Follow Eventer Tina Canton's simple tips and your horse will be more supple and balanced in no time.
Just like us, horses tend to favour one side of their body over another and will fall into the habit of moving in a certain way due to stiffness, an old injury or in response to the way their rider sits in the saddle. It's easy to become blind to the signs that your horse is starting to get stiff and lop-sided when you ride him every day, and over time this can lead to muscle wastage and other problems. Here are two things you can do this week to help your horse become more supple.
Make lungeing count
Assessing your horse in side reins will allow you to see how he moves and where his weaknesses lay, then you can tailor the lungeing gadget to suit him. Maybe he'll go well in a Pessoa, which will encourage him to use his quarters and, in turn strengthen his topline, or maybe an elastic bungee would be a better option for him.
If you're struggling to assess your horse's way of going, ask a trainer for help, as the correct work on the lunge will make a huge difference to his suppleness under saddle in a relatively short space of time.
In a nutshell, you want him to be working long and low, and the right lungeing aid will help him open up, move through his back and stretch over his topline.
Just a 20-mintue session on the lunge, once or twice a week is all it takes to see results. But your horse must be moving correctly. Again. if you're unsure, ask your trainer for advice.
Swapping a ridden lesson for a lungeing one, so your trainer can see what you're doing and where you may be going wrong, will be money well spent.
Most importantly. lungeing is an opportunity for you to show your horse what you want him to do, and how you want him to go, without the distraction of having a rider on his back.
Lots of problems stem from incorrect aids and general confusion. You may be asking your horse to do something, then unwittingly blocking his movement, so he feels still and unbalanced when really he's just confused.
Start on the ground
Tina is a firm believer that good management is essential for a healthy, supple horse. Regular turnout is a must, and some hot or stressy horses tend to feel more relaxed and softer through the body if they're turned out at night, then brought in and ridden.
Carrot stretches from the ground are also hugely beneficial, and can easily become part of your horse's daily routine. As long as he doesn't try to mug you for the carrot, they're an easy, fun exercise and a chance to relax and bond with each other.
Try holding a carrot between his front legs at his chest so he has to really stretch through his neck and poll to reach it, or stand to his side behind where the saddle sits to encourage him to reach round to each side.
It's also important to always feed from the floor, so your horse isn't eating from an unnatural angle.
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