It has become the norm to see athletes with different body parts taped up but do you know how this brightly coloured tape works and how it is also great for your horse?
How does Kinesiology Taping work?
Kinesiology tape is different to normal tape, it stretches with the horse (or person) so there is no restriction in the movement. When it is applied to a horse it lifts the hair which creates decompression by lifting the skin, this improves the blood and lymphatic flow in the area. It also relieves pressure from nerves, creating several benefits to a horse.
By applying kinesiology tape to an area of restriction the tissues are able to move more freely, restoring the natural gliding motion. The tape also stimulates the proprioceptor nerves which allows the brain to know where the body part is and how it’s moving. After an injury or trauma these can become altered, stimulating the nerves again improves the horse’s natural movement. This can also decrease the chances of further injury.
When applying tape with more stretch it improves the recoil effect, this gives more support to tissues that have been injured or are weaker due to over stretching or strain.
When muscles become tight there is an increase in pressure on nerves which creates the feeling of pain. As the kinesiology tape reduces friction it also stimulates nerves such as the mechanoreceptors which inhibit the pain generators in the area (nociceptors). When more of the mechanoreceptors are generated this reduces the overall feeling of pain in the area. Combining this with the improved movement of the tissues and increased proprioception allows the horse to move more naturally and freely.
When kinesiology tape is applied to an area of swelling the fluid is able to move more freely and therefore toxins are removed from the area more efficiently. Due to the increase in circulation to the site of swelling essential oxygen and nutrients are able to travel to the area and aid in the healing of the injured site.
So, kinesiology taping has many fantastic benefits, complimenting and improving the effects of a massage, leaving you with one happy and healthy horse.
Strengthening exercises for your horse don’t just have to about strength! You can include strengthening exercises into your warm up to encourage your horse to become more supple and improve their overall going, ensuring the muscles have the flexibility and power to enable the horse to balance and carry themselves.
This exercise is slightly more advance and will work with horse’s who can bend easily and move off of your leg, it works best if you have an arena which is 20m x 60m to allow you sufficient space, without rushing the exercise. You could also do this in hand if you are confident at asking your horse to shoulder in.
Throughout the exercise it is key to maintain a smooth rhythm, if you loose energy in the trot your horse will not be strengthening his muscles. You can ride this exercise in walk to begin with, this allows you to practice in a slower pace and have in your mind the changes in bend before asking your horse to go forward in trot.
In hand exercises are fantastic at building your horse’s strength without him having to balance himself and you. Working your horse in hand can give him a real confidence boost, as well as improving your trust and partnership, so they don't have to only be used if your horse is in rehab.
This exercise improves your horse’s overall flexibility and strengthens his stifle, it also works on strengthening the ligaments in his legs which are susceptible to injury.
The key to this exercise is to encourage your horse to do it slowly as this will build the strength in his stifle, which is key for impulsion from the hindquarters. Make sure you’re using a soft object in case your horse does stand on it, you don’t want him to become startled. You could use a pole on the ground to build your horse's confidence before introducing a hay bale, however only using a pole will not have the same strengthening effect as the bale as the horse will not need to lift as high and stretch as far.
For a horse, when one area of their body is under developed or housing muscular tension, it has an effect on the rest of the body. Muscles have to compensate and can easily become fatigued, which can then cause further tension. Ensuring your horse has sufficient strengthening work in their fitness programme encourages overall balance and symmetry and can improve their overall wellbeing.
When ridden well this simple exercise can strengthen your horse’s hindquarters and improve his balance in your downwards transition from trot to walk. You are looking to encourage your horse to keep his hindlegs underneath him as he moves forward into walk.
Don’t forget you could easily take this exercise out hacking! Although it may seem simple you do need to focus on maintaining a forward rhythm from the slower trot into the walk. You don’t want your horse to fall into the walk or stop abruptly as he will not have his hindlegs underneath him.
Having a strong warm up routine can not only improve your horse’s fitness and prevent muscular tension and injury, it can also improve your overall partnership and trust in each other. Beginning with a loose rein, allowing your horse to walk and stretch gives him time to relax, use this time to also allow yourself to become calm. Think about your breathing and see if you are holding any tension in your body, if you are breathe into the area and encourage the muscles to relax.
