Ballou, Jec Articles

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Source: Best Horse Practices with Jec Ballou | Hoof Rehabilitation with Alicia Harlov

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While it might often be spoken about in artistic, aesthetic, or even philosophical ways, lightness — both of movement and also of communication with horses — is more than an abstract ideal. In many ways, it measures a horse’s current physiological capabilities.

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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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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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Without access to multiple riding surfaces, many horses plateau in their fitness or get stuck in a state of physical discomfort. In fact, different footings can play such a big role in any horse’s conditioning that there is an industry adage for it: there are no poor surfaces; only poor use of surfaces.

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Source: Best Horse Practices with Jec Ballou | On The Fence: Adult Learning

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Most of us intend for our daily rides to improve our horse at some level, either by adding to his physical conditioning or progressing his training skills. But whether or not your horse actually makes these gains often comes down to the amount of time you spend on each phase of the ride. The format of your ride determines the outcome of physical improvement.

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According to folks out there who do risk assessment, riding is risky -- about as risky as riding is fun, safe, rewarding, and something we feel deeply passionate about. Rider fear for many of us might be one element that’s part of a greater calculus. We hope it’s down there with the paper clips, you know, tiny bits in the big cluttered drawer that is how we feel about horses. For some folks, though, we know it can be all-consuming.

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One of the simplest ways to improve athletic output is to ride your horse at different speeds within every gait throughout each week. Moving through a range of gears stimulates the neuromuscular system to create fuller metabolic function within muscles.

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Should young horses be left in pasture to grow up or brought in to begin their training? While arguments can be made in favour of each plan, the ideal approach is actually somewhere in the middle. In order to enjoy athletic lives later on, youngsters do need regular exercise, but the structure of their training should differ from that of a mature horse. Primarily, it should be shorter, slower, and avoid concussive skeletal forces.

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Podcast host Jec Ballou (bio below) and Ben Longwell of True West Horsemanship respond to a listener question about bitless options: my question is about ‘bitless’ bridles, side pulls, or the bosals or any other type of ‘bitless’ bridle that you may have had experience with. Which would be most suitable for what horse, temperament, type of exercise or work. I am in the process of starting a horse. We are in first rides with rope halter and rather than bit him for our first rides, I thought maybe I could just train him to a more subtle bridle.

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In this episode, Jec talks with Robin Foster, a certified applied animal behaviorist and a professor at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State. Foster cites an interesting study on grooming by Lea Lansade, a researcher in France.

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When it comes to cantering, riders seem to divide in two camps. In one camp are those who favour it above all else, while the other camp includes those who find it scary or unpleasant. I would like to add a third camp: riders who understand the unparalleled physiological benefits of cantering their horses. Beyond the obvious cardiovascular conditioning, cantering can improve muscle tone, symmetry, and flexibility more than other gaits. Let me explain this further, in addition to offering some tips and guidelines.

Source: Best Horse Practices | Season 2, Episode 21 

In this episode, Ann Firestone of Save Your Ass Long Eared Rescue joins Jec in California-to-New Hampshire phone conversation. Ann has been ardently devoted to this mule and donkey non profit for years.

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Purpose and performance of a foundational exercise - Certain exercises in a horse’s athletic development serve as a foundational skill set and a remedial tool later on. Leg-yield is exactly this kind of exercise. It offers valuable physiological benefits that improve a novice horse’s balance while also resolving specific impediments to an advanced horse’s quality of movement. It is the kind of tool that tunes up a number of shortcomings in how a horse is carrying himself.

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Develop an exercise therapy program that gives your horse the best chance of recovery - Subtle lameness or signs of pain that do not lead to a clear veterinary diagnosis can be extremely frustrating, costly, and time-consuming. Unfortunately, they are also quite common, leaving many owners feeling helpless to plot a path forward. In this article I will offer guiding principles for tackling these scenarios along with specific examples of how I implemented them with Remy, a mare that came to me with bucking behaviours and signs of back pain but with no clear diagnosis.

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Rider fear can be all-consuming, and riding is as risky as it is fun and rewarding. In this episode, Jec Ballou, Amy Skinner, and Maddy Butcher share their thoughts and experiences on rider fear.

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Source: Best Horse Practices | Season 2, Episode 4 

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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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