Dr. Steve Allday, a lameness specialist who's cared for 13 Triple Crown Race winners and 29 Breeder's Cup race winners, is also a team roper who helps WPRA World Champion Jackie Crawford with her horse-care regimen. In turn, Crawford and her husband Charly have helped Allday with his roping. Dr. Allday offers some no-nonsense insights into how to manage your horse's joints that every breakaway roper (and horseman or horsewoman) can follow:
1. Assess Your Horse Daily.
I'm a very regimented person. Every day, I go down over my horses' knees, their legs, and their joints. I feel for swelling, I feel for heat and I feel for tightness. I pick up their feet, and I feel for heat and a pulse. I go over their backs, their hocks, their stifles, too. If I do that every day, I know what their joints, muscles and hide looks and feels like when they're healthy. That way, when something is off, I can pick up on it immediately.
2. Quick Jog.
I like to jog my horse in a circle every day before I get on. I am looking for an even, symmetrical gait, making sure the horse isn't nodding, that each hind leg is tracking evenly underneath the horse, and that each front leg is extending evenly in front of him. That way, if he's off, I can give him bute or banamine to see if that makes a difference—not to just give it and go on. I want to give the bute or banamine and give the horse a chance to respond to help narrow down what could be going on.
3. Thorough Warm-Up.
Typically, my horses get a 20 to 30-minute warm-up. I walk for 10 minutes on a loose rein, and I let them bend each way, back up and side pass. I want everything to loosen and free-up. I jog both directions, and I lope both directions. I know a lot of ropers don't like to go both directions, but horses have two sides of their body, and each side needs warmed up, stretched and maneuvered.
All joints require HA, and the joints with the most wear and tear have the highest uptake. I want my horses' joints as comfortable as they can be. So before big ropings, I double up my dose to morning and night rather than just once-per-day. I do that in the few days leading up to the roping and during the roping, because I'm going to be asking the most from my horses' joints then.
5. Cool Down.
When I'm done roping in the winter, I sponge off my horses' backs with warm water because I don't want sweat build-up under their saddles, and I rinse their legs off to remove dirt and debris. And then I put a cooler on them to make sure their muscles and bodies are cool before I put them away. It might seem like overkill, but my horses perform at the top of their games, and I want to make sure they are cared for to the best of my ability. BRJ