I need to build the muscle on Carolina's topline. I'm fortunate to live in a pretty hilly area but there aren't many trails here it would be roadwork.
Or I can truck her to post (about 40 minutes) and use their arena and trails.
Hill work is a good idea, it builds muscle and wind. Take care after your horse's feet, though, on the roads, maybe talk to your farrier and/or vet before getting too gung ho road riding. The concussion, even on a dirt road, can be a lot for a horse's legs and hooves. I would do no more than walk on asphalt or similar roads, anyway. Do lots of lateral flexion. On top of softening and suppling her neck, it builds muscle through the neck and topline, and improves vertical flexion and softness. Encourage her to collect and travel on the bit. Other posters can explain how to achieve this correctly better than I can. Traveling in a collected frame builds the right muscles in the right places. Start slow if your mare doesn't know this yet, she's using muscles that she isn't used to using, and it is a workout for her. Back up lots, in a rounded frame with softness in her face. That builds muscles that horses living in a more natural state seldom use. Other than that, ride as much as possible. It doesn't have to be hard, fast work. The guidelines I was taught are walking = muscle, trotting = muscle and wind, cantering = wind. Long, easy rides and wet saddle pads are your new best friends. Remember to mix it up and keep those long rides enjoyable for both of you. This is good bonding time. Hope that helps!
Well said Scoutrider! That's what I do to keep T in shape, many miles trail riding, up/down hills at a walk and trot, with a bit of cantering thrown in where the footing is good. Love the hill work, get good results.
So true about the "wet" saddle pads, most of the horses today, mine included at times, are a bit "pampered". An older gentleman I ride with (eighty six years old), has always said, the best thing for a horse is to be ridden and ridden often! Good for the body and mind.
Make sure, whether collected or not, you keep her coming forward from her hind end into the bridle. You don't want to pull her (per se) into the bridle. You want to push her into it which will in turn stregthen not only the topline but her hind end as well. And it doesn't necesarily have to be a long ride. If you can accomplish a GOOD 20 minutes of flat work, that is actually better than an hour of so-so flat work. It isn't necessarily the length of the ride, but what you get accomplished. Always end on a good note. Good luck!