EPISODE 4 BLOG: Exercise Rehabilitation
Exercise Rehabilitation might sound like a scary phrase (!) especially when we are doing post injury rehab, BUT we can use exercise rehabilitation in all sorts of positive ways, for all sorts of issues whether injury related or not, and we can use it in the 'improvement' phase too which is where I work a lot...posture and movement improvement is my piece!
So we can think of exercise rehabilitation as a way of getting from A to B so to speak, with our horses. And it's all about planning, being consistent, and working on specific parts of our horses body or movement that need addressing. I tend to use some level of rehab/corrective work with most if not all of the horses that I work with, to counteract specific issues such as their natural crookedness patterns, senior horses becoming stiffer and slower, and to prevent poor posture creeping in. If we can work on the foundational issues in our horses body on a daily/weekly basis, the rest of what we want to do is much easier!
Exercise is enormously beneficial whether we are human or a horse!! From a horse perspective, what we do with them in terms of ridden work is quite alien for them really (!) so by exercising and strengthening them, and correcting imbalances or movement issues, and preparing them thoroughly for what we want to do, your horse stands the best chance of being able to offer you his best, and you can reduce the risk of injury by preparing!
When a horse is going through specific injury rehabilitation there will be an individual plan from your vet and physio to follow. When outside of this scenario, I love using cross training as a great exercise regime, and it works well for most horses!
Doing a few different types of exercise really does help your horse, in body and mind! From a body perspective, if we are doing the same schooling exercises every single day, the horse can get sore and tired...there is actually a term for this, DOMS - delay onset muscle soreness - which can be the start of overuse injuries. By mixing the work up a bit over the week, we can ask the horses body to do different tasks, and can actually strengthen them up much more effectively!
I always recommend horses doing a couple of days a week of non-ridden work too, to take the weight of the saddle and rider off the horses back, and allow them to work unweighted...you can affect their posture and movement really well from the ground.
So a little practical task for you! What do you need to improve with your horse? What does he/she struggle with? What could you add into your exercise regime to help? Do you need to go through a core strengthening rehab? Do you need to step back from riding for a few weeks to address a movement issue? Does your horse need more flexibility to help improve your competition scores? Does your horse need more fittening work?
Once you are clear on what you need to improve with your horse, you can add in some 'rehabilitation of body/movement' exercises to your exercise routine, as a 'base layer', a non-negotiable part of your exercise regime! This could be core exercises, in hand exercises, corrective lunge work, long reining, regular pole work, whatever it is that will improve your horses weak areas. Adding in a few corrective sessions per week on your horses weakness, or spending 10 minutes on correcting something prior to your usual exercise session, can be a great way of weaving in some rehab work!
Example: my horse is 17 now, and he's been through various injuries, so I keep him in regular light work, and some of the non-negotiables for me in terms of my exercise rehab frame of mind for him are...core exercises most days to help his back and core strength, walk pole work to help his flexibility and core strength, in hand exercises to keep his mind and body functioning (!)...these are things I need to keep working on specifically with him.
I love exercise planning for clients horses, it really seems to motivate the horse owner and keep them on track when they have a few months of work ahead of them to get to where they want to be! In one of the next posts I will be discussing exercise planning in a bit more detail so look out for that blog!
***HH readers DISCOUNT CODE!! 20% off ALL ONLINE COURSES and COURSE BUNDLES on my website! Just use the code HH20 at checkout! If you want to add my recommended exercises to your routine, take a look at my Training page, link below, where I have online courses on: Core Exercises, In Hand Exercises, How to massage your horse, and Developing Correct Movement in the horse!