Nimbus and the Equicore

We love to hear from people who have bought an Equicore Equiband System and how it has helped their horses. This is a story about a horse called Nimbus…

11 year old Irish Sports Horse, 16.1hh, owned since he was 5yo.

From the beginning Nimbus was stiff, reluctant to bend, and either rushing or behind the leg. In the spring of 2016 I moved him from a livery yard to my own home. He developed concussive laminitis due to the grass being way too rich and barefoot. Vet concluded conformation wise he really needed shoes for support (as well as weight loss).

So we got the shoes back on and started to manage his weight. He had a good few months off to recover.

Education wise I guess this really only started in earnest during 2017 after he became sound and lost weight. (to be fair it took me a few years to find a routine that managed his weight successfully)

In Spring 2017 I engaged the help of an instructor and the first thing she did was to have me working on getting him going forward off the leg.

He improved but lacked real progression. The main issues were:

Tension in the jaw, leaning on my left hand, struggling to bend, unable to work in an outline and struggling to go up into canter. In fact his canter transition was awful – like trying to ride an enormous beach ball. He would throw his head, hump his back, throw you forward and upwards at the same time. He also didn’t track up properly in trot and dragged his hind feet making a right mess of the school. He tripped a lot which was also rather disconcerting and unbalancing. He had a tendency to hold his hind legs ‘straight’ with very little bend in the hocks or pasterns. He refused to lift his back – even if you asked him to by running a finger up & down his breastbone. He had massively over developed shoulders from doing all the work ‘up front’. Finally he was very anxious in the school and expressed this anxiety by pooing – a lot!

So.

• I tried different bridles, bits and saddles (and saddle pads) – no difference.
• I tried a physio. Nope.
• I tried a chiropractor. Another nope.
• Teeth & back – all good.

The dressage scores I was getting for Nimbus in 2017 and 2018 I think accurately reflect his physical difficulties at the time. They were consistently hovering around the low 60’s. The judges comments were typically (at Prelim level):

‘Lack of suppleness’
‘Lack of impulsion’
‘Lack of suppleness over the back’.
‘Falling in / out’ (on corners and turns)
‘On the forehand’
‘Laboured canter’
‘Lazy’ (ouch!)

The other thing was Nimbus randomly suffered from tender spots over his back and physically he had a very round flabby bum even after weight loss. It was worse on the right hand side – no muscle tone whatsoever in his quarters. I also noticed when on the lunge on the right rein his pelvis tilted alarmingly to the inside. He would also pull constantly on the lunge rein giving me a very sore arm!

In addition I noticed his poll and neck was remarkably stiff – he just didn’t have any flexibility here. Shoulder in and leg yield could be executed ‘just’ but by a clearly unhappy & unwilling horse.

In October 2018 I visited a clinic where there was instruction on polework and a chiropractor I hadn’t heard of before analysing rider balance / horse balance. The chiro took one look at Nimbus and said ’there is something wrong with him’. She came to see him a few days later, examined him and asked if she could speak to my vet. She did this because she wondered if he had neck arthritis. The vet then asked me to bring the horse in for a lameness assessment at the clinic. I took Nimbus, pointed out the stiff neck, tilting pelvis etc and the vet said well never mind that he’s also very slightly lame behind and recommended a bone scan. This was done and he spotted bone spavin in both hocks. A diagnosis at last!

This resulted in different treatments and physio. The aim of that treatment was control the pain and the aim of the physio was to strengthen the muscles supporting the hock joints – namely those flabby unused quarter muscles of his! Whilst on a visit to my own physio (not the one I use for Nimbus) I told her about Nimbus and she recommended the equicore as she had used it on her horses and client’s horses with good results, so I duly investigated. (she also warned me it was expensive!)

So in 2019 I purchased an equicore and embarked on a programme of work for Nimbus which involved:

• Equicore loose schooling (vet said lungeing was out of the question).
• Walking up and down the driveway (we have a driveway which slopes and is a real muscle burner) in the equicore
• Hacking (in walk only & no trotting because of the impact on his joints)
• Some ridden work in the school, slow steady work that encouraged him to ‘step under himself’ but not too much work in case it impacted his joints.