Within this exercise you will be working on improving the trust within you and your horse, whilst allowing you both to relax into a good canter rhythm. It is also fantastic for encouraging your horse to push from his hindquarters and improve his balance, allowing him to warm up his back muscles and improving their muscular development.
This exercise is also about your balance and fitness, you want to remain light throughout the exercise otherwise you will be putting too much pressure on your horse. You need to focus on your posture and breathing, using your weight and seat to encourage your horse forward. Keep your leg on to ensure your horse is pushing from behind, if you feel he is running away from you, slow your breathing, ask him to slow with you voice. You are looking to improve your connection with this exercise, allowing your horse to realise you are working together, not against one another.
There are many exercises you can do in hand with your horse, this allows them to strengthen their muscles without carrying your weight. In hand exercises can also be beneficial for improving the overall partnership with your horse. Remember to stay calm in these exercises, particularly if you haven’t done in hand work with your horse before it can often take some time for him to understand what is being asked for him.
In this exercise you will be working on increasing your horse’s core strength as well as improving his overall symmetry. Ensure your horse is confident with reining back, in hand, in a straight line before beginning this exercise.
This exercise may prove quite difficult for your horse, you want to be focused on getting a few good steps back, don’t push your horse too far as he may become unsettled and tense. If he can only manage a few steps stop and praise him. You are looking for your horse to be able step back confidently, taking the same size steps back on each rein. If this isn’t happening it is likely one side is not as developed as the other, he may be housing muscular tension which will also be effecting his ridden work.
When working your horse, no matter their fitness level, an effective warm up can help to prevent muscle tension and injury. Always allow your horse plenty of time to walk and stretch before taking up the reins, this improves your horse’s mobility and allows him to become relaxed before beginning work. From here you can begin your warm up, be focused on what you want to achieve, you want to be increasing your horse’s heart rate so the blood flows to the muscle’s warming them up.
This great exercise helps increase the blood flow and builds up the fitness levels in your horse after their initial walk and stretch.
Craniosacral therapy was developed by an Osteopath, William Sutherland in the early 20th century, Sutherland discovered that the skull was not fixed and in fact there was a rhythm to the movement of the cranial bones.
As a practitioner the focus is on the cranial bones and the sacrum, following the course of the spinal column, looking to restore the natural ‘Craniosacral Rhythm’. This is done by releasing any restricted movement of the bones. There is no physical manipulation as it’s an energy based therapy and works by applying your hands gently to specific areas, allowing the horse’s body to adjust at it’s own pace. The therapy works on the fascial tissue as when this becomes tight and restricted it applies pressure to the bones and can cause them to shift. Working to release these areas returns the body to alignment.
So how does this benefit a massage treatment?
Releasing the fascial tissue and improving the craniosacral rhythm helps improve the horse’s overall wellbeing, it can be beneficial to certain conditions such as issues with the TMJ and has been known to help some cases of head shaking. When the fascial tissue becomes restricted it has an effect not only on the bones but also the muscles as it’s the connective tissue that creates a network through the entire body. By working on the horse’s body as an entirety and restoring it’s natural balance it is enabling the horse to move better, improving their overall flexibility and range of movement and improve their mental wellbeing, reducing anxiety and increasing concentration. All of this can help prevent further injuries and improve the overall partnership of you and your horse.
Arrrggggghhhhh Winter! We can all agree that this Winter has been a bad one. Very wet. Very muddy. Very windy. This seems to have put me into a deep set of the Winter Blues, a midnight blue of Winter if you will. My anxiety has been on quite a high which has made it really difficult for me to find the good things to focus on and my riding confidence with hacking seems to have plummeted. So all in all, like many of us equestrian folk, I had really had enough of Winter.
I get met by little glimpses of hope, the sun shining a little bit brighter and longer. The horses have begun to loose their winter coats, I’m having to get the baby oil out to prevent static and I even have had thinner layers on! Even though there have been these small hints of the drier, warmer weather I’ve still struggled with feeling positive. I seem to have been hit with a lot of challenges lately, including some fatigue and a bad back which has meant my riding has even been on the back burner. It’s difficult to remain positive all the time, I’m not sure it’s even possible and the longer I have stayed in this ‘Winter Midnight Blue’ I’ve questioned myself on whether I can get my positive outlook back at all.
