“If I suspect there’s an issue, my first port of call is consulting with my vet – and I’m very lucky, because that is my wife, Pia – and getting an opinion and looking to find out what the issue may be, if any. If there are no issues with them, that can give me the confidence to persist in training the behaviour – but if I believe there’s something physical, I work on that first and foremost.”
However, while Dan stresses the importance of ensuring your horse is sound, he notes you’ve also got to be careful that you’re not making excuses. “I hear it a lot dealing with horses that have major behavioural issues; owners will have 99 excuses for that horse and often that’s what they are – excuses. So you do have to be careful that we’re not going, ‘oh, well my horse is bucking so he must have a sore back’ or, ‘he’s rearing, so he must be out in his poll’. In my mind, if my horses are not feeling their best, they don’t show this by rearing or bucking; under extreme circumstances, a horse might do that, but in this scenario it’s more often because people have misread the horse and haven’t picked up on the early signs of physical soreness and that persisted and eventually led to something more dramatic. But in my experience, serious issues such as rearing and bucking are more likely to be behavioural.”
Dan has long been a fan of 4CYTETM EPIITALIS®FORTE Gel joint supplement for use with his horses, and more recently he and Dan James became ambassadors for the product. “My competition horses are on it, as is pretty much anything that I think might need it – even if they are paddock horses or semi-retired. My Stock Horse stallion, Double Image, is 17 now and he gets pulled out for the odd show here and there, whether it’s for competition or entertainment. He stays on 4CYTETM, and probably what I’d be doing with him is upping his dose if I was getting ready for a major event – even though he has no issues – just to ensure he’s feeling his best.”
As Dan explains, it’s not just the older horses that benefit from 4CYTETM. “I’ve got a four-year-old mare who has the knees of a teenage horse who’s been in full-time work since they were a young horse… and she’s only a young horse and she hasn’t had the stresses that her knees suggest. It’s just how she is.” Recognising something was amiss with her early on, Dan had her X-rayed and was told to not worry about training her because she wouldn’t have any longevity with her knees the way they were. “I really liked the mare when I started her, so we put her on a double dose of 4CYTETM (the loading dose of 8ml). When we re-did the X-rays, they said one thing but her lameness examination said another; she wasn’t as lame as what the imaging suggested she should be. Now, after an extended period on 4CYTETM, her lameness is non-existent.
“That mare is getting ready for competitions now,” says Dan, explaining that she’s one of the first-time competitors he’s planning to take out in a few weeks to a snaffle bit cutting competition. “She’s one of my favourite horses that I ride and so I’m looking forward to showing her. The proof’s going to be in the pudding; she’s a four-year-old so we’re far from her competing into her teens yet, but she feels really good and sound.”