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Roll had his summer bath yesterday and it was a great day for it! It was 100 degrees!
Today it was a little cooler, so we opted to go to the dressage arena and work in the hourglass pattern on the lead rope in his “Elbow Pull” and surcingle.
The twisting in his right hind foot was markedly better today after last week’s workout. I am glad I made the call to go back to the leading exercises after his riding experience on May 6. He felt sluggish and the right hind foot was not adequately supported and was twisting quite a bit.
Going back to his core leading exercises for the past few weeks has greatly improved the musculature and corresponding soft tissues, ligaments and tendon that support the pastern and fetlock and the twisting has substantially subsided. He now has a much more upward balance!
I find it amusing that these animals really DO mirror what we do, so it is best to pay attention to what YOU are doing as well as what your mule is doing!
Because you can’t necessarily SEE core muscle development, it is hard to tell how much it can help the equine with his overall posture, balance and performance. Once you have engaged in the exercises, you can begin to identify these very subtle nuances in the equine’s way of moving.
We often talk about “head sets” in the equine world and want our equines to be soft and supple in their poll, but what of the rest of the body? When the body is truly in good postural balance, it is easy for the equine’s WHOLE BODY to perform as it was intended.
The animal is soft and pliable throughout his body and you will begin to notice when they are using their whole body and when there are compromised segments. The easiest thing to see is how an animal with adequate core strength will use ALL his muscles such that you can actually see the muscles rippling in motion over the ribs.
The animal without core strength will be stiff and immobile over the ribs and the legs will move underneath the body, but neither adds support nor fluidity to his movement. ROLL is living proof of this drastic difference in conditioning.
We finished Roll’s lesson with some simple stretching exercises…
…then walked to the gate with the lead slung over his neck…
…and then backed a few steps, all evidence of his own good postural body carriage. I am so pleased that Roll is doing so well at 26 years old!
Roll and I both needed some exercise, so we did a quick vacuuming, left the Tack Barn and headed for the dressage arena.
We didn’t have a lot of time, so we opted to navigate the hourglass pattern on the lead line in his surcingle and “Elbow Pull” and did some core muscle work.
When you routinely execute gates the same way, your equine will know what to expect…
…and he can always respond accordingly. Consistency breeds consistency. Accuracy breeds accuracy.
Roll is so cooperative that he wants to help me space the rails properly, waiting patiently as he should.
When I’m not sure, he helps with the spacing! First in a straight line…
…and then a diagonal rail crossing.
After the diagonal crossing, we began a turn to the right…
…and re-approach the ground rails…
…then halt in front of the first ground rail, all done with hand signals alone.
He had not worked over the rails for quite some time and hit two rails the first time out. I knew this could be a problem and opted to use my solid ground rails instead of the sand-filled PVC that he could just kick out of his way.
We practiced bending through the corner cones…
…and coming out of the turn onto a straight line.
Then he picked of his feet higher the next time through the ground rails, not a clip at all and into a nice halt.
Roll continues to have issues with twisting the right hind leg, but the core strength leading exercises and squaring up seemed to help quite a bit. The last two times over the rails, he went clean. He was walking much better towards the end of the lesson, so we practiced leaving the arena with the lead rope slung over his neck.
He was a real pro!!! I am sure proud of this 26 year old Belgian mule! This rescue continues to thrive!
Massage for equinesis now used more often as an alternative or complementary healing process toward health and fitness.
Simple massage can prevent various injuries throughout your animal’s lifetime. Don’t wait for obvious injury to occur—preventive massage increases the length of the muscle fibers, taking pressure off the joints.
When the muscles are allowed to contract and expand to their full length, they are able to absorb important nutrients that reduce fatigue. Massage also increases blood flow, which helps the body flush harmful toxins, such as lactic acid, that build up from normal use.
Massage aids in reprogramming the nervous system to break patterns that can cause atrophy or knotted tissue. If you are unsure as to the severity of an injury, consult your vet!
At Lucky Three Ranch, I have found that therapeutic equine massage promotes relaxation and reduces stress. It also stimulates healing after an injury and provides significant relief from pain as it did when Roll had White Line Disease in 2016-17.
Massage can reduce muscle spasms, and greater joint flexibility and range of motion can be achieved through massage and stretching—resulting in increased ease and efficiency of movement.
