Back in the Saddle #2
Barns have opened and riders now have access to their horses. I wonder how many have noticed that they or their horses may not be up to regular fitness. This is okay.
Take the time to observe your horse for any imbalances in muscles
Check your saddle pad for uneven sweat and dirt marks
Check your horse for any sweat patterns that might be different or excessive.
Be patient and take it slow. No race to come back to full fitness.
Although you can not check your self for uneven wear and sweat patterns very easily, you can notice:
Are you out of breath while grooming, tacking, riding or lunging?
Are you sweating more than usual?
Are you stiff or sore after grooming, tacking up, lungeing or riding?
Horse: Take the time to warm up slowly. Hand walk around property or in arena a couple of times, back up a few paces, then if lungeing or riding do large circles, serpentines, drunken walk (loose rein and change direction every 2-5 steps) and pace changes. Enjoy the nice weather with a short hack or walk versus a big workout session.
Rider: Remember to hydrate often, stretch before groom and tack. Stretch before getting on horse, stretch afterwards.
Jazz’s journal: Magnification
Jazz is a good example of a horse that showed obvious signs of work and body imbalance before the COVID pandemic hit. I was fortune enough to evaluate her before the lockdown. She showed a twist in her body. Her right hip was higher and this caused a full twist up her spine into her shoulders and neck. On first glance she moved fairly well. However, when she was worked out more recently after having a few months off or limited work, her twist became magnified to Tracy, her owner. Her sweat marks on her saddle were uneven and she resisted bending to the right. We went back to the basics so Tracy and Jazz could continue building their bond and work out together without too much unnecessary strain on the horse and rider.
Tracy has been doing larger circles, pace changes, less collection type work, hacking and general fun! This will keep the horse stretching and balancing what she can while waiting for her next chiropractic treatment.
Tracy’s notes: I had started hacking Jazz this month but on one recent ride, I rode her about 15 minutes longer than I should have and she started pinning her ears going up and down hills late in the ride. I suspected this was because she was getting sore. Two days later, when I rode her in the ring, she was very resistant to the right. I called Fenella, who explained with her spine still twisted, she physically cannot do yet what I was asking. Our last ride was a 20 to 30-minute hack and she was happy and willing the whole time, walking out in big, stretchy steps.
Remember the twist can come from the horse, the rider or the tack. All three are impacted and intermingled. You can not have a high hip on a horse and not make the horses shoulders twist, or the rider. Tracy would have had to have compromise her balanced riding to accommodate as well.
Dr. Fenella Ely is a people and animal Chiropractor from the Durham area. She travels to barns for animals and people. She is available for club seminars, shows and writing articles for organizations.