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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

Your Questions

Questions & Answers

I have been taking notes on questions and issues that I’ve heard from you and around the horse community for awhile and created a new section on my website called “Your Questions”. I am not going to use any names but will rephrase the questions and provide the answers to be helpful to everyone. -Mary D. Midkiff

Q:

Hi Mary - I saw your piece in one of your past newsletters on your use of the Hilton Herb product Regulate. I have a mare that I've had on the Dynamite product Easy Boy which has magnesium and a few herbs since March, and it does take some of the edge off (she can be really hormonal, but she's not mean about it). However, it really doesn't do anything to help even out her cycling. She's had 2 ovarian cysts - 10 months apart, and gets really sore in her hind end. The vet gives her a shot of prostaglandin to dissolve them, and she's fine in a week. When she's cycling, she gets sore and uncomfortable in her hind end, and starts to do what we've come to call "the bounce", where she starts to bounce around when she's being trotted, and then tries to go into a canter because it's more comfortable. I also have her on an 8 week adjustment schedule with the chiropractor. Anyhow, I don't want to go the actual hormone route (Regumate); too scary and expensive. Ditto the implant route. My trainer thinks we should try the Hilton product (she's from the UK and familiar with them). The cheapest source I can fine is thru Dover. Do you know of any other distributors? I board at a facility in Littleton, CO. Also, do you have your mare on it year-round? Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, SG

A:

Dear SG: You haven't said if you plan on breeding your mare or not. My answer will depend on your future plans with her.

If you plan to breed her or want to sell her as a broodmare you will have to keep working with this issue. Regumate will easily take care of all the problems you have mentioned and allow her to breed later on. It is expensive, about $300 for 90 days supply, and you do have to be careful in working with it by using gloves but it takes care of any discomfort from her cycle. I have used it with Theo and Anna and it gave them such huge relief and they enjoyed their work and performing. They seemed to be very thankful to me for giving them the relief from all the stress, strain, pain and worry that comes with each cycle. Theo was a very hot, hormonal mare and I did have to leave her on it year round to keep her comfortable and usable. With Anna, I only used it during the Spring and Summer months when I was competing. I took her off of it from October to February and she did fine without it. You will find a huge improvement in her mental and physical approach to riding and training with it. Give this deep consideration, she sounds like a perfect candidate for it.

If you feel you have to go with the Regulate, it is helpful, but not near as comforting as Regumate. Chamisa Ridge catalog carries it and I have not done price comparisons but they have several different sizes of bags or liquid for you to buy.

You might also try acupuncture treatments and ear staples in conjunction with the Regulate. This will give her more comfort during her difficult cycles.

If you do not plan on breeding her or selling her as a broodmare, I think an ovariectomy might be your best option. It is considered a standard easy surgery with laparoscopy, removing the ovaries, so your mare will no longer cycle and have issues associated with the discomfort of each cycle. I have heard it costs around $1200 which would be worth it to make her happy as a performance horse for the rest of her life.

I hope these options will help you with your decisions. Best wishes, Mary

Q:

Dear Mary,

I live in Europe and just discovered your website tonight while surfing the web. It looks fascinating and I am looking forward to getting hold of your books.

As your site is all about women and horses, I would very much, if I may, ask you a specific female related question that I have not been able to otherwise find an answer to.

I started riding again this year after an 18 year break. I am half-leasing a lovely horse (well, large pony, 14.2hh) and as I am leasing, the saddle comes with him (i.e. I have no option at present to get one of the female specific saddles recommended on your web site).

When I ride for extended periods (or even short periods, say, when schooling without stirrups), I have a terrible chafing problem in the crotch area. It can become very painful for several hours afterwards. I recently acquired a "Seatbone Saver" saddle pad made of suede and filled with memory foam; although this has greatly improved my riding position and is great for the seat bones, it has in fact worsened the chafing problem.

I'm sure I'm not the only woman with this problem, although i have not found any online information. I have seen some advertisements for Equetech equestrian underwear which is slightly gel padded - but I am not sure if this would work to completely eliminate the problem.

Do you have any advice, seeing as I cannot change the saddle at present?

Many thanks for your time in reading and responding to my email

Kind regards, SS

A:

Thank you for your letter SS. You are certainly not alone with this issue, many just don't talk about it. I too have experienced crotch chaffing, swelling and rubbing in the past all due to poor saddle fit to my body.

The solutions are to provide as much padding as possible through your underwear and a seat saver or cover. The saddle is the problem and you are never going to be able to completely be comfortable until you find a different saddle. The pommel, seat, twist and cantle construction are opposing your conformation in your hips, pelvis, spine and upper legs. Until that is changed it is going to hurt and affect your ability to balance and move with the horse.

