Preparing For Fauresmith - By Dr Lesley Lunn

Preparation for fauresmith starts at least three years prior to the event.  Here are is a list of do`s and don’t`s that might help in the lead up.

Tack:

Have a qualified saddle fitter check the fit of your saddle when your horse has reached the weight/muscling at which you intend to ride.   If this is more than 6 months before the ride the saddle must be fitted again after 6 months. Use the numnah that you will be using for the ride when the fitting is done.

When riding do not pull up your girth as tight as it can go as this can restrict the horse`s  movement .  (obviously you do not want it so loose that the saddle slips).

 

The latest thinking on nosebands is that for the wellbeing of the horse one should be able to slip two fingers under the straps.  A noseband that is too tight can hurt the horse and interfere with his breathing.

 

Many horses are sensitive to the type of bit that the rider uses. If you want to change bits do it with plenty of time available to see if the horse is comfortable.  On the ride is not the time to discover that the horse is tossing his head or crossing his jaw.  Professionals are available to help with selection of the correct bit for the size and shape of your horse`s mouth and tongue.

 

Any protective boots worn by the horse shoud be the ones that he is used to wearing during training.  Make sure that your grooming kit includes brushes/sponges for removing mud/sand from the boots before the next day`s ride.   If the horse wears overrreach boots remember to shake them out at each checkpoint to dislodge sand or grit .

Vaccinations and deworming :

These must be current but not done just before the event.  Equine influenza and tetanus must be done within 6 months preceding the ride.  Because of the prolonged period during which strenuous work has to be avoided plan to vaccinate for african horse sickness after the fauresmith ride.

Feeding:

This is not the forum to discuss feeding of the endurance horse.  If you have qualified for fauresmith one assumes that you know how to feed your horse.

What you must remember is :

Carbo loading does not work for horses and can lead to complications.  Depending on how far you are travelling your horse will be standing on a trailer or float for up to two days with no exercise .  His concentrates must be cut during this period of inactivity or he will be prone to exertional rhabdomyolisis (also known as tying up or monday morning disease).  Many endurances horses are believed to suffer from gastric ulcers.  Speak to your vet about a protective drug such as omeprazole or use one of the many herbal products available.  Be sure to check that no ingredients of medication s are on the list of substances banned for use in competition.

Horses must never be exercised on a totally empty stomach as this leads to splashing of gastric acid and the formation of ulcers.

Do not change your horse`s feed from one type or brand just before the ride.  It takes at least one month to change feeds and if done just before the ride any problems that may arise might manifest during the ride.

A high proportion of roughage is a must for endurance horses because the fibre retains water in the large intestine thus aiding in the prevention of dehydration.

Water:

This is the most essential requirement of your horse.  Horses lose water and electrolytes through sweating.  A horse exercising at 12-18km /hour will lose between 5 and 10 litres of sweat per hour.

Many horses are reluctant to drink “strange’ water.  It is best to accustom your horse to drinking flavoured water. Use a bit of apple vinegar,  salt or mollasses at home – and when he is used to that you can use the same flavour in the strange water.

Always have your own water bucket available at drinking points.  Horses drinking from communal troughs might pick up latent respiratory viruses.

Don’t let your horse drink from dams as there is a chance that he could pick up gastrodiscus, a fluke carried by aquatic snails.

Electrolytes:

These are responsible for maintaining osomotic pressure, fluid balance and nerve and muscle function. Sodium, potassium and calcium are lost through sweating. Electrolyte loss leads to fatigue, muscle weakness and a decrease in the thirst response to dehydration and in the case of calcium, the condition known as thumps (synchronous diaphragmatic flutter).

The amount of sweat lost increases with increasing ambient temperatures ;  not a problem at fauresmith but it could be during training. Electrolytes should be preloaded prior to an event. Normally 60 to 100 gm of supplement is sufficient unless there is excessive sweating.

Do not change your electrolyte regime just before the event other than the preloading. Be guided by the manufacturers recommendation regarding dosage.  Double the dose is  not  twice as effective  and can lead to hypertonicity, colic and even death.

Never give electrolytes to a horse that is not drinking enough water. Vitamins and minerals

Horses on a good balanced diet do not usually need vitamin and mineral supplements but strenuous work can lead to increased usage and supplementation will be needed.

As with electrolytes stick to the manufacturer`s recommendation.  A higher dose can be problematic.  This is particulary true of vit e /selenium supplements which are used to increase muscle fitness. Horses are often given haematinics – supplements to increase the production of red blood cells. These must also not be given in excess as the blood can become too ‘thick”.

Beware of supplements containing cobalt. This has an action similar to erythropoeitin and may be banned in the near future.

Dentistry:

All horses should have their teeth checked by a veterinarian or qualified equine dentist at least twice per year.  Have this done about a month before the ride so that any issues can be dealt with and the horse has no oral pain at the time of the ride.

Farriery:

While you don’t want your horse going into the ride with nearly worn shoes you should also not shoe him a couple of days before the ride.  Allow time to see that the fit of the shoes is perfect.

If your horse wears pads for endurance ask your farrier to cut out a piece of the pad over the frog area.  If this is not done sand and grit can become trapped between the pad and the sole, causing severe discomfort.

Warming up and cooling down:

As with any athlete the horse should not be put straight into fast work without first being warmed up and stretched.

It is very important to cool your horse down properly.  After your ride keep him walking for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the heat accumulated in the muscles to dissipate.

It is better to not remove the saddle immediately but just loosen the girth to prevent a sudden blast of cold air from hitting the big muscles of the back.  After a few minutes remove the saddle and cover him with a cooler rug designed to wick moisture from the horse.  If he is taking a long time to dry you can place a layer of hay or straw under the rug to allow air to circulate.  When you remove this rug make sure that not a blade of grass remains to prickle his coat the next time that you use the cooler. You can also hand dry him with a towel.

Allow him to drink water that has been warmed ,if possible.

Some people hose their horses in hot weather. This causes a thin layer of heated water (heat transferred from the hot skin) which forms a layer that prevents further cold water from reaching the skin. If you want to cool him down with water rather use a gentle spray or hand sponge him and scrape dry as you go.

Once you are  sure that he is both cool and dry you can put on whatever blanket he normally has.  Some horses break out in an “ after  sweat” so be sure to check him regularly after the blanket is on. If he has not stopped sweating after an hour call a veterinarian as something is probably amiss.

Blood work:

For all blood parameters that are measured there is a normal range. It is a good idea to ask your vet to do blood tests before the ride. This way you have a baseline reading which tells you if your horse`s normal values are near the top or bottom of the range.  Remember to take a print out of these results with you. In this way if the veterinary panel thinks it is necessary for your horse to have blood tests they can see how far he has deviated from his normal and not “the “ normal.

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