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