Everything you ever wanted to know…part 6

We sent Sue Palmer from The Horse Physio along to catch up with the founder of Equicore Concepts, Nicole Rombach, to talk all about the Equiband System

You can watch the interview by clicking on the image below, or read the transcript underneath.

 

Sue Palmer MCSP: “In the study that was done at the Royal Veterinary College, the tension of the bands, I believe, was 30%?”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “Correct”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “What made you choose that level of tension?”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “The maximal tension that we recommend is 50% of full stretch.  Anything over that is really too strong, or too high a tension, so it wouldn’t be showing the continued stimulus as a continuous input during movement.  Whereas not having sufficient tension does not give you any stimulus or input.  This is a question that comes up often, when clients will say that the abdominal band appears to slide back, or the hind quarter band appears to ride up, that generally there’s not a sufficient tension on the bands.  So the 30% was set as a guideline as part of the standardisation for the research protocol, knowing that it would give a sufficient stimulus or input, but that it would also be able to remain in place, so not too loose.  In terms of standardisation for having a constant contact during the experimental study. “

Massive thanks to both Nicole Rombach and to Sue Palmer, and keep an eye out for the next in the series of blogs about the Equiband System…or if you can’t wait head over to watch the other interview installments here!

#HOYS2018

By Sue Palmer

I survived!!!  I was so far out of my comfort zone, but what an honour to be asked to speak at the Horse of the Year Show!  So many people have been asking how it went, thank you for your interest!  I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer that question, but from what I could see, no one left part way through the talk, and the people that were drifting by and stopped to listen for a minute seemed to sit down and stay for the rest, so I reckon that’s a good benchmark to go by 🙂

I talked about why it’s so important to recognise pain behaviours in our horses in order to avoid punishment based training methods.  I described some of the practical exercises from Brain Pain or Training that we can use with our own horses on a regular basis to check their level of comfort (there wasn’t time to describe them all), and I talked about the recent research from Sue Dyson and the Animal Health Trust looking at how to recognise pain in the ridden horse through facial expression and behaviour.  Looking more deeply into the research has left me even more fascinated, and I’m really looking forward to reading more studies in depth over the coming months and sharing that knowledge through Patreon.

So where do I go from here? I’m not sure yet, but I know I’m looking forward to the journey, and I hope you’ll come along with me 🙂

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Are you stiff?

By Lizzie Hopkinson

For anyone who has been fortunate enough to never feel stiff or inflexible (does such a person even exist?!), and wonders what it feels like, I highly recommend you watch the beginning of the film “Up.” (Grumpy old man sails away in his house powered by helium balloons…) The protagonist’s attempt at getting out of bed never fails to bring a smile to my face. I have had moments where I have struggled to get out of bed, or off the sofa, usually caused by the same combination of events – either too much exercise for my level of fitness, or trying to perform above my current level of ability. Or falling off! Disregarding the last one, the first two are most definitely my responsibility and I could choose to prevent them from happening, or do my best to reduce the potentially painful consequences of either.

Our horses however are generally expected to do what we ask of them. If we ask them to work above their current level of ability, or to do more than is appropriate for their level of fitness, they are likely to suffer some level of discomfort. It is not their decision whether or not to do too much. Equally if we don’t do enough with them, if we allow their core to become weak through lack of exercise or put their joints at risk of damage through excess bodyweight (or horse and / or rider), we must shoulder at least a large proportion of the blame. If we spend too much of a particular schooling session working them in the same shape, using the same muscle groups without respite, we are responsible for their pain (imagine how much it hurts to stay in a prolonged squat, for example). The horse, intelligent though he is, cannot lead the process of developing or maintaining a fitness program, of warming up and cooling down, of working within his abilities, we must do it for him.

So much of what we owe our horses is in giving them care that they cannot give themselves, in return for the moments that we could not enjoy without them. Spending time doing simple exercises to improve their flexibility will improve their life. It will also improve our time with them, as it will reduce stiffness and improve movement, giving us not only improved performance (if that is something that matters to us), but also a more comfortable and enjoyable ride.

