Ballou, Jec Articles

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Source: Best Horse Practices Podcast | Episode 7 - In our 7th episode, Jec Ballou interviews saddle fitting expert Kristen Vlietstra. The California-based saddler works with horses and riders of all disciplines.

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In this debut episode, Jec Ballou interviews Jim Masterson, founder of the Masterson Method. Learn more about how body work can invigorate your horse's performance and well-being. Also in this episode, an Exercise of the Week.

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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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One pole? There is still plenty to do - Simple exercises can sometimes be the most effective because riders are apt to practice them more consistently. And when it comes to movement and fitness, consistency matters above all. I often use the following single pole exercises in clinics because they offer an easy way to derive the postural benefits of pole work without the logistics and effort involved in setting up more complex routines. When you are short on time or dealing with poor weather, these exercises offer a convenient way of ensuring you do not miss the calisthenics your horse needs.

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3 Rules to Maximize Time Off - Periods of downtime come as realistic parts of horse ownership, although how a rider uses these stretches of poor weather or busy schedules contributes profoundly to a horse’s long-term soundness and performance. Recent data from biomechanics researchers and veterinary schools shows that large vacillations in fitness can be detrimental to overall health, particularly for horses past their mid-teen years. Most notably, periods of lesser activity lasting over a month can weaken deep postural muscles and supporting soft tissue.

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It is a simple enough goal: The more time a horse spends in the correct alignment and balance, the more firmly good habits form. But putting this into practice during our daily training is often not as straightforward as it seems.

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Groundwork can serve a range of purposes, from behaviour modification to physical conditioning, but over the long term its greatest contribution is its alteration of neuromuscular patterns. When a horse needs to adopt a new pattern of muscular activation, coordination, or balance, groundwork is often the quickest way to accomplish it. Using focused and brief groundwork sessions daily, many horses’ postural challenges can be rewired with far less tension and confusion than under saddle.

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Stability Before Strength - Balanced muscular development cannot happen without first achieving a body that can stay stable throughout movement. In other words, a horse that is wiggling around trying to find balance, or one that has found balance by adopting a crooked posture, cannot develop strength in the ways that lead to better performance. Before a horse can add power to his locomotive muscles, he needs to find joint and limb stability while moving in his basic gaits.

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Students who ride primarily on trails often ask me what kinds of exercises they can do to benefit their horses. If they don’t plan to be in an arena anytime soon, does that mean they can’t give their horses the gymnastic and core exercises that optimize their bodies and comfort?

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At some point, most riders have wished for something like a magic pill, a solution that will instantly alleviate nagging training issues. Since that is impossible, the next best thing is an arsenal of arena routines whose execution will improve your horse. The exercises in this article will give you a looser, more balanced horse, and will create engagement without excessive effort.

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Simple Exercises and Routines to Reprogram Dysfunctional Movement - As tempting as it is to use our riding skills and training expertise when teaching a horse to carry his body differently or when rehabbing post-layoff, this actually slows the process down. Somehow, many of us equestrians missed this crucial fact during our educations.

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