Always be aware of your animal’s reaction to pressure and respond accordingly. Watch his eyes and ears. As you work look for signs of sensitivity toward the affected area such as biting, raising and lowering the head, moving into or away from pressure, contraction of muscles from your pressure, tossing his head, swishing his tail, picking up his feet, changes in his breathing or wrinkles around his mouth.
If your animal is heavy in the bridle, if he tips his head to one side, or if he has difficulty bending through the neck, he is exhibiting stiffness in this area.
If he moves away, he is telling you that you are exerting more pressure than he can comfortably endure, and you should go back to using your fingertips.
A raised head and perked ears may indicate sensitivity. He is asking for lighter pressure, so learn to pay attention to the things your animal tells you about his body.
Massage therapy should never be harmful. For the sake of safety and comfort, do not attempt massage therapy for rashes, boils, open wounds, severe pain, high fevers, cancers, blood clots, severe rheumatoid arthritis, swollen glands, broken bones, direct trauma or if there is any chance of spreading a lymph or circulatory disease, such as blood poisoning. Avoid direct pressure on the trachea.
It is easiest to find sore spots and muscles when your animal is warmed up, so after a ride is a good time to do massage therapy and passive range-of-motion exercises.
Each time you ride, take the time to quickly go over your animal and assess his sensitive areas: check his range of motion to detect stiffness in the joints. Paying this kind of attention to his body will enhance his athletic performance and provide him with a wonderfully relaxing reward. Give your equine the preventive care that he deserves to make your way to a mutually satisfying relationship.
After about an hour of shedding grooming with the hairbrush, shedding blade and then the vacuum, Roll and I headed out for a walk around the jump course. We started at the Tack Barn and walked through the alleyway between the buildings.
We stopped occasionally along the driveway to square up and he seemed to be reluctant to weight the right hind again, but after a few times, he did better. We stopped at the MULE CROSSING sign for a photo-op.
Then we went down the beautiful tree-lined driveway on our way past the mules in the dirt pen having lunch, and past Jasper Bunkhouse, to the jump course area.
We stopped again at the statue of Lucky Three Eclipse, my hunter champion, situated behind our equipment barn where all the hay equipment is stored. Roll was more interested in the “Ely” statue than he was with the photo-op!
The grass was pretty tall and made for difficulty walking through it, but Roll was willing and did not dive for the grass, but obediently kept his head up, moving freely forward.
As long as he was walking, he was obedient. Then when I stopped him and asked him to square up, he became more interested in the grass and was not that willing to stand still for very long each time he stopped.
I guess the temptation was just too much for him, so I let him have a nibble! The reins tied up to the surcingle only allowed him to crop the ends off the tall grass.
We then walked on a little farther, enjoying the sunshine, the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the background, and the warm weather.
We stopped for another photo-op in the grass, but he did not stay squared up for the picture. He was still slightly distracted by the grass and apparently moved, but at least he wasn’t being pushy about it and smiled for the camera!
He really didn’t want to leave the grass, but he followed me nevertheless and squared up again on the road. At 18 hands, it’s a good thing he is as obedient as he is or he could have dragged me back into the grass!
We stopped again to see the Mae Bea C.T. statue. Roll had to reach out and take a good look at her pretty face!
He did pretty well overall. The walk was just enough to tune up his core. It’s hard to believe that he has now been with me for 8 years considering he was a rescue and supposedly a lost cause when I got him.
Roll is now 26 years old and I hope he still has many good years to come. It was a beautiful day and we both thoroughly enjoyed our walk together. Maybe next time, we’ll go for a ride!
Roll did exceptionally well today! He was also happy that he got to work out with his little buddies, Augie and Spuds. His body is beginning to get toned up again and he is starting to shed off his winter coat.
I did a quick pass with the hairbrush and then the vacuum cleaner. Last was Johnson’s Baby Oil in his mane and tail. I noticed right away during the grooming process that he was finally put weight on his right hind foot again.
On the way to the arena, I led Roll and Steve led Augie and Spuds.
Roll executed the gate perfectly as he always has. There is really something to be said for GATE TRAINING! With routine practice, they always know exactly what is expected and respond accordingly…no fussing at all.
Roll got his turn in the hourglass pattern first and did amazingly well while Augie and Spuds waited patiently at the fence.
