No matter the discipline, English or Western, horses perform a variety of jobs that all put stress on their joints, their backs, and the soft tissues in their legs. Even the seemingly low impact trail horse or western pleasure horse needs supportive and therapeutic care during their athletic years. It’s not just the spinning reining horses and the lightening quick barrel horses that should be getting all of the attention! You have many options for supporting your western horse’s body and legs, including poultice, ice therapies, massages, liniments, and heat packs, to name a few. These therapies work to decrease inflammation in tendons, ligaments and joints, reduce pain, promote circulation, and generally just feel good.
Trail horses that explore the great wide open are ridden on uneven, and often unforgiving, footing. Stone bruises, tweaked tendons and ligaments from holes, rocks, or slipping, and even arthritis in supporting joints like the hocks are all possible for the casual trail horse. Western pleasure horses are trained to perform slow movements, often resulting in back pain as well as joint conditions in the legs.
When it comes to the speedier types of Western disciplines, the hind end bears the brunt of long term wear. The barrel horse must bolt across the arena, and then rebalance on the hind end to make the turns. The cutting horse lowers his body by bending his leg joints to be able to work the cow. The reining horse comes to a sliding stop in a sitting position. These athletic horses often have hock problems, as well as tendon and ligament injuries in the front legs from the turning and stopping.
It is always advisable to work closely with you Veterinarian to develop a plan to support your Western horse. Easy to do therapies include poultice, ice therapies, massages, liniments, and heat packs, to name a few. These therapies work to decrease inflammation in tendons, ligaments and joints, reduce pain, promote circulation, and generally just feel good for your horse.
Cooling therapies, like ice and poultice, remove inflammation and promote healing of old and new injuries and are especially good for legs and joints. Cold therapy is also a great way to reduce any discomfort your horse may be feeling, as well as working to help prevent further injuries over time. Warming therapies, such as some liniments and hot packs, often sooth sore muscles and may help your horse loosen up to prepare for exercise. Many horses benefit from a heating and cooling plan.
The easiest way to incorporate these therapies is do overlap them at the same time as your regular barn and grooming chores. As you are grooming you horse, he could be wearing a back blanket fitted with heating packs. After your ride, it’s simple to use ice boots on your horse’s hooves and legs as you brush away the saddle marks and clean your tack. Time well spent!