Den and I are your average horse and rider, a little conformationally challenged and slightly chubby…both of us!
Den is short, chunky and slightly high in the back end which means he finds it tough to bring his hind end underneath himself and work uphill. Me, well I have had a baby. Im tired, struggling with my core, carrying some extra pudding and had a good 18 months off.
I did everything right bringing him back into work. Ground work, lunging, massage, pole work… Things looked good from the ground. But nothing prepared me for that first ride back. It was like pushing a shopping trolley full of groceries when one of the wheels is dodgy!
Don’t get disheartened. You don’t have to be an elite athlete or own an expensive bred horse to go well and have a harmonious relationship. Den is a clydie brumby and came from the sale yards, me… id say I have a bit of clydesdale too haha! Before having time off I had never placed a great deal of emphasis on my physical wellbeing, until suddenly I couldn’t do things the way I did and I realised how much I had taken for granted. This changed my whole perspective around my horse and his performance. I took a step back and looked at where Den had always struggled due to his conformation and decided I was going to change this for him. I actually myself physically understood. The first step was to learn and this is where Equestricare came into my journey.
Now I have always used massage therapists, I have always known how important maintaining muscle health was. However, being on maternity leave and a reduced income meant I actually needed to do some myself as I couldn’t afford a therapist every few weeks. And yes… some horses need this frequency depending on their workload and conformation.
When I was working through the first module and applied my learnings, Den started going better physically and mentally. I had always put money into lessons and learning, but how could I get the best from him if he wasn’t physically capable?
Two things I have learnt so far that have been AMAZING.
The Tricep muscle. It’s a large muscle and gets quite tight. It is also a really easy muscle to massage and look after. People always say, work the horse from behind! But how can a horse work from behind if his front end is tight. This was Den. He has a natural tendency to drop on the forehand, he is a little bum high which ultimately means he has to work extra hard to bring his hind legs underneath himself. If he isn’t physically strong enough, he fatigues really easily and his front end takes the load and pulls rather than push. I have learnt that keeping this muscle loose is easy, every time before and after I ride I have been massaging the area and have added a couple of stretches. Literally, this has added 4 minutes to tacking up and riding. The difference is phenomenal.
Secondly, I want to talk about the back end. As I have already mentioned, Den is a little bum high and struggles to bring this underneath himself and it takes him a long time to build the muscle in this area. Its slow and steady work gradually increasing as he physically is capable. But even the slowest of gradual means muscle soreness. He tells me too, he crabs, he drops out of canter, he leaves his back end behind himself, he throws his head in transitions… and his triceps get tight.
The superficial medial gluteal is an easy muscle to massage, keeping this loose will improve their range of motion, improves collection and capacity for jumping. After I ride Den’s reward is a few pieces of licorice and a brush and massage of this area. I have a baby, so I don’t have a great deal of time, but I have made time and its literally a few minutes. Trust me these muscles are tight after den has been working on canter. Just imagine you have just done 100 squats in a row, are your muscles burning? How do they feel the next day? I dare you to give it a try!
Consider having a play with your horse, feel his triceps and glute’s, think about how he moves when you ride him.
Over the coming year, im going to share with you what I learnt studying and how it changed my riding. Hopefully, inspire you to think about what you can learn yourself! Until next time… happy massaging!