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Stretching
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paddle
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 Posted: Wed May 9th, 2012 03:07 am
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Thankyou! I have enjoyed & learned from your posts

Kate
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 Posted: Wed May 9th, 2012 06:58 pm
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Thank you, I understand my mistakes now. Glad I asked!

Kate

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Thu May 10th, 2012 10:56 am
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Hi Angie

Exercises to progressively develop core strength in the horse have been discussed previously, so you might like to use the search function to bring up older threads, although some discussions may have been on the previous version of this forum.

Assuming the horse is completely sound and injury-free, there are a number of ways to target the muscles that provide a corset-like strength and protection to the vulnerable lumbar and pelvic areas of the body. All of the examples below are very strenuous for the weak or unconditioned horse, so should not be overdone.

As always, the horse must be relaxed, free from any anxiety about what is expected. Tension will cause the horse to contract his topline extensor muscles and be unable to properly use the abdominal and psoas flexor muscles that need to be strengthened.

1. Using ground poles at a walk is a good beginning, starting with just one, and then slowly working up to 3 or 4 in a grid. Trotting over the poles can be introduced when the horse is completely confident about the poles at a walk, but go back to 1 or 2 poles when starting to trot.

Whether done as ground work or from the saddle, I like to ask the horse for a halt and one step back both before and after traversing the grid, maybe a couple of strides out from each end. This puts the horse into a body posture that can easily access the desired flexor muscles, and also helps to prevent any build-up of excitement that some green horses feel when allowed to complete whole circles around poles.

The difficulty can be increased by arranging the poles in a fan shape so the horse must take a longer step with the outside limbs than the inside pair.

The inside ends of the poles can also be raised by placing them on a low platform (bricks, small car tyre, etc) so the horse then has to take shorter, higher steps with the inside pair of legs, and longer, lower steps with the outside pair.

2. An exercise I’ve found particularly beneficial for a more experienced horse is to ride or lunge the horse on a slightly sloping ground. On a 15 or 20 metre circle, trot the top half of the circle and walk the bottom half. The horse will have to really use his hindquarters to push off into the trot on the uphill half, and then use his hindquarters again, as a brake, when transitioning to the walk on the downhill half.

A variation of this can be done in a flat arena or even in a straight line out on a trail ride.

If in an arena, walk the short sides and trot the long sides. Before each transition to trot from walk, halt the horse and take two steps back, then think of going straight from reinback into trot. The green horse will not be able to go straight from reinback or halt to trot, and should not be forced or kicked into doing so. It is enough for the rider/handler to think of or visualize the horse doing that type of transition; forcing will simply cause contraction of the topline, the exact opposite of what is desired.

Similarly, when transitioning from trot to halt at the end of the long side of an arena, it is enough for the rider/handler to think of doing that change of pace. The green horse must be allowed some walk steps, not be hauled to a halt as that also would cause topline contraction.

Both the circles on a slope and the variation on the flat are very strenuous for the horse. To start with, no more than 3 circuits in each direction, no more than 3 times per week.

Even that seemingly small amount will usually produce visible changes in the horse’s posture in about 3 weeks. Most often the back can be seen to be carried at a higher overall level, a good couple of inches with some horses. This indicates the abdominal muscles have strengthened and are able to support the spine via increased intra-abdominal pressure.

3. Another excellent exercise that any sound horse can do is to back up and down a small slope, one step at a time; literally step/halt/step/halt etc. This prevents momentum from providing any energy – the effort must all come from the horse.

Best wishes
Pauline

Jane W
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 Posted: Thu May 10th, 2012 04:18 pm
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Pauline:

Can you explain the grid pattern you use when arranging the poles.  Do you lay one pole on top of the other to form small squares, or do you use the poles to make big squares?  Is the goal to walk a serpentine through the pattern?  I'm having a hard time picturing this.  Thanks.

Jane

paddle
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 Posted: Thu May 10th, 2012 04:40 pm
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You should write a book!! Your presentation of material is so clear. Has it been done? Thankyou for the time you take to write these posts!

Angelexy
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 Posted: Thu May 10th, 2012 11:13 pm
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Thankyou - I already incorporate poles into my mix and will incorporate the variations you describe with regard to slope and raising the inside ends of the poles from now on - even though my horses are sound and healthy I see poles as a good sound strengthening foundation that my horses and I enjoy playing with.

I would appreciate an opinion however (with respect to the fact I am hoping what I am asking the horse to do is actually a healthy stretch both mentally and physically for the horse)

My horses start jumping via ground work (online...not free jumping)).  For a start it gives me invaluable information just by watching the horses expression, interest  and OK'ness and how they tackle a new 'scary' jump in some cases).

