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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

The Women & Horses Newsletter - February 2003
When the Elements Come Together,
Growth and Soundness Result
read previous newsletters

              ~~~~~~~From Mary D. Midkiff~~~~~~~

   Contents:
     1. Reminder: Upcoming Events
     2. Article:  When the Elements Come Together, 
                     Growth and Soundness Result
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1. Upcoming Events - Please come if you can.
         PLEASE NOTE: These events are tentative. Please confirm
              in advance.

    You'll find the complete Calendar here:
    http://www.womenandhorses.com/appear2002.html 

    * March 12-16 Harness Tracks of America Annual Convention
      Panel Discussion on women in racing
      Ft. Lauderdale, FL

    * April 4-6, 2003
      Iowa Horse Fair
      Speaker and Clinician
      Des Moines, IA

    * April 23-26 
      Rolex KY 
      Three-Day Event
      Lexington, KY 
      Book signings at the Primedia Magazine Booth

    * May 2-4  New Mexico Horse Fair
      Speaker and Clinician
      Albuquerque, NM

    * September 2003
      Martha's Vineyard Women & Horses Clinic
      Two Day Clinic
      Martha's Vineyard, MA
    * November 2003
      Equine Affaire
      Speaker and Clinician
      West Springfield, MA
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2. When the Elements Come Together, Growth and Soundness Result
By Mary D. Midkiff

How can a 10-year-old horse become increasingly sound over time?
How can an older horse grow? Typically, as a horse ages, 
shouldnít we see more wear and tear? As I have gotten to know my
horse Anna since we became partners a year and a half ago, she 
has gained strength, soundness and size. This development has 
been a wonder to me. I would have expected it with a young horse,
but Anna is a made, mature performance horse and still she is 
demonstrating these growing qualities.  

Having witnessed these positive changes, Iíve come to believe 
that when the right elements are brought together, growth and 
soundness are possible for any horse of any age!

The first element is Annaís health and body condition. Anna came
to me in reasonably good health and condition but needed more 
support through balanced feet and shoeing, master dentistry 
twice per year (much more than just a float), chiropractic 
adjustments and acupuncture for specific issues, and massage 
treatments. Your horse may not need all those elements, or may
need others, but in Annaís case she has become much more 
comfortable and free in her body, which ultimately impacts her
attitude and behavior in a positive way.  

Balancing the horseís body is a vital step to fit condition and
a quiet, responsive nervous system. All horses, especially the 
hot-blooded horses like Arabians or Thoroughbreds, have 
sensitive nervous systems which must be managed properly for 
safety, training and handling. Their nervous systems are 
vulnerable and often difficult to adjust, particularly when 
their bodies are not comfortable and balanced. Discomfort and
lack of balance can lead to lameness, injury and danger. In the
face of physical and systemic problems, many horses including 
the less sensitive breeds may shut down and crawl into a mental
cave to protect themselves while still (grudgingly) keeping up 
a work schedule for you.  

Since the horse canít articulate a difficulty or call in a 
dentist or a massage therapist, itís your job to identify and 
treat the problems. This is the beginning of the strength, 
growth, and soundness objective.

Secondly, the saddle fit must be considered. Iíve written about
this subject before, and I canít emphasize and re-emphasize it 
enough. The saddle is the support mechanism for the horse and 
for you, and the support system has to work during movement. A 
properly fitted saddle should allow the back to grow and expand
over time, the back muscles to move freely within the entire 
muscular skeletal system from head to tail, and the shoulder to
operate unimpeded. This is a tall order, but it can be achieved.
There are many saddles out there that will suit your specific 
situation. Once you find a saddle that meets these goals and 
fits you comfortably too, your horse will grow, get stronger, 
sounder and be more willing to carry you in a positive and 
relaxed manner. Anna is living proof. Iím looking forward to
taking her back and shoulder measurements again this autumn and
comparing them to the measurements taken last year.

Thirdly, you, the rider/partner, must be aligned, balanced, and
feel light to the horse while you are mounted and moving. To 
achieve this I have been working with Peggy Cummings and her 
"School of Connected Riding?" (www.peggycummings.com).  My own
riding work as well as my teaching continues to deepen in this
respect. A balanced, aligned body begins with a neutral pelvis,
sitting in the middle of your seat bones. The seat bones of 
women are like the runners on a sleigh: there is a weight-
bearing place in the middle of the bone where the pelvis is the
most supported. It is essential for each of us to find this 
place. (The techniques to finding neutral pelvis and a released
back are in my book Fitness, Performance and the Female 
Equestrian.)  \The Pilates technique is a relatively new (to 
horse sports) and excellent way to find and maintain neutral 
pelvis through exercise.

The next step is the integration and alignment of the entire 
upper body, from the hip joint to the top of the head, over the
neutral pelvis. There should be no break in the middle or at 
the waist of the upper body. Then check your position with 
freedom and independence of the legs. Especially for women, the
knees should always be open and slightly off the saddle. This is
the only way to keep your seat deep and grounded and keep the 
hip joint open and moving properly. Again, you can look to my 
book for a more extensive discussion.  


For the horse, the end result of all these elements working 
together is a supportive and quiet way of going under saddle; 
cold, tight legs; and sound feet. This in turn leads to a 
leveling off and then maintenance of a healthy weight with 
minimal weight fluctuation; maximum use of feed and fiber; 
ability to hold a fit condition without a lot of work; willing-
ness to stretch and collect; willingness and ability to lift the
rib cage and the shoulders (the frame) and get off the forehand;
and, perhaps most gratifyingly, an accepting work ethic.

Having partnered with so many mares, I also lean toward building
in an additional element - a supportive hormonal supplement, 
especially in the spring breeding months. I have used Regumate 
in the past with Theo, who was a very hot mare with extreme 
cycles. The Regumate worked beautifully for her.  Anna, on the
other hand, has mild cycles and does not need a significant 
chemical influence. Even with mild cycles, though, the hormones 
affect her mental focus and play havoc on her nervous system. 
For Anna, I am experimenting with Hilton Herbs Regulate 
(Valerian-free) herbal formula, mixed in with her feed. Iíll let
you know how it goes.

I have not mentioned other elements such as training, stretching
and general handling techniques for the horse. I will address 
these in the next issue of my newsletter.

It is a beautiful thing to see the elements come together. Anna
and I are building on these elements together. Anna is happy, 
quiet, and comfortable in her attitude and behavior, her muscles
are smooth, full and developed without bulges or deficits, and
she is carrying both of us through movement in a light and 
heightened way, which ultimately saves us both from body damage
and breakdown.  

With attention from you to these elements, your horse(s) also 
can achieve growth, strength and soundness no matter their age,
size or temperament.

 - Mary D. Midkiff

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           Women have a special magic with horses...
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Equestrian Resources, Inc.
PO Box 20187
Boulder, CO 80308
Phone 303-544-0333 | Fax 303-544-0331
mailto:mmidkiff@womenandhorses.com
http://www.womenandhorses.com
(c)2003 All rights reserved.
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