Work at the walk, practiced and touted by old classical dressage masters, is always better than letting a horse stand around when for whatever reason he is not able to perform a regular training schedule.
Walking allows for full contraction of the long back muscles in a contraction-relaxation cycle that prevents tension. Its low-aerobic effort ensures recruitment of small muscles that support the spine, the ones that create and store postural patterns.
Further, the fine-tuned motor control that is possible at the walk enables you to help your horse find more range of motion and joint flexion that will become habitual.
Within each routine featured here, spend about two minutes on each exercise and continue to cycle through them until your time is up.During periods of reduced exercise due to either weather or injury, you can accomplish a great deal in 25 minutes with one of the walk routines featured here. Even for riders with busy lives, there is no reason to not make use of these.
Concentrate on creating the highest quality movements and figures for these 25 minutes. Treat them with the same focus as you would a dressage test or show. You can easily extend their benefits by doing three minutes of dynamic stretches or calisthenics prior to mounting.
How to Handle DowntimeInterruptions to a horse’s normal training routine or exercising fewer than three days per week will lead to a measurable loss of fitness after four weeks. This “detraining” effect continues up to 12 weeks, at which point a rider should consider the horse entirely out of condition.
A horse’s metabolic system and connective tissue are stressed by large vacillations in fitness, especially as he ages; every effort should be made to avoid long layoffs lasting more than four weeks at a time. Obviously, every rider will experience schedule restraints that lead to periods of lesser activity, during which the walking routines I’ve just described, at the minimum, can be used.
During periods of less activity, riders often may fret unnecessarily about the horse losing cardiovascular fitness. Instead, they should concern themselves with postural tone and fitness of muscular patterns. Horses make cardiovascular adaptations quickly and efficiently. It’s fine for them to lose fitness in their respiratory system, sweating responses, and blood volume for an extended period. Once a horse is placed back in full-time work, his cardiovascular system makes fitness gains in as swiftly as two weeks. His supporting tissues, muscles, and bones, however, will require up to four months or more.
Do not be tempted to make up for a diminished training schedule by getting your horse out once or twice a week and making him work up a good sweat with the hope that you are thwarting fitness loss. I sometimes see riders with good intentions but tight schedules show up at the barn once or twice a week, only to hook their horse onto the longeline and run him around until he is panting and sweaty. Obviously, they believe they are combating a deterioration of fitness.
In reality, they are doing more harm than good. While they are in fact taxing the horse’s respiratory system, they are allowing his postural muscles to slacken while simultaneously creating poor habits in his gymnastic muscles that build tension during these short bursts of activity without precise alignment, warming up, or signals from his proprioceptors.
Walk Routine 1With each of these routines, spend about two minutes on each exercise and repeat for 25 minutes.
It’s far better to forego the once-weekly, sweaty workout in place of multiple shorter sessions using exercises to recruit postural muscle effort. In sum, allow cardiovascular fitness to go by the wayside because it comes back quickly. Do not allow postural practice and muscle training to go by the wayside because you will create problems down the road.
Accordion Topline:Riding around the edge of your arena in a brisk, forward walk, practice lengthening and shortening your reins and asking your horse to change frames, from longer to shorter.
Spiral In and Out:From a 20-meter circle, spiral in to an 8-meter circle. Then, maintaining inside bend, leg-yield back out to your original 20-meter circle, being careful not to lose energy.
Snowman:Ride once around a 20-meter circle to the left, then, at the top, change bend and ride a 10-meter circle to the right. Resume your 20-meter circle. Your figure should look like a snowman with a fat body and a smaller head on top.
Simple Ground Poles:Set up as many poles as you have available in a random fashion all around your arena. Proceed in a brisk walk over the poles, riding turns and loops creatively.
Walk Routine 2Long-and-low Transitions:With the horse in a long-and-low frame, ride transitions from working walk to extended walk; repeat. Aim to keep his head and neck reaching down low toward the ground into a light rein contact during these transitions. He will need to recruit core musculature for balance.
