Wellness, the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal. While this refers to us as a rider it also pertains to our equine athletes. Your equine athletes overall wellness program can consist of an array of people, farriers, massage therapists, veterinarians, chiropractors, nutritionists etc. All these individuals play a part in helping your equine athletes perform to the best of their ability, whether it is during competition or during the off season.
While this year is a little different for competitive events, we still need to ensure the wellness of our equine athletes is being considered. During these times it is ok to give our athletes a very well-deserved break from training, but we also need to not fall off the wagon all together. So, this means continuing with their wellness programs, whether it is a regular shoeing, vet check or even a massage.
Now you might think “well we don’t have any competitions coming up to train for” or you may be in fact giving your athlete some time off right now. Well, with or without competition, and even while taking a break, they still need to move around and graze, or even take off some steam by playing. This movement, while not part of the training program, is part of their everyday life and plays a big role in their wellness.
Therefore, it is part of our job as horse owners to make sure that they can do these things freely, while their feet have strength to support their exercise, and that their muscles are contracting and relaxing accordingly! It is up to us, as horse owners, to do everything we can to help our horses.
If you as a rider experience pain in your tooth or back your first instinct would be to go to the dentist or go see a doctor, right? Well our athletes can’t do that unless we are paying close attention to their behaviours and habits. Which I’m not going to lie is a 24hr a day job, especially with 7 horses, lol. Quite often when something large, like a lameness, or a lack of appetite presents itself in our horses, it requires quite a bit of attention, time off and sometimes a total change in their program. A solid wellness team brings more consistent eyes and attention to your athlete, and in turn helps prevent a large problem from just suddenly presenting itself. Naturally there will always be something that is unpredictable, I mean it is horses we are talking about here. But if your athlete is in the best shape they can be, all the way from their digestive tract to their physiology, this can decrease their chance of “injury” …who wouldn’t want that? We all want to feel good!
Now I have had a lot of people approach me about giving their equine athletes time off during these uncertain times and I think that’s fabulous! Everyone needs a break to recharge and rejuvenate, that goes for us too. My only advice is that you keep in mind the changes you are making during this time and how they alter your athlete’s wellness program.
For instance, if you are decreasing training, take into account the nutritional intake of your athlete. If they are no longer performing and training regularly, they will not need as many carbohydrates, fats or proteins in their diets to convert into energy. Similarly if they are not able to roam around during the day and exercise their muscles, you will need to alter your training program when you start up again to compensate for any potential muscle atrophy. Whether you are in competition or are in the off-season it is all relevant. Your athlete’s wellness program in and out of the saddle, or in and out of training, is very important to the overall health and happiness of your horse! Consider it when you are making changes to their program.