Whole-Body Health

Jessi Carter-Arnold, DVM DACVS, takes a proactive, collaborative approach when it comes to keeping equine athletes sound and happy.

By Jennifer Paulson

The saltwater spa is just one way to provide reining athletes with the care they need to perform their best. Photo by Carolyn Simancik

If you know anything about athletics, you understand that preventing an injury always trumps attempting to treat one. And if you know anything about horses, you understand that equation works with equine athletes, too.

Jessie Carter-Arnold, DVM DACVS, veterinarian and surgeon at Oklahoma Equine Hospital, recognizes that whole-body wellness is essential for reining horses competing at all levels, especially elite competitions like the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel.

“It starts at home with general basic care for these horses,” she said. “Start with a good, healthy diet; regular exercise; some kind of joint-support program, whether it’s oral and/or injectable. We recommend this for all show horses as a basis for good care to compete. Before a show, we usually do a baseline exam so we know where a horse is at. We watch his gait and how he handles his maneuvers to identify anything we might need to be aware of. We then watch those same areas at the show, especially before a horse goes to compete in the finals.”

Veterinary and technology advancements further enhance the wellness of these elite horses and allow exhibitors and trainers to put their horses’ well-being first so they can compete their best. The saltwater spa is just one of those tools Arnold finds exceptionally useful.

“The saltwater spa is a game-changer for these horses,” she explained. “The salt and cold water work together to get the horse’s limbs much cooler than any type of icing can accomplish. This decreases swelling and inflammation, increases range of motion, and prevents further damage when done before or after competition.”

Finding an appointment to get your horse in the spa can be tricky, but Arnold suggests looking early in the morning and later at night, and usually at least four hours before you’ll show or after. Following time in the spa, many of Arnold’s customers apply a poultice to the horse’s legs to continue to keep inflammation at bay.

Arnold’s whole-body philosophy means treatments don’t end with her clinic and a trip to the spa. She prefers a collaborative relationship with other caregivers to get each horse exactly what he needs to be healthy and ready to compete.

“We provide some acupuncture, and that’s a really nice way to release tension in horses with muscle spasms or back pain,” she noted. “We send them to trusted experts for massage therapy and chiropractic work. With a combination of all these treatments, you can fix a lot of problems, especially overall body soreness.”

Additionally, Arnold’s equine customers use Theraplate and P3 treatments.

“We do more to keep our horses comfortable than we do for ourselves,” she said. “To be an athlete is a challenging task for a human body; it’s the same for horses.”

Providing these therapeutic treatments to keep equine athletes safe is just one way reiners show they believe in the “Respect the Horse. Respect the Sport.” philosophy.