Keep Expo Horses Healthy

Although the stress of exposition environments might be unavoidable, according to several exposition professionals, its effects on horses can be reduced through careful selection of the horses that will be participating and management at the event.

Transportation, unfamiliar surroundings, and crowds of people can place horses at greater risk for injury and illness, such as colic, said Anke Rüsbüldt, DVM, clinician and official veterinarian of the four-day HansePferd Expo in Germany. This is especially true for horses with little or no expo experience, she said.

To help the horses stay healthy while on display, Rüsbüldt said she recommends the use of an immunomodulator (which stimulates the immune system in order to prevent or mitigate disease), such as Zylexis.


Crowds at a horse expo

Some horses might become stressed by large crowds of people in an exposition setting.

At the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, Calif., preventive measures for reducing disease incidence and stress include screening equine candidates prior to accepting them into the event, said Miki Cohen, president of the exposition. Only animals that are well-trained and managed are accepted for display.

But even the best-trained horses can still feel the effects of stress in such an environment. Rüsbüldt said most horses will need some quiet time away from the crowds, especially if they have stalls with public viewing windows.

"Visitors can be told to leave the area just in front of the stalls when horses are stressed," she said. "Windows can be temporarily closed with horse blankets if necessary." The horse can also be moved to quieter areas that are not accessible to the public.

Cohen and Rüsbüldt said horses will occasionally show physical signs of stress. If removing a stressed horse from the public area does not relieve the problem, the animal might be sent home. Rüsbüldt said some horses might also be treated with a sedative.

Breeder Guy Druet's pregnant mare colicked on her seventh day at the Agriculture Expo in Paris last February. She was removed to a quiet zone and treated immediately by members of the exposition's veterinary staff. The mare recovered fully within two hours and returned to the public area the following day, he said.

When the exposition is finished, health management continues to be important, cautions Rüsbüldt. "(The horses) need a break of at least several days," she said.

Even so, owners should not worry excessively over their horses' participation in expos, Rüsbüldt said. "After being veterinarian at HansePferd since 1994, I can tell you that horses are definitely able to handle expo situations better than people are," she observed.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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