Essential Tips for Horse Owners

Or: Is there something I don’t know yet?

This summer, I received the generous offer to review a book. This happens every now and then and – just like I would expect from someone reviewing my work – I am dedicated to an honest opinion.

The book sounded like ‘another one of those’ horse tip books: “Horse Owners’ Essential Tips: Grooming, Care, Tack, Facilities, Riding, Pasture”. There must be hundreds of those books on the market, I thought, and did not have great expectations. (A horse owner’s) Life, however, can be full of surprises and this was a positive one!

Let’s examine the book’s promise:

“More than 500 Practical Ideas”

What sounds like a drag to read through, is actually a very well presented wealth of really good, imaginative, practical and downright frugal ideas, covering anything from grooming over tack care and facilities to riding and pasture.

Granted, some of the tips may not be down your alley (not wanting to create a hand-made net?) but many will. One I really liked and that alone would make it worth the purchase: Easy to make stirrup covers that will prevent the stirrups from scratching up your saddle when you put it up. It’s not rocket science, but the point is, I never had the idea!

“Horse Owner’s Essential Tips will quickly find a place in the stable office”.

Yes, indeed. It’s easy to read format and delightful illustrations make it wonderful to have at hand for perusing when you only have a little time to kill (waiting for the vet, for instance). In those 10 minutes of browsing through the book, something will catch your eye that will make a difference to your (horse) life, all while enjoying a well-illustrated book, written in a light and easily digestible style.

It is now a part of our barn library to be enjoyed by all.

Some of my favorite horse tips from the book:

  • Oil to ‘cure’ chestnuts: Apply sunflower or olive oil to large, dry chestnuts daily until they fall off on their own. (I might add: Apply once or twice weekly afterward to keep them from growing back.) This is a low-cost, easy solution to a common unsightly problem.
  • Secure blanket clasp: Many horse owners blanket their horses in the winter, only to find that their expensive blanket will not stay on the horse. The problem: The clasp keeps opening. Meyrier suggests an easy solution: Use a rubber gasket such as found on certain beer or lemonade bottles to prevent the clasp from opening. A nifty illustration shows how it’s done.
  • Dried up tear stains on your horse’s face: Many horses don’t appreciate the feel of a wet sponge around their eyes, especially once you start rubbing. Philip Meyrier had an idea: Use moisturizing make-up remover pads: The dirt sticks to the wipes, it’s easy and the horse seems to like it better! (Of course, you could also use Aspire Natural Tear Stain Remover.)

In short:

  • An enjoyable read, great to keep in the barn or take along on a show or horse camping trip.
  • A chock full of innovative, imaginative and often frugal and funny tips and tricks to make your horse life easier.
  • A useful addition to any horsey library.
  • On my personal list of horse friend Xmas gifts!

So, if your are so inclined, I recommend you put Horse Owners’ Essential Tips: Grooming, Care, Tack, Facilities, Riding, Pasture in your shelf or on your Christmas list. It’s a keeper!

As always, Enjoy Your Horse!

SReinhold_sm

Stefanie Reinhold

http://www.ReinholdsHorseWellness.com
http://www.HorseWellness-Store.com

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The Good Ole’ ‘Carrot Stretch’: A Little Yoga for Your Horse

During my equine bodywork practice I work mostly with horses who are suffering from performance limitations due to restrictions in their musculature, which were developed due to biomechanical habits or compensation for other underlying issues.

carrot stretches with horses
Carrot Stretches make us happy!

While some owners or trainers are interested in learning the basic techniques of the Masterson Method™ after seeing real-time improvements in their horse’s range of motion during the bodywork, others would like to do something a little more ‘low tech’ to help their horse stay supple in between.

Active stretching with a bait – also called ‘Carrot Stretches’ – are a great way of enabling your horse to loosen up and gain or retain range of motions, even into old age!

Furthermore, it increases your popularity with your horse!

An Important Difference: Active vs. Passive Stretching with Horses

What are active stretches?

