Your multi-event horse, once you find him, will rely on you to keep him sound through the rigors of training and showing. We asked our pro panel for their tips and insights.
Chad Evans: I use preventive measures before the horses have issues. I feed them right, provide plenty of shavings in their show stalls, and give them the best care at home. I also provide joint supplements, if needed.
I make sure the horses are healthy from the inside out, and stay ahead of the game. If you feel something is off, manage it before it becomes a problem. A well-made horse is usually the soundest. If the horse has straight legs, good flexion of joints, and good conformation, that's best.
Brian Henry: I look to see if the horse is suitable for the events the owner wants to show in. Then I think about what kind of maintenance that horse will need later on if a soundness issue comes up. Is it something where the horse just needs a joint supplement, or will it need a different kind of shoe?
It's important to work with a good farrier who really understands the events you show in, who communicates well, and who'll listen to your needs. Finding a supplement program is also key.
Jackie Krshka: Competing in the all-around means the horse will prep for four or five events. At a big show, it means he's on his legs for up to four or five hours. So the horse must be structurally sound and correct.
Before you buy a horse, assess his conformation and have a veterinary pre-purchase exam performed. The horse should be structurally correct. Vets will advise you of any structural imperfections. However, not all vets address potential soundness issues caused by that fault that could show up later. That's where having an experienced professional trainer helps. We look for those things. Even if the veterinarian says that the horse's joints look fine, a structural imperfection revealed during the pre-purchase exam can create problems down the road. Fitness is also key to soundness; horses' muscles and tendons support their joints. In my training program, we ride six days a week. It's disciplined but not necessarily a hard regimen, and each horse has some form of exercise to keep him fundamentally strong and in condition.
Lastly, don't wait until you have a problem. If you think about conditioning and preparation well in advance, you can prevent a lot of issues.
Dale Sullens: I try to stay away from horses that already have soundness problems. Horses are just like people, unique in their own individual way. So when it comes to soundness, I rely on the veterinarian to help me determine whether the horse will hold up to doing multiple events at a horse show.
I've learned you can look at some horses with legs so crooked that you'd never think they'd stay sound, and yet they go on to be incredible show horses for a long time, and never have a problem. Then some horses have wonderful structure, and for some reason, they just can't handle it.
I've found that willingness and the "enjoys his job" mentality help keep a horse sound. That horse is more likely to be a pull-out-of-the-stall-and-go-show type horse than one that lacks this attitude. The uncomfortable horse is going to take more work; need more practice time; and, ultimately, won't be able to go as long each day.