I then tentatively started doing a bit of dressage again in April 2019… and lo and behold his scores were now a healthy mid to high 60’s and NO comments about him lacking suppleness or being lazy! He even came first in his very first outing – to say I was stunned was an understatement.

Sadly it all went to pot when I fell off in July (practising a Novice test) and broke my tailbone so we only managed 3 dressage competitions in 2019. Bummer.

BUT despite hobbling about for months I kept up with his exercise programme (except for the ridden work where I hired my instructor for flatwork and an army of friends for hacking him out).

In 2020 I now I have a horse:

• With muscle on his derriere! (and neck). Actual REAL muscle! Ok not super defined like a body builder but definitely toned…
• Who can work much more comfortably in an outline (thank goodness – no more aching arms)
• Who doesn’t drag his hind toes as much and has a lot more bend and springiness in his hocks and pasterns.
• Whose pelvis no longer tilts inwards on a right rein circle.
• Who can manage a nice smooth upwards transition into canter – with a light uphill canter instead of the usual on the forehand, heavy labouring canter of doom.
• Who can also enthusiastically manage a respectable half pass & half pirouette. OK its in walk but we’re getting there and its pretty damn good for a horse who in 2017 & 2018 couldn’t go straight never mind sideways.
• Who is forward going and has a ‘proper’ trot which is of a consistent rhythm, with some nice hock lifting, and he even tracks up.
• Who no longer has back problems. His back muscles are pliable and not rigid or sore.
• Who can ‘lift his back’ while working. Amazing! You can even see his core muscles.
• He can also now rear which is something he could never do in the past and even though I don’t condone rearing it is actually a pretty good indicator that Nimbus’ hocks are not causing him pain!
• Who produces a lot less anxious poos. He now does only one instead of the usual 5 or 6 in a 30 minute session. Less poo picking = happy rider.
• He now emits a rhymical soft snorting as he’s working.
• No grunting noises from his ‘man bits’.

OK it is not all to do with the equicore. Why? Because I firstly had to manage Nimbus’ pain levels initially with steroid injections (didn’t work), then daily danilon and finally an Osphos injection.

He is still on one danilon a day and I also give him joint supplements. In the cold weather I keep his joints warm using hock boots and stable wraps.
He also gets regular physio and his work is carefully planned to focus on his hind legs. So I do a lot of quite frankly tedious exercises in walk in hand over raised poles and up and down the driveway, getting him to go sideways and backwards up the hill. I later started to use kinesiology tape and light pastern weights to improve his ‘step’. Recently I’ve started getting him to go sideways & backwards down the hill. His hacking also involves lots of hill work – all done in walk so his joints are not impacted.

But, importantly, any in hand and loose work is done in the equicore to make him work a little bit harder as well as more correctly.

Here are my thoughts.

People shouldn’t buy the equicore as a quick fix. It is NOT a quick fix. It needs to part of a PLAN, an exercise plan ideally worked out in conjunction with a vet and an ACPAT physio.

Things need to be taken SLOWLY. Especially if the horse, like Nimbus, has been in difficulty for years. The horse’s muscles and the way he carries himself will simply be wrong as well as deep seated. It takes time to undo all the damage and encourage the horse using his muscles correctly. So I don’t over do things. I never work Nimbus in the equicore for more than 20 minutes. He is warmed up in walk, in hand first. He is cooled down and praised afterwards. Baby steps!

Make sure whatever has caused the horse’s physical issues in the first instance is fixed. Otherwise you’ll only cause him more pain.

So what, if anything, is annoying about the equicore?
The straps – they are an absolute devil to adjust. But once adjusted its great. (I have been known to turn the air a vibrant shade of blue trying to adjust them)

Looking forward I will keep using the equicore to maintain Nimbus and hopefully 2020 will be ‘his’ year for dressage success. As I said to his physio the other day – Nimbus has now left me behind and I’ll have a job catching up with him so I can do him justice in the ring.

Go Nimbus!

