With the return of warmer weather, now is the time to make sure your horse is ready for the rigors of regular work. So when you call to arrange for your horse’s spring shots, ask your veterinarian to schedule some time to evaluate his soundness and joint health as well.
At the outset of the visit, talk with your veterinarian about your riding goals for this season. Will you be taking your horse on leisurely trail rides or do you have a full slate of clinics or competitions? How your veterinarian will assess your horse’s soundness depends on these goals as well as the resources available. A simple jog down a driveway and some flexion tests may be enough to determine how your horse is doing, or your veterinarian may suggest a more extensive workup with radiographs or other imaging.
Either way, the exam will serve two purposes. First, it will identify any current soundness issues that might need to be managed. For instance, now may be the time to start a joint supplement or inject a problematic joint to keep a horse comfortable as he resumes his regular work schedule.
Second, the exam will provide a baseline for your horse’s soundness in the coming months. Some horses with mild arthritis get more sound as they enter regular work, for example, while other issues may be exacerbated by increased activity. Knowing your horse’s status before he returns to work may be important when diagnosing and managing problems in the coming months.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #461, March 2016.