While the majority of the UK enjoyed the driest June on record, horse owners have been fretting about riding on hard ground.
After the awful winter, we never thought we’d be wishing for rain, but we really need a downpour!
While we can’t control the weather, there are things we can do to reduce the impact of riding on hard ground. We spoke to Egbert Willems, director at Cliffe Equine Vets, who specialises in equine sports medicine.
I have seen a lot of foot problems, particularly in the front feet, which are vulnerable to the hard ground. Problems occur in the coffin joint, deep digital flexor tendon and navicular.
The horse is often quite ‘pottery’ – which is means he isn’t quite lame, but is unwilling to stride out.
Hard ground can also cause inflammation of the joints, such as hocks, knees and coffin. As these are straight joints, which are perpendicular to the ground, the impact is greater.
In contrast, the fetlock is an angled joint, so the suspensory ligament and flexor tendons allow more flexibility, which causes less impact. It’s the same with tendons; as they are naturally quite flexible they can absorb more impact.
If we know is horse struggling with hard ground we put a plastic pad between the shoe and hoof and fill it with an impression material, which helps cushion the impact.
It’s the difference between wearing flat leather soles all day or trainers – you notice the difference.
If there is inflammation and heat we recommend cold therapy, rest and anti-inflammatories.
There are a number of preventative measures:
There are no hard and fast rules for this, as there are so many variables. It depends on your horse – some are better on hard ground, while others will struggle.
It also depends on the event and the surface. Most events run by British Eventing will ensure the ground is well maintained, but you should check with the organisers.
For more great advice check out Vet Essentials, which features information from top vets on how to care for competition horses, including tendon injuries.