Hi, I'm Shiwon from 4CYTE UK, talking to you today about keeping a dressage horse fit and sound, in particular with reference to his joints.
The thing with joints is that you cannot just look at the joint in isolation. You've got to be looking at the health of the whole horse. And likewise you shouldn't just be responding to a problem when it occurs. You need to be thinking in advance about the things that are going to keep your horse fit and sound for the long-term.
One of the things that I am really passionate about is having a horse that's appropriately fit for his work. That means lots of cross-training. It means putting them in different environments and allowing them to move on different surfaces. If possible turnout is great, where the horses are constantly standing on different surfaces and their joints are moving & articulating so that they develop that flexibility in the joint. The problem is if we keep them on a perfect surface all day, and all they do is go from the box to the arena to the walker and back to the box again, those joints never learn to articulate. Those tendon and ligaments tighten up and lose flexibility, so when the horse takes a bad step, when he trips or when something goes wrong with the footing in your arena, that's when they're going to injure themselves.
The fitness of a horse related to the work is about building up that work and intensity gradually. It's about asking questions slowly. It's about developing this strength in all the soft tissues and all the connective tissues. When you're asking for more collection, when you're asking for more jump, when you're asking for just more energy, you need to be thinking about whether your horse is actually physically capable of doing that job.
It's a multi-disciplinary task as well. It's something that you need to be talking very closely with your farrier and with your vet about. A good farrier here is of the utmost importance. You need to have someone that understands the hoof, that understands hoof balance and also understands the specifics of your discipline. It's quite a different action from a horse that needs to gallop and to go long, to a horse that needs to actually really articulate and be moving in a more upright fashion, using that power to show cadence and expression in a controlled manner. The farrier needs to be thinking about that as they're actually providing the hoof care.
You also need to consider the overall general health. Thinking about your vaccinations and routine health checks; that they're all up-to-date preventing and pre-empting any problems. Laminitis is a big one that can affect joints and there are a few other metabolic diseases that can be a problem. Think about having your horse in good weight, and feed it appropriately. Don't let it get too fat. Increase the workload or think about whether it actually needs that extra feed. Think about feeding for the energy that you need to do the job. Personally, my Grand Prix horse gets fed on a high-octane jump mix. I used to have him on a racing mix until I found a really good feed that is a jump mix specifically developed for that explosive power. That's what I want my Grand Prix horse to have. Whereas my younger horse, he needs more slow release power; something that's going to keep him calm and steady and to keep the power and the endurance through the day so I've got him on a more balanced diet, a little bit more low energy but more sustained energy.
And then liaise with your vet. Have your vet assess your horse at periodic intervals throughout their career, even if you don't have a specific problem. If your vet knows how your horse is, how your horse moves, what they're like normally, that means that when you do have a problem, they can be that much quicker to identify what the issue is and to advise you appropriately.
I'm very fortunate working for 4CYTE, we have a great new active ingredient in joint health called Epiitalis. Epiitalis is a revolution in joint care and customer feedback shows that it is fantastic not just for a horse with known problems but also in supporting the performance horse throughout its career. Every day there's wear and tear over that cartilage surface and if you can be supporting that on a day-to-day basis, then you're going to prevent problems in the long run. Most riders and trainers say that they can see or feel a difference within a week of beginning Epiitalis Forte gel. If you are out there on the harder ground, or you do a more intense workout, you can increase the dose to assist the horse when there is additional strain on the joints. You have the peace of mine that Epiitalis is backed by years of research, it veterinary and vet surgeon endorsed and is safe to use in all levels of competition, including FEI.
And lastly, there are really valid medical interventions that the vets will recommend. Joint injections are common and I know that I've used these in my horses. I have found that since being on the Epiitalis Forte gel we've been able to space those joint injections out. We've gone from every three or four months to once a year, which means less invasive treatment for your horse and its easier on the wallet, too.
The key to joint health, to long-term sustainability and to a long career keeping your horse sound, is the prevention. Looking after their fitness, looking after their feed, looking after their feet and it's feeding their joints.