I never had to physically move a foot with any tugs on the rope. He responded 100% to the verbal commands to correct his stance when he was in a full stop and fully weighted all four feet this time when he was asked to do so.
To fully weight the foot in the arena, he had to push the sand down. Sometimes I asked him to do it and sometimes I did not. With the ringbone and side bones in three feet, I really did not expect him to come back to full balance, but he did! What a great surprise!
After a halt on centerline, he followed me obediently to the fence with the lead rope slung over his neck.
When I went to retrieve him he was sideways to the fence, but he moved over so I could release him from the fence on my hand signal alone.
Roll executed the gate perfectly again on the way out…
…then we proceeded down the road and back to the Tack Barn. What a guy!!!
Finally a day came that was warm enough to be able to wash the winter dirt out of Roll’s mane and tail! The first thing was to make sure he did not “feed on his lead rope” while I wasn’t looking, so I removed the rope lead and attached him to the chain lead at the wash rack.
The water was still icy cold, but I tried to limit his and my exposure to the cold. When we were done, his dirty brown mane and tail had turned the gorgeous, creamy reddish blond that I knew it was. He looked so handsome!
I gave his spine a stretch by pulling on his tail. Then it was time to put on his gear for his core strength leading exercises in the hourglass pattern in the outdoor arena.
He put up with my fussing to fit the surcingle…
…and obediently dropped his head when I put on the bridle and “Elbow Pull.”
I think he was glad we were finally able to go back out and work again after a few weeks of VERY cold temperatures. He has been having difficulty getting up and down, so I new he needed to get back to some moderate forced exercise. When he is left to his own devices, he tends to be somewhat of a couch potato.
He actually did better than I thought he would first walking down the road to the arena…
…and going through the gate to begin to execute the hourglass pattern balancing exercises.
It wasn’t that hard to get him to set up his feet with equal weight over all four feet…easier than the last time. Still, he is hesitant to fully weight the right hind foot. I believe this might be due to the soreness that he has developed from getting up and down. He has pretty tall side bones in that foot.
Roll is now 26 years old and although he cooperates, his mind does wander a bit like a “little old man’s” mind would! Still, when I call his name to remind him, he DOES come to attention!
After we did the hourglass pattern 1 ½ times each way, I slung the lead rope over his neck for the first time to see if he would follow me across the arena to the gate, stop, through the gate and down the road to the Tack Barn (Sorry, no photos – we shot video). He did excellent! I was so proud!
And when we got back, he obediently lowered his head again to get his bridle removed. He has truly changed dramatically in the eight years that I have had him. I can’t believe it has been that long! My how time flies when you’re having fun together…staying healthy!
Roll has been off for quite some time during this crazy winter weather that we have been having and due to the extra office work that I have taken on. Today we had an opportunity with warm temperatures, but avoided the mud from the snow by working indoors. First, I groomed Roll with a curry and then the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner is a great tool to promote circulation to the muscles over the body.
Johnson’s Baby Oil in the mane and tail help to protect the hair from the harsh winter weather, drying mud and prevents other equines from chewing on them.
Today we used my Kieffer dressage saddle that seems to fit most of my mules and Roll included with a girth extender. Then I put on the “Elbow Pull” and adjust it so that it helps him to keep his good posture throughout his lesson.
The “Elbow Pull” only prevents him from raising his head so high that he inverts his neck and hollows his back. Otherwise, it affords him full range of motion upward (to that point), downward to the ground and as far as he can stretch his head and neck to both sides.
We went to the indoor arena and he stood like a soldier while I closed the gate and prepped for our lesson in the hourglass pattern. It is extraordinary how core strength stays with these guys even when they are off work for long periods of time.
This is not true with bulk muscle or an animal that has not had the benefit of core strength postural development. The core strength that we develop in good posture is sustained by the equines themselves in their daily routines even when they do not receive forced exercise as long as they continue to move in good posture and rest four-square. Equines that rest with uneven foot placement, or cock a hind foot and drop a hip are not balanced in good posture with a strong core.
When saddling, we do it from the left side (near side) as done normally, but to keep things balanced, we unsaddle from the right side (off side) and pull the saddle back onto the rear end to loosen the crupper and make it easy to remove. When the equine is routinely handled like this, they learn to relax and stand quietly because they know what to expect.
