that I think is true is that the more you ride the better rider you should be if you want your horse to stay sound. If you are going to ride most days a week you better be balanced. Fewer rides and the horse has time to recover in-between if the rider is not balanced.

Footing matters as MC suggestions though I disagree with staying on mannered terrain all the time.

Mr. and Mrs. HorseProblemsAustralia is a very eye-opening site. It is one case after the next of riders hurting horses with their riding. That is a bitter pill to swallow but may account for most lameness. I was taking three lessons a week and still my horse was breaking down though that probably would not have occurred if he didn't have a clubfoot. Even a GP trainer could not straighten him at the end. If you can't ride your horse straight it is going to go south with any reasonable volume of work.

Nobody is born knowing any of this stuff and most of it is anything but obvious. It's like having a bunch of untrained people trying to run a nuclear reactor. Doesn't work and annoys the reactor. :-)

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby musical comedy » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:20 am

Chisamba wrote:anyway, it is my opinion that if a horse makes it to around ten or twelve and is still mostly sound, they will probably stay sound for the rest of their life pampering or not.
Probably a good chance that is true. I know it is said if a TB makes it off the track sound, it will stay that way. Actually, it is probably safer from a soundness standpoint to buy a 10+ year old that's been in work. These young ones you just don't know how they are going to hold up once in work.

Chisamba wrote:Are my horses sound? I am lucky because most of them are. actually all of my own horses are but I am afraid of jinxing myself. Do i think dressage helps, yes I do, because the horse learns to be more supple, carry its weight more evenly an develop muscle that helps soundness.
Chisamba, if you were to ask every member posting on the goals thread if their horse is sound, I'll bet they would say yes. Everyone riding their horse is going to say the horse is sound. Yet, more horses flunk the PPE than pass. Even young horses. Soundness means different things to different people. Some think a horse has to be notably limping to be considered unsound.

Chisamba wrote:I have a lot of love and emotion invested in my horses, which in my opinion is as important as how much i spent to purchase them.
You can love an expensive animal just as much as someone can love an inexpensive one. My observation from reading forums (not just this one) is that many people that have inexpensive horses also don't have much money. Seems to go hand-in-hand. Thus, when the horse needs care, you get the "I can't afford it" song. I have my 24 year retired sound gelding that I still pay close to 3k a year to keep up his IRAP stifle injection for his congenital bone cyst, just to keep him as good as possible. I pay $168/month for his Prascend. Plus, $300 for shoes because he can't go barefoot. This, all for a horse that is not ridden. Why, well it's that love thing.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby musical comedy » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:29 am

Tsavo wrote:One over-arching idea that I think is true is that the more you ride the better rider you should be if you want your horse to stay sound. If you are going to ride most days a week you better be balanced. Fewer rides and the horse has time to recover in-between if the rider is not balanced.
That is a really good point and one that never occurred to me (duh).

Footing matters as MC suggestions though I disagree with staying on mannered terrain all the time.
I think most would disagree, especially those that like to hack out in fields and trails. Grass is slippery. Without studs, I would worry.

Mr. and Mrs. HorseProblemsAustralia is a very eye-opening site. It is one case after the next of riders hurting horses with their riding. That is a bitter pill to swallow but may account for most lameness. I was taking three lessons a week and still my horse was breaking down though that probably would not have occurred if he didn't have a clubfoot. Even a GP trainer could not straighten him at the end. If you can't ride your horse straight it is going to go south with any reasonable volume of work.
Oh, I had forgotten about them. I used to visit their site frequently. LOL, yes, sadly they paint a dismal picture of the horse scene in Australia. It's true what you say about the importance of riding the horse straight. Yet, in order to do that you have to be a somewhat accomplished rider, don't you think? How many hunter riders understand how to ride a horse straight? Or Western riders? Or any other than Dressage rider? [/quote]

Nobody is born knowing any of this stuff and most of it is anything but obvious. It's like having a bunch of untrained people trying to run a nuclear reactor. Doesn't work and annoys the reactor. :-)
True, but with the internet now, information on everything is there for free.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Chisamba » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:36 am

musical comedy wrote:
Chisamba wrote:anyway, it is my opinion that if a horse makes it to around ten or twelve and is still mostly sound, they will probably stay sound for the rest of their life pampering or not.
Probably a good chance that is true. I know it is said if a TB makes it off the track sound, it will stay that way. Actually, it is probably safer from a soundness standpoint to buy a 10+ year old that's been in work. These young ones you just don't know how they are going to hold up once in work.

