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Strengthening hind stifle on the ground

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  • Strengthening hind stifle on the ground


    Looking for some exercise ideas to specifically tackle one sided hind leg weakness, specifically left hind stifle.

    I am over 7 months pregnant and developing a pelvic pain issue so am sadly having to stop riding sooner than I was hoping. My horse has been doing GREAT under saddle, we were working on 3rd level balance and exercises. We were essentially preparing ME for the flying change-- he was ready.

    Slowly I've been weaning myself off riding and picked up an extra leaser to cover the difference. Thing is, both of my riders are not as motivated/skilled to work him at the pace I was, so he is already starting to rapidly lose some strength, particularly in his left hind which has always been his weakest point.

    My coach will be riding him occassionally but incant afford to put him in a training program in the meantime. But she has noted that in the last 2 weeks he has lost a lot of strength in that hind.

    I wish I could find a more experienced rider, but he is a tough horse to ride. No meanness, just very dominant personality combined with a lazy horse mentality. He has excellent work ethic with me, but he has a bag of tricks for new riders and is skilled at sucking the energy out of his riders if you dont ride him properly (I.e. leg OFF, high expectations of snap reactions, etc). So locally the only people that would fit that bill are looking to be paid, but he is safe and a good teacher for someone less experienced. It was never a problem while I was riding, I rode him thr majority of the time so he was kept fit and sensitive.

    I cant walk great distances and we dont really have any hilly areas, one or two steep but very small inclines. My coach will be giving me a refresher course in lunging exercises I can work with him (mostly she suggests working a zillion canter transitions).

    So looking to see if theres some good exercises a waddling pregnant lady can undertake. I could do some short in hand work, such as shoulder in but walking for long time is painful and I cant tske proper walking strides so it would be tough to keep up with him.

    Thank you for reading all that haha!

    TLDR: pregnant lady with pelvic pain issues looking for ideas to keep up her horse's strength, specifically in his left hind stifle that she can do herself.

  • #2
    If you are limited to lunging, transitions are good as your coach mentions. You can also lunge over poles/cavaletti.

    Also do some correct backing up in hand. You can do 3 sets of 10 steps and go from there.


    • #3
      I dealt with the horrible pelvic pain too during pregnancy so I feel your pain. Are there any hills nearby? Your leasors could ride him at a walk up and down the hills. Backing up hill for a few steps is super exercise too. Walking and trotting over raised ground poles or cavaletti?


      • Original Poster

        I'm not limited to lunging, but I dont thibk I can do much in hand stuff if it means matching his stride.

        I totally forgot about poles. That will help over the lunge. Thanks!!

        No hills really, unfortunately. Definitely nothing you can actually do much with anyways.

        if it means getting my leasers to work under saddle over poles, I guarantee you they wont do so in a helpful way. Mostly looking for ideas I can do still. I already try to encourage them to take more lessons (they both are totally different riders under a watchful eye!) and the new one has been great with that, the old one not so much.

        it really sucks. It doesn't even hurt while I ride, it's just the next 8 hours that kills me once I get off.


        • #5
          I have a mare with weak-ish stifles. I do a lot of backing from the ground. Straightness is an absolute must. Don’t let them do it crooked. Correct and marching...not dragging the feet back. I have some physical issues. I had back surgery in July and although feeling well am a bit leery to drag out the cavaletti so I incorporate several short sets of backing. She is doing much better being able to stay straight and really starting to develop some sit and push out of the backing.



          • #6
            Even if all you can find is a short, shallow hill, backing him up the hill would be great for that. Also, walking over ground poles/cavaletti (relaxed and slow in hand) is great. Jumping out of hand (put horse in halter with lunge line, approach a small vertical at a good marching walk and then send the horse in front of you over the jump from the walk - let out the lunge line until they get a stride or two past the jump and then reel them back in) is really good for it too if you have access to any jumps. But if you haven't done that before I'm not sure I'd start figuring it out while heavily pregnant!
            Flying F Sport Horses
            Horses in the NW


            • Original Poster

              Some great ideas to try thank you!


              • #8
                Originally posted by teamfire View Post
                if it means getting my leasers to work under saddle over poles, I guarantee you they wont do so in a helpful way.
                Might not be what you want to hear, but if they aren’t helpful, they aren’t helping much.

                Your horse is losing condition despite having 2 riders.

                I understand it might be a money issue, but if it is not, IMMHO, I would rather not have leasees.
                Sometime, it is better to let the horse go on vacation for some time, or just being lunge correctly and ride by your trainer than be « badly » ridden.

