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Ten of the best Book Series

Tips for confident hacking

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Establish the ground rules

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Having a good relationship with your horse from the ground is an essential precursor, in my opinion, to hacking out safely. Firstly, your relationship in the saddle is often linked to your relationship on the ground. Secondly, there may be a situation when you need to get off and lead your horse, and it’s essential that you are safe to do this.

To be confident riding your horse out hacking, your horse must be confident in you as his partner. In a partnership, sometimes one partner acts as the leader, and sometimes the other – your horse must have enough confidence in you to accept your leadership when necessary. Start, as always, with standing still. Are you confident that your horse would stand still in a relaxed fashion for at least 10 minutes pretty much anywhere you asked him to? Can you lead him on a loose rope? Will he walk when you walk (or when you ask him to), and stop when you stop (or when you ask him to)? Can you get him to move just one foot (as opposed to taking several steps)? Will he move his quarters or forehand over, as much or as little as asked, without him grumbling at you? Can you lead him up and down slopes and steps (for example, on and off a pavement), and over different surfaces (grass, mud, or through a puddle)? I like to be able to achieve all of these things on the yard, in an arena, and even at various points out on a hack, and many of my clients have overcome their fear of hacking by starting with the basics in hand. If you’d like help getting started, try my earlier book ’10 Of The Best: Exercises To Improve Your Confidence On The Ground With Your Horse’, available from Amazon and from www.thehorsephysio.co.uk
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Days
Hours
Minutes
Seconds
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Spinal mobilisation: Exercise One

What to do: Carrot stretches / Baited stretches
In detail: ‘Carrot stretches’ or ‘baited stretches’ are well known exercises
used to mobilise the horse’s spine. They involve using ‘bait’ (a treat of
some kind, often a carrot) to encourage the horse to bend around to the
side, down towards the ground, or a multitude of combinations of those
movements. You can find plenty of examples of baited stretches on the
internet, and my favourite books and DVDs on the subject are ‘Activate
Your Horse’s Core’ (book and DVD,
http://www.sporthorsepublications.com), ‘Pilates and Stretching’ (book)
by Gillian Higgins, and ‘Pilates for Horses’ (DVD) by Gillian Higgins.
People often think of baited stretches as ‘stretching’ just the neck,
whereas in fact they mobilise the entire spine, because of the
connections throughout the body. Baited stretches act both as a dynamic
stretch (lengthening restrictions in the soft tissue, particularly in the
muscles and fascia, through movement), and as a dynamic joint
mobilisation (the horse moving the affected joints through range of
movement). If you look at a horse from the side who is stretching for a
treat near the ground between his front feet, you’ll see that his entire
back is rounded. If you could see a horse from above as he stretched
round to take a treat from towards his hip, you would see that his entire
spine was flexed to the side. Care must be taken with baited stretches if
you are using treats to achieve them, as they are not suitable for all –
some horses quickly come to expect and then demand the treat, and
their behaviour can become difficult to manage. In these cases,
alternative techniques can be used to achieve similar mobilisations, such
as training the horse to respond to a signal from the rope, but this can
take longer, and a greater level of skill from the handler.
If your horse finds this difficult: If his behaviour is the problem, then
avoid this particular exercise or find an alternative way of approaching it.
If restricted movement is the problem, then repeat the exercise twice
daily, three times each way, until the range of movement improves..
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Spinal mobilisation: Exercise One

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What to do: Carrot stretches / Baited stretches
In detail: ‘Carrot stretches’ or ‘baited stretches’ are well known exercises
used to mobilise the horse’s spine. They involve using ‘bait’ (a treat of
some kind, often a carrot) to encourage the horse to bend around to the
side, down towards the ground, or a multitude of combinations of those
movements. You can find plenty of examples of baited stretches on the
internet, and my favourite books and DVDs on the subject are ‘Activate
Your Horse’s Core’ (book and DVD,
http://www.sporthorsepublications.com), ‘Pilates and Stretching’ (book)
by Gillian Higgins, and ‘Pilates for Horses’ (DVD) by Gillian Higgins.
People often think of baited stretches as ‘stretching’ just the neck,
whereas in fact they mobilise the entire spine, because of the
connections throughout the body. Baited stretches act both as a dynamic
stretch (lengthening restrictions in the soft tissue, particularly in the
muscles and fascia, through movement), and as a dynamic joint
mobilisation (the horse moving the affected joints through range of
movement). If you look at a horse from the side who is stretching for a
treat near the ground between his front feet, you’ll see that his entire
back is rounded. If you could see a horse from above as he stretched
round to take a treat from towards his hip, you would see that his entire
spine was flexed to the side. Care must be taken with baited stretches if
you are using treats to achieve them, as they are not suitable for all –
some horses quickly come to expect and then demand the treat, and
their behaviour can become difficult to manage. In these cases,
alternative techniques can be used to achieve similar mobilisations, such
as training the horse to respond to a signal from the rope, but this can
take longer, and a greater level of skill from the handler.
If your horse finds this difficult: If his behaviour is the problem, then
avoid this particular exercise or find an alternative way of approaching it.
If restricted movement is the problem, then repeat the exercise twice
daily, three times each way, until the range of movement improves..
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Spinal mobilisation: Exercise two


