All, Orla & Coco

Exercises to Help Build Your Horse’s Weak Hind End

As some of you may remember from my post a few weeks ago, I’ve decided to pull Coco back to basics to help fix some of the issues she’s been having with her hind end. After a visit from the physio I decided to come up with a more structured exercise plan for Coco that I hope will help get us back to where we were a few months ago. 

The Problem

Coco is under-developed on her near (left) side which has resulted in an uneven pelvis and subsequent discomfort.

The Goal

While the main goal is obvious make Coco a happier, more comfortable horse, I also set a few of my own little goals that will help keep me optimistic about Coco’s progress while also demonstrating improvements which would hopefully indicate which exercises do or don’t work.

  • See a visible difference in Coco’s hind end. At the moment when you stand directly behind Coco, you can physically see that the muscles aren’t as developed on her left side compared to her right.
  • Get her tracking up on her near side. As a result of her uneven pelvis, Coco doesn’t track up very well on her left so seeing this improve would definitely be a good indication that the exercises are working
  • Have a small jumping session with no napping or refusals

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The Exercises

So how was I going to reach my little goals? After doing some research and chatting with a few people, I pulled together a range of different exercises that I could use to build a weekly exercise plan for Coco.

  • Lunging without a Pessoa  Trusty Driving Skills
  • Ridden Stretching Exercises  Long & Low Wins the Race
  • Trot Poles on a Circle
  • Leg Yielding
  • Cavaletti’s  Raised on One Side to Focus on Building the Correct Side

Coco’s Weekly Exercise Plan

Below is the rough exercise plan I’ve been doing with Coco for the last few weeks. A few days get mixed around here and there but generally we get everything done.

Monday  Day Off

Tuesday  Lunging

I was advised by my physio to get a pessoa to help Coco stretch down and use her backIMG_5158

muscles more effectively. Unfortunately they are a bit expensive so I’ve gone with my next best option – using two lunge lines with a roller. For Coco, I’ve found this to work quite well. She is generally quite a good stretcher on the lunge anyways but using this method seems to encourage her to be much more consistent in her way of going.

By getting her to lower her head, she can stretch out her back and the tight muscles she has behind the saddle while also using her hing end more effectively. It’s a good workout for her that allows her the freedom to move without a rider on her back.

Wednesday  Simple Long & Low Ridden Work

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The first ridden day of the week I would generally take it quite easy. I do some light walk, trot and canter with her with the main focus being to encourage her to drop her head and ride quite long and low. When your horse is as buzzy and spooky as Coco can be, this isn’t always very easy to achieve but after a few sessions of this she really got the knack of it and now she seems to really enjoy stretching down (when she’s not looking around at all the horse things going on).

Thursday Day Off

Friday  Lunge & Cavaletti’s focusing on trot

After a day off Coco always needs a little lunge to make sure she’s not too fresh so a quiet lunge to get rid of the excess energy and then it’s straight to work. I now start every session with 15 minutes of long & low work to get her warmed up and stretched out.

Next we move on to caveletti’s, with a focus only on the trot. As her near side is where she needs to build the muscle, I make sure to only elevate the poles on one side. This ensure’s the focus is on the muscles that need the attention. I would set up two sets of poles, 3 on one side with the first and last poles raised and 5 on another side with the second and fourth poles raised.

I would do the above and mix it up every now and again by setting up the poles on a circle or on the diagonal so we can create a bit of a course out of it. This keeps Coco interested and on her toes.

Saturday Polework in Trot & Canter incorporating some raised canter poles

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Again we start the session with 15 minutes of long & low work. I would then have a number of trot and canter poles set up around the arena.

The trot poles today would be set up with a longer stride in them to encourage Coco to stretch out. I would then have a series of canter poles set up with a 3 stride related distance to work on lengthening and shortening her stride. Another set of canter poles would be set up with bounce strides. These would be placed on a circle.

To finish up I would put the canter poles up to raised poles. I have two reasons for doing this – the first to obviously engage her hind end and get her really lifting behind but the second and main reason is to slowly introduce the concept of jumping into our work.

Sunday Simple Long & Low with Leg Yielding

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After two days of hard work, I like to give Coco a bit of an easier session on a Sunday so I keep it simple to long & low work but incorporate some leg yielding.

Leg yielding is great for making her more supple which helps her to eventually relax her back and start using it more effectively.

One thing that I would love to be able to incorporate into this weekly plan is a hack out to the fields to chill out. Unfortunately Coco isn’t very fond of the track we have in our yard so what should be a nice relaxing ride always ends up in an argument which kind of defeats the purpose of going out there. It’s something I’m planning on tackling this summer but until then, I settle for hacks around the arena or try to get her out of the yard where possible.

Our Progress so Far

I’ve been doing this exercise plan with Coco for the last few weeks and I have started to see small improvements in her way of going. She’s starting to track up much better on her near side and I’ve done very small amounts of jumping with her and each time she’s gotten better and better so it’s all very positive at the moment 🙂

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Thanks for reading this far. I hope some may have found this helpful 🙂

Orla

PS. Photo credit to Niamh Meighan, check out her Insta account @nyunyirl 

7 thoughts on “Exercises to Help Build Your Horse’s Weak Hind End”

  1. Great work! I find it really inspiring reading the good and the bad of your journey (well nothing is really bad, maybe challenging!). What a wonderful owner for Coco you are.. and you look great together!

    1. Aw thank you so much! I do have to keep reminding myself every now and again that I did sign up for the challenges when I decided to buy a young horse. I love her to bits so that makes it a bit easier to tackle the challenges 🙂

  2. This is so interesting for me – Galahad’s brand damaged the muscles underneath and his hind end is still off even now. I seem to be constantly working to improve it! I’ll be very interested to hear how you get on.

    1. So far so good..Coco is definitely showing signs of improvement so it seems the assortment of exercises are working! They’re definitely worth giving a go with Galahad (cool name btw), they can only help!

    1. These exercises should definitely help your horse! I’m already starting to see a difference in Coco, it takes time but it’s worth it to build a good foundation of muscle especially for a young horse! Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll definitely check it out 🙂

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