Polish Your Turns:Interspersed with intervals of active, ground-covering walking, practice several turns-on-the-forehand and turns-on-the-haunches in each direction. Be sure to ride several vigorous walk steps between each turn.
Proprioception Box:Arrange a box using four ground poles with the corners of the box lifted on risers. Ride a variety of patterns over and through the box—cloverleaf, circle around each corner of the box, figure eight.
Walk Routine 3Speed Changes:Ride various figures in the arena while changing the speed of your walk. Aim for four distinct speeds (super slow, slow, medium and fast), and spend 20 strides at each speed. Repeat.
Cornerstone Transitions:Ride transitions to the halt every 10 strides. At every other halt transition, ask the horse to back up 6 to 10 steps, then carry on.
Wavy lines:Ride a “scalloped” edge around the track of your arena. Maintain a brisk, lively walk tempo and ride a wavy serpentine with approximately 3-meter loops back and forth from left to right.
I am awful because I am just now going through cross country footage I have from our rides. I got a new phone so I had to transfer quite a bit over and then I forgot I even had them OOPS. So here are some of the videos.
The one thing that I really don't like about helmet cams, is that they never do justice on the size of what you're jumping. The fence vary from 2 logs to 3 ft with some that are much larger but they are few and far between.
I need to really set up my helmet cam somewhere else where you can appreciate the size of the fences and set up my second camera somewhere else(perhaps where my helmet cam would normally be.
yI had never thought to add one when I go out on cross country, but you know what why not?! I know how many times I have wished I had had a chunk of main I could grab in sticky situations-but unfortunately for safety reasons, I always braid our horse's manes because there is such an abundance of it. I have always gone by the beat of my own drum, so my fear of judgement from others has never been an issue. I literally had never realised that it was an option AND it was that common to have one! so why not?!
What am I talking about is a neck strap. I am now rethinking that one, and will be adding a "oh sh*t" strap to my cross country gear.
As I did research for this post, I realised there are so many riders that ride with them from William Fox-Pitt all the way to lower beginner levels of eventing. Don't get me wrong, most of the eventers out there are not jumping at his level, but nonetheless I have no doubt that all involved were sure glad they had one.
Neck straps have long been associated with beginner riders and that was how a lot of riders get started I think. As you learn to ride the different types of obstacles, you really start to appreciate that a neck strap was a really useful piece of equipment in so many situations. Whether you be off balance, or you need to quiet down your hand for a very difficult situation, you always the option of that strap. Our horses do a lot of natural horsemanship as well, so they have learned to slow down and stop with that strap so another useful tool.
I feel like it's either always been there and I have never noticed them, or they are just starting to make a come back. Some people just use the martingale strap and although I have done that on occasion it’s not quite the same because it doesn’t sit in quite the right place and a breastplate is no good because it sits too close to the saddle. I just wouldn't want the strap to go off and up their neck. How do riders solve that issue? is it even an issue?
If you are going to give a neck strap a go you are better to get your saddler and ask him to make one for you out of the leather from a piece of leather. It just needs a buckle and keepers so you can adjust it for different horses and you will be set. Another creative option is DIY'ing your own strap to the custom measurements your horse fits.
Horse owners and veterinarians have been treating equine wounds for centuries. After all, horses are unabashedly practiced at the art of sustaining wounds. Over the years we’ve tried many different wound ointments and salves, cleansers and dressings, but not all of them are backed by evidence of safety and/or efficacy.
So Dean Hendrickson, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, professor of equine surgery at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, went back to basics, describing effective and ineffective wound-cleaning agents.
Although our intentions are good, “most wound-cleaning agents and techniques will cause chemical or mechanical trauma to the wound bed,” he said. “Weigh the benefits of cleaning the wound against the trauma that agent will cause.”
In other words, ask yourself: Is that cleaning agent ultimately going to speed up or retard wound-healing?
Before applying anything, however, clip the hair around the wound to prevent it from contaminating the area. Then, use sterile gauze to very gently scrub the wound. “If gentle scrubbing doesn’t work, use a different technique,” said Hendrickson. “Don’t scrub harder.”
