Monday, April 4, 2016

Kenny's Fitness Corner: A Triple Whammy Squat

 by Mary Gallagher, with coach Kenny Hall, fitness trainer

During our Monday morning Fitness for Riders class, I asked Kenny to give me and our students an exercise to help with shoulder position, and he gave us a triple whammy: an exercise to work on our 1) balance, 2) seat position in the saddle, as I 3) open up our shoulders. Once again, I got to be the model for this post:

A Horse, a Human, and a Microbe walk into a Barn…..

by Kip Tulin

Note: There are quite a few 50-cent words in here which you may feel free to skip past in search of Dr. Tulin's point about feed and supplementation. Science geeks, enjoy! -MG

humans, horses, dog, and gazillions of microbes...
….and while hanging out around the treat bin, they decide to find out if they have anything at all in common. Horse and human, sure. But a microbe?? Turns out all three (human, horse, microbe) have more in common than you might think: they—and I might as well say ‘we’— all have DNA made up of the same four ‘letters’ (called nucleotides) and they all use groups of three of these letters (triplets) to code for the the same twenty ‘building blocks’ (amino acids). It is truly amazing to think that all of the immensely diverse living things on earth, whether single celled, plant, insect, or animal use the same basic code of life.

The Transformation of Niko's Feet: Progress Report

 by Mary Gallagher

“My horse has bad feet and can’t be ridden without shoes.” It’s a sentence I hear too often. At Freedom Farm, hoof care and rehabilitation are part of our creed and a cornerstone of our work. This post is about sharing one horse’s story, but it is certainly not unique to him! We’ll be sharing more and offering classes in trimming and hoof care, so I hope this post will offer some inspiration on the subject. - MG

As I was trimming Niko’s feet this week I thought it would be nice to give everyone a look at what has changed in the two years he has been without shoes.

Niko moved off the rubber floor and has been living out with one of the gelding herds 24/7 for about 8 months now and doing great. His training continues with less and less need for hoof boots.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Connecting the Dots: How Horses Learn

 by Mary Gallagher

Horses are highly perceptive animals who learn faster than humans do.  They have to learn fast to survive as prey animals. In our human effort to communicate with the horse, we tend to forget to take advantage of their quick learning abilities. In our rush to fulfill our agenda, we go too quickly and sometimes impatiently, through force (e.g., heavier bits and leverage reins) which causes the horse to engage his survival instincts, rather than his intellect. When the horse is in survival mode, there is no lasting learning effect on the horse. He is merely trying to live for another day; there is no cooperation or communication happening.

So what to do? Learn to call on their intelligence and  quick learning abilities in our interactions with them. Horses love to learn, and relate best to clear patterns that can be broken into clear parts. They understand intentions and are masters at reading body language; connecting the dots is their superpower. So we must slow ourselves down and learn how to break our ideas into smaller dots that the horse can enjoy connecting.

If we can break our ideas down into smaller and smaller pieces for the horse he will connect the dots on his own. Try slowing things down to a walk. Do your training in the walk first and evaluate how well your horse is getting what it is you are teaching. If he is having trouble, give him simpler tasks (or easier dots) to interpret. When you are sure he understands the lesson, then try it at the trot. When we train at the walk first, it gives us the time to let the horse soak on a particular part of a lesson he may be having trouble understanding. Also, we can work on ourselves, making sure all our aids are working softly. If you develop the skill of slowing down and making smaller, simpler dots for the horse to connect when needed, you will find you do not need to repeat lessons, and your training will actually go faster.

Soleus and Gastroc Stretches: Good for Riders!

by Mary Gallagher, with Kenny Hall, fitness coach

I asked Kenny Hall, our Riders Fitness coach to give us some tips on maintaining great equitation by helping riders lower their center of gravity, utilizing the shock absorbing abilities in their ankles. Here is a summary of our exchange by email and during workouts. -MG

Mary Gallagher: Kenny, we coach riders in correct posture and center of gravity, supported by flexible, strong ankles. Can you give us some insight about that, and any exercise tips?

Kenny Hall: Sounds like you could focus on a commonly tight muscle in the body in the calf called the soleus. The soleus muscle helps us maintain good posture and keeps us from falling forward. Also, a flexible soleus muscle will act as a shock absorber for any athlete or rider, helping them to withstand impact while keeping a correct posture. Keeping this muscle toned and flexible is a must for a correct riding position.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Springtime means sunshine, green grass, and risk of laminitis!

by Barbara Noble

With the warmer weather and another early spring, laminitis is a good topic for all horse owners to have on their mind. Our northwestern grass will soon be growing high, and also high in sugar. All horse owners could benefit from knowing about the risk of laminitis, and being proactive in preventing it, whether or not their horse is showing symptoms. Horses prone to laminitis of the most common variety are thought to be horses with an inherited gene which predisposes them to obesity (the easy keeper type) and a different metabolism of carbohydrates. Even if your horse does not have laminitis, you can be proactive and possibly avoid this condition altogether.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Transformation of Niko: Mary Gallagher comments

by Mary Gallagher

Niko recently.
Michelle’s series on the transformation of her off-track Thoroughbred, Niko, is a testimony to time,
healing, balance and perseverance as cornerstones of natural horsemanship. We were privileged to welcome Niko to Freedom Farm and help with his transition from promising but challenged prospect, to the happy, healthy guy he is today. Michelle has done a great job of sharing her journey with Niko, and now Jess Crouch and I are relating some of our contributions along the way. I hope this article series will prove helpful and maybe even inspirational to anyone with a horse in need of transformation.