Tuesday, 06 November 2018 11:00

Questioning the Noseband.

There have been many studies which show how a tight nose band can place a painful amount of pressure on the nerves and delicate bones in the horse’s head. However, despite this, some trainers and riders still believe that using the noseband to keep a horse’s mouth closed will make a horse ride better as it stops them fighting which means they then concentrate more on the riders aids. 

Many people think that if a horses mouth is shut and quiet then the horse is riding well. But a quiet mouth should be the result of good training and keeping it artificially closed with a noseband shouldn’t be used as shortcut. The horses jaw and tongue should be as free and supple as the rest of the body and more importantly these structures tie into the efficient movement of the rest of the body. If you create tension here then you will only create tension somewhere else. 

The Hyoid bone which links into the tongue, also links into muscles that are involved in the movement of the horse’s forelegs so by creating tension here you will restrict the range of movement in your horse’s forelimbs. An equine dissection also revealed that when pressure was applied to the jaw causing the hyoid bone at the base of the tongue to move up and/or back in the jaw, this left the hind legs and hips extremely restricted. As soon as pressure was released, the leg and hip was then freely moved again. 

So when our horse opens his mouth, we need to ask what they are communicating to us, and work out how to release tension and improve their their balance and suppleness, not silence them with a flash or tighter noseband. Our horses voice can only be heard by those willing to listen.

I can't help but wonder if our horses even need to wear a noseband at all, particularly when training, apart from the fact that they look good on some horses. Has it just become the norm that a ridden horse has a noseband on at all times? 

I'm interested to hear from anyone who rides either with a loose or tight noseband or without a noseband at all and the reasoning behind your choice.

Sara Carew

For pole work clinics, ideas, information sharing and more, check out Sara's FB group Poll Position Equestrian Coaching


 
Published in Trot On Blogs

There's been a lot of discussion about tight nosebands but have you ever wondered if your horse's browband is too tight?

As an equine bodyworker I came across a lot of horse's with tension around their forehead, ears and poll and although there are many reasons why this can occur, I also found that a lot of people used bridles with browbands that were far too tight in this area and now it's something that I frequently notice when I am out and about at equestrian events. So often we get bridles in pony, cob, etc but it doesn't take into account that each horse's head shape is individual and a broad forehead is often something that gets overlooked.

This area is so important for your horse's wellbeing. A tight browband can create tension in the atlas joint, impinge on the many muscles and nerves in and around the horse's ears and adversely affect important cranial nerves too. All of these can have serious knock-on effects, including inhibiting the movement of the horse's forelegs and hind end!  

So, if your horse displays any of the following symptoms:

• doesn't like being bridled

• shakes her head

• is tense around the eyes and looks like she has a headache

• pulls away when you touch her in this area

• is tense in the jaw and neck when ridden

• is choppy in front or has poor engagement

then you may find that it could be caused by something as simple as a browband that is too tight! 

Firstly,  ensure that you can slip a hand easily under the headpiece (by the way, extra padding won't improve a headpiece that's too tight!) and that the brow band isn't pulling the headpiece onto the back of the ears and impinging on the base of the ears at the sides or pressing onto the forehead at the front. You should comfortably be able to run a finger underneath all the way round.

To be honest, I'm not even sure why we need browbands on bridles anyway, apart from being a place to show off a bit of bling! Are they a hangover from when horses went into battle and had armour protecting their faces? Anyway, I'm not necessarily advocating that you do away with yours, although it can be an interesting experiment if you are having any problems, but that you just replace it with a larger one if it looks too snug. 


 

Published in Trot On Blogs

Yes, it’s a bit late but that grass boosting combo of rain and sunshine has put the spring into our pasture so don’t be surprised if your horse is getting a sugar hit that will make him or her a bit of a handful.  It’s also thought that spring grass contains a high level of potassium which reduces the horse’s uptake of magnesium resulting in another reason why our equine friends can range from excitable to explosive! 

