Keeping Training Injuries to a Minimum

Hello Everyone!

I recently had two separate conversations with two Morgan owners who keep their horses at training barns year round, and they both have had horses come up with fairly significant training injuries on a frequent basis over the past few years. I was a little surprised, because both of these ladies use great trainers, but the one injury for sure was preventable, and  many of the others seemed foreseeable. I have (knock on wood) not had a single horse become injured in a training incident, and I would like very much to keep it that way.  What precautions do you take to ensure your horse remains healthy within a heavy training schedule? What is the most common injury? Any equipment (i.e. leg wraps) that you use regularly to prevent injury?

22 Responses to Keeping Training Injuries to a Minimum

  1. denu220 says:

    Ooo, that doesn’t sound good. My horses have been with a top trainer for over five years now without issue. She has my one guy on a preparation called Quiessence, which is supposed to calm horses that are perpetually in stalls in rigorous training programs. Also, we have a sports medicine specialist (Dr. Jay Merriam) who comes in once or twice a year and performs adjustments on the horses. My gelding has gotten regular accupuncture, accupressure, and chiropractic treatments as well as injections for a stifle issue. He just keeps getting looser and better! He also takes a supplement like “joint juice”—a blend of glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid. We don’t use any special bandages, but the horses are worked in polo wraps. I don’t know what else to say. Some horses are definitely more prone to injury than others. I know my trainer talks out loud about the need to be BEYOND CAREFUL if and when action devices are used for training… Other than that, they get hay three times a day (good for the gut because they’re not outside) and liquid Ivermectin periodically.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I had a horse in training with a very well known and experienced Morgan trainer for a while and he pulled a suspensory from being lunged too much. He was always worked in polo wraps up front and splint boots behind. At the same barn, another horse had a suspensory injury because the trainer hardly ever worked the horse (even though training was part of the monthly fee) so when its owner would come and have a fast paced show workout on the horse it strained his legs.

  3. denu220 says:

    >>>>Raising my eyebrow at what “Anonymous” just reported. Not good…not good at all :(

  4. For the horses in my care, we always work in polo wraps and bell boots on the front legs, and at least splint boots, if not polos behind. For the equitation horses that do a lot of turning and stopping work I like “Saratoga Wraps” that we order through Dover Saddlery. They are very supportive and seems to keep tendons super tight. I also really like Cold Poultice. All of our horses are on supplements. For us, the most successful thing we have found to keep our horses comfortable is the regular use of our massage therapist. She is really incredible! A lot of times they get really sore for the first day after they are done, but by day 3, they are just incredible. My hunch is that there are just some programs that have more injuries than others. Is it possible that it could be footing? Or workload? Hmmm…. To me, the trickiest training devices are bitting rigs and running W’s. While we do a lot of bitting, we tend to stall bridle as opposed to turn loose bitted and NEVER against a curb. For Running W’s, I have them, but I really don’t use them much at all. It seems that there is a lot that can go wrong there, though I have seen masterful results from them in the right hands. Sounds to me like prevention and care are key. I think I would be suspicious of any program that has the same recurrent injury. Good comments…

  5. denu220 says:

    Alicia, the “BEYOND CAREFUL” comment I made was in reference to the flying W. My trainer uses it only lightly and judiciously on the action horses. NO ONE else is allowed to work the horses in that contraption. You’re so lucky you have someone right there who can give massage therapy! It costs me a pretty penny to have Dr. Merriam come in once or twice a year. But, like you said, the results are incredible! My horse improved immediately after his accupressure treatment! Also, I agree that footing makes a big difference. We’re lucky to be working horses on rubber shreds instead of hard dirt—it gives the horses more bounce and “give.” And, of course, managing the work load properly makes a big difference in how the horses feel and respond to athletic regimens. It sounds like you’re doing the right things! Keep up the good work!

  6. colwilrin says:

    I had a pony trainer teach me to use the “W’s” when I was a teenager. They can really build muscle in the right hands…but I have seen WAY TOO MANY horses get messed up with them. If you aren’t doing it right, you are likely (in the best case scenario) to give the horse a “hitchy” gait.

