Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lengthenings And Lateral Work

I'm beat.  The weather has been tolerable, and I've gone on a fitness blitz of sorts.  Of course, since Spider has had so much time off, I can't just dive right back into work.  We've been working every other day so far.  To build a muscle, you need to stress it.  But, you also need to allow it to heal.  Muscles are built by making tiny tears in the muscle fibers.  The body then repairs them, making the muscle bigger and stronger.  With this in mind, when bringing a horse back from any sort of layup I like to use an "every other day" schedule. 

Spider is doing well, even after a winter's worth of inconsistent work.   He is consistently working over his back, but the work lacks "oomph!".  "Oomph!"  is my word for the next level of forwardness.  Obviously, for a horse to be round, working over the back, on the bit, in a frame, or however you want to say it, the horse must be forward.  That is the basic idea of dressage training, and what we all strive for.  But, at some point, the horse needs to have some "oomph!" to take him to the next level.   I have been trying to cultivate Spider's "oomph!".

What I need to do is get Spider to engage his hindquarters more.  And that's where lengthening and lateral work come in.  One day, I had him do haunches in and shoulder in down one long side, then lengthen down the other long side.  We did that at trot and then at canter.  In the canter,  I had him do shoulder fore down one long side, then lengthen down the other.  For Spider, lateral work in canter is a great way to help him balance.  He tends to get strung out and on the forehand at canter, particularly left lead.  I don't ask for haunches in at canter, because Spider already wants to go with his haunches in at canter.  No need to encourage that. 

Since we had worked hard at trot and canter in that session, for the next session we worked at walk, halt and rein back.   This is difficult work too, more difficult than walk and trot, but in a different way.  Walk, halt and rein back is more like strength training.  It requires the horse to really push from his hind end, rather than allowing his own forward momentum to carry him.  Since it is difficult, I had him take frequent breaks at free walk to stretch. 

On our last ride, the day before yesterday, we worked more on the trot.  I had him do 10 meter circles, then leg yield across the arena from the cirlce.  I like that exercise, it really gets the hind end working.   Eventually, I will also use ten meter circles to ask for half pass.  That's a few months away, though. 

Now I have to figure out what to do for today.  It's much cooler today, I suspect Spider will be revved up, especially since yesterday was his day off.  That means we may just end up cantering.  That fits well into my plan, anyway.  I don't like to repeat the same types of exercises over and over. 

Of course, there is no "every other day" for me.  So, while Spider languishes on his day off, I'm still working: cleaning up poop, getting the garden ready for spring, housework, etc.  Which is why I feel like I've been hit by a truck.  At least I know my horse will stay sound......


  1. Excellent program. I'll have to see what my Tucker can handle once he gets his front shoes back on. Chance has done his trail rides, but today it dropped to freezing again, so we are off.

    Haven't done arena work yet, but your exercises are all good ones. You should develop fitness, obedience, forwardness, and suppleness with that collection.

  2. Great program. We're starting over too. I've got to say though that Dusty has almost too much oomph. But I'll take her overly forwardness and try to harness her energy for good.

  3. Very impressive to be working this way after on and off work over the winter. I like your starting back program. It took me awhile, but I finally learned to work Rogo alternate days, or at least to switch things up and have easier and harder days.
    Spider is doing some challenging exercises. Good for you guys.

  4. Good programme. I will wirte it down, I like how you work on something different every time.
    Teena falls in at the canter right lead, perhaps haunches in will help her???
    Always very interesting to see what others do ^-^

  5. sounds like some lovely work.

  6. Glad to hear you're back in the saddle - this winter has been interminable! You and Spider should be up to speed in no time :)


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