Exercises for a long back?
I suspect my mare Cascade has a long back, and I'm trying to figure out some things to help keep her healthy and active in the long run. I'm sorry if this is the wrong forum, but is there anything that can be done exercise wise to strengthen a long back to build up a horse's topline and keep it healthy?
Work long and low. Here is a short video that is pretty good at introducing this concept to at least get an idea of what it is:
Some people confuse long and low with just letting a horse's neck stretch down. True long and low depends on impulsion and engaged hindquarters, not just on a low neck. And when long and low is useful depends on the horse. A lot of people like to try for long and low right away. My horse doesn't work that way. When we first start riding I don't care what his back or neck are doing, I just want him to go and find his rhythm and get moving. I want an even trot, I want forwardness. We trot and canter on a longer but not long rein until he has a few good snorts and gets a brain and a motor and THEN we do long and low in circles and serpentines all over the place, both at a trot and a canter. This works really well for us. A lot of people find that serpentines with trotting poles is a great exercise to get a horse long and low, stretching, using its back, and engaging the hindquarters.
Work according to the dressage pyramid, eventually up to collection.
Feed hay on the ground. Hand graze them while walking. Ride up and down hills.
Lots and lots of trotting up hills on a loose rein with a lot of impulsion from behind. this builds the support of the back by stretching the back muscles and improving the strength of the abdominal muscles.
My horse has a slightly long back and I can see that it is just as important to improve her abdominal muscles as well as her topline. The long and low will cause your horse to also have to lift its stomach and work the abs. Remember it takes a long time to build up those muscles. After 4 1/2 months of consistant work 4 to 5 times a day, my horse can finally lower her head and engage her hind end while lifting her abs for almost a full circle around the arena.
Thanks everyone. I know I have a lot of work to do with her. I'm trying to create a plan and some long term goals to help keep me focused on what she needs. My first task is a lot of groundwork to get her properly engaged and focused with me, and respectful of the boss, but I've also got a lot of work to do with bonding. I'm trying to keep in mind some of the issues that may come up down the road though, and I think strengthening her back will be one of them.
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