Quite the contrary to the well-known adage “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”, when it comes to dealing with horses, what you don’t know CAN hurt you…and your horse! According to a study done in 2005 for the American Horse Council, over 4 million people are involved with horses in one form or another (i.e. work, pleasure, breeding, etc.)1. That’s a lot of interaction with a 1000+ pound animal that can break bones with a kick or flip of the head, deliberate or otherwise. And while the vast majority of people would never do anything deliberately to put their horse in harms way, it is done unwittingly every day through lack of understanding horse behavior or by not recognizing a potential physical problem developing.
If I had a nickle for every time I heard someone say, “I never even knew to look for that…” or “had I know about this _____ years ago…” I would be very wealthy right now! Self-education is one of the most powerful tools you have in your horse preventive care arsenal. There are so many things that horse caretakers need to learn about to keep their charges safe and in optimal health. It can be very overwhelming. Something as simple as the type of fencing you choose in your pasture can have great impact on your horse, leaving them open to serious, possibly life threatening, injuries.
Getting Answers – Opening A Dialog With Your Horse Care Team
Make it a point to engage your horse care team. Establish a relationship with your veterinarian, hoof care practitioner, equine bodyworker and dentist. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Believe me, they would much rather you ask the question and be given the opportunity to provide you with preventive care information than come in after the fact and deal with the big problem that develops later on. When discussing any concerns you have with your horse encourage an open dialog between your team. When your horse care professionals can work together synergistically the results are amazing,
Learn about what the standard recommendations are for your area with regard to diet, preventive maintenance care, and routine vaccinations, regardless of how you feel about the pros and cons of them. Know the risks and the benefits of whatever choice you make so that it’s an informed decision and not just “going with the flow”. That applies to your horse’s hoof care, dentistry, parasite control, diet…everything! Whether you agree or disagree with the information you get (and there will be lots of differing information), at least you can say you took all the information presented to you and made the best choice for your situation. Because in the end you are the final word when it comes to your horse’s care.
Grab a copy of my free report “3 Steps To Evaluating Your Horse For Potential Problems” if you haven’t already done so. In it are easy steps to evaluating your horse critically and strategies to help you deal with what you find. This is a great tool to use if you are thinking about buying a new horse. Have these things in mind when you set up your pre-purchase exam.
Horse Handling – Why did my horse do that?
Always put safety first! While riding accidents make up the vast majority of horse-related injuries, approximately 10% of injuries that result in a visit to the emergency do not occur in the while riding2. Understanding horse behavior, being able to read your horse’s body language, and using safe horse-handling practices are a must when you take on the role of caretaker to an animal that has the ability to put you in the hospital or worse. Can you identify when you are pushing your horse into their “red” zone? When a horse is pushed through their thresholds, explosive behavior can occur. Can you recognize the difference between dominant behavior and fearful behavior? They can look very similar. Sometimes accidents occur simply because we misread the signals that our horses are sending to us and someone gets hurt. The strategies that you would use for each situation are different. If you choose the wrong one you risk exacerbating the situation.
Opportunities For Learning About Horse Care
Take the opportunity to volunteer at local horse rescue facilities. This is where you can learn first-hand all the ins and outs of horse care and provide a much needed service to a horse in need at the same time. If you are thinking about adopting or purchasing your first horse, you will learn very quickly if it’s the right choice for you before you make that critical decision. Some adoption facilities even require potential adoptors to volunteer for a certain period of time to make sure they are a good fit and provide them with the horse care knowledge they will need once they get home.
Below is a list of natural horse care resources that you may find helpful in your horse journey. There are many more that I could list, but these are the ones that I have found the most helpful.
Diseases That Affect Horses, Ponies, Mules & Donkeys – PDF report about equine diseases and horse disease prevention.
www.parellinaturalhorsetraining.com – Pat and Linda Parelli on natural horse training, horse behavior, instructor and student courses.
www.naturalhorse.com – Quarter publication about all things natural in the horse world.
www.safergrass.org – Excellent resource on equine diet, laminitis and founder resources and information.
www.soulfulequine.com – Well rounded natural horse and hoof care information.
www.dinosbest.info – Providing equine bodywork clinics for the horse owner and continuing education for the equine bodywork professional.
www.advancedwholehorse.com – Information on natural balanced equine dentistry.
www.hoofrehab.com – Pete Ramey, natural hoof care professional.
The information in this article is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition, nor replace proper veterinary care. It is to be used for information purposes only. Always consult your veterinarian before starting your horse on any therapy.
- NCBI, Journal of Trauma, 2008 Aug;65(2):447-60, The demographics of equestrian-related injuries in the United States: injury patterns, orthopedic specific injuries, and avenues for injury prevention. – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18695484
- American Horse Council, National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry – https://www.horsecouncil.org/press-releases/special-bulletin-economic-impact-of-the-u-s-equine-industry/
Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools. She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses. She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the “whole horse”.
Are you ready to get better results with your horse? Put your equine health care team to work so you and your horse can be doing what you were meant to. Click here to get started!