Western Pleasure

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You are who your friends are. That adage can apply to horses, too. How we treat them will often be reflected right back at us - for good or bad. Sometimes the difference between a harsh cue and an appropriate one can be subtle. Pressure can be effective, but intensity and timing can make all the difference.

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Head injuries are the most common reason for admission to hospital or death among riders. Sobering statistics reveal the high percentage of equine-related accidents resulting in traumatic brain injury, and helmets have been associated with reducing the risk of traumatic brain injury by as much as 50 percent. Yet many riders still do not wear a helmet.

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There are many reasons, or rather, excuses for not wearing riding helmets. Yet research shows that a properly fitted, safety-approved riding helmet can drastically reduce the risk of head injury. When a rider falls, the head is usually the first thing to impact the ground. The human skull can be shattered on impacts of 7 to 10 kilometers per hour, and horses gallop at over 60 kph. According to the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky, three out of every five equestrian accident deaths are caused by brain injuries, and there is four times the risk of mortality for non-helmeted riders who become injured.

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We breathe more than 20,000 times a day. Most of the time, we don’t give it much thought, since we do it automatically and all seems to go well… except when it doesn’t.

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Many classical dressage masters from the past often praised the merits of long schooling sessions at only the walk. This kind of training refines muscle recruitment, releases tension stored in poor postural habits, and stimulates the slow-twitch fibers used for stabilizing the skeleton. In other words, there is big value in workouts at the walk. And note how I have used the term workouts, since that is how you should think of them. These are purposeful sessions, not strolls.

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Why and when to introduce your horse to lateral work - While they used to be predominantly the domain of prancing dressage horses, lateral movements like shoulder-in and haunches-in offer unrivaled conditioning effects for almost any equine athlete. Exercise science has shown them to be on par with gymnastic routines like hill repeats and cavalletti routines in terms of muscle recruitment, with a bonus of altering motor sensory patterns. Below I will explain how and why you might consider incorporating them.

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Due to its effectiveness in helping the horse carry his body with good form, the longe cavesson is arguably one of the most useful pieces of equipment to own. Yet, only a surprisingly small number of riders who know about it. While early depictions from the 16th century refer mostly to its value in lateral poll flexion, its benefits for groundwork extend to a horse’s entire body. For anyone who performs groundwork it is an indispensable tool, as I will explain. Common misalignments of horses during groundwork include a twisted poll that comes from a handler using a line attached under the chin, or one-sided pressure on the bit when using a bridle. The alignment and state of positive — or negative — tension in the poll directly affects the rest of the body.

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Each of the horse’s gaits offers a unique tool when conditioning for performance and, used correctly, can accomplish results that might otherwise be missed. Optimally, horses should spent equal time in all three gaits during training sessions in order to achieve both looseness and strength. Certain conditioning phases, though, sometimes necessitate prioritizing one gait over another. This article will clarify how and when individual gaits can serve the equine athlete, especially the way he uses his back, and how cavalletti routines can help.

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Function follows form, according to Dr. Trisha Dowling. It’s the conformation or structure of a horse that ultimately determines its athletic function.

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Where Should You Start? By Jec A. Ballou. When spring finally arrives, the sunny riding season ahead can greet riders with both excitement and anxiety. Where do I start, you might wonder as you calculate how unfit your horse has become from a winter of being off work. How long will it take to ease him back to fitness? What sorts of exercises and timelines should I use? In this article, I’ll answer these questions plus offer a simple schedule in addition to some rules you never want to break.

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