My gorgeous boy galloping up to see me when I called him.
I forgot to take pictures of the stifle exercises again so I'll do it tomorrow. Today was the second routine out of my Equine Fitness book. First up was walking over ground poles to loosen up his back... I don't have ground poles so I looked around and found some PVC pipe leftover from building our house. I'm only using it temporarily and only at the walk so he doesn't break it and cut himself. A friend told me how to make some raised cavaletti so I'll be doing that as soon as I can buy the materials. That way I can raise them later so he has to use his muscles even more.
Two of the pipes are only two feet wide and he walked over all of them dead center every single time. Such a good boy! I walked him over them about ten times or so (half at the beginning and the other half after his workout) and he did really well. I had the spacing wrong at first and had to adjust it so that he wasn't taking extra steps between poles, but after that he did great and only clinked the last one a couple of times (but not hard enough to move it).
His tail still looks great... even though he rolled again...
After he was warmed up over the poles I did two stretches. The hip stretch was first. It involves picking up a hind leg, holding it for twenty seconds, easing it forward until the cannon bone is parallel to the ground, holding for twenty seconds, easing back to a normal flexed position and then supporting the hock and gently pulling it out away from the body (don't hold that one) and sit his foot back down. Here's how it went...
I picked up Chrome's left rear leg and my jaw almost hit the floor at how stiff his rear legs are!! I mean, wow... I normally only take them out behind him to clean them out (which he does easily) so I didn't realize how stiff they were going forward. I held it for twenty seconds.... OMG twenty seconds is a LONG time I need to work out SO BAD!!!! So then I eased it forward and he started resisting, but I held on until he relaxed. As soon as he relaxed into the stretch I held for another twenty seconds (and almost died because that is so long lol just kidding). Then I moved it back into a normal flexed position, grabbed his hock and very slowly moved his leg away from his body. I didn't go very high since it's a new stretch and he was feeling unbalanced. Then I repeated on the other side. I seriously need to do that more often to help him loosen up his rear legs. Stupid stifles! :( The good news is he didn't act like he was in pain or anything. He completely relaxed into the stretch.
Next was the poll stretch. This one is... difficult. The goal is to put one hand up by his poll and then use the other hand on his halter or the bridge of his nose and ask him to flex his head toward you, moving at the poll, not in the neck and also making sure the ear and nose stay in line (so they can't just turn their nose toward you).... he thought I was asking him to back up, so I turned him around and put his butt to the tree and tried again. I couldn't get him to turn his head toward me without moving his neck with my hand on his poll, so I put one on his jaw and one on the bridge of his nose. Doing it that way I was able to keep his head straight and turn it..... I don't know if he's tight in the poll (it says a lot of horses are) or if I was doing it wrong. I'll probably look up some videos and see if I can figure it out. Anyone ever done poll stretches??
After being brushed. Pretty boy!
So after our warm up and our stretches it was time to do his strength exercises. First up was stepping over his hay bale. The goal of this is to have him step over as slowly as possible with each hind leg because they use their muscle better that way instead of using momentum. Some days he's quick and some days he'll go slow. Today he did great. He would step over with his front feet, stop, pick a rear leg up over the bale, hesitate slightly at the top (without resting it on the bale) and put it down on the other side, then he would do the other one. The funny thing is I worked with him several times months ago to get him to do it like that, but I always had to say whoa, okay walk on, easy, okay other foot, etc. but this time he did the whole thing without me even asking him to stop or walk on or anything. He's so smart!
Next was rear leg lifts, where you tickle their leg with a whip so they pick their rear leg up straight. The optimum lift would involve them lifting to their belly and holding it for a few seconds, but this was the first time I'd ask him to do this so I didn't ask him to hold it at all. Since tapping his fetlock is his cue to rest his toe I tapped the front and inside of his hock gently with my whip. It took a minute before he got the point and lifted his leg... all the way to his belly! Good boy! We practiced a few times on both sides and he did great. He figures things out so quick.
The next exercise involves having the horse lower his head to wither height, then you tickle his ribs to ask him to raise his back, then you tap each hind leg until he steps his rear hooves closer to his front hooves. This creates a great topline stretch. You ask them to hold for ten to fifteen seconds and then let them step forward out of the stretch.... we could not figure this out at all!! It sounds simple, but not for us!
I asked him to lower his head, then tickled his ribs. He tried to go forward, then backward, then just stood there, completely confused, so I skipped to tapping his legs, but he was confused thinking I was asking him to do the leg lifts. So then I put him in a corner and tapped his haunches. He walked forward as far as he could, then I got him to bring one hind leg forward, then he felt claustrophobic and just stood there, confused again.... yeah I'm lost on that one. I'm thinking about shaping it with clicker training, because I know I've seen a video on that somewhere. I'll have to find it. Also my husband is going to use our old tractor tires and make him a new pedestal because he used to do that stretch all the time on the pedestal. It will be way easier than confusing and frustrating him.
After that since he was feeling stuck and frustrated we walked over the poles again (like I mentioned above). He did great so we ended on a good note and I let him graze.
If you look at this picture you can see how straight his stifles are... it's no wonder they lock.
He's pro at grazing lol. I feel bad for confusing and frustrating him, but it's going to happen at times. Once we figure things out it will be easier each time.
So if you're like me you are sitting there thinking... "that wasn't much of a workout". I didn't think so either, but if you think about how many of those exercises involved strengthening his weakest group of muscles it was a really good workout. I let him graze until my husband got home (maybe half an hour) and then went to walk him over the poles again to show off how awesome he is to my hubby. He plowed right through them.... I reset them and tried again. He knocked a couple of them again. So we tried again and he only bumped one (too softly to move it). The next time was perfect. He wasn't picking up his rear hooves because he was wore out from his strengthening exercises (remember his very first time through his didn't hit them so I know it was a fatigue thing and not a don't know how thing). So yes it was a very good workout. He's probably going to be sore tomorrow. Poor guy, but it's for his own good.