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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

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The Women & Horses Newsletter - March 2004

Spring Tips for Horse Lovers

It is such an invigorating time of year we are in right now. All over the U.S. Spring is beginning

to peak through the permafrost. The days are getting longer and all of us feel the affects of the increase in the light.

Mares feel the affects of the light in their retinas which in turn stimulates the pituitary gland which in turn releases FSH and then LH into the reproductive system. Their cycles will start again now, or for those mares that never completely go dormant, the cycles will intensify. You will notice your mare being a bit more on edge and more sensitive as if she has just been awoken from a long winter’s nap. Typically, their coats will dapple out and become very shiny to attract any stallion nearby. I call this her spring bloom.

Don’t be surprised if your mare is not as focused in her work as usual or allowing you to sit deeply on her back for the next few months, her entire body is being stimulated by the release of hormones into her system. From February through July mares and stallions are thinking about breeding.

1) Here are a few ways to help both of you through the breeding season.

Mares:

Ear Staples: Ask your veterinarian if he or she will place surgical staples on the endocrine points inside the mare’s ears. I have had this done for Anna and it is very easy. Your vet may have to give your mare a sedative if she is touchy about her ears, otherwise it can be done quickly without any medication.

Herbs: Hilton Herbs makes a Regulate Mare formula which comes in dry and wet forms to be placed in the feed. If you are competing make sure you get the Valerian Free variety. I use this with Anna and it is a wonderful product. She gets the dry herbs mixed in with her grain once per day and it just balances out her behavior. She still cycles normally and she is still a mare but it softens the highs and lows while she is in heat.

Regumate: This is the strongest remedy for hormonal issues on the market. It is expensive and messy but does work. For the mare that is highly hormonally charged this may be your best option. The mare gets 10ccs of the product in her grain once daily. Women have to be careful not to let the product touch their skin as it may affect her periods and reproductive cycling.

Ovariectomy: This is a surgical procedure where the ovaries are removed with a laparoscope. Small incisions are made on either side of the mare’s flanks where the laparoscope is inserted and the ovaries are removed. If you are not planning on breeding the mare this is certainly a good option costing around $1200.

Aromatherapy: There are several good aromatherapy products on the market or at your local alternative health care store. Chamisa Ridge and Cheval International have the best selection I have seen. Basically you are looking for a tincture that has a balancing and quieting quality for mares. You simply place a dot of the formula at the base of each nostril before work or whenever you need the mare’s attention to be focused on you.

Body work therapy: Magnets, massages, laser light therapy and myo-fascial work will all help your mare be more comfortable while she is in heat.

Stallions:

Herbs and aromatherapy will help you the most with your stallion during this highly charged time. Also putting a dab of Vick’s vapo rub in his nostrils will help to keep the pheromones from going up into his nasal cavity and stimulating him.

2) As the sun intensifies it may bleach out your horse’s coat color. There are all-natural internal sun screens available through Cheval International (or SmartPak) which I am going to try this year. Instead of fly sheeting all of the time, using a topical, or keeping them in their stalls during the daylight hours, feed a supplement which is designed to resist fading and maintain the horse’s color.

3) Give your horse a spa day every now and then while he or she is coming back into regular work. As you build your horse’s fitness this Spring notice that he or she may be muscle sore and need some assistance from you to stretch, release and loosen those tight and sore areas. I usually start with rubbing roller magnets all over my horse’s body and this makes her relax completely. Then I take each leg forward, sideways and back doing tiny circles each direction and slowly letting the lower leg down to the ground. By this time her ankles almost touch the ground as she has dropped her shoulder or hip in relaxation. Thirdly, I wring out hot water soaked towels and drape them over her back and croup. I will usually let each towel sit on her for 10 minutes, I repeat this 3 times. If you have access to a wash stall you could let warm water fall over her back for 10 minutes. After this is done I usually place a sheet or cooler over her back while I go over her with my hands.

Finally, I will run my hands over her tight spots to find any leftover knots or tensions that are left and massage them out. I will finish with some Arnica Liniment over the sore spots such as her groin muscles and hamstrings to heal the inflamed soft tissue.

This may sound like a great deal of work but it pays off immensely in your horse’s comfort and willingness to work. Working and pushing your horse through his/her soreness without paying attention to their body development will only cause tension in their nervous system and more tightness in their neck and back to compensate. Take an hour and give your horse a spa day. They will love you for it.

4) Fix your horse and yourself. If you notice your horse is having a problem check yourself out too. Many times we will have our horse fixed and our body issues complicate the problem and it reoccurs.

For instance, my mare recently twisted her sacrum and two neck vertebrae out of alignment from bucking and playing hard on the lunge line and doing some hill work the next day. I had the veterinary chiropractor come out and work on Anna and her alignment to correct the problem. I then realized that I might be out of alignment as well and went to my chiropractor for a check up. Indeed my sacrum was twisted to the right and I had a muscle strain pulling it out of place. If I had not addressed my issues then my lack of straightness would have fed into her injuries and caused us more problems and more injuries. Both you and your horse have to be corrected when a misalignment happens. In your riding work focus on being straight and even all the time.

5) Teeth floating. When your veterinarian comes out to give your horse his/her Spring shots have the vet also check your horse’s mouth and jaw joint. Or better yet have a professional equine dentist go over your horse’s mouth at least once per year to smooth out sharp edges, check for abscesses, level and balance the horse’s glide in his/her bite and chewing. (Many times vets will simply give a cursory going over and filing while much more is required to make a difference.)

I have my mare checked every 6 months by a professional dentist because she demands it. She has gotten used to a comfortable mouth and so now whenever she feels any discomfort she tells me by getting very busy with her mouth during her work and tilting her head in discomfort. My dentist gives her a “performance float” which smoothes out any rough or sharp edges. He doesn’t take any height off the teeth just rounds out the bit seat and any other uncomfortable areas. This makes both of us very happy.

6) West Nile Virus. Talk to your vet about this virus in your area. It is forecast to be rampant again this year. It is very bad here in Colorado and everyone I know vaccinates twice during the warm months as a preventive measure.

7) Now for you!! I know you really don’t want to hear this but you must be ready for riding now too. If you can, take a Pilates class, and never stop. Or at least get the videos and a ball and start working on strengthening your abdominal core. I plan to make Pilates a lifelong practice. It has greatly improved my riding ability and lowered my discomfort and injury factors.

I see many women who constantly struggle to ride western pleasure, or dressage, or hunters, whatever, when they do not have to struggle if they will put body work into their lives. Your horse will be more manageable, you will accomplish more, you will have less wear and tear on your joints and you will be so proud of your partnership! Stop the endless cycle of trying and trying and never getting better. Are you taking care of your body? Does your saddle support and fit you properly? Please for your horse’s sake do something to improve your own fitness level.

Keep your email questions coming; I enjoy hearing from all of you. I am currently planning clinics in Des Moines, IA for early May and Santa Fe/Albuquerque, NM for later May and taking on private students locally.

Happy Riding! Mary

Equestrian Resources PO Box 20187 Boulder, CO 80308 USA

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