Q: I” really need some training tips and schooling exercises to build up my horse’s hind end. She tends to pick a hind leg to be lazy with while schooling. Luckily this seems to change between each leg on a regular basis but I would like some tips on how to strengthen her behind to try and get out of this habit. Currently her right hind is lazy resulting in for the first time her struggling for the correct lead in canter on the left. She is seven-years-old and fairly balanced on both reins but baby habits means she tends to be lazy but is responsive once pushed on.”
A: A basic but really effective exercise that will strengthen up a horse is to leg yield on a circle. This is a great exercise for four-year-olds right up to advanced horses.
Start with a 20 metre circle at walk or trot and gradually decrease the circle by spiralling down to about 10 metres or until you feel that your horse is slightly losing balance. Remember when doing lateral work, everything you do must improve and enhance your horse’s movement and if you feel the rhythm or movement of your horse is being interrupted or compromised go back a step.
Establish the circle with a good bend through the whole body, not just the neck, using your inside leg to the outside rein and perhaps open the inside rein towards the middle of the circle on a less experienced horse. Never cross the inside hand across the neck and be sure to maintain the bend throughout the whole body
Push the horse away from the inside leg towards the outside rein imagining it is like a stabiliser on a bike.
You are asking your horse to take his inside hindleg across and under himself with his hind foot print coming on a line that would fall between his two front legs.
Increase the size of the circle by leg yielding back out to 20 metres. It is important not to let the horse run through the shoulder and this is where the outside rein — the stabiliser — comes into play.
Use this exercise equally on both reins until you have the horse supple, bending and stepping through.
If you want to make this a little it more difficult you can add some transitions. When you have decreased the cirle and ridden back out to 20m, make a transition to walk or canter, again with the feeling that this hind leg is coming between the two front legs.
You can also do this exercise in canter on more advanced horses but when you do this you should have more of a feeling of the same exercise but don’t expect your horse to be as parellel when he or she goes sideways as it is physically impossible to cross the leg over parallel in canter leg yield.