My theory is also 'width' rather than height of the jumps. i.e I start with one barrel width and then increase to two and then three wide - you can see them stretch and use their shoulders and hind quarters really well...I see it as a similar posture to stepping up on a platfrom with the front feet - but with more benefits - I even do the half circle exercise (that Buck taught us when he was here) over the jumps - man they get nippy and powerful and they love it.

I have found when they start like this when it comes to riding them over jumps, all I have to do is be a good passenger and stay out of their way - I think it is helpful for the horses confidence and mine because you see them work it all out for themselves without me potentially doing the wrong thing at the wrong time if I was in the saddle.  Like when you see some people flap and whip and yell at the horse when if you sat quietly and waited, the horse could have time to figure out the jump without all the tension & drama!...it then becomes hard to convince the horse it isn't going to happen all the time at every jump  and in my opinion thats why horses go like a bat out of hell and get dangerous over jumps.

I would just like to add that I am not a competitive 'show jumper' by any means - I just enjoy jumping and am not particularly brave (height wise), but have found when I set up a round of jumps at home (usually tyres / logs / barrels etc...old troughs or whatever I can find :-)...the horses are such a pleasure and so much fun - because they know they can do it and so do I.  When I go to friends houses and we play around in their arena etc - my horses trust me and are OK about just about everything I ask them to jump and that includes the odd local show!

Thanks Angie

 

 

 

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Fri May 11th, 2012 11:22 am
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Jane - In this context, a grid is a row of parallel poles spaced appropriately for walk or trot, just like cavaletti.

Paddle - No book, but there is a Stretching document in pdf format which might be easier to print out. Anyone who wants this can send me an email requesting a copy (address on the members page).

Angie - what is it specifically that you are asking?

Last edited on Fri May 11th, 2012 11:24 am by Pauline Moore

Angelexy
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 Posted: Fri May 11th, 2012 09:51 pm
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Hi Pauline

Apologies, I do tend to waffle on....:-)

Are the online jumping techniques over wide jumps I use with my horses physically therapeutic for them too?

As long as they are widened gradually and the horse is warmed up and relaxed that is.

Regards Angie

Angelexy
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 Posted: Sat May 12th, 2012 09:02 am
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Just to clarify further.

To start jump training a horse - physically would it be more therapeutic and helpful for the animal to end up (after the first initial stages) starting to jump over 'wider' jumps rather than straight up and down 'narrow' jumps - this would encourage the horse to stretch and reach over the jump which would help to give them confidence and good techinque i.e that lovely 'bascule' over the fences that certain horses do.  Am I on the right track?

Thanks Angie

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sun May 13th, 2012 09:55 am
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Hi Angie

You are heading in the right direction in wanting your horse to bascule over a jump. This is just another word to describe a body posture where the horse has coiled his loins and raised his back and neck base. Sound familiar? We could just as easily say we want the horse to be collected when he jumps. We do not want the horse to jump with a hollow, extended spine, any more than we want the horse to move in that manner for flat work.

The muscles involved in producing a bascule body shape are the same as those used in producing a collected body shape. Therefore, the best preparation for teaching a horse to jump well is to first teach him how to carry himself in a ‘round’ or collected posture for all flat work. It is then an easy and natural progression for the horse to maintain that posture as he learns to negotiate poles, cavaletti and small jumps, or whatever it is you want him to jump.

The first step in that process is to work on straightness. If the horse is crooked within himself, he will not be able to properly flex all the joints needed to coil the loins and lift the back and neck base. He will then not be ‘round’ and will jump with a flattened or hollow back.

Last year I went to a lecture by an exercise physiologist who was discussing core strength for riders. She explained that if the rider is crooked, ie leaning to one side, the rider’s own core muscles will not be activated. It is likely that crookedness affects horses in the same way.

There have been many previous discussions on how to help a horse adopt a straight posture by changing the flexion of his ribcage, stepping under his body shadow, etc. You should be able to locate some of those discussions quite easily.

A straight, round posture is the starting point for anything we could want a horse to do, whether that is a quiet trail-ride or the above-ground airs of the classical high school. The question of wide jumps or high jumps then has no significance.

The horse in the photo below has, of his own volition, taken on a highly collected body posture. The neck base and back are raised, the loins coiled so the croup is lowered, all joints of the hind limbs are deeply flexed and the forehand is lightened. From this posture he could easily launch himself over a high jump or a wide jump while maintaining a bascule shape, do some piaffe steps or rise into a levade – the choice is his. He is ready for anything, but decides on a simple turn on the haunches.

We mostly do not need this degree of collection, but the principle is the same with just a small degree of collection/roundness – the horse is ready for anything that is appropriate to his energy level and experience.

Another area I would want to look at for any jumping horse is the depth and texture of the digital cushions, especially of the front feet, as this is where most of the landing impact concussion will be taken. Wide heels and good depth with firm, rubbery texture will help to prevent skeletal damage from repeated jumping, although no doubt you would not want to jump your horse that much.

