A reader with a stringhalted horse had been told to lock her horse up off the pasture, give it a mineral block, a large bale of hay and hard feed it. She was having trouble with transitions even after her horse was supposed to be recovered. So this article is about stringhalt AND transitions.
Here’s my reply…
A mineral block is only as useful as the minerals that are in it. Stringhalt is a magnesium deficiency, and the PROPORTIONS of magnesium to the other minerals are essential for recovery. I have never seen a mineral block with the right proportions of magnesium and other minerals for stringhalt recovery.
Taking your horse off the pasture and locking him up with hard feed is likely to increase his stress levels and DECREASING stress is what you want to do in a stringhalt case for fast and complete and recovery. (Lack of magnesium attacks the nervous system, increases nervousness and stress levels.)
I would be more likely to treat the paddock with lime and dolomite so that it doesn’t happen again, then do all the things that I wrote about in the article that I’m presuming you saw on the website that I have made a category for stringhalt.
A round bale of grass in his paddock is excellent. Just remember he won’t be able to eat all of it as some will eventually get spoiled and inedible…
Magnesium orotate is the best and most easily absorbed of the magnesiums according to Pat Coleby and she has made a lifetime’s research in to the subject. There is lots of information in hte other articles here about how much to use etc.
Then the transition work in the chapter about “just kidding” in Bobby’s Diaries will help you extend his comfort zone through the transition so that he doesn’t go into stress and thus into the stringhalt action. It’s a whole book of great understanding and I can’t give you the whole lot here, it’s too big, but here’s the chapter about the transition work to give you an idea of how valuable that will be for you and your horse.
I know that your horse is having trouble with his down transition, but I think that making sure he is in his comfort zone with the upward transition first and then in his comfort zone in the canter and then the downward transition should come pretty easily. Does that make sense?
Our own posture and “stiffnesses” (is there such a word? If not I just made it up!) in transitions have a HUGE effect on how the horse can manage their own transitions too.
Here’s that chapter with notes from me to you on it in italics.
HOW TO GET HIM SOFT AND DANCING UP INTO THE NEXT GAIT
A horse can gather himself into self carriage AFTER the transition, but it’s the hardest way to do it. Starting off in self carriage is the easiest. “Just kidding” as described by the great Tasmanian horseman Philip Nye is the best way I know of starting off in self carriage. You can do this from trot to canter too and even canter to gallop.
The big picture is that he is walking in self carriage on a loose rein (to start off with), with a lovely soft, rhythmic stride and as you go up into the trot together, the cadence, the soft, rhythmic steps do not change. He lifts up and dances with you into the trot. Oo hoo…it’s a nice feeling!
It is very important that your horse be in their comfort zone from the walk, before you start to work on the transition to the trot.
Imagine it. (Picture it in your mind)
Give all the signals to move from the walk to the trot on a loose rein. Then just when your horse STARTS to trot, when he gathers his body up for that first step, you go through your procedures for stopping. Drop your energy and seat back into the walk and say “just kidding”. If he doesn’t come back into a walk with you, then go through all the steps for your stop.
He maybe can’t stop yet because he is out of balance and can’t stop easily. Lift the reins at the buckle, slide your hand down and pick up one rein, then lift it with a little forward push (this is not yet my signal to stop) then drop your seat into the stop/back up position (that is my signal to stop). Bounce the rein to get in his road a little if he hasn’t stopped from the lifting (that’s my rhythmic way of saying “you haven’t done what I asked yet”). If he doesn’t drop back into a walk then, you may need to shorten your rein a little more to bring his head around for a “bend to a stop”. If he doesn’t stop then, turn your toe out on the same side as the rein (and all the “eyes” as well) helping him to bend to a stop. There’s that fall back emergency bend to a stop again! I would do that differently these days, with my knowledge of connected riding. But this is what I wrote all those years ago!
And if he still doesn’t stop, then rip his head off by pulling his head around for the bend….just kidding!
But seriously, a horse who doesn’t stop easily is out of my comfort zone, so I am happy to pull him around for the stop, lose leadership and get it back again later – after I’ve stopped safely. And don’t rip his head off or pull him over, doing it too hard or too fast. And if you have to pull him around, then there is probably something else going on. Was he really in his comfort zone at the walk? Sit there for a while, still on his back, and do that meditation technique to really connect with his mind and see what he’s got to tell you.
Waiting for him to chew, however long that takes, it will have him getting the idea faster.
So you keep saying “just kidding” like this until, as he starts to trot, you feel these lovely soft feet underneath you, he balances himself beautifully, he elevates his back for the change from walk to trot and steps straight out into a lovely soft, rhythmic stride. HE IS IN HIS COMFORT ZONE in the transition itself.
One of the reasons that some of you feel anxious when you are asking your horse to go faster, (and that is why he goes into the stringhalt action at that time – it’s because he is feeling nervous) is because he’s scared too and you are actually feeling his fear.
It’s a chicken and egg thing (not knowing which came first), but often when a horse is off balance and leaning on his front end there is a tendency for his legs to move faster and faster to catch up. Kind of like lurching down hill, with the legs gathering more and more speed as they go and with horse and rider getting more and more anxious as they go.
There are some horses that people have a lot of trouble working on a loose rein at anything faster than a walk and this is why – he is off balance.
If you’ve been frightened or anxious in this situation, then know that it was danger fear. Whether you actually had an accident or not doesn’t matter, you were actually in danger. This is another excellent example of using your fear to make you safer – which was after all, what fear was designed for!
It’s self carriage that will bring you the lovely soft dancing steps underneath you. I’m telling you that if you’ve done your comfort zone stuff for your horse, as I’ve described it, you will start to get self carriage in the very first day that you do these “just kiddings”. Crikey, it took me years of hard work and lessons and I still didn’t have true self carriage before this!
I’m sorry, there are bound to be things in this chapter that don’t make as much sense as they should because this chapter has a lot of book to explain things like the comfort zone model, that have come before readers come to this chapter.
If there are missing bits of understanding, I can only encourage you to buy the books or put them on to your birthday wish list.
I always recommend Zen Connection with Horses first because of the depth of understanding and connection that it helps you to create and the audio lessons are worth your weight in gold. But it’s Bobby’s Diaries that has the specific framework and specific instructions for your particular problem.
If you are broke and cannot afford the books, then email me back and we’ll figure out a no money way that you can get the information you need! Cheers Jenny
Also, don’t forget the completely free lessons The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse. Yes, they really are free!