I have experienced this for myself. When I started running, my muscles ached and my joints hurt. As I became fitter, the running improved, as did the recovery time, provided that I increased my mileage gradually and built my time and strength up accordingly. But when I added in doing regular yoga to the mix, something amazing happened. Rather than feeling okay, I suddenly felt fantastic. As I became looser, suppler, more flexible, I found I could run faster, stronger, longer, with less negative effects on my body. It seems like such a small thing, but for me that time spent doing some simple yoga moves on a regular has the most incredible effect.

The evidence backs up my experience, and so we know that similar principles apply to working our horses. When they are comfortable and flexible, fit and working at the right level, they will feel fantastic. Rather than feeling short and choppy they will move with improved rhythm and greater stride length, whether they are moving around the field, working in hand, being ridden out hacking, schooling, jumping or competing. Simple exercises to help our horses stay fit and well will help maintain good health in the long term, encouraging flexibility and core strength.

Getting into the habit of performing simple mobilisation exercises with our horses at least two or three times a week (ideally daily) will not only help our horses and offer us a lovely way to spend time bonding, it enables us to give something back to the horse that serves us so well.

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Everything you ever wanted to know…part 5

We sent Sue Palmer from The Horse Physio along to catch up with the founder of Equicore Concepts, Nicole Rombach, to talk all about the Equiband System

You can watch the interview by clicking on the image below, or read the transcript underneath.

 

Sue Palmer MCSP: “Do you have any other products in the pipeline at the moment?”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “From the equine side, no. Although in addition to the band system, we do have an additional part that is not sold with the general system.  When clients purchase the Equiband system they will be given a saddle pad, 2 abdominal bands and 2 hindquarter bands.  There is a thoracic sling system available, which clips to the small ring that’s attached to the forward arch of the saddle pad.  That’s used in more specific cases under veterinary or therapeutic guidance, for horses that have a weakness in the thoracic sling, i.e. lower neck into the cranial [front] portion of the back.  This is a key area of stability required for the forelimb, and shoulder into neck, and many horses that have issues in that area have really benefited from use of the thoracic sling.  However, it really goes back to the fact that the core, that abdominal tunic, needs to be sufficiently strong, so again, using it with clinical reasoning, and ensuring that the starting point is further back.”

Massive thanks to both Nicole Rombach and to Sue Palmer, and keep an eye out for the next in the series of blogs about the Equiband System…or if you can’t wait head over to watch the other interview installments here!

5 Habits Of Highly Successful Dressage Riders

I’ve been fortunate enough to have ridden and trained at some of the top dressage facilities in the world. As someone who prides himself on being a hard worker, I am always shocked at how many of the best riders take dedication, work ethic, and discipline to a whole new level. It’s not surprising these riders are performing at their peak. Whether it was Hof Kasselmanns in Germany, or Shannon and Steffen Peters barn in California, there were a few universal habits I noticed in every top rider.

1) THEY HAVE A GROWTH MINDSET

My good friend Joseph Newcomb is a perfect example of this. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s the InHand Guy. He travels the world helping everyone from Olympic riders to those just dabbling in the art of dressage, to achieve a better relationship with their horse through the power of in-hand work. He does all this while running his own training and sales operation in San Diego. I love my conversations with Joseph because he’s always discovering something new, experimenting, or playing with ideas he’s picked up along his journey. He devours books on a vast range of topics and always finds a way to apply these principles to training. Being able to think outside of the box in an effort to better their own ability, is a trait I’ve noticed in all of the successful riders I know, even those at the very top of their game.

2) ROUTINE

Every single one of these top riders sticks to a consistent routine. They always start their day at the same time with a specific morning ritual (ie eating breakfast at a certain time, or soaking in a hot tub before their day begins), whatever their routine was, it was consistent.

According to Daniel Carnett, founder of the Art Of Routine:

To be successful in life you need structure as it provides a fantastic foundation of organization to help schedule your day. Understanding exactly how your day is going to unfold is vital in knowing how to distribute your energies.
Once one task is completed you know where your next step will be falling e.g. your morning run is followed by a shower which is then followed by breakfast. This familiarity doesn’t just extend to the day ahead of you either; it can also help you plan several days at a time which, again, reinforces the control you can have over your own destiny.