Chisamba wrote:Are my horses sound? I am lucky because most of them are. actually all of my own horses are but I am afraid of jinxing myself. Do i think dressage helps, yes I do, because the horse learns to be more supple, carry its weight more evenly an develop muscle that helps soundness.
Chisamba, if you were to ask every member posting on the goals thread if their horse is sound, I'll bet they would say yes. Everyone riding their horse is going to say the horse is sound. Yet, more horses flunk the PPE than pass. Even young horses. Soundness means different things to different people. Some think a horse has to be notably limping to be considered unsound.

Chisamba wrote:I have a lot of love and emotion invested in my horses, which in my opinion is as important as how much i spent to purchase them.
You can love an expensive animal just as much as someone can love an inexpensive one. My observation from reading forums (not just this one) is that many people that have inexpensive horses also don't have much money. Seems to go hand-in-hand. Thus, when the horse needs care, you get the "I can't afford it" song. I have my 24 year retired sound gelding that I still pay close to 3k a year to keep up his IRAP stifle injection for his congenital bone cyst, just to keep him as good as possible. I pay $168/month for his Prascend. Plus, $300 for shoes because he can't go barefoot. This, all for a horse that is not ridden. Why, well it's that love thing.


yeah but you smugly implied that you paid a lot for your horses as if it made you some kind of superior human. Just like you implied that my horses are all lame and i am too stupid to know it. it must be wonderful to feel so superior.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Chisamba » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:39 am

by the way i paid $100 dollars for my first car in the USA, it was an Isuzu I mark. i put 300 000 miles on it, serviced it regularly, and maintained it thoroughly. Then i bought a Ford truck, I had it for 17 years and put around 300 K miles on it. funny thing, i had a flat tire once, and recognized it immediately

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby StraightForward » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:47 am

musical comedy wrote: Chisamba, if you were to ask every member posting on the goals thread if their horse is sound, I'll bet they would say yes. Everyone riding their horse is going to say the horse is sound. Yet, more horses flunk the PPE than pass. Even young horses. Soundness means different things to different people. Some think a horse has to be notably limping to be considered unsound.


I am not sure about that. I don't exactly consider Annabelle sound because she has to get bodywork about every 6 weeks. The intervening work helps her "hold together" better and better with better posture and muscling, but I'm not sure if there will be a time when she doesn't need the adjustments. It seems the question is whether the horse is comfortable in work, and if the work is making the horse better or worse over time.

Horses can flunk a PPE and still be sound - e.g. radiographic findings that never materialize in an outward display of discomfort. Then there are horses like my gelding Obie, who never had a reason to be unsound, probably would have passed a thorough PPE when I bought him as a 2 yo, but just never sound past doing training level work 3x a week no matter how slowly I tried to bring him into work, how much turnout I strove to provide.

I think it's important to make careful observations about the horse's movement, what type of work seems difficult, attitude, soreness, etc., adjust accordingly, and to provide a gradual, sensible increase in work over time without too much drilling of the same types of work each day. However, my horses often do go several days without formal work when I have to travel for my job. They get turnout and are in pens, not box stalls, so they are not fully idle when I'm gone. If it's more than 3 days, I'll do one easier ride when I get back (not walk, walk walk, but shorter with less asking for connection and engagement).

One thing I do for my horses is trim their feet, so they never go more than about 2 weeks without a touch-up. I think this is beneficial in that the length and angles of the feet always stay within narrow parameters, rather than being in a several-week cycle of getting long, then a significant amount being whacked off at once. It seems that some sensible in-hand work is also a good idea, kind of like an athlete stretching and doing yoga to maintain flexibility. I try to incorporate some IH for mobilizing the back and hind legs especially without the burden of rider weight.
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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby musical comedy » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:29 am

Chisamba wrote:yeah but you smugly implied that you paid a lot for your horses as if it made you some kind of superior human. Just like you implied that my horses are all lame and i am too stupid to know it. it must be wonderful to feel so superior.
Stop putting words in my mouth. You know, you accused me of attacking, and this is exactly what you are doing to me.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby musical comedy » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:37 am

Chisamba wrote:by the way i paid $100 dollars for my first car in the USA, it was an Isuzu I mark. i put 300 000 miles on it, serviced it regularly, and maintained it thoroughly. Then i bought a Ford truck, I had it for 17 years and put around 300 K miles on it. funny thing, i had a flat tire once, and recognized it immediately
You're doing the opposite of what you accuse me of. You're more or less bragging about how well you've done on a shoestring. Did you walk 20 miles to school barefoot too?