What to do: Move the base of the cervical spine (neck) from side to side,
encouraging a relaxed side-to-side movement throughout the spine.
In detail: Stand to the left side of your horse, with your left hand supporting your
horse’s head collar, and your right hand on the base of his neck, in front of the
shoulder blade. Apply pressure to move the base of the neck away from you in a
steady rhythm while his head stays relatively still, and then release, possibly around
once a second or once every two or three seconds depending on what feels right for
you and your horse. Imagine the spine, running through the middle of the neck,
swaying rhythmically away from you and back towards you. As the base of the neck
moves away from you, the top of the neck and the quarters will move towards you,
and vice versa, giving a whole-spine mobilisation. Continue for around a minute, or
until your horse is relaxed and gently swaying. This can feel like dancing with your
horse, almost a meditative feeling.
If your horse finds this difficult: Try asking less of him, or moving slightly more
quickly or (more often) more slowly. Try different hand and body positions, until
you find one that works for you and your horse. As always, if you struggle, seek
professional help.

27 Guest Contributors

There has been tremendous support for this project, including from four time Olympian Richard Davison, who has written the foreword for the book 'Understanding Horse performance: Brain, Pain or Training?'. 27 eminent equestrians, all at the top of their sport or therapy, have contributed to the book, and nine clients have agreed to share their stories as case studies to demonstrate how the use of 'Brain, Pain or Training?' has improved their relationship with their horse. (Click here for list of 27 guest contributors.)

Two bonus exercises

If you have read the book or watched the DVD ‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’, you will know that they offer a set of 10 practical exercises that you can use with your horse on a regular basis to flag up potential pain or discomfort that may be affecting his behaviour or performance.  If you have not read or watched ‘Brain, Pain or Training?’ and would like to, you can find it here.  In the book and DVD, I promise two bonus exercises on my website, and here they are.  Happy horsing!
"Check the pecs"
What to do:
Stroke between your horse’s front legs, first softly, then firmly, in the direction of the hair.  Do this whilst standing on his left side, then again whilst standing on his right side.

The ideal:
There should be no adverse reaction from your horse, he should continue standing calmly or munching on his hay.

Potential pain indicators:
Any sign of discomfort, especially a threatening expression or threatening behaviour.  Moving away from you, lifting a front leg or snapping a front foot up, throwing a front leg out forwards.
"Standing square"
What to do:
Ask your horse to stand square, in hand, on level ground.

The ideal:
It may take a while of gently shifting different feet in the right direction, but your horse should be able to stand square within a couple of minutes at the most (quicker once you’ve trained him to do this exercise and he knows what’s expected of him).  Once he’s standing square, he should be weight bearing equally between both front feet and between both hind feet, with his head and neck straight in front of him.

Potential pain indicators:
Apparent inability to stand square (usually behind), or constantly resting one hind leg or the other.

50 Questions

Please download this PDF and print it out, so that you can keep it handy in your tack room and share it with your friends. Use these questions to assess whether there is a problem with your horse – then use the top tips in the book and DVD to help you resolve it! (Click on the image below to download your copy)
Screen shot of the downloadble fifty questions to ask yourself about your horse

BPT Record Sheet

Here is your downloadable record sheet, please print it out and keep it in your tack room. It will help you to monitor your horse’s progress. We hope you find it useful, if so please share it with your friends!
Brain Pain Or Training logging form

Archive

Ten Of The Best Series

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Teach your horse to stand still at the end of a loose 12ft line.

