View Full Version : hind end strengthening exercises when you can't get to hills
Dec. 19, 2011, 05:33 PM
Pretty self explanatory. I don't really have much access to good hills right now, nor do I have ready access to a trailer to go somewhere with hills. My horse has a pretty weak back end which is causing some issues with overreaching and soreness. Any suggestions on things I can do at home (in a flat indoor arena in the winter) to work on strength? I understand that correct flatwork will always work but is there anything else I could be doing?
Dec. 19, 2011, 05:39 PM
Ground poles and cavaletti work! I find ground poles (easier to access, move around in my case) have helped a lot, especially when I use four in a set, one set on each long side of the arena, one side spaced to encourage shortening of the stride, and one side spaced to encourage lengthening. This, for my horse at least, has helped him be more flexible and free in his back end since he has to do more than just *use* his back end, he has to fine tune it and pay attention, as well. Gymnastics have helped a lot, too. Sally O'Connor has some really good cavaletti exercises in "Practical Eventing". Good luck!
Dec. 19, 2011, 05:47 PM
Bounces and ground pools will be your friend :)
Bounces really make them rock back and use their back without forcing it and poles make them pick up their feet and also help. Even single poles help, I usually put a single pole on each short sides and then sets or four or five trot poles on the long sides. The single poles you can canter over too and for horses that might get a little nervous or silly over long sets of poles it still helps them round their back and use their haunches.
Dec. 19, 2011, 05:55 PM
A great exercise I learned from an UL dressage rider when I was starting out my mare (also at the time prone to a sore back) is to start at working trot, half halt (*really* half halt) to an almost walk, then immediately move your horse forward into working trot. Your horse should respond clearly and obediently to your leg when you ask for forward. If not, give him a boot. Don't worry so much about the roundness at the working trot, just make sure your horse goes forward. Also make sure in your half-halt not to pull back with your hands, but to push "up" from your lower leg to an "up" feeling in your hands.
I will do about 4 strides on the almost walk and 6-8 strides on the forward working trot. You can vary the number of strides to keep them listening, but I usually do more strides on the forward so the horse doesn't get bottled up. I often do it on circles but I don't see why you couldn't do it on the long side.
It gets them really strong and really listening to half-halt and forward!
Also second the cavalleti work. Really gets their hind end picking up.
Dec. 19, 2011, 05:59 PM
Totally agree with the above-lots of playing with adjustability of the gaits (especially coming back to more collected then a big push forward) and poles/cavalettis! Plus adding poles and stuff in makes being in the indoor in the winter more interesting! :)
Dec. 19, 2011, 06:03 PM
I agree with the above, with the caveat if this horse is too weak in back be very careful in adding poles and cavaletti (especially higher settings if you have the fun adjustable height ones) so you don't care soreness.
How trained/green is this horse? I'd work on shoulder fore and shoulder in, too, depending on the horse's level.
Once the adjustments in gait and shoulder fore/in are going well, I would do the adjustments while in shoulder in. This exercise, done properly, can make a horse who isn't strong enough yet VERY sore, so be careful.
Dec. 22, 2011, 07:13 PM
You could Try doing whats called the "broken line exercise". at the trot, you make a deep, sweeping corner, continue straight 3-4 steps down the long side then bend into the quarter line, straighten 3-4 steps, then bend back to the long side to make another deep sweeping corner. This works well for bending and suppling. It also helps with balancing your horse through straightness and bends.
I ride a 6 year old standardbred mare whos 16.2 hands and has weak stifles. We were having alot of trouble in the trot and canter because of her weak hind end. I have been doing this exercisefor a month combined with a few other exercises, and both gaits have improved so much already. She is a much happier horse to ride too, because i think she actually feels good when shes ridden now that we are strengthening her up!
THe other exercise I like to do is called the "tear drop exercise". You start out in the trot, doing a 20 m circle at either a, or c, then contine down the long side into the corner, and do a 10 m teardrop shape to loop back to the same long side, just going the opposite direction. Its basically the shape you would use to reverse when riding in a group in a ring. Contine trotting this direction, circle again at a, or c, continue down long side and repeat teardrop shape. Continue as many times as you feel your horse needs. This will again work on balancing him into the corners, and really get his hind end supporting himself through the turns.
To change it up a bit, you can trot the circle and down the long side, and right before going into the tear drop shape, transition down to med walk and as you come out of the tear drop shape, transition up to the trot and repeat. Transitions in any type of exercise are great for strengthening the hind end, and it also helps to spice up your ride so they don't get bored and tune you out!
Good luck! :)
Dec. 22, 2011, 07:45 PM
raised trot poles
I notice that as soon as my horses are sufficient enough to start doing lots of fun lateral moves (traverse, renvers, really crappy 1/2 pass) their hips get really nice and round to where when I shave them in the winter I can run right over that hip bone with the clippers and not even feel it. : )
Dec. 22, 2011, 07:47 PM
Dec. 22, 2011, 08:42 PM
trot/halt/ back up 4 steps IMMEDIATELY trot off. repeat 10-15 times/ day.
shoulder in, shoulder in, shoulder in.
Give and Take
Dec. 24, 2011, 12:32 AM
quarter turns at trot and canter - start with turning just a little one stride at a time until you can actually just sit up and move the outside of the horse around with your outside leg. (the whole leg, not just your heel - this will make sure you're not lagging with your body and restricting the turn.)
you can also do a lot on the lunge line with cavalettis/ ground poles. i'll set up trot poles in sets of 4 and then canter poles beyond them so you just move the circle down 12' to be on the canter poles. then you can move back and forth between them.
Dec. 24, 2011, 01:01 AM
Correct flatwork, schooling, dressage -- you can't do anything else right unless you are committed without fail to doing your dressage correctly every time you ride. There is not much sense in backing, trotting poles, walking turns, and all the rest if the horse isn't sufficiently understanding the balance and submission first. Dressage can really change a horse quickly if you make it a habit, and provide as good a ride as you possibly can every time in the tack. I am still learning how to do this! Gentle consistent riding will get you where you want to be...just takes time....
Dec. 24, 2011, 06:01 AM
Having rehabilitated a number of free horses that severely damaged their hind ends, I would have to disagree slightly that basic dressage will totally do it. All of my vets were adamant that if you have a loose stifle, you need to do additional work to strengthen it. Few horses with hind end issues have tight stifles. Few horses ridden on a flat surface have tight stifles
very few basic dressage moves will tighten stifles. You need something that asks the horse to pick up his hind leg higher than he normally needs to do in w/t/c. It's extremely hard to persuade a horse to do extra excessive motion of a leg.
Dec. 24, 2011, 10:58 PM
raised cavaletti, a good 45 ,minute trot and canter dressage session, working from behind every stride!:yes: