This may be my favorite book review ever. The product is fabulous and the possibilities it suggests endless. Horse geeks won’t be able to help themselves – but the true value of how-to books is whether or not they deliver. This one does, which is important when dealing with residual physical issues from an alligator attack. (You read that right.)
Every goal is achievable if you’re both willing and able to do what is required. Knowing what to do is a matter of ability. Once you realize you’re out of ideas and don’t know what to do next, motivation sends you searching for information.
The Geriatric Horse Who Inspired Me to Learn
Over the years I’ve rehabbed a bunch of horses with various maladies or injuries, but never an old horse. Enter Q, a trained horse we sold at the age of three, having spent eighteen years with one adoring owner, returning home when health issues made it impossible for her to keep him.
Once the basics were handled, including multiple chiropractic adjustments, eliminating chronic hoof issues, solving issue and weight concerns, and convincing Q that he really wasn’t retired, it was time to get serious about muscle tone, strength, flexibility, and balance.
Intriguing Chapter Headings
- Corrective Exercise to Create New Patterns – 12 exercises
- Tuning Up Postural Muscles – 12 exercises
- Simple Bodywork to Break Bad Habits – 10 exercises
- Getting the Most From Groundwork – 9 exercises
- Exercises and Tips to Follow Every Day – 12 exercises
- Chronic Circulatory Issues, Basic Stability, Heart Murmur, and Arthritis
During the first nine months Q was home he recovered lots of ground, but poor muscle tone, chronic ventral edema, varicose veins, and basic stability were still problems. I tried at least twenty methods to keep him moving forward, but none worked satisfactorily. We were stuck. Q has a heart murmur and arthritis, normal conditions for a horse born in 1997, but he has one unusual complication to consider.
Complications From An Alligator Attack
One of the biggest complications to Q’s recovery are the residual abnormalities from an alligator attack. Ten years ago Q lived in Florida, meeting an alligator up close and personal. So close that the alligator made off with a hunk of skin and tissue, exposing Q’s ribs, leaving a twelve- by nine-inch square hole. The scar is interesting and remarkably small for the size of the original injury, a miracle only made possible by the unwavering devotion of his registered nurse owner.
I didn’t appreciate the deficits Q had until I read Jec Ballou‘s book. The fascia is a “body-wide cloth of fibrous collagen” enveloping and connecting muscles, nerves, veins, and organs. Restrictions appear when fascia loses it’s glide. If the fascia is compromised, I suspect the lymph system is as well.
The alligator got away with a portion of Q’s fascia, creating an obvious interruption is how one body part communicates or feeds another. The natural bridge connecting the front and back of Q’s left side is gone, impacting circulation of several kinds. A decade later I’m dealing with the fallout.
Senior Horses Present Unique Challenges
Like most trainers, I’m good with young horses, but this old gelding presents a new challenge. While searching for more ideas and exercises I discovered 55 Corrective Exercises for Horses – Resolving Postural Problems, Improving Movement Patterns, and Preventing Injury.
The reviews and contents sounded good, so I ordered a copy. If you don’t have time to read the rest, I’ll make it clear – I’m a fan! The book itself is beautiful, brilliant graphics and photographs printed on a sturdy cardboard cover, large spiral spine that makes flipping generously-weighted glossy pages a convenient pleasure.
Ground and mounted exercises are equally divided, ranging from Tail Circles (pg 85) to Gearing Up to Gallup (p146.) Simple terms, ordered lists and large professional-quality photographs explain and illustrate each exercise.
The author offers reasons to consider adding a particular exercise to your routine as well as its specific benefit. You’ll find a wealth of information in 55 Exercises, even if your horse is in work with no known problems.
Routines for Specific Horse Types
The author provides guidance as well as grouping selected exercises for horses with definite needs, including:
- Therapeutic Warm-Up for Rehabilitating the Back
- Basic Cardio Conditioning
- Rehab Work Schedule Following Soft-Tissue Injury
- General Physical Therapy Programs for Gaited Horses, Senior Horses, and Three to Four-Year Olds
Efficacy of Corrective Exercises for Horses
The book is fantastic, but the important question is “Do the exercises work?”
Yes! Not only with Q, but the exercises sparked creativity that benefits me and all my horses. No one else has a big issue, yet all improved in performance, balance, and connectedness. I haven’t tried all 55 exercises, but I’ve tried more than half. Some need ground poles, some don’t.
If your horse is sound but you don’t ride for some reason, try Exercise 16, Straddle a Single Pole. You’ll quickly discover opportunities to improve communication and connection. It’s simple, quiet, calming, requires only one pole with very little space, and is deceptively difficult.
Even if you ride a dozen head a day, try the exercise anyway. It’s an eye-opener.
I’ve done Exercise 16 with all my horses. The dirty gray horse in the photo is Bo. What’s the best thing you can do on a rainy or sweltering afternoon? Pull out a horse and play!
Amazon lists the hardcover book at $17.67 today, which is what I paid. Money well spent!