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Chasity does not have the most optimum conformation anyway, but when she first arrived, she was really stuck in a bad posture. She moved with a hollow back and her legs did not reach underneath her body when she walked. Her body did not allow for a flexible spine with ideal movement through her joints and I would presume that internal organ function was also compromised. Her body was very stiff and flexion of any kind was difficult for her. The bacterial infection in her udder was old and persistent. With our feeding, management and exercise program, Chasity has improved substantially and now enjoys a much more posturally correct body, more flexibility and a bacterial infection that is receding rapidly with antibiotics and the right kind of exercise. She is now happy to come to the stall door to accept her halter and “gives” easily and willingly to have the “Elbow Pull” postural restraint adjusted!
Standing in a 4-square posture used to be really difficult for Chasity and with her rigid back, she was unable to stretch her spine and flex at the poll while standing with equal weight over all four feet. With a month of our postural therapy leading exercises through the “Hourglass Pattern” this has changed dramatically and she can now flex easily when prompted.
Bending through her rib cage around the turns, while remaining erect in her body, was also impossible at first. With each new lesson, she continues to improve in both directions. The neck sweat encourages shrinking of the fat deposits on her crest and the bending is improving the alignment in her neck.
Work over the ground rails at the center of the “Hourglass Pattern” is helping her hoof-eye coordination, enabling proper foot placement, suspension and self-carriage in her body.
Chasity enjoys the simple challenges of these exercises as they provide more comfort in her body than she has ever known! She is happy and enthusiastic about these sessions!
With the rapid improvement through her body during the flatwork exercises in the “Hourglass Pattern,” we were able to begin going through some very simple obstacle exercises that made the sessions more interesting for her and kept her alert while adding some coordination to her body. The repetition of going through the gates the same way every time taught Chasity to wait patiently, bend correctly through her rib cage when walking through them and to consistently stand 4-square on both sides.
Breaking the obstacles down into smaller steps taught her to be alert and attentive to my commands and allowed her to learn to rebalance properly in each of these new positions.
When I first began the obstacles, I did not ask her to do the most difficult position of standing with her front feet down and her back feet on the bridge. She has been very good about stopping when I ask, so I decided to try it today and she did GREAT! I did not ask her to square up in this position yet, but I will as she becomes stronger in her core and can hold the position more easily. Then we walked of the end of the bridge and squared up again.
The first attempt at the tractor tire, Chasity walked up to it and looked at it, but would not do any more than that. The last attempt at the tractor tire, Chasity allowed me to pick up her foot and just direct it toward the middle like in the first photo, so I left it at that, rewarded her and asked no more. Today, she went one step further and offered to extend her foot herself, but still would not place it in the middle of the tractor tire, so we stopped, rewarded and will continue again next time! She is getting a LITTLE further each time and that is “rewardable” in my book! To force it would only result in a fight and probably wouldn’t get the job finished anyway! I am sure we will have better luck next time!
The last time over the smaller tires, she was hesitant. This time she forged ahead like a pro! And, going forward through the barrels was no problem at all! We might try backing through them the next time if she is willing.
Backing through the Back-Through “L” is getting much better and the tarp is a cinch! This time, she went right down the middle with no trouble at all! Taking small steps is critical to success!
Chasity has become a pro at negotiating the gate, standing perfectly and waiting patiently on each side.
The broom is yet another obstacle and Chasity learned it would not bite her as I politely swept up around her. She was rewarded for staying calm and afterwards, we did some spinal stretches.
Then it was time for yet another soak of her infected udder. The vet arrived to do a check and was so happy to find that we had reduced the infection by 70% in only 14 days! He really did not expect that! He also commented about how much better her posture was and the strength she showed over her top line. We opted to do a second 14-day run of the same antibiotics and continue the exercise and soaking.
Chasity no longer needs to be led into her stall and turned around to take off the halter. She can now be sent in and turns to face me of her own free will! Core strength postural exercises have a profound effect on the equine’s body and mind! Chasity is yet another example of the dramatic results that you can see when employing this relatively simply feeding, management and training program. It is not only for rehabilitation, but rather, it is a program that can give your equine athlete optimum health and the opportunity to perform to the best of his ability! Just ask Chasity!
