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mcheers@cheshireequinetherapy.co.uk

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and are looking forwards to the New Year. For a lot of people 2016 has not been a good year in many respects.  A year with your horse has many ups and downs but hopefully you are all looking forward to an amazing 2017 with your horses.

On a personal front, my horse is “off” for the winter.  I say “off” in inverted commas as even though technically she is out of medium-hard work which she is normally in, I’m still doing bits with her, she isn’t completely turned away.  I’m doing ground work with her, lunging in Pilates bands, long reining, straightness training, riding bareback, lots of stretching and walks down the lane just to keep her ticking over.  As I’m not riding quite so much, except for a few clients horses, and what with the extra Christmas goodies I have noticed a few of my clothes starting to get a bit snug!  So thought I needed to do something about it and beat the new year’s resolutions, as they never work, and drag my backside from out in front of the Christmas TV to start to think about getting fit again, losing a few pounds and go for a run.  I was really not in the mood but I made my self.  I was determined, so with the dog, children and husband in tow we set off.  I really wanted to push myself I knew I could do it so even when I felt tired I kept pushing myself to carry on.  But was this the right thing to do?! No, I found, obviously!  By the time I made it back home my already bad hip was killing me, when I had started to fatigue and carried on my feet had gotten clumsy so twisted my ankle twice, I hadn’t left enough time after eating so felt sick, and the following day the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in my legs were agony and I couldn’t move for 2 days.  Obviously, I know what I should have done, I should have said to myself, I’m just going to pace myself, walk for most of it and run a bit, then build it up day on day with lots of stretching in between, but when you get that determined feeling in your head your body just pushes through it. However, now I’m not feeling quite so head strong about it and it has put me off wanting to go again which defeats the object.

This is the exact same way with our horses. They may have had a bit of downtime over the Christmas/Winter period and you may be thinking about getting them back into work.  Please be very aware that they, like me, need to build that fitness up slowly.  Many people think, ‘My horse has only had a couple of weeks off they will be fine to get straight back in to working at the same intensity that they were before’.  But this is not the case.  Horses need to be brought back up to fitness slowly as there are so many different aspects to fitness; stamina, suppleness, strength, speed, there are so many different parts to the body that need all of these aspects of fitness to be built up slowly so they don’t break down with injury.  Injury WILL happen if you try to do too much too quick without building all aspects of fitness slowly in all aspects of the horses body, especially the tendons, ligaments, muscles as well as the cardiovascular system.

We also need to consider the psychological effect of pushing the horse too soon.  Them, again like me with my running, will not want to push themselves the next time if they think it is going to hurt, as soon as a horse starts to hurt they begin to develop compensatory mechanisms and incurring issues, pain and reduced range of movement and injuries in other areas.  This time of year is a great time for getting your horse a check-up with your physical therapist.  A check up and treatment with me will get them on the right track before the hard work begins again, to pick up and underlying issues and get a baseline of where you are starting the year from, and to be able to monitor progress and problems.

Many people like road work to slowly increase their horse fitness and workload, but as the amazing equine science consultant Dr David Marlin recently published on his facebook page there are many factors to consider with doing this. Some of the main points to consider are below.

  • Roadwork results in forces on the hoof around 20x higher than working on good grass or artificial surfaces. A great deal of this is absorbed by the hoof, fetlock and bones below the knee but may still lead to damage to joints. Firm wet sand is better than roads but still around 8x harder than good grass or good arena surface.
  • Roadwork DOES NOT “harden” or strengthen tendons
  • Roadwork DOES increase bone strength – you only need a few minutes of trot to achieve this
  • Roadwork DOES contribute to joint/cartilage deterioration
  • Roadwork – No limit to walking! Trotting should be LIMITED to no more than 5 minutes per day
  • Working on very SOFT SURFACES increases the risk of soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) injuries and working on UNEVEN surfaces carries an increased risk of injury. Both of these are another issue associated more with winter riding.
  • BAREFOOT horses are at a similar risk from roadwork as shod horse with respect to forces transmitted up the leg (the difference between shod and unshod is in how the force travels through the foot). With our current knowledge, there is no reason to conclude that barefoot horses are at a lower risk of concussive damage from roadwork.

Wishing you all every success and happiness with your horses in 2017.  Call, text, messenger or email to book your horse in for their 2017 year start check-up.

Best wishes

Michelle

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