One approach is saline lavage to remove surface debris—“One of the best things we do,” he said. Again, don’t use much pressure; a gentle showerhead-type sprayer works well.
Hendrickson then delved into the common topical treatments we apply to wounds and which ones are safe to use.
Saline: Hendrickson referenced saline again and again throughout his presentation as one of the most simple, yet effective, wound-cleaning agents. Hypertonic saline, in particular, is very effective for debriding (removing surrounding dead, damaged, or infected tissue) while lavaging and for reducing bacteria in the wound. It does have the ability to damage normal cells, as well, he cautioned, so use it only in infected wounds.
Povidone Iodine (PI):While povidone iodine has been used extensively in equine wound care, Hendrickson cited several studies showing that it causes tissue necrosis, impairs healing, and leads to increased infection. “Consequently, PI should only be used around the wound over intact skin and never in the wound itself,” he said.
Chlorhexidine: Hendrickson explained that chlorhexidine has low systemic toxicity, but studies have shown little evidence of its safety and efficacy reducing bacterial numbers without causing wound trauma. It also causes tissue necrosis and bacteria regrowth, he said.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Popular for its effervescent activity, which can convince the user it’s thoroughly working, hydrogen peroxide has few beneficial or negative effects. “Its antimicrobial properties are probably greatly overestimated,” said Hendrickson.
Acetic Acid (Vinegar): “There is science behind using common distilled vinegar, even though most people don’t consider it,” he said. “Its low pH is not compatible with certain bacteria like Pseudomonas,” meaning it can be effective against this common disease-causing pathogen.
He suggested using this agent as a 15-minute gauze soak or compress per day and then rinsing with saline.
Surfactant-Based CleansersHendrickson explained that these cleansers are minimally toxic and irritating, but not necessarily nontoxic. “They are very effective on minimally contaminated wounds and should be applied, allowed to sit for 1 to 2 minutes, rinsed off, and reapplied as necessary,” he said.
Topical AntibioticsDrugs in this class are effective at reducing bacterial numbers, but their overuse contributes to antibiotic-resistant microbes. Thus, Hendrickson suggested using them for only one to two weeks and choosing one you have confirmed the infecting pathogen has sensitivity to. Common topical antibiotics for wound care include:
Dressings: Hendrickson described a variety of dressings that serve different purposes. Debridement dressings, for instance, are designed to remove bacteria and necrotic tissue from the wound. Gel dressings are designed to encourage moist wound healing in dry wounds. “We know moist wounds are healthy wounds,” he said. Granulation tissue dressings help encourage proper wound healing and contraction when the wound is lacking granulation tissue. And epithelialization dressings help finish off the wound healing process.
Take-Home Message: In summary, Hendrickson encouraged us to forget what we’ve heard about “magical cleansers” purported to heal wounds and, to take a line from human medicine, “Don’t do to a wound what you wouldn’t do to your own eye.”
Saline, surfactant-based wound cleansers, silver, and triple antibiotic ointment are the few things we should put in wounds, he said.
Saddle fit Issues: As a therapist I do continually deal with saddle fit issues. To tackle this issue I have also just started studying to become an Accredited Saddle fitter as there are many inconsistencies in saddle fit for both horses and riders. Many of my clients as myself are never sure the type of flock used and what saddles are better used for different horse body types.
Where one brand of saddle may have worked for someone else may not work on your horse. Thus, I figured the more people of aware of saddles the more we can help our equine partners.
The horse has nothing to say regarding what we impose on its back, so it is a mark of respect to look for a saddle that will not pinch, rub or injure it
Adjusting flocking is the saddle fit version of fine-tuning. It is not changing the overall fit of the saddle.
Adjusting the flocking when the tree is the wrong shape would not fix the problem. It's like adding an extra hole to your belt in an attempt to make a pair of jeans fit.
Adjusting the flocking only works when the tree is already a fundamentally good fit. The same goes for any flocking substitute, such as risers or wedges inserted into the panels. It is not enough to make a saddle fit the horse, when the tree is the wrong shape.
