Mr P’s proprioception (awareness of where his limbs are in space) hasn’t been great in his pole work sessions. He has a tendency to knock the poles with his back feet particularly.
So we decided to experiment a little and see if the addition of tactile stimulation bracelets, or jangles, made any difference.
These were the subject of a few published papers by Hilary Clayton and her research group. One published in 2010 “Hindlimb response to tactile stimulation of the pastern and coronet” found that the flight arc of the hindlimbs was increased due to increased flexion of all the joints of the limb from the stifle down. They also found it stimulated concentric activity of the tarsal musculature (muscles that move the hock), which they concluded may have therapeutic applications in conditions such as toe dragging.
Initially we had a much greater response to him picking up his hindlimbs over the poles. You can see though that by the third rep he goes back to knocking the poles again. This fits with another paper by Clayton et al in 2008, “Short-term habituation of equine limb kinematics to tactile simulation of the coronet”.
“The first trial with stimulators showed the greatest elevation, followed by a rapid decrease over the next three trials and then a more gradual decrease. If the goal is to facilitate a generalized muscular response, a short burst of tactile stimulation is likely to be most effective”.
A couple of other things to consider in this case. This is more 2 poles in a row than Mr P is used to. They are also on a curve, so he had to adjust his stride depending on the curve position. We may need to take him back to poles on a straight line/less poles, give him a bit more time to think about where he is placing his feet, and then introduce more poles and/or difference distances.
It’s ok in your rehab to modify your exercises. It’s a balancing act between making the exercise challenging enough to get a positive effect and also not making it so challenging that your horse is unable to do the exercise well. Some days Mr P is super at poles and other days it can be, well... watch the video to see!