How to Keep Your Barrel Horse Healthy
You put countless rides and hours into training and preparing your barrel horse for upcoming barrel races, but a single injury can sideline your horse for a season, or even end his career. Your equine athlete can’t perform at his best unless he feels great, too, so keeping your barrel horse healthy needs to be a top priority. The tips below can help you to prevent and address some of the most common barrel horse injuries and health issues that you may encounter.
Establish a Team of Professionals
To keep your barrel horse feeling and performing at his best, you’ll need a team of professionals to help, including a vet, farrier, chiropractor and even an equine massage therapist who will all work together to maximize your horse’s health. If possible, find professionals who are experienced in working on barrel horses, since they will be familiar with the physical demands of the sport.
Don’t underestimate the value of stretching your horse before and after a workout or run. Have your vet or equine massage therapist show you some appropriate stretches for your horse and incorporate them into your daily routine. Since stretching helps to loosen tight muscles, it could mean the difference between your horse recovering quickly from a misstep and straining a muscle.
Evaluate Footing Before a Run
When you’re competing, you never have control over the footing – but you can evaluate it and make the call not to run if it’s a health hazard for your horse. Before your season starts, think about what conditions you absolutely won’t run your horse in, and decide where you’ll draw the line. Having this decision already made before you arrive at a competition can make it easier to decide when and when not to run.
Check Your Tack
Saddle fit issues can cause long-term discomfort for your horse, and just because a saddle fits initially doesn’t mean that it will always be the right fit. Work with a trusted saddle fitter to find a saddle that fits your horse well, and ask for some tips on how you can continue to check on the saddle’s fit on your own.
Make a point of checking the saddle’s fit each month at a minimum, especially after your horse has been out of work or if his fitness dramatically improves. If you can stay ahead of a saddle-fit issue, you can prevent soreness, pain and other problems.
Support Your Horse’s Athletic Performance
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Getting your horse fit doesn’t have to involve riding. These tips can help you condition your horse without getting into the saddle.