Even riding with a bareback pad with stirrups would be better for you if you feel safe. Try to find or borrow another saddle that fits you and your horse if possible.

A Band-aid type solution for temporary minimal discomfort would be to purchase a fleece wool seat saver to fit over the seat of the saddle. Also you might try wearing bicycle rider's underwear with lots of padding.

Don't ride in this saddle too much longer. It will not only hurt your crotch area but it will start affecting your posture and could cause a lower back injury as well as put you in an unsafe, unbalanced position. Keep searching for another saddle you can use.

Best wishes for comfort in the saddle. Sincerely, Mary Midkiff

Q: Dear Mary: I really liked the article on How to Bond with a Horse. I'm quite a proponent of all of the suggestions that you made and some others as well. I never get on or off my horse without some kind of affirming true contact with him. Get his permission for everything...like you mentioned and I also run my hand down the back of his hind and down his leg to keep contact after I get off. Contact, permission and understanding are the keys. I love your telling people to just hang with their horse. It will blow a horses mind to take him into a round pen, arena or playground and do nothing! What a concept. Make the expected unexpected. You'll always have a friend. All the ponies told me to say thank you!!!! Sincerely, KK
A: Dear KK: I I love your appreciation of your horse. My new horse is/was a young German sales horse and is/was introverted, out of his body, mentally cooked and really jammed. It has taken me a year to gain his trust, turn his body around and begin to recapture his mind. He too is very gifted and talented and I hope to see it all shine one of these days. It may take a year or two more of patience and moving very slowly with his balance, helping him shift his posture and mental outlook but I think it will all be worth it. We have already deeply bonded and that is certainly an honor to receive. Mary
Q:

Hi Mary! Thank you for yet another wonderful article!

Q: I wanted to ask you if you had ever addressed (or knew where I could find information) on yawning?

I am over the moon for my horse and spend a lot of time doing what you describe-I "play" with him, we go on walks (where I just hand walk him with a halter and lead), I just hang out with him in his stall and let him rub and nuzzle me. I talk to him and sing to him too.... and pet him all over with my hands. I've even sat in the corner or in the doorway of his stall if he didn't seem to mind. I've only had him for about a year and am fairly new and inexperienced, but I'd like to think we are on our way to a good connection. He will let me approach him when he is lying down and has laid down to roll with me standing right there (once I was even holding the lead rope-it was on one of our walks! We paused and I wasn't paying close enough attention to see him sniffing around!). I do anything to just be around him.

He has a tendency to "yawn" quite often when we are in his stall together. Not just a little yawn-but a big, huge, you-can-count-his-molars type of yawn. Always eager to learn more about him and what he may be telling me, I poked around the internet and was surprised to learn that a lot of people feel horse yawn when they are uncomfortable, even cranky. One lady said her horse only yawns when he sees her coming with the bridle. He cocks his head and yawns, and she knows he's not happy about what's about to come.

Could I be annoying him when I'm meaning to bond! Uh-oh! What should I do differently??

Thanks for everything! CC

A:

A: Dear CC:

Yawning can mean many different things.

1) Simply the horse is tired or just sleepy and yawns before he takes a nap or rests.

2) The horse yawns to release tension in their body or pain somewhere in their body. Whenever my farrier works on my horse's right hind leg, he stretches the tight hip muscles on that side and my horse always yawns in relief.

3) A yawn is a response to a release of endorphin chemicals into the nervous system. Whenever I give my horse a mouth massage and release the endorphins he yawns quite a bit. Yesterday, I worked with a yearling colt and gave him mouth massage. He yawned 7 times afterward and did a huge body stretch up through his neck and in to his back. The release of chemicals through massage is very therapeutic.

4) A yawn is also a letting go after work or training. Almost all of the horses I work with yawn after we have finished our exercise together. Their jaws can be tight during work (especially if they are wearing a tight noseband and/or have mouth/teeth pain) and when the bridle comes off they yawn to stretch the tight jaw muscles.

I always encourage the yawn because it is such a huge form of release for the horse. The bigger and wider they open their mouth and stretch their jaw the better the release. Horses also can get headaches and the yawn lets tension go from the tight muscles around the forehead and the poll. In any yawn, they usually stretch their poll and neck muscles at the same time they stretch the jaw, which is also very positive.

I would suggest to your friend who has the horse that yawns before being bridled, to loosen the noseband. Also, he may have had the metal bit hit his teeth at some point and he remembers this and wants her to be very careful while the bit is being put in his mouth each time. Tell her to give him mouth, jaw (TMJ) and face massages as often as possible. This will help curb any past fears he might have. Also make sure to tell her to have his mouth checked by a professional equine dentist every 6 months to once per year.

Enjoy your horse and the yawns. It sounds like you are both on the right path.

Sincerely, Mary

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female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

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