How to Cope With Hard Ground

After all the rain we had in the Spring, it’s quite unbelievable how we are now in near drought conditions and the ground is parched and like concrete. When events were being cancelled in the Spring due to waterlogged courses, now events and riders are choosing to cancel or withdraw due to the hard ground. But what can you do to help your horse cope with the hard ground?

Should you compete on hard ground?

Only you can decide on this based on the information you have about your horse, how it goes on different surfaces, it’s condition in particular its feet and legs and of, course the preparation of the competition surface. Many events are trying hard to improve the surface on which horses will be competing  either by watering it or using mechanical tools to de-compact the surface. By walking a course ahead of the event you will get a feel for the going and you can make an educated decision. If you can’t walk the course in advance – contact the event organisers to find out what preparations have been made, check their social media pages for updates and some will even post photos of fences so you can see whether there is a sand take-off/landing area to soften the impact on horse’s legs. If in doubt and you are keen to compete – try to find events that are being help on a soft surface such as an arena.

What are the issues with riding on hard ground?

Up to 4 tonnes of concussive force passes through a horse’s lower leg at gallop so its not surprising that hard ground can also cause inflammation of the joints, such as hocks, knees and coffin. As these are straight joints, which are perpendicular to the ground, the impact is greater. 

Front feet in particular which are vulnerable to the hard ground. Problems occur in the coffin joint, deep digital flexor tendon and navicular. The horse can be seen to be quite ‘pottery’ – which is means he isn’t quite lame, but is unwilling to stride out.  

What can I do to minimise the impact of hard ground on my horse?

There are a number of preventative measures:

  • Support your horse’s joints from the inside out with targeted nutrition such as supplements that contain ingredients known to support joints such as glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin sulphate.
  • Keep hooves moist and well-oiled to preserve the hoof capsule and keep it more flexible, which allows for the impact of the hard ground. Also, if the hoof dries out it you will see more cracks in the feet, which can lead to another set of problems.
  • After exercise consider using ice boots for at least 15 minutes or  cold hose the legs for five minutes.
  • Ride more in the school as s soft surface will help avoid injury.


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