FWIW, I drive a 1989 GMC with 145k miles on it. It's all rusty and falling apart.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:50 am

musical comedy wrote:Chisamba, if you were to ask every member posting on the goals thread if their horse is sound, I'll bet they would say yes. Everyone riding their horse is going to say the horse is sound. Yet, more horses flunk the PPE than pass. Even young horses. Soundness means different things to different people. Some think a horse has to be notably limping to be considered unsound.


I agree with you that most people will say a horse is sound if they are not limping (or short-striding or being somewhat uneven or not able to bend due to inability to engage the inside hind etc.)

Also, I am told by my vet to ride my arthritic horse. He was limping yesterday and today despite being ridden W/T/C for about 25 minutes each day because of the heat and him being in his stall virtually all the daylight hours. He is reliably limping on the LF at least once in any 2 week period and that rate is going to go up as the heat lays in for the summer. It may be until fall that my horse can stop limping despite being ridden 5 days a week W/T/C. Anyway my point is others may be in that camp also being told to ride a lame horse.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Flight » Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:46 am

Chisamba and musical comedy, please stop fighting because both of you have valuable things to add here and I enjoy reading both your points of view and experiences.

My big horse had some iffy xrays done and reading this thread makes me more inclined to go to the specialist vet and get some better imaging and advice on how to look after him for the future.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Josette » Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:31 am

I am in agreement about more horses failing PPE than passing it. I remember a while back when I was shopping I did PPE on 2 horses. The first I flew out and test rode prior to vet appt. The horse was heavy in my hands and IMO on the forehand to me - but I thought hey I'm just an ammy rider compared to when the pro-rider rode the horse. ( He did not look or feel lame under saddle.) Vet appt the horse royally failed flexing on 3 out of 4 legs! Vet said to me 'walk away from this horse' and turned to the agent-seller and said shame on the owner. The 2nd horse I had PPE done BEFORE I flew out. Similar outcome where vet strongly advised the horse needed hock injections. Both were age 10 geldings doing 2nd level dressage. IMO it did not sound like these horses had excessive mileage to have these soundness issues that I might anticipate in an older horse. Both horses appeared very well cared for by their owners.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Chisamba » Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:39 am

Because I dont boast about how much I spend does not mean I operate on a shoe string. Care of horses is expensive, even cheap ones. I just dont boast about how much I spend.

Flight, I'm done. Sorry I spoiled your reading.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Chisamba » Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:51 am

StraightForward wrote:
musical comedy wrote: Chisamba, if you were to ask every member posting on the goals thread if their horse is sound, I'll bet they would say yes. Everyone riding their horse is going to say the horse is sound. Yet, more horses flunk the PPE than pass. Even young horses. Soundness means different things to different people. Some think a horse has to be notably limping to be considered unsound.


I am not sure about that. I don't exactly consider Annabelle sound because she has to get bodywork about every 6 weeks. The intervening work helps her "hold together" better and better with better posture and muscling, but I'm not sure if there will be a time when she doesn't need the adjustments. It seems the question is whether the horse is comfortable in work, and if the work is making the horse better or worse over time.

Horses can flunk a PPE and still be sound - e.g. radiographic findings that never materialize in an outward display of discomfort. Then there are horses like my gelding Obie, who never had a reason to be unsound, probably would have passed a thorough PPE when I bought him as a 2 yo, but just never sound past doing training level work 3x a week no matter how slowly I tried to bring him into work, how much turnout I strove to provide.

I think it's important to make careful observations about the horse's movement, what type of work seems difficult, attitude, soreness, etc., adjust accordingly, and to provide a gradual, sensible increase in work over time without too much drilling of the same types of work each day. However, my horses often do go several days without formal work when I have to travel for my job. They get turnout and are in pens, not box stalls, so they are not fully idle when I'm gone. If it's more than 3 days, I'll do one easier ride when I get back (not walk, walk walk, but shorter with less asking for connection and engagement).

