The Horse

FEB 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 48 of 51

49 February 2018 THE HORSE As for back soreness, he says, "Most horses are conditioned for their event, so their backs are conditioned to the work. A rider's technique is quite important to minimizing soreness or injury." At the largest events the timed-event rodeo horses run three times and, then, if they qualify, participate in a final event. Rodeos have two segments: the "perf," which refers to the performance rodeo in front of an audience, and the "slack," which refers to the events completed without an audience to accommodate overflow entrants. The slack cowboys must qualify for the perf. At smaller rodeos, the horses might compete once without a semifinal or final format. In all PRCA-sanctioned events, a licensed veterinarian is present on rodeo grounds. The vet does not inspect contes- tants' horses prior to an event; rather, the riders self-monitor, says Corey. If a horse is sore, it doesn't compete. "The sheer numbers of contestants at a top rodeo precludes inspection," he says. "Not only that but also many times the riders show up right near the event time." Just like broncs, the timed event horses travel far and wide. "For example," says Espy, "in order for a barrel horse to earn $100,000 to $130,000 a year and to qualify as one of the Top 15 that makes it to the big PRCA event in Las Vegas (the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo), these horses travel 120,000 to 150,000 miles a year." Unlike the bucking horses, however, the timed-event horses warm up for 30 to 90 minutes, depending on their discipline. Pickup Horses Pickup horses often work even harder than the timed-event horses. If you've watched a rodeo, you'll see two pickup horses for each bucking contestant—the pickup riders protect the cowboy and re- lease the bucking strap when the animal finishes its eight-second run. The pickup horse has to sprint as well as change direction frequently to keep up with the bronc's twists and turns. Espy says most performances use up to 15 bareback broncs and 15 saddle broncs. During each round of 15, a pickup rider has to change horses twice because the animals get winded as they move in conjunction with the bucking horses. This means that, like a polo string, each pickup rider needs five or six horses to work a top-tier rodeo performance. "More horses are needed for a large arena because the horses tire out more quickly having to traverse longer dis- tances," adds Corey. Stock contractors provide most pickup horses as part of their agreement with the rodeo for animal provision. Many are "failed" bucking horses and are quite robust. Most issues Espy says he sees in pickup horses relate to soft tissue, such as tendon and ligament injuries. He doesn't see work-related joint injuries, and in 20 years has never injected a pickup horse's joint, including those working well into their mid-teens. Take-Home Message According to PRCA surveys of on-site rodeo veterinarians gathered from 2004 to 2010, livestock injuries (including cat- tle) occur at an average rate of 0.05% per year (think one for every 2,000 horses). Illness and injury are rare among rodeo broncs. Western performance horses and pickup horses are more likely to experi- ence injuries similar to those seen in any other sport horse. The PRCA has high standards for animal welfare, our sources say, and goes to great lengths to give any horse performing on the rodeo circuit the best in medical care. h Pickup horses must sprint and change direction frequently to keep up with a bucking horse's twists and turns. SUSAN KORDISH/COWGIRL PHOTOGRAPHY What About Local Events? Along with the 600 to 700 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Pro Rodeos that take place each year in the United States are non-PRCA-sanctioned rodeos starting with Little Britches, followed by high school, college, and amateur or county fair venues. Team roping tends to be the most common event. While these local and regional rodeos don't have as many rules and guidelines as the PRCA-sanctioned events, they usually still follow PRCA rules, says Doug Corey, DVM, Oregon-based past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Many of the PRCA rodeo stock contractors provide stock for non-PRCA events, too. A veterinarian isn't required to be on site at these venues but gets called in for emergencies. —Nancy S. Loving, DVM

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