It is amazing to see how much Roll’s attitude has changed in the eight years he has been with us. When he first arrived, he would snort at everything and hide behind Rock. He is now a happy, confident and affectionate 26 year old, 18 hand draft mule. He enjoys his lessons and never forgets a thing!
Trying new things is now done with much less effort and thus, much less drama! Yes, Roll is a bit obese with atrophied bulk muscle right now, but with routine lessons, he will be back to peak condition in no time. An equine that possesses a good foundation built with core strength in mind will be in a position to excel in all kinds of equine activities…because they are never over-whelmed.
Today, Chad brought Roll up to the work station. On October 23, 2017, I had found a nodule on Roll’s lower right jaw line. Our veterinarian, Greg Farrand came out right away to check it to determine what kind of growth it was.
We have had sarcoids in the past, but this did not seem to be a sarcoid, but rather, a small cyst that was not attached to the bone. Since it was not attached, I made the decision to get it removed before it had an opportunity to become attached to the bone.
Lucky Three Sundowner had a similar growth on his jaw that WAS attached to the bone and it finally grew to such a size that it ultimately obstructed his ability to eat and he had to be put down at the age of 35 years.
We were preparing to vaccinate the herd, so we opted to wait on Roll’s surgery until after the vaccinations and hoped for a freeze that would kill all the insects. The exposed wound would have a better chance at healing in the colder weather without insect interference. We had to wait for quite a while since our winter weather proved to be unusually warm until today, December 22, when we finally opted to do the surgery.
Greg gave Roll a sedative to help him to relax. I shaved the area heavily covered with winter hair with my #10 blades and then Greg stepped in and shaved it closer with his veterinary-gauged blades.
He then injected the site with a numbing agent and prepped it for the surgery.
The cyst was neatly contained and unattached below the surface of the skin. He carefully cut it away from the skin and was left with a perfectly round cyst that fell out easily.
When cut in half, the cyst revealed granular tissue in the center that is indicative of some foreign agent in the body that was surrounded by tissue that just never abscessed. We will send off the cyst to be tested to make sure there are no further issues to treat.
Greg carefully and neatly sutured the skin along his jaw line back together.
Greg gave me instructions about the care of the wound. Basically, we did not have to do anything, but let it heal. I will remove the sutures in 10-14 days.
Roll was still a bit drowsy when I took him back to his pen. He will not get food for at least two hours after the surgery to keep him from choking. He should heal nicely.
I took a sleepy Roll back to his pen. By tomorrow, he probably won’t even know what happened and he was such a trooper through it all! I am so glad my mules are trained the way they are…not a bit of trouble!
10/26/17: It is MULE APPRECIATION DAY today and the perfect time for an update on Roll! Roll has recovered nicely from his bout with White Line Disease in 2016. He had no workouts during that year, but surprisingly, he retained his core strength and balance throughout 2016 and came into 2017 still in good posture and balance. This leads me to believe that core strength does not necessarily deteriorate as rapidly as does bulk muscle.
Roll had his most recent “leading for core strength postural workout” on May 23rd this year. However since then, I have been unable to pursue any more lessons during the entire summer due to business obligations.
He was scheduled for his regular farrier visits on May 18th, July 14th and on September 21st. During that time, he also had two chiropractic visits and was doing very well with only minor adjustments needed.
On October 17th, Roll had a short ride with Brandy in the Lucky Three Ranch North Pasture after being off all summer. He was rather disgusted with Brandy after she unseated her rider, Bailey, at the beginning of the ride by spooking at a shadow on the ground. Roll did great although I could tell he was a bit stiff from the onset, but loosened up and gained impulsion by the end of the ride.
Roll had his last massage on July 13 and continues to thrive at the age of 26 years old. On October 25, we discovered a sarcoid-like tumor on his right jaw, x-rayed it and will do a removal following next week’s vaccinations.
After being off all summer, I thought he did very well and this only reinforced my belief that core muscle really does sustain itself once the animal has spent at least two years doing very specific core muscle, postural exercises.
Roll is standing quietly as he usually does while I was speaking to a tour group with the gate wide open, but this was not always the case with him. He used to hide behind Rock and snort at me when he first arrived with Rock in December of 2010.
