Of course, I said this from the back of a 25 year old pony that was still capable of jumping 3'6" and never went lame until she was in her 40's. Easy to think that all "performance" horses should operate well with the same (limited) regimen.
and by limited I mean a handful of sweetfeed and one scoop of vitamins a couple times a week.
Of course the field of proactive sports medicine for horses has exploded over the last several decades, and with it a notion of what is "normal."
|Hand Grazing is good medicine too|
When I was competing as a junior, plenty of people were busy injecting hocks, but not much else. I suppose toward the end of my junior career it seemed like vets had suddenly discovered the stifle so maybe they were injecting stifles too... it was the weirdest trend ever.
I'm sure that observation is more certainly an oversimplification, but even for my friends who were competing at higher levels - the only real therapeutic treatments I saw were hock injections, stall rest and "nerving" (for navicular horses). My adolescent brain just didn't love the notion that without pokes and drugs and whatever else, horses weren't comfortable doing their job.
Then my focus shifted from my horses to the volleyball court and I quickly found myself in my orthopedic's office getting regular cortisone injections in order to keep my swinging arm, well, swinging. I was astounded how those handy little injections nixed the inflammation and pain and let me continue to enjoy doing what I did without causing myself harm.
I suppose that was the turning point for me. Realizing that somehow I was okay with maintenance for me, but not my horses. The cognitive dissonance didn't last long and, obviously I sing a different tune now.
What's interesting is that every time Prair has a treatment (injection, shockwave, whatever) I still hear that tiny voice in the back of my head going "you shouldn't have to work this hard for sound..." and I toss and turn a bit wondering if I'm pushing Prair's body to hard or too far and if really she needs a drastically different job description.
I usually tamp down these nagging worries with wine and the repetition that we're jumping 2'6" which is approximately 3" higher than her canter stride when we're working on the flat... And then - 5 days pass and we're clear to start work again and I get rides like this week where the mare is just Rock effing Solid. No teeth grinding, no spook, no anxiety, supple in her back, a canter like a metronome and brilliant, adjustable work over cavaletti and small fences.
It's then that I realize, that yes, the injections are worth it. Not so much for a more competitive performance, but for a happier, healthier horse capable of using her body correctly and freely - which ultimately is the most responsible thing I can do to protect her long term soundness.
So that is my new perspective on maintenance. It should be a tool that allows Prair to be comfortable while working correctly . Maintaining good, even muscling is what will keep her back healthy and supported for as long as possible. Preventing any odd compensations that invite atrophy or overuse is what I'm avoiding with her "maintenance."
But it most certainly is not a free pass to a higher level.
It's a fine line for sure - and maybe not always an easy one to see, but as long as I'm filtering my choices through what makes Prair stable, and not what gets me ribbons - I am doing right by her.