This weekend I learned why I am best suited to my supervisory role here at the clinic. I monitored while Dr. Lacher worked closely with a farrier to determine the best treatment for a horse with a bunch of issues in her feet. I marveled at the way in which they worked as a team, batted around each other’s ideas, and came up with solutions that addressed all the issues. It was like watching TV in a foreign language. As a cat, I am not a team player. Heck, Teannie and I can barely get along. Turns out you need a team to manage your horse. High performance, senior, or just for fun. All horses seem to require a team. Not cats. We only require staff that will jump at our every request. I feel I have trained my minions well.
Anyway, Teamwork. Turns out teamwork is very important for performance horses. There is often a trainer, owner, veterinarian, and farrier at the very least. Trainers and owners need to feel comfortable talking to their veterinarian and farrier about how the horse is performing. It may be something as minor as a lift of the head in a transition one way, but not the other. Based on a trainer’s description of the problem, our Dr. Lacher will put her detective hat on and start investigating. Dr. Lacher uses her 30+ years of horse experience alongside her veterinary knowledge to help track down the source of pain. (We won’t tell her I talked about her 30+ years)
Treatment and rehab come next on the list. Again, teamwork is critical. I really don’t understand why there has to be all this teamwork. I would just impose my will; no questions allowed. Veterinarians today have a wide variety of therapies available. Joint injections with steroids are the most common treatment used. Problem is, those steroids come with some side effects. Hocks handle those side effects well, and can be repeatedly injected. However, every other joint doesn’t. Every steroid injection takes a little tiny bit off the end of a horse’s career. This means careful discussion with everyone involved to determine if injections will help the horse get better faster and cause less damage than the injury they have. Maybe some of the new, crazy advanced therapies like stem cells and platelet rich plasma should be used instead. Maybe rest and targeted exercises should be used. All of that has to be talked about and factored in. With all this talking, I’m going to need more nap time. And more food.
One of the biggest collaborations happens between our Docs and farriers. With the utterly ridiculous design horses have for feet, they need constant attention. Lots of horses need special shoeing to keep those feet comfortable or to help them heal from an injury. Our Docs use radiographs (x-rays) to help farriers line up their shoes perfectly. There is also a whole lot of discussion that goes on about what the Docs have found out from their exam and what the farriers think. There’s always tons of communication going on. I try to make sure I am nearby to assist with this process.
It can be a challenge to determine the best, right thing for these crazy horses sometimes. Making sure you have a winning team sure makes it easier. Until next week.
Managing your horse for a long athletic career I listened intently Tuesday evening to Dr. Lacher and Dr. Bourke discussing athletic horses and their needs. I like to think of myself as an athlete and I want to be around a long time so here are notes from the cat.
A long career starts at the beginning. A solid education as a youngster gives our horses the right skills to fall back on in a pinch. By spending time putting good footwork and consistent response we set our horses up to succeed later in life. Footwork allows a horse to properly use each of its four legs to balance when we ask them to suddenly change direction to cut a cow, or spin, or jump, or pirouette. Just like football players have to practice footwork so its second nature during a crucial play, our horses have to be very good at the basics. Ask any high level rider what they practice most of the time and the answer will be the basics. Ask any high level rider what they don’t practice and it will be the big tricks whether that be spins and slides, big jumps, extreme collection or extension.
Apparently not only should our horses be educated but the riders should be too. You humans can really affect what happens with your horse. Getting the best quality lessons, using all that technology has to offer, and always learning help you influence your horse in a positive way.
Fitness is not a subject I’m particularly fond of. I like to hold down the counter at the office and be sure everyone in the office offers me a bit of their lunch. But I digress. Different types of horses require different levels of fitness. A rail horse, for example, will need stamina to keep consistent gaits both directions of the rings and potentially come back for a final but is unlikely to need extreme cardiovascular fitness. An event horse or a reiner, on the other hand, will need to be cardiovascularly fit to perform at even modest levels. Designing an appropriate fitness program for your horse’s career will keep tendons, ligaments, muscles, and lungs ready to handle anything we throw at them. Spoiler alert: there will be a bit about injury later on. Mental fitness should also be taken in to account. Horses, just like people, like to cross train. Oh and they like a vacation every now and then too. Personally, I like summer to vacation. As a black cat summer gets a bit hot so I stay inside, listen to the latest tunes, and catch up on Facebook.
Fitness is again important for the humans. You are more likely to make all the right moves if you aren’t too tired to make the right decision at the right moment. Assess your own strengths and weaknesses. Most of us favor one side or the other. Do you find all the horses you have ever ridden on a consistent basis are similarly one sided? Do you have a go to move when you get in trouble? A few sessions with a personal trainer every now will help you manage those weaknesses. Oh and don’t forget mental fitness for humans. Ten Minute Toughness by Jason Selk and other similar books are great introductions to sports psychology.
Well that’s a wrap for this blog since I need to go supervise the office. Stay tuned for my next installment about the equine athlete. Until then may your litter box be clean and your food bowl full.