Stretching Exercise

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I just learned stretching out and down at the trot from a visiting trainer with a dressage background.? Enclosed is a photo that I love because my mare is in balance, moving forward and fluidly.? I'm an experienced hunter/jumper rider but this is the first time I've learned of this exercise.? Are there more goodies like this I should know about'

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman responds: Lots of goodies.? Start with a classic H/J book, ?Anne Kursinski?s Riding and Jumping Clinic? (available at www.horsebooksetc.com, 800-952-5813).

?Long and low? (the dressage world also calls it ?stretchy chewy?) is right there on page 135, along with a lot of other good flatwork suggestions, since Kursinski has an excellent background in dressage. Kursinski classifies ?long and low? as part of advanced flatwork, however, while it's introduced early in dressage training to use in warm-up/cool-down and also to help the horse seek the bit and relax his top line at any time, hence that supple trot gait you're enjoying?just be sure to post the trot when you do it.

You can find lots of other books with dressage exercises if you don't have a local dressage instructor who can help you with cross-training basic dressage work. The next starter dressage exercise you might investigate is leg-yield, which helps your horse respond to leg aids, half-halt on the outside rein, engage his stomach muscles and soften down across the withers.

ANXIOUS WHEN ALONE

I board my horse and ride at odd times compared to the majority of the other boarders. How can I get my horse to behave quietly and safely when He's on his own'? it's gotten to the point that even riding in the attached indoor arena causes jigging, spooking and yelling to other horses. I've heard about the buddy sour trick of riding with another horse and getting farther and farther apart gradually, bringing them back together before the silly one gets frightened, but this isn?t a possibility for me. What can I do'

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds: Your experience can be one of the most frustrating with horses. You want to grab your horse by the cheeks and say, ?you'll be just fine if you listen to me and do your job.? But, alas, horses can neither understand most of our words nor reason.

So our job is to translate these words into a language the horse can understand and to convince him of their truth.

My first suggestion may be the hardest for you, because it's mental, and it may require you to ride with a rather different attitude. You must approach your horse and his behavior positively and calmly. Try not to allow yourself to become frightened or angered by his behavior. You have to stay relaxed and confident, an attitude that will then impart a relaxed and confident attitude to him.

Why is this key' Because horses respond to our attitudes and emotions. If you're tense and anxious, it makes them tense and anxious. Horses are prey animals, and one of the ways they've stayed alive is being aware of the attitudes of those around them. If you're worried about something, instinct tells them they should be worried too. But if you're not worried, they won?t?usually?need to worry either.

My second suggestion should help both of you become mentally calm. I'll bet that when your horse is calling and prancing, you're just walking him around on a loose rein, hoping that if you don't bother him, he'll magically relax. that's not likely to happen.

So put him to work. Work on bending through the corners. Do circles, serpentines, transitions. Jump. Do things that your discipline requires. Make yourself concentrate on your tasks, thus requiring him to concentrate too.

My third?and related?suggestion is to come up with new challenges in that work, to force you both concentrate on what you're doing, instead of on the environment. My column in our January issue gave you numerous suggestions for working with poles. But you can do harder exercises of any kind. Ride outside the indoor ring. Stretch yourselves physically and mentally to make you both more confident, in yourselves and each other.

In addition to these riding suggestions, take a hard look at how you manage your horse's life. Does he get turned out in a pasture, or does he stand in a stall all day and night' Almost all horses are more relaxed if they can get out. If he does get turned out, is he alone or in a small group' Some are happy alone, others are much happier with a friend or three. If no turnout is available, how about a run off his stall, next to a horse or two'

How many horses live at your barn' Often horses who are anxious about their buddies in a barn with only one or two other horses become less so at a bigger barn. They seem to get less worried about leaving a specific horse or two when they're surrounded by a larger group that they're always leaving. I've seen horses reform when they move to a larger barn.

It sounds as if you're already at a good-size barn, though. So maybe there is something about this barn?s layout that drives your horse crazy' Analyze what he likes and doesn't like and see if you can make a change in his management there. If you can't, perhaps you can move to another barn where you can make those changes.

GRAZING THE IR HORSE

My horse was recently diagnosed as insulin-resistant. I am depressed at the thought of him not being able to go out in the pasture with the other horses, and he will be stressed by it. And he goes nuts in a muzzle. Are there other options so he can graze'

Contributing Nutrition Editor Dr. Juliet Getty responds: Controlled grazing for the insulin-resistant horse is possible, but it will require attention to detail. The sugar, fructan, and starch levels of living grass are lowest in the early morning. As grass is exposed to sunlight, it produces more NSC, making late afternoon the most hazardous for the easykeeper insulin-resistant horse. Grass is also more dangerous in the early spring and late fall when the thermometer stays below 40° F overnight, raising the NSC levels.

How grasses respond to cold weather varies between grass species. Cool-season grasses?such as brome, timothy, orchardgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, and perennial rye?preferentially use fructans as their storage carbohydrate, which allows them continued growth into the colder months. Since cool-season grasses grow more slowly and can even go dormant in hot weather, insulin resistant horses can likely graze on them during the mid to late summer months.

Warm-season grasses?such as Bermuda, buffalo grass, bahiagrass, Tifton, and native prairie grasses?produce little to no fructan. They quickly go dormant during colder months but can withstand summer heat with continued growth.

Depending on your pasture, your horses may be able to graze only in ?safer? seasons: summer for cold-season grasses, winter for warm-season grasses. The best way to make this determination, however, is to test your pasture. Equi-Analytical Labs offers instructions on their website (www.equi-analytical.com, 877-819-4110).

During the most dangerous grazing times, move your horse to a dry lot and feed a low NSC hay (free-choice). You can use a slow feeder or small-holes hay bag to help the horse eat hay more slowly, while still providing hay 24/7. don't just force him to eat all his hay out of the device right away, though. Give your horse time to acclimate to the slow-feeding device by also providing loose hay, gradually making the transition. This helps avoid stress, and stress ultimately causes insulin to rise, which could induce a laminitis attack.

For horses who don't mind a grazing muzzle, choose one that has a large enough opening to allow for small amounts of grazing as well as the ability to drink water. Horse Journal?s favorite muzzle is the Best Friend Muzzle at (www.bestfriendequine.com, 800-681-2495). Whatever you choose, make sure the horse can drink while wearing the muzzle and that water can drain from the muzzle.