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Exercises for engaging hind end?

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  • Exercises for engaging hind end?

    My 5 year old Holst/TB cross gelding needs work on engaging his hind end. Once he's warmed up, and I'm really concentrating on riding leg to hand, he's mostly just getting forehandy. I am putting a lot of effort into holding my own core and shoulders upright, so that I'm not exacerbating the problem.

    You can really see it when we try to collect. Very difficult for him, even if just for a few steps.

    He is a willing young guy. I think we just need some good exercises to help us both get the picture. I do work with a professional, but we don't work on this concept as much as I would like (I'm a h/j rider at a show barn and this foundational flatwork just isn't the focus, unfortunately).

    Yes, I know.....transitions, transitions, transitions. We do this, but again, it's forehandy (and not very sharp, TBH). What do I need to think about?
    Last edited by gertie06; Jan. 15, 2020, 12:34 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by gertie06 View Post
    What do I need to think about?
    Getting somebody who can teach you. (especially about the development of young horses)
    ... _. ._ .._. .._


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by Equibrit View Post

      Getting somebody who can teach you. (especially about the development of young horses)
      Trainer has had many successes with young horses -- both clients' and her own. I just think mine could benefit from some exercises that she may not be thinking of.

      I live in a small town and my options are very limited. I'm trying to make the best of my situation.


      • #4
        It is too early in the training to expect collection. Lateral work e.g. leg yield, shoulder in etc. strengthen the hind end.


        • #5
          Lateral work to strengthen his hind quarters. Turn on the forehand, baby leg yields, transitions within the gaits. Lendon Gray's book, Lessons with Lendon explains these very well for h/j riders. Makes a nice 20 min. warm up (he can't buck, bolt doing TOF) but also good for your cool down.

          For supplemental flatwork to improve focus and control, I recommend 101 Jumping Exercises (edited by COTH's Weatherford). Even a reining friend used it to keep her horse sharp but not pattern sour. Do not skip steps.

          Grumpy cat lady rant: It is a sad fact but lateral work is almost unknown (and occasionally mocked) in Calif. h/j. Each year at the GM clinic, for ex., not a single rider can do a shoulder in. Some of the biggest trainers and they just fumble through. I was at a (freezing) Scott Stewart clinic a few years ago and he placed a cone in the corner and wanted a TOF around it. Yup, not a single one. So I applaud you for seeking to truly improve your youngster and his future soundness.


          • #6
            Lots of good ideas here

            Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
            Alfred A. Montapert


            • #7
              Pole work should help and it will keep you both entertained.
              "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


              • #8
                It really depends on the horse, but I have always liked the (spiral) leg-yield to the wall and leg-yield out on a circle exercise to get a green horse's hind end engaged.

                The added bonus being, this usually is the prerequisite to teaching shoulder-in. I'm assuming real lateral work he does not quite know yet, if he is 5 and in an H/J barn - but that doesn't mean he can't do leg yields, and start to learn shoulder-in.

                Five is too young for collection in most horses - if you are following the traditional german training scale, Collection is the last piece of the puzzle, top part of the pyramid, and clicks into place once the other "parts" are all assembled.

                It sounds as if you are worrying a bit too much about his head, just from the way you describe the difficulties you're having.

                Pole work is another good way to strengthen the hind end - in some ways I like it better than lateral work in a young horse - but both are excellent tools.

                An exercise I use more commonly, when I'm trying to get the green TBs to really "sit back and step under", or at least understand the concept --
                Pick up trot, 20m circle
                Leg yield into the circle, gradually spiraling in on a leg-yield until it is as small as you can get them to do, without them becoming stiff or unbalanced or above the bit
                Leg yield back out to the circle gradually - at first, it may take you a full circle or two, that is ok
                On the last segment of the circle, pick up a canter
                Leg yield spiral out, until horse is on the wall
                Canter long side
                Trot short side
                Trot 20m
                Rinse and repeat

                As the horse begins to understand the exercise, throw in other "within the gait" transitions - medium canter down long side, working canter short side, working trot transition, etc.

                The canter long side, is usually to give them a mental "break" before back to the spiraling in - you don't want to drill, but you don't want to be inconsistent, either. Look for rhythm and balance on the long-side, and suppleness around the turns.

                One other thing, to consider in this big picture puzzle -- if the horse is becoming gradually heavy, either to the hand or on the forehand, it sometimes can be a symptom they are tired or not quite fit enough for the level of work they are doing, or, it may be something physical blocking them from using their back and stepping under.
                AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


                • #9
                  Kyra Kyrklund has lots of exercises.

