Tips for a Healthy Back
Some hints and tips that you can add or change in your daily routine to help your horse be comfortable and supple in their back:
Feed from the floor – feeding your horse from a bucket hung over the door or a haynet hung up high puts their head, neck and back in an abnormal position; horses often tilt their heads to one side to pull hay from their haynets. By feeding from the floor it replicates how the horse would graze naturally. This stretches the muscles and ligaments along the length of the neck and the back and opens the vertebral spaces.
Grooming – make your grooming session's effective in more ways than one. Obviously the main objective is to clean the coat and remove any mud, however you can use these sessions to help increase the circulation and muscle tone. Using a body brush first use long strokes along the length of the back and hind quarters, using your weight to strengthen the strokes. Then using a rubber curry comb rub in circular motions around the large muscles along the back and hind quarters – avoiding any bony areas. This will increase the circulation which will help to remove toxins from the muscles and relieve any muscle spasms, keeping muscles soft and supple.
Mounting - Wherever possible get into the good habit of using a mounting block to mount your horse. You may only be light and agile enough to mount from the floor easily, however this puts all the strain on one side of the horse and causes them to lean against the extra weight. Over time this can cause sore backs. If it is necessary to get on from the floor then it is a good idea to practice mounting from both sides to even the strain put on the horse.
Saddle fit – if riding your horse it is essential that its tack fits well. Most importantly the saddle but it is also important to consider bridles, rugs etc as all of these, if fitted incorrectly, can cause problems.
If your saddle doesn’t quite fit correctly it can cause a whole host of problems from sore muscles around the withers or lumbar region to blocking their shoulder so their movement is impeded.
When arranging for a saddler to come and check your saddle, ensure that you are getting a master saddler qualified by the Society of Master Saddlers. Remember there is nothing stopping someone from setting up as a saddler with no formal qualifications or just a short training course run by a saddle manufacturer.
Workload – to ensure that your muscle is even on both sides and your horse doesn’t end up with a preferred rein it is important to work equally on both reins. Try not to overdo things, it is much better to do half an hour good quality work than an hour when the horse may be tired, especially with young horses that may not have the physical or mental stamina to work for an hour.
Lunging – can be beneficial to the horses back however make sure that you do not lunge for more than 20 minutes at a time. Lunging is very strenuous on the horse and 20 minutes on the lunge can be equal to 1 hour ridden work in the school.
Regular check ups from a McTimoney practitioner – getting regular checkups from a qualified professional is essential to ensure that your horse is comfortable and able to move to the best of their ability.
Stretching exercises – there are lots of stretching exercises that can help keep your horses back supple such as carrot stretches. Your McTimoney practitioner will be able to advise you on the stretches most beneficial to your horse and how to perform them correctly.