So much of horsemanship is based on the ability to stand still. Without this foundation solidly in place, it is likely that cracks will show elsewhere in your relationship with your horse. Begin by asking your horse to stand. Notice exactly where each of his feet are, so that you can correct him if he moves them by moving each foot back to approximately where it started from. Facing your horse, back away a couple of steps, being careful to keep the line (lead rope) loose, as any slight pressure could be interpreted by your horse as you asking him to move towards you. Aim to stand for at least a minute. If your horse moves a foot, instantly correct him by moving him back until the foot is where it started from, then immediately release all pressure and take a couple of steps back again. Timing is key - the quicker you correct and the quicker you release, the quicker your horse will learn what you are asking of him. Use a level of pressure in your corrections that is proportionate to the level of mistake he's made, so if he's just crept forwards then gently ask him to move back. As you progress, take another step back, then another, until you are at the end of a loose 12ft line. Repeat consistently until you and your horse are able to stand relaxed for up to ten minutes.
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Teach your horse to stand quietly while you pick up each of his feet in turn, in the order you decide

Allowing you to hold his foot up is a sign of your horse's trust in you, since he is giving away his option to flee. Picking the feet out as quickly as you can or not picking out the hind feet altogether to avoid problems can often degenerate into further difficulties. Have someone hold him to start with, or tie him up - although eventually the goal is to be able to do this exercise with your horse loose in the stable or field. Start with one of his front feet. Position yourself safely so that you are standing beside his shoulder facing his tail. Always touch his neck or shoulder then run your hand down to his leg, rather than surprising him by touching his leg first. Run your hand down the back of his leg to the fetlock and ask him to pick up his foot. Be calm but firm, insist that he gives you his foot, even if only for a second. Don't give up because he's resisting or fidgeting, unless safety is a concern. Once he's given you his foot and you've chosen to release it, make sure you reward him with something he enjoys, perhaps a scratch on the withers (the use of food as a reward here is not appropriate). When you are confident with both front feet, follow the same procedure with the back feet. Again be careful to put your hand on his quarters and slide it down to his leg rather than surprising him by touching him on his leg straight away. Over time, vary the order in which you pick up his feet. Build up how long you can hold each foot for, up to a minute or so (if you are holding his foot up for more than a few seconds keep it fairly close to the ground to avoid placing undue stress on the joints by flexing them). Try to find a way to reward your horse while he is holding his foot up for you, rather than when he has placed it down on the ground again, since it's the lifting that you want to encourage.
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Cause your horse to move just one foot

This might sound simple, but most people don't find it so easy when they give it a go! It doesn't matter if you're moving the foot forwards or backwards. The key is in the communication you and your horse must have to achieve such a precise goal. Start with your horse standing still, with you facing him. Ask him to move just one foot backwards. Watch really closely - in my experience people often don't notice that two or even three feet have moved! Experiment with how much pressure you need to use to ask for the initial movement, and how quickly you need to release any pressure so that he only moves one foot, as opposed to several. It's likely that you'll find you need to 'reward the thought' by releasing the pressure as you see / feel him thinking about lifting one foot, because if you leave it any longer than this you'll have triggered the movement of a second or third foot. This a great exercise in teaching you how to listen to your horse, and almost more importantly, in teaching your horse that you are listening to him and responding to his actions. Once you've mastered moving one foot backwards, try moving one forwards, or a front foot sideways towards you, or a hind foot sideways away from you.
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Preparation is key, and safety is essential...

Make sure you are loading in an area that ultimately is enclosed. Begin by making sure you shut the yard gate, or work in an arena or field that is fenced with the gate shut. Have the lorry or trailer ready before you approach, with the ramp down, appropriate blockades in place if necessary to stop your horse from swinging round to the side of the ramp, partitions open and in the right place, a bucket of food at the front (rubber bucket with no handles) as a reward for your horse once he's loaded, and a safe surface for your horse to load from and unload onto (not concrete, gravel or tarmac). Have the appropriate and safe kit for yourself, including hat and gloves, and body protector if you feel safer that way. Keep your horse as safe as possible with brushing boots all round, overreach boots all round, and a poll guard (avoid travelling boots for loading practice, at least initially, as they can slip and cause problems). There are risks inherent to loading horses, and you can do your best to minimise them.
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Teach your horse to stand still, and to move one foot at a time.

First establish communication with your horse, by teaching him to stand
still, and by learning to cause him to move just one foot at a time. This
sounds simple, but in my experience, most problem loaders are not able to achieve it to the level required. Your horse should be able to stand still at the end of a relaxed 12ft rope, in a calm fashion, for as long as you ask him to, even if that's ten minutes or more. In reality, I think most of us as people find it very difficult to stand still for ten minutes without doing
anything, and so it's not even something we'd think about attempting with our horses. I've found that the greatest behavioural and performance changes have been made by those horses whose owners are willing to put in the time it takes to teach them to stand still. Causing your horse to move one foot at a time requires subtle communication,
and detailed focus on your horse, so that you can respond at exactly the right time to whatever move he makes.
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Lead through narrow gaps, and block front and back.