                I already try to encourage them to take more lessons (they both are totally different riders under a watchful eye!) and the new one has been great with that, the old one not so much.
                You’ve been building a 3rd level horse.

                I think if you want to keep going on the leasing road, you will need to set your priority and be more firm with your leasees.

                Understand that since they are not in a training program, one or both of your leassees could be riding in ways that are detrimental to your horse’s condition.

                My friend leased her « older lower levels schoolmaster arthritic » gelding to some nice lady.
                Lady was doing really light work, lots of walk... but gelding was shuffling on the forehand and hollowing its back... Stiffness ensued and front leg lameness appeared.
                Friend stopped the lease and rode for a month, it came back to normal... Her gelding is tall and needs to move out and do large circles, lots of suppleing exercices which that leasee couldn’t do. She found someone else.

                Lease agreements can have lessons clauses. I would enforce that.

                ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                Originally posted by LauraKY
                I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                HORSING mobile training app


                • Original Poster

                  I'm not going to lie. It has been an issue with my longtime leaser. I constantly had to "fix" him after her ride days, sharpen him up, make great progress, just to have to start again half a step back.

                  Unfortunately I need the financial help and it has been a dilemma over this last year especially. I know he would make better progress with just me. But he needs to work 7 days a week, otherwise he is not happy. It's a lot on me, just an amateur. But its painful because it's taken us so long to learn to get here, and we starting to make leaps and bounds when we started working with a higher level competiton coach. In one year and half she took us from struggling with work ethic and forward to where we are now. After years of being at a plateau of poor quality training level.

                  I am somewhat timid... and my leasers are so good to my horse on the ground (grazing, hanging out, turn out playing, trails, etc) .

                  My high level coach says the samething. He is my investment of time and effort. I should put a lesson clause. And I do (monthly) but really at least twice a month.

                  just torn by this. :/ being pregnant hasn't helped because at the time he was only being leased out twice a week so it really was just an easy couple days for him. But now its becoming an issue.

                  sorry no point to this reply. I know what you're saying and I feel..stuck.


                  • #10
                    I’m sorry, my post wasn’t meant for you to feel bad or sad.

                    I know where you are, training wise, and it’s sometime hard for others to understand the value of this endeavour.

                    Could there be a meeting with your trainer and the leasees? Maybe Trainer could expose the « truth »... that your horse is losing condition and something needs to change. More lessons, more lunging, more anything and better. Some sort of a training program that you would all follow?

                    If your horse is losing condition, both leasees will suffer the consequences and might not be able to do as much as usual, or the horse will become more difficult to ride in the long run...

                    As for 7 days a week; a lot of higher level riders that I know ride only 2 days than a day off, 2 days and off, and so on. Works wonder. (Days off could be some little lunge or walk trail)
                    ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                    Originally posted by LauraKY
                    I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                    HORSING mobile training app


                    • #11
                      How much have you talked with the individuals leasing your horse? I find that some people (leisure and amateur riders mostly) have decent ability, but no plan. Some riders just poke around with no agenda. I would increase the lessons from once a month and maybe give (a book? Written? Online?) or suggest some exercises. Just explain exactly how you feel. That you want the horse in the best shape to better everyone's riding experience. Some people just don't know or have the initiative when riding and need some guidance.

                      If there really is a lack of want to do anything, then that's more difficult of course.


                      • #12
                        Given your constraints--- yes to cavaletti and hills and backing. But to focus on the left stifle especially, you can back him in arcs or in a figure 8. Buck Brannaman does this and, I promise you, when you have a horse back the way he does, it is light and correct, and the horse squats on the leg you want. Those guys also ask a horse to do something like a turn on the hunches in hand.

                        It can take some time and help to learn how to do what those western guys do, but if you have the desire, it can be done and might be just the ticket for your horse.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat


                        • #13
                          I set up cavaletti in a wheel pattern, and alternate height of each of them, as well as spacing.


                          • #14
                            PS - I don't know if anyone else has asked, but have you had a vet check the stifle and do an xray?


                            • #15
                              I have had a lot of luck with Estrone for stifles. It is a weekly injection and relatively inexpensive. The estrone may help maximize the work he is getting.
                              Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                              • #16
                                In hand work does not need to involve anything quicker than a waddling pace

                                Rein back, leg yielding and full pass are all useful in walk.