Behavior Modification is a reward system of training that requires that the trainer has the ability to distinguish between good and bad behaviors, to reward them promptly and appropriately…and, to do it politely with respect for the animal. The oats are a reward that is both safe and enjoyable for equines, and is something that they will continue to work for.
When dealing with an equine that is easily ten times your own weight, it is hard to imagine that the way we talk, touch and interact with our equine would really need to be ultra considerate, light and reassuring. However, if you want their complete cooperation, that is exactly what needs to happen. For instance, when applying fly spray talk gently and calmly, and be careful not to get the spray in their eyes…or it will burn and they will be less likely to comply the next time!
The same consideration hold true when bathing. Be careful not to get water in the ears, eyes and nostrils…and accustom the equine to cold water by spraying the feet and front legs first and work your way up to the face.
When you are kind and considerate, and give the equine time to adjust, even mechanical equipment like a massage thumper for muscle relaxation, or an equine vacuum cleaner used not only to clean but also to promote better circulation, can become a real source of pleasure and enjoyment for your equine.
When the equine is relaxed and accepting of the equine chiropractor, veterinarian and farrier, they are better able to do their jobs with maximum efficiency and successful outcomes.
And jobs you have to do like clipping, bridling and taking off the bridle all get much easier, preserving the trust between you. Now at 26 years old, Roll is a NEW draft mule!
After being off last week, Roll was more than happy to come with me today. The air was brisk with a bit of a breeze and Roll was even a little snorty walking up to the work station. We spent a good amount of time with the Goody hairbrush getting the undercoat loose and I then went over him with the shedding blade to get the excess on top. He was still shedding hair all over, so I decided to go ahead with the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner serves a dual purpose: it pulls the remaining loose hairs from his coat while stimulating the capillaries to come to the surface of the skin. This increased circulation makes for an extremely soft and healthy coat. He still has a lot left to shed, but his hair now feels silky to the touch. I then put Roll in his surcingle, Eggbutt Snaffle bridle and “Elbow Pull” for his core muscle, postural leading lessons.
Roll practically pulled me down the alleyway to the dressage arena, but was very well behaved when we stopped to give Augie and Spuds a treat of oats. Roll was okay with sharing as long as I gave him more oats, too!
Roll and I then walked to the gate and he went through beautifully as always.
We marched along the pens and gave treats to all the mules who would be his audience.
Roll launched into the hourglass pattern on the lead rope with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He squared up easily, but was still reluctant to put all the appropriate weight on his right hind foot.
He kept an upright balance through the turns and was markedly better in balance over the ground rails.
He even trotted a bit along side of the pens once I got out in front of him, but when I asked him to trot back to the gate, he was too tired! The chiropractor had come out to see him last week and said that he was locked up in his right hip, so it may be he needs another chiropractic visit this week as well.
At any rate, I was pleased with his progress and even though he missed his lesson last week, he still did better than in prior weeks. The hind feet were no longer twisting after his trim on May 19th.
It may very well be that he can graduate to the round pen soon for bulk muscle building. His core is solid now and after his workout, he was much tighter in the abs and filled in nicely over his topline.
Roll is carrying just a little more weight than I would like to see, but he did look less obese after his lesson and when we begin the bulk muscle building, it should disappear rapidly as the fat evolves into muscle. At twenty-six, Roll is doing so much better than I ever would have expected given his questionable history.
Roll missed his exercises last week, so we thought we had better get out there today. Both of us were a bit tired of the arena, so we opted for a walk down the hayfield road. It was a rainy day and Roll had rolled in the mud, so we just did the hairbrush and shedding blade routine without the vacuum cleaner this time. Then we were ready to go.
Although he missed his exercises last week, he was still a bit better on the right hind foot. He did not want to put full weight on it, but I was sure he would do better after his walk in his core muscle building gear: the snaffle bridle with the dropped noseband, his surcingle and the “Elbow Pull” to make sure that the topline and abs would be engaged during the workout.
In the spring, we only turn out in dirt areas while the grass is growing. The equines will get turned out on grass on June 1st. This helps to maintain a nice stand of grass in all the turnout areas that will last all summer and into the fall. We never graze the equines on the hayfield pastures.