Thank you for this brilliant story. If you would like to share a story with us, please email lizzie@ethicalhorseproducts.co.uk

Get ready…

It’s not that long till the season kicks off. The days are already getting longer, you are starting to look ahead towards the shows, deciding on your aims, working out your goals for the year.

Getting fit for the coming season is really important. We all tend to put on weight over the winter, the weather encouraging us to eat! Our muscle tone diminishes with reduced exercise and our general fitness level decreases. Getting ourselves fit independently of our horses is important to help our riding. Try and walk more, or go jogging to help increase your general fitness. If jogging isn’t quite your style, why not try some yoga or stretching to keep improve flexibility and muscle tone.

As well as improving our own fitness, helping our horses to improve their muscles tone and carriage is part of preventing injury. It is all too tempting to try and skip groundwork to get out competing or out for that really long hack, but the injury risk becomes higher if we miss the important basics.

The Equiband System enables the horse to build good musculoskeletal strength and facilitates the horse in flexing up through the spine. It is not a shortcut or a gimmick, but as part of a sensible and structured rehabilitation or training schedule it may help to encourage your horse to work in an optimum way.

There are no shortcuts to making you and your horse fit, but it is important to make sure that you have the best year with your horse. Time spent now on both of your fitness, will pay dividends throughout the year, so get those trainers on and start jogging! Remember pain now will bring you pleasure later, so as you’re running through the rain picture a glorious sun-filled hack for miles and miles and miles!

 

Post surgery care is vital

In the USA, 90% of the sales of Equiband are with recommendation from a vet. The value in the Equiband for horses in rehabilitation from surgery, in particular Kissing Spine surgery, is particularly note-worthy. With horses, as in humans, the results from surgery are so very often down to how well the exercises recommended post-operatively are carried out. By ensuring that we give our horses the best post-surgery care, we increase their chances of a full and complete recovery. If the Equiband can help with this, then, for that alone, this system is priceless.

The Equiband system is ideal for use across a range of ages, and conditions of horses, not just for those in post-surgery rehab. The eventer Elena Hengel, 2016 USEA North American Junior & Young Rider Eventing Championships CICY2* participant who currently trains with Will Coleman, uses the Equiband system extensively; “While I ordered the band with a particular horse in mind, I now use it on all of my horses.”

Due to the design of the Equiband and how it clips onto the saddlecloth, it can be used for a period of time during work and then removed. Though it is important to dismount before removing the bands.  It is not designed to be used all the time, but instead to be used consistently as part of a program to improve the conditioning of the muscles. The use can then be reduced over time, as the back becomes stronger. It is suitable for the old or the young. The competition horses and the pleasure rides. It has been developed to help improve muscle function, and for this purpose it is perfect across an incredible range of scenarios.

The Equiband system is a unique system that has to ability to help build and maintain your horse’s muscular structure, so that he can optimise his movement and comfort. Due to the design it is not possible for the horse to “cheat” in anyway, so that he will be able to build good muscles, and good habits in the use of his body. This time spent correctly conditioning the horse’s back, will pay dividends over the years, giving you many hours of pleasure with your happy and healthy horse.

If you can’t warrant the expense of the Equiband system, but would like to be able to develop your horse’s core strength, then the exercises in the book and DVD by Hilary Clayton Activate Your Horse’s Core, will help you to achieve this.

To order your Equiband, please click here!

Expensive or good value?

By Lizzie Hopkinson

Price is subjective. What one person thinks of as expensive others may think of as cheap. We all have different values and limited pockets, and always make our choices accordingly.

I recently went to a private dental practice which advertised as specialising in nervous patients. The service I received was outstanding, the level of empathy and compassion provided by all the staff from the receptionists to the dentist was exemplary. I was very impressed.

But the cost of receiving treatment was too expensive for me. Not over-priced, just out of my budget. On reflection I think the level of care you would receive there was justified in the price. My decision not to go ahead with the treatment was not a reflection on their service but simply on my pocket. I will find another service which will be cheaper, but may not be quite as good. Would I have gone to the private dentist if I could have afforded it – yes!

