When does a horse become an athlete?

Something I’ve been contemplating this week.

Joe finished our 80km 10 days (ride report to follow) ago in good form, and got As across the board for his final vet check. The trot out was “panelled” which meant three vets graded it and the final mark was an average of their scores. So to get an “A” for that means he must still have been moving OK. (Good job they weren’t looking at the rider!)

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But to me, the rider, something was nevertheless “not quite right”.. He was high headed and bracy for much of the ride (after the adrenalin wore off and he and I stopped arguing about speed…). He could get into a big trot but not hold it for that long, and he preferred to canter when allowed to. 

Then there was this:

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I’m pretty sure that lump never used to be there. And this:

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Uneven?? Or not?? I think it is – a bit…

So we got the nice equine bodyworker lady to come and see him. There is nothing too major going on, but he IS lopsided, and there IS some tightness/pain in the right hip, and he DOES have some shortness of stride with the right hind. We have a programme to work with, and she’ll be back in 2 weeks.

Since then I have swung between being a bit proud that i picked up something fairly subtle, and internally wailing “waah, I broke my horse”…

But I have also been thinking.

Let’s face it, 80km is not chicken feed. If you want to compare it with dressage, we’re at about Prix St Georges level (grand Prix being 160km at a fast clip!) or in eventing, probably about Prelim C.

So.. Joe’s an athlete. One would expect your average mid level eventer to need periodic maintenance, or your mid level dressage horse. They’re working hard, they’re going to develop muscle soreness, aren’t they?

Now I know endurance is “just” trotting in straight lines, but I guess I need to start thinking of Joe as an athlete, not just a horse, and to accept that he’s going to need a bit more TLC to keep him fit and sound. NOT to have a crisis and think that I broke my horse, but understand that when you are working as hard as he is, you’re bound to hit the odd bump in the road.

So.. time to find time for physio, massage and stretching, as well as riding…

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