Dr. Colter Negranti: Tips For Keeping Your Rope Horse Sound
Customize their care case by case.

Equine practitioner Colter Negranti earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science at University of California-Davis, and his veterinary degree at Colorado State in Fort Collins. After graduating from vet school, Negranti interned and worked two years alongside renowned equine lameness specialist Dr. Marty Gardner in Gardnerville, Nevada. A lifelong cowboy, Negranti returned to his native Central Coast of California, where his Paso Robles Equine practice combines the practical, common-sense approach of his ranch-raised roots with every advantage of cutting-edge technology and modern medicine.

Dr. Negranti specializes in lameness issues related to performance horses—equine sports medicine—and has a number of team roping clients. He’s well-versed in the event, which is useful when helping his cowboy friends get the most out of their four-footed team roping partners, in terms of everything from prevention to cure. In fact, Dr. Gardner’s cowboy clientele in Gardnerville during Negranti’s tenure there included the likes of Clay O’Brien Cooper and Jade Corkill.

Negranti’s only 35, but has already seen an equine evolution in terms of team roping horses.

“We used to see a lot of ranch horses become team roping horses,” he said. “With all the money to be won at the World Series events and others, the horse market has been driven up substantially. We’re now seeing low-numbered ropers, who are by far the majority in the roping industry, buying $30,000-$40,000 horses. That, in turn, provides a much different treatment opportunity and challenge to keeping these horses going.

“It used to be that a lot of ropers were notorious for using a little bute and going on with it. But now, with the value of these horses, it’s really changed how we approach treatment. Given their investment, it’s worthwhile for rope-horse owners to invest in more advanced therapies that maybe weren’t justified in the past—when horses weren’t as expensive and there wasn’t as much money to be won—such as stem-cell therapy; relatively expensive, new drugs, such as OSPHOS (clodronate disodium); and corrective shoeing. There are a lot more maintenance options available today than ever before.”

Negranti smiles when so many of his cowboy customers say that it seems like there didn’t used to be so many lame horses to contend with.

“We’ve selected prospects for a more refined end product, so we’re dealing with some of the subsequent lameness issues that go with that,” he said. “As performance horses are bred to be more athletic, we’re getting away from the big-boned ranch horses that used to be a lot more common. Each event—whether it’s cutting, reining, rope horses, or barrel horses—has gotten so competitive. So besides the physical refinements, we’re also asking a lot more of these equine athletes than ever before.

“Take team roping. Times are getting faster, and the precision we now expect out of these horses is pretty stressful physically. Horses aren’t naturally made to do the things we’re asking them to do repeatedly now. As the demands become greater, so do the injuries.”

Negranti’s noticed the stepped-up participation at every level of the game, and the obvious correlation between that and demand for better-than-ever-before horses.

“You go to a #8 or #9 roping at a World Series event, and the number of entries is substantially more than the higher-numbered ropings,” Negranti noted. “So naturally, veterinarians are being asked to do a lot of pre-purchase exams, and to design maintenance programs for high-caliber horses for all levels of ropers. The big money in the sport today is driving people to buy better horses and take better care of them. It’s a substantial investment, so it just makes financial sense.”

It also directly affects a roper’s odds of winning. Ropers will be money and happiness ahead if they go out of their road to prevent injuries in the first place.

“That goes a lot further than coming to me or another vet, and having to treat a problem after the fact,” Negranti said. “Things as simple as proper shoeing and nutrition, and keeping horses in shape go a long way toward keeping them healthy and sound. Paying attention to horses is really important, too. Listen to them, and they’ll tell you a lot about what’s going on. If a horse is all of a sudden doing something out of the ordinary—not acting right or limping—get it checked out. The earlier you identify a problem, the better.

“If out of nowhere your horse doesn’t want to go into the box, or gets anxious in the box, for example, it might be because he’s hurting. I’ve seen a lot of horses like that. We figured out they were a little sore, and in some cases their box issues were immediately resolved by, say, injecting their hocks, which for a lot of performance horses is a pretty routine part of their maintenance program.”

Negranti notes that the earlier you relieve hock inflammation, the better prognosis for a horse to stay on his game in the long run.

“A horse that’s comfortable will perform better,” he said. “That’s just common sense. And every horse is different. I know plenty of rope horses that don’t need hock injections, and hardly ever need any maintenance. Some need it every five or six years; others more often. It depends on a variety of factors, including conformation, how they use themselves, and the degree of change in that joint.”

The value of common sense cannot be overemphasized here.

“Keep them on a regular shoeing interval to keep their angles right, keep them legged up, and don’t overuse them,” Negranti said. “Rope five or 10, and put them away. Younger horses tend to get a little more use, and a little more stress put on them, but most horses don’t need to run 30 steers a day.

“Have your vet and farrier work together to keep your horse at his best. I sometimes take radiographs, go over the angles, and create a prescription for each particular horse with the horseshoer. The angles inside the hoof capsule don’t always correspond with what you see on the outside. Today’s rope horses are high-level athletes, and should be treated as such. No two horses are the same or have the same needs, so treating them on a case-by-case basis is the best way to help maximize their performance.” 

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