My Mentor My horses
“Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
My Horses, My Mentors
Many people have horses for pleasure while others have horses for a business. Irrespective of your discipline and philosophy, whether you ride, drive, use a bit or go bit-less, your horse is shod or goes barefoot, we have one thing in common: horses. I am not here to judge your objective; my goal is to enhance your partnership/interaction with your horse by improving your awareness.
Horses are non verbal; they communicate to each other though body language. The swish of a tail, pinning their ears, turning their hind end and positioning to kick, or kicking are all types of posturing actions that communicate pretty strongly to others in the herd. While the soft swish of a tail, the twitch of an ear, a step with one foot toward another horse are also statements/comments. You do not have to become an equine behaviorist to begin to understand the body language of the horse. You just need to become aware of what you are observing and be observant.
Listening to the leaves gently blow in the wind, feeling the sun beaming down and noticing a deer lurking by the tree line all while enjoying a restful moment. I am not talking about your horse, I am talking about you. Humans are mammals too. As we begin to respect, nurture and appreciate our primal self, the more awareness we will have of our inner being and our environment.
When a horse has his head down below his withers as he is grazing, he is relaxed and feeling safe. Then a branch breaks with a sharp crack, and like a startled white tailed deer, the head pops up high, ears perked, and tail may be flagging an alert. The classic fight or flight posture has been activated. That would be an obvious example of how POSTURE IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE HORSE tm.
What do horses have to think about? Horses are prey animals, so I go on the premise that they live in the moment and are concerned with basic needs. Are they feeling hungry or thirsty, tired or playful? Do they feel safe and comfortable in the herd and in their environment? Through domestication we have specialized horses to fit our ambitions. We manipulate their lives to fit our schedule. Therefore, it is our responsibility as custodian and friend to fulfill their basic physical and emotional requirements.
The Cross Fiber grooming technique was developed in 1997 out love and devotion for my horses Buckaroo and Trocaireac. That year Northeastern Pennsylvania experienced a severe winter with snow, ice, rain, and more ice from February through the beginning of April. Many barns and horses were literally “iced-in”.
My horses were boarded close to me at a beautiful old stone barn that had 10x10 stalls, no indoor, and relatively no place to hand-walk a horse in the barn. . My two horses regularly groomed each other when out in the field together yet due to the dangerous weather conditions, they were separated from each other and confined to their stalls. I wanted to figure out a way to keep a “bit of fitness on them” and to maintain and monitor their health on a daily basis. Grooming was a part of the program, yet I felt that the time and attention I shared with my horses when grooming could be more effective. It truly became my responsibility to provide them with the pleasure and companionship of regular, social grooming as well as to try and keep their bodies healthy with the lack of regular movement and exercise.
My Chiropractic training and philosophy was founded on the concept that good posture starts from the feet up. To treat the patient as a whole, evaluating muscular development and symmetry to support proper alignment to support and protect the nervous system. Like a computer, keeping the hardware connected well, allows the software to function more effectively.
I based investigation on my knowledge of the importance of myofascial systems of the body. I reviewed my human techniques and procedures and came up with the idea to groom my horses with emphasis on transverse friction, aka “cross fiber massage” protocols. This worked like a charm, and that Spring my horses came back into work with good posture and supple, flexible musculature, ready to begin a fitness program.
Since then, I have routinely taught my Cross Fiber Grooming technique to friends and clients. The benefits have been consistent and reproducible when one is willing to put out a little extra time and attention when grooming their horses. It is a pre-ride warm-up and evaluation of their overall well-being and physical comfort.
Preparation is the foundation for success.
Your grooming time will become a pre-ride massage and warm-up. Providing you with information to evaluate you horses status as you learn to recognize changes in your horses posture, muscle tone an overall comfort and sense of well-being.
Cross Fiber grooming and massage improves posture by improving elasticity of the muscles, fascia and other connective tissue that may be restricting the horse’s alignment and range of motion by:
• Stimulating circulation, lymphatic drainage and acupuncture points.
• Releasing adhesions, scar tissue and trigger points in muscles.
• Improving performance and decreasing incidence of injury.
Is it poor conformation you see or poor posture?
The Cross Fiber grooming and massage technique and system also helps to educate horse owners and handlers about the difference between posture and conformation.
Many people confuse poor posture for poor conformation. Long pasterns are long pasterns. The bone length cannot be changed. However, mutton withers is evidence of poor posture and can be improved when the primary issue is resolved, which may range from foot to saddle fit to overall fitness.