One thing I do for my horses is trim their feet, so they never go more than about 2 weeks without a touch-up. I think this is beneficial in that the length and angles of the feet always stay within narrow parameters, rather than being in a several-week cycle of getting long, then a significant amount being whacked off at once. It seems that some sensible in-hand work is also a good idea, kind of like an athlete stretching and doing yoga to maintain flexibility. I try to incorporate some IH for mobilizing the back and hind legs especially without the burden of rider weight.


Yes, to all of it.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby kande50 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:11 am

Josette wrote:I am in agreement about more horses failing PPE than passing it.


The better diagnostics get, the more obvious it becomes that horses are programmed to hide weakness as much as they can, so by the time they become lame enough that humans can see it they're often way past the beginning stages of lameness.

The way I feel about it is that with all the sound horses out there who could benefit from careful training, why would anyone continue to ride a lame horse? And especially when they know that horses mask pain as much as they possibly can?

I think part of the problem is that others, including many vets, will tell owners what they want to hear because they've learned from experience that telling the truth alienates others. And the reason for that is because those who don't hear what they want to hear will tend to avoid the bearers of bad news in favor of seeking out those who will tell them what they want to hear.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Chisamba » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:21 am

I firmly believe that the cost of a horse does not, and should not dictate the degree of care it gets. Every horse, if it is a freebie, or if its very expensive, deserves good care. They deserve to see the vet when needed, to have their teeth taken care of, their feet done, to have the nutrition they need, and if work improves them, they deserve the right kind of work.

In respect to unsoundness I think two genetic things play a part. Draft horses were designed for slow pulling work, now its fashionable to try to use them for sport work. I do not think they were designed for the multiple concussion that sport riding causes. OTOH thoroughbreds are often retired unsound to be bred, because they were fast, so once again we have a tendency by breeders to prioritize the wrong thing, speed, not soundness. Since it is very popular to cross the hot blood with the cold blood to provide sport horses, we are genetically starting out with horses not created for the job, and so unsoundness is prevalent.

Nature, and harsh conditions cultivate soundness, ( feral horses, mustangs, desert conditions, perhaps even uncaring owners) horses that come from generations of that tend to carry more genetic soundness.

If I were looking for a horse to be sound for a long period of time, i would avoid the obvious dangers, that being warmbloods, thoroughbreds and draft cross.

However most of the time, I take on horses that are in unhappy circumstances and try to make their circumstances better. I have learned a tremendous amount in the years I have been riding and shudder at our first decade of horsemanship.

So while i believe that soundness really relates more to genetics and conformation, i think every horse, every horse, be it el cheapo bastardo, or the princess of all equines, deserves and should get great care. Good feet, good vet, good nutrition, and things a horse needs, exercise, companionship, turn out, and of course, the kind of work that improves it.

I think loving your horses is important, because even if you make mistakes, love makes you work out how to improve and hot to fix them.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:27 am

kande50 wrote:The way I feel about it is that with all the sound horses out there who could benefit from careful training, why would anyone continue to ride a lame horse? And especially when they know that horses mask pain as much as they possibly can?


One reason is because their vets tell the not to retire them and to ride more.

I think part of the problem is that others, including many vets, will tell owners what they want to hear because they've learned from experience that telling the truth alienates others. And the reason for that is because those who don't hear what they want to hear will tend to avoid the bearers of bad news in favor of seeking out those who will tell them what they want to hear.


Vets taking money for nonsense is a huge ethical issue. There is a closed FB group I am on run by a vet who is fighting woo-woo as hard as Ramey is fighting it. I am probably the only non-vet but they let me in because I am a trained researcher and it is the same general ideas of an evidence-based approach. Anyway I asked this question of how these vets doing acupuncture and chiro and other stuff square that with their science training. There are several answers and it is a complex problem but giving clients what they want is part of it. I think it is unethical but can be made ethical by just admitting the actual veterinary reason say a chiro maneuver seems to help rather than claiming there is a there there with chiro and it seeming like the Wizard of Oz. I don't mind paying for something that gave my horse relief that was claimed to be chiro but I do mind being told it is chiro and not vet med. I won't be spoken to like that.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby kande50 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:31 am

StraightForward wrote:
One thing I do for my horses is trim their feet, so they never go more than about 2 weeks without a touch-up. I think this is beneficial in that the length and angles of the feet always stay within narrow parameters, rather than being in a several-week cycle of getting long, then a significant amount being whacked off at once. It seems that some sensible in-hand work is also a good idea, kind of like an athlete stretching and doing yoga to maintain flexibility. I try to incorporate some IH for mobilizing the back and hind legs especially without the burden of rider weight.


