Archive for the ‘rehab technique’ Category


Monday, May 9th, 2011

I found an article that covers the physiology of conditioning – changes to the muscle mass, cardiovascular, and skeletal structures of the horse.  It provides some insight to what I am trying to acheive with the Long Slow Distance (LSD) work.  Increase the work load slightly each week, without undue stress on the recovering EPM horse.

Things were not going well on the ride today.  The mare is in heat, and has been bolting from the deer.  We simply went for a long walk.  Some days are like that.  I have to learn to accept that Fudge’s improvement will not be a straight upward line on a graph.

“Is Your Horse Fit?  The Physiology of Conditioning”


Fudge Goes Bitless!

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

I tried out the Bitless Bridle on Fudge in the ring last week. He was a little perplexed at first, but was certainly listening to the leg and seat cues. We rode in the ring for about 15 minutes, then went out in the pasture. Things were going so well that I took him for a short jog up the road. It took slightly longer for Fudge to figure out this new communication tool than the Mustang (smart girl).

I took Fudge for a longer ride yesterday, and ponied the Mustang. Things went very well, and I was impressed with the bitless bridle on Fudge. I wish I had done this earlier…

Fudge is much stronger after being ponied for a few months. I rode him about 2.5 miles, and he was not tired at the end. We will work on bettering the lateral communication with the Bitless Bridle on the trail. We made a lot of progress in just two rides.

Conventional Wisdom

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

It has been nine months since the last relapse. Fudge has never recovered the full use of his lips and/or tongue. He still drops some feed, although not as much as he used to. He doesn’t respond to the bit well. Many EPM horses have neurological symptoms that don’t heal.

Conventional wisdom would send me to the tack store looking for a bit called “Doesn’t Respond to Bit Well,” or “Bit for Heavy Mouthed Horses.” I might try several bits, each more expensive and touted by a different trainer. I could end up with my very own bit library.

For each EPM neurological symptom that doesn’t heal, you need an uncommon answer. You need to be more than a casual observer, think outside-the-box, and search for solutions to work with the deficits.

I have wanted to try a bitless bridle for a few years on the Mustang. Why wouldn’t this work for Fudge? I borrowed one from the ‘bit library’ at the local tack store. I tried it on the Mustang during a lesson in the indoor (I like to keep the lessons interesting for the instructor at the show barn). After one lesson, I tried it on the Mustang in the pasture, and then went on the trail. I haven’t looked back.

All of the cougars have disappeared from the woods. The spooking is gone, the horse is relaxed, and I am much happier with the results. I have given up some lateral control, but I’ve just started a completely different way of communication. I’m making changes to my seat and legs. I have better brakes than I did with a bit.

I haven’t even tried the bridle on Fudge, but I will soon. In the mean time, he is ponied 2-3 miles at a walk-trot 4 or 5 times per week. Fudge is getting stronger, and has started to misbehave. I’ll have to ride him next time, and see how he responds to the bitless bridle.

Walk This Way!

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Fudge is getting tired of the Aerosmith tune “Walk this Way.”

I took two ‘ponying’ lessons in the indoor, then switched to ponying in my pastures for two weeks, then out on a quiet road, and finally out through the fields and woods.  The Mustang is convinced that there are cougars behind each tree.  I shared the news with her, that the US Gov’ has declared cougars extinct East of the Mississippi.  She’s not buying it.  So I ride Fudge and pony the Mustang through new areas.  Then I ride the Mustang and pony Fudge, and we go around twice, or make a figure 8.  The point is, we Walk This Way for longer periods each week.  Fudge throws in a trot-buck-canter every now and then, just to keep things lively.

Fudge has a long way to go in building up the rump and back muscle that he lost to EPM.  He is making progress despite me taking time off to go out of town; and getting caught up in First Robotics, owl banding, HS musical, Envirothon, and work.  Rehabbing a EPM’r takes time and commitment.  Push it too fast, and you could stress the horse which taxes their immune system.  If the immune system is not in top shape, you risk a relapse.

What the doctor ordered

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Fudge seems to be able to feel his rear feet, and is not tripping.  He has lost a tremendous amount of muscle throughout the body.  His ability to bear the weight of a rider is limited.  The veterinarian has suggested frequent short rides of 5 to 10 minutes to build his back muscles, without tiring him to the point of getting hurt.  She also suggested that I start to pony him so that he can get more mileage without the weight of a rider.

There are just a few problems with ponying Fudge.  I have never ponied a horse before.  I don’t know if Fudge has ever been ponied.  I’m fairly certain that the green Mustang has never been ponied.  The green Mustang can be spooky.  It goes against the herd structure to put the mare in charge.  This ought to be interesting.

The ground conditions in Pennsylvania are less than favorable.  We have layers of hard ice and snow, and the only good footing is on the driveway.  I decided to take both horses for a lesson in the indoor, instead of just the Mustang.  Starting to pony them indoors gave us good footing, an enclosed space, and an instructor to give me feedback.

The videos are of our second attempt in the indoor, and 4th attempt overall.  I am very pleased with how the horses have adjusted to the new game.  The first short clip shows me at a walk and trot on Fudge, leading Challis.

Now let’s upset the apple cart by putting the subordinate, green horse in charge.  A quick change of tack and off we go.  Then we’ll try it at a canter for the first time.

Did all of the session go this smoothly?  No.  When we reversed direction, The green horse was on the inside, but wanted to fade to the outside.  This cut off Fudge, who dropped behind and tried to cross to the left.  A bit of bucking, ear pinning, and nipping ensued, but no one got hurt.  We’ll try again next week.