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