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November 9, 2018
Backing with lightness

If you’ve ever been to Pilates, you will know that it’s possible to do the moves you are asked to do fairly easily. Or… you can do them properly and it’s actually quite hard. I see backing up a horse in the same way. You can back a horse up any old how or you can ask it to frame in vertical flexion and use it’s whole body to back up. The reason why back up is so useful is that 1) it engages the hindquarters and 2) you can do it in a relatively small space and 3) it will improve your horse’s way of going when you ride it and 4) your horse will lead better. This is one of the ‘must do’ exercises I use on my pony Shaun, who has arthritis in his hock, as a warm up to normal exercise or on days when I can’t fit anything else in.

Where to start: Use a rope halter or a bridle. First teach your horse to stand in vertical flexion. Ask your horse to hold vertical flexion and lighten its jaw. When this happens, it will feel soft. If your horse holds this position after you have released, that’s a bonus. If you can feel a brace, your horse is not ‘carrying itself’ but leaning on you. Wait until your horse finds lightness in vertical flexion and then release. Sometimes horses find this really hard, so you may have to actually back your horse up to help it with this.

Backing up: Ask your horse to find light vertical flexion and then back them up. Ideally, they will hold the light frame but more likely will lean on you initially during the exercise. Wait until the horse finds a light step, then release.

Progression: Build this up to 10 steps of lightness. Back your horse up a slope to make the exercise harder. Do this every day, on the way to the field, down the length of the yard, it doesn’t matter where.

Note: This website is for informational purposes only. Consult a vet before performing this or any exercise program. It is your responsibility to evaluate your own horse's medical and physical condition, and to independently determine whether to perform, use or adapt any of the information or content on this website. Any exercise program may result in injury. By voluntarily undertaking any exercise displayed on this website, you assume the risk of any resulting injury.

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November 8, 2018
Raised Walk Poles

Raised walk poles do something with the horse that raised trot and canter poles do not. Because there is no moment of suspension in walk, a horse must lift each foot off the ground separately to complete the task. As a result, this exercise build strength in the horse's muscles. 

I normally start off with three walk poles on the ground. I use a rope halter but a bridle/cavesson and lunge line will be fine. If you are not sure of the distance, which for a horse is just under 3 feet and a little less for a pony, just put three poles out fairly close and see how your horse walks through them on both reins. When they are confiedent, you can start to raise them at one end - check both reins and then raise the other end. I prefer to use wooden poles for work like this, purely because they are heavier for the smart horses figure out how to boot poles out of alignment, which usually stops the session while you re-adjust them. 

Once your horse is going through three poles, move to five and so on. I would usually ramp this up over a week or so, not all in one session, and then continue with this. 

Next time: Backing up with lightness for long-term improvement

Note: This website is for informational purposes only. Consult a vet before performing this or any exercise program. It is your responsibility to evaluate your own horse's medical and physical condition, and to independently determine whether to perform, use or adapt any of the information or content on this website. Any exercise program may result in injury. By voluntarily undertaking any exercise displayed on this website, you assume the risk of any resulting injury.

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