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🐴 Specific Exercises to Improve Your Horse’s Hindlimb Engagement 🏋️‍♂️

Part 2:

Firstly, thank you for joining me for part 2! In part 1, I shared my experiences and observed patterns in horses facing hindlimb engagement issues. If you missed the blog or want to revisit it, click on the link below:

Now, in part 2, I’ll introduce four specific exercises—two stable-based and two ridden—that target improving your horse’s hindlimb engagement. And guess what? I'll also throw in a bonus exercise for you! 🌟

Before diving in, let's ask ourselves three crucial questions:

  1. Why am I wanting to do these exercises? It's our responsibility as horse owners to take charge of our actions. Presumably, your answer might be: "to improve my horse’s hindlimb engagement." But my next question is:

  2. Is there a REASON my horse is struggling with their engagement? This is pivotal because it helps clarify the exercises you should (or shouldn’t) be doing. Seeking guidance from a team of professionals (Vet - to rule out pain!, therapist, farrier, saddle fitter, trainer…) is essential. Skipping this step makes the journey to achieving optimum hindlimb engagement lengthy, exhausting, and frustrating!

  3. Do I have the skills to perform these exercises safely and effectively? We all start somewhere, but guessing without a clear plan or mentor/coach/professional guiding us through each step leads to frustration and, honestly, does a disservice to your horse. 🤝🐎

🏇 Stable-Based Pelvic Engagement Exercises: The Pelvic Matrix Routine 🌟

These isometric exercises are simple and take less than 3 minutes to complete. Here's the Pelvic Matrix Routine:

1. Lateral Tail Traction Activations (see image 2):

  • Right Side: Hold for 10 seconds

  • Left Side: Hold for 10 seconds

Image 1: Lateral tail traction. Repeat both sides for 10 secs. The tail traction is slow movement and less pressure.

2. Caudal Pelvic Tilt (see image 3)

  • Hold for 6-10 seconds

Image 3: Caudal pelvic tilt. Do progressively, not a reflex movement.

🤸‍♀️🐴 Engaging in these exercises contributes to pelvic engagement, focusing on lateral tail traction activations and caudal pelvic tilts. It's a quick routine aimed at enhancing your horse's stability and strength.

🏇 Ridden Pelvic Engagement Exercises 🌟

When it comes to exercise programs, progression is key. My advice to clients, whether online or in person, always starts with groundwork before moving to ridden work. Just as you wouldn’t start lifting heavy weights in the gym without preparation, the same goes for your horse—rushing can lead to injuries!

Transitioning from stable-based pelvic routines to enhance hindlimb engagement involves focusing on key components:

  1. Forwards Movement: Encourage your horse to work freely forwards.

  2. Body Suppleness: Aim for a stable back, mobile ribcage, and increased pelvic tuck (refer to the image below).

  3. Straightness: Ensure your horse can bear more weight on their hindquarters by maintaining straightness. Watch their footfalls for alignment.

Now, let's delve into exercises that promote increased engagement:

  • Transitions, Transitions, Transitions: Emphasise quality over quantity. Focus on your aids, feeling, and your horse's reactions. Gradually refine transitions to achieve straightness.

  • Serpentines Variation: Vary in length and size to encourage engagement. The bending motion enhances suppleness and stability, positively impacting hindlimb engagement (refer to the image 4). Progressions for serpentines are plentiful; I've dedicated an eBook to detailed progressions—click here to access it!

Image 4: 4 loop serpentine.

Remember, building engagement is a gradual process—listen to your horse, feel the changes, and progress steadily toward improved engagement.

🐎 Bonus Exercise: Pelvic Engagement - The Rein Back 🌟

Why this exercise?

  • Symmetrical Diagonal Gait: Offers a gait without a swing phase, enabling separate assessment of forehand and hindquarters' biomechanics (see image 5 below)

  • Low Speed & Low Risks: Minimises risks to the locomotor apparatus due to its slower pace.

  • Activates Specific Muscle Groups: Prepares the body for diverse discipline demands.

  • Enhances Balance: Aids in developing collected gaits and refining your horse's balance.

Image 5: The rein back inhand

The significance of the rein back lies in its unique mechanics. Unlike usual gaits, the rein back involves protraction of the forelimb during weight-bearing and backward motion. Additionally, retraction of the forelimb happens during the non-weight-bearing phase, leading to toe contact with the ground. This movement strengthens the Iliopsoas muscle and enhances lumbo-sacral flexibility—crucial components for hindlimb engagement.

Interested in a detailed blog on rein back mechanics, improvement tips, and what to observe? Reach out to me at:

Working with a dedicated team of professionals not only saves time but also accelerates your progress toward desired outcomes! Many horse owners invest in various exercises, trainers, and equipment without addressing the root cause of engagement issues.

The solution is simple:

  • Select your team

  • Ask questions

  • Enjoy the journey

All these exercises plus many more are available in video format on my platform: The Empowered Equestrian. Click on the link below to find out more:

If you have any more questions or want guidance, I'm here to assist you on this fulfilling journey. 🌟🐴

Warm regards,

Nika x

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