World champion Jordon Briggs knows health and nutrition are key components to a healthy and happy horse. She prefers a simple approach rather than a laundry list of needs.
My husband, Justin, and I keep everything pretty simple. Having horses out on pasture is important to us and our program. First and foremost, I cannot stand to see a horse in a stall all the time. I like my horses to graze and have a big enough pen or pasture that a little grass grows so they can live as naturally as possible. I think it’s good on their bodies, plus it gives them the ability to have their heads down and do everything horses are supposed to do out in the wild.
In addition, pretty much everything we have gets grain once or twice a day, depending on their workload. In the winter when grass isn’t growing, we feed quite a bit of alfalfa to get through until spring and summer when the grass begins to grow again. I also like to keep them year-round on coastal or grass hay to make sure they are getting forage at all times, especially when I’m hauling to rodeos and they’re not turned out on pasture to graze.
From there, we go with how they look to determine if anything else is needed in their diets. I like my horses a little on the fatter side. I do think they need minerals and vitamins to help with their overall health and condition. I prefer to feed a grain that includes all of that so I don’t need to feed a laundry list of vitamins, minerals and supplements. I feed Purina Impact Professional, which is a high-fat, low-sugar feed that also offers vitamins and minerals—and it’s reasonably priced.
Probably the most important part of my horses’ health is their conditioning program. My biggest thing is having my horses in really good shape. I believe having your horses in shape keeps the vet away, and I do believe part of that is having a horse out in the pasture. Moving around freely in turnout naturally keeps them in better shape.
When I’m conditioning my horses for competition—for example, when I’m getting [Famous Lil Jet] in shape—I longtrot out in the pasture, I lope in the arena, I lope a lot of small circles and I do drills for conditioning to help strengthen him. Things like collection help strengthen a horse’s body. It’s like when we workout in a gym using our muscles and burning calories; that’s what gets us in shape. With “Rollo,” I do some pole bending drills and other maneuvers that aren’t tuning for the barrel pattern, but simply getting my horse to use different parts of his body and strengthen all the muscles in his body.
I also like long-trotting up hills for conditioning, because it increases my horse’s breathing and helps build up lung capacity. It gets horses tired faster and makes them breathe harder so I can get their lungs in shape.
When I’m doing things like that or even loping circles or breezing in the arena, I make sure to pay close attention to Rollo’s breathing and keep an eye on how long it takes him to recover. I should be able to go around my arena twice and him recover easily. Normally, like when I run at a rodeo, by the time I walk back to the trailer he’s caught his breath back pretty fast.
Overall, knowing your horse and doing the proper work ahead of time, whether that be in the horses’ health and nutrition, conditioning program or vet checks, helps you know you’re serving your horse in the best way possible to help them succeed. Making sure they are at the top of their game health-wise so that you know you will have a healthy and happy horse with you for the long haul is what I strive to have in my horses.
This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue of Barrel Horse News.