Horse's Age and Rider's Experience Affect Horse Injury

When it comes to horse management, "experience is the best teacher." According to a recent study by Swedish researchers, experienced staff might help protect your horse against orthopedic injuries.

The scientists tried to ascertain which horses at riding schools suffered fewer orthopedic injuries. They examined 99 horses at eight riding schools that carried life and veterinary care insurance.

Of this study population, 36 horses were from four schools that filed claims frequently within a six-year period and 63 horses were from four schools that filed fewer claims within that same period.

Seventy percent of the insurance claims filed by the schools were due to problems with the horses' locomotion (the ability to move), according to Agneta Egenvall, PhD, Dipl. ECVPH, associate professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

As might be expected, a horse's age played a large role in these injuries, and most insurance claims were filed for horses 12-years-old and older.

But handlers also played a role: The schools with fewer claims had more experienced and better-trained staff, said Egenvall.

"There are indications that the low-risk schools had some strategies that prevented problems through time, such as a longer introduction time and more experienced staff," Egenvall said. However, she could not say which actions the low-claim schools took to prevent injury in the horses because that was outside the scope of the study.

If an owner wants to prevent injuries, Egenvall suggested he or she use common sense and ensure the horse is healthy. Avoid sudden changes in routine, train the horse on a variety of surfaces, and stop working an animal that "shows even small signs of lameness, even if you don't call a veterinarian right away," she noted.

"Hire experienced staff with references that show they are able to maintain sound horses," she suggested.

Finally, use mistakes as lessons in horsemanship; apply these experiences to the creation of better training programs.

The study, "Orthopaedic health status of horses from 8 riding schools--a pilot study," was published August online ahead of print in the journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica. The abstract is available on PubMed.

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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