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Vol. 4, 2012


This newsletter is all about how to help you help your horse, move better, last longer and prevent injury.



Does Good Conformation lead to Good movement?? Not necessarily. Let’s take a look at why.

Conformation known as form, is the skeletal system made up of bones and joints. The bones and joints must be located at specific angles. Different angles such as hip, shoulder or pastern angle create different degrees of movement in the horse’s body. The bones are the back drop for the muscles. Muscles move the bones, contributing to the musculoskeletal system responsible for movement. However, there is a very important neurological system hidden from our view that is ultimately responsible for good movement supporting good performance. The system is similar to the electrical system in all of our homes that works to allow all of the appliances to function in perfect order. It is similar to the perfect timing and synchronization of the pistons in the engine of our cars, so the engine runs smoothly. This intriguing neurological system is called proprioception. This is the neuro-muscular process by which the body synchronizes itself into the proper sequence of motions. It basically let’s the body know where its limb’ s are in space through proprioceptors which are tiny neurological sensory receptors that provide information about joint angle, muscle length, and muscle tension. It is what synchronizes movement into perfect timing. It is what makes a great dressage horse dance fluidly. It is what makes a top cutting horse slice impeccably through an arena...

Read more about proprioception and why it is important to your horses' movement


Refusing to pick up the correct lead at the canter. Shortened stride in front.

Presenting Problem:

I received a call from a very worried client. She just purchased her new horse 3 weeks ago and recently, she was unable to get her horse to pick up the left lead at the canter. As a result, the horse would not do a proper lead change. I asked if her horse was lame. She didn’t think he was weight bearing lame. Therefore she didn’t call a vet first. She wanted to rule out simple muscle tightness as the reason for the new problem. I appreciated her worry since she just purchased the horse and she was fearful that there might be a deeper problem that was not picked up during the pre purchase vetting. I thought it might be kind to inject a bit of humor to try to calm her nerves, so I told her my father’s old saying: “Worrying is using your imagination to create what you don’t want”!

I reassured her that this is a common muscular problem and if it was simple muscle tightness, I would be able to restore the motion immediately.

Problem Solving: 

Since I was evaluating muscle function, I asked my client to lead the horse at the walk away from me and then toward me in a straight line. I get the best view of muscle function at the walk. The horse was more labored and shorter in his left shoulder and was also shorter in the right hind. When I say labored, I mean that it appeared harder for the horse to bring his left shoulder forward, resulting in a shortened stride in the left front leg. I assumed that the right hind shortness was compensatory for the left shoulder. Since the dynamics of motion occur on a diagonal, the left shoulder and right hind would be the effected diagonal pair...

Read more about the problem, cause, and solution


The training sessions for the United States and Canada Equestrian Team’s in 3 Day Eventing have begun. The sessions are intended to support and train qualified horse’s and riders who have been chosen to be on a list heading for the 2012 Olympics in London England.

(click photo to zoom in)

Five horses and riders will be named in early summer from the list to make up the teams going to the Olympic Games. The opening ceremonies for the Olympics will be held July 27th. It is a very exciting time in preparation for the Games.

(click photo to zoom in)

Several training sessions for both the US and Canada are occurring at O’Connor Equestrian, Meredyth South, in Ocala Florida. Both countries riders and horses are seen simultaneously training with their respective coaches. David O”Connor is the coach for the Canadian Eventing Team and Captain Mark Phillips is the coach for the United States Eventing Team.

(click photo to zoom in)


Trainer: Barend Heilbron, originally from Holland, owner of Capstone Farm in Madbury NH, USA, is a longstanding horseman, rider and trainer of all levels of dressage horses.

Question: Since you live and train year round in southern New Hampshire, USA which is a cold climate in the winter, will you offer your comments and guidelines on  training and maintaining a fitness level for horses during cold weather conditions?

Read Barend's answer


The Benefits of Eating Breakfast

We all make sure our horses are fed and watered in the morning before we consider starting their day. It is unusual to train a horse, or even compete without feeding them breakfast. We hold the care of our horses to a high standard, but does the same standard apply to the rider, or horse owner? I'm not so sure.

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of our day, yet we often find ourselves neglecting to fuel our bodies and minds properly before we begin our work and chores. The meaning of the word "breakfast" is to break the fast between dinner and the meal eaten after a person wakes up the next morning.

These are busy times. Many of us are multi tasking and tend to grab a cup of coffee and a yogurt or power bar, or just a diet coke before or after we feed our horses a well balanced meal. Here is a really good link titled "Top 10 Benefits of Eating Breakfast". Check it out. I found it a very helpful list of reasons to eat a nutritious breakfast, since I am one of the guilty breakfast breezer’s. 

I also welcome you to check out an article I wrote for the Chronicle of The Horse in 2009 titled "Who Cares About the Rider". You may click on the link below for the article. The article appears at the top of the page listed under Chronicle of Horse.


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