As well as helping with our horse’s mood, magnesium is also important for muscle function and it’s thought it can benefit horses prone to obesity and laminitis. If you think that magnesium could benefit your horse, always choose a supplement that contains ‘chelated’ magnesium.

Because of the change of management many horses experience at this time of year as they’re turned out after a winter of limited access to grass, it’s also worth putting them on a pre and probiotic to promote a healthy level of that all important gut bacteria. (Hyperlink to gut biome post) This will also help horses that are regularly turned out cope with the seasonal change in the grass too.

 

palomino pony at grassy field gate wearing grazing muzzle

 

We’d love to know if you’ve found the perfect way to take the stress out of spring grass!


Published in Trot On Blogs

I can’t believe Freddie has been home for a whole 6 months! Fred had been injured since last June with a hole in his superficial digital flexor tendon. It’s been a long road since he came home in August with 24/7 box rest, icing, bandages and confined turnout, as well as hand walking him every day for 3 months. The biggest worry about this kind of injury for me, was the fear of the unknown… was it healing, or was all this time and worry going to be for nothing?

Freddie is actually a very easy going thoroughbred, as long as there was good grub he wasn’t worried about messing about or potentially further damaging the leg. However there were a couple of occasions where I did nearly have heart failure! The worst of all was a matter of weeks before his scan on November 1st where he decided to run the Grand National in his tiny paddock, bucking and flat out galloping for about 20 minutes! No heat or swelling showed from the legs so I prayed everything was ok…

One less thing to worry about.

grey pony grazing in field with checked horse rug

The middle of October was also when I decided to turn Freddie out full time in the field with friends Inky and the pony Munchkin. Fred had started to become a bit of a hooligan being brought in at night and was very wired up on his walks. We decided that with a matter of weeks to go until his scan the leg was most likely to have healed or not and Fred having the odd run about wasn’t going to make a lot of difference. We turned Fred and Inky out and then released the pony… moment of truth - NOTHING!… absolutely no reaction at all! Munchkin went straight out to eat and Fred didn’t look up from munching!!

The biggest challenge - Freddie’s weight.

When Fred first came to me he dropped an awful lot of weight within the first week. We believed this to be a bit of an adrenaline shock after leaving a racing yard after 7 years of his life, and also just the change in routine. Thankfully, he picked up after feeding him coolstance corpra and dengie alfa a chaff. However nearing the end of September we realised that this feed combination was not working for Fred. It was sending him a bit nutty and I will put my hands up to admitting that I didn’t realise that alfa a was more like rocket fuel than a conditioning feed for a thoroughbred on box rest! I have literally spent ALL winter looking for a combination of feeds that will put weight on Fred without sending his brain crazy, but finally I think I’ve found the answer…. ! Linseed oil! I have been adding linseed oil to the feeds for just over three weeks now and it has really started to make a difference. He has more condition over his back and bottom and his belly looks much better, much fuller and barely any visibility of his ribs. He is now on coolstance, speedi beet and high fibre nuts too.

1st November was the big day! It was scan day… after months of waiting it was make or break, I was petrified. The team at Whitelodge Vets are fantastic, Phil arrived and set about setting up the scanner ready. Phil scanned both legs and then gave us the verdict… SUCCESS! The hole in Fred’s superficial digital flexor tendon had completely healed and was now filled with scar tissue. I was so unbelievably happy, best day ever! Let the fun begin.

Scary

So, by the end of Fred’s recovery time he had become a bit wild and was ready to get on with a job! I had changed his feed, but he was feeling rather 'well' and his hand walks had become a slight challenge for me. He would get overly excited and quite honestly it scared me a little! After all, hand walking a 16’3/17hh horse who is getting very excited and growing even bigger is a bit daunting! I will admit I was frightened of him and I was scared to get on him in less than two weeks. Had I over horsed myself and had I let my heart take over my head?

horse rider on a bay horse standing in indoor menage

Let the journey begin!