Contrary to popular belief, horse manure (or any manure that is not processed) will contain weed seeds and will contaminate the weed-free hayfields that we have managed to grow on 112 of our 127 ½ acres. There is an obvious size difference between us, but Roll is a gentleman and though he REALLY wanted to eat the grass, he still stuck to the routine as best that he could.
He did try to drag me off the road and over to the grass, but I just planted my feet, pulled on the lead rope as his right foot was coming forward and redirected him back down the road.
He was so good that I decided to let him have a bite and we then continued on down the road. We walked about a half mile out and back.
On the way back, Roll was breathing a bit hard, so I know he put his heart and soul into his exercise yet again. What a great guy! When he got back, he was fully weighting the right hind.
Roll was a muddy mess when I went to get him today. He had been lying down and decided to roll in the wet dirt and pea gravel. Thank heavens it wasn’t all mud! I did my best to get most of it off of him, but clearly, the vacuum cleaner was not going to work for anything but getting the hair off the floor. I first went over his body with the hairbrush, then the shedding blade and afterwards, the dandy brush. Then I baby-oiled his mane and tail, put on his gear and we were good to go.
Roll seemed happier today than he had been last week. Roll was walking better and appeared to have gained some core strength back.
Instead of being really off behind, he was only slightly off and did not want to bear weight on the right hind in his squaring up…until the last one when he finally weighted the foot entirely.
Roll’s rein back was much better than last week. I had him checked by our resident farrier, LTR Ranch Manager Chad in case he was developing fungus in that foot (after his bout with White Line in his left hind). better to be safe than sorry, but he showed nothing but a packed-up foot, and that very well could have been the culprit since we just had a really good rain and everything was muddy in the arena where we were working.
It is truly amazing how slight, but visible his improvement has been from week to week. His whole body looked much more symmetrical this time. It is awesome to be able to celebrate each of Roll’s “little victories” along the way at 26 years old! However, Roll wasn’t too sure if he wanted to share his rewards with Sir Guy!!!
Roll decided that celebrating with a friend is probably okay and back to the work station we went to untack and then it was time for turnout!
Roll is very happy to be back to his core strength, postural leading exercises and today, he got his tail washed after a long and dirty winter. he seemed to enjoy getting his tail cleaned before his exercises.
Roll’s attitude is always good and he lets me know when he doesn’t want to go back to his pen afterward his lessons. He would prefer to stay with me all day long if he could.
He is beginning to really shed out a lot after this warm, dry spring. He really enjoys the brushing with a regular hairbrush to remove the under-hair, then the shedding blade for loose hair and finally the vacuum cleaner to promote good circulation. This regimen really promotes maximum shedding and a healthy summer hair coat.
He led well to the arena and went through the gate just fine although he wasn’t as flexible through his rib cage as I would have liked to see.
He did square up nicely when I asked on the other side of the gate.
His leading exercises went well and although he is still weak behind and wants to unweight one foot or the other when squaring up like he did after coming through the gate. The weight shifting is more general that specific and I think as he is strengthened, his stance will improve.
I also noticed that he really “sunk” behind before going over the ground rails…
…and then was able to maintain his posture over the rails, but “sunk” again on the approach every time.
The rein back was difficult for him, but he did comply with the slightest of cues as well as he was able.
When I ask him to put weight down evenly on the hind feet, he does comply, so this could just be more from habit than from actual pain, although there is clearly atrophy of the bulk muscle and weakness in the core muscles. He should improve with time and exercise.
Roll knows that I have his best interest at heart, so he is always affectionate, loving and willing to do anything and everything that I ask, but then I always keep my expectations for him realistic and doable.
Roll is very happy to be back to his core strength exercises. And after having to leave animals without their exercises for long periods of time, I cannot believe how quickly they can come back to good posture and overall strength. Roll had been off his exercises for over a year during his bout with White Line Disease.
When I led Roll up to the Tack Barn a week ago, he was dragging his toes in front, but I did not get it on video. So, this time, I wanted to get a “BEFORE” and an “AFTER” shot. We filmed him coming up to the Tack Barn work station, but after his core strength exercises last week, he still was not dragging his toes. His rhythm and cadence was regular.
My self-correcting device called the “Elbow Pull” puts the equine in their own individual good equine posture and keeps them there throughout the short (15-20 minute) leading lessons. The lessons take place in the hourglass pattern that we use to help them find optimum balance.
