How to improve the flexibility of your horse.
A horse’s help in supporting flexibility does not only consist of performing several stretch marks before boarding a saddle. You can do many things in the daily care of a horse to help it maintain the mobility and flexibility needed to achieve maximum productivity. Horses are masters of adaptation and compensation. If something does not move in the full range, other parts are connected and adapt in their own way to compensate. This small adaptation can turn into a cascade of adjustments until the horse can no longer compensate. At this point, pain and lameness are reminiscent of their existence, and there is a need to call the vet.
Our job as owners and riders is to recognize and stop such a cascade of compensations before it leads to a serious lameness problem. So let’s discuss a comprehensive plan for maintaining the flexibility of your horse.
Balance is important for maintaining flexibility. The old saying “no hooves – no horse” should be developed to “no balanced hooves – no balanced horse.” When you clean and hook horses’ hooves before riding, take your time and pay attention to a few things. Is there uneven wear of the hoof wall or horseshoe? Are there namins in heels, are they pulled up or squeezed? Are the corners of the left and right hoofs the same? Discuss these issues with your forger if you see differences or problems.
The limited temporomandibular joint (VNS) affects your horse’s full flexibility. When was the last time your horse had teeth checked? A good check of the teeth includes not only fileing and trimming of the molar teeth, but will also pay attention to the balance of the incisors to ensure that they do not interfere with or change the movement of the jaw. Bending and extension of the back of the head will be limited if the horse does not have the full range of motion in the ANS, in addition to the effects on movements throughout the body. Remember the cascade of compensation?
Selection of the saddle.
Selection of a saddle is a very important moment in maintaining the flexibility of your horse. The saddle must provide space for movement! Saddles that do not fit properly change the way a horse moves as it tries to find a space to move. Muscular atrophy and back pain are often the consequences of a poorly fitting saddle, and the cascade of compensations will grow furiously. Seat fitting is a dynamic process. It is necessary to evaluate whether the saddle fits, not only when the horse is standing, but, more importantly, while it is moving! It is often necessary to check whether the saddle is related to changes in the weight and muscular development of the horse. The main factors are the width of the lenchik, the distance between the pillows, the fit of the pillows, the balancing of the seat and the location of the saddle. Does your saddle allow the horse’s shoulders to move freely? Where is the rider sitting?
The rider’s flaws.
Now let’s talk about you as a rider! What are your disadvantages? Are you sitting bias left or right? Are your hands or arms tense? How does the position of your hands affect the impact of the snaffle? Do you have a bias in the chest? Are you sitting with your pelvis in a neutral position, or are you leaning forward or backward? We can continue to talk about how the position of the rider affects the movement of the horse. But the purpose of this article is to simply realize that an unbalanced rider will cause the horse to be unbalanced as the horse moves in contact with the rider. The movement of our horse under the saddle is a reflection of our balance as a rider.
I recently finished working on a horse, and the trainer asked me what I found. When I replied that the left shoulder was the most problematic area, she turned to the young rider and smiled. The young horsewoman smiled and acknowledged that she was riding with a tense left arm and shoulder!
What does your horse tell you?
Take time to observe and evaluate your horse while cleaning and saddling before riding. Stand back and notice whether your horse’s muscles are balanced. Watch and learn to recognize whether certain muscles are underdeveloped or overdeveloped. Can your horse stand up straight? Look to determine if she wants to put one foot forward all the time, or back, or to the side. How does your horse react to the pressure of your hands and cleaning tools?
Feel the horse with your hands to find areas of tension in the fascia and muscles. See how your horse lifts a leg. Does she refuse to move her weight when you lift your leg? Does she refuse to stretch her back leg? Do your joints become bent and limited? Does your horse pin his ears when you lay the saddle on her back? Does she object when you tighten your cinch?