How Hills Can Make Your Horse Fitter

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Do you have hills available on your property or on the trails that you ride? Hills can be a great way to make your horse fitter. Here’s what you should know about adding hill work to your horse’s conditioning program.

Hills Are Hard Work

Hills add extra challenge to your horse’s physical workout without adding high intensity activities, like jumping. Hill work is great for building muscle and strength in your horse, but it has to be done carefully. Introducing too much hill work too quickly can leave your horse sore and at risk of injury. Instead, introduce just a bit of hill work at a time, and keep sessions easy and brief. As your horse gets fitter, you can gradually increase the intensity of the workouts.

Start With a Walk

When you introduce hill work, start by walking your horse up a hill. Keep yourself positioned so that you are forward over your horse’s withers and so that you give your horse plenty of rein. Walk a small hill a few times, then end your session.

Progress to the Trot

As your horse’s fitness improves, you can walk more hills, and can even introduce some trot work. Remember that hill work is strenuous, though, so pay attention to the signals that your horse is giving you about how he’s feeling during each session.

Add the Canter

With your horse well-accustomed to hill work, you can add in some canter time. Always canter up hills, but not down them, especially if they’re steep.

Back It Up

Backing your horse up small hills is a good way to build strength in his hindquarters and back. This should only be done in short sessions, especially at first, and if your horse is weak in either area, then he may be resistant to back up.

Practice backing up on even ground first, so that you can build your horse’s muscle, before adding in the challenge of backing on a hill. Pick only a slight hill when you first introduce this exercise, and be patient with your horse, especially if he’s resistant. Some horses have a hard time with this exercise, and it may take your horse some time before he can understand what you’re asking and develop the coordination this exercise requires.

Stick With Short Sessions

Remember that hill work is like an interval workout. It’s not an activity that you would do for an entire ride, and it’s best used in short bursts with plenty of rest time in between.

Hill work is a great way to improve any horse’s fitness, but if you have questions about your horse’s condition, always refer to your vet.

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