The 14th November was the day that I finally climbed back aboard Fred, 178 days after my first and only ride. I was super excited but also very nervous. He had had 6 months out of the game and I was about to jump on at a saddle fitting! My boy surprised me again - he stood like a complete saint for the whole fitting until we’d picked our chosen saddle. I then tacked him up and jumped on. He seemed a bit shocked as to where his mum’s voice was now coming from but he was a complete angel.

horse rider in red jacket riding bay horse on road

 I rode him up the driveway and out onto the road to get a feel for the saddle and to ensure the saddle fitted. I was ecstatic, Fred behaved like a dream and we even had a few strides of trot, he felt huge though! The first time I rode him he had been off a track for 3 days, he was a muscled up athlete, big but not this big I swear! He’d since been off for 6 months and gained a nice summer belly, lost a lot of muscle and looked like a completely different horse. It would now be a case of riding and schooling him back into work and gaining back the topline and muscle he’d lost. 

Hacking out.

The following Sunday was Freddie’s first hack, Emma who owns the pony that Freddie lives with walked with me to be safe, but once again he was a total star! He didn’t put a hoof out of place and loved every minute of it, he seemed super proud of himself to be back in work.

Fred has continued to be super out riding, we have ventured all over the Quantocks and had our first few canters. We’ve faced every imaginable that’s scary and Fred has remained very sane only dancing about and really looking after me. We have only had one moment of utter madness and that came when he saw his old racehorse friends out and we had a display of squealing and mini rearing/jumping! I aim to ride him at least 5/6 times a week although with the recent weather that is proving sometimes difficult! (Snow in March!) He is really good though and hacks out alone or in company completely fine. Due to not having a school at home I have only been hacking and lunging Fred but aim in the next few weeks to get him in a local school to really encourage him to work properly and gain some proper topline and muscle. 

horse rider on bay horse riding on snow covered ground in woodland wearing high visibility clothing

To begin with I planned to winter Fred out as we have a large field shelter which we bed with straw and so they could all easily escape the elements and cosy down if they wanted, however with the dramatic weightloss that occurred I decided to bring them in at night to see if it helped at all. It helped a little, but with the horrendously long winter we’ve had and serious tough temperatures they have now been stabled most of winter. Next year I will see how he does, but the plan will be to keep him out.
 
So that’s my update on our journey! Still crazy in love with him and can’t wait to see where the journey will take us. Thanks for reading! 
 
kandf 250
 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaitlin and Freddie xxx

 


 

Published in Trot On Blogs
Wednesday, 07 March 2018 12:14

Beware - Snow & Ice Creates Sugary Grass!

Be on your guard if you're putting your horse or pony out on grass that has been covered in snow, especially if they are prone to laminitis or other sugar related problems, as snow and ice cause sugars to build up in grass in the same way it does with frost. And don't think just because the snow has melted that you are ok because any night temperatures below 5° will keep the grass in high sugar mode.

Similarly, with frosty mornings, it's not simply ok to wait for the frost to melt before you put your horse out; to be safe the night time temperature needs to have risen to 5° because this is when the grass accumulates sugars.

It's also worth bearing this in mind if you have a horse who is in any way reactive to high sugar content, or if your horse experiences behavioural changes. Sometimes it's not just having been kept in, or lack of exercise after snow and ice that can make your horse overexcitable or resistant in some way. There are many horses who have never been diagnosed as laminitic who are in fact low-grade laminitic and reactive to too many sugars. This creates symptoms such as footiness and backache that are easily missed which means that the poor horse is treated as difficult!
Published in Trot On Blogs

Let's face it, to the human eye, horses look much smarter clipped but do you think horses stand around at a competition or hunt meet going 'OMG, don't look now darling, but Archie hasn't been clipped this winter and looks a real fright, no, don't let him see you looking, we don't want to embarrass him!'

four rear facing horses clipped and well turned out at hunt, three greys and one chesnut

