How to Care for Your Horse Like an Olympic Athlete
Liv Gude, founder of ProEquineGrooms.com, spent many years at a prestigious training barn that housed three Olympic-level dressage riders including Dressage Olympian Guenter Seidel. During her tenure as a professional groom, Liv learned how to keep horses performing at the top of their game.
Liv got the chance to have an Olympic-caliber horse of her own when she was offered the opportunity to take home a Grand Prix dressage horse. "Miguel" was ready to retire from the show ring but still had plenty to offer an amateur rider so after a vet check, it was settled.
We spent some time with Liv and Miguel to learn how she is taking care of an older horse used to receiving the highest level of care!
Here are Liv’s tips:
Pay Attention to the Details of Horse Health
Holistic care of any horse is not that different from caring for an Olympic level horse. In the show barn every horse is inspected, top to bottom, every day, several times a day. You get to know their quirks, how they look, and how their legs, backs and body feel as you run your hands and grooming tools over them.
With an older horse it's really about paying attention to the details. Grooming is so much more than dirt and stain removal, it is really about health care. This is your chance to feel where your horse might be starting to feel some of the wear and tear from years of competition.
Vet checks are important too, including flexion and lameness exams at regular intervals to stay ahead of any potential problems. And it’s really important to focus on taking care of horse’s legs and body before and after exercise.
Liv’s Must-Have Product
“The Ice Horse All-Purpose Wrap is an absolute must-have for your first aid kit at home, and to bring with you to shows for easy icing of any part of your horse. Over the years, this has come in handy for horses that might swell a bit from injection to the neck, or the bug bite on the belly that’s filling, or the random hive that horses can get. I have also used the All-Purpose wrap on legs, to really target a wound, a kick, or any type of injury that can benefit from ice therapy.”
Have a routine
In the show barn, each horse has its own tack that is cleaned and conditioned daily. Saddles are also custom fitted every few months or so by the saddle fitter. The horse is inspected, cooled out, and iced after exercise. Leg protection is a must on every ride and during turn out. The vets, farriers, chiropractors, and massage therapists are in the barn on a regular basis to make sure that nothing is overlooked and the horse is competition ready.
“With Miguel, I still do daily inspections, regular vet and farrier care, saddle fitting, the works. But a few things have changed,” explains Liv.
“I work with my vet to find the parts of his body that need the most support. We had a fresh set of X-rays done from the pre-purchase exam, and I used them to help learn where on his body he needed extra attention. I use a lot of Ice Horse cold therapy, as well as massage. Even after a trail ride I apply cold therapy, massage, and may use poultice or liniment depending on what the horse’s body is telling me. The Ice Horse products have been great to use. Since Miguel is older he has a couple of spots that are a bit arthritic. I can apply the wraps to Miguel’s legs or back while I go about my post ride routine. The Ice Horse wraps stay cold long enough to provide true therapeutic relief and the compression feature of the wraps makes sure the treatment is applied evenly along the leg, joint or body.”
Don’t forget the big picture
As horses age, work and perform for us, daily wear and tear can create arthritis, soft tissue injuries, soreness, and more. Over the course of a horse’s life, the daily care you provide adds up. As I mentioned earlier the details of leg care, managing exercise, turn outs, vet and farrier appointments are important, but you also need to step back and look at the big picture.
Be mindful of what level of exercise is appropriate. "After years together, Miguel can absolutely tell me what his body is capable of, and when he needs to have a little gallop in the field or when he needs a hand walking. I work with my vet to develop an exercise plan and still have the vet do flexions and lameness exams regularly because over time, a subtle change can become a bigger issue."
Seasonal issues—like the changing pastures or supplements as his turnout on grass time is reduced—have an effect on general health and soundness. Time in the paddock and riding every day are also top to keep his body fit and strong.
Keep a record
Write it all down! It doesn’t matter if you use an app, a calendar or a handwritten journal, keep track of how you are caring for your horse. Keep the farrier and vet on set schedules too. Once your daily routine is established, it’s easy to keep track of things.
Life at 27
"I got Miguel at age 13. Now that he’s 27, not much has changed about our routine, except what is expected of him. While he’s not a Grand Prix horse anymore, the day to day routine and daily exercise is still a must. "
"He’s sound, healthy, and I spend the time to care for his legs and body. Every single day."
Pay attention to the details
Have a routine
Keep track of what you do
About the Author
When she’s not at the barn with Miguel, you can find Liv Gude blogging about all things horse-related for proequinegrooms.com . You may have heard her voice on a podcast if you are a fan of the Horse Radio Network, as she’s frequently invited to speak on a range of topics related to horse health maintenance.
Liv's Favorite Ice Horse Product
“My favorite Ice Horse wrap to use is the All Purpose Wrap. I can only describe this as a specialized wrap, with stretchy and grippy material. The fabric is not sticky, and allows you to place a Cold Capsule insert anywhere on your horse’s body, and keep it there.
“This is an absolute must-have for your first aid kit at home, and to bring with you to shows for easy icing of any part of your horse.
“Over the years, this has come in handy for horses that might swell a bit from injection to the neck, or the bug bite on the belly that’s filling, or the random hive that horses can get. I have also used the All-Purpose wrap on legs, to really target a wound, a kick, or any type of injury that can benefit from ice therapy.”