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Discuss Exercises for engaging and strengthening the hind end and topline at the Horse Training forum - Horse Forums.

Just wondering if anyone has any good ideas for both getting a horse to use ...
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    Exercises for engaging and strengthening the hind end and topline

    Just wondering if anyone has any good ideas for both getting a horse to use the hind end more under saddle and for simply strengthening the hind end and topline. That is other than just transitions, basic dressage, poles, gymnastics, etc- I'm wondering if anyone has any fresh ideas (i.e. ones that will keep a TB interested haha) she'll go in a nice "frame" on the flat but she's a tad downhill and so often feels heavy on the forehand until we do something more exciting like jumping. THEN you feel that front end finally lift up as the back end starts actually working lol

    Unfortunately we have an extreme lack of hills here for doing hill work with =/

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    Don't forget about the things you can do on the ground, too. Right now I'm working only on the ground because my new horse needs to be retrained under saddle. He's also re-learning how to lunge, so I've had to figure out how to work him out of the saddle...and without being able to lunge too.

    Let's just say we've had to get creative with muscle-building exercises.

    Backing up is a great thing to do. For one, it really improves their attitude and responsiveness. For another, it's great for the back and the hindquarters; they have to really use their muscles, and think about using them too. That in itself makes it worth it, because the horse learns to think about where its body is going and "work smart" instead of blindly plodding forward.

    I handwalk my horse a great deal, but I don't mean just waltzing around the pasture. I handwalk sharp. Any horse can trudge on the lead rope but I don't that - I want him with me and attentive as well as using any part of his body I want to target. That lets me focus on certain areas if I want to - I can work his shoulders and front end, his back, and his hindquarters all from the ground.

    It's not as fast as making them lunge, or as easy for you as working under saddle (you will break a sweat, trust me) but it's different. I've found that it can really help the horse to have you beside them instead of on them; it puts communication at a different level, plus you can fine-tune things "manually" from the ground (like with backing up - you can be RIGHT THERE when you ask, which is different than being in the saddle and backing). It keeps it from being the same 'ole stuff all the time - my horse and I spend some time handwalking, some time learning lunge skills, some time desensitizing, some time practicing skills like parking out. It's always fresh but at the same time, he's building muscle AND his mind. He just doesn't realize it.

    If you'd like more on this, just lemme know.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ambrose View Post
    Don't forget about the things you can do on the ground, too. Right now I'm working only on the ground because my new horse needs to be retrained under saddle. He's also re-learning how to lunge, so I've had to figure out how to work him out of the saddle...and without being able to lunge too.

    Let's just say we've had to get creative with muscle-building exercises.

    Backing up is a great thing to do. For one, it really improves their attitude and responsiveness. For another, it's great for the back and the hindquarters; they have to really use their muscles, and think about using them too. That in itself makes it worth it, because the horse learns to think about where its body is going and "work smart" instead of blindly plodding forward.

    I handwalk my horse a great deal, but I don't mean just waltzing around the pasture. I handwalk sharp. Any horse can trudge on the lead rope but I don't that - I want him with me and attentive as well as using any part of his body I want to target. That lets me focus on certain areas if I want to - I can work his shoulders and front end, his back, and his hindquarters all from the ground.

    It's not as fast as making them lunge, or as easy for you as working under saddle (you will break a sweat, trust me) but it's different. I've found that it can really help the horse to have you beside them instead of on them; it puts communication at a different level, plus you can fine-tune things "manually" from the ground (like with backing up - you can be RIGHT THERE when you ask, which is different than being in the saddle and backing). It keeps it from being the same 'ole stuff all the time - my horse and I spend some time handwalking, some time learning lunge skills, some time desensitizing, some time practicing skills like parking out. It's always fresh but at the same time, he's building muscle AND his mind. He just doesn't realize it.

    If you'd like more on this, just lemme know.
    Well I feel like I've already done so much groundwork with her while I was waiting for her to be old enough to really ride that I don't know what would be new and interesting for her. Reverse, for instance, happens to be one of her best gaits. She can reverse lightly at like the speed of a trot if I want her to haha. And then like today we were free lunging, switching directions, coming in and out from a large and small circle, turning on the hindquarters or forehand, sidepassing- she'll do it all off the line with just body and verbal cues. She's just too smart!

