Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blog Hop: Right Here Right Now

I already had this post planned, but I just realized it goes great with L's latest blog hop!!!  She asked what are we currently working on in our lessons or rides.  We're obviously not taking lessons right now, but this post definitely explains what we're working on right now.  Fitness!

 Check out that sunbeam next to him.  
I love how it makes him almost glow.  :D

I had so much fun taking pictures yesterday evening!  The sun was absolutely perfect for some fun lighting.  :D  Sadly last night my back started hurting even worse so I barely slept and was in so much pain I could barely walk.... it's a tiny bit better today after taking a muscle relaxer, but I'll probably spend most of today in bed.  Sigh.  So I'll share the new cardio routines that we will be starting as soon as my back is better.  The pictures have nothing to do with the topic, they are just for you to enjoy.

Since we have been doing the prep phase for a month now I think Chrome is ready to move on to the cardio phase.  The routines in the cardio phase have a lot of the same exercises as the prep phase, but adds in some exercises that work on his fitness.  We are a bit limited since we haven’t cantered, haven’t worked on contact and haven’t learned lengthening or leg yields yet, but I’ll manage with a bit of modification to the exercises.  :)  This phase can last between one to three months.  It’s important not to move on from this phase until the horse has learned to carry himself correctly (pushing from behind, stretching over the topline and beginning to carry himself) which means we will have to learn about contact before we can move on to the strengthening phase which also means we will need dressage lessons before we move on!!  Due to certain circumstances beyond my control I’m not sure when that will be… I’ll keep you all updated on that obviously.

So let’s look at the routines.  If it has an * in front of it, it is an exercise that was in the prep phase so you can learn more about it by reading posts under the Equine Fitness tag (LINK).  (ETA:  I wrote out the prep routines at the bottom of the post) The ones that are new to this phase I'll write more about.

 I LOVE his color!

There are four routines, just like with the prep phase, but these will mostly be done ridden instead of in hand.  It says to do them four or five days a week so for now I'm going to stick with every other day since he really seems to need that rest day for his stifles.  My comments and modifications are in bold.

Cardio Routine 1

*Tail Pull
*Rein-back up a hill
Arena Interval Training – Walk briskly 5 to 10 minutes for warm up.  Canter at moderate pace for two minutes.  Transition down to working trot for two minutes.  Canter in opposite direction two minutes.  Repeat for 24 minutes.  After fourth set walk at ease for 10 minutes or until heart rate and respiration return to normal.  We will have to do this at walk/trot until we learn to canter.
*Lifting the hind legs
Shoulder Rotation Stretch – Stand in front of the horse, facing him, hold the leg above the knee and raise it  to the point of resistance and then release slightly.  Gently rotate the leg 3 to 5 times in 3 inch circles moving the leg forward and back, not side to side.  Increase circle to 4-5 inches for 3-5 times, then increase to 6-7 inches.  Reverse direction of rotation and repeat. Return leg to original position and repeat entire sequence two or three times, then do other leg…. Dude my back is going to hate me!!
*Pelvis Tuck

Cardio Routine 2

*Bringing the hind legs forward – Still can't do this one until I build a new pedestal because he did not understand it on flat ground!!
Rear-leg circles – Stand near your horse’s hip, facing his tail.  Put one hand to the inside above his hock and the other behind his fetlock.  Lift the leg off the ground and pull it forward several inches. Set the toe on the ground for three seconds.  Slowly pull the hoof to the outside, rest the toe three seconds, then push the leg behind him and rest for three seconds.  Return leg to original position and repeat.  Do this twice on each hind leg.  Go slow so he doesn't pull away…. This is gonna take practice!! ETA:  I found a video HERE of the Masterson Method version of this (the Equine Fitness book uses a lot of the same methods, but they are slightly different, the Masterson book and videos go into more detail) and I like how he lets the horse relax into it instead of moving it every three seconds.  I will probably try this way until he's loose and then use the rear leg circles for maintenance.  
Loops and Poles – This involves riding figure eights the length of the arena with a pole at the point where you change directions.  We can't do it because we don't have an arena or poles and it's too many circles for his stifles.  Maybe later.  I'll probably just trot cavaletti in a straight line under saddle instead.
Horizontal Frame Conditioning – This one involves riding on contact and raising and lowering his frame.  Since Chrome doesn't know anything about contact yet we can't do this one.  I'll work on getting him very forward at the walk and trot so we can start working on contact soon.  
*Shoulder release down and back
*Tail Pull