The fluid changes of direction in strategic places in the pattern challenge the equine to first arc one direction, then stop and square-up, then proceed on a new arc in the opposite direction.
Each time he stops and squares up, he is rewarded with crimped oats to keep his attention on the task at hand (and I change sides so I am always leading him from the inside of the arc to help maintain correct bend).
The serpentine actions through the pattern act like a “pendulum of balance,” bringing his balance back to center with every movement, so that when he does stop and settle, the internal balance comes to rest at his true “center,” or “core.”
The pattern is always done at the walk on the lead line and can be varied with trot down the long sides, and walk and trot over ground rails on the straight line after the equine’s balance is solid. The “Elbow Pull” cannot do this all by itself.
The combination of the handler’s posture, the equipment used (snaffle bridle and surcingle with the “Elbow Pull”), the action of the hourglass pattern, attention to smooth arcs, straight lines and square halts all contribute to the overall development of good equine posture and core muscle strength. Most conventional training techniques do not address core strength, only bulk muscle development over a weak core.
When true core strength is developed, it takes much less time for the equine to get back into shape after time off. The results of the top line and abdominal development over core muscle strength and balance with the use of the “Elbow Pull” never ceases to amaze me! After doing these exercises with all of my equines for so many years, it still doesn’t seem like it can be this easy…but it is!
Roll is feeling much better and has not exhibited any lameness in a couple of days. I have been concerned about the muscle atrophy that he has experienced since he had the White Line Disease and the lameness that has prevented him from exercising much at all for almost a year. When he walked up to the Tack Barn work station, I noticed that although he was not lame, he was dragging his toes in front. I groomed him with the vacuum cleaner (circulation therapy) and then put on his bridle, surcingle and “Elbow Pull” and started for the indoor arena.
The “Elbow Pull” influence never fails to astonish me! Immediately, Roll was picking up his front feet and walking correctly through the alleyway of the barn and into the arena.
The workout went well, walking as he did in the beginning in 2010 in the hourglass pattern on the lead rope with strategic squared stops at every change of direction (with a reward of oats, of course!).
We traveled over the 1-inch ground rails at the center cones gate. Roll did not miss a step! It doesn’t take much to tune them up when you have laid a foundation of core strength and good posture!
We were a little awkward and off balance in this first lesson after being off for so long, but a few more leading lessons and he will be able to advance to ground driving again…maybe even riding later if we can keep him sound at 26 years old.
I left on his wrap for the duration of the exercise, but took it off after his workout. When returning to his pen, he was no longer dragging his toes in front. When core strength and balance is present, good posture and bulk muscle can be revived relatively quickly.
Roll has had a tough time with his left hind foot first with the White Line Disease last year and now with an abscess in his foot between the bulb of the heel and the hoof wall. Although we have been keeping a poultice on his foot and he seems to be improving, we thought it would be important for him to have a massage with his equine masseuse, Joanne Lang after his chiropractic adjustment with Dave McClain.
We don’t wait for obvious injury to occur—preventive massage increases the length of the muscle fibers, taking pressure off the joints.
When the muscles are allowed to contract and expand to their full length, they are able to absorb important nutrients that reduce fatigue.
Massage also increases blood flow, which helps the body flush harmful toxins, such as lactic acid, that build up from normal use. Massage aids in reprogramming the nervous system to break patterns that can cause atrophy or knotted tissue.
Massage is not intended to replace the care of a licensed massage therapist or veterinarian and if you are unsure as to the severity of an injury with your equine, consult your vet!
Massage has been an important element in the care and maintenance of all of our equines from the beginning and has increased the longevity of our herd.
Learning to “read” what the equine is telling you is an important part of the massage experience. As you can see, Roll REALLY enjoyed his massage today!
Roll was doing better and then all of a sudden he was very lame in his left hind foot again on February 10th. The only thing we could think of was that he must have twisted it and maybe even caught the boot on something in his pen when he was trying to get up.
He was very warm all over with sweat at his chest, underbelly, around his ears and between his legs. It was an unusually warm day and because it had been so cold and I had not clipped the mules’ bridle paths in a very long time. So, to help cool him off, I clipped his bridle path and sure enough, he began to get cooler and dry off.