For some horses, the problem with loading is essentially a claustrophobic response. Equally, it can be difficult for the handler to figure out how to manoeuvre their horse through narrow gaps and in enclosed spaces. You can begin to overcome this, either horse or handler, through simulation. This is a time-tested technique used in many disciplines, even to help learn specialised skills like astronauts learning to space walk! Set up a safe enclosed space that’s about the same size as your lorry or trailer, perhaps with plastic jump blocks and poles for example, and teach your horse to lead through the narrow space calmly. If he really struggles, you
may even have to start with poles on the ground, and of course you can start with a wide gap and gradually narrow it. Once you can lead your horse calmly into the enclosed space, and have him stand there in a relaxed way, you can 'close off' the front and / or the back, again using something safe such as jump poles. At all times, your own safety is paramount, so be very aware of your positioning in relation to your horse and to any obstacles.
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Exercise



The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on
osteoarthritis, one of the most common causes of stiffness in both
humans and horses, state that practitioners should ‘advise people with
osteoarthritis to exercise as a core treatment, irrespective of age,
comorbidity [the presence of one or more additional diseases], pain
severity or disability.’ The guidelines also recommend that ‘manipulation
and stretching should be considered as an adjunct to core treatments…’.
It seems perfectly valid to transfer this approach from humans to horses,
given that we share many of the same characteristics in our
musculoskeletal systems.
The rest of the exercises in this book are mobilisation techniques
targeting specific areas of the body, and it’s easy to overlook the fact that
exercise is a whole-body mobilisation technique, and one of the most
effective. There are some specific in-hand exercises in ’10 Of The Best:
Exercises To Improve Your Confidence With Your Horse From The
Ground’, and there will be more to follow in later books in this ’10 Of The
Best’ series. For now though, think of general in-hand exercise, for
example leading your horse out, or long reining. Lungeing may or may
not be appropriate for your horse, and should certainly not be done too
often or for extended periods of time – please contact your local
Chartered Physiotherapist (www.acpat.co.uk) or Registered Animal
Musculoskeletal Practitioner (www.rampregister.org) for individual
advice. Follow similar guidelines to those you would for introducing or
maintaining an exercise program yourself, including building up the level
of exercise gradually and allowing appropriate rest periods.
If you struggle with this mobilisation technique or any of the others in
this book, or have any concerns about your horse’s reaction, please
contact your vet, a Chartered Physiotherapist, or a Registered Animal
Musculoskeletal Practitioner (see website addresses above). A wellqualified
physiotherapist or other musculoskeletal practitioner will advise
on exercises specific to your horse, and will recommend onward referral
if necessary..
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Spinal mobilisation: Exercise One


What to do: Carrot stretches / Baited stretches
In detail: ‘Carrot stretches’ or ‘baited stretches’ are well known exercises
used to mobilise the horse’s spine. They involve using ‘bait’ (a treat of
some kind, often a carrot) to encourage the horse to bend around to the
side, down towards the ground, or a multitude of combinations of those
movements. You can find plenty of examples of baited stretches on the
internet, and my favourite books and DVDs on the subject are ‘Activate
Your Horse’s Core’ (book and DVD,
http://www.sporthorsepublications.com), ‘Pilates and Stretching’ (book)
by Gillian Higgins, and ‘Pilates for Horses’ (DVD) by Gillian Higgins.
People often think of baited stretches as ‘stretching’ just the neck,
whereas in fact they mobilise the entire spine, because of the
connections throughout the body. Baited stretches act both as a dynamic
stretch (lengthening restrictions in the soft tissue, particularly in the
muscles and fascia, through movement), and as a dynamic joint
mobilisation (the horse moving the affected joints through range of
movement). If you look at a horse from the side who is stretching for a
treat near the ground between his front feet, you’ll see that his entire
back is rounded. If you could see a horse from above as he stretched
round to take a treat from towards his hip, you would see that his entire
spine was flexed to the side. Care must be taken with baited stretches if
you are using treats to achieve them, as they are not suitable for all –
some horses quickly come to expect and then demand the treat, and
their behaviour can become difficult to manage. In these cases,
alternative techniques can be used to achieve similar mobilisations, such
as training the horse to respond to a signal from the rope, but this can
take longer, and a greater level of skill from the handler.
If your horse finds this difficult: If his behaviour is the problem, then
avoid this particular exercise or find an alternative way of approaching it.
If restricted movement is the problem, then repeat the exercise twice
daily, three times each way, until the range of movement improves..
Stacks Image 23705

