“What did you work on with Spots today?” “Not much, I don’t really have any inspiration… Did some circles in the arena. What about you?” “I’m going to do some jumping exercises for muscle reinforcement!” 😎
It’s time for some horseback exercises. I’ll be giving you 5 ideas of jumping exercises you can use for muscle reinforcement. Let’s start from the simplest to the most complicated one. I’m not going to lie: the 5th exercise is “a little bit” more difficult 😅
Let’s start with some explanation first:
What’s the point of doing these weird exercises?
The “weirdness” of the exercises isn’t important. Truth is, these exercises need to make the muscles work in every way possible so they can develop correctly. But “in every way possible” means that the different exercises have to involve the 3 types of muscle contractions.
And it’s the only way to get your horse in shape.
I hear you already: “What are the 3 types of muscle contraction? 🤔“. I’ll explain right here.
The 3 different types of muscle contraction 💪
- concentric contraction
It’s the best known contraction. In this case, the muscle shrinks and gains in volume.
Take a dumbbell in your hand and fold your forearm on your arm. You’ll see your massive biceps in concentric contraction.
- isometric contraction
In this case, the muscular insertions aren’t moving. There is no shrinking or stretching. The attitude is fixed. There is no movement.
If you to lift a 300 kg bar, you probably won’t even move it a centimeter away but all of your muscles will be very contracted. They will all be in isometric contraction. 🏋
- excentric contraction
In this case, the muscle is contracted by stretching. It goes against the movement and creates a resistance.
Pick up a dumbbell and bend your elbow (concentric biceps contraction) then unfold it: your biceps is at that moment in eccentric contraction. It stretches when you unfold your elbow to oppose the movement, it resists.
It’s best to combine the 3 different types of contraction when you want to reinforce muscles. That’s why you need to diversify your exercises!
Now we can move on to the exercises.
Muscle reinforcement exercises 🏇
Let’s start with the hell sessions (but don’t worry, we start with an easy one).
1️⃣ Raised ground poles
First exercise – an easy one (or is it?). It consists in going over slightly raised poles at each gait. The poles can thereby be raised on both sides or successively on one side or the other.
This exercise has a lot of advantages: gaining in flexibility and coordination, keeping a lower cadence and a higher elevation… It’s an amazing exercise for muscle reinforcement.
As a matter of fact, the horse has to alter the way it moves its foot over the pole, making its whole body work!
The chest and serratus muscles work to allow the withers to “lift” (they make the front of the horse lighter) and they work to bend the forelegs. The abdominals contract in a concentric manner to allow the hind legs to bend when going over the pole. Lastly, the gluteal muscles contract as well. To put it shortly, everything works.
We advise you to raise the poles at about 15 to 20 cm at walk, 15 to 35 cm at trot and 50 cm at canter. Space the pole by 80 cm at walk, 1.20 m to 1.50 m at trot and 3 m to 3.50 m at canter.
Be careful if your horse doesn’t know this exercise: it can be surprised!
2️⃣ Jumps in a curve ⤵️
This exercises consists in going at canter over a curve on which you installed a ground pole and a small jump spaced by 3 m.
The goal is to help the horse articulate itself on the jumps without rushing or deviate off of the center of the poles. It has to bend AND jump a the same time. It will help it reinforce its abdominal, back and gluteal muscles while improving its trajectory and its balance. Isn’t that great?? 😁
3️⃣ Jumps at walk
Haha! Trust me it’s scary at first 😱 but you get used to it quickly!
Jumping at walk is great work for the propulsive muscles. The horse doesn’t have momentum so it has no other choice than to use all of its strength to jump. The abdominals and the back muscles have to contract really hard to help the propulsion.
It’s also a great exercise to help the horse be more frank. And very useful if you don’t want your horse to stop in a show (when the jump’s height allows it).
In my experience, you can easily raise the fence to 90 cm on verticals or small oxers. Let me just warn you to grab your horse’s mane: you can go flying! 😅
4️⃣ Cavaletti – oxer – cavaletti – oxer line
The goal here is to go over a line of cavaletti and (very) large oxers with 1 stride to gain momentum between each jump. We want to do the same thing that we did for the jumps at walk: keep the horse from gaining momentum. By going over this succession of jumps the horse will have to “juggle” between a jump going upwards and a stride later, gain enough momentum to go over a large jump then a stride later, an upward jump, etc.
The propulsion phase on a large jump (large oxers, spa, water jump…) makes the horse’s back muscles, gluteal muscles and abdominal muscles work really hard.
A little trick to increase the difficulty: widen the oxers little by little from the first plan. As a matter of fact, this reduces the space between the jumps, so it makes the exercises harder as you go! (that’s a bit sadistic 😈, I’ll give you that)
This exercise, in addition to helping with muscle reinforcement, allows you to improve your horse’s dexterity (and yours as well).
5️⃣ The “Enchanted Arena”
Last but not least. It’s not an exercise that everyone can realize because it requires certain equipment. But it can give you some ideas of what body building can be for a horse.
It consists in a succession of slanted bounce jumps with fences and uphill banks (or downhill)! That’s what we call plyometrics training.
This kind of exercise works heavily on the explosive power (type II fibers). Indeed, plyometrics consists in a succession of concentric and eccentric contractions performed very quickly. For instance, jumping ropes or jumping push ups are plyometric exercises.
⚠️ WARNING ⚠️ Plyometric exercises are really hard, especially on the articulations which are highly stimulated by these successions of contractions and stretches. You need to prepare your horse well for this kind of exercises.
I can guarantee you muscle soreness!
You can find these exercises and much more on our app 📲
All of these exercises are free to check out on the Equisense Mobile App ! 😇
Here you go! You now have exercises that you can adjust to reinforce the muscles of your horse 🙂 I’m waiting for your experiences and suggestions in the comments!
See you soon for another article,
R&D Leader at Equisense