Equine Pilates - Stabilising exercises

By Your Horse

27 June 2011 11:57

For these exercises you’ll need to find a suitable area of sloping ground on which to work.


1. Downhill step

Walk your horse down the slope and bring him to a halt. Gently nudge his chest to ask him to back up. This is hard work for your horse so start by just asking for a single backward step.

Once your horse is ready you can make the exercise harder for him by asking for more steps and asking him to move faster.

This exercise requires the horse to tighten his abdominals, which in turn lifts his back; he also has to lift his thoracic sling. The thoracic sling is an important group of four muscles that hold the horse’s shoulder in place. This is where all the wonderful lift we see in top dressage horses comes from. This exercise improves the horse’s ability to lift his thorax, which is crucial for big paces and movements such as piaffe and passage.


2. Uphill lift

Walk your horse straight upwards from the base of the slope. Once on the slope, ask your horse to stand square, facing uphill. Lift one fore leg and hold it up by the toe. The leg you’re holding should feel light, don’t let your horse lean on you as this will defeat the exercise.

This is an advanced exercise that requires your horse to load the hind limb opposite the fore limb that you’re holding.

If your horse feels stable in this position you can make the exercise even more difficult by applying a gentle lateral pressure to his chest with your hand.

Because you’re loading his back end your horse has to lift through his wither and use all of his stabilisers to keep from falling over.

This exercise is great for any horse who you want to be able to sit back on his haunches and still be stable. Your eventers will particularly benefit from this exercise as the improved stability it gives them on their haunches can really help when they find themselves in a sticky situation and need to find that crucial ‘extra’ leg.