204: Equine Sports Medicine

The below content replicates the content of the physical exhibit at CSU Spur. It can be used for reference, language translation, and additional accessibility.

The Equine Athlete

Horses are amazing athletes and just like human athletes, horses can compete in many different disciplines. The competitions are uniquely designed to test the skill and partnership of the horse and rider. Each equine sport requires physical strength, agility, and stamina. Sports can involve moving over or around obstacles, working with cattle, as well as highly technical maneuvers. The display shows a few examples of horses competing in the sports they love.

Equine Sports Medicine

Equine Sports Medicine is a kind of veterinary medicine that deals with physical fitness, treatment, and prevention of injuries. Equine Sports Medicine involves an integrative team, which may include a veterinarian, farrier, dentist, nutritionist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, owner, and trainer. All of the people on the team work together to keep the athlete performing at an elite level.

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  • It is important for veterinarians to assess the health of a horse’s foot and shoe. 
  • Students learning the art of horseshoeing.
  • Farriers (experts in horse hoof trimming and shoeing) and veterinarians work closely together to provide the best care for the horse.
  • Application of extracorporeal shockwave therapy, which delivers shockwaves to damaged tissue to reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Photos courtesy of CSU

Equine Rehabilitation

Equine rehabilitation involves assisting in injury recovery, improving patient function and mobility, alleviating signs of pain and inflammation, and maintaining or improving strength. The goal of any rehabilitation program is to return the equine athlete to full athletic potential. Similar to human physical therapists, equine rehabilitation specialists may use laser therapy, aquatic exercise, whole body vibration therapy, cryotherapy, or customized controlled exercise programs to assist in injury recovery.

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  • Horse in underwater treadmill.
  • Application of laser therapy, which can help heal damaged tissue.
  • Horse standing on vibration plate.
  • Horse with TENS unit on.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) uses low-voltage electric currents to treat pain and discomfort.
  • Photos courtesy of CSU

Finding Answers

Similar to human athletes, equine athletes are diagnosed, and plans are developed to create the best results. X-rays and ultrasounds are commonly used to identify and continue to watch injuries. More advanced devices, such as MRI, CAT scan, and nuclear medicine can be used if the X-rays and ultrasounds are unable to determine the issue.

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  • Veterinary team members conduct a venogram image, which allows them to assess blood flow. 
  • Venogram images allow veterinarians to assess blood flow to a horse’s foot.
  • Veterinary team conducting a magnetic resonance image (MRI), which uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of this horse’s internal anatomy.
  • Photos courtesy of CSU

Lameness Examination

Since horses cannot tell us where they hurt, we must assess the horse’s body and work with riders to understand what is wrong. When a horse is examined, veterinarians look for lumps and bumps to identify any places that hurt. Understanding how horses move and the way their body works helps to determine where the pain is and how to help the horse.

Human Comparisons

Did you know that horses have a knee joint just like you do?  A horse’s knee is called the Stifle joint, and it can be found in the hind legs. Can you find your knee on the skeleton? Can you find the horse’s knee? Look how similar the human knee and horse knee look on a radiograph (X-ray). Horses also have bones, cartilage, and ligaments similar to people.

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  • Veterinarian flexing a horse’s stifle joint, like a human’s knee, as part of the lameness exam.
  • Sectional radiograph (X-ray) of human knee joint.
  • Sectional radiograph (X-ray) of horse stifle joint, like a human’s knee. 
  • Photos courtesy of CSU

Equine Physical Therapy

Therapeutic exercise programs are a key component at the center of every horse’s therapy.  Therapeutic exercises are designed to alleviate pain, promote function, control fibrosis, and increase flexibility, circulation, and strength. To stay in shape, horses must exercise and stretch just like you do. Can you touch your toes? How do we ask a horse to touch its toes? (With a cookie!)

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  • Horse doing stretches to reach a carrot treat, similar to a human touching their toes.
  • Horse balancing on proprioceptive pads, which are used to help a horse learn how to rebalance an injured leg or foot.
  • Horse going over cross poles to increase a horse’s strength and flexibility, like  humans “ladder” training.
  • Resistance bands are used to help horses regain strength. 
  • Kinesio tape applies pressure to an injured area to reduce pain, just like its used on humans.
  • Photos courtesy of CSU

Full-Time Care

Similar to human athletes, equine athletes require full-time attention to keep them at the peak of performance. Regular examinations and care are critical to keeping strong and healthy. Horses who are athletes require ongoing veterinary care and exercise to keep them strong and ready for competition. Just like a basketball player, if a horse wants to win at their sport, it takes a lot of work behind the scenes.

Image Captions:

  • Leg wraps are used to provide support and protect horse legs and feet during rehabilitation training and exercise.
  • Photos courtesy of CSU


Associate Attorney, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority

Ms. Becker has dedicated her career to the Navajo Nation and its natural resources.  She is currently serving as an Associate Attorney for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.  Prior to this position, she had the honor of serving as the Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources from May 2013 to January 2019, as an appointee of President Begaye and Vice-President Nez, after serving eleven (11) years as an attorney for the Navajo Nation focusing on water rights and natural resources issues.  Continuing her deep interest and passion for water, she serves on the Leadership Team for the Water and Tribes Initiative in the Colorado River Basin, as a Commissioner on the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, as an appointee of Governor Lujan Grisham, and on the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission, as an appointee of Speaker Damon.  Ms. Becker is equally passionate about supporting artists and serves as a Trustee for the Institute of American Indian Arts and Culture (IAIA), as an appointee of President Obama.  Ms. Becker is a member of the Nation and lives on the Navajo Nation in Fort Defiance with her husband and two school age children.

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