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Bowing and playing with the pedestal
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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AdamTill
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Joined: Tue Mar 27th, 2007
Location: Calgary, Alberta Canada
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 Posted: Sat Apr 7th, 2007 06:40 am
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Hi Dr Deb (and everyone!),

I finally got around to building a pedestal to add to the non-riding time that my horse and I spend together, and had a couple of questions for you if you have the time. The pedestal is 2' in diameter, 16" tall, and is topped by textured rubber anti-fatigue matting.

First off, I should mention that Marshall (my horse) had foundered in all four feet when I bought him a year ago, and while we're well on the way to reversing as much of the damage as will be possible, it just makes things a bit different then working with a more flexible horse. He's particularly stiff protracting his hind legs, but that's to be expected I guess (and we're working on it). 

For example, I've been starting to teach him how to bow by asking him to place each of his front feet forward in turn a bit compared to how he'd normally stand, and he's noticeably a bit more reluctant with the left front froward (the sinking aspect of his founder was worst on the left front). He'll happily stand with the right front forward about 6 inches, but if I place the left front down even a little forward of square, he'll move it back almost immediately. I'm pretty sure he understands what I'm asking, and I'm sure to praise him for every little effort, it just seems a bit uncomfortable right now.

Getting back to the pedestal, I think similar issues are presenting themselves there, and I want to make sure that I'm not moving too quickly. After introducing him to the pedestal and letting him smell it (the rubber anti-vibration matting is pretty pungent), we went through a good 15-20 min round of stretching and about the same of walking/backing to get him warmed up. Afterwards, I made a few approaches to the pedestal that brought up square to it.

After sniffing the matting again, I prompted him to move one leg forward, and he seemed to cotton on to the deal by trying to lift one front hoof onto it (we've done "standing on a mat" exercises, and this is really just a mat that's off the ground).  He couldn't quite shift his weight/raise his leg enough to get onto the top, so I offered to lift the hoof up for him. The first few times I immediately placed it back on the ground then walked him away and did something else (lest he panic), but eventually I tried leaving his hoof up there for a bit. He never seemed out of sorts with any of this. He'd leave it up for about 15 seconds, then take it off himself (more by pulling back then by lifting his hoof up).

So my question is, is this a sound way to introduce things? He can stay relaxed when I'm working through stretches that place his front legs higher then this (though I hold under the carpus rather then the hoof) so he's flexible enough, but just doesn't seem quite able to move his leg up on his own right now. I'm sure this will come with practice (and my placing his hoof up there provides a nice stretch that he bows down into a bit), so should I just mix asking him to do this on his own and helping occasionally in the mean time?






I did notice a fair difference between how his front left and right hooves look when they're on the pedestal (the front right looks like it's a bit more able to sit flat...that's the hoof with the white sock). Some restriction in the range of motion for the front left would make sense given the founder (tendon adaptation?), but since I've never even seen a horse stand on a pedestal in real life, I don't know if the front right looks "normal" either. Are horses normally flexible enough to sit the hoof flat on a surface this high? (he's 16.3hh)

Hopefully with lots more stretching and continuing to be diligent in correcting the underrun heel this will be more comfortable for him, but he always seemed calm and present throughout. 





Sorry for the book, but I'd appreciate any help that you could offer! The new software is great BTW, and I'm making sure to host these photos on my own site so that I'm not chewing up server space.


Thanks tons!

Adam


Last edited on Sat Apr 7th, 2007 06:49 am by AdamTill

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Apr 7th, 2007 07:28 am
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Adam -- good photos and question very clearly put. And so here's the series of answers:

a) You heard me say in class recently, when we were demonstrating bowing with Louise's good barrel horse, that horses that have foundered/rotated often have more trouble stretching the fore hoofs forward. So her horse, which has never foundered, was impressively willing and able to go quite deep even on his first real bow, whereas my Oliver, for example, who is 16 years old and has foundered once, has been working at bowing for over 2 years and is just now beginning to get to where he can dip down enough to even really call it a "bow", and even then, he wants to do it "like a spider", with a krink in his ankles and with knees bent. This is because "tendons shrink to meet the space available," i.e. after rotation they shorten to match the degree of rotation, and thus some of the flexibility or "stretchiness" in the flexor apparatus of the forelimbs as a whole is lost. So your horse is only doing exactly what Ollie and other previously-foundered horses do.

b) They also usually have one foot worse than the other, i.e., one foot that they don't want to put as far forward as the other and/or in which the knee bends more, or persists in bending longer, than the other leg. This much is also true even of "normal" horses, because as you know Adam, all horses are crooked; they all have a favorite side and a less-favorite side, a more flexible side and a less-flexible side.

c) Now as to mounting the drum, you are doing everything just fine. Just be sure you do convey to the horse that you intend for him to get up onto the drum -- not just put his foot there or paw at it, etc.

This is actually a simpler matter than you may be conceiving of it, because what I hear you asking (more or less between the lines) is "so now that he's coming up to the drum so well, how do we actually make the leap to where he steps up there?"

Here is how, or here is how I am going to get you to see how simple it is. Go to a stairwell or maybe just your mounting block -- or the drum you've built for the horse will work, too.

Put your right foot up on the drum. Now -- EXACTLY WHAT do you have to do in order to rise?

Why -- it's simple -- you just have to PUSH DOWN on the foot that is up. Once you push down enough (= place enough weight upon) the foot that is up, your whole body will rise, and the second foot will rise with it.

