Tag Archives: footing

What is the Secret to Horse Show Success?

The number one cause of injury is overuse: working too much, too fast, too soon, or too often. As riders, it is a huge responsibility to protect your horse from these training errors.  It is tempting to overdo it when there are shows you want to go to, or if you have a young and talented horse. There is a limit to how much training the body can absorb. Rest and recovery are as important as hard work.  Realigning the body with massage therapy is another key to preventing injuries.  Flexibility is an important indicator in the prevention of injuries. The horses I know that avoid injuries and are at the top of the leader board  are the ones who are on a carefully planned fitness program, have superior nutrition, regular body work, are ridden on good footing, and have knowledgeable farriers.

Pain is a warning signal that needs to be listened to. Pain is an important signal that something is about to go very wrong. If you saddle up your horse and he has a strong reaction, pay attention to that. If your horse starts refusing jumps, listen to him. If your horse comes out of the stall very stiff, or is taking longer to warm up, there is discomfort present. If dealt with early, many sources of pain can be alleviated through deep massage. If pain signals are ignored, they will inevitably get worse. Something minor can lead to something very serious, or permanent,  in a muscle, tendon, ligament, or joint. When in doubt, use the cold laser, or have body work done. Needless suffering can very often be avoided.

Once an injury occurs, scar tissue forms as it heals. This tissue is not as elastic as the original and thus is more prone to re-injury. As I keep saying, prevention is the key to a long and successful athletic career.



Bowed Tendons and Massage

Bowed tendons are most common in horses that work at speed. The inflammation and swelling is caused by rupture of tendon fibers. Aside from speed, other contributing factors are fatigue, poor conditioning, poor footing, poor shoeing, poor conformation…

Often with veterinary problems, there is too much to worry about (icing, medication, stall rest, etc.) to think about muscle spasms and compensations that may affect the outcome of the rehabilitation. The horse may recover, but never move as well as it did before the injury. This may be a sign that there are tight muscles and body work may be the answer.

When a horse is on stall rest and coming back to work, they are often given sedation and muscle relaxers so they don’t hurt themselves and others. Muscle relaxers and pain medication will relax all the muscles and mask problems, but as soon as they wear off, all the muscles will return to their state of tension.

Along with body work, cold laser therapy is wonderful for a bowed tendon, which by definition is inflammation (either acute or chronic) of the tendon fibers. Products such as Traumeel, DMSO, and Transfer Factor can also help greatly in the recovery process.



The Dangers of Soft Footing

My post of July 2 speaks of the hazards of too hard footing. On the flip side, in very soft footing the heels are prevented from performing their necessary braking action. This increases the risk of navicular bone fracture, and strains to ligaments, particularly the check ligament, deep flexor, and superficial tendon. A balanced and elastic body can withstand a lot, but it is best to avoid deep footing, especially at the faster gaits.

What is Ideal Footing to Ride On?


“What is the ideal surface on which to work a horse? It is, obviously, the surface he was on in the wild: plains country with a soil laced with grass roots holding moisture – in other words an elastic, somewhat spongy surface that yields to the hoof and springs back again. ”
James Rooney

Our horses were not designed  for work on hard surfaces. Man has changed the environment that horses work in, but the horse has not changed to fit the new conditions. Again, the closer to nature we can stay, the healthier everyone will be! Over time, concussion on hard surfaces will lead to breakdown.


Has Your Horse Been Turned Out in Slick Footing This Winter?


If your horse has been slipping and sliding in a wet pasture, he may have spasms in the pectoral muscles. Look for your horse standing with his front feet very close together, or even toed in. This can occur on one side; it will not necessarily happen in a symmetrical fashion. I know I am on the right track if the horse adjusts his stance to a wider one while I’m doing the massage.


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