Have you been reading my blogs on warming up. By now you are well on the way to having a warmed up horse and now you’re warm, loose and breathing more heavily – At least your horse is!
Your horse is loose and warm and flexible and now you want to engage his brain and for him to engage his muscles. The next stage is to focus on getting every single joint in your horse’s body moving. Pole work is a great way to do this – by getting him to lift his legs up and over the poles, you’re stimulating and asking for movement in all of his joints. Walking over poles on the ground will raise his forehand and also helps to tone his thoracic sling muscles, these are between his front legs and play an important role in supporting his forehand between his front legs. As they contract, they lift and lighten they loosen the underside of the neck. Walking your horse over poles also helps to strengthen his core.
Core stability provides the strength and co-ordination to help with his control, balance, posture and carrying the weight of his rider. It can also improve self-carriage, enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury. The core muscles are vital in maintaining correct posture of his back.
Riding poles and bringing tone into his muscles with half-halts, will help with the engagement of his hind-quarters, encouraging him to collect and push from behind, hill work and riding over poles all help to tone and strengthen his core.
Finally, now your horse’s muscle and joints are warmed up, it’s time to make the transition from that long and low frame to the position you want him in for your working session or test. You need to make sure he’s switched on, in front of your aids, with plenty of activity and ready to work.
If you are having a lesson with your trainer or would like to arrange one with one of Horse Scouts listed trainers please build in time to get to this stage before your lesson starts if you can. If you have a half hour session with your trainer and your horse is ready to start the hard work at the beginning of a session you can concentrate on working on particular problem areas. Similarly, ensure that when your lesson is finished you can take the time to cool your horse down for 10 minutes in a low outline to allow him to stretch his muscles and reduce the lactic acid build up before returning to his stable and being sedentary.
In Germany we would often go for a hack down to the lake after a training session and stand in the stream which would cool the horses down too. That was particularly nice but a quiet hack around the school will suffice if you cannot go out.
It is a good thing to note that if your horse starts to fidget or tire during your workout, it’s important to return to a forward and down neck outline to give him a break. It is really important not to skimp on your warm-up! Following a plan similar to the one here will help your horse to perform at his best and lower the risk of injury.