It often boils down to this:
“Know your horse.”
It is not a perfect solution, but perhaps the best solution your horse will have on any given day. When competing it is easy to get caught up in the moment, go into denial, and push just that extra little bit. That extra push might be what shoves the horse over the edge. If the rider has become very attuned to their horse’s behavior when things are going well, it should be possible to notice things not quite right also.
The veterinary checks are our friend but at the end of the day the ride vet does not know your horse. So it is up to you to say to them these kinds of things when you see or feel them:
- My horse isn’t drinking.
- My horse is out of gas (I’m having to urge my horse to trot).
- My horse isn’t eating.
- My horse’s eye looks depressed (that sad tired as dirt look).
- My horse’s gait doesn’t feel right.
- My horse isn’t sweating.
- My horse’s pee doesn’t look right (thick, brown, black, tea colored).
- My horse isn’t pooping.
- My horse “fill in the blank.”
This type of information coupled with the ride vets knowledge will give your vet information they need to know to assist you in making an informed decision. The ride vet is not the enemy! They are in fact your best ally in protecting your horse from possibly career or life ending harm. So let them know the facts, and live to ride another day when things seem off. Ten miles out on a loop may be too late.
Further, if a ride vet recommends treatment: transfer to an emergency vet clinic, or supportive care such as IV fluids to stabilize a metabolic crisis, accept and follow through on those recommendations. This sport and many other equestrian pursuits is not without its risks. Be aware of your horse’s normal, and be proactive in preventing ride fatalities.
Examining Horse Deaths Related to Endurance
Source document: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/37197/examining-horse-deaths-related-to-endurance-rides