Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Good Old Days

I realize I have a very jaded view on the topic of lameness in horses since I own a retirement farm, but sometimes I really start wondering about "the good old days."  Although horses have always been fragile creatures it seems like they are more fragile than ever.  My pony was sound as a dollar until the day she passed.  My junior hunter never took a lame step, neither did my jumper.  All of these horses worked for a living as well.  They went to a lot of horse shows, logged many miles on horse trailers, spent their share of nights in tent stabling at horses shows, plus they had to put up with me puttering around on them bareback all the time, and that was on on top of our regular training rides and lessons.  They ate sweet feed (horrors!), they didn't get joint supplements or any other supplement, I think my jumper had his hocks injected once.  There was nothing special about their shoes.  They were turned out all day or all night depending on the time of year, and almost always went out with other horses.  I didn't spend any time wondering if my horses were going to be lame or not when I went to ride.  Why would I?  They were never lame. Or maybe we were all riding and showing lame horses and didn't even realize it.

I have to say in the years since then I feel like both myself and my friends have spent a lot of time and money worrying over lame horses.  We try to do everything right.  We buy expensive, well balanced, low NSC feed and we scoff at people who would be uneducated enough to feed sweet feed (the horrors!!) to their horse.  We test our hay.  We balance the diet and make sure our horses are not lacking for any vitamins, minerals, fat or protein.  Most people opt for solo turnout for their show horses to try and prevent injuries. Our horses are meticulously maintained with well thought out de-worming programs, fed any necessary supplements, we work with top notch farriers, our vets have the latest technologies available to them, yet we all seem to spend a lot of time rehabbing lame horses.  I'm not saying my horses or my friends horses are all lame all the time but by gosh to listen to us talk there are always several horses on the rehab list. 

A lot of people make the argument that it is because our horses are shown year round now.  However the winter circuits were thriving in my junior years just as they are today and some years my horses showed year round.  Supposedly our horses are better fed these days.  We all get custom fitted saddles.  We spend a fortune on feed and supplements.  Maybe we don't ride as well as we used too.  Maybe the scientifically engineered footing in our manicured arenas is weakening the legs instead of strengthening them. I have no idea.  Or maybe my world view on the soundness of horses is simply skewed because of what I do for a living and I had unbelievable luck with my horses as a junior.

Is it just me, or are there a lot more soundness issues these days?  



Largo, Toledo and Rocky


Baby, Hemi, Trigger and Levendi

Apollo and Thomas

Calimba, MyLight and Maisie

Johnny and Lighty in the woods



Winston, Romeo, Faune, Lotus and Zeus

Clayton, Kennedy and Bergie


CG said...

Hmmm, I grew up riding a bunch of ex-racehorses so had a fair amount of lameness worries all along. The good side of that is that I was a leg wrapping expert by the age of 13, LOL!

I don't know if it's the horses, or us though. I'm constantly evaluating my young guys gaits trying to determine if he needs a chiropractic appt.

Whereas my junior horses probably never had any such thing and competed into their 20's!

ABScharstein said...

I've noticed more soundness issues..but I think that has to do with genetics and treating the horses like hothouse plants. Solo turnout can be more harmful [horse sees other horses, horse gets agitated, lonely, etc]

Vivian, Apollo's Mom said...

I think definitely horses are more fragile these days and more spooky. We used to ride in front of all kinds of things and go everywhere and nothing ever happened. I agree with you and I don't understand it. Peter says it's because there are so many fewer places to ride now-a-days and people pamper and baby their horses too much. So many people never ride outside of an arena.

Bif said...

Well, if you or your friends ride dressage now, you may pick up on subtle lameness much earlier than a hunter.

I think a lot has to do with the available nutrients in forage and grain, raised on overly (chemical) fertilized land that made bigger yield but not better nutrition, blah blah blah.

People want bigger horses, bigger horses are more prone to lameness, in general.

Current level of "eye" and education.

I think it is much harder to find a good farrier in many areas.

I think many people now are more willing to start working an unfit horse harder than it is ready for, not realizing what condition the horses is or isn't in.

I think one is more likely to find a made horse that was over worked/over trained as a youngster. Or they are riding their homebred. Back in the day, a LOT of young horses broke at an early age that didn't hold up were sold (and Alpo'd); people saw horses as a business. "Weeding out" of those predisposed to unsoundness.


SmartAlex said...

Growing up, my horses lived in the cow pasture (barbed wire), wore nylon halters (triple stiched), and we fed them sweet feed, on the ground, along the edge of said barbed wire fence.

However, after that first batch, we had a couple of trickier horses. Pretty sure everyone would have been happier and healthier if I had ever heard of Insuline Resistance and/or joint supplements. I think it would have saved quite a few "off" days.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great photo of Tiny! At one point i was convinced he was faking his lameness because he preferred the rehab lifestyle.....we may never know the truth about this guy as he is REALLY loving his life now and may keep me fooled for the rest of his days!