How to improve your horse’s suppleness ?
You can start off by walking him. Ten to twenty minutes – depending on the horse – to warm him up. Then, start by cantering while stretching his head down. Stay out of the saddle at first to make it easier for him and let his muscles warm up effortlessly. It will allow him to stretch his entire top line.
Then, you can go into trot. Try to get a very rhythmic trot, very relaxed, maybe with a few leg-yields to help him lengthen his neckline. Once you’ve stretched his back, you can start focusing on flexions.
In the walk, start by working on flexions. Then, make sure that the horse bends around your legs. You can do some lateral work. You really have to bend your horse around your inside leg. You’re aiming for the horse to bend through his entire body, not just the neck, in order to get a poll-to-tail bend. And this bend must be around your inside leg and not your inside hand. It has to be a lateral curvature of the body; and you must feel the horse getting more supple as the session goes on.
We can then move on to stretching your horse. In canter, start by doing a big leg-yield across the whole arena, and then work on some counter canter once you reach the corner. For the counter canter, keep the flexion. So, to let him know you want to stay on the right leg, for example, keep a slight flexion to the right. The counter canter is a good exercise because it stretches the outer side. It’s a pretty useful longitudinal stretch. The right side of the horse has to cover more ground. It’s not natural, so the horse has to make a real effort. You have to work on both sides, but always start from the easiest one. You must train your horse the right way, not in a forceful manner, but by convincing him of the usefulness of what you’re making him do.
Once in a while, your horse will ask you to practically put his nose down in the sand. That may happen in the middle of an intensive session or while stretching. I suggest you let him do it, because it’s normal, your horse will sometimes need to stretch out completely. And it’s a very good way to end a session. Getting your horse to be more supple is simply like getting an athlete more supple. So, whatever your discipline, I suggest you do this type of work about twice a week.
Are you working on improving your horse’s suppleness regularly? Did you enjoy reading this email? Leave me a comment here.