 

Having a routine enabled these riders to free their minds to focus on the task at hand; developing their horses.

3) SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH LIKE MINDED PEOPLE 
Every top facility I have ever been to has a common element; a strong sense of community. When you are surrounded with others who understand your passions and goals, they have the ability to lift you up when you are down and to keep the momentum of your successes when you are on a roll.

I’m reminded of the old saying, you are the average of the 5 people you hang around most often. Choose wisely.

4) TAKE TIME FOR THEMSELVES

After riding his horses Steffen Peters would head to the cliffs along the San Diego shoreline to fly his remote-controlled gliders. Other riders from Kasselmanns head to the fields to unwind with a game of soccer. Whatever pursuit they did once they were done with their horses, it was all about them.

As Jessica Schwartz says, “If you aren’t happy, mentally, emotionally, physically, then how can you give it your all in business and for others? If you can’t care for yourself, how can you care for anyone else?”

5) THEY CELEBRATE OTHER’S SUCCESSES

This ties into habit #3, but I saw it again and again. Top riders encourage their community to succeed and revel in their successes and offer support if they fail. I have never seen a stronger example of this than the team at Arroyo Del Mar; where every time a rider from the barn goes down Centerline, all the trainers, riders, and clients gather at the in-gate to watch the ride. With this type of support system, each rider feels like they are part of something greater than themselves. When we feel this way, we push ourselves further than we would ever push ourselves alone.

These habits are universals truths at every top facility I have been to. If you can implement all 5 of these habits into your daily routine and practice, life will improve as a result,  guaranteed.

Happy Riding!

By guest blogger Stephen Forbes of Solo Equine

Everything you have ever wanted to know…part 4

We sent Sue Palmer from The Horse Physio along to catch up with the founder of Equicore Concepts, Nicole Rombach, to talk all about the Equiband System

You can watch the interview by clicking on the image below, or read the transcript underneath.

 

Sue Palmer MCSP: “Are you pleased with how the Equiband has been received?”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “I have to say it has exceeded expectations! In the USA the orders that come through are now 95% purely vet referral, and that’s huge to see how the veterinary community has really embraced the concept as part of a rehabilitation system for horses that have specific issues.  It’s recommended regularly for horses after kissing spine diagnosis, after colic surgery, and as well in cases where gait irregularities have been observed.  Because when the core is ‘off’ the movement is distributed through the limbs, and we’ve seen a number of cases where giving that core stability in movement, the gait asymmetry has essentially disappeared. Again, the focus is on movement retraining from the inside out.

The fact that we now have some research that’s been made public on the effects of the Equiband system has certainly added to its credence.  There are more research projects currently underway and further in the planning.  We know from the study that has already been published that you can see an alteration in the symmetry of movement (excursion) of the back and the pelvis.  Back motion and pelvic symmetry are key indicators of performance, so to be able to achieve this through use of the system is certainly very useful.”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “That was the study that was carried out at the Royal Veterinary College in London and published May 2017?”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “Correct, yes.”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “The key finding was ‘improved dynamic core stability’.

Dr Nicole Rombach: “Yes.  Of course, other studies are underway.  These include studies with riders, because of course it’s key to look not only at the movement of the horse without a rider, but also how it translates into ridden work.  There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence and feedback on the efficacy of the system and positive results that riders feel.  But in order to remain in the realm of it being approved and recognised under veterinary use further studies are necessary.  So it’s exciting to see that students in different fields, both the physiotherapy field here in England, and people in other areas of research, are embracing the system, to look at different parameters or variables within the studies, so that we can expand on it’s use, and really understand better where the use is most appropriate, and how it can be applied in not just clinical or therapeutic settings, but also as part of overall maintenance or conditioning programs.”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “Evidence based practice is the way to go, it’s the gold standard.  You’d hope, really, that it’s always going to be ‘further studies recommended’ because it’s always about ongoing learning, progressing, developing, improving.”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “Absolutely.”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “It sounds as though we’ve already come a long way with that, from an initial saddle pad with a hole through it, to now a much more user friendly version.”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “Exactly, yes.  This has been a seven year journey so far, and I hope a journey for many more years to come.”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “It’s great that so many vets are recommending it”

Massive thanks to both Nicole Rombach and to Sue Palmer, and keep an eye out for the next in the series of blogs about the Equiband System…or if you can’t wait head over to watch the other interview installments here!