                                In addition, starting the first steps towards piaffe in hand would be helpful. The exact muscles you are looking to work on can be helped by repetitive leg lifting. Best, you don't even need to move at all! Stand at head off to inside slightly and use an inhand or cut off longe whip or driving whip to tickle a hind leg into reacting with a lift. Repeat until horse gets it. Teach other leg. Alternate legs.

                                If horse really gets it, you can even have one of your riders help with the next step with you on the ground helping to activate hind legs while they allow a tiny bit of forward movement.

                                Extra bonus to the last suggestion is that your rider/s might just catch the feel of where the horse should be balanced and up their own expectations when they ride alone. Feeling that activity and sit of even the very first baby half steps can really motivate a rider.
                                Ahhhh, spring is here. The birds are singing, the trees are budding and the paddocks are making their annual transformation from cake mix to cookie dough.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks everyone. My leasers are trying hard, but my horse is pretty gifted at making them work hard the wrong way... if that makes sense? They just work him as a training level horse or 1st level, if that better makes sense.

                                  He does not have weak stifles per se, just a weakER stifle. We all have our weak side and that's his, not as a medical issue. Just a training issue..definitely no medical intervention needed.

                                  I know it sounds weird but it's due to the stabling (no unsupervised turnout, stalls attached to small paddocks only.) He used to have a couple hack only days for years, because that's what everyone says to do. But once he started to have a job to done everyday, his work ethic and attitude turned around. Even on the ground, he just became more relaxed and pleasant, instead of constantly of being desperate for attention. He is happier this way. You have to remember that is just being ridden by amateurs maybe 45 to an hour a day, so I think he was just bored. Hes very intelligent. If it helps, it's not "training session" everyday, he gets a yippee let's go big day, a working on the collection type days, etc. So he never gets frustrated. if you met him, you d agree he is happier this way. It's only a new thing last couple years after 5 years of the usually 2 days off.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by teamfire View Post
                                    I'm not going to lie. It has been an issue with my longtime leaser. I constantly had to "fix" him after her ride days, sharpen him up, make great progress, just to have to start again half a step back.

                                    Unfortunately I need the financial help and it has been a dilemma over this last year especially. I know he would make better progress with just me. But he needs to work 7 days a week, otherwise he is not happy. It's a lot on me, just an amateur. But its painful because it's taken us so long to learn to get here...

                                    just torn by this. :/ being pregnant hasn't helped because at the time he was only being leased out twice a week so it really was just an easy couple days for him. But now its becoming an issue.

                                    sorry no point to this reply. I know what you're saying and I feel..stuck.
                                    Please don't feel bad or guilty! I totally understand your situation! Well, not the pregnant part, but I have had half-lessees before due to not having enough time to keep multiple horses going and sometimes you end up in a suboptimal position because it's better than the alternative of no lessee at all. I had one who agreed to monthly lessons at minimum and expressed enthusiasm for twice monthly lessons. The horse was an upper-level schoolmaster so it was an amazing opportunity for her to advance her riding if she put in the work. I put her in touch with a very flexible and reasonably priced trainer who would travel to my farm to teach her. In the end, lessons ended up being only every few months due to the lessee's general flakiness. I had to decide what was the "lesser evil": her riding the horse somewhat suboptimally but at least getting him moving and keeping him fit, or him only getting ridden a couple times a week by me. I kept the lessee and it was the right call for me/my horse.

                                    From everything you've said about your horse (somewhat tough ride and happier with daily work), you are doing the best you can for him. Yes, in an ideal world the lessees would lesson more and you would make that happen as alibi_18 suggests, but in the real world that approach is likely to alienate them or at the very least frustrate you by not producing any change. You will then be in a worse place than you are now, with your horse unridden and unhappy.

                                    As far as exercises, I second/third backing in hand, backing in hand up hills, and walking cavaletti. Best of luck!
                                    Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm:


                                    • #19
                                      Another thought that maybe could work for your lessees - what about having him ridden in something like an equiband system a couple of times a week? That also might help him get more out of their rides without relying on their ability to create anything productive.
                                      Flying F Sport Horses
                                      Horses in the NW


                                      • #20
                                        My horse chiro gave me an exercise to strengthen the stifle. While the horse is standing either on cross ties or in his stall, grab his tail half way down and pull it gently to the weak side. You will see the stifle muscle flex if done correctly. Hold it there for a few seconds then repeat about 10 times. My horse had no objection to this procedure but I guess you need to be careful when you first try it. This should be done daily.