Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Balanced Performance—good health, versatility, and fun as a path to excellence

by Mary Gallagher

In my recent posts, I have been sharing the progress and development of a 4-year old warmblood named Zeus who is in training with me. He came into our lives thanks to Joe Wolter’s clinic here last August. Zeus’s owner, Wendy Comstock, had brought Zeus all the way from her home in Yamhill, Oregon for the clinic. Joe, as always, was incredibly wise and helpful, and Wendy and I also connected regarding Zeus’s further training. At the end of the clinic, Wendy left him with us and he has been a pretty popular guy at the Farm, with his handsome good looks, easygoing, willing personality and eagerness to learn.

I was pleased to welcome Wendy back for a visit last weekend, and we had a chance to get better acquainted. It did not take long to realize we had much in common, with many parallel experiences throughout our lives. Pleased to see Zeus’s progress, Wendy also asked me to coach her and her show horses in what I call Balanced Performance.

Balanced Performance combines the natural lifestyle practiced at Freedom Farm—herd life, natural diet, barefoot conditioning, physical and emotional fitness—while exposing the horse to the many different areas of training we have developed. We like making training purposeful, fun, and interesting, developing a solid foundation for the horse to excel in whatever field the owner is intending to pursue.

Free play...
With Wendy in attendance, we practiced Zeus’s usual warm ups—arena playtime with his favorite play buddies, and ongoing lightness work on line on the hills and log maze in the Emerald Forest. For a new activity, I introduced Zeus to following a cow named Little Red, a slow, friendly yearling bull. (Zeus thought that was pretty cool.) Next we tried Garrocha pole isolations and yields, some liberty jumping in the big round pen close to our covered arena, and a trail ride to Robin Hill Park.
Hello, cow!
All in all, and I think Zeus would agree, it was a pretty fun and engaging set of activities.

Going barefoot. Readers may recall that Zeus was new to barefoot life when he arrived in August; in fact, we removed his shoes that first week.* For now, he wears boots for most of his work to protect his feet while his body kicks into gear, growing stronger hooves. At this point, the nail holes are grown out and healthy new hoof is showing up. We look forward to Zeus enjoying the benefits of strong, flexible feet! (See photos of his feet at end of article.)

Wendy has taken a very proactive approach to Zeus’s nutrition, increasing his protein intake and eliminating inflammatory processed food. I agree heartily with her approach—keeping the body free of inflammation keeps the hoof free of inflammation, and this is huge in our quest to grow feet that can stand up to the rigors of the trail, show jumping ring, and everywhere in between. 

So we are well underway with Zeus’s journey to becoming a show horse. By attending to the whole horse, and especially keeping his bright mind active and growing in so many areas, we support his staying fresh, interested, happy, and looking forward to his athletic work. And that is what Balanced Performance is all about!

* Zeus's feet, so far.

August 29th, just before we removed his shoes:
Front, August 29, 2018

Rear, Aug. 29, 2018
A month or so later, first trim:
First trim, rear feet, late Sept or early Oct. 2018. (Unfortunately we don't have the fronts as well.)

As of this writing, November 7:
November 7, rear
November 7, from the front.

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