Rehabbing a horse is hard. For those of you who don’t know me and my boy, Snowdy was my college lesson horse, and I got the honor of taking him home. We had big dreams of being a 3ft jumping team together, but he broke his left elbow in January 2016.
Since then, it’s been a long road trying to recover muscle after nearly a year of stall rest. He’s got some arthritis, but has made progress you can see in the video. In March 2017, he couldn’t walk without a severe limp – you can see how excited and willing he is to canter under saddle now!
However, he’s still not where I want him to be, and his topline struggles. My aunt, who has a horse recovering from EPM, suggested Equibands, and brought me a band to try. Here’s what it looks like in action:
The full set with the pads and bands equals about $220, according to the website, and I decided to try and do this all myself (with the help of a wonderful engineering boyfriend) for about $50. And I’m so glad we did this because the results in Snowdy with our finished project were phenomenal.
Here’s what we did.
Making The Pad
After a trip to Joann Fabric to get supplies and about $50 later, we got to work with one of my old dressage pads. Here are the angles we came up with to sew the buckles onto the pad:
For the black straps, we used nylon, and I learned an awesome trick – to keep the ends from fraying, melt them in the hottest part of a flame for a second or two. The straps and buckles are two inches wide. The nylon strips we used were four inches long each, and there were four strips to sew on.
With the pad ready to go, I watched this 15 minute video about how to introduce a horse to Equibands. Snowdy reacted a lot like Barney (the horse in the video) and didn’t seem to mind the bands much at all.
As I was walking Snowdy around to get him used to the band (we’re just starting with one at a time), my boyfriend said he already noticed a huge difference in the way Snowdy moved. I was excited to put Snowdy on the lunge line and see for myself.
Sorry for the dark pictures – it was dusk – but you can still see how hard his core is working in this picture. See the line down his abdomen that travels toward his stifle?
Snowdy is a horse that is built very downhill, and unfortunately, I don’t think he ever learned how to use his hind end well before he got hurt.
One of his regular ways of moving involves carrying his head very low (muzzle below his knees) for the first half of his workout. Gradually, his head will rise as he warms up. With our DIY Equiband, though, his head stayed level with his withers from the start. I also noticed an increased swing in his hind end, and his eyes were perky and happy the whole time.
Before and after a workout, here are some of the stretches I do with Snowdy. We do a lot of #6 and #7 (that one is his favorite).
I really hope all of these exercises help Snowdy begin to rebuild his topline. We’re also looking into nutritional deficiencies. No matter what, though, quality exercise is important. If you’re researching how to strengthen your horse’s back, this is a video I found incredibly helpful. It’s long, but can help you develop your eye to see when a horse is really using his back.
Be sure that you’re working closely with your vet, farrier, barn manager, and chiropractor (if you have one) to help your horse maintain his or her optimum health.
If you want to learn more about Equicore, check out their website: http://equicoreconcepts.com/index.html
I highly recommend looking at their philosophies and precautions before trying this yourself. Give your horse plenty of time to build up muscle. It can take up to six weeks for their bodies to adapt, and twice as long for muscle definition to become visible. Be patient, and listen to what your horse is telling you.
Going forward, I can’t wait to try both bands with Snowdy after he builds up some strength with the first one. I’m expecting to see an even bigger shift in his gait for the better.
“Through the days of love and celebration and joy, and through the dark days of mourning -the faithful horse has been with us always.” ~ Elizabeth Cotton