Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Pt-2 Restarting, Conditioning, and Great Exercises For Your Horse"

Howdy Friends,

Yesterday we talked about the importance of restarting a horse after time off and learned about the Top-Line release and relax exercises, which I like to suggest become a part of every horse care givers routine. Today we'll have a look at exercises for the body and legs. 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.

After I do the Top-Line I move to the front legs with the Armpit Release. This exercise will begin to release the tension in the chest muscles, and helps with girthy horses, and begins the reconnection to their feet. Remember, do both sides.
Stand straddling her leg, in neutral your knees slightly bent, place your palms inside her leg and gently slide your hands up into her armpit keeping your palms against her leg. Keep gently pushing up allowing her to release the tension in her muscles and continue to move into the space opened by her release until you can go no farther, then release slowly. Note – Some horses are so tight they may try to bite, you made need to first get her used to your hands touching the inside of her leg, then in time move your hands into her armpit.
Next the Shoulder Delineation. This exercise will release the tension along the base of the neck, the withers, and forehand, and begin to correct the inversion muscles, and help maintain proper soft posture. Remember do both sides.
Immediately following Armpit Release, leaving one hand in armpit, with your other hand search for the crease in the center of the chest muscles on this leg, not the center of the chest, starting at the base. When you find the crease (in the beginning this could be hard to find, you may need to make it) gently dig your fingers in, and walk up the crease toward the neck. (You can see Kessy's crease, and you can also see the line from my fingers down to her arm pit where I started, go deep, but be gentle) Then bring your other hand up to help, and walk them both up, using fingers to dig the crease, between neck and shoulder. Continue up over and around the shoulder blade back down to her arm pit. In many spots you may not find a crease, many horses are so tight from poor posture, stress and even tack and riding, that it may take time to develop the looseness, but it will come. Remember to do both sides. Many times the horse will turn their head toward you in an attempt to release the crease, that's a good thing.
Next Pretty Neck, or Inversion Muscle Release. This exercise will release the tension in the neck muscles and bones and poll. It also begins to correct the inverted neck and tight chest muscles, and allows for free flowing movement and aids in getting horses off their forehand. (As you might guess, I'm very anti tie-down, and these exercises mentioned so far today will help eliminate the need for them.) Remember to do both sides.
Look at her chest just below the neck for the muscle we call the inversion muscle. It will appear as a vertical muscle just about where the neck meets the chest, some are easy to see, others not. Gently grasp the muscle as I do here, and squeeze from the BOTTOM up, like milking only backwards. Watch for her to arch her neck like Kessy is here. Some horses will back up, because they think you're asking that, or sometimes they are so tight and sore they can't arch their neck. I like to rest my other hand on their withers to give them support. Just walk with her and keep trying and in a few seconds, if your hand is at the correct place, and you're squeezing from the bottom, you'll see an attempt. Release quickly. But when she begins to master it hold a few seconds so she can get the big release. In time she will soften, and soften and give you beautiful neck stretch and release.
Next Withers Rock. This exercise releases the shoulders, neck and spine and aids in free flowing movement and balance.
Stand beside your horse both hands resting on the withers and gently wiggle, not moving the horse, just wiggling her withers. Then start over and ever so gently rock her back and forth about 5 times. We are not looking for big movement, just enough to see her shift her body but not her feet. Think a swaying motion, but less.
Next  Shoulder Circles. This exercise releases tension in the shoulders, chest, neck and withers, and creates soft fluid strides and increases body awareness, balance and posture.
Hold her leg about at the knee and fetlock (my left hand should be nearer her or on her knee) and do about 5 small gentle circles left and right. Allow no movement in the knee as this could cause damage; we are looking for movement in the shoulder. Be sure to stay under her shoulder, don't pull it toward you. Notice Kessy's lowered head enjoying the release.When finished set her foot down, don't drop it. Remember to do both sides.

These 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.

Tomorrow, in Pt 3 we'll look at a few exercises for the hind legs and body posture and correct soft carriage.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry 

You can read Pt 1 HERE 

You can read Pt 3 HERE    

You can read Pt 4 HERE 

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