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Common Problems Seen in Young Horses

PART 1

The early years of a horse's life are crucial for their development and future success. Young horses, specifically those between the ages of three and six years, often experience a range of common problems that can affect their overall well-being, training, and performance.


Over the two days of the conference, you will be treated to a packed timetable with experts presenting the latest scientific information on topics relating to young horses such as starting and training, muscular, neurological and skeletal developmental diseases.

We will also discuss the topic of growth and development relating to personal and professional development, equestrian sports, standards within the equine world, training and competing, and much more.


Understanding and addressing the issues which can affect young horses is essential for ensuring their soundness, physical development, mental stability and longevity.


In the first of a two-part blog on young horses, we discuss some of the most frequently encountered problems seen in young horses and provide effective solutions for each.




1. Growth related issues

Horses undergo significant growth and skeletal development between the ages of three to size. Rapid growth spurts can lead to a number of problems such as developmental orthopaedic diseases (DOD) – including osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), physitis and angular limb deformities. These conditions may result from imbalances in nutrition, exercise or genetics. Ensuring your young horse is getting a balanced diet and appropriate exercise is crucial. Consulting your vet if you have any concerns will help to address any growth-related issues promptly.



If you're keen to learn more about equine orthopaedic issues in horses, join our online seminar with Dr Jessica Kidd on 7 October 2023.


This seminar will look at common problem areas in the horse including:

  • The back, kissing spines and supraspinous ligament desmopathy and facet joint arthritis

  • The sacroiliac region, pelvis fractures, pain and dysfunction




2. Training Challenges


Young horses are in the early stages of their training, so it is essential to lay the correct foundations. Careful management combined with proper training methods which focus on the horse’s well-being and musculoskeletal health and strength are vital to ensure your horse’s long-term health, soundness and success.


In the on-demand webinar - Skeletal Maturity and Exercises for Young Horses Gillian recommends many different exercises that are helpful for preparing a young horse for the demands of future life and performance.



3. Dental Problems


As the young horse loses their baby teeth and develop their permanent teeth it can cause dental issues that may lead to discomfort. Regular dental examinations by an equine dentist will address these potential issues before they cause any problems.


Get AHead is an upcoming seminar that your can attend in person, or join online. It is presented by Dr Chris Pearce and Gillian Higgins and is aimed at equestrian professionals and horse owners who are keen to learn about the anatomy of the horse’s head and how it can be applied to improve the comfort, training and way of going of the horse.




4. Hoof and Limb Conditions


Young horses may experience limb and hoof conditions that can affect their soundness and performance. Regular farrier visits, proper hoof care and balanced exercise routines will help to maintain healthy hooves and limbs.


Learning to accurately feel and palpate the joints, tendons and ligaments of the lower limb is an invaluable skill for anyone owning or working with young horses. Check out this on-demand webinar to learn more: Understanding the Tendons and Ligaments of the Lower Limb


5. Gastrointestinal Disturbances


Changes in diet or access to forage can disrupt the delicate balance of your horse’s digestive system. Young horses can be susceptible to gastrointestinal disturbances, including colic and gastric ulcers. Ensuring a consistent feeding routine and providing a high fibre diet as well as keeping stress to a minimum can help to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal issues.


Digestive, Feeding and Nutrition is an on-demand seminar available through the Horses Inside Out Academy. Presented by Gillian Higgins, independent nutritionist Clare MacLeod and veterinarian and probiotics specialist, Liam Gamble they will help you learn about your horse's digestive system and feeding.

Gillian takes you on an anatomical journey through the gastrointestinal tract. Clare, looks at the theory of feeding and looks at a range of feeding plans suitable for different types of horses. Veterinarian and gut health specialist Liam Gamble, gives an overview of the equine microbiota, the past, present and future perspectives.


6. Socialisation and Turnout

All, not just young horses thrive on social interaction and plenty of turnout time. If this is limited it can lead to behavioural problems, anxiety and frustration. Proving young horses with regular turnout and ensuring their social needs are met can promote their overall well-being and help prevent behavioural issues.


7. Development of Musculoskeletal Strength


As young horses grow, their muscles and skeletal structures need time to develop and strengthen. Overworking or pushing young horses too hard physically can lead to strains, stress fractures and other musculoskeletal issues. Gradual and progressive exercise routines with appropriate periods of rest and recovery will help ensure the young horse’s musculoskeletal system develops correctly and reduces the risk of injury.


Understanding skeletal maturity is key to developing a happy, healthy, posturally strong horse. Skeletal Maturity and Exercises for Young Horses is an on-demand webinar that looks at how youngsters, regardless of conformation or type, develop both muscularly and skeletally.

​Gillian compares skeletons with both open and closed growth plates and looks at different activities and exercises to help prepare young horses for future ridden work.


Understanding the challenges young horses face at the start of their careers is crucial. As their carers we need to support the young horse’s overall development to ensure his long-term soundness and well-being.


In our next blog, we look at skeletal maturity in young horses.


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Excellent wrap up of the most important things with yougsters. Warm thanks from freezy Finland!

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Thanks Anu

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