There are many books and articles about bringing your horse back into work after months off due to illness, injury or a change of circumstances. They talk about building fitness slowly, building muscle and aerobic fitness. But what about a short holiday? How fit is a horse after a week or two off? And how quickly can you return to full work?
I first learnt about about barefoot when my first horse, Harley was diagnosed with multiple issues in his feet (navicular).
Extensive research into his issues had brought up Rockley Farm – a rehabilitation centre that has successfully helped horses with similar issues return to sound, useful lives.
For ages now I’ve been aware that Abbey has tight muscles in her shoulders and neck.
My barefoot trimmer always mentions it, every physio observes and treats it, and I know from how she is about being touched there.
It’s been one of those niggles that has been on the to-do after her ulcers and the tightness in her back and left hamstring.
With those biggies sorted (ulcers with diet and stress management, back with treeless saddle and improved dressage training), it was time to tackle Abbey’s tight shoulders and neck.
I’ve figured that at least part of the problem is the height of the stable door. It’s too tall and Abbey has to lift her head up and over.
Our wonderful yard owner made all the stable doors and has been (very understandably) reluctant to take a saw to one. So I’ve purchased a Shires stall guard.
At first Abbey was suspicious, but after just a few days, I think she rather likes it.
Time will tell whether it helps relieve some her sore muscles.
PS I wouldn’t recommend this for a horse that leans into pressure or enjoys making escapes! Atm I park a wheelbarrow outside Abbey’s stable to dissuade her from trying to get underneath.
Some people would call me cynical, I’d prefer to see it as a healthy level of suspicion. So when I saw posts on social media saying that the new Eqclusive brushes were as good as the company says I didn’t believe them. At all.
But I was curious. I really liked the idea of avoiding the cold water hose the morning of a competition. Somehow I seem to transfer the poo from Abbey to me, and get drenched in the process. Which then means I turn up looking like I have been dragged through a ditch (wetter than a hedge) backwards, but at least I have a clean pony. It also means that I’ve wet sleeves for the whole day…in winter that really gets on my nerves!
I really like the idea of being able to half the baths, brushing off mud and stable stains and going out.
I don’t know how many times, I’ve clicked the link on the Facebook posts. I just couldn’t justify £80 for some horse brushes but then I spotted the money back guarantee…
When they arrived I couldn’t wait to try them out. But Abbey had other ideas….
Yard owners and managers often come in for some hefty criticism especially on the equestrian forums.
I don’t envy them; from managing the grazing and maintaining the yard, to resolving livery squabbles and caring foe our most precious equines, they have a tough job.
I’m sure that there are bad’uns out there but mine are great. The husband and wife team (and wider family that chip in) do everything they can to ensure the yard is a happy place for their liveries and their horses.
Twice this summer I’ve gone away and both times Abbey has required medical attention. The first time, she was bitten on her girly bits and, just like last time, she was very uncomfortable (who wouldn’t be!)
The YO tended to her bite, working out that aloe vera was more soothing for her than the sudocrem I’d been applying. Applying it couldn’t have been easy with Abbey dancing like she’s on hot coals, with added tail swishes.
Designed for horse owners, the course consists of introductions (met some lovely, interesting people), introduction to physiotherapy and massage, some anatomy, some massage techniques and practice on both people and ponies.
All the group members came for different reasons; from developing relationships with their horses to keeping their horses free from tension between visits from a professional physio.
I’ve tried learning the names and locations of different muscles before but they’ve never stuck. This evening, however, I can name 7. I can also find them on a living horse and know where they attach to bone. This is in no small part due to ‘Dollar’, my new equine friend:
After studying pictures and scientific drawings in the classroom, we headed to the stables to practice identifying the muscles on real horses (by drawing them on in chalk).
“Very funny. You’d best not have drawn anything rude on my bum!”
After lunch we learnt some massage techniques and practiced them on ourselves, other students, and finally the horses. I think Dollar enjoyed some of it!
At the end of the day we’ve all come home with new skills, more knowledge and a routine to use on our beasts at home.
Together we’ve also helped Riding for the Disabled Association support two people ride horses for a year.
Check out this video to find out more:
ATM I am not convinced either of Abbey’s two saddles (dressage and GP) fit. Really I ought to get the saddle fitter out but it’s only been a couple of months since she last came and it’s getting rather expensive.
I’m going to have a look at treeless saddles, they are supposed to be a bit more forgiving for horses that change shape regularly and I rather like the idea of Abbey having something soft on her back.
In the meantime though, we’ve not stopped schooling or hacking around the farm. I’ve put my brave pants on and started riding on a bareback pad. I’ve surprised myself and seem to have pretty good balance even without stirrups!
Having had weeks of banging my head against a break wall what with the travelling, the ulcers and lack of work, we’ve finally had some mini breakthroughs.
For the second time we’ve been round the block and I’ve unloaded a dry horse. Today I think she even trembled a little less. After unloading she calmed down extremely quickly, allowing us to tack up and head to the school…
…where we had another breakthrough. I’ve been trying not to nag and demand a response to my leg, and today there was so much power I didn’t know what to do with it!
To celebrate we went for a little hack round the farm tracks to cool off. I must have been feeling brave as I was riding in a bareback pad!
I’m thrilled; they were just the little success to make me feel like all the effort is worthwhile and that we’re getting closer towards our goals!
(Photo courtesy of: Poppy K Photography)
It’s been just over 3 years since I met and sat on this ponio for the first time. In that time she’s taught me so much.
We’ve had lots of adventures and faced some scary moments. Here, as they say, are our best bits (in photos):
And of course I couldn’t let today pass without mentioning this little monster!