Besides the standard hill work and poles, any other recommendations? Gus was cleared to go back to work and we've been taking it easy, but his right stifle is still very weak when compared to the left, although both are bad in general. His weakness right now is a reluctance to pick up the canter to the right, and when he does man is it way disunited and U-G-L-Y. Left lead is BEAUTIFUL.
We've been working with ground poles and tackled a few cavalletti in a row yesterday (every other one was raised) and he was a bit discombobulated going through that, but eventually figured it out. The plan is to set all the outdoor stadium jumps to either ground poles or itty bitty (ie first jump cup) cavalletti/x-rails/etc. and work Gus over those a bit, mainly at the trot with single canter poles thrown in once in a while.
Baby leg-yields at the walk and shoulder-ins (at walk and trot) have also be reincorporated into Gus's work load. Trainer recommended the SI over haunches in, as we could get him to bear more weight on the hind end that way.
Any other suggestions? Help would be greatly appreciated.
For the stifle I've always thought is wasn't so much putting weight on the back end as lifting the back legs and swinging them forward. We work hills (every day) and poles and do a lot of rein back and turn on the forehand. We do the latter two on the ground several times a day, also (e.g., backing into the stall instead of going in front, turn on the fore and back at start and end of tacking up, etc.
For very weak recovering stifles I like to have the horse work mostly long and low. If I'm working on getting them back on the haunches I'm usually not working long and low. I actually avoid that kind of work until they get stronger in the stifle. All that lateral work that requires the weak leg to reach under and across is perfect.
It is easy to over-do it at first and appear to have a toe-dragging relapse.
You could add backing on the ground, using a whip tap at fetlock to ask the horse to really lift each hind leg as he backs.
I've taught my sticky stifle guy to back over a ground pole. Actually we use a cavaletti turned to the ground, so it won't roll if he steps on it. One of the absolute best exercises is to take him, one step at a time, through a set of 3 of these at 4 ft apart. I started with one pole at a time, first walking over one foot at a time, halting just as the last one comes over and plants. Then back over it one foot at a time. This is where the previous lesson of whip tap to lift leg higher helps.
Now, he can back all the way over all three at once. All one careful step at a time. (I taught this using clicker.) He loves doing it. He will actually stand on one hind leg, with the other lifted, waiting for me to tell him whether to place it forward or back.
This is what I'd call advanced strength training. We don't do it more than 2-3 times a week, always with a day in between. I agree with Trabern that you don't want to overdo this; work up to it just as you would for human weight-training.
If you have access to deep sand, that's good stifle conditioning too. Another exercise I was given at CSU was tail-pulls. You just stand to side, grab the tail and pull it, as if you were going to pull his haunches over. Exert just enough pressure to get him to resist, and hold it for 30 secs, both sides. Treats help here too, so that he doesn't learn to resent the pull
In addition to all the above, canter transitions, to and from trot, and later, to and from walk, will help develop hind end strength, if you do 'em right. Just cantering along doesn't seem to do the trick, but the transitions seem to give them the confidence that they can do it.
We ae also doing a fair bit of very careful lateral work, at the walk and trot. (We have the same deal going on.)
Don't be suprised if he suddenly "gets" the lead he couldn't deal with at all before, and the other one falls apart instead...