Horses Need Special Attention at Shows
By Donald Stotts
STILLWATER - A dose of "good horse sense" by participants at summertime equine shows can help both animal and owner to excel while showing.
Special attention to a horse's management and health program is a necessity during the show season, said Dave Freeman, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service equine specialist.
"Horse shows break up an animal's normal daily routine," Freeman said. "The ability to manage these disruptions and their effect on an animal often will be the difference whether or not a horse is able to operate at peak performance during a show."
First, it is advisable to keep the horse on its routine diet. Freeman said this will not only help to maintain the animal's nutritional status while away from home, but also can help an animal to remain healthy.
"If you can't haul all the grain and hay needed while on the road, feed a grain mix that is available from vendors at the shows," Freeman said. "Most will have a supply of grass hay that can be substituted for grass hay fed at home."
The important points to consider are to not change the horse's feed at the show and for the horse to consume its normal amount of forage and grain while traveling.
Secondly, heat stress is a possibility at shows if horses are ridden too hard or too long, or if placed in poorly ventilated areas while cooling out after a ride. Heat stroke is horses is characterized by a persistent body temperature of more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
"To prevent heat stroke, riders should keep a close watch on the horse's attitude and appearance while practicing for or showing in a class," Freeman said.
A horse with a rapid respiration rate and large amounts of sweat is in the beginning stages of heat stress.
Freeman said to ensure that serious heat stress problems do not occur, riders should practice in short bouts and make certain the horse is allowed to cool out by walking before being placed in a stall.
"Use of fans, shade and drenching a 'hot' horse's legs with water also will help prevent and treat a heat-stressed horse," he said.
Dehydration in horses also is a problem that can occur frequently at equine shows.
"Some horses are finicky and don't drink water readily from sources other than home, so hauling water for short trips is advisable," Freeman said.
Other than restricting water intake when the horse is "hot" from riding, a continuous supply of clean, fresh water should be made available while at shows.
"Water supply in stall should be checked frequently, and the horse's water intake should be monitored," Freeman said.
Finally, contact with other horses at shows increases the chance of exposure to several contagious diseases to which a horse has little immunity unless on a routine vaccination program.
Freeman said horse owners should practice preventative equine medicine; vaccinations, deworming and dental care all should be taken care of well before the actual show.
"While at the show, keep the stall area clean because the more dust-free and well-ventilated the housing, the less chance of contracting contagious diseases," he said.
Not sharing equipment such as saddle pads and water buckets also can help reduce the chance of spreading disease from horse to horse.
"Changes in normal behavior such as going off feed, small amounts of nasal discharge or coughing are signs of impending health problems that may need prompt attention.
"Horses are highly individual animals," Freeman said. "Learn what is normal behavior for each and act upon changes quickly."
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Oklahoma State University for allowing us to provide you with this information.
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