"Thank you so much for answering my deepest questions about the horse this weekend. Things that I have struggled with for years with no answers now have answers and hope. Thank you for feeding my soul and validating my intuition. You did extraordinary things for the horses this weekend but even more extraordinary things for the people, myself included. You are like an oasis in the desert."
— Frances Carbonnel
Training for Soundness… Sounds pretty easy, right? I mean, it’s what we all strive for. To develop solid, balanced mounts that are capable and willing to perform to the levels that we are desiring. But what if we’re going about it all wrong? What if, instead of training the horses to walk by practicing the walk, we train the horses body to develop in a way that supports a balanced and integral walk all on its own. One that requires little to no management on our part? (And so on and so forth for every movement we desire).
How many of you have learned that each gait actually has it’s own lead, not just the canter? When a horse is walking or trotting on the incorrect lead, it sends the spine into a counter spiral that locks up the neck and shoulders and over time will over-load the hocks and stifles. This subtle lameness will not come up in head-bobbing, limping or heat and swelling until sometimes years has gone by, but it is something that is easily managed and prevents a slew of lameness problems that seemingly come out of no-where. For instance, most suspensory and meniscus injuries that I see originally started as a spinal integrity issue. Some horses will even present as neurological due to the lumbosacral plexus being impacted. When a horse is having a problem with a canter, it’s a psoas issue. Be it leads, bucking or falling-out. All of it can be addressed through psoas health. Most horses carry chronic tension in their necks due to underdevelopment of their pectorals and thoracic sling muscles. Minor tweaks in how we ask the horse to move will swap their proprioception just enough to get them to engage the correct musculature to prevent this unnecessary tension. The list goes on and on, but the beautiful part of it all, is that it is all easily treatable and even more easily preventable with getting a more solid education around how the horses body is supposed to move through space in a way to keep them structurally sound. They weren’t ever designed to be ridden, and they certainly weren’t designed to do it on a circle. That said, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are developing them correctly. And much like humans do not inherently stand and sit in a biomechanically correct way on our own, the horses don’t either. But if we want to be athletes and remain sound through our careers, this is a non-negotiable. And it’s the same for our horses.