Your performance horse is almost certainly your pride and joy. They might also be your meal ticket.

So it makes sense to do everything in your power to maximise their performance.

Making yourself aware of some fundamentals in terms of caring, training and preparing your horse can go a long way towards helping them achieve peak performance while remaining injury free.

Here are some ideals to think about from a vet’s perspective.

Baseline fitness levels

It’s impossible to gauge the development of your horse without some baseline metrics.

Every professional athlete will be assessed at the start of any training program to help monitor their progress.

Your horse should be no different.

Pay close attention to their gait pattern as well as their symmetry, strength and fitness levels before undertaking any period of solid training.

Few horses are perfectly symmetrical but it’s important to know how far they stray to identify any abnormal movements which may indicate some form of injury.

This will also be valuable information for your vet and other professionals examining or treating your horse, including physiotherapists.

A vet can perform a physical exam on your horse to help you record their baseline fitness levels.

This will also ensure your horse is in good condition to commence a training regime.

Training

Steady as she goes!

Remember to build your horse’s fitness up slowly but surely.

Don’t ask them to do too much too soon or you risk serious injury.

Work with a qualified trainer to ensure best practices are observed and you are following a specific training schedule to give your horse the best chance to achieve their performance goals without setbacks.

This includes adequate rest and recovery time between training runs and competitions.

You may also wish to take advantage of a number of technological aids.

There are phone apps, heart rate monitors and girth and bridle sensors which can all help you track your horse’s fitness.

Diet

Every horse has individual dietary and nutritional needs based upon their age, weight, breed and the type of performance they are engaging.

Tailoring your horse’s feed and supplements to their specific needs can be overwhelming but getting it right will make a huge difference to the outcome.

It’s not just important ‘what’ to feed your horse but ‘when’ and ‘how much’.

An equine vet can help you with a feeding program to follow, designed to maximise their performance.

Equipment

Using proper and well-fitted equipment is vitally important if you want to see your horse realise their full potential.

Correctly fitted saddles, bridles and boots will not just improve your horse’s performance but guard against injury.

A study showed that a poorly fitted saddle can lead to back and thoracolumbar asymmetries in horses.

It also showed that it can lead to back pain for the rider.

Saddles can move around a lot and hence should be checked for a good fit at least once a year.

A master saddle fitter will watch you ride your horse to achieve the best possible fit.

Your fitness

Just as it is important to monitor your horse’s health and fitness, so too is it imperative to stay in good shape yourself.

Riders take on plenty of the work in partnership with their horse.

By not riding your horse symmetrically you can put undue pressure on one side of their back, leading to potential injury.

Overweight riders can also overburden their horses and may even cause temporary lameness.

Studies suggest a horse can comfortably carry up to 20 per cent of their weight or 100kg for an average 500kg racehorse.

Improving your strength, mobility and fitness as well as riding at a safe weight will all help maximise your horse’s performance.

It can even improve their stride length by nearly 10 per cent!

Contact us today

No two horses are the same.

That’s why it is important to work with qualified equine professionals including a veterinarian to set up guidelines that will help maximise their performance. 

This includes their basic health requirements such as vaccinations, deworming, dental care and farriery.

At Newmarket Equine, we provide a dedicated service to the thoroughbred racing industry with the practice having a long and proud history based around the excellence of our staff.

Our vets are experienced in all matters including medical, reproduction and quarantine procedures.

We always use state-of-the-art equipment including digital radiology, digital ultrasound, shock wave therapy, video endoscopy and IRAP processing. 

Contact us today to book an appointment.

The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your horse’s individual needs. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your horse’s needs, and seek professional advice from a qualified vet.

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