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View Full Version : Strengthening Topline on Long-Backed Horse



ParadoxFarm
Oct. 27, 2011, 12:55 PM
My new-to-me horse is out of shape and needs to develope his topline. The problem is he is long backed with long loins according to the vet. He will need some chiropractic adjustments, etc.

Any suggestions on any good exercises to develop the muscles on the topline that will not strain his back in the process?

waremares
Oct. 27, 2011, 02:19 PM
I have a long-backed OTTB and I did TONS of collection/extensions at the walk and trot before he was able to keep his back-end under underneath him. I would start my session on a long rein and let him warm up on a big stride at both the walk and trot, making sure he was coming off my leg. Then I would slowly collect him and push him into my hands for a few strides then let him go long again. He can now stay collected for long periods of time, which has helped his canter immensely. Lots of bending, flexing and trot-pole work helps too. I also try to get out of the ring and do hills whenever I can.

netg
Oct. 27, 2011, 02:47 PM
How much does he know as far as lateral work goes?

I would start by making sure your rides aren't too long, of course. Transitions should help and encourage strengthening, but you'll need to pay attention to make sure you're not asking too much.

Ground poles are great for encouraging them to lift and hold themselves.

The carrot stretches from the ground - they work to increase core strength in your horse, which is what lifts and supports his back so he can get stronger across his back.

Whether with a rider or on a longe, rounded long and low, and really moving for forward, will help start to build topline. I wouldn't be working on collection yet at all, though maybe some lengthen/shorten and transitions within gaits - but he's not going to be ready for collection yet if so out of shape, regardless of back length/strength across his loins.

Once all the above was easy for my horse, gradually adding in haunches in has made a huge difference for him. At first just a few steps, but as he gets stronger increasing more and more time at all gaits really helps.

Basically, good training through first level dressage is what you need to start with. It helps a horse build topline and strength in a healthy way which is applicable to every ring, not just dressage. (Beyond that, you may start getting different muscling than you want for a hunter, for example.)

ParadoxFarm
Oct. 27, 2011, 03:11 PM
Actually, this horse was a former 1st level dressage horse. I don't think he's had much work in the past year before we got him about 2 months ago. So I'm treating him as if he's been off that long. Not sure it's accurate, but it can't hurt.

Thanks, all.

cswoodlandfairy
Oct. 27, 2011, 03:22 PM
My Chrio gave me on the ground exercises to help build the topline and stomach muscles. It was essentially Pilates stretches for horses.

First you stand at the withers and place your hand where the girth would go. Then you kind of scratch and watch as he lifts his stomach, as he lifts slide you hand straight back to his hind legs and make him hold it for 30 sec. Do it a couple reps before you ride and after. Your horse should look hunchedback. As he gets more advanced you can stand by his haunches and ask for the same move by having both your hands on either side of the SI area and slowly "scratch" down to his rear and make him hold it again. Worked wonders for my guys.

Chiro also suggested a lot of pole work with the poles at different heights to encourage him to pick himself up better.

On top of that I did lots of transitions and shortening/lengthening of stride

RyuEquestrian
Oct. 27, 2011, 04:49 PM
A few steps of backing up does wonders. We do this with our youngsters that are getting ready for the breed inspection before they are undersaddle. For those undersaddle, we ask for a down transition, a halt, a rein back a few steps, then push straight off into canter (or forward trot-depending on how green the horse is).

Just remember not to fry their brain with too much backwards and not enough push!

naturalequus
Oct. 27, 2011, 05:57 PM
How much does he know as far as lateral work goes?

I would start by making sure your rides aren't too long, of course. Transitions should help and encourage strengthening, but you'll need to pay attention to make sure you're not asking too much.

Ground poles are great for encouraging them to lift and hold themselves.

The carrot stretches from the ground - they work to increase core strength in your horse, which is what lifts and supports his back so he can get stronger across his back.

Whether with a rider or on a longe, rounded long and low, and really moving for forward, will help start to build topline. I wouldn't be working on collection yet at all, though maybe some lengthen/shorten and transitions within gaits - but he's not going to be ready for collection yet if so out of shape, regardless of back length/strength across his loins.

Once all the above was easy for my horse, gradually adding in haunches in has made a huge difference for him. At first just a few steps, but as he gets stronger increasing more and more time at all gaits really helps.

Basically, good training through first level dressage is what you need to start with. It helps a horse build topline and strength in a healthy way which is applicable to every ring, not just dressage. (Beyond that, you may start getting different muscling than you want for a hunter, for example.)

:yes: netg always has great advice. Hills (trails!), transitions (between gaits and within gaits ie. changes in pace), ground poles. Lots of this at the trot (as he is able to). I think the reinback is great also (reinback to w/t/c...again, as he is able to)... then start getting into the lateral work as he builds strength. (As a sort of sidenote...) At that point you can start developing collection by focusing on exercises that ask him to engage (ie, circular patterns, spiraling in and out on a circle, more lateral work, etc etc) and it will start to come as a result (ie, on the horse's own timeline, not yours). As he starts to engage, you can start to refine and ask for increasingly and progressively more from him. If you focus on strength building and wait for the horse to start engaging more (as a result of your progressive exercises - you can progress him into more advanced exercises as you feel his strength building), you'll be better following his capabilities and won't run the risk of overdoing it (and his learning evasions/ways of incorrectly moving). Then you can start asking for what he is already giving, for increasing periods of time.

Make sure to just do a little bit of everything and build off that; make sure you don't overdo it :) When he starts fatiguing and his 'answers' are not as crisp and clear, move on to the next exercise or end it there for the day. Preferably before, even, but there will be times he'll be a little tired ;)

ParadoxFarm
Oct. 27, 2011, 06:59 PM
Thanks, everyone. Great ideas and reminders. I'm looking forward to working on this. It'll be a change of pace from my other horses. They all have unique issues, don't they? :)

Weatherford
Oct. 27, 2011, 07:05 PM
Perhaps to start, longe him in a chambon (read Hilary Le Grande's book on the subject). It really helps develop thus muscles in the back that are normally under the sadde - and it is not stressful.

If you have a walker, you can cheat and put him on the walker in the chambon - 10 minutes each way w-t.