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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.
North Garden Equestrian Center hosts several horse shows a year but for the first time, a new division was added that exclusively featured rescue horses.
Twelve-year-old Taylor Thomas was one of the riders.
She’s been riding horses for four years but it was only just last Christmas that she was united with Amber, a rescue from Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue.
“She was skin and bones and covered in lice but she was a sweetheart and Taylor fell in love with her,” said Keena Thomas, Taylor’s mom.
“She’s a good girl,” said Taylor. “She does anything I ask, basically. I bathed her and got most of the lice off and then trained her basically again.”
Since her rescue, Amber has gained more than 100 pounds and is now winning ribbons along with the best of them.
“I am extremely pleased to be able to be the first one to judge it,” said equestrian judge, Davera Ackenbom. “I have goosebumps.”
This is excerpted from a post at Bloodhorse.com by Tom LaMarra.
Groundwork continues to be laid for an international conference on racehorse aftercare that has been scheduled for October 2017, according to Godolphin, which in late July held three days of meetings as part of the planning process.
The international forum is designed to “bring together the official and national operations based around the world that facilitate and promote the retraining of racehorses,” Godolphin said Aug. 1. The leading breeding and racing organization unveiled the effort at its recent “Lifetime Care for Thoroughbreds” meetings in England.
The International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses is expected to include representatives from Australia, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, and the United States. Godolphin said IFAR will work with the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and act as an assembly for discussion to facilitate growth of aftercare programs despite “geographical and industry differences.”
Multiple programs, including the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance in the United States, have sprung up in recent years around the world. The IFAR “will enable these experiences to be shared, for best practices to be adopted, and for advice to be given to all racing jurisdictions regarding caring for and the retraining of former racehorses,” Godolphin said.
Roll was a little hesitant and stiff during his workout in the dressage arena through the hourglass pattern with me riding today. I couldn’t tell at first if he is just being overly careful because I was on board or if he was truly having issues with his feet. The more he did, the better he got as far as traveling, but there was significant problems keeping him between the reins. I attribute that to previous drivers with very bad hands. He does seem to know how to track straight between the reins with adequate forward impulsion. He clunked the ground rails as I led him through the pattern the first time, but after adjusting the distance between the ground rails, he did much better both on the lead line and under saddle. He did very well staying erect and bending through the rib cage around the corner cones. He also gave me intermittent surges of impulsion and did not seem at all lame when he did it. At trot, he got wiggly on his straight lines, but I am encouraged that will pass as he gains more strength and impulsion. All in all, it was a very nice first-time serious hourglass workout under saddle!
Roll was anxious to go to work!
The first order of business was to survey the course…
…and be led through in sync with each other.
Then Roll did a nice square halt!
Before mounting, I checked all his gear to make sure everything was in good shape and that Roll was comfortable.
Roll backed easily on request after mounting.
Roll walked the pattern nicely and stayed on the bit. Note the loose elbow pull!
Roll did lovely bends through his rib cage around the corner cones…
…and tracked easily over the ground rails.
When asked, he lengthened his walk as best he could!
I hadn’t planned on trotting, but Roll was having so much fun that he offered it and I accepted! His movement was so BIG, it shot my legs forward!
His hind quarters came well underneath his body through the halt…
…and after so much work and energy spent, Roll decided instantly it was nap time!!! What a good boy he is!
Roll and I finally got some time to begin warm up exercises after a whole year off. I was pleasantly surprised to find him much stronger in his new posture than I thought he would be after so much time away from his exercises. All he did for the past year was regular maintenance, turnout, massages and farrier work. It seems that after three years of posture training prior to last year, it has become his normal way of moving and has sustained his good condition with only turnout for exercise.
When I first took him from his pen, we went through his small pen gate and were met with the younger saddle mules along the fence line just outside his turnout pasture in the dressage arena. I dropped Roll’s lead rope and turned to give oats to the other mules. When I finished, I looked over my shoulder and Roll was walking through the pasture gate and onto the cement pad outside the gate about fifty feet away from me. I hollered for him to “whoa” at which point he finished exiting the gate and turned to face me on the other side just as if I were standing with him! He knows exactly where we go and likes being with me so much that he forgot about four-foot tall lush grass just off to the side of the pea gravel walkway to exit through the gate. Too bad I didn’t have the camera person with me at that point! I just laughed and caught up with him and we continued our walk to the wash rack! What a guy!
I groomed his body and then washed the winter dirt and baby oil out of his mane and tail.
Then we squared up and went for a walk down road north of the house to the hayfield road.
There was a fence between him and the tall grass in the turnout pens, but once we hit the hayfield, there was no fence between him and the tall grass in the hayfield. Even faced with the five-foot hayfield grass on his right all the way down the road, he was engaged and obedient. Being as big as he is, he could easily have launched me off my feet and into the hayfield! He still walked straight lines with energy and enthusiasm (He was always sluggish when we first started in 2010), stopped in balance and squared himself up easily and willingly. He is maintaining a strong top line and is alert and happy about everything he does.
Roll had a very good day today. It has been awhile since his last workout and I wasn’t sure I was going to ride him, but I saddled him in case he looked like he would be able to handle it. Roll had a chiropractic adjustment on his right hip that helped the twisting right foot to be able to move in a more straight forward fashion. Equines, like us, can get locked up when we don’t move around enough and I suspect that is what happened with Roll’s hip.
We went to the round pen and did 5 rotations of walk each direction and 8 rotations of trot each direction. Then I climbed on board with no help this time, Steve came in and removed the mounting block and we were off. Roll did fantastic. He was a little lazy, but very light in the bridle and very willing to do two rotations at walk each direction with an “S” turn through the middle for a change of direction with a rein back at the beginning and end of his workout. Since he had not worked in awhile, I left it up to him as to whether he felt like breaking into trot. He did not seem to want to do this with no cues from me, so I opted not to press him any further. He had already done much more than I expected that he would!