I'd always clipped my horses over winter as they did quite a bit of work including competition and hunting. Like most people I didn't just clip for aesthetic reasons but because I'd been taught that it was healthier for a horse in medium to hard work.  But then I met Natural Horse Management expert, Lucinda McAlpine and started to re-think the way I managed my own horses, particularly regarding clipping.

close up of unclipped long hair rear end of pony

Lucinda believes that the horses coat is a good fitness and stress gauge as a horse will sweat heavily when he is anxious or has done too much for his fitness. A slight dampness to the coat will indicate that he has done enough for the level of fitness he is at and so you can stop before pushing too far. A full coat can also provide an indication of our horses health - recently I took one of our horses to the vet and she immediately picked up on his coat as an indication that his system might be out of balance. And a muddy full coat, according to Lucinda, will reveal areas of muscle tension. If mud brushes off easily then the skin and muscles underneath are healthy but if mud really sticks to the coat then that means the fascia and muscles underneath are tight.

It's amazed me how controversial this no-clipping decision is though - people really are snobby about an unclipped horse, it's the equestrian equivalent of walking around the supermarket in dressing gown and slippers! And when you leave a horse out in winter without ten duvets on, you're often seen as being cruel. It actually does take a leap of faith not to treat horses according to how we feel when the temperatures plummet but it still surprises me that once their coat is established horses, including thoroughbreds, will happily stand out in the snow even if they do have a big barn shelter they can walk into. Give them lots of hay over winter and this acts like an internal radiator. A heavy rug on the other hand flattens a full coat and stops it acting as it should.

side of full coated unclipped horse with rider leg and boot in stirrup

The big sticking point I have is whether to clip for hunting from a health point of view. When our young horse went out for the first time this season we didn't clip him as it might not be a regular thing. Anyway, he did sweat a lot, probably a mix of excitement and exertion - he wasn't super fit so only did a few hours. I imagine a lot of the clipped horses still sweated but it's just less noticeable because it evaporates off more quickly. And after galloping when horses stand around for sometimes long periods with the cold wind whipping their exposed flesh, which horse is worse off? Will the unclipped horse with a sweaty coat get a chill or the clipped horse whose muscles cool down too quickly get tight and sore? Our horse was then cooled down gradually with a hack back to the horsebox and overnight in his stable, as he was still slightly damp, we put him in a cooler rug, thatched with straw underneath as our main concern was that he might catch a chill.

The good news is that he certainly looked good the next day and hadn't dropped any weight.  BUT I'm still sweating over whether to clip or not to clip if he goes out again! What do you think?


 

Published in Trot On Blogs

Trot On member, Kaitlin Woods, continues her blog sharing her journey - the ups and the downs, with her new ex-racing thoroughbred steed, Freddie. Here, in this posting, (originally written back in October last year), Kaitlin explains how she's had to deal with a dramatic loss of condition in Freddie shortly after his arrival.

Well that has flown by! 2 whole months and one week my boy has been home and it's honestly been amazing but a hell of a journey already...

If you haven't read my first blog posting, my lovely new ex racehorse came home on the 14th August, but with a superficial digital flexor tendon injury (more info on the blog, go have a read!) Since arriving home I've been ensuring Freddie remains as calm and sane as possible as to not damage the leg further by dancing and running about. The leg has continued to not show any signs of heat or swelling so fingers crossed he is fixing well. 

Our first hurdle to overcome arose a week and a half after Fred came home. He came to me in amazing condition, which as we all know with racehorses isn't always the case. I believe that if a horse is well on the inside, he will shine on the outside. Well fed, very loved and cared for and there you have it, a magnificent looking animal. Marie Mcguinness, Freddie's old trainer honestly adores her horses and my god does it show. (I believe that is why Freddie is one of the kindest horses I have ever met, he has been loved and cared for like a true king.) However, once Freddie came home, he had a bit of an adrenaline shock, I think it all hit him (as many ex racehorses out of training experience) - a new home and environment and a completely different routine, and he drastically lost condition and almost sagged... 

