Injury predictive factors in riding horses
Research is growing on wastage in sport horses and the factors like fitness and workload that may reduce injuries and maximise welfare. This article explores these key factors of injury prevention/ prediction in riding school horses.
The fitness, workload and reasons for premature training ends and temporary training breaks were analysed during a nine-week training program in 84 horses of different riding schools (26 untrained and 58 trained horses). Results were obtained by standardised exercise tests with heart rate monitors and clinical examination before and after the training period, daily recording of workload and a health protocol and veterinary assessment in case of training breaks/ ends.
The exercise tests seemed to reflect the training condition of horses well, but had no predictive value for premature training endings later on. Nevertheless, lower fitness levels revealed to be related to earlier training endings because of veterinarian arguments. As workload was similar in all horses, no analysis could be made on the influence of this parameter on injury prevention. 40.9% of all horses with a premature training end for veterinary reasons had already been diagnosed with that injury but did not stop training. This reveals that if horses are not treated/ rested for seemingly minor injuries a greater chance of injuries occurs later on. These findings warrant further investigation to prevent injuries and to improve the welfare of riding horses.
Expert opinion by Isabeau Deckers
Objective measurements of the actual welfare status of horses and critical evaluation of the causes of wastage may provide tools and clues to improve equine welfare. The fact that almost half of the injured horses in this study were still continued to be used in riding lessons against veterinary advice, with predictable and unfavourable results, may indicate that riding school owners have a different perception on the importance of the welfare of the horses.
> From: Munsters et al., Prev Vet Med 108 (2013) 199-208. All rights reserved to Elsevier Ltd.. Click here for the online summary.