Grace Fairburn BSc (Hons), AdvCertVPhys, CertClinEd, MIRVAP owner of Fairburn Vetphysio and Joint Chair of the Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists (IRVAP) reveals why developing your horse's core is so important.
The core is a term used to describe the abdominal muscles in your horse which are responsible for contracting the abdomen and flexing his spine. Just as in humans, the core is essential for back support and maximizing efficiency in movement. Horses with a weak core will tend to move with their back in extension (hollow), a high head and neck carriage and little power from the hind limbs. When assessing these horses at a standstill they’ll have incorrect posture and may look uncomfortable. The level at which they perform is likely to be lower than when they’ve learnt to engage the core.
Once the core has established strength, achieved through a series of raised pole work (e.g. pictured), long rein work, hill work, transitions and lateral work, your horse will be able to lift through his back and shoulders, laterally flex through his neck and use his hind quarters for power.
If their core is weak horses often use the shoulders and neck for balance, steering and to pull themselves along. By doing this they’ll leave their hind limbs more redundant which will eventually lead to a decline in performance, posture, strength and longevity.