Whether trail riding, roping, jumping or riding a dressage test, your horse must be conditioned to perform the required work. Young horses are often rushed through training and though they understand signals, they do not have the physical ability to carry a rider safely over uneven terrain, over jumps or through the fast, quick movements of a reining pattern.
MOVE-1: WALK - Meredith Mackenzie on Macmilan demonstrates the fast or
extended walk on loose reins allowing the horse to stretch his neck and back muscles.
Lack of strength and agility often show up as poor performance such as pulling, rushing, refusing or stiff, uncomfortable movement. If the problem is allowed to continue, the horse may begin to exhibit dangerous behavior such as rearing, bucking, kicking or running away.
When asked to perform beyond his physical ability, a horse is more prone to injury. Bucked shins, bowed tendons, chipped knees, back problems, spavins, broken wind can result.
There are several easy, basic exercises you can practice to create a conditioning foundation and they apply equally to horses and dogs. Gradually increased over time, they strengthen your horse’s wind (breathing), leg muscles, tendons and joints and build his back muscles to properly carry a rider.
In a show dog, the same exercises enhance timing and coordination.
These exercises can be performed by most riders capable of riding at a walk, trot and canter safely in an open field. The guidance of a qualified trainer will also help keep you on track.
Muscle condition and agility can be divided into longitudinal and lateral skills. Longitudinal agility is the ability of the horse to shorten and lengthen its stride. Lateral agility is his ability to bend around a turn.
The show dog will become smoother on the triangle and will start on stride for the down and back.
Though these descriptions sound simple, there’s a lot involved. A horse can handily shorten and lengthen stride can balance a rider over uneven terrain, negotiate dangerous ground, and quickly adjust speed according to the rider’s directions.
When your horse is longitudinally agile, he has a smoother gait and transitions. He’s able to respond to your signals and therefore is more cooperative, safer and more pleasant to ride.
A laterally agile horse is easier to turn and carries its rider in a more balanced state. He is willing and capable of turning in response to the rider’s commands and safer to ride in tight quarters or rough terrain.
Longitudinal exercises vary from simple changes of speed at the gaits to work over cavaletti poles or up and down hills. Begin by changing speeds at the walk and trot. This exercise can be started on a lunge line without a rider or in a standard size ring with a rider.
Start with approximately four to six steps at the fast, then the slow walk and gradually increase the number of steps and frequency over several days. When starting out, repeat the exercise no more than twice during a training session to avoid boring or souring the animal.