Health Care for Western Performance Horses

Knowing how to select the perfect mount, train and condition him properly, and manage his health so he’ll deliver his best in the show pen is how champion riders of reiners, cutters, and rodeo sports succeed.
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health care for Western performance horses
Stops, slides, and spins put pressure on joints, tendons, and soft tissues. Problems can develop in all four legs, but hock and hind end injuries can be particularly debilitating to Western performance horses. | Photo: Photo: Dirk Caremans/FEI

Knowing how to select the perfect mount, train and condition him properly, and manage his health so he’ll deliver his best in the show pen is how champion riders of reiners, cutters, and rodeo sports succeed. 

Caring for any athletic horse requires attention to certain basics. But as disciplines diverge, owners and trainers have learned where to concentrate their efforts for the best results. In the Western performance world that means paying close attention to a horse’s hind end, the engine that drives those quick, dazzling moves. It also means selecting the right breed and bloodline. While a Quarter Horse, Paint, or Appaloosa is not required for success, those are often the breeds that reach the top levels in these sports.

Al Dunning has ridden, trained, and judged Western performance horses for decades. Since 1970 he has owned and operated Almosta Ranch outside of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he trains cutters, reiners, and working cow horses. He and his students have shown 35 World and Reserve World Champions, and he has judged the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Show and National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity.

“We want a horse with strong muscle structure that lends itself to (soundness),” says Dunning about what he looks for in a performance prospect. “We’d like to see a horse with bigger, flatter bone so that the horse has a greater surface of bone to carry larger tendons

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Written by:

Tracy Gantz is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is the Southern California correspondent for The Blood-Horse and a regular contributor to Paint Horse Journal, Paint Racing News, and Appaloosa Journal.

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