I watched my horse's eye soften as I worked my my hands over Encore's neck, back, & hindquarters, seeking out knots & tension to ease away. Each time my thumbs dug into a hard burl of muscle, Encore's lower lip quivered & his head dropped lower...and lower...and lower. He licked his lips & sighed in thanks.
As our horses keep us running in circles (some of them voluntary...), the line between remembering & forgetting & which side we're on (is it the one we're supposed to be on??) can get blurry. Going through our bodywork ritual, I'm reminded once more of the importance of being NEXT to your horse.
If it sounds familiar, it's because I've combined & updated several (very!) old posts with added comments here to knock the dust off these critical routines. These tiny tasks, many that take only seconds, are what collectively add up to a well-managed horse. This is what makes a horse(wo)man, not just a rider.
Take The Time
Take the time to palpate your horse's large muscle groups before & after a ride to look for tender spots.
...to look in his eyes: are they bright, alert, free of cloudy areas or spots?
...to run your hands down each leg so you know if that knot is new or old.
...to lay a palm on each hoof as you pick them to check the temperature & wiggle each shoe to check for tightness when you lift his feet.
...to really notice the colour, shape & texture of his frog & sole so you know if they change.
...to run your fingers up the back of his pasterns to check for fungus like scratches.
...to take him out on a hack to condition him on hills & uneven ground at the walk & trot. Don't get trapped in the sandbox.
...to watch him walk away from you as you turn him back out to watch for any stiffness or unevenness.
...to give him a day or two off for a grooming spa or some quiet handgrazing so his body & mind can rest each week. Let him just be a horse.
...to glance into his feed bucket -- is he cleaning it up?
...to watch him eat. Is he chewing easily & evenly or does he just mash it & let it fall out of his mouth?
...to inspect his manure & watch him pee. Is everything normally coloured? Is the flow & consistency of all his waste the same every day?
Fight the urge to rush, get to know your horse's body & habits so that when something does change (oh yes, we know it will), you will be the first to know. Early detection is key to maximizing his chances at recovery, comfort & longevity. Tendon, muscle, & joint also each need time to rest & recover from micro-injury & stress that comes with work (or equine existence :/). It is our responsibility to respect that need & to ensure that we are not asking our horses to work in pain or discomfort.
Encore & I finished with some carrot stretches to each side -- I make him stretch his nose at least to his flank (no cheating & moving his feet!) in each direction. Upon recheck, his back muscles are softer, his withers are less sore & the knots along his haunches are smaller.
It's a continuous process, but one I must not to forget in the bustle of every day. Happier body = happier horse. Happier horse = happier me. It's that simple.
|I eternally love Grumpy Cat...|