Keeping your Horse Sound this Show Season


The excitement of spring and show season is something most equestrians look forward to all winter. With all the variables that come into play while preparing for the season, the one most horse owners and riders focus on is keeping their equines sound.

Dr. Mark Akin, DVM, advises equestrians to exercise this basic rule of thumb when it comes to soundness this show season: “Know what is normal for your horse.” He states all horses cannot be expected to have the same anatomy. Certain bumps, lumps, and swellings can be normal for some horses- perhaps indications of a previous injury. However, being able to convey your horse’s “normal” to your veterinarian, farrier, or trainer is of utmost importance, according to Dr. Akin. 

Being proactive in your horse’s care is another way to hopefully keep your horse sound throughout the show season. One way to do this, as Dr. Akin suggests, is schedule a performance exam with your veterinarian every four to six months. This allows the owner and, if possible, the trainer to discuss any specific issues or concerns with the vet. Past exam findings can be compared with the current, and all the “check engine lights,” as Dr. Akin calls them, can be proactively examined. These include “abnormalities in flexions, palpations, or locomotion,” Dr. Akin states. 

What warrants a call to the veterinarian this show season? Lameness that does not go away with rest after two to three days, according to Dr. Akin, while “non-weight bearing lameness is an emergency.” If an issue arises at a show, Dr. Akin advises you to speak with the show vet if needed, however, keep in mind “a thorough performance exam is best done at home, not the show.” 

As far as supplements for soundness through show season goes, Dr. Akin typically does not recommend a lot; however, if an equine athlete has a specific issue there may be supplements to help. For equines who need a joint supplement, for example, his favorite is Adequan- a seven-dose series every six months. 

Soundness and hoof health often go hand-in-hand. Keeping your horse out of wet and muddy conditions and keeping it trimmed and/or shod at regular intervals is a great way to prevent abscesses according to Dr. Akin.  

Greg Speltz, a Memphis area farrier with thirty-seven years of experience, states the best way to be proactive against lameness is to “maintain your horse’s feet all year round.” He recommends a five-week schedule for shod horses, with barefoot horses being able to go a little longer in between trims, as their feet wear down naturally without shoes. 

As your training ramps up for spring competitions and shows, your farrier can provide shoeing suitable to your horse’s specific needs. According to Greg, the fit and expansion of the shoe can be modified to provide the support needed to accommodate the cadence your horse requires in your specific discipline. As far as supplements for hoof health goes, Greg recommends the original Farrier’s Formula from Life Data Labs, Inc. to maintain healthy hoof structure. 

When it comes to keeping your horse sound this show season, Dr. Akin urges you to contact your veterinarian “if something just doesn’t feel right.” He suggests videoing the concern if possible and sending it to the vet- he or she “will appreciate being able to see exactly what you are seeing pre-visit,” he states. A watchful eye on your part combined with proactive care from both the veterinarian and farrier can help keep your horse sound throughout show season. 

Alicia Johnson

Alicia is a Writer and Editorial Coordinator for the Horse Review. She has two wonderful children, Mason and Madison. Her and her family live an active lifestyle and love being outdoors. Alicia has been a horse lover for as long as she can remember, she didn't become a horse owner until she was an adult. Now, her daughter, Madison, has grown to love horses and it is a passion they share together.

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