You do not need, and should not worry about, where the horse's second foot goes. As the action becomes more and more familiar to him, he'll find a way to get it planted up there, too. But if at first he leaves it dangling off to the side, that's fine. Your drum is safe enough -- he isn't likely to scrape himself up on it.

Now, how do you get the horse to push down with the foot that's planted? You do this by (depending upon the horse) a more (or less) subtle tug on the lead rope. If it's his right forefoot that he plants up there first, once it's up there and the heel of the foot is in contact with the drum (not just the toe), then draw the horse's head forward and obliquely toward the planted foot.

Be sure you step your BODY back somewhat as you do this....otherwise, your body-aura may act to push him back or hold his body back off of the drum. You have to make space for him to get up there. When his chest comes up, it is a big object, and his head will hang out pretty far to the front too, so he needs space to feel like he isn't crashing into you.

That's all there is to it....write back and let us know how it goes. The drum can and should be one of the most peaceful and secure places the horse ever goes. When you make it that, it enters your toolbox as one of the most powerful rewards/releases you can offer. It's cute and even spectacular-looking, but it ain't just a "trick".

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

AdamTill
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 Posted: Sun Apr 8th, 2007 05:23 pm
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Thanks a lot Dr Deb...I'll write back after we give it another couple of tries!

Cheers,

Adam

AdamTill
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 Posted: Mon Apr 9th, 2007 08:53 pm
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Hi Dr Deb,

Well, we tried again yesterday, and your advice worked perfectly. After he would keep his foot on the pedestal without tension (ie, without either needing to pull it off or pushing down or tensing his leg when it was up there), he seemed to click with the idea that getting his foot up there on his own was entirely possible (okay, so giving him a treat for putting his foot up there on his own helped too!).

After that point, all it took was the extra bit of gentle directed pressure with the lead rope, and he pushed right up. Seemed quite surprised at the view from up there!He seemed to struggle a bit getting down however, though he accomplished it well enough. I quit soon after that, so he didn't get overfaced by repetitions, and since this seemed to be pushing his normal range of motion a little.

I'm planning on giving this a rest for a week in case he's a bit sore for whatever reason, and so that I can build a removable 4'sq base for the pedestal. At the 2' diameter in our sand arena it doesn't seem stable enough for when he's not completely square on the platform, and I don't want that to cause him to lose confidence.

Thanks again!

Adam

Lori
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 Posted: Fri May 4th, 2007 07:20 pm
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Hi,  I have heard about using the pedestal but I am not sure what the purpose and goal is.

Is there an article that explains pedestal use?

Thank you.

Lori

AdamTill
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 Posted: Wed May 23rd, 2007 03:58 pm
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Lori wrote: Hi,  I have heard about using the pedestal but I am not sure what the purpose and goal is.

Is there an article that explains pedestal use?

Thank you.

Lori


Hi Lori,

Sorry for the delay is responding. I don't know of a specific article, but the pedestal comes up every now and then in Dr. Deb's Inner Horseman publications. Short of having those, this thread from the old forum might come in handy:

http://equinestudies.secure-mall.com/discus/messages/1/57.html?1177877405

I see the main uses as inducing a great stretch through a lot of muscles that tend to be chronically tight, as a way of temporarily relieving pressure on the belly, and as a fantastic proprioceptive excercize (really teaches the horse to know where to place their front feet). Also simultaneously acts as a confidence building and relaxation excercize.

See for yourself:

http://www.easphotography.com/Horses/General/Marshall/MarshallPedestalFree.wmv

This was our third time out, and Marshall will happily stay up there for 10-15 mins if I don't call him down first. One of his biggest issues was learning to square up to the pedestal so that both feet fit, but now he's a pro at that.

 

 

Pam
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 Posted: Wed May 23rd, 2007 10:44 pm
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Hi Adam,

I'm so glad I read your post!  I haven't yet taught my horse to stand on the pedestal but plan on getting my husband to build one for me, and then I will teach my horse this great trick/exercise.  There is enough instruction here in this post (thanks Dr. Deb) that I feel confident to try it out.

My horse was taught by one of his previous owners to bow (with both legs stretched straight in front of him) while in the cross ties.  Since I rarely put him in the cross ties, he has learned to bow while I'm grooming him or right before I get onto ride.  He has even bowed a couple of times while I was on him.  That was really fun.  I would think that bowing on the ground would have the same "good" feeling for the horse (or nearly as good) as stepping up onto the pedestal.  He stretches completely with his head curled into his chest and he even crosses over his front feet.  That takes alot of skill in my opinion.  I was told by the ex barn owner, at my current barn, to stop letting my horse bow because it was considered to be bad behavior.  Needless to say I didn't listen to her, she has since moved on, and my horse bows now whenever he feels like it.   I find he will bow for attention, because most people think it is really amazing and cute (and he knows it) , or to just stretch because it feels good.  What I like about the bowing is that it is clear to me that he enjoys stretching and it is something that is in his control.  I will even give him a cookie for a really good one and I think that is what he really wants.  The first day I met my horse he was in the cross ties getting ready for me to ride him, and when he saw me he did a really big bow.  Well, he won my heart at that point.  I thought to myself, this is my kind of horse.  

Another thing he does that is somewhat related to this is, when he is in turnout and has rolled, he will sit up like a dog with his legs on the ground stretched straight out in front of him.  I haven't seen any other horses do this, but I do think it must feel really good to him. 

A friend of mine calls him circus horse.

Thanks for sharing,

Pam


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