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5 Top Tips for Keeping Your Horse Fit and Healthy

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Having been invited to present at the BHS 2019 Conventions this is a summary of the 5 tip tips covered.

1. The Importance Of Posture

Good posture is the correct alignment of the body. It is dynamic. Good posture not only reduces the risk of injury but also helps to improve rhythm, suppleness, contact, straightness and collection. Posture needs to be addressed in the horse, not only when ridden, but also in the way he is housed, managed, when working in hand and on the lunge. Good rider posture too, needs to be encouraged, not only when riding but in every activity in life.

Recognising the 4 main ways the horse supports good back posture and having the ability to identify them will enable you to recognise his strengths and weaknesses and train appropriately. They are:

  • How head and neck position affects the back

  • Hindlimb position, strength and movement

  • Position of the thorax between the front legs

  • Balance of the flexor and extensor muscle chains

2. Become Your Horse’s Personal Trainer!

As soon as we add weight to the horse’s back, we compromise his balance, posture and ability to move with ease. We also increase the strain on his joints, ligaments and muscles. It is therefore incumbent on us to ensure they are fit, agile and strong enough to perform the activity which is required of them. In short, we become our horse’s personal trainer.

3. If you don’t use it you lose it!

Understanding how muscles work and the range of joint mobility is an important part of training. In order to maintain flexibility and suppleness it is important to take joints and muscles through their full range of movement (ROM) on a regular basis. To do this effectively, it is necessary to understand the factors that can restrict range of movement and recognise how horses and riders compensate for those restrictions. It is also important to understand thedifferent types of muscle contractions i.e. static vs dynamic (discussed in my book Posture and Performance) and their use in training and exercise. Performing exercises designed encourage spinal flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation are beneficial. All of these can be found in both the book Pilates and Stretching and video ‘Pilates for Horses’.

4. Pole Work

Whether a recreational or competitive rider, one of the best ways to recognise the difference between strength, flexibility, stability and weakness; improve hoof-brain coordination, core strength, lateral stability, suppleness, rhythm and coordination is through pole work. This is particularly beneficial in walk. Allowing the horse to walk through the poles on a long rein will encourage him to lower his head, look at the poles, lift his feet and engage his core. Begin with the poles on the ground and gradually raise the poles to about knee / hock level. More about this is Posture and Performance

5. Learn More

Understanding more about how the horse works can help to improve the way we ride, train and look after our horses. It helps us recognise why some horses struggle with certain movements and suggests ways we can help them perform with greater agility, flexibility and confidence. From practical or theoretical courses, books, and online resources to lessons and conferences, there are many ways to learn. Have a look at the books, DVD’s on our shop, resources and events Go for it! It is beneficial for your horse and fun!

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Kalli Norton
Kalli Norton
Jul 04, 2021

And, yes, this is good advice for humans as well!

Gillian Higgins
Gillian Higgins
Jul 04, 2021
Replying to

So true! :-)

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