At this time of year many of us will be thinking of getting our horses fit for competition. So why not incorporate some hillwork exercises this season?
Riding up and down hills is a great way to strengthen the muscles required for dressage and jumping, but it’s also a fantastic way to fitten up your horse for eventing, endurance or any other disciplines you take part in. Choose long but not too steep hills, where there is lots of room to turn, without tiring your horse out too much. Here are some great hillwork ideas.
Exercise one: Ride straight up the hill in walk, making sure your horse is straight and is working actively forward into a contact. Turn a big circle at the top and ride straight back down again.
Exercise two: Ride a 20-metre circle on a slope in walk and trot to start with and then, if it is safe to do so, and your horse is balanced enough, try it in canter. Aim to keep the same rhythm and balance throughout. You’ll find the horse struggles with balance more coming down the hill, so take a half-halt to help him rebalance.
Exercise three: Transitions on hills. Trot up the hill and ask for a walk and then a halt transition as you go up. Make a big turn at the top and repeat the exercise coming down the hill, which your horse will find harder.
Exercise four: Canter up hills. This builds up fitness and muscle to help with jumping and fitness for cross country. Make sure you ride in a straight line, encouraging your horse to take the contact forward and down.
Exercise five: Try leg-yield. As you go up or down the hill in walk or trot, ask your horse to move to the left for a few strides by pushing him away from your right leg, then straighten him and push him to the right with your left leg. Make sure he stays straight through his body and doesn’t fall through his outside shoulder by supporting him with your outside rein and leg.