We sell products that are expensive. I have heard comments about both the Equiband System and the Arc Equine around their expense. But are they too expensive? No – as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. The developers of the Equiband System spent two years finding the right material to use for the bands. People are making their own “equibands” using theraband or elastic bandages – you cannot expect that to be as good.

Remember just because you cannot afford a product, it doesn’t mean the product is too expensive, or over-priced, it just means it is too expensive for your budget. However budgets can be honed. Do you buy a coffee every day for £2.50? If you didn’t for 80 days you would have saved the price of an Equiband System. £20 a week on a takeaway? Have 10 weeks off and you have saved the price of an Equiband System.

I’m off to work out if I can save enough money elsewhere in my budget to pay for private dental care…

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The Equiband System – an insight…

One of the founders of Equicore Concepts, Nicole Rombach, talks about how the Equiband System was developed and how it can benefit your horse.

The concept for the Equiband system was developed when a group of equine practitioners saw the need for a more optimal means to engage the horse’s core in work. The core can essentially be described as the bridge between the axial (spine/main body) and appendicular (limbs) systems of the horse. Core strength refers to optimal function of the deep muscles that surround the spine, and more superficial muscles of the trunk. Both muscle groups need to function to provide stability in movement (dynamic stability). This is known as motor control. Where there is no adequate core stability and a loss of motor control, compensatory movement patterns and overloading of limbs can result in adapted gait, which in turn predisposes the horse to injury due to suboptimal loading. Core strength can be affected by a number of clinical conditions including back/neck pain, lameness, muscle disorders (myopathies) and nervous system disorders (neuropathies).

 

The Equiband system promotes optimal core function, which was revealed in a recent published study that was carried out in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College. With use of the system, there was a significant improvement in symmetry of motion of the back and pelvis. Though more studies are needed (and already in progress!), the results show that it is possible to create dynamic symmetry in the ridden horse.

 

The response from the veterinary world has been overwhelmingly positive, in terms of using the Equiband system in rehabilitation. In the USA alone, 90% of the orders come directly from veterinary referral. Users mainly include owners with horses that are treated for back and neck pain, post-colic surgery. So saying, many horses are being fitted with the Equiband system for general improvement in conditioning. It is exciting to see riders at global top level using the system as part of their conditioning programmes. The Equiband system is also introducing in post-grad programmes in veterinary physiotherapy, throughout the world.

 

As clinical reasoning is key in the application of the system, international distributors are either veterinarians or qualified/licensed equine therapists. Where an underlying clinical condition is suspected, the horse must be referred to the primary responsible veterinarian for clinical investigation.

 

Dispelling some of the myths around the Equiband system:

 

Firstly, it is not a training aid. The concept involves a constant, light, direct stimulus (proprioceptive input) from the body to the brain (the centre of motor control). For effective (re)training of movement, motor control patterns need to be repeated until the movement is carried out without reminder. As such, the system is initially used on a daily basis, and depending on the horse’s progress, use is reduced after 4 or so weeks, to 3-4 times per week, and eventually the horse will use the system as a ‘reminder’, once or twice a week, depending on how the horse is progressing. The system is safe for use on the treadmill, in the horsewalker and in the underwater treadmill. It is an ideal means to train the horse’s core strength during recovery from injury or surgery, where exercise is limited to controlled walking, for example.

 

Folks are using different materials to imitate the system. This is fine, but it is key to remember that the Equiband™ material was developed over a two-year period, to achieve optimal tension and texture for safe and beneficial use on horses. We used the human Theraband for many years, but found that this rolled on the horse, and due to the difference in texture, it did not give the same proprioceptive feedback to the horse as what it does in people. The same goes for the use of soft bandages; there is some proprioceptive feedback, but not the same consistency.  It depends on what the user aims to achieve. We found that the tension and texture of the Equiband™ system is optimal for what we aim to achieve.

Our guest blogger this week is Nicole Rombach APM, MEEBW, CCBW, PG AM, MSc., PhD, President, Equinenergy/Caninenergy Ltd, Chair, IEBWA United Kingdom & Europe.

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