Spinal mobilisation: Exercise two


What to do: Move the base of the cervical spine (neck) from side to side,
encouraging a relaxed side-to-side movement throughout the spine.
In detail: Stand to the left side of your horse, with your left hand supporting your
horse’s head collar, and your right hand on the base of his neck, in front of the
shoulder blade. Apply pressure to move the base of the neck away from you in a
steady rhythm while his head stays relatively still, and then release, possibly around
once a second or once every two or three seconds depending on what feels right for
you and your horse. Imagine the spine, running through the middle of the neck,
swaying rhythmically away from you and back towards you. As the base of the neck
moves away from you, the top of the neck and the quarters will move towards you,
and vice versa, giving a whole-spine mobilisation. Continue for around a minute, or
until your horse is relaxed and gently swaying. This can feel like dancing with your
horse, almost a meditative feeling.
If your horse finds this difficult: Try asking less of him, or moving slightly more
quickly or (more often) more slowly. Try different hand and body positions, until
you find one that works for you and your horse. As always, if you struggle, seek
professional help.
Close

Establish the ground rules

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Having a good relationship with your horse from the ground is an essential precursor, in my opinion, to hacking out safely. Firstly, your relationship in the saddle is often linked to your relationship on the ground. Secondly, there may be a situation when you need to get off and lead your horse, and it’s essential that you are safe to do this.

To be confident riding your horse out hacking, your horse must be confident in you as his partner. In a partnership, sometimes one partner acts as the leader, and sometimes the other – your horse must have enough confidence in you to accept your leadership when necessary. Start, as always, with standing still. Are you confident that your horse would stand still in a relaxed fashion for at least 10 minutes pretty much anywhere you asked him to? Can you lead him on a loose rope? Will he walk when you walk (or when you ask him to), and stop when you stop (or when you ask him to)? Can you get him to move just one foot (as opposed to taking several steps)? Will he move his quarters or forehand over, as much or as little as asked, without him grumbling at you? Can you lead him up and down slopes and steps (for example, on and off a pavement), and over different surfaces (grass, mud, or through a puddle)? I like to be able to achieve all of these things on the yard, in an arena, and even at various points out on a hack, and many of my clients have overcome their fear of hacking by starting with the basics in hand. If you’d like help getting started, try my earlier book ’10 Of The Best: Exercises To Improve Your Confidence On The Ground With Your Horse’, available from Amazon and from www.thehorsephysio.co.uk
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Click below to listen to Monty Roberts talking about Sue's knowledge and expertise.
Monty roberts talking about the language of Equus
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It would appear that writing the book is not the challenging part! Brain, Pain, or Training is the result of years of experience and research, being turned into a concept and put down on paper. Even the DVD, which was hard work, still followed the same pattern of translating thoughts into a visual representation. But publicising it is a whole different matter…

There are nearly 10,000 equestrian books listed on Amazon, that’s a lot of reading. So how do you make your voice heard amongst the shouting, how did we get “Understanding Horse Performance Brain, Pain, or Training?” listed as one of Horse and Hound’s recommended Christmas books for 2016, and Horse Magazine’s Book of the Month for December 2016?

I think the passion in Sue’s writing, and the sheer depth of knowledge that she has painstakingly accumulated over the years shines through. The clarity of writing and the unique “roadmap” feel of the book, stand out amongst many of the training books. The quality of the contributors also speaks volumes with Richard Davison, Monty Roberts and Kelly Marks to name but a few, all this lends weight to a gain support from journalists.

However, at the end of the day, I think “Understanding Horse Performance Brain, Pain, or Training?” has had such fantastic coverage, simply because it is a fantastic book. Reviewers share books that speak to them, that they feel engaged by, that they like and that they want other people to read.

So thank you to the reviewers who loved “Understanding Horse Performance Brain, Pain, or Training?” and we hope that more people will be inspired by the concept of Brain, Pain, or Training.

Lizzie Hopkinson (Marketing and PR)
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The central theme to BPT is identifying the root cause of your horse’s behaviour and how to move forwards towards a better relationship with your horse. This chart below will help you to create a roadmap towards this point. Please feel free to share this with your friends!
Brain Pain or Training conceptual diagram
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