Cardio Routine 3

*TMJ massage
*Stepping over slowly
*Loosening up the back
*Pick-up Sticks
Changing Speeds – This involves changes of speed within the gait a.k.a. extensions (or rather lengthenings), but Chrome hasn't learned that yet so I might substitute in free jumping (low jumps on a straight line, no circles).  
*Hip Stretch

Cardio Routine 4

Shoulder rotation stretch - See above.
*Poll Stretch
Double Longe – This is basically longeing on a circle with two reins instead of one longe line.  Since I'm not going to longe him (circles make his stifles way worse) I might try ground driving on straight lines... possibly might try a butt rope and/or side reins (if I can find some) once we've had lots of practice without to help him learn about contact and carrying himself in a better posture.  
Warm up 1 – The oval – This is basically riding an oval the size of your arena (or pasture) at a trot.  Speed up into a big trot on the long sides and markedly slow the trot on the short sides.  I may play with this to start teaching him about changes of speed within the gait.  Obviously I don't have an arena, but I could try it out in the back pasture.  He needs to start learning about speeding up and slowing down within gaits.
*Turn on the forehand in motion
*Shoulder release down and back

 My entourage when I take pictures.
They were stalking rabbits hehe.

So those will be the new routines.  I love how they have a lot of the same exercises from the old routine, so it'll make the transition easier and I'm so happy it keeps the stretches since those have been so beneficial to him.  :D  Now I just realized I never wrote down the old routines in one spot, so I'm going to put them here just so you can keep track of everything better.  :)  It will give you the descriptions too in case you've forgotten them since I posted about them a month ago.

Prep Routine 1

Legging Up - Walk horse in hand on pavement with mostly flat surface.  Keep a steady rhythm and lively walk.  Go 1 or 2 miles (12-20minutes).  If riding keep the horse on a loose rein.
Pelvis Tuck (also known as a dorsal arch) - Stand behind your horse, tuck each thumb just under the dock, extend your fingers straight up to form a box with your thumbs, apply direct pressure in the the haunches with your fingertips.  If the horses doesn't tuck his pelvis you might try tickling.  Repeat at least twice.  ***That's the description in the book.  Some people use their finger or a quarter and run it down the poverty groove along the back of the haunches or some people do like I do and draw a line from the hip bones to the tail head, then in the center of that line rub (gently, don't hurt him) with a quarter until he tucks.  This is supposed to elicit a reflex action NOT a pain reaction.  Don't hurt him.  Below is a video that shows the method I use (or direct link HERE).  Chrome can arch even more than this horse hehe.  This is really great for opening up the vertebrae.  :) Also please don't get kicked!  Only do this on horses you know really well and only do it one or two times starting out (it's hard work, like sit ups, so build up gradually).  Some horses hate this!

This is just a random video I found showing how to do it.  I don't know this person.