Best wishes
Pauline

Attachment: Collection.jpg (Downloaded 395 times)

Jeannie
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 Posted: Sun May 13th, 2012 06:59 pm
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Hi Pauline,
   Do you have any recommendations for neck stretches/ massage?

Also, do you think the " goat on the mountain" stretch, where the horse puts his four feet as close together as is comfortable , as if he were standing on a pedestal, and then stretching the neck down, is a good stretch for the whole topline? We've been working on that one at the very end of the other stretches, as it seems to be one where he needs to be loosened up.

Thank you so much for all your information and great photos!
                                               Jeannie

Angelexy
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 Posted: Sun May 13th, 2012 09:40 pm
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Hi Pauline

Thankyou for your time - your post(s) make perfect sense.  I believe you have a gift in the way you explain things and your stretching descriptions and  pictures are very helpful and much appreciated.  I am particularly grateful your  pictures clearly show how to incorporate them with your own back preservation/posture in mind :-)

I have a list of old threads I am slowly working through and referring back to time and again.  As always I am working on the balance of 'theory' versus 'doing' - observing, remembering and comparing as Buck has said to us every time he is in NZ - so I can be there for my horses.

Kind Regards

Angie

 

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Tue May 15th, 2012 06:48 am
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Hi Jeannie

Love the description 'goat on the mountain'! Yes, this would be a very good stretch if you can get your horse to maintain the posture for as long as possible. You could encourage him to have his muzzle progressively further back towards, or even between, his front feet - but keep his nose as close to ground-level as you can. The nuchal ligament and supra-spinous ligament could possibly be overstretched if the horse is allowed to curl his muzzle back under towards his chest. This is another reason to take care in using a lure such as a carrot for any stretches; the horse may be tempted to snatch for the treat and thus go beyond the distance capacity of whichever soft tissues are involved.

Another way of doing this type of stretch is to do a belly lift with one hand, while guiding the muzzle to ground level with the other. Takes a bit of practice and co-ordination, but it's another variation on the same theme.

The method for doing the simple maintenance stretches discussed previously evolved from my days working with fractious, unmannered young TBs in racing stables. I needed to find a way to keep myself safe that was also soothing and of some benefit to the horses. That quiet 30 seconds of doing nothing while holding each stretch is very relaxing for the horse - we are often so busy around our horses. I've not yet met a horse who doesn't very quickly get to enjoy the whole process - even those rowdy racing youngsters.

Those same techniques were also easy for novice horse-handlers to use without hurting themselves or upsetting their horses. However, for experienced handlers and quiet horses, our imagination is the only limit on what we can do to stretch the horse's body and entertain his mind.

A horse ridden in a 'round' slightly collected posture will as a consequence be extending and stretching his neck away from his body, so may not need anything further. This is therapeutic in itself. For horses not at that level of training, getting them to stretch forwards/downwards over a chest-height obstacle would be good (anything will do that is just a little too high to step over). Using a lure of some sort would probably be needed, at least to start with.

Lateral neck stretches can be done at different heights. I will usually stand as in the lateral torso stretch, with my back to the girth area, but rather than have the horse bend around me, I will hold my arm out in front of me. The horse does not flex his body in these stretches, and does not bend his neck far enough to prompt twisting of the vertebrae. I might hold my hand (with the lure) up high above my head, or level with my body, or down at knee level, so the horse is stretching in 3 different ways. These are stretches I tend to do as a therapy rather than normal maintenance.

Any horse who is habitually anxious, or is ridden with a raised head and extended spine, will likely have significant neck problems. Massage and trigger-point work does help but it's too hard to effectively describe that here.

Best wishes
Pauline

Jeannie
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 Posted: Tue May 15th, 2012 05:53 pm
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Great, thanks Pauline. Maybe I can get a photo of the stretch to post. I would think it would feel like the cat stretch in yoga, where you arch your back while on your hands and knees. A counter to having a saddle and rider on their backs.

 It's not surprising that horses quickly realize the enjoyment of stretches, I've always thought of horses having more appreciation for living between the notes than we have.

 I can see the benefit of having them stretch down over a barrier, they would have to lengthen and arch at the same time. I'll try the other lateral stretches as well, I've noticed his shoulders have more range of movement since we have been working on those. A good solution for keeping the muscles from getting tight after we've worked on making them stronger.

There are a pair of photos in the book " The Kingdom of the Horse", showing a horse at the beginning of training, then six years later, and it was quite amazing to see the change, it looked like a different horse. I wish I had taken more photos over the years.
         Best, Jeannie

DarlingLil
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 Posted: Mon Feb 9th, 2015 06:00 am
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Helpful stretches here.


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