Sit up straight, don’t slouch, shoulders back – we know the importance of good posture for ourselves, but what about our horses?
In layman’s terms, a horse with good posture will generally stand square and be well balanced. His cannon bones should be perpendicular to the ground with the centre of mass behind his elbows and aligned below where the rider sits.
Try these simple posture-perfecting exercises and treatments to keep your horse at his best.
1. Book a physiotherapist
Not only will a physio be able to spot muscular issues, but they’ll also be able to alleviate soft tissue discomfort and associated compensations, helping to improve his posture. To find a qualified equine physiotherapist visit www.acpat.org.
2. Carrot stretches
Carrot stretches encourage your horse to stretch through his neck and back, developing his balance, coordination and muscles. Make sure he’s fully warmed up before you begin. It’s also worth chatting to your vet or physio to make sure they are suitable for your horse to do before incoprating them into his routine.
3. Ride serpentines
Working in walk and trot, incorporate three or four loop serpentines into your schooling sessions. The shape of the loops will increase the movement and bend through your horse’s body. Simple and effective!
4. Practise pole work
Use trotting poles to help develop your horse’s strength through his back and increase his joint range motion. Set out four poles, 4ft (1.2m) apart and trot over them.
5. Switch surfaces
Different surfaces can impact on your horse’s movement and his posture. Too deep and he has to concentrate on his balance, as well as propelling himself forward. Uneven ground means he’ll be unable to apply equal weight to his footfalls. Flat, non-shock absorbing surfaces, such as tarmac, can compromise his posture.
The solution is to cross-train your horse on varied terrain – making sure it’s quality terrain without deep surfaces. It’ll be beneficial as he’ll learn to cope with the changing footing.
6. Check your horse’s tack
Ill-fitting tack can result in postural compensations, which can lead to lameness. For example, if a saddle pinches on one side, the horse wearing it won’t work symmetrically, building up uneven muscle and applying strain on his legs.
Bridles also have a part to play. Research into the pressure associated with bridles has shown that when poll and noseband pressure is reduced, horse locomotion improves.