Fitness Evaluation of the Horse (Howell Equestrian Library)
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They operate in interconnected groups, so that if one neuron dies, the function it performed is not necessarily lost. But Nature only provides a limited amount of time during which damage can be repaired or compensated. By doing so, they can bring those muscle cells back. Suppressing the offending organisms and eliminating edema and inflammation might allow the nerve to start functioning again. Thus, the sooner treatment is started with anti-protozoal drugs to suppress replication of the parasite , vitamin E to promote the immune system and healing of nerve system tissue , and possibly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation , the longer the window of opportunity is open for restoration of nerve supply.
Once drug treatment is underway and the horse is showing some positive response, the next step is introducing rehabilitation. Exercise benefits the recovering EPM horse.
Exercise can strengthen muscles, retrain damaged spinal tracts, and enhance healing of the nervous system. Physical therapy can begin as early as two or three weeks after drug therapy has commenced, providing the horse is feeling well, showing positive response to treatment, and has some degree of stability or balance. Exercise sessions might have to be brief at first.
The horse benefits if you can do these exercises twice a day. They benefit from both physical and mental activity. Rather, keep the horse in some short, daily exercise for several weeks to months, as the horse is able. At worst, there will be an opportunity for a postmortem diagnosis. Horses might take three, six, even 12 months to recoup maximum fitness and strength. The amount of rehabilitation needed will vary according to where damage has occurred and the severity of the damage.
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The recovering EPM horse often is reschooled like a green horse, beginning with basic ground exercises. Andrews likes to begin longeing the horse to the left and right to improve strength in two to minute sessions a day, if the horse is able. Otherwise, do shorter sessions.
Alternatively, a treadmill for the same length of time also builds strength. Then work up to poles just a few inches high, then up to one- and two-foot fences. Andrews also recommends working the horse in a saddle, but still without a rider, then adding weights to the saddle as strength increases. Self-exercise is also beneficial, Andrews stresses.
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However, horses should not be turned out on pastures that are wet or the footing unsure, as a horse may fall and injure itself. Also, if the horse is severely uncoordinated or cannot maintain its balance, then turnout would be contraindicated. Take it very slow and build up strength by moving in circles, moving straight, and helping the horse build coordination.
Reed also recommends beginning with basic ground exercises consisting of hand-walking, ground poles, and cavallettis. Once the horse becomes reliable, Reed suggests ponying up hills and using dressage-type exercises. These exercises can be done mounted, if the horse is safe and strong enough. Because the horse cannot always put his legs where he wants them, he can develop a lack of confidence in his ability to move and might appear resistant or reluctant to exercise, notes Stahl.
Specific exercises will vary according to affected areas.
Sit with your weight to the direction that you want the leg to go. If necessary, apply toe weights to help get the horse really to use his leg. At the beginning of this phase, the horse might be able to work for only five or 10 minutes before tiring. Gradually build up work sessions as the horse regains strength and until he is able to work comfortably for 30 minutes. Phase one generally lasts anywhere from a week to three months.
This should improve self-carriage, and the horse not only should have a working rhythm, but is really carrying himself completely. This phase usually takes about three to six months to complete. The horse should be able to gradually increase workout time from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. But if the horse lacks determination in the swing of those legs, stay with the second phase. In phase three, the horse is asked to shorten and lengthen his frame like a dressage, jumping, or reining horse. In this third phase, we work with range and control of motion, moving their haunches and shoulders anywhere you want them to be, and asking the horse to maintain this position.
This phase generally takes about six to 12 months. The horse should be able to gradually increase training sessions from 45 to 60 minutes. Once the horse has completed the program, employ these exercises as needed. Stahl points out that the horse will achieve better rehabilitation if the trainer can target the areas that are weakened and develop exercises to strengthen specifically those areas.
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Nutrition of the exercising horse | EAAP Scientific Series
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