If you rope or rodeo, your horse is one of your biggest assets. But if there's any injury bothering him, he's not going to give you 110 percent. The good team roping and rodeo horses are few and far between, so you need to take care of them. Every horse is a little different in his maintenance needs. For example, different horses need to be shod at different intervals. Problem horses need to be shod more often, because as the foot grows the angle changes and can cause lameness. Each heading and heeling horse is different, just like every person is different. Some horses do better on certain diets, some need more riding than others or more steers scored, etc…
Most of us aren't really educated on what a good horseshoeing job is. When we're traveling, we usually ask around for who the best guy is in each area. It's so important to find a good horseshoer, because if your horse is lame it can throw your whole program into a tailspin.
You need to make sure your horse has all his shots, so he's vaccinated against all possible diseases. Enough things can go wrong that are beyond your control. Don't lose a horse over something that is preventable.
You need to stay current on your Coggins and health papers, so you don't have any troubles in your travels. If you're out on the road and don't have the paperwork on your horses, things can get sticky. Don't let some silly holdup keep your horse in the trailer longer than is absolutely necessary.
I worm my horses a couple times a year. I want my horse to feel his best and look his best. A horse will tell you if he isn't feeling good. In the springtime, for example, his coat won't be as shiny when he's losing his hair if he doesn't feel good.
Everyone wants his horse to look good. And that means good nutrition and knowing your horse and his individual needs. Younger horses can't always stand prosperity like an older horse can. Too much grain or a supplement might make a younger one hyper, whereas a veteran might be a lot better off with that extra energy.
It takes more to maintain an older horse. You're going to practice on him less, but he might need some type of supplement to keep him going.
Now that roping is so competitive, everyone's trying every which way to gain an advantage. These days, we have everything from horse chiropractors to horse psychics. Everyone's looking for that edge. Some of the new stuff that comes along is legit. Other stuff is hokey. Whether it's the latest supplements, magnets, new types of shoes and saddle pads or whatever, remember that sometimes the best thing is getting back to basics. If it sounds crazy, maybe it is. Your horse will tell you what works and what doesn't.
You need to stay up with your horse's teeth and have them floated when need be. I like to get my horse's teeth checked and worked on once a year as part of his routine maintenance program. If it's been too long, my horse might tip me off by fighting the bit because he's uncomfortable.
You can look for various signs of problems in your horse. If one starts fighting his head, he could be having teeth problems. He'll also let you know if his back is hurting from pads or a saddle that don't fit. Bad behavior sometimes has physical roots. At least consider some of those things before you go straight to reprimanding your horse and assuming that he just doesn't want to work the way you want him to.
Using the right equipment for each horse is important also, just like catering to each horse's dietary needs is key. Sometimes, that changes over time, so you need to stay up on what works best for your horse today.
Different guys have different theories when it comes to horses. It really just depends on the individual horse. Generally, the younger a horse, the more runs he can take. What really hurts a horse is the consecutive runs. You can make more runs on a horse if you space it out over the course of a day. If you're in a big hurry, your horse suffers the consequences. When a horse gets physically exhausted, he'll try to find a way to let you know he's not going to do it anymore. You can spot a horse that loves his job, just like you can see when one hates it. It's just like anything else in life. You get so much more out of the ones who love it.
It's important to keep a horse in shape, but there's a difference between keeping one in shape by roping on him and getting him legged up before you go rope. I like to ride my horses outside the arena, and don't just make runs on them. I make five runs max on an older horse who knows what he's doing. The rest is just conditioning. If a horse doesn't need any runs that day, maybe I'll just lope a few circles while getting the feel of some new ropes.