Horse rehabilitation can cover lots of different scenarios, from taking on a horse that has suffered from illness or injury and needs a sympathetic return to work, to an animal that has been physically or mentally abused and needs a very holistic approach to training. You may be re-schooling an ex-racehorse or trotter who is simply accustomed to a very different type of contact, aids and outline.
In any case, it’s important to address the fundamentals at an early stage of rehabilitation, lending you a solid foundation to work from. This will include ensuring that the horse’s teeth and back have been checked over and checking that your tack fits well. It’s wise to allow for changes in their topline as their back muscles (hopefully!) grow and strengthen during training – you may find it necessary to get your saddle fitter to visit every 3 months or so.
If a horse has been suffering from issues that affect their willingness to accept contact, that’s an excellent place to focus when you kick off your rehabilitation. We aim for a soft, consistent contact in riding to ask for a longer stride, change in gait, steering and more collection. But what to do if the horse has been ridden by someone with very heavy hands, learnt to run through even the harshest of bits or had long term dental problems? If the horse associates contact with pain, fear or negative reinforcement, even once the problem is taken away, you will need to spend time reeducating them.
The EquiAmi lunge aid is an excellent tool to use in these situations, because it teaches horses to accept contact without fixing them in place or applying excessive pressure. Our lunging aid is quite different from other training tools (and patented as a result!) because it places the horse inside a self-centering loop. That loop isn’t fixed, so the horse can’t lean on one rein or the other, or run through the contact. As the horse begins to work in a more rounded outline, they are immediately rewarded with a loosening of the training aid loop. It also won’t catch on their mouth if they are in the beginning stages of rehab and struggle to maintain perfect self-carriage or a perfect circle for the entire session.
The EquiAmi is also the perfect tool to help those all-important topline muscles develop. It encourages the horse to work in a round, engaged outline, and that helps those muscles work but crucially without the weight of a rider on them. This ‘pump’ is fantastic for blood flow to the area. Most horses learn to work within the ‘loop’ in just a few sessions, ensuring they are accepting contact and working in an effective outline, perfect for mixing into your rehabilitation training regime. Going forward, just two x 20-minute lunge sessions in the EquiAmi are needed to keep the horse working those muscles and developing self-carriage.