    To me, ring and stall footing is key. I know a local show person (of a different breed) who kept the horses at home in an old barn with concrete floors. Unfortunately, almost all of her horses developed severe arthritis in their later years. They weren’t worked too hard, she had a great ring and took good care of the horses, but years of standing on concrete (despite a great amount of bedding) took its toll on the legs.

  7. Kathy says:

    Sorry, I’m a little new to horse-showing and I’ve been scratching my head at all this talk of the “flying w”. What is it?

  8. ErikaRose says:

    Alicia, I’ve been tryin to call you all weekend! lol Everytime I call its busy or rings and rings and rings…..just wanted to let ya know I am tryin! lol feel free to give me a call whenever, 570-244-8748

  9. bollylope says:

    the key to any good training program for preventing injury is good horsemanship. The whole picture of the horses care needs to be looked at. Good quality feed, good grooming, careful conditioning, regular workouts, and a good eye.
    A good eye meaning that the horses conformation has been evaluated and considered when deciding what division to put them in. Catching slight inflamations, or problems early on so that they do not turn into major problems. Having good footing, and using wraps is helpful, but not the key to a good program.

  10. denu220 says:

    Well said, bollylope.

  11. To answer the question, “What are Running W’s”

    First of all, running W’s and Flyin W’s are the same things. I have also heard them called trip ropes. First, you have a leather boot, sometimes with a metal triangle piece, that runs underneath the foot and buckled around the top of the coronet band. This leather cup has a metal ring at the heel. You the attach a rope to the outside of the surcingle (the side to the outside of your longlining circle), then attach the first pulley to the outside front foot, via the ring on the heel of the aforementioned boot, then attach the 2nd pulley to the middle of the belly band underneath the horse, the then 3rd pulley to the inside front foot (on the boot ring) and then the fourth and final pulley goes to the inside side of the horse on the surcingle. The remainder of the rope runs back to your hand. I think nearly every trainer has a little different way of using them, and I don’t think it is something you should have described and then copy. I think you really have to see them used, so I will end my description with that. When used correctly, they can be awesome in producing a strong hind end and back/tummy muscles. But used incorrectly, even once, they can wreck your horses timing or worse. Use with caution and care.

  12. denu220 says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Alicia. I wasn’t even going to try…

  13. LOL – I noticed that there wasn’t a quick response to that! I actually had to draw a stick horse in W’s to make sure I had things organized properly. It is a lot easier to put them on than describe them! :-)

  14. Stacy says:

    Hi there,
    to be honest, we don’t do alot to prevent training injuries, we just don’t do anything to incur them. We use any training devices sparingly and only on prepared and fit horses. We don’t tend to use stretchers much at all…like we don’t even have a pair made up…if a horse needs them then we go to the storage room and dust off the rubber and make some up:)We use polos on those that need them, but mostly we use bell boots and splint boots and light chains. I’ve seen polos do more harm than good when applied sloppily…same with wraps. If a horse needs to be wrapped Gerry or I are the only ones that do it.
    They get fed 3 times a day and get daily wormer, those that need get vitamins or supplements (Platinum, Lubrisyn, Ulcer Gaurd for the nervous ones) their shoeing is carefully monitored and we don’t overshoe, in the winter they get show shoes pulled. We just take their health and well being into consideration and if you know a horse well you generally have a clue what they can handle physically.
    We use a soundness vet as needed. All just pretty common sense, I think.

  15. Stacy –
    Nice to know that you don’t use stretchies much. I really like how freely your horses move, and the amount of connection they have from the back end to the front. I think a lot of times stretchies can harm that oily motion. Always nice to hear what other trainers do and don’t use regularly.