Tail Rotation - Hold dock about 4 inches down from the top with both hands, lift gently straight up 2-4 inches, make small circles in both directions 3-5 rotations (first one direction, then the other, not alternating lol), keep circles the same both directions, move slowly so horse doesn't clamp tail.
Back Uphill - Gentle uphill slope with hard ground, ask horse to lower head to shoulder level before backing, ask for as many steps backwards as possible (minimum 10 steps), each day add 4 steps, if he becomes crooked or braced, stop.  Keep the backing at walking speed, not too fast, not too slow.
Back on a Curve - Make 10 meter circle with cones, stand on outside of circle, back three straight steps first, once you have momentum gently guide shoulders away from circle allowing haunches to swing around it, continue backing around circle, If he gets stuck or comes off circle you can use a long whip to keep the outside of his body on circle, go halfway then stop and praise, finish circle, work up to being able to finish whole circle smoothly, repeat opposite direction.  ***I never did this one because Chrome sucks at backing up.  We need to practice on that hehe.
Shoulder Release Down & Back (also called scapula release) - Face forward, put closer hand on inside fetlock (not hoof), outside hand under knee, hold in normal position (when you clean out hooves) until shoulder relaxes, once relaxed lower his foot with inside hand, straighten his leg with outside hand and ask him to put the leg down and back until hoof is flat on ground, let him stand (he can stay in this position as long as he wants or move back).  ****I suck at describing this so HERE is a video.  It is HILARIOUS!  Just look at all of the Masterson Method videos on Youtube.  You will not be wasting your time.  Just in the month I've been using them I've seen a huge difference.  :D

Prep Routine 2

Hip Stretch - Face the rear, lift hindleg with hands supporting fetlock, lift the foot slightly forward and straight up, flexing to approx 90 degrees, hold for 20 seconds.  Draw leg forward until cannon bone is horizontal to ground, hold for 20 seconds.  Return to normal flex position, then supporting the leg near the hock lift the leg out to the side away from the body  and gently return hoof to ground.  Repeat on other side.  **This is the one that hurt my back yesterday so be careful if you have a cranky back.  It's been worth it though because his hind legs are getting much more flexible.  :)  Also from the videos I've been watching it might be easier to hold the toe instead of the fetlock.  It says not to in the book, but I have to protect my back.  Also something very valuable I saw in one of the videos is do NOT fight the horse when they pull away.  Go with them.  This keeps them from getting tense and keeps you from hurting your back.
Loosening the Back - Set up 5 ground poles spaced so he can walk comfortably over them without taking a step between them.  (I eventually want to set this up permanently and use before every ride; it's a great exercise for warming up for any kind of ride).  Go back and forth over them until you feel your horse's stride change (steady cadence, long stride, reaching down, rounding back).  Some days may take 10 times, some may take 2.  After horse is loose, establish contact and continue ride (I was doing this from the ground, but as soon as I get real poles we will do it under saddle, I just don't want to get off every time he kicks one of the PVC pipes to move it back).
Lifting the hind legs - Stand him next to a fence (Chrome can now do this out in the open hehe), relax head so back is rounded, not hollow, ideally head at wither height, keeping neck stretched reach back with whip until he lifts his rear leg, change direction, gradually teach him to hold the leg for 10 seconds (by tapping again when he tries to put it down).
Bringing Hindlegs Forward - Position along fence with weight square on all hooves, ask him to stretch his neck down, keeping his head down tickle just behind his girth to ask him to engage his belly and round his back, now reach back with whip and ask him to bring one hoof further forward under his body, keep neck down as you ask each hoof to creep forward, once you've achieved the desired stance ask him to stand quietly in this posture for 10-15 seconds before allowing him to walk forward.  ***Chrome could not figure this out, so I haven't been doing it.  Once I have a new pedestal I'll start having him stand on it with all four hooves since it achieves the same posture.
Stepping Over Slowly - Have him walk over a square bale of hand as slow as possible. Great for stifles!
Poll Stretch - Stand alongside him just behind jaw, place inside hand on neck just behind poll and apply light pressure to prevent him bending his neck, use other hand on bridge of nose or halter and draw his head to me, only want his head move, not neck, keep ears and nostrils on same level (don't allow only the nose to tilt toward me), hold 20 seconds, repeat on other side. If he shows a release repeat on that side.  **Oops just realized I haven't been having him hold this one for twenty seconds....

