Rehabilitation and Retraining
Along with the therapeutic bodywork techniques that I use on horses when called to various competition and race yards, stud farms and private clients, at my home at Carrowgar Stud, near Quin, County Clare, I provide a variety of rehabilitative and retraining services to promote and assist the recovery of a client's horses. One of the primary aims is to improve the balance of the horse. This has a strongly positive effect on both performance and behaviour and can help solve a wide range of difficulties. Using a variety of groundwork exercises to encourage the horse to release tight muscles and lengthen and strengthen the top line enables the horse to use his body more efficiently. My studies with Klaus Schoneich have helped me to focus on improving the straightness and balance of the horse, which aids long-term soundness and ridden longevity.
Tightness, bracing patterns, crookedness, and on-the-forehand tendencies exist in all horses. Some of these patterns came at birth, sometimes horses learn them as soon as they are haltered, bitted and sat on. All levels of competition horses benefit from the combination of bodywork and groundwork exercises, which help to restore function, elasticity, and movement, and which improve circulation and concentration. Riders note that their horses are more balanced, focused, more flexible, and more consistent in their training.
All my young horses begin their training with simple groundwork exercises to help them develop muscular, postural, and movement patterns of self carriage. To achieve this, the horse must be able to lift their musculoskeletal system from down to up, allowing them to shift their weight from side to side and from forehand to haunches, while consistently releasing their poll and the base of their neck, and lifting the back while moving forward. It is beneficial for horses to begin learning about these patterns of self carriage before supporting the weight of a rider.
I start my new-born foals with a simple body wrapping technique which helps them find balance and boundaries within their own bodies. This gentle wrapping works on their central nervous system, and encourages them to find equilibrium and stability within their bodies. Standing four square becomes their default stance, thus encouraging a calm, stress-free horse from a really young age, who accepts being handled without fear or tension in their bodies— a wonderful start!
Frequently we can recognise that a horse with behavioural problems has not been born like that, but has learned to act that way through necessity. Horses are naturally peaceful, sociable, uncomplicated creatures who want a quiet life. Nine times out of ten, if they're behaving strangely it's because a human or two has muddled them up somewhere along the way.
Through the groundwork training, in combination with bodywork, gentle stretching, and mobilisation exercises, huge positive changes in movement, posture, attitude, behaviour, responsiveness, and performance become evident within just a few days of work. A relaxed, stress-free horse who, through skilled training and schooling, learns to move in a balanced way with their weight distributed evenly on both sides is more likely to remain sound in movement, and calm and responsive under saddle.
Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method (TTEAM) focuses on particular groundwork exercises which dramatically expands and improves the horses capacity for learning and cooperation, they improve the horses balance and release fear, tension and discomfort in a way that changes behaviour, influences personality and enhances overall health and well being.
This form of groundwork restores movement, function and elasticity to horses displaying tightness, bracing patterns, crookedness and on the forehand tendencies.
Klaus Schoneich: Straightening The Crooked Horse
Natural crookedness exists in all horses as much as it does in humans; horses are either right or left dominant. If the horse does not move straight then the trapezius muscle creates front end heaviness which creates more crookedness, eg a right fore dominant horse will be hollow when going left and shorten the stride to the right because he loads his weight onto the right forelimb. The right hind then cannot take the same stride length and so the hind limb movement becomes uneven. This is where the diagonal shift starts to cause more and more crookedness. By setting the horse on the centre of gravity – most problems will go, the solution is to change the diagonal shift to the outside hind leg by freeing the neck and shoulder of the sided forelimb which then lifts the forehand. This technique is intensive but you can see and feel changes to the horse's body and movement in a short time frame and quite ordinary horses can become quite majestic in their movement.
Stretching and mobilisation gymnastic exercises
By use of a system of exercises i assist the horse to activate and strengthen specific muscles, mobilize their joints and enhance dynamic stability of the horse's neck back and pelvis. Many of these exercises can be applied to target specific areas of weakness. Muscular strength improves and enhances the horse's strength and balance.