My ‘A team’

Today is the day I do my first practice run properly through the presentation I’m giving at HOYS this Sunday.  If you’re there and can offer a friendly face and a smile of encouragement, I’m presenting in the Live Zone at 12pm, and I’m waaaaaay outside my comfort zone!  There’s a message I want to share with others, and the passion of sharing that message is stronger than my desire not to be standing in front of a group of people presenting it!  Thankfully I’ve always been a ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ kind of person, so I’ll give it my best shot.  I’ve had plenty of advice, “They’re just people”, “You know your stuff”, and even “Just imagine they’re all naked” (I promise I won’t be doing the last one, just in case you’re watching!).  But it doesn’t make the performance nerves go away.

 

We all have our own way of coping with nerves, and most of us can improve further.  I try to meditate, and to be ‘in my body’ rather than purely ‘in my brain’, because my tendency is to think too much.  I try to prepare as much as I can, to have everything ready, to think in advance what I might need, and most of all to have a good support team around me.  I’m hugely grateful that on this occasion my husband Simon is coming with me, since he’s my rock as well as being tech support.  One of my greatest fears in these situations is that the tech will fail – to the point where, when I’m doing talks and Simon can’t be around, I simply don’t use tech any more.  I actually prefer talking without tech (I’m only talking power point presentations here, but to me that’s serious tech!), but at something like HOYS the area is so big that the extra visual prompts will be really beneficial to the audience.  Simon can only come with me thanks to my sister Charlie and her family who have willingly taken on the challenge (or pleasure?) of having our 6yr old son Philip for the day – and Charlie could only agree to that thanks to her husband Steve agreeing to look after Philip as well as both of their children while Charlie does the competitive run she’s booked in for that day!  I’m also very grateful to my good friend Lisa coming along with her calm (sometimes!) and enthusiastic (always) knowledge and support, initially as an experienced presenter and coach, and afterwards as a friend to enjoy HOYS with.

 

When I wrote Brain, Pain or Training, one of the two most important messages that came out from the 27 guest contributors, all eminent equestrians or equine professionals in their own right, was to gather the right team around you.  Finding practitioners that you trust and respect is not always easy, and sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right.  It’s something that’s worth taking the time to do, because when you’ve got a problem, having the right people to ask can save immense amounts of time, energy and money.

 

So if you see me at HOYS, have a look around, and you’ll see my ‘A team’ nearby, and I’m forever grateful.  Thank you to all of you who support and encourage me in the work I do and the knowledge I’m so keen to share.

 

Sue Palmer is an ACPAT and RAMP registered Chartered Physiotherapist promoting fair treatment of horses through treating, writing and teaching.  You can find out more about Sue and her work at www.thehorsephysio.co.uk, join her community on Patreon at www.patreon.com/thehorsephysio, find her on FB at The Horse Physio and on Twitter @thehorsephysio.

Everything you ever wanted to know…part 3

We sent Sue Palmer from The Horse Physio along to catch up with the founder of Equicore Concepts, Nicole Rombach, to talk all about the Equiband System

You can watch the interview by clicking on the image below, or read the transcript underneath.

 

Sue Palmer MCSP: “What is it you hope to achieve with the Equiband?”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “The majority of horses that were seen in the veterinary clinic had a requirement for more optimal core stability, so that was the idea behind the design. It can be used in various stages of riding or training. In earlier days the theraband was cut to a certain length and placed through a hole in the saddle pad, in a more rudimentary version that was not so aesthetically pleasing, and not as user friendly because you could not clip or unclip in the middle of a training session. Now we have a system that we can use at any time during the training, and you can decide when it’s more appropriate for that horse in a particular work session.”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “I think the fact that it’s so user friendly is one of the key aspects of the system.  Once you’ve set it up for your horse, it is literally a matter of seconds to put it on or take it off.”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “Absolutely.  Clip on and ride away!”