    I wish I had a cart, I'd teach her to for-real drive instead of just boring ground driving hah

    Anyway, to answer your question, yes I'd like more on this =D
    (p.s.- off topic maybe, but you mentioned teaching to park out.. my mare will bow, but I haven't been successful in getting her to lie down- do you have any experience in this?)

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    What is your definition of "transitions" and "basic Dressage"?

    Because those things ARE the basis upon which to teach the horse to get his hind end under him, it strengthens, it supples, it builds muscles.

    "Basic Dressage" should include all the basic lateral work - leg yield (not classically considered lateral work, but hey, it's an in valuable tool), shoulder fore, shoulder in, haunches in. It includes lots of circles and changes of directions, very few straight lines.

    If the horse is bored, then either you're just doing patterns for the sake of doing them, or doing them in the same order, or the riding area needs to be varied.
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    when trotting and cantering bring them waay back and then push your horse really forward going back and forth with that really helps get them more engaged. only doing 5 or 6 strides going forward and then back 5 or 6 strides slowly doing more and more as the horse gets more under himself.

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    I'm with JB -- if you're sick of "flat work" then you're not doing it right Dressage work is acutally quite difficult, and honestly you need to be on your toes to do it correctly, and maintain the weight shifted back.

    I would suspect you've done "flat work" just for the sack of doing flat work, and waiting for her to grow up, not ACTUALLY doing it to improve the muscle & gaits & engagement of the horse.

    My reccomendation is to find a really good Dressage instructor to help you truely understand the full meaning & intensity of dressage, and how in-vaulable it is to everything else to come.
    Pay equal (if not more) attention to your own self carriage as that of your horse

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    While watching a Bruce Davidson clinic, he had his riders to a LOT of transitions. Trot 5 strides, walk one, trot 5, walk one. Not only is it difficult to a horse who's transitions arent perfect its great to get the horses to really use their hind ends. You do this consistently for like 5 minutes worth. He then would do canter 4 strides, trot one, canter 4, walk one. I went home and used it with my horse. WONDERFUL exercise and I noticed a difference.
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    I'm with JB and R&B, dressage should be keeping you on your toes constantly, shouldn't be boring at all.

    But here are some exercises I like to do, as my mare tends to get anticipatey(not really a word...haha) if we just go around in a circle forever.

    Through all exercises you should be constantly asking for forward movement (that's always first!) into a solid hand (and by this I mean not moving all over the place, or see sawing or anything. firm, but not harsh either...)

    depending on the the level of training...
    -leg yield off the wall, and half pass back to the wall. (but it didn't sound like she knows half pass yet.)

    -on a 20m circle walk for a quarter of the circle, then trot half, walk quarter, trot half, etc. Add in halts at every transition, or add in doing it on a figure 8 so you have to change direction after each full circle. add in canter, or make it 15m circles. Even put trot poles or raised cavaletti on parts of the circle to keep it interesting

    -back up and then immediately go into a canter (really puts them on their hind end)

    -stretchy circles, w/t/c

    -look at dressage tests for your level and do some of those movements

    -this might be hard to explain but go down center line, leg yield to the wall, when you get to the wall trot straight a few strides and pic up the canter, do a 20m half circle and switch directions over centerline, do simple change through trot or walk, or do flying change, and then somewhere back on the wall, trot and repeat in the other direction.

    just be creative, put together exercises that might be difficult for you


    I can't emphasize this enough though. Just going through the motions will do NOTHING to improve muscle, She needs to be moving properly, as they say practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect!

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    Oh no, I didn't mean to make it sound like I didn't think dressage was important or challenging- she certainly has tons more to learn and I am by NO means any sort of expert- I was just wondering about more creative exercises I could do, maybe outside of the arena or something, while still working on her dressage skills. Just because I think my horse and I would both admit to enjoying jumping and galloping and trail riding more than most things we can do in the arena.

    Thank you for the exercise ideas though, they sound very effective and I will certainly incorporate them into one of my next rides!
    (also no I'm not doing flatwork just to wait for her to get older, she's 7 now and when I mentioned that I was talking about all the groundwork I've done with her, when she was 3 or 4 and not doing much ridden work yet)

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    "Training a horse is a rational gymnastics course." Nuno Oliveira

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