Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Equine Fitness!

A friend was asking me about the stifle exercises I'm doing with Chrome and I decided to look in my Equine Fitness book (pictured above) to refresh my memory on the ones we haven't been doing   Of course while looking at those I started reading over my notes and realized I need to get Chrome in shape.  Since I like structure and this book was laying out perfectly structured routines I don't know why I haven't been using it.  Winter always kicks my motivation out the window.

So since my husband and dad are both trying to get in better shape I figured maybe Chrome and I need to as well.  So our routine today went like this...

My husband, Chrome and I went for a two mile walk (yeah I walked too because I need it, although I really wanted to ride hehe).  I forgot my camera so you'll have to use your imagination, but Chrome did great!  As soon as we got past the point where we normally turn around Chrome's head shot straight up in the air.  He was walking fast with his head in the clouds and finally broke into a trot.  I corrected him (do NOT want him trotting without permission) and he calmed back down.  The reason he got excited is because there are horses in that direction and he knows it. Today we didn't see a single one... weird.  I guess they were all hiding in their barns.

So I started praising him when he'd lower his head and relax a little.  We passed majorly rutted driveways, puddles (he eyeballed those), Styrofoam (dang litterers), plastic bags, brush piles (eyeballed those too), junk piles, hay bales, etc.  We even passed a kid swinging on one of those brightly colored double swing sets and it was right by the road.  He barely even glanced at it.  We also had a kid on his bike going up and down the road.  He passed us four times.  When Chrome first saw him, his head shot up and he froze.  I let him stand and watch it pass us.  Chrome was already relaxed before the bike even passed us.  The rest of the times he didn't even look at it, even when the brakes squealed.  He met the kid's little rat terrier and didn't try to bite her (score!) while she sniffed his leg (she was as tall as his ankle!  Stinkin cute!).

The other thing that really excited me is that along a shady part of the road there is a fairly deep ditch.  It's about six inches full of rain water since it's been raining for about a week.  He started to go to the water but I pulled him back thinking he was going for grass.  After I thought about it a second, it was warm and we'd gone further than he has in a while, I decided to let him drink if he would.  So I led him up to where he was facing the puddle and asked him to stop.  He immediately stuck his nose in it and I thought he would drink, but then he popped his head up and stared around at everything (brush piles... really horse?) for a full minute or two, then he dropped his head and drank!!!!!  I normally don't like him drinking on the side of the road because you never know what's in it, but it was recent rain water and on a fairly quiet road so I took the risk.  I'm just excited he drank while out on a walk, even when excited.  That's a great trait for his future Competitive Trail Riding career.  :D

After we got home I did his pelvis tucks, where you run a quarter down their haunches on both sides and it causes them to tuck their haunches and raise their back, it's like the equine version of a sit up.  Then I worked on backing him up a slope... he's never been very good at this so I decided to try it in the driveway on a very small slope.  I faced him away from it, asked him to put his head down and then asked him to back up the slope in the driveway.  He did great!  I don't know if it's because it was a smaller slope or if it's because we walked for two miles and warmed him up, but he was moving great.  His stifles didn't lock at all either!  :D

Last we did two stretches that are part of the first routine.  The tail rotations, where you pick up their tail and circle it a few times in each direction, and the shoulder release, where you pick up their leg, let the shoulder relax, stretch it gently backwards and let him sit it back down (sort of like stepping backward really slowly hehe).  He did great at both of those.  Stretches definitely go better after warming up, instead of trying to do them first.  On Friday it will be a different routine and on Monday it will be another routine.  There are four of them that I can spread out doing only three sessions a week.  Mixing them up helps prevent muscle memory which slows down progress, just like when we lift weights.

It also says at the end of each month to assess their progress, so I'm going to do that on the nineteenth (I need to get back to doing his progress reports anyway) of this month for a baseline and then after that each month we will assess our progress.  :)  I'll explain more as we go along.  I'm also going to post all of the stifle exercises tomorrow for my friend!

P.S.  I thought Chrome would be tired after our walk since it's twice as far as we normally go, but no he was NOT!  He was feeling spunky and mouthy (when did he get mouthy again????)!  He was being a turd about trying to graze so I popped him with the rope and it startled him so bad he jumped two feet in the air LOL!  He stopped trying to drag me around after that.  :)


  1. the book sounds fabulous. That walk was terrific too- great way to get him used to stuff

  2. I love that book. Got it for a horse I used to own that had stifle problems too. :)

  3. that haunch tuck with the quarter, i have only seen someone do that once, and i was surprised. it was my nextdoor neighbor and when i first moved here i asked if i could meet her warmbloods that she does show jumping with. she took a hoofpick and ran it down the croup and the horse spasmed his back up - it looked painful and i was not impressed. i wonder if there's a way to do it that exercise in a relaxed fashion. maybe you can do a blog post where you show how you do it?

  4. All sounds good, I might have to look into that book as I know nothing about stretching horses

  5. Thanks guys. I LOVE this book. It is so great.

    Lytha, horses don't really like doing the pelvis tucks because they are like situps (I HATE situps), but they can learn not to be freaked out by them. It sounds like your neighbor went for the startle factor (which is dangerous). I always let Chrome know I'm going to do them. He doesn't like them, but he doesn't spasm. I try to do it slowly. I'll get a video of it sometime for you. :) It's a really good exercise for them because it helps strengthen their core muscles, but it's only one of several exercises mentioned. Following the routine I'm using we will only do it twice a week (a couple of times each). That's not asking too much in my opinion. It's the people who do it every single day that can be doing harm because they are making the horse very sore and not giving him a day of rest. Everything in moderation. That's why I love this book and the way they lay out the exercise routines.


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