  16. Stacy says:

    we’re pretty boring around here. I find that if an aide will help a horse then I’ll use it, but if I am just using it to make them look good for my sake, at that moment, then it is not generally in their best interest. I’m not a fan of horses that hang up in their motion like they are wearing stretchers even when they aren’t…like you, I like a fluid trot.
    I think alot of people make thier horses so cool at home…all the “stuff” and then they have to take away the stuff and the horses are not as good at a show…we want our’s to peak at the show, not at home. So, we do lots of the basics and hope they get the added “show horse” at the show when they have newer stimulus AND still remember the basics we taught them. That’s the plan, at least:)

  17. I am reading your post, nodding my head with a big smile! That has been exactly my philosophy from day one, and though it seems to be working well for me, it is incredibly reassuring to hear that it works longterm in a program. Its kinda funny…. I have this “idea” about how I think I can get the best results, then I start working it into my program, then I wait to see the results, then it starts becoming a basic philosophy, and then I wonder… “Does anyone else think this way?” Turns out, its not my idea at all! I am really good at reinventing the wheel sometimes! Thanks so much for the insight! It is really neat that I get to ‘pick your brain’ from another coast, and even neater still that you are willing to share the insight and experience you have! Thank you.

  18. anom says:

    Thank you both Stacy and Alicia for your comments and taking the time to post here. I have a question for both of you about turn out. I believe in turn out. Most trainers do not turn out while horses are in their care. I can understand this to a certain degree but my own opinion is a very large animal in confinement 23 hours a day. I would think that injuries would be More common on the stalled individual. Do you have any opinions on this issue? Thanks for any reply!

  19. So here it is: we turn out the horses that can go out and not run like fools. Most of the time, we turn a horse out for the first time in the late fall when show shoes have been taken off and after they have been worked hard earlier in the day. We never turn out two horses together, but our paddocks all share a fence, so they can still get interaction with the other horses that way. If I have a horse in show shoes that behaves outside, we put splint boots and bells on. Some horses just get bells. We try to turn out all of the horses that can be turned out at least once a week, most of the time twice. I have a few that go out everyday, especially the three and under horses. I had a park horse named Cedar Creek Uproar that went out every single day, show shoes and all, and he would trot 10-15 minutes, then graze. He only lost 1 shoe in the two years I had him, and it greatly improved his overall attitude and made him much more reasonable in some of his odd stall behaviors. I have not had any serious injuries on any of my horses, including the ones that never get turned out. I did have a two year old pull a hip muscle badly, but she recovered well and competes in open English Pleasure with much success now as a five year old. She was laid up for about 3 months, but she was my horse, and I no longer turn a horse out without working it first until it is used to the great outdoors. In her case, she was running hard, stopped, spun and lost her footing, and hence, pulled the muscle. I would say of our 30 horses in full training, 15-20 of them can go outside to play. I personally like it, but see many happy horses that come from programs that have no turnout at all. It takes a lot to keep a horse happy, and I don’t think turnout necessarily has to be part of that equation, but I like to add it whenever I can.

  20. anom says:

    Thank you for your post on turn out. It sounds to me that you take alot of time knowing who is in your barn to know all of their idiosyncrocies. Appreciate your insight.

  21. Stacy says:

    Sorry to not have answered as you specifically asked for an answer, but I haven’t really found a way to navigate this site except to browse what pops up as “recent posts”.
    Anyway, we don’t turn out during the show season for the most part. Yearlings, if they are showing, get turned out. We will take ones that seem to need some freedom and let them wear “tack” (backpad, bridle, tie backs) and turn them loose in the bull pen and let them pay…quite a few of them do that. Coming from the east coast, I was not used to this, but we have 12 X 24 “corrals” that some horses get to live in. Some like it…they like the “outdoorsie” feel…some want a fan and fly spray system in their 12 X 12:)After OKC we pull shoes and most everything gets turned out. The studs get to live in 36 X 36 covered “pens”…not as big as a paddock but alot of the studs fret a bit in a big paddock and these seem to let them play without feeling too wide open. We do have a group of aged show mares that get turned out together in the winter…they have a good time and live outside from the end of October until January. Then they’ll go in the 12 X 24′s to start back to work but won’t get shoes put back on until Feb or March so they stil get out alot and get to trail ride here and there, etc.
    All of that said, we have only had 1 injury that I can think of and it was 5 or so years ago and I am not sure that I’d say it was related to being stalled. But we also don’t leave them in the stall for a week and then work them hard or anything silly like that.

  22. Stacy says:

    oops…that should say that they get to PLAY…not pay:)

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