How to Keep You Horse Fit Without Riding
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
6M ago
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Ground Reaction Forces: you can’t avoid them
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
7M ago
During a rebuilding phase, or any holistic training program for that matter, the interaction between gravity and your horse’s gaits must be constantly evaluated. In the past decade we have learned a lot more about ground reaction forces and their impact on different gaits. It is for this reason that I nearly always recommend a slow jog-trot during the early weeks of conditioning, despite the criticism from dressage riders that a horse must always practice the highest quality of each gait, with impulsion and suspension of the trot being a necessary part of rehab and conditioning. This is not on ..read more
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Why a Longe Cavesson?
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
10M ago
Fortunately, good horsemanship does not rely on a tack room filled with specialty equipment. The one piece of gear I do recommend highly, especially for those doing lots of fitness-based groundwork, is a longe cavesson. Since I have written about cavessons frequently in my books, many readers have contacted me to ask about design, uses, and buying resources. In this post, I will answer several of the most frequent questions I receive about longe cavessons. Why a longe Cavesson? If you do groundwork, cavessons are invaluable. They facilitate the horse adopting good posture without force, stress ..read more
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All About Respiration
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
10M ago
At some point, most riders aboard a horse that is breathing heavily will draw a conclusion about its fitness. Respiration, though, can be a fickle fitness marker. And it might sometimes tell you more about a horse’s mental state, physical tension, or plain old natural aptitude than his current fitness. Respiratory rates are always telling us something important. They key is figuring out what the message is. An unfit horse will indeed breathe heavy and hard when exercised. Our goal with better conditioning is to see the horse perform the same degree of exercise with very little elevation in his ..read more
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How Long Should I Train My Horse Daily?
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
10M ago
How long should I train my horse daily? Fitness contributes to far more than aesthetics and performance, making it a constant goalpost for domesticated horses. In terms of health and well-being, it serves a protective role, safeguarding from illness and injury. But how long does a horse need to exercise daily to reap these benefits? While there is no magic rule for daily exercise duration, there are unequivocal needs depending upon the season. During periods of lesser activity due to poor weather or unforgiving schedules, activity needs to be sufficient to maintain bodily systems that rely on ..read more
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The Case for Lightness
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
10M ago
While it might often be spoken about in artistic, aesthetic, or even philosophical ways, lightness — both of movement and also of communication with horses — is more than an abstract ideal. In many ways, it measures a horse’s current physiological capabilities. Can the horse’s small stabilizing muscles perform their role while the locomotive ones perform theirs? Is his nervous system capable of creating fine-tuned movements? Is the horse in a state of calm and curious readiness, indicating activation of his critical parasympathetic nervous system? In order for a horse to move with ease and gra ..read more
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How Does Footing Affect Fitness?
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
10M ago
Without access to multiple riding surfaces, many horses plateau in their fitness or get stuck in a state of physical discomfort. In fact, different footings can play such a big role in any horse’s conditioning that there is an industry adage for it: there are no poor surfaces; only poor use of surfaces. From a fitness and conditioning standpoint, there are benefits to riding on both soft and firm surfaces. If you are limited to training on only one type of footing weekly, chances are good that your horse’s musculoskeletal system has some deficiencies. For both injury prevention and gymnastic c ..read more
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Hill Training for Horses
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
10M ago
Hills offer potent training stimulus, but their benefits rely on understanding the wide variety of uses and outcomes. By itself, riding up and down hills with a vague hope of strengthening your horse does not accomplish much besides creating fatigue. “Strengthening” is a very broad term, and can actually mean all kinds of things, so when we set about hill training it really helps to know why. After all, this goal determines how and when we tackle hills. For a training tool like hills to create adaptations, it needs to be applied relevantly, repeatably and measurably. Hill training serves three ..read more
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Are You Riding all Your Gears?
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
10M ago
One of the simplest ways to improve athletic output is to ride your horse at different speeds within every gait throughout each week. Moving through a range of gears stimulates the neuromuscular system to create fuller metabolic function within muscles. Think of this as tuning up sensory and motor nerves, which thereby leads to clearer and fuller recruitment of muscles they control. Additionally, altering the force of muscle contractions delivers more oxygen and blood. This means better fuel, circulation, and clearance of waste products. In fact, a horse that routinely moves through different ..read more
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Is Your Horse Optimized for Exercise?
Jec Ballou Classical Training
by Jec Ballou
10M ago
When a horse is poised and directing his mental and physical efforts forward on his line of travel, he is in an athletic state. Until then, even well-chosen exercises will not create many results. In English vernacular, we refer to this as the horse being “in front of the leg,” which means if the rider gives a cue, her horse IMMEDIATELY responds. In Western terminology, it is sometimes called ‘readiness,’ as in the horse is always prepared and looking to perform the next exercise. This state of readiness translates to balance and spinal stability as the horse moves. To simplify, here is an exa ..read more
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