It is not enough just to ride your horse. It’s not even enough to be a winner. If you want to be a true horseman, you have to know your horse.
As an equine vet, I’ve spent a great deal of my career taking care of some of the world’s most elite racehorses. In that time, I’ve seen more “horsemen” use questionable treatments in the name of boosting performance than I care to remember. If we’re being honest, injections are the standard course of care for horses in most barns. You don’t have to be in the high-stakes world of thoroughbred racing to see abuses, either. In a competition environment, unfortunately these questionable methods are used daily as well. How can we improve the wellbeing of the animal, and the reputation of the industry?
There is only one thing that will make that change happen: YOU. It is the young men and women in the saddle today who will make or break this emerging trend. So I make this appeal to you: it’s time to step up and embrace true horsemanship. It is not enough just to ride your horse. It’s not even enough to be a winner. If you want to be a true horseman, you have to know your horse.
How much did your horse eat for breakfast this morning? Is he training well? Is he rested? Did he have any problems on the way to this competition? Do his hooves or legs need any special attention or wraps? I could print a larger list of questions, but you get the idea. If you can’t answer these questions about your horse, maybe it’s time you started asking yourself some important questions.
Are you the sort of rider who just stands by and lets someone else do all the hard work of taking care of the horse, while you get all the glory from riding and competing? If you are…you’re just a rider with a skill or two, and that’s all.
I’m happy to report that things really do appear to be changing. Veterinary associations are succeeding in imposing more standards that make it hard, if not impossible, to use veterinary medicine to “cheat.” Attitudes seem to be shifting back towards getting more preventative care and knowing a horse’s limits. But that transition isn’t complete…not by a long shot.
Horses are magnificent animals. They work so hard to please us and do nearly everything we ask them to do. When you know your horse well, you know what your horse can and can’t do. You’ll know when to push, and when not to. You’ll know what care the horse needs and when. You’ll avoid injuries. But more than that, you’ll achieve a level of communication with your horse that will help you win.
If we can instill this level of horsemanship in your generation, we will have a competitive horse industry that doesn’t need medicines to mask underlying health problems just to get them into the ring. You will have stopped them at the source. You won’t need performance-enhancing drugs, because you will already be getting your peak performance from the horse. Horses will need fewer medicines overall, eat more healthful and natural feeds, and get more and better preventative care.
That’s my dream anyway. Are you willing to invest in this animal we all love to make it a reality with me?
This article was written by Dr. Steven C. Allday, DVM, vet to top equine athletes around the globe. He is also an entrepreneur, founding the company that manufactures Lubrisyn, one of the industry’s most widely used natural equine joint supplements, and Re-Borne, a liquid bovine colustrum-based feed supplement that helps horses develop lean muscle mass and bounce back quicker from adversity. For more information, visit http://www.lubrisyn.com, or http://www.reborne.com .