Balance Pad for Horses - Hype or Useful Training

Just park the horse and it will train itself. Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it? This is exactly how the balance pads for our four-legged friends are advertised. For some time now, the Balance Pads, which originate from human therapy, have also been offered for horses. For a while there was even a real hype about training with balance pads for horses. Above all, the deep muscles of the four-legged friends should benefit from standing on the foam pads. But body awareness and balance should also be trained. A real all-round workout. You can find out everything about balance pads for horses in this article.

What are balance pads for horses?


Some may have already got to know balance pads in the gym or with their physiotherapist and have done exercises with them themselves. What has been known in human therapy for a long time is now also used for the development of horses. In human therapy, they are used to stabilize the leg axis and to train the muscles through specific exercises. Typical tasks here are, for example, standing on just one leg on the pad and, as an advanced variant, one-legged squats on the pad. Balance pads are mostly made of foam and come in different sizes and degrees of hardness. When it comes to degrees of hardness, the softer the balance pad, the more instabilityoffers it and the more difficult the tasks become. Because a balance pad should keep the horse slightly off balance. Thus, the animal has to rebalance itself again and again. This addresses the deep muscles and the proprioceptive system .


Balance Pad for the horse - effect and effects


Let's start with the horse 's proprioceptive system . This is used for the self-perception or depth perception of the animals. Proprioceptors are found throughout the horse's body. They are found in joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. The proprioceptors inform the central nervous system about body movements and body position in space and the actual state (activity and position) of muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Based on this important information, the horse can then move in balance. The horse's brain is stimulated the more, the more different movement stimuli are perceived via the proprioceptors. A balance pad for the horse is therefore very useful, as it constantly offers the horse new stimuli due to its constant instability. Moving on different surfaces also stimulates the brain of the animals through the different stimuli.

In horses that have a long period of rest in the box due to injury, for example, it may be that the proprioceptors have "fallen asleep" as it were because the surface is always the same and the stimuli are monotonous. After consultation with the attending veterinary specialist, the “sleep” of the proprioceptors can be counteracted and the deep muscles can be further stimulated while the animal is resting in the stall.

Balance pads for horses are made of foam and can help horses to feel better and stimulate the deep muscles
Balance pads for horses are made of foam and can help horses to feel better and stimulate the deep muscles

An effect related to the proprioceptive system is the stimulation of the deep muscles. This is located, for example, along the spine and the joints. It is primarily responsible for the support and stability of the body. What is special about this musculature is that it cannot be specifically addressed , but rather works as a reflex. For example, it is responsible for the saving lunge step after stumbling. By standing on the unstable balance pads, the deep muscles are addressed and trained . This also strengthens the entire torso of the horse. With untrained horses, it is easy to observe how much the animals sway on the pads at the beginning.

Even the release of (slight) muscular tension can be achieved by using the balance pads on horses. Strong blockages or tension, on the other hand, can only be released by a trained person. However, by permanently controlling the deep muscles or by tensing and relaxing the muscles, tension can be alleviated or completely released. In addition, standing on the pads can relax the horses. As a rule, well-balanced horses are more relaxed in movement afterwards. But even with unbalanced horses you will notice an improvement after a while, up to the point of being able to stand relaxed on the PAds.

Other positive effects are the training of the horses’ body awareness and a “mental balance” that some horse owners report. By linking the two effects, you usually also benefit in the saddle after a while. If the horse can now implement the difficult lesson better because it can feel and control its own body better or does not get stressed so quickly with new lessons.



How do you train horses with the balance pads?


As a rule, it is actually the case that you simply place your horse on one or more pads and wait. At the beginning it is of course advisable to only confront the horse with a pad so that it can slowly get used to it.

In order to give the horse a lot of security and to prepare it for the task, one should start with the left front leg . From the left is led, saddled and usually mounted. First, simply touch and stroke the horse's leg to signal that that leg is about to be touched. Then you lift your leg and gently guide it onto the pad. Many initially just put their toe on the new surface and are a bit skeptical. You can simply continue to stroke the horse and encourage him that nothing will happen to him. Many horses then tend to lose their entire hoof.

If the horse decides against it at first, you should also tolerate that. The horses have to feel themselves first and find their balance. It's easier for some, but it takes a while for others. In the meantime, you should always keep a close eye on the horse . For candidates who only stand on the pad with their toe or only briefly, you should first approach the matter therapeutically. This means that the horse can determine the position and length of standing on the pad itself . A mistake would be to encourage the horse to stay on the pads with strong praise or treats. Because the horse should listen to its body and initially work intuitively. So you have to allow the animal to deal with itself and the pad.

Training With The Balance Pads Has Triggered a real hype

Horses that get along well with the pads right from the start, on the other hand, can be trained in a more targeted manner. Nevertheless, you should not leave a horse on the pad for more than five minutes . Overall, the following applies to (therapeutic) training with the pads: less is more . Especially unbalanced horses will probably only be able to stay on the pads for a few seconds at the beginning. This is perfectly normal. By incorporating step breaksa few attempts can still take place in one unit. The time factor is often underestimated when training with the balance pads. It may take several weeks for the horse to remain calm with one hoof on the pad. It can even take months for a horse to stand up calmly with all four hooves on a pad each.

It is important not to overtax the horses and to maintain and strengthen the joy of working with the balance pads. This also includes accepting when the horse no longer wants to stand on the balance pads. If you don't overtax the horses, but rather address their individual situation, you can even notice an increase in self-confidence in some animals. This is the only way horses can experience their own body and the knowledge of standing safely on the balance pads will give them an empowering and motivating feeling.

Training with several pads does not mean that several pads are stacked under one hoof, but one pad is placed under each hoof and possibly with several hooves at the same time. Here there are variations from diagonally placed pads to only forehand or hindhand to pads under all hooves. If the pads were stacked under a hoof, the risk of injury to the animals would be too high. The even softer ground could then lead to the "buckling" of the hoof.

In general, the pads can also be used as a supplement to the warm-up or cool-down phase.



Exercises for training with the Balance Pad for horses


Small exercises can be incorporated for horses that are already good at standing on all four pads at the same time and are very well balanced . These continue to challenge the horse and in turn emit new stimuli. For example, an exercise could be to encourage the horse to put its head and neck in different positions. The additional movement makes balancing a little more difficult again. The exercise can be varied with the number and position of the pads.

Horses that are generally already familiar with various exercises can also perform them on the pads. For example, in a rocking horse, the horse could stand with one or both front legs on the pads. However, this training requires a lot of concentration from the horse and the person training must also observe the animal closely in order to assess how much is possible or not. Here, too, the guiding principle less is more applies . It is better to have more short attempts than a long forced one. Empathizing with the horse is particularly important.


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