Improve your barrel horse's time - Body sound equine
This post is 2nd in a series for learning how to enhance your horse’s stride and strengthen your horse’s back to get him to move more athletically. Click here to read the first post.
Previously we discussed how important it is to evaluate your horse’s back and what products you can use to support it. Remember, it is a long process to the road of recovery, but the results will be lasting! In this post I will give you some more tools of how to attain a strong, healthy back and show you some of my progress as well!
No matter what goal you are trying to attain in life it usually takes more than one approach to manifest itself into success. As is the same for strengthening your barrel horse’s back and increasing the length of his stride. Many years and many horse’s ago I had plateaued in my barrel racing journey. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was missing a few key pieces in what would have helped me develop my horse into an athlete. So now with my new found knowledge and practiced skill – I get to try again! This time with all the pieces in the puzzle to make my goal a reality. Today I am sharing more specifically; what the top line of the horse is, why it’s important to support it, and how you can do just that!
In this video I talk about what “top line” is referring to and why it’s even important to think of your horse’s back! Watch below:
You may have heard of some of the following exercises before, but probably not with the importance of RED LIGHTING your horse’s top line first! Exercising your horse (especially with concentration on his back) without red lighting him prior, can be like trying to mold hard clay or stretch a frozen rubber band. You likely won’t receive all the benefits of the following exercises if you are asking muscles to work that haven’t been warmed up and stretched properly! Buy top line kit here.
3 Top Line Therapy Exercises
1. Cavalettis aren’t just for the English folk you know… (AKA ground poles or small jumps)
Trotting over ground poles adds suspension off the ground from the feet powering under a lifted strong back
Allowing your horse to lunge (or preferably play the circling game) over at least 5 ground poles can help him immensely. Not only does it build his confidence over crossing obstacles, but the poles will cause him to lift up his feet, stretch his neck down and use his back to lift himself over the poles. You should start off by asking him over at a walk then, build up toward trotting over them several times in a row. Go both directions; to the right and left. You can do this with or with out a saddle but make sure you do it multiple times a week for about 15 minutes each session.
2. Riding with FOCUS…(over the poles)
Focus your gaze ahead and over the poles to help your horse lift his legs and his back with out being clumsy.
You may have tried this in a trail class or just riding around for fun at home. But what will really help your horse improve his back is lifting his feet and your weight over the ground poles. Try this a walk first, then build up to a trot. Place the poles flat on the ground or as a small jump (less than 6 inches) evenly spaced to about what your horses stride length would be. Ride around the rail of the arena and then place your focus over the top of the cavalettis as you approach them, ride over them and then circle back around the arena to do it several more times.
3. Stretch that neck don’t scrunch it!
Stretched neck, long back, even weigh distribution and calm eyes. GOOD!
Ok people – I know that some of us need to ride with a martingale or tie down of some sort, but have you ever wondered if that it impedes your steed’s ability to swing his scapula to the fullest capacity? It does. So during your work out days, try to ride your horse in the mildest bit possible (while still being in control) and allow your horse’s head to stretch down toward the ground. Often times we ride so collected or with our horse’s head excited and up in the clouds we rarely give him a chance to allow his head to hang level or lower than his shoulders. By simply walking and long trotting with long reins and encouraging a long stride we can make a difference in how his hind leg comes underneath his lifted back and propels his front legs along.
Scrunched neck, short back, weight on the forehand, and scared eyeballs! BAD!
So… how do we get to a place where our horse’s can have strong healthy backs with a nice long stride? Watch below:
There you have it, a few exercises to get you and your horse moving, literally in the RIGHT direction. What do you guys think? Are are you culprit of not allowing your horse’s head to stretch down enough? Does your horse have a classic “L – shaped” back contributing to a top line that is pretty atrophied? I think that if you practice red lighting your horse’s top line and riding these exercises a few times a week CONSISTENTLY you will definitely see an improvement. Not only in your horse’s back, but your time too! #horsepower baby!
I have been following my own advice – take a look of how it’s helped my horse so far!
Results can happen quickly if you are willing to put in the work. Take a look at how the empty space between the line and his back is decreasing!