Polo Players Edition

DEC 2018

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

Issue link: https://polo.epubxp.com/i/1055534

Contents of this Issue


Page 59 of 67

58 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N for the horse if he is overworked or being asked to do something he isn't capable of doing or doesn't like doing. Not every horse has talent for every discipline. Trying to make a jumper out of a horse that can't jump, or a gaited horse into a reined cow-horse may be stressful for both the horse and the trainer! Not every horse can be trained for polo. Any horse that is being pushed into trying to do something it can't or doesn't want to do will be miserable for the horse, causing physical and/or emotional stress. One of the most common stresses related to work, however, is simply asking too much of the horse. We often do this to our best horses. They have talent and athletic ability and we may use them too hard. Overwork can create physical and mental burn-out, and the horse quits trying. He may not only drop off in performance, but may also go off feed, lose weight and become vulnerable to illness. This type of stress may take some time and layoff to resolve. Change in Circumstance Horses are very adaptable but they are also creatures of habit. They get used to a certain routine and find comfort and security in what they can trust and expect. Drastic changes can be very stressful for most horses, and even minor changes can be a stress for some individuals. This is why it's best to make major changes gradually, if possible. Young horses coming to a training stable from the farm they grew up on, horses going to a new home, etc. may do better if some of the things they are accustomed to (the type of feed, living arrangements and other facets of their lives) can be somewhat similar at first in their new environment and circumstance. Even the horses that are accustomed to traveling and going to competitions often do better if you take feed and water from home, or bring a buddy they get along with. If something in the new environment and situation is the same as what they are familiar with and comfortable with, the stress of the change is not as severe and they may be able to handle it better. Horses may become bonded with another herd mate. If they are separated, one or both horses may become stressed. Some horses also become bonded with a certain person (like they would a herd member) and feel most comfortable when handled or ridden by that person because he/she is someone they trust. The "one man horse" may feel ill at ease, insecure and stressed when handled or ridden by someone else. Other things that cause stress include pain, injury, illness, etc. Anything out of the ordinary that disrupts a horse's health or comfort level is a stress—which can lead to a cascade of detrimental effects. If a horse is stressed by one type of infection (such as a viral respiratory disease), for instance, this may hinder the immune system and open the way for another opportunistic infection (such as bacterial pneumonia). Good health depends on many things, and the way we manage our horses (trying to reduce stresses of all kinds as much as possible) can make a big difference. Small stresses may never be recognized; some horses are stoic and seem unflappable. Yet multiple small stresses can be cumulative and push a horse over the edge. Sometimes you can't put your finger on any one thing that causes the stress that finally made the horse sick or resulted in ulcers. At other times, it's easy to see the big change that did it, but there may have been additional stresses that were part of that picture that the horse owner was unaware of. This might be one reason some horses handle stressful events better than others; the horse that got ulcers after a trailer trip may have had some underlying stresses before that—and the transport was simply the last straw (that broke the camel's back, so to speak). Stress and Ulcers Stress can lead to higher incidence of ulcers in horses. In humans, stress can result in production of more gastric acid, which can lead to stomach ulcers. In horses, stress can interfere with a horse's normal eating habits, which in turn can hinder proper digestion. The horse is a grazing animal, programmed to eat more or less continually, and his stomach is designed to have some food in it at all times. Some horses, like some humans, handle stress better than others and keep eating. Something that might cause ulcers in one horse may not be a problem in another horse. A few years ago, Truman Prevatt, PhD (a Florida horseman and research scientist with a PhD in mathematics and physics) and Olin Balch, DVM, MS, PhD (an endurance ride veterinarian in Idaho) worked together on a project looking at equine ulcers, with input from many sources and studies. In humans, the act of eating stimulates release of gastric acid. In horses, hydrochloric acid is produced continuously because under natural conditions they are eating forage continuously. "If they have to go without food, acid builds up in the stomach. The longer they go without food, the more acid buildup," says Prevatt. "In horses, especially athletic performance horses, ulcers show up primarily in the top ⅓ of the stomach, which is not protected by mucus. Therefore diet management is essential, lifestyle management is essential, and (continued from page 17) Horses that are confined too much or isolated can become stressed and anxious.

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