Tag Archives: fitness

How Nature Designed Horses

Nature designed horses to be giant lawnmowers, but domestication and generations of selective breeding have turned them into high-performance athletes. And just like human athletes, horses experience muscle pains and aches that can diminish performance and lead to long-term damage.

Horses pay the price in injury and pain for the sports that we put them in. For many horse owners, equine massage therapy has become an important feature of the care they provide for their animals. Racehorses, polo ponies, dressage horses, three day eventers, show jumpers, and endurance horses can all prevent injuries and prolong their competitive careers with equine massage.

For instance if your horse has back or hind quarter soreness or is prone to “tying up” in these areas, then, to ease the discomfort the horse will place extra stress on the fore legs which in-turn places further stress on the tendons, which on occasions can lead to a bow.

This can also work in the reverse, say a horse has an existing tendon or foreleg problem; then the extra strain will be placed on the back and hind quarters, leading to strain or muscle problems.

Most people treat the symptoms after the injury has occurred, but what if the body could be balanced through stress point therapy and myofascial release? Many lamenesses and injuries can be avoided by maintaining proper nutrition, fitness, and balanced posture. I see it every day in my clients: horses that struggled to pass vet inspections, struggled to keep weight on, or struggled to perform certain movements rise above all those struggles once tight muscles have been released and nutritional imbalances are corrected.

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For instance if your horse has a back or hind quarter strain or is prone to “tying up” in these areas, then, to ease the discomfort the horse will place extra stress on the fore legs which in-turn places further stress on the tendons, which on occasions can lead to a bow.

This can also work in the reverse, say a horse has an existing tendon or foreleg problem, then the extra stain will be placed on the back and hind quarters, leading to strain or muscle problems.

For instance if your horse has a back or hind quarter strain or is prone to “tying up” in these areas, then, to ease the discomfort the horse will place extra stress on the fore legs which in-turn places further stress on the tendons, which on occasions can lead to a bow.

This can also work in the reverse, say a horse has an existing tendon or foreleg probl

 

em, then the extra stain will be placed ockand hind quarters, leading to strain or muscle problems.

Insanity in the Middle!

British Eventing officials recently released this statement:

“Event horses are very fit and sharp enough to run for their lives. Minor disobedience and keenness should not be punished too severely….Distractions such as close proximity to the show jumping and cross country should also be taken into account. If a horse is presented showing good training and way of going and does cope with the environment then it should be rewarded with very high marks.”

I was recently at an event where the dressage arenas (and the warm up areas)  are right next to the start box on the cross country course. So many of the most fit horses looked on the brink of explosion during their tests.

Cold lasers are not just effective for injuries. They can also be used for relaxation. Lasers are often used at the race track to calm young thoroughbreds before a race. There are three spots on the head where the cold laser should be applied:

_Between the nostrils

_Just below the ears

_Between the eyes

 

 

High Octane Performance!

Horses in nature never move out of their low aerobic zone unless they are being chased by a predator, or they are playing, which is nature’s way of preparing them for the flight from a predator. Foraging (relaxing) does not burn precious glucose, the fuel that triggers major metabolic shifts in muscles, brain, immune system, gut, liver, heart, and lungs (Just about every system!). Glucose is saved for when prey is in sight and it is time to run.

Muscle cells obtain glucose from the blood and from glycogen stored within the muscle cell.

What is the best way to prepare for the burst of speed and athleticism you need from your horse in competition? Endurance training. In other words, long, slow exercise that builds the engine for the harder work that is your horse show. Then ,adding hard aerobics makes the body faster and more powerful as it drives the body to store glucose in the muscles.

Mimicking nature is the best way to preserve your horses’ health and use his natural abilities in sport. Horses walk 20-30  miles per day as they graze in a long, slow, and steady manner.  Throw in some sprints as they run from predators. That is what you should try to duplicate in your fitness program.

How do I condition my event horse?

I received this question, the first in the Ask a Question on Monday series,which I will attempt to answer from my point of view as an equine massage therapist, not a trainer. The question is from a rider who is aiming to compete at the 2 star level this season:

“I was wondering if you could explain the correct process of building a proper baseline of fitness in an event horse before starting with the fast-paced gallop sets when conditioning for competitions.”

I met Jack Le Goff at Malcolm Hook’s, our very popular event announcer, in the 1990’s, as he often gave clinics there. Jack developed the science of interval training for 3 day horses.

When a horse is fit, the heart and lungs carry blood and oxygen to the muscles. Oxygen converts into lactic acid that is then used for energy.( This is a simplified description.) When there is not enough oxygen getting to the muscles, the muscles tire ,which puts stress on the attached ligaments, and puts the equine athlete at risk for injury. In my work, I do all I can to keep muscles and ligaments stress free, but the rider needs to monitor their equine athlete’s temperature, pulse, and respiration rates.

Interval training is used to challenge the horse’s cardiovascular system by asking it to do bursts of speed, followed by periods of cool-down to allow the heart rate to return to slightly above normal before starting out again. Keep a chart! It takes at least 6 weeks to build up before galloping sets can be started. Whole books have been written on this subject, so rather than trying to get into specifics here, I would suggest you read more on the subject:

http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/care/article.php?aid=58088

http://www.pfment.com/article_interval_training.html

http://www.extension.org/pages/11280/basic-conditioning-of-the-equine-athlete

Thanks for opening up this very huge topic! I will be at April Twin Rivers and May Woodside to start the competition season,  so feel free to find me there, email me here,  ask questions, schedule body work or cold laser, etc.

 

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is produced in the muscles when there is a lack of oxygen. When lactic acid levels rise, muscles lose strength. A horse in good condition will pump oxygen to the muscles more effectively than a horse not quite fit enough for the job at hand. But the techniques used in Sportsmassage: spreading muscle fibers so as to increase the space that capillaries need to function properly, also helps prevent lactic acid build up by  increasing the muscles’ capacity to oxygenate.

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