Understanding optimum equine posture provides the foundation for helping your horse achieve optimum biomechanics.
No matter the discipline, improvement of posture allows the horse to move more fluidly and allows you to recognize where physical development is required to support the horse’s overall balance and to strengthen areas of weakness which may be vulnerable to injury. You can be a more active partner in your horse’s health and longevity from the ground up.
The POSTURE PREP tm CROSS FIBER Groomer
I created the Posture Prep tm Cross Fiber Groomer with a combination of shape and density that is unique and effective. A curry ergonomically designed and a pleasure to use for both horse and human
• Very easy to hold and use with less stress to hands and elbows than other groomers.
• Texture and flexibility makes it easy to apply the technique
• Fits easily in to the right and left hand for ease of grooming.
• Pliable material complements the grooming techniques.
• Unique teeth shape aids in grooming on and around bony protuberances and curves, including legs.
• Shape and proportions of the groomer allow it to flow easily over the horse’s body.
Unbridle the power in your hands.
My friend and my mentor
I graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic in 1987, and my life was going to come full circle. Even before our office doors were open for business, I was half leasing a horse at the farm just at the other end of the parking lot. It was there that I first met, The Immigrant, aka, Mr. Grant and Barbie Asplundh. It was not long before I was taking lessons with Barbie, an aspiring dressage rider and professional. It was through Barbie that I met Buck.
I bought Buckaroo, a 14.2 hand American Quarter horse when he was 9yo. Barbie had always said I would never have been able to afford him if he was a hand or two bigger. His conformation was good yet his fitness and balance was weak at the time, yet boy could he move. He was an awesome, game, athletic and loving partner so the name Superroo was fondly dubbed.
After moving from Barbie’s barn I started to have some problems with my riding. I was having very significant lowering back pain to the point of needing to get adjusted after every ride. I thought I was doing something wrong with my riding, or was it the deeper heavier footing? Was Buckaroo hurting as well?. One day when I was to have a lesson, Barbie commented on Bucks feet….that was the beginning. She showed me how his feet were not being balance right to left and even front to back. Wow, how did I miss this? I adjust peoples feet all the time. My practice was founded on working efficiently in gravity with good posture starting from the feet up.
There was just one farrier who came to mind, Dave Duckett, FWCF, he had shod the mare, Bronwin, who I had half leased. It was through Dave that I first was told of the concept of looking at the “posture” of a horse. What about conformation? Having started my riding at a stable full of Arabian horses, and was the host of the 4-H Club I joined. It is there that I was taught about a horse’s conformation. Through that club I competed in 4-H Contests of judging conformation. That is was where I first learned about form and function and started to develop my eye, my awareness and self.
So I called Dave Duckett and asked him t come out and look at my new horse. He did. He explained to me about his unlevel hind quarters and lower withers were from imbalanced shoeing. He trimmed and shod Buckaroo. THEN, he told me to saddle Buckaroo up then and there and ride him. I did, OMGoodness, my back did not hurt me. My back pain and problems were not from my riding, the footing or any of my worries. My low back pain was from my horses improperly balanced feet. A profound time in my life to say the least…….
Coinciding with this Barbie asked if I wanted to go to see a lecture sponsored by the DVCTA on equine chiropractic giving my Dr. Judith Shoemaker, DVM. Again, another monumental experience and time in my life was about to unfold. With the encouragement of Judith and Dave I became certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in 1994. Over the years, both Dave and Judith have contributed greatly to my love, respect and education relative to horses, their performance and longevity.
The following pictures are of Buckaroo. I really had not anticipated doing a retrospective case study on Buck-a-roo, I think you will see he is a good example:
Buckaroo 10 y/o American Quarter Horse at 14.2 hands
Foot balance and shoeing was inadequate. Poor foundation of support caused poor posture/biomechanics. Not comfortable to stand square. Standing out behind and slightly under in front. Croup High wither low, ewe necked.
Buckaroo , 6 months after his initial trimming and shoeing by Dave Duckett.
Buckaroo here is standing more so 4 square, cannon bones, much closer to the vertical. His topline is nearly level and better
Buckaroo at 24 years of age, standing at 14.3 ¾ hands, and starting another discipline, sidesaddle, game as ever to play together.
At 24 y/o his posture, muscle and overall balance, was better than when he was 10 y/o, when his poor posture measured him at 14.2 hands.
Cimaron Pine, my Buck a roo, My mentor , my AQHA Foundation Friend. Acute colic took him one morning in May of 2008 to greener pastures at the age of 28.