Everyone has been doing the single pole challenge this week, where you try to halt your horse astride a single pole. It reminded me of an in hand exercise I saw last year at a demo and have subsequently used it in groundwork.
But there’s no reason why it can’t be ridden! So I challenged a couple of my clients this week to have a go, and it’s been fascinating to watch from the ground.
With the pole to step over, it’s very easy to see any discrepancies between a horse’s limb movements. With one horse in particular I found it enlightening.
He has a weaker right hind, which sometimes comes up short until he warms up and starts using his back. I’ve always thought his right rein is weaker because the inside hind is his right leg, but then I think that his leg yield to the left is better than his leg yield to the right. Watching this horse sidestepping over the poles, I noticed that he adducts his right hind easily, but finds it difficult to abduct it, usually knocking the pole or not taking the leg away from his body as much as he does with the left hind leg.
That means that leg yielding to the right is harder for him because his right hind is weaker in the abducting muscles. I think the whole leg was generally a bit weaker, or lazier, than the left, but as we’ve focused on strengthening it we’ve built up those muscles involved in moving the right hind towards the body, and now I need to find some exercises which will help strengthen and increase movement of the leg away from the body.
Remember I went to the Horses Inside Out conference in September? I’ve recently used yet another exercise that I picked up from that informative day, to help improve stability and flexibility.
At the conference, we learnt that whilst it’s important to improve the flexibility of our horses it’s also important to consider joint stability. If we only focus on our horse’s suppleness in one direction then the joints lose stability because the muscles around the joint in the other directions are weaker, which makes the horse more prone to injury from hyperflexion.
By working horses in a variety of ways and directions we improve the strength and range of movement of their limbs. Lateral work is perhaps the most obvious way of increasing a joint’s range of movement.
In the horse’s legs, it is only the shoulder and hip joints which are capable of adduction and abduction of the limbs…
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