Freddie when he arrived                                                                                             Freddie 1 week in

Freddie 2 months in

He has lost back muscle from no work but his overall condition really fell. Very worrying that a horse can change so much in such a short space of time… Time for operation feed that can help! One problem… feed really isn't my thing, having had the pony for 8 years that really did not need feeding I was stuck on where to even begin! Thankfully help was on hand at my local country and feed store, a lady who had thoroughbreds too helped me to decide on what was best for Fred. He hasn't been confirmed for ulcers but being a racehorse and their high sugar, low fibre diets and the fact he was windsucking after eating his handful of high fibre nuts (although he does windsuck out of boredom too), I have gone for a molasses free chaff, in particular the Dengie Alfafa A one as well as Coolstance Copra meal which is well known for being a weight gaining feed especially used by many thoroughbred owners. What a transformation this has given! Freddie is looking so much better, I’m very pleased. However, with Freddie hopefully coming into work very soon once he’s been scanned I am slightly dropping his feed as he is feeling quite well from an oil based feed and I don’t want unnecessary fizz in the early stages. I’ll keep you updated on what he’s eating and how we are getting on!

Freddie has continued to be hand walked daily to strengthen the leg and see the world. He’s been such a good boy, even in the worst of weather conditions and traffic he has maintained a very cool and level head and I’m so proud of him for that. We have the odd excited moment but overall a very good boy, it’s honestly like walking your dog! Long may it continue when I’m on board him!!

Over the last 3 weeks Freddie has been moved into a bigger paddock, finally no more squares! He’s so happy bless him, the first time I turned him out I was expecting a bit of an explosion but he just walked the perimeter of his new field before giving me a little glance of approval and then of course got straight down to business… eating! He does have the occasional play about but no heat or swelling appears from the leg and unfortunately he cannot be bubble wrapped forever! He is definitely a food boy though, and as long as there is good food the excitement soon passes so he can munch away again. 

The other big step we took was to turn him out with Inky, the other ex-racehorse who is a true gentlemen and looks after everyone. All being well all three will be turned out together full time after we know whether the leg is ok and so an introduction to Inky seemed a good idea. It was like dropping my child off at school!! “Be nice, don’t hurt anyone and don’t hurt yourself!!” They loved each other, a little trot around in excitement and then settled straight down to eating the same blade of grass… bromance blossoming!

We have also reduced the length of time that Freddie is wearing his stable bandages, from 24/7 when he was on complete box rest to only at night when he came home. I then started to apply the bandages every other night and so on. He now doesn’t wear them at all and there has been no swelling at all. Good sign!

I did notice about a month in that he had a slight cold and snotty nose, I took it a bit easy on the walking in case he was feeling a bit under the weather. But he was soon fine and I didn’t have to have snot wiped over me when I was trying to lead him! Always a bonus  

Freddie also has a new medium weight rug for the chilly winter nights as I will be keeping him out mostly as they have a large field shelter which we bed down with straw. I also love the detachable hood and ‘atlantic blue’ suits him rather well don’t you think?!

So that’s it for our second update! I fall in love with him more each day and can't wait to see what the future holds, it’s not always easy but a very good journey never is! Just over one week to go until his scan and then fingers crossed the real fun can begin, mega excited!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more news on Mr Fred. 

kandf 250

 

 

 

 

 

Kaitlin and Freddie xxx

Published in Member Blogs

Trot On member, Kaitlin Woods, continues her blog sharing her journey - the ups and the downs, with her new ex-racing thoroughbred steed, Freddie. Here, in this posting, (originally written back in October last year), Kaitlin explains how she's had to deal with a dramatic loss of condition in Freddie shortly after his arrival.

Well that has flown by! 2 whole months and one week my boy has been home and it's honestly been amazing but a hell of a journey already...