Same here. Not only do I trim hooves when I first notice extra growth, but mine do a lot of self trimming and conditioning. So instead of paying a farrier, or in my case buying shoes and nails and pads and calks, I buy gravel. And then I put my efforts into keeping the gravel paths cleaned off and putting up fencing so that they have to use them. I don't protect their hooves, but instead seek out gravel roads and coarse footing, because that's what makes the hooves stronger.

IMO, the big problem with shoes is the peripheral loading, and the distortion of the hoof that results. Back when I was shoeing some of mine I was always frustrated because the toes looked too long, even when I was resetting on a short cycle, and now I know why. Now if I shoe someone it's short term, and I get the shoes back off as soon as possible and get the bottom of the hoof back on the ground before it starts to weaken.
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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:31 am

Chisamba do you really think draft crosses are more unsound in sport than other horses? I have not seen that. There were many draft crosses at the barn in Calgary besides my horse to first/second/third level work and staying sound. Calgary had quite a lot of draft crosses for some reason.

I would say the most unsoundness I have seen is in WBs and TBs. Arabs seem sound in general. Just my observation

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby kande50 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:48 am

Tsavo wrote:
One reason is because their vets tell the not to retire them and to ride more.


That advice may be offered in the context of, if the horse has to continue to work then he'd be better off if he was worked regularly?

Or, it may be offered by vets who have become so jaded that they've given up trying to get clients to do what's best for their horses?

Or, in the cases of some I've known, they've never cared how much animals suffer because that's just the way they are?

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby calvin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:09 pm

I think one has to have some luck - or at least, not have bad luck. Current horse is a T'bred/warmblood cross, age 23, working 3rd level, is also a low-level hunter, and remains sound. I inject Adequan monthly. I started that last year. I am not sure he needs it but it is affordable and may help. I did have a PPE-type workup done when he turned 20, with lots of x-rays, to see if there were any issues to be managed. There were none. My first horse was warmblood, sound until he was PTS at 27, and I learned a few things from him. I do believe that working correctly helps keep sound horses sound. One lesson from my first horse was to keep my horse in work so long as he/she is able to be worked. The type of work may change somewhat, but muscle mass is lost fairly quickly in an older horse. When I acquired my current horse, I simply did not have time to ride two and various lease / share options did not work out. So the older horse got short shrift from the age of about 24 or so, when he could have been working soundly. Both horses had a variety of work in addition to dressage. Both had turn out, hacking and both were ridden as often as possible, many times a week. The current horse, as noted, does low level jumping which I think is good for our horses. I realize that I have been ever so lucky with both horses.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby mari » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:23 pm

Quite a lot of luck is involved, methinks :p

Odin is not ideally conformed, his front feet turn out. Because of that, he goes for yearly x-rays, and the farrier consults with the vet afterwards to make sure they're on the same page. He's had a suspensory injury (minor lesions on both fronts), and since then we make sure to include a weekly hack on hard surfaces, per vet recommendation.

I agree with a lot of Musical Comedy's post. Regular work in good footing is important.
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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby piedmontfields » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:04 pm

Lots of interesting points.

I do think luck and type (conformation/genetics) are both huge factors--probably outweighing many other management actions and decisions. I know of too many people who manage quite thoughtfully and systematically (in a manner similar to MC's description) who have not had good luck. Perhaps conformation issues intersected with that bad luck in some of these cases.

I"m inclined to agree that owner self-assessments of soundness can often be off-base. Just like expectations for straightness are very different at a high levels of training, I think expectations for soundness are also much greater. Do I think a horse can be "serviceably sound" for lower level work, but not sound for more demanding work? I do.

One theme many of us agree upon is keeping a horse in regular, good work. I, too, am of this mind.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:13 pm

Kande the advice is in the context of arthritis where it is easy to show the relation between amount of work and turnout to soundness.