Many Horses have high withers, middling withers and rangy tabletops. High withers can extend way back into the area of the saddle. Looking along the spine, we can see dippy backs, straight backs and bumpy backs.
This is before we even look at damaged backs, uneven shoulders, laterally curved spines, and all manner of physical issues affecting the horse, rider and the saddle in between.
Horses have a combination of these features. Many horses have one or two that can make saddle fitting a bit tricky. Some have combinations that make saddle fitting an utter nightmare.
The saddle's tree must reflect all those variations. It's what makes saddle fitting such an interesting challenge, and occasionally a very hard one.
The Comfort Connection
Whatever the panels are constructed of, they must, first and foremost, be comfortable. The ideal panel is soft (not too soft) and supple, and elastic enough to absorb shock while being breathable. Since our horses are athletes, their comfort is essential to enhance performance and prevent breakdown. If you were asked to run a mile in uncomfortable shoes, you'd find that your entire body hurts – it's not just about blisters on your heels.
Panels that are hard and lumpy don't just cause back pain, they can actually bruise the muscles, and in severe cases, a horse requires months off before being able to be worked again.
Depending on how your horse's back slopes down from the spine on either side, you will want to consider the shape of the panels from side to side in hopes they are similar angles.
Horses are constantly changing shape
Also, the tree shape vs your horse's profile can seriously impact flocking. If your horse is curvy backed and your saddle has a flat tree/panel profile you will have to reflock a lot more than if you have a saddle tree that matches your horses back profile. Flocking naturally congregates to follow the tree profile.
Complete reflocks cannot be done in a day. Why not? Because the flocking needs to settle for at least 24 hours as, even the most experienced saddlers have found, sometimes wool will settle and create holes. We prefer that the wool settles at our place for easy correction than you discovering the problem and being disappointed.
Fitting the wither: The gullet
(or front of the channel under the tree points)
The gullet, which sits over the wither, must be of an angle and width and shape that compliments the wither. The gullet shape is dictated by the angle and width of the tree points and the thickness and shape of the padding overlying them. Saddles that are too narrow in the gullet are one of the most common causes of back pain. ( Second only to saddles that are fitted too far forward).
Ideally most horses should have their saddle checked every three months or so in case adjustments need to be made to compensate for changes in wither shape with the changes in fat and muscle cover that occur as diet and exercise programs change.
Adjustable gullet systems. Adjustable gullet systems are usually necessary for maintaining good saddle fit. Several such systems are now available. Ainsley, Bates, Kieffer and Laser all have saddles with adjustable gullet systems. The Bates "Easy change gullet system", Ainsley adjustable head system and the Laser "InfiniTree" system.
Panel softness and ability to absorb concussion. Different fillings are available. Air Panels can be comfortable if fitted properly. These are able to conform to the changes in the horse's top line shape, as it moves and changes posture. There are known as FLAIR or CAIR system which are nice and soft and comfortable, and yet are not so thick as to cause excessive motion between the rider and the horse.
The Flair system (Wow Saddles) can be fitted to most saddles and requires inflation by a trained fitter, with the saddle on the horse and rider in the saddle. A simplified air bag system (CAIR – Bates/Wintec) has been developed and offers very good comfort for the horse. The CAIR system does not require special inflation and is suited to a wide range of horses and riders. They do require adding shims to allow for change in shape. Ideally to be done by saddle fitter and not owner.
Next to the air panels, the best, commonly used filling or flocking is synthetic wool. Often some of this white woolly material is seen protruding from the underside of the panels. If not over packed it offers good comfort for the horse where the panel surface area is adequate. This type of flocking can be adjusted by your saddler to suit the shape of you horse and also tends to move a little to conform better to the horse's back.
Broad, flat panelled, gel-foam fitted panels can also be comfortable for horses, but in general, foam or felt filled panels are less comfortable than wool or air filled panels. Regular foam or felt filled panels suit a small number of horses well but in many instances are associated with back soreness.