If you haven't read my first blog posting, my lovely new ex racehorse came home on the 14th August, but with a superficial digital flexor tendon injury (more info on the blog, go have a read!) Since arriving home I've been ensuring Freddie remains as calm and sane as possible as to not damage the leg further by dancing and running about. The leg has continued to not show any signs of heat or swelling so fingers crossed he is fixing well. 

Our first hurdle to overcome arose a week and a half after Fred came home. He came to me in amazing condition, which as we all know with racehorses isn't always the case. I believe that if a horse is well on the inside, he will shine on the outside. Well fed, very loved and cared for and there you have it, a magnificent looking animal. Marie Mcguinness, Freddie's old trainer honestly adores her horses and my god does it show. (I believe that is why Freddie is one of the kindest horses I have ever met, he has been loved and cared for like a true king.) However, once Freddie came home, he had a bit of an adrenaline shock, I think it all hit him (as many ex racehorses out of training experience) - a new home and environment and a completely different routine, and he drastically lost condition and almost sagged... 

Freddie when he arrived                                                                                             Freddie 1 week in

Freddie 2 months in

He has lost back muscle from no work but his overall condition really fell. Very worrying that a horse can change so much in such a short space of time… Time for operation feed that can help! One problem… feed really isn't my thing, having had the pony for 8 years that really did not need feeding I was stuck on where to even begin! Thankfully help was on hand at my local country and feed store, a lady who had thoroughbreds too helped me to decide on what was best for Fred. He hasn't been confirmed for ulcers but being a racehorse and their high sugar, low fibre diets and the fact he was windsucking after eating his handful of high fibre nuts (although he does windsuck out of boredom too), I have gone for a molasses free chaff, in particular the Dengie Alfafa A one as well as Coolstance Copra meal which is well known for being a weight gaining feed especially used by many thoroughbred owners. What a transformation this has given! Freddie is looking so much better, I’m very pleased. However, with Freddie hopefully coming into work very soon once he’s been scanned I am slightly dropping his feed as he is feeling quite well from an oil based feed and I don’t want unnecessary fizz in the early stages. I’ll keep you updated on what he’s eating and how we are getting on!

Freddie has continued to be hand walked daily to strengthen the leg and see the world. He’s been such a good boy, even in the worst of weather conditions and traffic he has maintained a very cool and level head and I’m so proud of him for that. We have the odd excited moment but overall a very good boy, it’s honestly like walking your dog! Long may it continue when I’m on board him!!

Over the last 3 weeks Freddie has been moved into a bigger paddock, finally no more squares! He’s so happy bless him, the first time I turned him out I was expecting a bit of an explosion but he just walked the perimeter of his new field before giving me a little glance of approval and then of course got straight down to business… eating! He does have the occasional play about but no heat or swelling appears from the leg and unfortunately he cannot be bubble wrapped forever! He is definitely a food boy though, and as long as there is good food the excitement soon passes so he can munch away again. 

The other big step we took was to turn him out with Inky, the other ex-racehorse who is a true gentlemen and looks after everyone. All being well all three will be turned out together full time after we know whether the leg is ok and so an introduction to Inky seemed a good idea. It was like dropping my child off at school!! “Be nice, don’t hurt anyone and don’t hurt yourself!!” They loved each other, a little trot around in excitement and then settled straight down to eating the same blade of grass… bromance blossoming!

We have also reduced the length of time that Freddie is wearing his stable bandages, from 24/7 when he was on complete box rest to only at night when he came home. I then started to apply the bandages every other night and so on. He now doesn’t wear them at all and there has been no swelling at all. Good sign!

I did notice about a month in that he had a slight cold and snotty nose, I took it a bit easy on the walking in case he was feeling a bit under the weather. But he was soon fine and I didn’t have to have snot wiped over me when I was trying to lead him! Always a bonus  

Freddie also has a new medium weight rug for the chilly winter nights as I will be keeping him out mostly as they have a large field shelter which we bed down with straw. I also love the detachable hood and ‘atlantic blue’ suits him rather well don’t you think?!