                  And little gymnastics with trot poles to small bounces helps


                  • #10
                    I have a 5 year old gelding too. If he gets too heavy on the forehand I ride a quarter turn on the haunches. In the walk try riding a really large square with turn on the haunches at each corner. To do that properly they really have to lift their front end. If he gets too heavy in the trot-walk transitions immediately do a quarter turn and it should help lighten the front end before you continue.

                    i hope that makes sense? I like it because it seems to make sense to my horse and it’s not a high intensity exercise
                    Manage your horse information with the Horsekeeping App


                    • #11
                      You have been given many good ideas, and I applaud you looking for more information.

                      I recommend looking at the USEF dressage tests to see where movements are introduced and how that ties into the objective of the test shown at the top. Second level is where horses start showing some ability to collect, and hypothetically by second level you should be schooling higher - so look at 3rd level work to see what should be producing more collection.

                      The figures in dressage start by only asking one hind leg at a time to fold more, then shoulder in starts getting hind legs stepping more toward center of gravity one at a time. Gymnastics even with ground poles work on both at once when set well.

                      Just remember this is hard work, and let your horse recover.
                      If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                      • #12
                        By collection I assume you just mean putting him together in the bridle and not all sprawled out and not what dressage people think of as collection.

                        As you said, transitions. In particular, halt, back up, trot off, repeat really helps get the hind end underneath. You can also try doing something like a turn on the haunches, and then trotting off. Doing leg yields helps.

                        Another exercise is to spiral in as far as you can go, hold it for a bit, then spiral out.

                        If he gets forehandy you can try dropping the contact and pushing him forward. Or pick up one hand, half halt, ride forward.

                        Remember not to do a lot of slow backwards work, and mix it up with a few nice forward laps. Some horses get very backwards thinking with that kind of work and you really need to ride them forward after.

                        My green pony gelding is figuring out contact, and FDO, stretchy walk, etc. Since he's figure it out he likes to try and demand it by getting heavy and pulling down, I have to work at telling him he has to stay up and light in the bridle, while giving him plenty of breaks TO be stretchy because he is new at it.


                        • #13
                          I have a 5yr old who I'd been having much of the same hind end issue with. I babied him, always worried about doing too much. Mostly walk trot work and mostly straight lines. Went to a clinic about 3 weeks ago with a very well respected, knowledgeable trainer. He sent us straight into lateral work. Leg yields, shoulder-in, etc. He said ground poles/cavalettis every day, and LOTS of canter work.

                          I can't even tell you the difference I am seeing in my horse. Had one of our best rides this morning. :-)
                          "Horses are too spency!" - Mom


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by beowulf View Post

                            Five is too young for collection in most horses - if you are following the traditional german training scale, Collection is the last piece of the puzzle, top part of the pyramid, and clicks into place once the other "parts" are all assembled.
                            There is no reason a young horse that is under saddle shouldn't do work at the walk, including lateral work, with short periods of more intense work.
                            Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
                            Alfred A. Montapert


                            • #15
                              Your horse is young yet. But since you asked here is an excellent book .
                              The Athletic Development of the Dressage Horse: Manege Patterns (Howell Reference Books) Hardcover – August 1, 1992

                              by Charles de Kunffy (Author)
                              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                              • #16
                                I have a 5yo as well and strongly second all the spiral in, leg yield out suggestions but it can be tough to keep yourself honest without a good ground person (sometimes they just drift and don't really cross). If you're working on your own I think riding squares with a 1/4 turn on the haunches in each corner is very helpful. Start with walk and then work up to trot and canter. Remember to keep the walk rhythm during the turn instead of it being walk-halt-turn-halt-walk. The exercise really helps my guy, although I do have to make sure I really sit up straight and slide the outside leg back to keep the haunches from falling out.


                                • #17
                                  for some variety, try going down the long side on the quarter line alternating between LY right and LY left with a few steps of straight between. You can also do this alternating between SI and counter-SI; another idea, think of a straight-sided "serpentine" with 1/4 turn on haunches (or turns on the forehand) at each "corner".... try shoulder fore across the arena, 1/4 turn, a bit of haunches in, 1/4 turn, etc. WOrks both sides and helps with balance.

                                  And to keep your spirals in and out balanced, put down cones in at 3-6-9-12 oclock and then run one or two lines of cones (at say 6 and 12 oclock) in towards the center marking out regular distances..... hope that makes sense.....