Build muscle by walking?

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Build muscle by walking?

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  • Building muscle at the walk horse forum
  • Does walking build up a horses muscle

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    07-12-2011, 12:13 AM
Question Build muscle by walking?

Hey guys, with my horse home, I no longer have access to an indoor arena to ride in. With the mosquito plague and almost non-stop rain, my original plan of riding in the large outdoor arena has flown out the window, and I am now confined to ride in my 150ft x 45ft shed.

Although I am thankful I have an area to ride in, I am out of ideas on how to keep my horse's top line & hind end well developed with us being limited to walking.

Is it even possible to build / maintain muscle doing only walking movements? Does anyone have any exercises / ideas to keep us going until we can move outside?
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    07-12-2011, 12:51 AM
Walking can be really good excersize, but it means walking with purpose. Not just ambling along. Walking on the bit and really stepping out with the neck reaching down and forward is work.. Lots of serpentines, some backing up and walk halt , and trot to walk (if you can trot).

Hang in there, it wont last forever.
    07-12-2011, 07:02 AM
To be honest I doubt just walking would be enough to keep the horse fit. However it's better than nothing. If you going to do walk only do it correctly (forward, round, on bit, transitions from free to work, length of the stride, etc.).

Edit: Actually 45 ft X 145 ft should give you some space to trot too I'd think. Not 20 meters circle, but an oval.
    07-12-2011, 07:06 AM
Someone once told my that she knew a guy who had several young horses he wanted to train and get fit for shows; and using the same length of time, he worked half of them by walking on the road every day and the other half by trotting. By the end of it, the horses that had been walking were actually fitter.

Like the person above said, walking, provided it is a forward, energetic walk, can be very beneficial. In a forward walk, and horse does have to work quite hard. Practice walking in an outline, give and take the reins to encourage your horse to stretch, strengthen your leg aids by doing circles and using your leg to make the circle bigger and smaller. You could also practice lateral movements.

If you have poles, you could try placing both of them a set amount of strides apart, and ride through them, first trying to add in one extra stride, then make the distance in one stride less.You could also tie up your reins and steer your horse round just using your leg.

I know it's probably unbearably boring, but if you work at it, it will really benefit your horse :)
    07-12-2011, 07:44 AM
Thanks for the tips guys! As it stands, this is my usual routine in there ~

-5 min of free walking( circles, serpetines, shallow loops, etc.) asking him to stetch down and walk forward

-2 laps asking him to bend to the inside, on a loose rein, using legs to create the bend / impulsion, both directions

-2 laps asking for true & counter flexion, both directions

-2 laps asking him to collect and extend the walk, both directions

-a spiral circle each direction - bringing the circle in & leg yielding out

-another 5 min of free walking( circles, serpentines, shallow loops, etc.) asking him to stretch down and walk forward. He is usually more apt to stretch and walk more forward at this point.

Back when I was boarding, I used poles quite often to encourage him to reach forward ( what he has difficulties doing ). I am in the process of getting my jump set back so once I do i'll add those in.

I also do stretches before & after the ride.

The thing I am worried about is doing the same exercises all the time, won't his muscles get used to doing these?

    07-12-2011, 12:04 PM
Originally Posted by Lonannuniel    
the thing I am worried about is doing the same exercises all the time, won't his muscles get used to doing these?
I do circles like 80% of the time when I work my horse (or take a lesson). So I don't think it's something you should worry about.
    07-12-2011, 04:51 PM
Just make sure he's walking actually connected working from behind with his back up to build the right muscles. I recently started working with my horse in hand to get a better sense of contact for both of us. I thought he was working properly, but it was only after my instructor made a few adjustments that his back suddenly came up a good 3"s and he truly started to walk connected. Most horses are masters at faking connection.
    07-17-2011, 11:53 AM
Walking can definitely help develop muscles, balance and the essentials needed for movements that are required at "faster" gaits.

As already stated, make sure your walk work counts! Opened up in the front end, engaged, impulsion, tracking up, back lifted and rounding up into your seat.

There is TONS you can do at the walk, and beleive it or not, the walk is the least worked at gait.

You can do lateral work at the walk, bendling lines, serpentines, figure 8's and strait lines. The list goes on and on and on with the amount of work you can do while at the walk.
    07-17-2011, 12:49 PM
Back laps. Do turns on the hunches and forhand. Side pass. I like to line dance with my horse. We are realy good at the electric slide. Put you a few ground poles down to walk over and side pass over.
    07-17-2011, 08:54 PM
"Square circles". Adding to the excellent suggestion by raywonk, ride a straight line, turn (the square corner) either on the forehand or on the haunches, ride another straight line, ride another square turn, etc. Mix them up, doing a TOF one corner, a TOH the next. That way your horse has to listen to YOU, not anticipate your next move. If you have room enough to trot, trot the straight lines, transition to walk and do the square turn.

You are riding spiraling circles at the walk. It's an excellent exercise. Variation: try the spirals in a slight shoulder-fore or haunches-in position.

Adding cavalletti work is super and keeps even walk work more interesting. Use cones, rails, barrels and whatnot to make a "trail" or obstacle course.

I spent months walking my gelding up and down the hiking trail this winter as he recovered from a tendon injury. It was all the vet would allow, and rightly so. It improved my guy's walk and the gentle slope of the trail helped his tendon. He can now trot a bit, but we still do lots of walk warm-up.

If your horse does lateral movements, practice them at the walk or slip in and out of trot in the lateral movement.

I knew a local trainer who was paid to prep two Arabians for spring shows over the winter. The ring she had to use was often icy, snowy or muddy so her exercises with the horses were sometimes confined to small areas in the ring and only at the walk. Nevertheless, they had a good show season when the snow melted and they could actually get out and go!

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