Active Stretches are exercises where the horse is encouraged – via bait, such as a carrot – to stretch as far as his abilities allow. He may increase the stretch or go beyond of what he thought he could do, but will never overstretch beyond the abilities of his soft tissue, such as muscles and ligaments. Therefore, active stretching – where the horse determines the amount of stretch – is a ‘no harm’, riskless and fun way to get your horse into that nimble state we so much desire.

What are passive stretches?

Passive Stretches are exercises where the horse’s handler determines the amount of stretch and the horse passively goes along. We have all seen publications where horses’ limbs are stretched out at a 90˚ angle to the front… The temptation to see our horse perform these types of exercises is great. We need to remember, however, that these passive  types of stretches can easily be overdone and cause damage to soft tissue such as muscle fibers or ligaments, if performed on cold muscles or on an overly compliant horse, who will not express his discomfort. These types of stretches are best performed persons who have received hands-on training and have obtained the necessary background knowledge (contraindications, anatomy, etc.) in order to do no harm.

How to Perform Basic Carrot Stretches

The principle is easy: You hold out the bait and the horse reaches for it. A carrot is the preferred bait, since it’s long and will save you a finger or two, if a misunderstanding arises regarding the exact measurement of the bait…  To be completely on the safe side, you may want to wear gloves and use a disposable cup cover to protect your hand, if needed. (You know, the type you get at the fast food place, simply stick carrot through straw hole…)

What is the purpose: The purpose of the bait stretches is to encourage your horse to move through his full range of motion in the direction that you are setting in the respective exercise. This means, that your horse experiences his full range of motion, how far he actually can move his neck around, for example, without exerting force or creating resistance, which is often the case when we use tack to encourage the horse to bend. Horses, just as humans, often never use their full range of motion for anything. Doing so re-educates the body and mind, lets muscles relax and releases long-standing tension. And, just as in humans (we are all made of the same stuff…), the more frequently you perform these stretches, the more nimble your horse will be.

Basic Carrot Stretch Exercises

1. To the shoulder/elbow

Benefits: Loosens up head/neck and neck/shoulder  junctions, increases flexibility in vertebrae of the neck by loosening up surrounding muscles

2. To the hip around you

carrot stretch with horse
To the hip around handler

Benefits: Loosens up neck/shoulder junction, increases flexibility in vertebrae of the neck by loosening up surrounding muscles, stretches the bracchiocephalicus muscle and thus aids in developing range of motion in the front limb, good stretch for rib cage and shoulder

3. To the girth line

carrot stretch with horse
To the girth line

Benefits: Opens/releases head neck junction, nice stretch for ligaments of the top line

4. To the front down

carrot stretch with horse
To the front down

Benefites: Stretches/releases tension in ligaments of the top line

5. To the outside of the front hoof

carrot stretch with horse
To the outside of the front hoof

Benefits: nice stretch for shoulder and neck

There are quite a few more you may incorporate into your daily routine.

When Should You Perform Carrot Stretches with Your Horse?

Personally, I like to perform carrot stretches as a routine right after grooming. I feel that this is an added ‘quality time’ that adds value to our rewarding and happy grooming routine. You can do these stretches on cold or warm muscles, no harm will be done, as the horse determines the amount of stretch.

Stall-bound horses in rehab can also benefit. Check with your vet to be sure your horse is ready for these types of exercises!

What if I don’t like to feed my horses ‘treats’?

It is understandable, that some of us may prefer not to feed our horse treats for training reasons. On the other hand, a ‘food reward’ has been proven to be a highly motivating factor in horse behavior. If you manage to set the rules straight (e. g. : You only get the carrot after the correct stretch, no treats outside of exercises!) your horse will be intelligent enough to understand it. Consistency is the key.

I’d be interested to hear about your experiences with carrot stretches. Please do drop me a line to stef@reinholdshorsewellness.com or comment below.

Enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold

www.reinholdshorsewellness.com