New research from the University of Surrey and the University of Nottingham suggests there is reason to believe that dressage and eventing horses may benefit from a daily dosage of nutritional supplements to prevent and treat a variety of ailments. Joint and mobility health are among the top concerns for nutrients, but overall stamina and fitness can also be aided through the use of antioxidants and vitamins.
Joint and Mobility Health
Many horse owners are beginning to test different supplemental doses to help prevent and treat the inevitable muscle and joint damage that comes with eventing and dressage. One of the most important physical features of a horse is it’s legs, and preserving those features can prove worthwhile in giving the horse the best life possible. Some common supplements include:
Glucosamine – A dose of glucosamine provides the natural building blocks for tissue, to assure the cartilage surrounding joints is healthy and mobile. It acts as a strong foundation for repair and growth of joints.
Chondroitin – This supplement preserves cartilage as long as possible by helping slow the enzymes that reduce the elasticity of joint cartilage in horses. This is more common for race horses, but eventing and dressage horses can also reap the benefits of using chondroitin.
MSM – This organic state of sulphur helps combat irritation consistent in an aging horse. MSM also possesses benefits that aid the mobility system as a whole and not just one specific joint.
Stamina and Fitness
A horse’s stamina is based heavily on diet, and there is actually little research showing that stamina and energy may be affected positively from supplement use. Many owners attribute a horse’s stamina and energy levels to different training programs and the overall age of the horse. Although there isn’t an individual supplement that will affect stamina and fitness, horses may benefit from natural antioxidants to increase muscle repair and strengthen the horse’s immune system.
It is important to note that the supplemental doses supplied to horses are always at the discretion of the trainer and owner. Nutritional use in horses in fairly new, and this research is considered to be in the early stages of formulation. The results of further research will not only help horse owners understand the different ailments that horse’s experience, but also how to prevent and treat them.
As a responsible horse owner, it’s important to understand the effects different climates can have on a horse. As we enter summer, our horses become vulnerable to the most common ailment these animals experience: heat exhaustion. It is crucial that riders, keepers, and trainers all know the warning signs of heat exhaustion as well as how to effectively prevent it.
When traveling with horses, it is important to know that horses simply cannot be stuck in traffic. Traffic jams can be times of intense stress for the horse and also can be a time of high heat in the summer. Leaving in the early and late hours of the day can be a great way to travel in normal temperatures and also avoid traffic. Some more advanced horse trailers may have air conditioning installed, but it is still smart to avoid traffic jams at all costs.
The next thing that can be done to assure your horses health involves acclimating the horse to temperature changes over time. Gradually exposing the horse to exercise in warmer temperatures over a two week period is the most safe and effective way to acclimatize them. Focus on the cooler parts of the day to begin, this is usually the morning and night. Then gradually work into the regular hours of each day where the temperature is most extreme. The horse will be able to adapt to the temperatures this way and will also feel less stressed.
In times of high heat, allow the horse to always have access to clean water. This will allow the horse to stay hydrated and also aid in the regulation of the horse’s body temperature. Be sure to have extra buckets of clean water on standby because it is very common for horses to drink excessive amounts of water in times of high heat. The common myth is that cold water can harm horses, but this is completely false; it just may be harder to drink at a fast rate.
If a horse is getting overheated it is actually fairly easy to cool them down and regulate their body temperature. Simply dump cold water all over the horse’s body. Focus on getting the water spread all over the body, especially under the saddle.
Warning Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Horses
Always be able to identify the warning signs of heat exhaustion, so in the event that it does happen, appropriate measures can be taken.
You should keep an eye out for:
- Fast Shallow Breathing
- Flaring of the Nostrils
- Dark and Reduced Urine
- Muscle Spasms
- Irregular Heart Rhythm
- Long Recovery Times after Workouts
- Lethargic Demeanor
- Raised Rectal Temperature
- Rapid Pulse
- Excessive sweating and salivation
Avoiding heat exhaustion should always be of utmost importance. In the event that a horse does start to experience heat exhaustion, aggressively cool down the horse and call a nearby vet immediately.