Today though I spotted a daisy! As I was hobbling around poo picking the field, slipping in the mud and had my head spinning with all the things I have to deal with I caught sight of a little white and yellow thing, popping it’s pretty head through the muddy grass. I stopped myself and just stared at this little flower, anyone watching me probably thought I’d completely lost it. I then suddenly became aware of the warmth from the sun, the birds singing and the blue sky. How could I have not noticed all of these things before? I can tell you why, I was too busy in my head, worrying about my challenges. Focusing on the good things around me, seeing my horses enjoying 10 minutes, rug free with the sun on their backs and realising that although, yes, my field was muddy it was firmer than it had been for weeks. So I carried on poo picking the field, with a spring in my limp and continued to notice all the little daisies fighting their way through to the surface to enjoy the sunshine. Now, my challenges have not changed, just my attitude to them has. The little flowers have given me a reminder that there is always hope you just sometimes have to open your eyes from the darkness and look.
So, don’t forget to go spot the daisies.
But I am going to make it my Best Friend.
‘I’m not good enough!’
‘My horse deserves better!’
‘He would go so much nicer with someone else!’
Sound familiar? These are the types of comments I regularly hear in my head. I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect and I am so afraid of failure that I often stop myself from doing what I actually want.
I took Captain competing for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We have spent the past year working on our connection, building up our trust in each other. I knew I had to be strong for him, he looked to me to let him know things were ok so I was trying to remain calm and positive. It didn’t quite work out like that! He was quite tense but considering what he could be like he was brilliant. We went into our first test and he had started to get quite wound up, his head pointed the wrong way the majority of the time and instead of bending round my leg and going into the corners he went side ways. I came out so pleased with him thought but the anxiety and nerves that had been with me before suddenly became frustration. This was NOT at Captain but at myself. ‘It’s your fault’, ‘Captain should have a better rider’, ‘You’ve let him down’. I crashed.
After 10 minutes or so I realised what was happening. I made myself focus on the positives, we got round the test, he was calm, he only called a couple of times and we had come so far in our year together. We went into our second test much calmer and I smiled the whole way round. No it wasn’t perfect but focusing on all of the positives, which greatly outweighed the negatives, kept me buzzing for days.
Fast forward a week, me and Captain were still working on building our confidence to hack alone. I decided we’d go for a little wander together, we went out feeling quite confidence, he was really calm and laid back. We met our neighbour who warned us of some ponies along the lane running around, so we turned back. He wasn’t phased, walked back and pass the yard happy. We then met two ambulances. Sirens going. He didn’t seem to care, but that was too much for me. My confidence had gone and I decided we needed to get back home. So I turned Captain around again. That was too much for him. He started jogging, nearly went sideways into a car and then ran. I can’t recall how fast he got us back but I jumped off as soon as we were home, my legs shaking, my heart racing. I burst into tears, why had my boy done this? All that hard worked we’d put in this last year, was it all for nothing? He deserved someone who was more confident and could look after him.
Again, my brain straight away jumped to the negatives. Thinking of the ‘what ifs’. I couldn’t look at Captain, I couldn’t even talk to him, I was heartbroken.
I woke up the following morning and felt guilty. Something had obviously upset Captain and I wasn’t there for him. I went out to see him and gave him huge cuddles. He didn’t do anything to hurt me, he just seemed to want to get us home. We went for a lesson and he was an absolute angel, he didn’t put a foot wrong and worked so hard to please me. My boy is incredible. My positivity level rocketed back up. I didn’t forget about what had happened the day before but the positives of our lesson reminded me of how strong our connection was.
We went competing again on the weekend, we remained relatively calm and he was incredible! So much improvement from our first outing and it goes to show how being positive and focusing on the good makes such a difference.
I am trying to find the best positive mindset tools that work for me, so if anyone has any suggestions let me know. My favourite one at the moment is catching a negative thought and counteracting it with two positives. Now, this isn’t an overnight fix, your mindset takes a long time to train but take your little steps forward. Make a note of things you are grateful for, what has gone well today, even if that is, ‘I got dressed’. Some days, to me that’s even an achievement! If you have a bad day don’t beat yourself up about it, everyone has bad days, just keep going.
So who is joining me on a journey to make their mindset their best friend?
P.S Remember to get a little positivity boost every Wednesday with my Wednesday Wisdoms