So that’s it for our second update! I fall in love with him more each day and can't wait to see what the future holds, it’s not always easy but a very good journey never is! Just over one week to go until his scan and then fingers crossed the real fun can begin, mega excited!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more news on Mr Fred. 

kandf 250

 

 

 

 

 

Kaitlin and Freddie xxx

Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 07 December 2017 11:51

Calming Signals and Pain | Anna Blake

First, last, and always, make sure your horse is sound. 

That’s the warning that any decent equine professional gives before practically anything we do. It’s the common disclaimer; we almost skim over it as a formality before getting on to the training issues. In other words, we get complacent to chronic pain messages because it’s easier to train sometimes than it is to track down some nebulous pain. We should know better.

It’s the first question every rider should ask from the ground every day. Is my horse sound? Learning to read pain takes perception; it’s complicated in the beginning. It isn’t that we don’t care. We might not be sure and that means a vet call. We usually have a plan that day. Even if it’s a trail ride, we don’t want to cancel. If it’s something that involves money or hauling or inconveniencing other people, we usually think it’s not so bad and go ahead. We should do better.

There’s also a disclaimer that we should hear from horses –first, last and always. They are prey animals. Their instinct is so interwoven into their behavior and personality, that it’s inseparable.  Prey animals aren’t forthcoming about pain.

If your horse is stoic, he’ll grit his teeth, sometimes literally, and keep trudging on acting like he’s fine, until it’s too late. If your horse is more reactive than stoic, he’ll act aggressively hoping that bravado will pass for strength. They aren’t okay.

It’s common sense if you’re a horse. Prey animals hide their pain to survive. They are born knowing that the wolves kill the slow, lame members of the herd. Showing weakness, even within the herd, could mean less access to hay. It isn’t good or bad; it’s nature’s plan that the fit survive. We throw a wrench into that cycle when we domesticate animals so, at the very least, we must listen much more carefully.

Most of us can read enough herd dynamics to know that shy old gelding might need to eat separately. We proudly list each horse’s position in the herd as an affirmation that we know our horses. As if it’s some kind of equine astrology and now that we know the horse is a Sagittarius that explains everything.

I’ve been teaching calming signals for the last few years as a way of understanding small messages from our horses before they become huge issues. It’s fun to have a non-verbal conversation with a horse. I always give the reminder about soundness but often we’d rather have a conversation about challenges, like standing still at the mounting block. What if the mounting block represents the beginning of what hurts and your horse resists it because he’s smart? Not a training issue at all.

It’s about now that we have to ask the hard question: Is it my lousy hands or is he in pain for another reason?

How is his saddle fit? If you aren’t having that checked at the very least once a year, things have changed and he feels it. Maybe he has a rib out or his withers are a bit jammed and he needs a chiropractic adjustment. Maybe he’s in his teens and you have repressed the idea that his back might be getting arthritic.

I don’t blame people. Checking for soundness is an affirmation of our horse’s mortality. Ick. Lameness can be hard to diagnose, even with radiographs and ultrasound. And I think there are pains that horses feel that we just can’t find, even with the best help. Vet science is still an art.

If lameness weren’t complicated enough, the existence of ulcers can distract us from questions of soundness. Ulcers are a huge issue for horses. Between 60% and 90% of horses have them, and worse, they sometimes mask lameness issues. It isn’t uncommon to treat a horse for ulcers and then perhaps find a stifle problem underneath them.

For all our horse’s anxiety about pain and not showing it, and for all our anxiety about the same, we have to start by getting past our emotions, fear, and love for a moment. Stand away from your horse, take a breath, and watch with quiet eyes. These are calming signals that could also be signs of pain:

• A tense poll, elevated head.

• Ears back or one ear back and one forward.

• Tight muscles around the eye.

• Exposed white of the eye.

• Intense stare or partially closed eyes.

• Clenched lips or nostrils.

You’re right. Those are symptoms so common. Some are even contradictory. We see them all the time, it’s easy to be complacent about them. They could be calming signals to ask you to cue quieter or that they need a moment to think. Or they could be signs of pain.