I lunged my horse this morning. He was limping on the first trot set. Then I cantered him. He was not limping on the second trot set. It's like a science experiment. It doesn't always resolve in one session like that but it does sometimes.
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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby DJR » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:14 pm

I agree with most of what others have said.

Good luck is underlying all of it!

Movement is important. My guys live out 24/7 on varying terrain. They move all the time. I do board in the dead of winter (because if I want to ride, in wintertime, options are otherwise limited), and I do board indoors because Jet works up a sweat with most sessions and it bothers me to turn him out in the -10c or colder air temps at that time of year after he's been in work. (I tend to ride in the evenings so he'd be outside overnight when it's the coldest.) Otherwise, for 9 mo of the year, they live here at home and are always out (with shelters). And, being in work is part of this with variation in what they're doing day to day (hack, ring, cavaletti, varied surfaces, etc.).

Footing is important, too. Varied footing, so hacks are part of regular training. But also the footing in the arena where they are commonly worked should be as high-quality as possible. My ring is quite nice, but this year it seems to have dried out and compacts down more than I'd like so I am pricing out the solution of adding rubber crumb which I think I'll do later in the summer or fall.

Joint maintenance: I don't do any intra-articular joint maintenance, and to date I haven't had to treat any lamenesses in that manner. I'm not opposed to it if it's necessary, but to date it hasn't been. Even Jet, my huge, big-boned Friesian/Perch Third Level gelding, is fine and has never had anything done to any of his joints. I just had him examined & x-rayed in May and all is good. I do use a combination of Legend & Adequan, though. I am thoroughly aware of the controversy surrounding them, particularly Legend. I've read some of the studies including Dr. Ramey's extensive rants against it. Anecdotally, Jet improves after a series of injections so I keep doing it. Adequan has more to back it up, but it too has its associated controversy.

Feed & farrier: very important. Crucial. But we all know that. I do have the farrier out more frequently, every 3-4 weeks or sooner, during the higher-growth spring/summer months. I don't trim them myself because I'm petrified of leaving them out-of-balance, otherwise I'd give them a rasp more often.
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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Chisamba » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:47 pm

Tsavo, DJR has a lot of draft and draft crosses and does not seem to have soundness or unsoundess issues with them. So i am a very small microcosm of experience different from hers. That experience has been that the draft cross sport horses seem to have a propensity toward soft tissue injury.

I think quarter horses have a known propensity to Navicular syndrome, but not all lines. The statistic is that nine out of ten thoroughbreds retire from the track lame, but you can still find a servicably sound ottb in their twenties. When looking for horses, watching out for the pitfalls is useful and so generalities can help. However they are prone to being proven wrong by exceptions.

I do not know the lines well enough to be able to look at a pedigree and predict soundness but some people do,

wrt warmbloods, sometimes I think they are simply too talented for their own legs. at times you see photos of a warmblood at testing hugely overjumping a jump. or trotting dramatically. to me, there is already twice as much concussion on that poor horses feet from the day its born. i am generalizing dramatically, so of course there are exceptions.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Dresseur » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:08 pm

I was one of those 12 views, no posts, but was at a 4th of July party and was unable to get to a response at that time.

Many people have mentioned farriers - I think that excellent farriery is one of the key single most important things that you can do to help maintain the long term soundness of a horse. In our area, it amazes me what kind of butchery goes on, and then how shocked people are when their horses turn up lame from improper shoeing, unbalanced trims, too short, wrong angles on and on. And, most people think that the really good farriers are super expensive, but that's not always the case.

In terms of riding, a big thing for me is making sure that the horses are carefully conditioned and that rides and time off are planned. Horses are athletes. A human athlete would never take time off and then go hard the first work out back. A human athlete would never be hap-hazard in their workouts - there is a plan, and a schedule when you are an athlete. I find that many riders don't have a plan, much less a thought to giving a horse 3 days off and then going hard or doing exercises so randomly that the horse is not prepared mentally or physically. Getting out if space is available is important to me to just walk out on varied surfaces. I personally would not do lateral work, or highly collected work on uneven surfaces - so I save that for the ring. I also am careful to layer exercises and make sure that the horse can do the pre-requisite exercises first. That being said, I don't wait until things are perfect before moving on - I'd never get anywhere if I waited for utmost perfection. I just keep up consistent, regular schedules without too much time off.