We took his temperature and it was in the normal range.
We took x-rays to make sure there were no fractures and there was nothing but the rotation we had seen before.
After our veterinarian Greg Farrand dug around in the hoof, he did find a spot between the frog and the bulb of the heel that seemed to be sensitive and starting to weep.
He was uneven in his hips and seemed to be affected in both legs although the left was worse than the right. We decided to wrap the foot in a poultice again and left off the easy boot in case it was the culprit.
Then we decided to put him on a regimen of “Bute” and call in the equine chiropractor. All we could do was wrap the poultice onto his left hind foot and wait.
On February 13, Roll was exceptionally sore today when our equine chiropractor Dave McClain came out to check him.
There was no real problem in the hip joint, but his fetlock really cracked when he adjusted it, so he was definitely out in that joint.
Dave adjusted the rest of his body and said there probably was nothing other than the fetlock that was affected in the joint, just in the muscles. He said Roll would probably be sore because it was such a dramatic adjustment.
We checked him again the next day and he does seem to be experiencing some improvement although he is still pretty sore. There is not a lot to do but pray and wait. He is undoubtedly having problems that stem from the first 17 years of his life moving in poor posture and not utilizing his body correctly.
Roll came up lame in his left hind again today, so we called our veterinarian, Greg Farrand to come and check him. He had swelling in the fetlock joint and it appeared to have just begun. I supported his joint with a wrap so is would be easier for him to walk to the Tack Barn work station.
We checked for abscessing, but could not find anything. He did seem to be uncomfortable in the other hind foot as well, but not enough for real concern.
However, it is conceivable that it might not be an abscess, but problems arising from his inability to continue his core muscle strength and balance exercises during the time he was dealing with the White Line Disease.
Taking off a piece of the hoof wall where he tested sensitive seemed to relieve the pressure enough so he did have some improvement in his walk. We checked him all over and I even cut off his overgrown ergots while we were talking.
Greg though perhaps the abscess was just beginning, so we put a poultice on the left hind foot to draw out and escalate any inflammation in hopes of forcing it to weep so we could locate it if it was, in fact, an abscess.
We wrapped the hoof with the poultice and Vet Wrap.
And then put the whole foot in a custom-made easy boot that we had used when he had White Line Disease.
I led him around the room and he seemed to be experiencing some pain relief, so we opted to leave him like this for four days with a change of poultice every other day.
As you can see, our core muscle strengthening and balancing exercises really DO make a drastic difference in the overall shape and movement of the equine.
When dealing with an animal that spent so many years out of good posture, it is almost certain you will be faced with numerous issues from uneven wear and tear on the body over the years, especially as they age like Roll at 24 years. We just hope we can pull Roll through this so he can get back to having some fun with his healthy exercise program.
Roll’s bout with White Line Disease began on December 31, 2015 and did not look very promising considering we were dealing with a 3000 lb. animal with two-thirds of his hoof wall detached and full of fungus.
Dean Geesen, our farrier dug out all the fungus from the compromised hoof and cut away the seriously detached hoof wall.
Roll has recovered in record time with our due diligence and willingness to change up the program as needed. There is no cure-all for White Line Disease. It does have some protocol, but if you look back at our postings about Roll’s battle on my Facebook pages and in “What’s New?” on our website, you will see that things can change abruptly in a day.
When dealing with something like this, one needs to think “outside the box” to keep up with the changes and keep the foot on the right track to grow back properly. It takes a whole team: the owner, the handlers, the vet and the farrier working together. We were constantly assessing the shape of the foot, tissue condition, pressure points and balance in the affected foot and hid overall mental and physical health.
We watched the way he moved carefully each and every day. We had to assess how much he was compromising with weight distribution to his healthy feet and trimmed and shod them so they did not become damaged in the healing process.
We did supplement his feed with Hoof Power and would recommend it above all other hoof supplements to help accelerate hoof growth. Dean Geesen, our farrier was certain that it would take better than a year to grow back the foot, if it could even be done. After the first three months, he wasn’t sure that Roll would actually make it.
After today’s trim and a sound diagnoses, Dean admitted that he really didn’t think back in the beginning that he would recover like this. Thankfully, with the conscientious and diligent help from his management team, Roll got full hoof growth back in exactly one year and is now sound with four healthy hooves!