As a trainer, owner or breeder, naturally you want to win more races. There are scientifically researched holistic methods available to your equine athlete that is proven to increase range of motion, reduce muscle and fascia related pain. Guess what? These methods don’t violate any racing restrictions.
In addition to an effective training and conditioning program, along with veterinary care and a competent farrier, investing in a skilled bodyworker for the equine athlete can play a vital role to successfully achieving peak performance.
Requirements in Conditioning the Thoroughbred Racehorse
Conditioning consists of several key components. Trainers must consider what’s required for optimal functional movement. Without optimal functional movement, range of motion is greatly compromised. And nobody wins races when the horse’s stride is short due to pain or injury—which results in a decreased range of motion.
Training isn’t just focused on...
Not all stretches are equal when it comes to increasing flexibility and improving muscular symmetry. Science has smashed the belief that the best way to improve flexibility is through static stretching. When it relates to the equine world, science has proven dynamic mobilization decreases asymmetry in certain muscles ( m. multifidus) which provide stability to the equine caudal thoracic and lumbar spine.
Focusing on stretches to strengthen equine posture along with fascial release techniques to keep the fascial tissues elastic is essential for equine (and human) range of motion.
The role of fascia in equine flexibility and posture
Fascia is the most abundant tissue in the body and it lays beneath the skin, covering, encapsulating, separating and stabilizing muscles and organs. It requires proper hydration for elasticity and function. If the fascia is stiff or restricted, it can’t receive the proper hydration necessary for optimal function. ...
There is so much wisdom in that statement by Yoga Master, Patanjali. Why? Because horses have mastered the breath. Very few horse breeds have mastered the breath quite like the Thoroughbred racehorse. Have you ever listened to a fit horse galloping, either in the fields or on a track and observed the perfect rhythmic flow of their breathing? In a healthy well-conditioned horse the stride and the breath are in synch at a 1:1 ratio, 1 stride, 1 breath. You can almost set a metronome to the steady sound of airflow being exhaled through the nostrils—while the limbs strike the ground.
A more in-depth explanation of what's going on here is called locomotor-respiratory coupling (LRC). Quadrupeds (horses in this case), must lengthen their stride to increase speed. To increase respiratory minute volume (amount of gas/air inhaled per minute) tidal volume (the amount of air exchanged in and out of the lungs)...
Those of us who have close relationships with horses understand that equines are highly intuitive and deeply emotional beings—even capable of improving emotional distress in humans. But how can we aid horses when we don't recognize or understand their emotional needs?
Text below and image above cited from: EquiFACS: The Equine Facial Action Coding System, by Jen Wathan Anne M. Burrows Bridget M., Waller Karen McComb
Fig 1. The facial muscles of the horse.
NB. Levator labii superioris a.n. represents the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi, which is often also called the levator nasolabialis. Synonyms for the levator annuli oris fascialis muscle include the dilator nares muscle and the caninus muscle. The frontoscutularis has a frontal and a temporal arm.
It’s been documented that horses have at least 17 distinct facial expressions, similar in response to a human' s 27. Horses can clearly...
What is really required for successfully retraining OTTBs (off-the-track-thoroughbreds)? Knowledge. Experience. Skillful horsemanship. Ex-racehorses have a unique temperament, training background and physicality when compared to the average show horse or pasture pet. Even the horses that held short careers have had extensive athletic training and are experienced with disciplined and regimented routines.
Of course, while every horse is a unique individual, there is something special and remarkable about the spirit of Thoroughbreds—which is why so many of us are devoted to them—making them our preferred equine breed. One of my favorite all-time historic retraining stories of a Thoroughbred is of Alois Podhajsky and ex-racehorse Nero—who placed third in the 1936 Olympics.
When I first started rehabilitating and retraining ex-racehorses 20-years-ago, there wasn’t much out there in terms of ex-racehorse adoption or...
There’s a lot of information out there online offering tips on how to begin lungeing your ex-racehorse. There’s no such thing as a one-way solution to do anything in regards to horse training. It all boils down to your experience, the horse’s level of experience and individual preference. You have to be knowledgeable and fluid when it comes to training, especially retraining. I’ve reschooled and rehabilitated ex-racehorses on a professional level for more than 20-years. Since I've been a professional jockey and grew up showing horses, I understand what lies in-between the parallels of both worlds.
On the grounds of equine emotion and mindset.
It's important to keep in mind horses are highly intuitive and sensitive. Past emotional trauma unbeknownst to you might show up during training. It can be exhibited and misinterpreted as a horse appearing to act "crazy," when in fact, it's a reaction from some traumatic past event they haven't worked out...
First of all, this blog post might rub some equestrian bloggers the wrong way. I was inspired to write it based on this blog post. My thoughts are they missed some very essential "horse listening." Just riding through a problem like this isn't good advice and it's not fair to the horse. There are many other things to consider first if a horse is chronically rooting or pulling.
When a horse is acting up under saddle, by rooting or pulling against the bit–it's time to take a serious look at what the horse is trying to tell you. Horse's don't do things like this, "just because." By "riding through it," you are exacerbating the underlying issues and ignoring the horse's plea for help. Good horsemanship is not just about riding, everything goes fundamentally deeper and it's based on the horse's well-being first and foremost not just your riding skill set. Having perfect equitation isn't going to help your horse-not with this anyway.
If your horse is heavy on the bit,...
Often times we ask a lot from our equine partners that is physically demanding and in many situations, during training, shows, clinics or competitions, they give us their all. In return, it's our responsibility to “listen to the horse” for any sign of pain or discomfort and alleviate the underlying systemic issue(s).
As a Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist & Movement + Mobility (Biomechanics/Kinesiology) Specialist it is my passion to study equine and human movement and develop exercises, training techniques and therapies that further improve the development of a healthy, sound, strong and happy horses–(humans, too).
Many horses have issues with balance, straightness, and range of motion, especially off-the-track-thoroughbreds. Horses are similar to people, in that they have preferred laterality. The dominant (strong) and hollow (weak) side of the body-being right side or left side dominant. Because they have a...
"Silence is a source of great strength." - Lao Tzu
What I mean by silence. Let me start by asking you a couple questions. Do you take the time to ever just be with yourself? This means no phone, no TV or streaming, no Internet, no background noise, no music, nothing but yourself. How often do you “disconnect” from society and go into a deep meditation or go for a walk in nature (without the damn phone)?
We all have busy lives, of course, but the increasing pressures of social media and being addicted to notifications and "what’s the latest trend" as a society brings a certain mental and emotional fatigue. I enjoy social media as much as anybody else, it can be a powerful tool when leveraged properly. However, I’ve also learned to take more time for myself in the real world and restrict the time spent on social media by adhering to a schedule. To avoid further scrolling temptation and getting sucked into the time consuming social media...
We’ve all read the articles by so-called “experts” and “professionals” who claim to know ex-racehorses. For those of us who have field experience both on and off-the-track with ex-racehorses, those articles and their "advice" leave us cringing.
If you’ve worked with ex-racehorses both on and off-the-track, perhaps you share my feeling of, OMG what are they talking about? Many major horse publications are trying to offer their readers educational insight and expertise on a variety of topics pertaining to ex-racehorses. However, the lack of research and knowledge being offered up is beyond perplexing. When it comes to OTTBs though, I find many articles leave me scratching my head or just plain furious for misinforming the public with terrible advice and perpetuating negative myths about ex-racehorses.
As someone who has over 20+ years of working with racehorses as a groom, hot walker, breaking 2-year-olds, galloping as an...
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Take the "5-Day Strong & Stretchy Challenge Mini-Course"