It is critical that you look at your horse in a focused way every day. An overall look and a detailed examination can all become part of your daily routine. This will help you get to know him better, and enable you to spot the early warning signs when there are problems.
Here’s how to check him out in more detail…
Evaluate him physically in the morning when you take his rugs off to ride him
Step back and take a look at his overall physique. Has he run up light, or has he put on weight? What does his coat look like?
Evaluate him mentally by the way he greets you in the morning
When you know him well, you know instantly when something is a bit ‘off’. Perhaps he does not whinny for his feed, or is standing at the back of his box with his head down.
If you feel a little twinge (I usually feel it in my stomach), take a moment to investigate.
If you are properly concerned, take his temperature and check he finishes his feed
Some horses are fussy eaters and make a habit of not finishing up, especially on the morning of a competition, but if your horse usually cleans his manger, and then one day does not, take note.
Check his legs
First thing in the morning is also an excellent time to do this. Starting just behind the back of the knee, run your thumb and fingers down either side of the tendon.
- You are looking for unusual puffiness or heat. Again, once you get to know your horse, you will have a much better idea of what is normal for him and what is not.Some horses’ legs are a bit soft and puffy in the mornings, some are cold as ice. What you are looking for are changes from the norm.
Check his back legs as well, starting just behind the hock. I also like to check horses’ legs when they are groomed after work, or just before final feed time, to catch anything that might have come up during the day.
About Tina Sederholm
Tina Sederholm is a top riding trainer and author, who has evented to international level.