1. Know Your Horse (part a) Get hands on: become familiar with your horses body. By getting hands on each day you will build up a ‘base line’ of what is normal so you will notice when something might be awry.
2. Know Your Horse (part b)
Start to really SEE your horse. Stand back and take a look at his posture and how he wants to stand. Start to notice the contour of the muscles; where there might be more muscle vs less muscle. Notice any differences in symmetry at the shoulders and the pelvis. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you are looking at or why it looks a certain way, the important thing is to start to really see so you can notice subtle changes and explore how he is using his body.
3. Watch your horse move
Have someone lead your horse out for you in walk and trot and watch how he moves. It is helpful to know how he moves when he is sound, again finding your ‘base line’ . This gives you something to compare against.
4. Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
Gather your ‘tribe’; vet, saddle fitter, farrier, bodyworker, dentist, nutritionist, coach. Connect these people and ensure they are all working together for the benefit of your horse. These people should be your trusted advisors.
5. Cross- train your horse
By varying the work you do with your horse you are strengthening and conditioning them to withstand your demands. Every discipline needs a bit of everything for soundness in body and mind. Hack out, use trotting poles, jump, flatwork, hillwork etc
6. Warm-Up and Cool Down
A 20 minute walking warm up in a lengthened frame allows the soft tissues and joints to become maleable and mobile and ready for the work ahead, therefore significantly reducing the chance of soft tissue damage.
A minimum of a 10 minute walking cool down allows the tissues to cool in the correct manner, helping them to cleanse any waste products created by exercise, which speeds up recovery.
7. Have your saddle checked at least 3 times a year.
Training changes your horses’ posture and the fit of your saddle will be compromised. Poorly fitting saddles can be attributed to a lot of undesirable behaviour, its best to get it checked.
8. Trust your Instincts
You know your horse better than anyone, if you think something just ‘isn’t quite right’, consult your Team. This is where points 1 and 2 come in Smile
9. It all starts with the Feet
Investing in a great farrier will save you and your horse a lot of pain and distress. Never underestimate the importance of good foot health, it has an impact on the whole musculoskeletal system of your horse.
10. Take your Time
Horses are incredible creatures, but their bodies are vulnerable. Build their strength by taking the long, slow method. Remember, a sound body feeds a sound mind and poor behaviour can be a signal that the body is not coping. Don’t be in a rush, enjoy the journey
Contributor: Debbie Biles, Equine Health Specialist
Debbie Rolmanis founded db Muscle Therapy in 2009 and since then has operated successful practices in the UK and New Zealand.
With a strong practical and academic equestrian background, Debbie draws from a comprehensive skill set to bring clients practical solutions based on sound, scientific principles.
Debbie holds a BSc (Equine), BHSAI, Diplomas in Human Personal Training and Sports Therapy and Equine Sports Therapy, all gained in the UK.
Debbie has been a rider with Dressage Grand Prix trainers in the UK and America, and has spent some time riding in Germany.
Debbie has worked as soft tissue therapist at the London Olympics 2012, and as Team Therapist for the NZ Paralympic Team at London 2012 and the World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy.
Debbie currently works in NZ, with regular trips to clients in Germany and the UK.