Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Pt 1-Restarting, Conditioning, and Great Exercises For Your Horse"

Howdy Friends!

In 4 days Kessy I can ride again! Our last trail adventure was Sunday April 27, then we got interrupted by my cardiac adventure. When a horse has been idle for that long, even though she has 24/7 turnout in a modified Paddock Paradise track system, I don't believe you should just saddle up and go. It's important for the health of your horse to get them back in shape for rides; a horse looses its cardio fitness in about 30 days, muscles about the same, and tendon, bone in about 90 days. I've started Kessy's restart 2 weeks ago with the carrot stretches, and shared them on our Coffee Clutch blog.

This weekend I started relax, release and body, foot and posture awareness exercises. Ravishin' Robbie took some photos and I'll be writing a series of posts to share them with you. Our first rides next week will be 15 – 20 minutes over the same course I walked for my cardio rehab. The following week we'll add time, and a little terrain change. The week after that we'll add more distance and more terrain change. It takes about 30 days to get a horse minimally fit … when I trained for CTC and Endurance I learned it takes 60 days for cardio, 90 – 120 for muscle and a year for bone and tendon to condition. Kessy and I hope you'll enjoy our Coffee Clutch series, "Restarting, Conditioning, and Great Exercises For Your Horse."

We'll start by reviewing, over 3 days, relax, release and body, foot and posture awareness exercises I learned while working with my mentor Diane Sept for nearly a decade. From Diane, a "Senior Certified Connected Riding Instructor ®," I learned the techniques of Peggy Cummings, Connected Riding and Ground Work® and Linda Tellington-Jones, Tellington TTouch Training ™. I highly recommend their training and books. In their books you'll find these and many more excellent exercises.

The exercises we'll discuss and explore are excellent for restarting a horse, but I recommend them as part of everyday routines for all horses. We will cover more than you need to do every day, but some of them I do faithfully before I tack up, every time, no exception. In time you'll learn to hear your horse when she tells you which ones she really needs. Also all the exercises, about a dozen, are the basis for what I call my, "Therapy For Therapy Horses," clinics.

Today's exercises I call The Top-Line exercises I do before I tack up, always. It's important to note, always do these ground tied or in a stall so the horse is free to move. Have no hay or grass in your exercise area, you want them focused on you and their release. Do not discipline during exercises as that will short circuit any release. Be sure to watch for and allow sighs, licks and chews. Your horse may ask for a little walk to absorb these new feelings, walk them if they ask for a minute, then begin again … We'll start with the "Poll Wiggle."
 Poll Wiggle - Gently support her head by holding the halter, place your fingertips around the poll, and watch for the release, as you wiggle gently. I always start with this, and it is great to do anytime. It will also help calm a horse anytime.
Next is a series of TTellington TTouch circles along the back and rump, both sides. You can also do them on each side of the neck.
The circles are the size of a quarter, moving clockwise with your fingertips of one hand, resting the palm for support, your hand cupped, letting your fingertips do the work. Picture a quarter size clock face, start at 6 move to 9, 12, 3 back to 6 and on to 9 and stop there, making a circle and a quarter. Slide your hand about 2 inches and do the next circle, and so on. Pressure is gentle, just enough to move the skin. Make a series of circles all along the back, out over the rump and down the meaty part of the thigh, both sides, your line is about 3 inches from the spine. Always make connection with both hands; you see my left hand resting. When finished, lay both hands flat and gently drag them over your tracks. (I often do this one first out in the field before I even halter Kessy)
Next the Vertebrae Wiggle.
Starting at the Poll, using your fingertips, grasp each vertebrae and wiggle each one a time or two. Imagine holding the vertebrae in your fingers and moving one hand away from you while pulling the other to you so it wiggles. Proceed all the way down the neck, across the back, over the croup (I know you can't feel the spine here, pretend you can) and down the tail –
where the wiggle in the tail is up and down not back and forth. If your horse clamps her tail, gently slide your fingers under her tail and tickle until she lifts it. In time this will not be an issue. Also many horses hold much of their tension in their tails and you must be very gentle, this will ease that tension, and relax the entire horse in a way that is lasting.

Next the Tail Pull Belly/Back Lift.

Grasp the tail about midpoint and by bending your knees pull slowly, steadily and firmly, being very careful to stay on the angle of her butt, and hold the pressure a few seconds as she tightens her rump, engages her abdomen and raises her back. Then release Very Slowly.
Next the Belly/Back lift.

Standing beside your horse, reach under exactly in the middle, front to rear and side to side and with your fingernails, in a slow steady motion, apply pressure until she engages her abdomen and lifts her back. Hold this for a few second and release SLOWLY … Note, this exercise MUST be done AFTER all the Top-Line release exercise are completed, not before or as a lone exercises. In time when your horse is released, and used to carrying herself in proper released and relaxed posture, you can do the Belly/Back Lift anytime, and should do it often.
Kessy and I hope you'll make these easy to do exercises part of your routine. Tomorrow we'll move into a few great body release and relax exercises.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry  

You can read Pt 2 HERE

You can read Pt 3 HERE  

You can read Pt 4 HERE

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