It’s that experience where you type a couple of your own symptoms into Google to try to self-diagnose, only to find you could have one of twenty life-threatening issues. How many times do we think we’re just depressed but it turns out that depression is a symptom of twenty other terrifying life-threatening issues?

And suddenly playing with calming signals is less fun. If you have a stoic horse, then cut that minimal fun in half. Can we ever trust what a stoic horse relates? Are so many nebulous and negative unknowns looming large enough now that you doubt everything you used to think you knew?

Perfect. You’re not supposed to think you know everything.

Instead, work on having an open mind and good intention. We must be willing to see “bad behavior” as a message and not a training issue. Be willing to listen, but also be willing to hear things we don’t want to hear. Even embrace the idea that our horses might be in pain. I don’t mean that we all become equine hypochondriacs but how can we help them if we don’t almost welcome the idea?

Positive training, asking a horse to volunteer, is more than kind. It has a distinct advantage for the horse. He gets what he wants from a leader. He gets to be heard when he hurts.

First, last, and always, make sure your horse is sound. 


annaprof150 Anna Blake is a horse advocate, equine professional, award-winning author, and proud member of the herd at Infinity Farm, on the Colorado prairie. She trains horses and riders equine communication skills and dressage, and writes parables about horses and life. | Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

 

Books By Anna Blake

annab150

Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 26 October 2017 09:40

Bend and Stretch

Archie’s health is of the upmost importance to me and so getting him seen by an equine physio who I trusted was one of the very first things I did when he joined our family. I was incredibly lucky that Samamtha Bardill-Bobyn was already looking after many horses locally and she has been keeping Archie in tip top shape ever since. She has been working for the past seven years as a veterinary physiotherapist, lending her healing hands and knowledge to both horses and dogs. Sammy started out in physiotherapy after completing her degree in animal science and further training with competition horses, giving her impressive breadth and depth of knowledge. Her rapidly expanding business is juggled with lecturing in equine physiology and anatomy, working with veterinary physio students, spending time with her family and riding her gorgeous mare Ruby. Despite her busy schedule Sammy is always happy to help, and goes out of her way to support her clients, turning up at the drop of a hat in an emergency and investing both time and emotion in their horses.

This is the first of many blogs which will feature Sammy's advice, but to start with I asked her what her top tips to the everyday rider would be, for keeping their horses in the best musculoskeletal condition possible;

A well fitted saddle

We can all be guilty of forgetting about our saddles, thinking we had it checked last month when it was actually a year ago. Horses change shape and keeping your saddle fitting correctly is vital in keeping your horse comfortable.

A strong core

A horse’s impulsion comes from its hindquarters, and to be working powerfully and effectively their abdominal muscles and core need to be strong. This allows them to work over their backs and lift up to support themselves.

Flexibility

Flexibility and suppleness mean that the horse can move freely and without restriction. This freedom of movement helps avoid stiffness and tension creeping in. Simple exercises such as a carrot stretches to the side and between the front legs help to improve both flexion and core strength. Think of it like Pilates for horses.

I am overjoyed to announce that Sammy and I have come together in a new partnership this year, and as I would have always recommended her services, without a moment’s hesitation, I am delighted to now be able to represent her and her business. On top of this we will be bringing you blogs featuring her tips and advice on how to keep your horse healthy throughout the year.

Learn more about Sammy at: http://www.facebook.com/sambardillvetphysio/


joae150 As it says on the tin, this is a personal blog about the journey Archie and I are taking in discovering the world of eventing. Archie is a 6 year old Irish gelding, and I am a 26 year old horse addict. I didn’t grow up in a family with horses, and Archie was the first horse I ever owned, having loaned for over 20 years. I hope that we can show other riders who perhaps don’t feel that they can achieve their dreams, that anything is possible!

 

Re-published by kind permission of Journey of an Amateur Eventer|Blog

 

 

 

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