Often the angle of the foam panels is not suited to the horse's back and as a result pressure points are commonly created towards the outside of the saddle seat. Felt and foam panels are difficult or impractical to adjust and thus are a problem if the horse changes shape with muscle cover, fat cover or age.
Panel surface area
Broad panels distribute the weight of the saddle over a greater surface area. This reduces the pressure under the saddle and reduced pressure simply means less damage to the horses back. It's just like the difference between the pressure under high heeled shoes as compared to that of flat heeled shoes.
Panel shape. The panels of the seat area should conform to the shape of the horse's back. In most cases a reasonably flat panel will be appropriate as this is the shape of the top of the rib cage that is the underlying support for the saddle.
The importance of girth point placement is very often overlooked. Inappropriate girth point placement can cause the saddle to continually move forward or back. Adjustable Y systems or similar, with the most forward girth point coming off the tree point of the saddle, are recommended. The points should then be adjusted according to the chest shape of horse. Most have a girth notch into which the girth tends to lie.
Muscle atrophy (indentations) underneath or just behind the saddle panel.
If the horse's back is showing visual indentations under the panel wedge, this is a clear sign that either the saddle is too long or there is too much pressure on the loins because of the wedge itself.
The horse must be able to move freely under saddle; a saddle that has been fit correctly to the moving horse. The saddle should never make the rider feel like he is glued to the horse's back, nor should the saddle be fit exactly to the static back, so that the rider can actually ride the horse in suspension, in motion.
The trainer teaches the rider to sit the horse lightly and freely. The saddle fitter needs to fit the saddle to the horse so that the horse and the saddle both adapt themselves to the movement of the rider
The question is whether you want to have engaged, supple harmonious riding due to a properly fitted saddle, or if you prefer to have a saddle that looks like it fits absolutely perfectly – when the horse is standing still in the crossties. The saddle should be fitted with rider up and asses whether the rider suits the saddle as well and how the saddle fits in motion. If Saddle doesn't fit in motion then further adjustments should be made so as to not result in discomfort, and potentially long term damage.
A correctly fitting saddle should need no saddle pad – their function is to protect the panel leather from the sweat of your horse, but too often they are used as Band-Aid's to help out where the saddle doesn't fit
The panel should always be thoroughly inspected to make sure it is smooth and even. Often when a saddle has not been reflocked in a long time the panel needs to be completely removed and the wool mix properly distributed or changed. Though not always necessary, when restuffing is done without removing the panel, the correct saddler tools and same flock as in the saddle should be used to prevent damage to the leather itself.
When a rider has a behavior or a training problem, a succession of bad performances, they rarely think of the saddle. The rider would rather think they have a bad horse, a bit that is not strong enough, or a coach who is not good enough. However the rider does not know, or think, that all those issues can be caused by an ill-fitting saddle.
A horse that bucks when cantering can buck because his loins are crushed by the saddle. A horse that does not stay on the bit and hollows his back when bending might do so because the gullet of the saddle is so narrow that the spine cannot correctly bend. It is not a real training issue, but maybe we prefer to force the bend and the attitude and risk back soreness. If we don't think of the way the saddle fits the horse, come to an end where the saddle causes severe injuries to the back.
Why start with selecting a saddle that is comfortable for your horse rather than yourself? If the horse is not comfortable then ultimately it's behavior will deteriorate to the point that you will never get a good ride anyway. The rider is more likely to accommodate to a saddle that is not completely ideal for the rider than the horse is to a badly fitting saddle. Ultimately, however, both the comfort of the rider and the horse are very important.
Comfort for the horse is dictated by the placement of the saddle, the saddle fit with respect to the withers and shape of the spine, the comfort of the panels, the length of the saddle and closeness of the saddle to the horse (and of course, the way that the person rides).
Horses change shape: as they move, with the amount of fat cover, with their degree of fitness and muscle development, with pregnancy, with muscular problems of the spine, and with age. Saddles need to be such that they can be adjusted to accommodate for these changes.
Before any saddle is fitted you should have your horse's spine checked and treated so call Nash now to discuss any issues with your horses back.