I do PPE's on any horse I buy, and make informed decisions based on what the rads tell me, and as I said before, work is managed from an athlete's perspective. Maybe because I was an athlete I put more stock in that than others who may not have competed at a high level. I don't inject unless something is going on - the risk of invading joint spaces is something I don't want to bring on, unless something is already clinically going on. And then of course, weight management is big for me. The trend to higher body condition scores in hunters and dressage horses is detrimental IMO.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby DJR » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:20 pm

Dresseur wrote:I do PPE's on any horse I buy, and make informed decisions based on what the rads tell me, and as I said before, work is managed from an athlete's perspective. M


I did a PPE on Jet, my Friesian/Perch. The first vet who saw him felt that his stifles were a weakness and a major concern. I had a 2nd vet look at him who felt it was a factor of age & breeding. Now, 10 yrs later, his stifles have (*knock on wood*) never been an issue.

I have not done a PPE on *any* other horses I've purchased since then. Well, aside from what I put them through when I see them, but I don't even always flex them, and haven't done radiographs on any. Two were purchased as yearlings, two were purchased as mature ponies (for my daughter). My Percheron and Shire were not PPE'd at all.

I did purchase a yearling from afar and had the seller sign a contract that vouched for the filly's soundness, warranting her as sound & blemish-free. When I went to pick her up, she had bilat swollen hocks (she was a dark colour so it didn't show up on the photos I'd seen). I refused the sale and wanted my deposit back as per our agreement. The seller was angry so I agreed on the spur of the moment to have her vet out to radiograph the hocks, which showed bilat OCD lesions. The seller remained angry but gave me my money back. That wasn't a PPE, though, it was more "proof of problem".

I'm definitely not against PPE's, they have their place. But in terms of long-term soundness, apart from glaringly bad PPE issues, a good PPE does not guarantee long-term soundness. And, conversely, a not-so-good PPE does not mean the horse won't remain sound for its lifetime.
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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Dresseur » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:26 pm

DJR, I agree with you. I should have qualified that to say that since I tend to purchase for resale, I do a full PPE. But, a good PPE is no guarantee for future unsoundness, I just feel as though it minimizes my risk.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby piedmontfields » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:52 pm

Dresseur, based on your observations in training barns with a fair number of Andalusians + Lusitanos, may I ask if you have any opinion on their general soundness or areas of concern in these breeds/types? (or other posters with insights?)

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Dresseur » Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:03 pm

Piedmont, from all the ones that I've been exposed to that have been brought in, many have long careers. I find that overall, they seem to be sound and don't need a ton of maintenance. They do seem to be pre-disposed to cushings and I've seen a few founder if they were mismanaged. The crosses seem to have more instances of things like side bone, particularly the hanoverian crosses. Now, that's a gross generalization, but something that I've observed.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Ponichiwa » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:41 pm

Sidebar to the Andalusians/Lusitanos-- I've met and/or know of several with neck issues. Not sure if it's breed or just that one line-- all 3 were related. Additionally the barns that have trouble with WB soft tissue injuries appear to have the same trouble keeping the Iberian horses sound as well.

On the PPE front-- I tend to think they're more useful for screening out younger or unridden prospects and less useful for horses that are already doing the job you want them to do. I still would do xrays for an older horse even if it did nothing more than serve as a baseline for future xrays.

On the long-term-soundness front, I agree with a significant portion of the above. The best you can do is keep them healthy and active and hope that luck is on your side and not on the side of freak accidents. Consistent work helps (with also consistent rest periods). Consistent turnout on trustworthy footing with familiar pals helps. Consistent preventative vet/farrier work required. I've not been a big believer in bodywork/chiropractor/acupuncture, but do believe that appropriate mounted or unmounted warmup and cooldown periods are beneficial for soundness (and early detection of issues).

I've had to work around my own work schedule, which meant periods of intermittent work. That meant shelving the high-level work until I'd rebuilt stamina and suppleness after time off-- I honestly have no idea how the high level eventers of old managed bringing their upper level horses back from entire winters off of work.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Thu Jul 05, 2018 8:38 pm

On the issue of work after long layoff, I have been shocked at how much my horse stiffened up like a statue from being rested for several months. It may be because he is 21 and while I expected weakness and lack of aerobic capacity, I did not expect all his joints to lock up like that. It must be that he has arthritis in most joints and not just the pastern.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Moutaineer » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:08 am

I suspect it's extremely unlike that unless as a result of injury, arthritis would only appear in one joint, so you are probably right, Tsavo.

