Training Balance: Mustang Shiloh still requires balance training at our one year mark, with pics, video (and resources) of how far we’ve come and where we’re headed.
I’ve got two goals with this article: to raise awareness about how pain factors into behavioral issues and that our beloved mustangs may not be all we hoped. I’m aware of more than a few heart breakers returned to BLM for orthopedic and neurological issues. I wonder how many horses returned for behavior issues are simply in pain? How effective is it to punish a horse for trying to communicate that it hurts? How much are balance issues involved?
For most of us, our journey with our wild one(s) is an exploration. No two horses are the same physically, in temperment or history and honestly, we don’t know for sure what’s coming.
I would never have considered buying a horse like Shiloh. She came with physical and emotional baggage. In Shiloh I got a teacher. Not a nice teacher, a challenging teacher. She asked me to take my expertise as a bodyworker and biomechanist, trainer, teacher and coach, and translate that to the equine body/mind. I’ve always been a trainer. Of dogs, cats (yes, cats), horses and all the critters an animal crazy kid feels compelled to train. Agility for frogs? No problem. I jumped at the chance to do their last chicken clicker training with the Baileys (B.F. Skinners assisitants) in the 90s. The thread through all these things is neuroscience. I always say, I don’t train bodies. I train brains, i.e., neural networks.
Shiloh was never a 90 day horse, she came with issues. Condition, attitude, emotional and orthopedic “challenges” as we like to say. During the first months I often became disheartened by her crappy attitude, but the gift of having seen how she moved in the wild gave me faith. Where we landed in Colorado, the universe provided me with a dream team of farrier, veterinary acupuncturist and equine chiropractor, all expert horsewomen and advanced Tellington trainers (contact info below). They helped me understand her functional short leg syndrome and other joint issues. In December I bought the Masterson Method book on light touch mobilization, and the results were so astounding I took the training course in January. Once Shiloh began to trust that I was “hearing” her, the defensive nipping stopped. It was her way of saying, “Hey! It hurts there!” She had hurts all over.
Got my first ride in Feb, but after the third ride, she let me know she hurt by biting my feet in the stirrups. We backed up. More bodywork, more gym work on the ground to help her develop balance, motor control and abdominal strength. We resumed riding in April and went on our first trail ride in May. I finally bitted her in Sept so I can ask for more detailed movement. I still have not found a western saddle to fit her ginormous shoulders, that doesn’t cost several thousand dollars.
This link shows how she moved in October 2015, and now in September 2016. We’re basically peeling an onion. As one issue gets addressed, the underlying issue reveals itself. Video link here: Longing For Flexibility and Balance
Hard to see without freeze framing, I grabbed these screen shots to show the shear forces that could eventually ruin her joints. Especially from the knees on down. This is just an easy trot, asking for bend.
Here’s a video link comparing Feb to Sept 2016 of platform work. Granted, I’m learning too, so my performance in Feb leaves something to be desired… Shiloh Platform Feb-Sept 2016
And some video of me stretching her. This she has only allowed me to do over the last month and we still have a way to go. Video link here:
All this sounds expensive, doesn’t it? Many people resist spending on alternative medicine and therapeutic training for their horses. I look at this year’s expenditure $1,430, a little over $100/mo, as an investment in the future and of having a horse that will, hopefully, remain sound. It’s not my biggest expense and will probably (hopefully) not be as much next year. Add $450 for the Masterson Training, which is highly recommended for anyone with a horse. (The book is clear, concise and about $20.) I could not afford to pay someone else for the hundreds of hours of bodywork and neither would it have created the trust my horse has in me.
Masterson Method: https://www.mastersonmethod.com/
Tellington Touch: http://www.ttouch.com/
Dr. Kerry Ridgway: Low Heel/High Heel Syndrome
My practitioner angels, from Central Colorado to the Front Range:
Eryn Wolfwalker, Farrier extraordinaire, Tellington Training, nutrition, homeopathy and on and on… 303-453-9886
Dr. Janet Varhus, Holistic DVM, Acupuncture, Tellington, Cranial-Sacral. Studied extensively with Dr. Kerry Ridgway. All round gifted healer… 719-539-1086 www.animalcareponcha.com
Dr. Kris Ahlberg, DVM, Chiropractic, Acupuncture. Likewise a wealth of scientific and training knowledge. 303-816-6473