And, using these exercises, the result after several months:
As you can see, this is a stunning result for only a few months! The dip behind her withers has filled, and you can yell (even under the winter fuzzies!) that the overall muscling has drastically improved.
- Before you begin, it is important for safety reasons, and for the exercises to be effective, that your horse be properly trained with good grounds manners and respect for the handler's commands.
- One of the best exercises you can do for a horse that lacks muscle is hillwork. To begin, find a small hill that isn't very steep (you can start with steeper hills in a few weeks) and slowly lead your horse up, then down repeatedly. Make sure your horse is properly using himself, with his head lowered and back lifted. Continue this exercise for about ten minutes. Over the next week, increase the workout to 15, 20, 25, and 30 minutes.
1) Try backing up the hill; this is harder work and even better for the back muscles!
2) Try this exercise under saddle; it is great work for horse and rider, just make sure
A: The horse is in proper self-carriage and balance, with his head lowered and back and withers lifted, and
B: The rider is in proper posture to help his/her horse up the hill- with the weight in the stirrups, slightly leaned forward so that the back is vertical, as if lined up with any trees growing out of the hill.
- Trotting in-hand "long and low":
Trot your horse slowly over flat ground (dirt roads or verges are a perfect option, of course, only if your horse is desensitized to traffic!), following the same rules as hillwork. Start with 10 minutes, and increase as stamina increases. Trot work is fantastic for building the back muscles!
1: Try this over ground poles, as long as your horse is safe over them in-hand, and trots instead of jumping!
2: "long and low" Trot work is fantastic under saddle for building up the back.
- "Back Lifts"
This is one of the most beneficial exercises I found for my mare; and very relaxing! As part of Mohegan's daily massage and yoga sessions, I began introducing back lifts to build the muscles in her back and teach her to hold the 'lifted' back position while standing still.
To do a back lift with your horse: Make sure your horse is very relaxed. A tense horse will not cooperate with you manipulating their body! Always warm up the horse's muscles before doing a back lift. To warm up, I love using cross-fiber massage- this is when you lightly rake your fingertips against the 'grain' or fiber of the muscle. So, as a horse's back muscles flow straight back from front to back, you must lightly rake from top to bottom:
(Edited Google Image)
When you have warmed up the horse's back sufficiently, you can start with the back lifts. Place your hands under his girth area, hands in a clawlike position, and lightly circle your fingertips under his sternum. If done properly, this tickles the horse and causes him to lift his back. There should be a visible difference. Once he lifts his back, praise him with words and petting. Repeat this and have him hold it for five seconds. As his stamina builds, you can increase the hold to 20 seconds.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps you and your horse! Feel free to comment below with any questions. Happy Riding!