Quality farriery is probably the single most important thing we can offer a horse over it's lifetime to protect it's longterm soundness, and I am also shocked by some of the lousy trimming and shoeing jobs I see. I come from a country where a proper apprenticeship and licensing is required before you can legally touch a horse's feet. It was a revelation to me how different it was when I moved here.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby kande50 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:58 am

DJR wrote:
I'm definitely not against PPE's, they have their place. But in terms of long-term soundness, apart from glaringly bad PPE issues, a good PPE does not guarantee long-term soundness. And, conversely, a not-so-good PPE does not mean the horse won't remain sound for its lifetime.


The goal of a PPE isn't to guarantee long-term soundness (although it would be wonderful if they could do that), but to up the buyer's chances of finding any problems before buying.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby piedmontfields » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:28 pm

Thanks for the comments on Andalusians/Lusitanos. Many have that "interesting" SI conformation, too, but I'm not sure how problematic it is for soundness vs. overall movement.

On a semi-related note:

I have witnessed clinics a number of times where horses are ridden and the clinician notes that the horse has some physical challenge(s). Not necessarily "unsound" but not right or limited due to a physical concern. Often the clinician shares ideas for the rider to explore with vet professionals. I think some of this is the standard of performance/eye of the clinician that catches these things (often but not always unknown to the less experienced rider). It does make me wonder if a highly skilled eye would see problems in most horses. That said, I've been lucky not to have my mare diagnosed :lol: (we have enough challenges, thank you).

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:56 pm

Looks can be deceiving to people but the Lameness Locator can't be fooled.

Moreso than observing, I think elite riders can diagnose things from the saddle that elude vets from the ground.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby HafDressage » Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:42 am

musical comedy wrote:
Clearly there's some luck involved in keeping a horse sound. There's also good management practices.

I wouldn't dream of giving my horses more than a couple days in a row off unless they are sick or something. I'd pay someone to ride or lunge them or put them with a trainer. That said, this has never happened. Again, knock wood, I've never been sick or laid up for extended time and I don't go on vacations ever (never did).

I'm careful about over schooling difficult movements and try to vary the work I do each ride.


AMEN to these two things. I believe first and foremost in regular work. Much like our own bodies, we do best in regular fitness routines where we have variety and don't overdo any one thing, but regularly do core training exercises and sprinkle in some of the more challenging stuff. The barns where I've been where the horses were worked irregularly are the barns where I saw the most injuries - both working and pasture injuries. I think horses in regular work are also less likely to go outside and run around like lunatics, so that also helps prevent those injuries. Beyond the physical benefits, horses in regular work tend to have a more consistent routine, which nearly everyone would agree is best for horses.

So, clearly I think the key to long-term soundness is regular work. :)

**edited to add that I also totally agree about the quality farrier work others have commented on too. Massively important too.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Chisamba » Sat Jul 07, 2018 12:40 pm

I have a wierd question that relates to this. Does anyone have an opinion on depth of bedding in stalls and soundness?

When I took over the barn I started with deep bedding for the stall horses but standing in it cleaning made me revise my opinion to moderate bedding.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Sat Jul 07, 2018 1:02 pm

Moutaineer wrote:I suspect it's extremely unlike that unless as a result of injury, arthritis would only appear in one joint, so you are probably right, Tsavo.


Yes but it is shocking how much arthritis my horse apparently has throughout his body. Last August before the limp presented, there was no sign of it. Since he had it at that time, this is proof positive that enough work keeps arthritic horses moving normally.

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Re: Working for Long-term Soundness

Postby Tsavo » Sat Jul 07, 2018 1:03 pm

Chisamba wrote:I have a wierd question that relates to this. Does anyone have an opinion on depth of bedding in stalls and soundness?

When I took over the barn I started with deep bedding for the stall horses but standing in it cleaning made me revise my opinion to moderate bedding.


I don't know but why chance it? With rubber mats, you just needs a little bit where they pee.


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