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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

Questions of the Month

Q:

Dear Mary: I read your article about acupressure points on the neck, hollows in front of and behind the ears, and the hollows above the eyes. Now I have a question.

I found the quarter-sized spot on the neck of my 19-year-old gelding, but for the life of me I can't find it on my 8-year-old mare's neck. Any suggestions? After "not finding" the neck spot, I proceeded to apply light pressure to the hollow above her eyes. She just about fell asleep! She also licked and chewed and lowered her head some. I led her around as you suggested in your article and let her process what had just happened. She was very quiet.

The mare gets ridden a lot now--especially since I joined a riding group. I also got a new saddle that caused her some back pain just under the cantle area, so I stopped using that saddle, but got a new saddle pad that keeps pressure off her spine. She really seems to like this pad.

But because of the riding, and perhaps because her back had been sore from that one saddle, I am now having trailer loading problems. She loads fine at home, but when it's time to come home, she is quite the handful and pulls me around (didn't use to do that), and moves her body parallel to the back of the trailer. It could be she would rather travel with another horse, but that's not the case most of the time. I'm hoping the acupressure will help.

Let me know what I need to do to find that spot on her neck. Thanks, BD

A:

Dear BD: So glad you are able to use the acupressure on your horses.

For the mare, try following the muscle striations from the back of the ear staying about 2 inches below the mane line and run down about 4 inches through the muscles with your fingers. You may find the hole by putting your fingers down into the muscling. She may be heavily muscled in the poll area not allowing you to find the acupressure point.

If she is heavily muscled in that area I would recommend that you massage that area quite a bit as she has been bracing and holding tension there for quite awhile. Muscling throughout the poll and neck should be flat and even and flowing with no bulges, thick areas or noticeable delineations.

As far as getting her back into the trailer when you are going back home you need to take many things into consideration.

Does she like the trailer? Sometimes after one trailer ride they will not get back in if that ride has been uncomfortable (bumpy, too fast, quick starts and stops, fast turns, etc.) without much support to sway with. For instance: I borrowed a friend's trailer a few times this Summer and it is an open stock trailer with no support anywhere inside. My horse leans up against the front of the trailer trying to find his footing and support. After I used it the second time it was a real struggle getting him to go back in from our trail ride. The ride was too uncomfortable, unsupported and stressful for him to do it one more time. I did get him in by myself after about 30 minutes of ground work leading up to the trailer. So I am looking to use a different type of trailer now which has plenty of support and a comfortable ride for him. He has always loaded so easily that I know he is telling me he just doesn't like the ride in this particular trailer.

Other helpful ideas for you: Try some Bach Flowers "Rescue Remedy". You can find this at any health food or organic store. It comes in a small glass vial and you can put a few drops on his tongue a couple of minutes before you are ready to load. This plus your acupressure work should help a lot to calm the horse down and settle.

I load all of my horses by myself and the trick is to get their shoulders square to the trailer opening. If they twist one way or the other or they get horizontal they are not going in. They need to be going forward at all times so you can send them into the trailer as they continue to walk forward with their shoulders pointed forward and squared to the trailer. Give her as much of an opening as you can.

Before you load her do quite a bit of ground work getting her to walk around you and move away from the end of your rope. If you have one hand at her head and you are sending her forward with the end of your rope toward or on her hip she should move straight ahead or around you, whatever you are asking. You may have to really firm up with her and absolutely have the goal of getting in the trailer. Until you accomplish this ground work, she will always be able to get away from you as you go into the trailer. She will drop a shoulder, turn her body, pull back or go around the side of the trailer. She has to keep walking straight ahead and on into the trailer. Then I would reward her with her favorite treats.

I've heard others successfully use the lunge line through the trailer window approach. You thread the lunge line through a strong opening in the front or side of the trailer and hook it onto their halter. You take the lunge line that is lying outside the trailer and begin to pull the horse in while you are using a whip to tap her from behind. With your pressure and pulling this will keep her straight and your tapping hopefully will encourage her forward.

You may also want to take a professional with you once away from home and have a trailer lesson with your mare.

It's always easier with two or more people to help you but I'm usually on my own and need my horse to do as I ask.

I hope all of this will help. My next newsletter will be out this week so stay tuned. Sincerely, Mary Midkiff

FOLLOW UP

Dear Mary: Thanks for your quick reply. I'll try to find that neck spot--her neck is flat and flowing with no bulges, but I did think she felt tense--just forgot to mention that in my initial email. I'll continue some of the other pressure points and work on her neck to relax it more so I can find the pressure point there, too.

As far as the trailer goes, it all started out of the blue after a trail ride with the new saddle. My mare always just hopped onto it with no qualms, but after this particular ride, she resisted. I got her on after about five minutes, but I sure was perplexed. This is a 4-Star 2-horse slant load with mats on the floor and walls. She has the support, plenty of air circulation, light, etc. The other riders were hangin out at their trailers eating a snack after the ride, and thought that maybe my mare just didn't want to leave the other horses. She never cared about that before.

I'll just start working with her and I'll try the Rescue Remedy also. I already checked online to see if my local health food store carries it.

I'll keep you posted. Again, thank you very much for your advice!

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