PDA

View Full Version : Hill work. How steep is too steep?



Marginally Safe
Jul. 16, 2012, 03:41 PM
I have been lucky enough to me my horse to a boarding facility that has 56 acres of open pastures/trails on rolling hills. In cali these places are few and far between, so hill work hasnt really been an option before unless you count vertical hills? My mare is at training and wont do her first prelim until the end of the year so I am only walking them, however hill work if something she severely lacks. Which got me to thinking, how steep is too steep? Because of my area, a lot of the hills are more like mountains. Think man from snowy river. So what would yo guys consider as too steep?

RAyers
Jul. 16, 2012, 04:00 PM
The hills I work are on the order of a 20% grade for about 100 yards (Colorado). From my GPS,I think it is about a 200 foot elevation change in 500 feet of horizontal. With those, all you need is to walk (and maybe trot once or twice).

EventerAJ
Jul. 16, 2012, 04:02 PM
For walking? Pretty much no such thing as "too steep," unless you're talking about a vertical cliff face. ;)

When I was in Frankfort (KY), we walked the horses up a very steep Big Hill at least once a week. Yes, Man From Snowy River steep. Every horse in regular work could hack up that hill, from BN to Advanced.

Now, I wouldn't take a fat, unfit horse up that hill in 90 degree heat; and with some of the first-timers they only went partway up, not to the top. Use your best judgment-- you can start on steep hills, just take it slow and limit the distance the first time or two, and only once a week. Then gradually go longer. A training-fit horse in regular work should be able to adjust pretty well, but it depends on the horse.

A steep hill can make a horse a little sore-- you probably know the feeling if you've ever hiked in the mountains. But so long as you give the horse a chance to recover (don't do hills every day) they'll be fine.

yellowbritches
Jul. 16, 2012, 04:18 PM
For walking? Pretty much no such thing as "too steep," unless you're talking about a vertical cliff face.
I had a long reply that disappeared, but this was the basic gist!

I agree with AJ, too, that I wouldn't take an unfit horse or one unaccustomed to hills up very steep ones to start. Stick to the easier ones and gradually add in steeper ones.

I used to gallop up a very steep hill. My horse was SO FIT! :yes:

Appsolute
Jul. 16, 2012, 04:38 PM
I am in CA as well, with some VERY steep hills, if you can make it up and down safely - then it is not too steep!

snoopy
Jul. 16, 2012, 04:42 PM
It is my belief that the slower the work up the hill, the harder the horse has to work, both externally and internally. Walking up fairly long gradual hills works a treat. I do not think steep/sharp inclines are that great as the horse is always looking to increase pace in order to evade the work. It tends to be a messy exercise using steep hills.

Marginally Safe
Jul. 17, 2012, 02:32 AM
It is my belief that the slower the work up the hill, the harder the horse has to work, both externally and internally. Walking up fairly long gradual hills works a treat. I do not think steep/sharp inclines are that great as the horse is always looking to increase pace in order to evade the work. It tends to be a messy exercise using steep hills.

This is where the root of my question comes from. My mare is an AWFUL trail horse. I have worked long and hard to get my mare decent on the trails, but her favorite thing to spook at are rocks. Not really something I can avoid in the CA foothills. She is much more confident but a good portion of trail rides she will walk but she is tense. So going up and down hills she wants to do just this, especially on steep ones.

Thanks for everyones input!

Twisted River
Jul. 17, 2012, 03:03 AM
I may be wrong in my thinking, but:
~When I walk up a very steep hill, I take short, choppy, sometimes wide steps. I use a few major muscles and I use them to exhaustion.
~When I walk up a reasonably steep hill, I can take longer steps. I use more muscles groups and fatigue them, but not to complete exhaustion.
~So I think there can be benefit in both.

My last gelding was a bit klutzy. He got dangerously nervous on particularly steep hills. He would start to panic on them, inevitably causing him to loose all focus, loose his footing, start tripping, and panic more. I would take him on steep hills sometimes when trail riding with buddies, I didn't use them for conditioning.

phoebetrainer
Jul. 17, 2012, 03:53 AM
My mare is an AWFUL trail horse. I have worked long and hard to get my mare decent on the trails, but her favorite thing to spook at are rocks. Not really something I can avoid in the CA foothills. She is much more confident but a good portion of trail rides she will walk but she is tense.

Kick on!!!! Really, that's the best cure for spooking - forward, forward, forward.

And all the old time horsemen that I grew up around (in Man from Snowy River type country) said that if you stood your horse side on on the hill and stuck your leg out and you could hit the top side of the hill with your foot, your horse would find it steep:eek::yes:.

If I'm going round hills that steep, I really like to have tracks!

snoopy
Jul. 17, 2012, 07:23 AM
~When I walk up a reasonably steep hill, I can take longer steps. I use more muscles groups and fatigue them, but not to complete exhaustion.



I prefer this to complete exhaustion.

wendy
Jul. 17, 2012, 12:16 PM
how steep is too steep?

too steep for what? horses can canter up and down hills that I personally would refer to as "cliffsides" without any difficulty (as long as their riders don't unbalance them).
If you're looking for conditioning purposes, I think a longer but less steep slope is the best.

wildlifer
Jul. 17, 2012, 04:14 PM
To me, there is no such thing as too steep. There is only the consideration of how I will ride it.

purplnurpl
Jul. 18, 2012, 09:43 AM
well--if you slide off the back then I think that may be too steep.

I once asked my TB to play the part of a mountain goat.
I closed my eyes, looped my reins, grabbed a big chunk of mane and crouched down low in the saddle.
It worked out really well with almost no slippage on his part! Amazing how good my horses can be when I do nothing! haha

ReSomething
Jul. 18, 2012, 11:10 AM
Too steep to ride up or too steep to be used for conditioning?

I grew up in NorCal and we used to go cardboard sliding on the hills, so the steeper the better. When I would use the same tracks for conditioning it "got messy" as stated, so I did what a Western trail riding buddy had told me which was to angle up the hill and switchback, make a big Z up the hill pretty much.
I've read that they can carry you up a slope until it gets so steep you would have to use your hands to help hold and balance yourself. I personally would prefer to use a gentler slope most of the time and every once in a while stress the horse with a real steep attack, for practice.