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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.