Rex Blackwell, The Man Who Rubs Horses
Rex Blackwell has been around the horse game his whole life. He grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and started riding horses when he was 2 years old. He started breaking his first colts when he was 9. Rex's family trained colts and owned 50-150 head of horses while he was growing up. Rex, his father, and his brother were all horseshoers. They shod all their own horses as well as horses for the general public. Rex began shoeing at age 11 and was shoeing for the public at age 14. He went to the National High School Rodeo Finals in calf roping and bareback riding and the National College Rodeo Finals in steer wrestling and bareback. He joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1972 and competed in bareback and saddlebronc riding and steer wrestling. Rex became a pickup man for Sutton Rodeos in 1972 and continues to be active in the rodeo business as a PRCA pickup man. Rex also enjoys team roping as a pastime.
In 1995, Rex first learned of equine muscle conditioning from a Canadian friend. He became interested and attended a Canadian school on the subject. In 1997, he attended another school in Wyoming on equine massage and, in 1998; he was assistant instructor at the Wyoming school. Rex has used his muscle conditioning techniques on performance horses of all kinds including jumping, roping, reining, team penning, racing, barrel, and rodeo pickup and rough stock horses.
In October 2001, Rex relocated from South Dakota to Wickenburg, Arizona where he and his wife Cheryl now make their home. Rex has two sons, Jace and Jade. He has started giving Equine Muscle Conditioning clinics at his training facility in Wickenburg where he also shoes horses for other horse people.
What is Equine Muscle Conditioning™?
Equine Muscle Conditioning™ is conditioning and relaxing the muscles of the horse so that each muscle can achieve a full range of motion and movement with no resistance or pain experienced during the movement. This conditioning and relaxing is achieved by deep massage and pressure applied with your hands, in order to free the muscles and the energy of the animal.
When the muscles of the horse are correctly conditioned, the horse can perform at the peak of its ability. This will give the horse its best possible chance of winning or performing to its highest potential. The horse should perform more quickly and more effectively than before the session. Optimum results include a better attitude, and quicker, smoother performance. Without pain, the attitude of the horse can improve measurably. Among the most obvious results during a session with a horse are the change in its body language and attitude.
You can see this for yourself while watching a session. A horse will lick its lips, yawn, and lower its head in a more relaxed posture. During an Equine Muscle Conditioning treatment, the eyes change, showing very little white and exhibiting a contented feeling.
Rex has incorporated the techniques he learned in the Canadian and American schools with principles and techniques he gathered from his other studies and his years of riding, horse training, and horse shoeing to form his own trademarked version of Equine Muscle Conditioning™. His goal with this conditioning technique is to allow each animal to achieve its greatest athletic potential. Unlike some systems, Equine Muscle Conditioning™ not only makes the animal more comfortable, it addresses the underlying physical problems.
During a session, Rex will first test a horse on pressure points to determine where any problems lie. As a result of all of his experiences with horses, Rex has the ability to “read” a horse, which is an important skill in fixing a sore horse. After testing, he rubs and stretches the animal in a logical sequence, concentrating on the sore spots. When muscle compression is applied correctly, the muscles and connecting tissues will relax and allow a free range of motion. When the sequence, which takes about an hour to finish, is completed, Rex retests the animal and can rework any parts that retain residual problems. Using this testing method, you can check to see that each part of the horse is maintaining its optimum function.
“Slight Edge Advantage.”
Rex emphasizes that good horse shoeing is another one of the most important steps in creating a fully functioning performance horse. Without a good shaped foot and shoe, all the training and conditioning of your animal will be for nothing.
His philosophy is what he calls the “Slight Edge Advantage.” The slight edge of Equine Muscle Conditioning™ plus the slight edge of correct shoeing plus the slight edge of positive mental belief on the part of the rider equals the winning edge.
Equine Muscle Conditioning™ Schools
Rex's goal with the Equine Muscle Conditioning™ clinic schools is to educate the interested horse person to a point where, by the end of the five days, they are able to effectively apply the conditioning techniques to an animal and achieve real results. He says that he wants to educate the students so that they can experience the same or better results than he does. Most of the students plan to use their knowledge in a professional capacity, either for an adjunct to horse training, horseshoeing, or as a separate business.
Rex’s Equine Muscle Conditioning School appeals to women as well as men. Lee Raine and I recently attended a five-day clinic at Rex’s Wickenburg Ranch. He gives regularly scheduled schools there and also travels to give clinics or schools at clients’ facilities.
Five women were enrolled in the clinic we attended. They all had similar goals for rubbing horses, not only their own performance horses, but being able to work on horses for other clients. One lady said that she didn’t want to ride colts any more, was tired of training barrel horses, yet wanted an enjoyable and fulfilling job working around horses and horse people. This technique was something that was within her capabilities.
Rex teaches that a horse need not intimidate you.
He teaches how to work around a horse and how to do it to gain personal confidence. The confidence level of the 5 women increased each day of the clinic. You could see by the body language of the individuals involved that they became tuned to what the horses were telling them.
During the 5-day intensive Equine Muscle Conditioning™ seminar, first Rex would demonstrate how to rub a section of the horse. Then the students would practice rubbing that section on two or three different horses themselves. Students may bring two of their own horses, but will also work on horses that are unfamiliar to them. One student would hold a horse and another would practice. With the small groups, each student received a great deal of personal attention and instruction from Rex and his assistant instructor, Mary Dolven. Rex’s wife Cheryl provided excellent family style lunches at noontime and the students were encouraged to talk about their experiences and ask questions during the breaks. It was apparent that Rex is an excellent teacher, never in hurry, always there to answer questions, and never intimidating to the students.
A personal note concerning Rex Blackwell: I had a “cold-backed” horse that you had to steal a ride on each morning until he got warmed up. After one Equine Muscle Conditioning session, the old bronc never offered to buck again when first saddled. This sold me on Rex Blackwell’s program.
By Mike Laughlin
Photos by Lee Raine