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5 Exercises to Improve Your Horse’s Health and Well-being

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

As a horse owner I’m always looking for ways to ensure both my horses are happy and comfortable in their bodies.

Gillian and I thought it would be great to set a fun and interactive challenge for the Horses Inside Out followers. Each challenge is a simple exercise or technique you can do with your horse to help improve his comfort, health and performance.

Not one to miss out on a good challenge and to join in the fun I gave them a go on one my own horses. Here’s how I got on with each of the challenges.

Also, if you fancy joining in you'll find each of the videos with details of each of the challenges below.

5 day challenge painted horse carrot stretch pilates

Day One: Mounting from the Offside

Oh dear, talk about starting with the hardest challenge! If we do this again, please Gillian can we start with something a little easier (for me anyway) first?

I’ll admit, I can’t remember the last time I got on my horse from the right, just getting her to stand at the mounting block differently was a challenge in itself. On my first attempt I was about to get on backwards – now that would have been funny but also highlighting my asymmetry. Seriously though, this highlights just what Gillian said in her video introducing the first challenge – how can we expect our horses to be symmetrical if we aren’t, a big failure for me and one that I’m now working on.

One day I get on from right the next on from the left and slowly my muscle memory on the right is improving but it’s going to take time. It must also feel strange for my horse – a different sensation and I’m sure it will take her time to adjust too, but all this long term, I hope will make us both more symmetrical.

Day Two: Grooming

5 day challenge grooming

Phew – the challenge on day two was much better for me, but still a valuable exercise and so easy to incorporate into your daily grooming routine. I tried using the rubber curry comb technique under my horse’s midline to see if she would lift her back and recruit her abdominals. It took a few attempts moving the brush forward and back to find the right amount of pressure needed to find the reflex spot. Once I’d got that right I could she her lifting her back – nothing really dramatic but a definite movement – result.

Moving round to try the pelvis tilt – she was more sensitive in this area and less pressure was needed to get the desired result. I also think she quite enjoyed this one as she asked me to repeat it a few times, it’s obviously an itchy spot for her.

What a great skill to have so you can switch on those muscles.

Day Three: Raised Walk Poles

I love polework and do a lot of it with both of my horses – sometimes ridden but also in-hand. The idea of using logs is great and placing them so they are on the way to the field is genius and makes doing this type of work much easier.

Also, I found that my horse is more respectful of stepping over the logs rather than jump poles. I can see that she is having to work harder to step over them – physically but I can also see that it’s testing her mentally too.

There are so many benefits of using this type of exercise regularly – improved focus and awareness of where your horse is putting their feet as well as engaging those abdominal muscles and really encouraging them to flex the joints. The one area I need to work on a little is encouraging her to lower her head a little more but I’m sure that will come with time.

If you'd like to learn more about polework check out Gillian's webinar: Poles for Posture I found it really useful and full of simple exercises that really make a difference to my horses.

Day Four: Massage

I found this forth challenging very relaxing and my horse appeared to enjoy it to. It’s a simple technique, but I did find it took me a couple of attempts to get the pressure right and using two hands was my preferred technique. It’s interesting comparing left to right and also, like Gillian suggests in her video of this challenge doing it at different times of the day.

Over time this is going to give me a valuable picture of my horse’s back and already I’m getting to know what is normal for her. This means if this changes I know that it’s time to give her therapist a call to come and give her a check over.

5 day challange massage toby

Just one little tip for this one – take your time, don’t be in a hurry. Also, make sure you’re in a calm and relaxed state of mind. I tried it one evening after a busy day at work and my horse sensed my high energy levels and was very fidgety. Before you start take a few moments – take a few deep breaths and remember to breathe as you run your hand along your horse’s back.

There’s a great exercise to help lower your energy levels in the Power of Touch blog on the Horses Inside Out website – take a look and give it a go.

Gillian regularly runs massage courses for horse owners both at the Horses Inside Out headquarters in Leicestershire as well as other venues across the UK. Learn more here:

Day Five: Wither Rock

This is one of my favourites of the five challenges. It’s such a gentle movement but appears to have powerful benefits. This effective and simple weight transfer exercise helps mobilise your horse’s joints throughout his whole body.

This is another exercise where you need to take your time and start off slowly, getting into a rhythm and remembering to breathe.

As my technique has improved doing this exercise the responses I’m getting from my horse are becoming more obvious too. She's lowering her head and neck a little, I've also has some licking and chewing, and one evening she gave me a few big sighs after I’d done the wither rock. I’m all for listening to the horse and I believe that these responses from her were signs of relaxation.

A note from Gillian:

"I have been so pleased by the response to this 5-Day Challenge. Give them all a go and let us know how you get on! So many people have been in touch to say how much they have enjoyed it and will be incorporating the exercises into their daily routine and for me - this is what it is all about!"


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