Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review, Body Assessment Photos, and a Visit from the Scissors

You know, I really love learning. That must be why I never really hated going to school. Granted, I would have rather slept in, but in all honesty, there were many moments in class I was enthralled with the material. I loved History, and when I learned about genetics in Honors Biology I was having a grand ole time (even did a presentation of HYPP!). So I guess its no wonder why I love to learn more about the passion I love - horses.

I mentioned before about the book that I ordered, Equine Fitness: A Program of Exercises and Routines for Your Horse, and it finally came Wednesday night. I was absorbed in it for the remainder of the evening (to Boyfriend's dispair, he doesnt really get why I love to read what he deems boring material, I also think he thinks its like school books). I learned more about the horses's muscles, how they interplay between each other among other things (I cant reiterate the entire book here!). As my eyes got tired halfway through the book I had to put it down and go to bed.

Last night I was able to finish it, and boy, did I absorb a LOT. Foremost, one chapter in the book talked about stifles, weakness to observe, and exercises to strengthen them. I wasnt anticipating reading exactly about my horse!

Under Saddle - Observe the horse both walking and trotting under saddle, if the toes are dragging with continuous contact with the ground without lifting them out of the footing is a clear sign of weak stifles. A horse that becomes fussy cantering circles is often compromised in the stifles.

This was the most significant passage from that chapter for me. It rang true in every sense for Milo. He almost never takes a solid stride without dragging the toes of his back legs. I always assumed it was laziness, but reading further about resistance to work and reach up nicely on circles, especially at the canter, seemed to peg Milo right on the nose. A test for this I want to try this evening is viewing Milo walk away from me in a straight line. The book says that if the legs swing out before stepping down thats a good indicator of weak stifles.

So, how can this be fixed? The book gave some great exercises to strength the stifle area including lifting the hind legs and holding in the air (horse does it - you encourage with a tickle from a whip, not by picking up the foot), working on poles in a half moon, among others.

I also learned some valuable things about warm up and cool downs, along with the role the "mighty neck" plays, and how to spot a crooked horse. It has also given me a good guide to help put Milo on the best fitness track. She provided four six-exercise Fitness Routes, along with some basic instructions for each route stating that the importance is to work each exercise in the individual route (hope that isnt too confusing). After reading through each exercise I came to determine that the Fitness Route 1 was the best one for Milo, with the exercises focusing on some of his weaker areas. It includes the following exercises to be done each ride for about a month: Tail Pull, Rein-Back up a Hill, Arena Interval Training, Lifting the Hind Legs, Shoulder Rotation Stretch, and Pelvis Tucks. These exercises with help strengthen and relax the back, work the neck (and thereby the back) in three different working positions, strengthen the stifles, relax the shoulder, wither, and back, and strength and relax the lower back.

Fortunetly, these exercises are in the back of the book on perforated cards so I was able to rip out the exercises (I plan to laminate them here at work) and take for reference to the barn.

So would I recommend this book to a friend? You betcha! Its a highly informative book for any horse owner or enthusiast, no matter if you are looking for fitness exercises or not. It has a wealth of information about tendons, ligaments, and muscles and how they work together (and seperately). And even if you arent looking for "fitness" exercises, the exercises can be used alone if you are looking for something new to try with your horse. At only $13.57 from Amazon, it makes it a great deal, a great read, and definitely worth the money.

Now for a little fun, and also to visually track Milo's fitness progress in the following months, I took some photos of different areas I will be working on.

Milo's back on the right side. Looks pretty good.

Milo's back from the left side.

Looks like a totally different horse!  See the large bulge on his left shoulder? This used to be on both sides and much larger. With the help of Sarah though, we have gotten him to release the tension on the right side, but its a slower process on this side. Those bulges were created from a tight back due to improper riding and a poor saddle fit. Doesnt his back on this side just overall looks a lot tighter?

Milo from the rear.

Its not overly obvious, but you can see how he is stronger on the left side versus the right. He also toes out, but overall I think hes got pretty straight hind legs.

Milo's back from top.

Haha, so the clip job obviously wasnt symmetrical, but dont let that fool you as to his back shape. While we can see that left shoulder bulge greater, we can also see that the left side is still stronger, and it also appears from this photo that his hips are at an angle. But not sure if its just a poor photo or really is the case.

It will be interesting to observe any chances to these areas as we start into this fitness program. And if you see anything that I might have missed, speak up, Id love to learn more! :)

Now onto some grooming photos. Milo's mane has been bothering me quite a bit lately. His neck cover had rubbed a chunk out of the mane at his poll area and the blanket rubbed out at the withers, leaving the mane uneven and shabby looking:

So I took the scissors to it (one small benefit to a thin made is it doesnt need clippers to cut!) I decided after two years of letting his bridle path grow out in an effort to bring more volume to the forelock, to give him another one. It seemed to clean it up nicely and took away some of the shabby look, although the length difference is still noticable:

I was advised from a few people to just cut it all to the shorter length. No! I have been working on this mane for a long time and Id hate to see it in a really goofy stage again! Not to mention we will be laughed at by the reiners! But I think it looks a bit better, and Ill at least apply MTG to it weekly in some feabile attempts to help it grow back. (By the way, his mane isnt combed in either picture, I avoid combing it as much as possible to reduce hairs being ripped out. Instead, I just brush off any dirt with the body brush.)

Pretty bridle path! And ears! :D


Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like a great book. I'm going to check it out. I would love to find some exercises to rebuild the muscles in Dandy's neck. Because of his EPM he lost his natural shape and getting it back has been difficult.

paint_horse_milo said...

There is a wealth of information in the chapter for the neck. At least eight different exercises. IT would be worth the price to get those exercises. I know Ill be using them for Milo too.

Story said...

Consider this book officially on my wish list. I really like the idea of taking pictures to track progress, too.

I understand your mane issues totally! Dee had ripped out a four inch section half way down her neck, right to the roots, last summer, and then on top of that I decided to grow out her bridle path. If she was a QH WP horse she'd be golden now because it's grown a ton, but when the rest of the mane is about a foot and a half to two feet long? Yeah. There is definitely a slight temptation to trim back her mane a bit to make the variation less extreme, but really, at the rate it's growing, it could be all grown out by this time next year! Keep praying to the MTG gods! lol

in2paints said...

I'm so glad you're getting as much out of the book as I am... I'm anxious to get to a point with Lilly that I can actually start using some of the more advanced exercises to help her get stronger.

You've also given me some ideas for photos... I think the ones I took are junk and I need to take newer, closer ones!

I'd have to chop Milo's mane, but that's just because I like short manes. It looks like he has 3 different layers... the longest one, then one in the middle, and then the thick stuff up at the top. I hope the MTG works for you!

You should see AJ's mane... his won't grow more than 4 inches and it is SUPER thin. It literally takes me 5 seconds to trim his up, so it's a good thing he's not a reiner! :)

Molly said...

I read somewhere, can't remember where, that horse's mains stop growing after a certain length because of their genes. I can't every remember where I read stuff! I read so many articles, blogs etc on horses that I always am afraid I'm going to repeat one of the people's own posts, but I think I saw this in 2 or 3 different places! Anyways, If you take all the weight off his mane then it'll grow! plus trims help a little. and MTG :)

Story said...

Just wanted to throw a note that I finally ordered the book today. It just sounds too good to wait any longer. It's funny, when I got Dee her topline was much rounder than it is now, although she was also terribly overweight. I hope we can find some good exercises to get that pretty outline back, minus the fat!