Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wendy Murdoch's Sure Foot Equine Stability Program

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to take Nimo to a Wendy Murdoch clinic.  For those who haven't heard of Wendy Murdoch, she is a clinician who works primarily on rider balance and awareness in the saddle. 

She has also developed what she calls the Sure Foot Equine Stability Program.  The program centers on the use of stability pads that the horse stands on.  Here's part of what the program website says about the how the program works, "The pads give under the horse’s weight bringing his attention to where he is placing his feet and providing new information to the balancing part of his nervous system. With this awareness the horse explores, shifts and alters his habitual patterns of standing and moving by himself, ultimately choosing a more secure and effective way to stand and move. The horse retrains himself to stand better without human interference."

It goes on to say, "In addition to reprogramming the balancing portion of the brain there is obviously an affect on the instinctive part of the brain. While it cannot be fully explained there is a calming effect, shifting the horse from the fight & flight reaction or sympathetic autonomic nervous system (ANS) response to the grazing  or parasympathetic (ANS) response. Some horses experience an even deeper level of relaxation believed to be caused by a release of endorphins somehow triggered by standing on the pads."

I learned about the program during the clinic and Nimo got to try out the stability pads during our session.  I remember that he saw them laying on the ground and he was desperate to check them out.  When he finally got the chance to stand on them, I had to use my whip to encourage him to get off of them because he loved standing on them so much.  I've been meaning to buy the pads since that clinic so Nimo could try them out some more, but somehow a year went by before I got around to ordering the pads (they cost $75 for a set of two).

Well, they came about a week ago, and I found time to try them out last night.  (By the way, there is a DVD that provides some instruction for using the pads, which I absolutely own and have never watched.  You might want to watch it before experimenting with these pads if you haven't had a clinic session with Wendy first.)

I set the pads out in the round pen and turned Nimo out there to see what he would do.  There was a lot of checking things out because I think I've had him in that round pen about twice in as many years, but eventually, he wandered over to sniff the pads.

Once he realized they were not food, he moved on to see what he could find.  After another few minutes, I brought him over to the pads, lifted up his right front foot, and gently set it down on the pad.

Dear God! Is that a bear out there?
He stood on the pad by himself for a minute while he worried about the rustling noises coming from the dark woods.  Then he walked off.  I let him chill for a few minutes and then I brought him back to the middle of the round pen and put his left front foot on a pad.

He was still really fixated on the noises in the dark, but he consented to stand on the pad by himself for maybe 30 seconds.  I definitely noticed some licking and chewing after he got off of the pad, so I decided to give him a short break and then put both front feet on the pads.

OMG!  How many pictures do you need?
Close-up of the pads
I think doing this at night in a pen he wasn't used to probably inhibited his reaction a little bit, but I was pleased that he was able to at least try the pads out.  I actually bought another set, so I can get all 4 feet on pads at once, but I figured I would just work with his front feet at first (and maybe watch the DVD at some point in case there is something else I should know...).

I'm planning on working with him some more on the pads tonight, so I'll plan to post tomorrow about how things go.

1 comment:

  1. Oooh!Coooooooool. Watch out you don't get eaten by a bear. ;-)