Horse Health

Keeping Top-Level Reiners Sound

June 9, 2011

Concentrate on conformation and fitness when there’s a big show on the line.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Adequan

sliding stop

NRHA’s newest $1 million rider Brent Wright with Miss Rey O Shine, owned by Bahn Quarter Horses LLC, Wildwood, Missouri. Photo courtesy of Primo Morales, Primo Morales Photography.

As anyone involved in the reining horse business knows, getting top-level performances at major shows such as the National Reining Horse Association Futurity is a challenge. Trainers, veterinarians and horse owners all agree that performance relies on the sound legs of the horse athlete.

“The biggest challenge we face is maintaining soundness,” says Brent Wright, an NRHA $1 million rider from Ottawa, Kansas. “To have a really nice horse and not keep him sound is tough for both horse and rider.

“The really good horses try harder, and they’re the ones that will hurt themselves,” he says. “They can have soundness issues if you’re not monitoring them. The lesser horses may not have as many soundness problems because they don’t push as hard.”

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Whether a horse is a good athlete or not, the most important factor contributing to soundness is his conformation. Starting with a structurally sound individual is critical.

“I absolutely want a horse that’s structurally sound with good conformation,” Brent says. “The odds are against you if you start off with a horse that’s not structurally correct. Horses that are cow-hocked can do the splits when they stop and put a lot of torque on hocks and stifles.”

According to Brent’s veterinarian, Dr. Fred Gardner of Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Garnett, Kansas, “Nothing straightens a crooked leg.”

Dr. Gardner routinely advises clients to pass on horses that are not structurally correct. The wear and tear of the training regimen is toughest on horses with conformation issues, which may affect the way the horse travels.

Poor shoeing also can make a horse sore.

“A good farrier will make or break a horse,” Dr. Gardner says. “Good farriers keep feet balanced and horses traveling right, which in turn keeps joint issues to a minimum.”

Brent agrees that “you have to shoe horses flat and level behind, and you have to keep the heels backed up and the toes off the horses, or you’re asking for tendon trouble. A good farrier is critical to maintaining soundness.”

Farriers can make a number of adjustments to aid horses’ movements. Brent’s farrier, Bob Allen, who also is a reiner, helps evaluate those adjustments and is instrumental in helping ensure that a horse’s movements are not altered, which minimizes the chances of stressing joints through a misstep.

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But, as everyone knows, even with horses that are structurally sound and properly shod, joints still can become sore during the training regimen.

“I make sure our horses are in condition before asking them to run and stop,” Brent says. “We spend four or five weeks just getting their bodies in condition before we start stopping. Like a football player that must be conditioned before having contact drills and games, it’s the same with horses.

“All good horses will have aches and pains, because they’re athletes; that’s why I don’t stop them every day,” he says. “Humans are sore the day after game day, and horses are the same after big shows.”

As the training gets tougher leading up to big shows, soreness can become even more of an issue. That’s where Brent and Dr. Gardner study each individual’s movement and administer Adequan according to the label, as a symptom is recognized. Both agree that the use of Adequan for treatment early is valuable in keeping horses sound and getting them to perform at the highest level of their capability.

“As you go into training with high amounts of stress on joints and get close to competition, we would implement therapeutic treatment regimens to treat subtle changes,” Dr. Gardner says.

“I use a lot of Adequan,” Brent says. “It just makes good sense.”