Taken from the book ‘How To Maintain Core Stability In 10 Easy Steps: Maintaining Core Stability In Your Horse When He Can’t Be Ridden’, available for just £1.99 on Kindle (or free if you have Kindle Unlimited).
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One of these days, I'm going to figure out how to draw on my computer, so that I can illustrate the exercises in this book. And make the time to film the exercises and add this to my series of online courses. For now, I'm simply going to do my best to explain the principle to you. If I wait until I’ve got everything how I want it, I’ll never get there.
Wither rocking is one of my favourite exercises to do with the horses I treat. I think I go into a kind of trance. It seems that the horses do as well, judging by their expressions. It's a bit like rocking my son when he was a baby. Now that he's older, he complains a lot if I try to pick him up and rock him! I find a rhythm, and my whole body moulds with it. That way, it doesn't stress my arms or shoulders too much. I know when the horse's muscle tension releases because I can feel the change in the movement.
There are two parts to this exercise, you can do one or both.
Both of these rocking movements will feel easy and relaxing, for you and your horse when you get them right. Enjoy!
A cautionary note first of all - please stay safe! This guide is written in good faith that you will assess whether or not each exercise is appropriate for you and your horse. I do not accept responsibility for accident or injury, howsoever caused. Standing behind your horse puts you in a high-risk zone. Touching and lifting the tail can cause sudden and extreme reactions in some cases. You know your horse. Please be careful.
A lot of core stability exercises are about moving the horse slightly off balance so that he needs to engage his muscles to maintain that balance. The tail pull works by using the tail as a lever to create the imbalance. As with the other exercises, it is subtle, using gentle pressure. There should be no discomfort involved, and you should find that your horse relaxes into the exercise after a minute or two. If he doesn't, perhaps this isn't the right exercise for him. A horse who is uptight will not be engaging his muscles effectively. He will be tensing those movement muscles getting ready to run, rather than using the stability muscles.
If your horse clamps his tail down, this exercise is even more important, as long as you and he are both safe.
There are two exercises included in this chapter - pulling the tail backwards, and pulling the tail to the side.
How long can you stand on one leg? How about if someone gently pushes you off balance?
If you try standing on one leg, you'll feel how many muscles the exercise engages. In particular, it causes the proprioceptive nerves around your foot and ankle to fire. These are the nerves that tell your brain where your body is in space. They cause your muscles to make very quick adjustments to your balance when needed.
Clearly, we can't get our horses to stand on one leg. We can get them to stand on three legs rather than four, though. And we can move them off balance while they are on three legs. As with all the other exercises, we do this very gently. We don't want them to shift their feet, we just want the muscles to engage that help them to keep their balance.
For this exercise, pick your horse's foot up as usual. Let's start with a front foot, say the left fore. Pick up the left fore, then place your hand under the fetlock. This way, the fetlock can stay relaxed. It can be uncomfortable for your horse if his fetlock stays bent for too long.
Gently rest your shoulder against your horse's shoulder. Make sure you're standing securely yourself so that you don't wobble over! Slowly and carefully, lean into his shoulder to push more of his weight onto his right fore, then gradually release and let his weight rock slightly back towards you. Repeat. Remember, his other three feet should stay firmly on the ground. It's a slight weight shift, not a foot-moving exercise.
Put the left fore down, and move to the right fore. Then do a similar exercise with each hind foot. Your horse will find it more difficult to balance on one hind foot than he does on one front foot, so be especially gentle when you are leaning into his hip.
You and your horse will probably find this exercise physically harder work than some of the others, so I'd suggest spending less time on this one. If your horse struggles with it, perhaps because he isn't comfortable holding his leg up for a period of time, then leave this exercise out and focus on the ones that work better for him.
If you’d like to read more of ‘How To Maintain Core Stability In 10 Easy Steps: Maintaining Core Stability In Your Horse When He Can’t Be Ridden’, you can get your copy here on Kindle for just £1.99. With an Amazon review rating of 4.9, you can’t go wrong!
Sue Palmer, aka The Horse Physio, is an award-winning ACPAT and RAMP registered Chartered Physiotherapist, an Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Trainerand holds an MSc. Formerly a competitive rider and BHSAI, she works full-time treating horses. Sue shares her passion for ethical and harmonious horsemanship through multiple courses, books, and articles. Sign up at www.thehorsephysio.co.uk to be the first to hear about new releases.
Available as an in-person, hands-on course with or without your own horse. Contact Sue for dates, venues and availability.
Coming soon: ‘Horse Massage for Horse Owners Online Course’ (sign up here to be the first to hear more information).
Other online courses coming soon include:
Confidence from the ground: Exercises for the horse owner
Finding the sore spot: Exercises for the horse owner
Polework: Exercises for the horse owner
Warm-up: Exercises for the horse owner
Stretching: Exercises for the horse owner
Easing stiffness: Exercises for the horse owner
“Harmonious Horsemanship: How to use the Ridden Horse Ethogram to Optimise Potential, Partnership, and Performance” (due for release summer of 2023)
Coming soon: 100 Handy Hints On Horsemanship (with illustrations by Sarah Brown)
!!!Coming soon!!! Sign up here to be the first to hear more.
!!!Coming soon!!! Sign up here to be the first to hear more.