Understanding the anatomy of your horse’s back is really useful, particularly when you’re thinking about working your horse in different outlines.

There isn’t a huge amount of lateral flexion in your horse’s back, actually it’s the ribs that contribute to his ability to bend. So, encouraging your horse’s ribs to move will help to supple and mobilise his back too.

Gillian Higgins, from Horses Inside Out, said: “Movement stimulates the production of joint fluid and this helps with joint mobility. So, moving the ribs has a positive effect on the mobility and health of the back.”

You can get your horse’s ribs mobilised with this in-hand exercise:

  1. In-hand lunge your horse in walk on a small circle – about 3m.
  2. You want to see his front feet stepping forwards and turning – focus on the front feet and the hind end will follow.
  3. If your focus is on pushing the hind end round, all that happens is the front end stops and pivots and then the hind leg can’t step under and across.
  4. What you should see during this exercise is your horse’s ribs getting closer together on the inside of the bend and seeming to get wider on the outside of the bend.
  5. The whole barrel of the ribs swings to the outside more than to the inside due to the placement of the hindleg.
  6. Each time the hindleg comes under the body, you should see the ribs swing to the opposite side.
  7. Lunge three circles one way and then three circles the other way. Do it every day and you will notice a real difference.

Gillian Higgins is an equine sports and remedial therapist, BHS senior coach, biomechanist, anatomist and anatomical artist. Her business Horses Inside Out runs courses on understanding anatomy and biomechanics.

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