There are lots of exercises you can ride to help your horse build the muscles he needs to do the work asked of him. One simple exercise is to ask him lift his hind legs, which will help him to strengthen his hindquarters.

This exercise involves raised poles on a fan. Before you ride, make sure your horse is happy to go over the poles on the ground first.

In the corner of your schooling area, position three poles in a fan shape, roughly 1.2 – 1.7m apart at their middle point depending on your horse’s stride. Ride them flat on the ground first, and when you’re read to raise the ends, consider what you want to work on. For example, you can raise the inside ends, outside ends or alternate ends. To help decide, follow these general rules:

  • The inside hind leg over a raised pole will lift more vertically
  • The outside hind leg will increase it’s arc and lift up further, but also travel further on the outside of the circle

So, if you want to encourage your horse to flex his hind leg more and flex to the inside through his body a little, raise the inside end of the pole. If you want to try and get his hind leg to travel in a longer arc, and discourage your horse to fall out through his shoulder, raise the outside end of the pole.

It’s always a good idea to do all exercises on both reins anyway, but if one rein is a bit harder than the other it may be that you need to spend a little longer on that rein doing strenghtening work until they even up.

Only do strengthening work a couple of times a week as it’s hard for your horse and it’s important not to overdo it. Do just enough in each session to make him a little tired – 15 minutes is plenty for a young horse and if he’s older you may only need five minutes before riding your normal schooling session.

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