After doing her Hourglass Pattern exercises, first one way and then the other, we opted to add some variety to the workout by adding some straight forward obstacles. In our indoor arena, I have an open space of 60’ X 120’ and a 45’ round pen at the end of the arena in another 60’ X 60’ fenced off space. Around the outside perimeter of the round pen in that area, I put my obstacles. I have found that there is less margin of error learning obstacles in a confined space to add coordination to their core strength in good equine posture. They can learn to pay more attention and to be more meticulous in their execution of the obstacles. This is a helpful way to begin with obstacles. The first obstacle for Chasity was the gate!
After going through the gate and standing stock still while I latched it, we proceeded to the bridge. I was pleasantly surprised when she allowed me to stop her with only her front feet on the bridge. This is generally a Stage Two move in my program since obstacles are used for coordination. Most equines are so uncoordinated that they just want to keep walking over and through the obstacles without stopping at first. Good for Chasity!
Chasity then carefully walked up onto the bridge with all four feet and halted on command! This was going much better than I had expected!
When I asked her to square up, she got a bit skewed to the side on the bridge, but she was nevertheless squared up, just not in line with the bridge. So I took it and rewarded her effort.We can do better the next time.
Then we got off the bridge and I squared her up again. Then…I introduced her to the tractor tire.
She looked at it…wasn’t afraid of it…walked around it…
…and looked at it again. She was clearly NOT going to put her foot in the middle of that tire! I decided to quit while we were ahead and try again next time. Because I didn’t push her, she consented to walking through the smaller tires…
…tentatively, but she did it! And then she walked around the barrels with no trouble at all!
Just having Chasity navigate these obstacles without being afraid of them was a major accomplishment. We then walked into the back-through “L” and I decided to make it a little bit tougher.
After walking through the “L” forward, I asked Chasity to back through where she had come.
She was a bit perplexed, but slowly backed between the rails, made the turn at the elbow, and went straight back from there with very little forcible encouragement.
Once at the end of the back-through “L,” we headed for the tarp. She followed me obediently, but was so silly…
When we got to the tarp, she wanted to walk EXACTLY where I walked! I guess she KNEW it was safe there! Too funny!
I gave her a reward because she really didn’t balk and we proceeded out of the obstacle area.
As we left, we executed the gate correctly and she was rewarded again. She stood quietly until I was ready to move.
Then we proceeded down the arena wall towards the exit gate and stopped to turn off the lights. She was a little surprised that the wall opened up, but stood still while I opened the door and turned off the lights.
Then I closed the door and we exited the arena. Adding obstacles and simple expectations to her regular work in the Hourglass Pattern made the experience more interesting and engaging to Chasity. When you add new things to their lessons, you shouldn’t feel like the equine has to do it right the first time. Just quit while you are ahead and your equine WILL do better the next time! There is no battle to remember!
Beginning by negotiating obstacles in larger areas makes for a larger margin for error. Too many things can go wrong and lead to an unpleasant chain of negative events that suck you and your equine into unnecessary altercations. There is plenty of time to do them in the more open spaces once they have learned how to negotiate them in the smaller spaces. I first school green animals during ground driving and under saddle in the small open area of my indoor arena (60’ X 120” – Standard Small Dressage Arena Size) before I take them into the larger outside arenas. This has resulted in a decrease of bolting and running. When you set up your training environment, it is always optimal to set up the equine for success!
“Hey Spuds, where are we going today? What’s that over there?”
“Oh, it’s just the barrels. I remember ground driving through these!”
“This is my favorite part of the lessons, Augie!”
“What the heck does she want now, Augie?”
“Okay, I get it now Augie!” That was easy!”
“Now what is she up to? I have to work by myself?!”
“Spuds, I just can’t back between the barrels. I can’t see where I’m going!”
“I’ll show you how, Augie! Forward around the barrels? No sweat!”
“Back around the barrels in a figure eight?! Easy as pie!”
“And the reward is always just heavenly!”
“Oh good…something I CAN do!”
“Wheee! Now this IS fun!”
“I’m not too sure about these steps, Augie!
“But jumping sure IS fun! I am so glad she made us pay attention to good posture during training!”
“It was another great adventure, eh Spuds?!”
“Yup, it sure was!”