Home Exercise Plans
Exercise is essential in the recovery from injury or in strengthening the horse, each horse has individual requirements and different exercises can be used to target specific muscles. Used in conjunction with physiotherapy treatments changing a horse's way of going can greatly improve their comfort, performance and ultimately keep them going for longer.
Within a physiotherapy appointment the use of therapeutic exercises will be discussed with the owner and exercises that benefit the individual horse may be suggested, these could be the inclusion of poles or certain exercises into the horse's current ridden work if the horse is in full work, or it could be a plan developed to assist a horse back from injury, working in conjunction with veterinary advice, potentially starting from complete box rest.
There is great benefit in working a horse from the ground, following injury or illness veterinary advice should be followed, this is often hand walking a horse from box rest, this is a crucial stage of rehabilitation and various exercises can be incorporated into the walking to assist in the recovery of the horse; slopes, circles, stepping backwards and turning all encourage the horse to think about how they are placing their hooves and activate specific muscles.
The addition of poles into either in-hand or ridden work can be hugely beneficial in both the recovery of horses from injury and for maintenance.
Poles can be placed in a variety of patterns depending on what the individual horse needs targeting; gradually increasing the distance between a line of walk or trot poles encourages a longer stride, where gradually increasing the height of raised poles increases the degree of elevation in the stride. Poles can also be used to encourage the horse to bend through the body and lower the head and neck, so activating the all important core muscles.
and all importantly... poles are stimulating and fun for both horse and rider!
Which exercises would suit your horse can be discussed during your horse's treatment session.
Lunging and Long-Reining
Lunging and Long-reining allow the horse to be worked without the weight of a rider, this is useful as part of a rehabilitation programme and as part of a horses normal working routine; allowing the horse to stretch over its topline and build the muscles that help support the weight of a rider.
Lunging, carried out on a circle can help the horse to bend through the body and activate the core muscles, various training aids can be used to enhance the effect of lunging, encouraging activation of the hind legs and guiding the head and neck into the 'round' outline, I would recommend aids such as the Pessoa and Equi-Ami as they have movement through the aid, allowing for the natural movement of the horse. However it is important to understand how to fit these correctly, fixation of the head and neck can actually reduce activation of the core muscles and result in tightness and blocking through muscles, correct fitting of lunging aids can be discussed in treatment sessions.
Long-reining allows a horse to be worked in straight lines as well as circles, this can be beneficial to many horses as too much work on circles can put excessive strain on certain joints. Working a horse on the long reins allows the handler to activate the hind limbs and observe the horses action from behind, ensuring straightness.
Poles, slopes and turns can be incorporated into long reining, if a horse is established on the long reins and the environment is safe, long reining 'hacks' are a good way to work a horse over a range of terrain and are often enjoyable for both horse and handler.
Whether a horse is gently hacking or competing at high levels there are exercises that can be incorporated into ridden work to help gain or maintain muscle strength or flexibility