Prep Routine 3

TMJ Massage - With horse tied and relaxed gently stroke his jaw, then begin making circles with two fingers where his jaw begins by his eyes, after several seconds hold direct firm pressure on this spot for several seconds then release, move down an inch and repeat, move down another inch and repeat (should be at the point of his jaw now).  **The circling is one of the TTouch methods.  :D  HERE is a video of the Masterson Method where he doesn't use firm pressure.  I think I'm going to try it this way because I don't get much of a response from Chrome using the firm pressure.  In the video you'll see the horse release the tension and almost fall asleep.  It's so cool!  Sorry for all of the MM videos.  I'm a visual learner so it helps to see them, especially since I suck at describing things.
Tail Pull - Stand arm's length behind, grasp tail at the end of dock, pull gently straight out from his back, hold 20 seconds with consistent pressure, very slowly release (going slow is important!), work up to holding two minutes.  If he clamps his tail, stamps his feet or shifts side to side he is out of alignment and needs a chiro.
Exercise on a Slope - This involves longeing at the trot on a slope, but since I don't have slopes and am not supposed to be longeing him we just walked up and down the hill on the road when we went for our legging up walks.  I focused on keeping him at a normal walk (he wants to trot downhill) and keeping him as straight as possible since that's what strengthens his stifles.
Step Over Slowly - See above.
Legging Up - See above.
Tail Rotations - See above.

Prep Routine 4

Loosening the Back - See above.
Back Uphill - See above.
Turn on Forehand in Motion - Ride (I did this in hand since we've never really done lateral work in motion) in walk on light contact, gently half halt, as soon as he responds to half halt bend him around leg and push hindquarters away, keep asking him to step one hind leg in front of the other, keep a little bit of forward momentum so the front feet keep marching in half steps forward, after you have executed 180 degree change of direction ride forward in normal rhythm, then repeat in other direction.
Pick Up Sticks - Make a mess of poles,  ride (again we did this in hand) straight across at walk on loose rein, then turn and find a different way across, once he's doing well try a jog for a few steps, keep finding different ways through or make up patterns.
Spiraling in & Out - This is done at a trot on a twenty meter circle.  You spiral in to a smaller circle and back out into a large circle.  This is not leg yielding (I love leg yielding out on circles!!), but actually spiraling in and out.  We did not do this since he isn't supposed to do circles.
Pelvis Tuck - See above.

Okay so now you know what we've been working on every other day for the past month.  Sorry I never wrote it down all together like this before.  :)  Anyway I can't wait to get started on the new routines!  I hope my back is better in a day or two.

I LOVE this picture!!!!!!
Like I said the sun made for some fun lighting!


  1. I applaud you if you make it through this whole post LOL! I hope someone else finds it helpful. I'm not paid to advertise, but my Equine Fitness book and my Masterson Method book are two that I would not trade for all the money in the world. They are so helpful! :D

  2. hi, i wanted to answer your question about dogs. i'm not what you'd call a dog lover, but i do appreciate a good dog. i absolutely have fear of loose dogs interacting with my green horse out there on trails. so i generalize and tell the owners i'm afraid, because even if i'm not technically afraid of their dog, (and if it's a GSD i'd like to hug it), i have issues with loose dogs.

    crap i just forgot the donkey is loose in the orchard, where she'll kill everything if i'm not supervising. i so need a nerf gun out there to protect my trees!

  3. That makes sense!! I can see where it would be easier to just say you're afraid of them if that makes the owners keep them away from Mara. :)

    LOL about the nerf gun!!!! Too funny!

  4. Lots to read and think about. LOL need to come back to this post again.

    I know I need to incorporate more to continue my mare's rehab from a couple of injuries (and my own). May certainly be worthwhile to check into your sources.

  5. Thanks for reading SFE. The Equine Fitness book I'm getting all of this out of really is worth the money in my opinion. It has been so valuable for me. :D The Prep routines I've been doing can actually be used as a rehab program for getting a horse ready to ride again after a lay off due to injury.

  6. I'm very belatedly catching up on your blog, these pictures are gorgeous!

  7. Thank you for catching up Aoife!! I've missed your comments. :D


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