Massive thanks to both Nicole Rombach and to Sue Palmer, and keep an eye out for the next in the series of blogs about the Equiband System…or if you can’t wait head over to watch the other interview installments here!

Do your clothes affect the way you ride?

By guest blogger Stephen Forbes from SoloEquine

 

You know how you feel like a million bucks when you put on your Sunday best? According to new research, you not only feel better but you actually perform better when you wear certain clothes.

Psychologists have now coined this effect enclothed cognition.

In a study that was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, participants were divided into 2 groups. Group 1 wore their normal clothes while Group 2 were told to put on a doctors lab coat. The group wearing the doctor’s lab coat made 50% fewer mistakes in a Stroop test than the participants wearing their normal clothes. In a second variation, Group 1 was told to put on the white coat but was told it was a painters cloak. Group 2 was also told to wear the coat but were told it was a doctors coat. The group which believed they were wearing a doctors coat performed significantly better than the other group.

A couple of interesting conclusions can be drawn from this study. What we wear most definitely affects how we feel, but also affects how we perform, as long as there is symbolic meaning attached to the clothing (ie. doctors coat, business suit, scrubs, sweatpants, etc..). In another variation of the above study the participants were told about the doctor’s lab coat, but instead of wearing the coat they slung it over the back of their chairs. Having the lab coat in close proximity did not enhance the participant’s ability to perform brain games. In order to have a competitive edge, the lab coat had to be worn.

Not surprisingly, this is not the only study that has been done on the subject. I came across a good number of similar studies that show dress affects performance in all aspects of our highly competitive world, from the military to high-performance sport.

Aren’t humans fascinating!?! These types of studies always intrigue me as I tend to ponder how they might affect my life and my performance, especially as a rider/trainer. I’ve started to wonder if I would perform better if I dressed better? If I looked like today’s top trainers would it help me ride like them? If my horses wear tack that looks similar to what horses are wearing at the top of the sport, would it give me a competitive edge? According to the research, the answer is yes!

Food for thought!

As always, happy riding!

 

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Everything you ever wanted to know…part 2

We sent Sue Palmer from The Horse Physio along to catch up with the founder of Equicore Concepts, Nicole Rombach, to talk all about the Equiband System

You can watch the interview by clicking on the image below, or read the transcript underneath.

 

Sue Palmer MCSP: “Can you tell us how the Equiband works?”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “The system itself is comprised of a saddle pad, which comes in different sizes (Pony, Small, Regular, Large), which is designed with layers of material / padding, and is ergonomically shaped (higher in the wither area and at the back of the saddle pad). Each pad has 2 clips, one that points down, and one that points towards the back of the saddle pad, and essentially what it involves is clipping the resistance band into the clips.  Once the tension has been adjusted, the band itself will give a constant proprioceptive input, in other words, stimulus, in movement.  The band itself is designed of a latex free rubber, and it took about 2yrs to get to the optimal consistency in terms of both tension and thickness. We worked with other types of band, for example the human theraband, but found that even though the tension might be optimal for some horses, the material itself would slide or the band would roll.  So in terms of using the horse’s hair as a medium for the band to ‘attach’ to the body, we found that this band was ideal.”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “Was that through observing the horses visually, or through objective measurements?”

Dr Nicole Rombach: “Both!  We played with different thicknesses of the band.  If it’s too light, the stimulus isn’t effective enough, so the band would slide but you could see that it would provide little proprioceptive input.  If it’s too thick then the tension is too great, and the stimulus cannot remain dynamic when you’re going through movement.  We used trial and error over about two years.”

Sue Palmer MCSP: “That’s a lot of work that’s gone into it from some very knowledgeable people!”

Massive thanks to both Nicole Rombach and to Sue Palmer, and keep an eye out for the next in the series of blogs about the Equiband System…or if you can’t wait head over to watch the other interview installments here!