Winter Workout for your Horse

  • By Charlene Aronson
  • 01 Feb, 2016
Welcome to Western New York, where February is a windy, frigid, snowy reminder that 
no matter how many layers of clothing you wear - you can still lose feeling in your fingers and 
toes! The frozen water buckets really are the bane of our existence. I know that some of you 
are, of course, not bothered by the weather and to you I say congratulations! For those of you 
who, like myself, find it difficult to motivate yourself to ride in the winter, read on for some ideas 
of things you can do with your horse, besides ride! 
 
Ground work! 
Most industry professionals would agree - you can never do enough groundwork. Let me 
clarify, because this does not mean fall into that same old routine of groom, lunge right, lunge 
left, groom. No - I’m talking legitimate work, ground WORK. Groundwork is used as a way to 
exercise your horses mind, regain their respect, and reinforce training. Set up obstacles for you 
horse - tarps, barrels, poles, whatever! You can use this time to expose them to things they may 
not see everyday. Here are a few challenges that I like to do when I’m not in the saddle: 
1.Can you get your horse to do a figure 8 pattern around 2 barrels using a longe line and 
your body language? See this video below for details! This exercise can be done at the 
walk and trot. As you progress you can add on 2 barrels, and practice your weaving on 4, then 6, so on.

2. Can you run your hands down your horse’s legs, checking for scrapes and heat without  
them lifting their feet, thinking you’re picking their hooves? Can you rub their legs all  
around, then pick all 4 feet, then rub them again? This is a great time to establish your  
cues. There will be a time when you want to investigate your horses feet as they rest on  
the ground and nothing will be more annoying than him constantly moving/lifting his feet  
anticipating the hoof pick.  
3. Can you back your horse down off a step? How about up a step? Can you back them  
into their stall? How about out of the stall? Most folks don’t spend enough time training  
on and practicing backing up with their horses. It is SO important! It not only an essential  
skill to have mastered in the saddle, but on the ground as well. It helps reinforce the  
concept of personal space, helps your horse respect you as the leader on the ground.  
 
 
Stretches!  
It is important to allow your horse to warm up before you attempt to stretch their muscles  
out, but walking and a light jog for a few minutes will do the trick. A supple horse is a responsive  
horse, and a stiff bracy horse is no fun! Take some time to help your horse stretch out, you may  
be surprised at the long term results. Not only can stretching help a horse prep for exercise, it  
also is used to recondition and aid in the recovery of some types of injuries. You want to start  
slowly, so not to strain or pull the muscles. It is extremely important to do these stretches on  
both sides, in both directions where applicable. My horse was not initially very responsive to me  
pushing and prodding on him all over the place, but with some pressure release training and  
some treats, he is now a professional stretcher! Check out this neat video from evention.
Upcomimg Post: Desensitizing

Horse Talk

By Charlene Aronson 01 Feb, 2016
Welcome to Western New York, where February is a windy, frigid, snowy reminder that 
no matter how many layers of clothing you wear - you can still lose feeling in your fingers and 
toes! The frozen water buckets really are the bane of our existence. I know that some of you 
are, of course, not bothered by the weather and to you I say congratulations! For those of you 
who, like myself, find it difficult to motivate yourself to ride in the winter, read on for some ideas 
of things you can do with your horse, besides ride! 
 
Ground work! 
Most industry professionals would agree - you can never do enough groundwork. Let me 
clarify, because this does not mean fall into that same old routine of groom, lunge right, lunge 
left, groom. No - I’m talking legitimate work, ground WORK. Groundwork is used as a way to 
exercise your horses mind, regain their respect, and reinforce training. Set up obstacles for you 
horse - tarps, barrels, poles, whatever! You can use this time to expose them to things they may 
not see everyday. Here are a few challenges that I like to do when I’m not in the saddle: 
1.Can you get your horse to do a figure 8 pattern around 2 barrels using a longe line and 
your body language? See this video below for details! This exercise can be done at the 
walk and trot. As you progress you can add on 2 barrels, and practice your weaving on 4, then 6, so on.
By Charlene Aronson 15 Dec, 2015

If you've ridden horses for any amount of time, I'm sure you've encountered people saying things like, "Oh riding horses can't be that hard" or "horseback riding isn't a real sport" or "I’m sure I could probably do that!" from people who would be lucky to stay on a carnival pony. That's just how it goes.


If you've ridden horses for any amount of time, you also understand that riding horses can be really difficult, it is in fact a sport, and the majority of the population knows little to nothing about horses.


If I told you ways that you could improve your riding without being in the saddle, would you do be interested? Winter is coming, and let’s face it - we don’t ride as much as we would like to when our world turns into a frozen tundra. We can use this frigid season as a time to focus on staying in riding shape and we will be able to get a jump start on those spring tune ups! I've highlighted 4 simple exercises below that would be beneficial for any rider looking to improve their riding position; specifically their seat and leg.

1. Squats

When done properly, a squat is one of the most effective moves an athlete can do. Form is the absolute most important part of a squat, in order to strengthen the right areas and avoid injury. The speed throughout your maneuver should be constant - meaning use the same speed coming up as you did going down. From the side, when you are at the bottom of your squat, it should almost look like you're sitting in a chair. It is crucial to keep your knees from extending passed the front of your toes. As you're squatting, you want to force your weight down into and through your heels, so that you are able to wiggle your toes at any point during the move. Throughout the entire move, you need to brace your core to avoid back strain, and when you get to the top of the squat, squeeze your butt cheeks together. Then release your muscles, and repeat.


There are several variations available to make a great squat routine. Consider alternating the distance between your feet, your speed as your rise and fall, and the option to hold the squat at the bottom for varying lengths of time. Additionally, you can stop at any point in your rise and fall, hold for a couple seconds, and continue. This will correlate to a stronger leg in the saddle.

2. Planks

Planks can pack a real punch! Essentially you are bracing your entire core and holding it for as long as you can. Keep in mind, with almost any exercise the form is key. Your back needs to be straight, no sway backs! You don't want your butt in the air, and you need to hold your head and neck level with the rest of your body.


There are endless variations of planks to continue to challenge yourself - here is a list of 47 variations to try! >> greatist.com/move/plank-variations-for-core-strength << A strong core will correlate to a better posture and more secure seat in the saddle.

3. Core Stretches

In combination with working your core, you want to stretch it as well to increase mobility while increasing strength. There are three great poses highlighted in the article here >> http://ellavateyoga.com/poses/virabhadrasana-ii-warrior-ii-pose-2/ << that you should work into your nightly routine! Fitness magazine says it is an eight minute workout, I think you can squeeze it in! Cow pose; you're on your hands and knees inhaling while arching your back down and lifting your chin. Cat pose; you're on your hands and knees exhale while bracing your core and tucking your head down. Child's pose; you're starting on your hands and knees and you're going to shift your weight back to rest your rear in between your heels with your forearms on the ground. You need to do one of each pose, making it a set of 3, and repeat at least 5 times. These stretches will prevent you from becoming stiff and bracey in the saddle.

4. Warrior Pose

Yoga is known as a workout requiring a teamwork between body and mind. Pilates and yoga are both a great workout for any rider, however we’re focusing on the warrior pose, technically Warrior II, which is demonstrated here >> http://ellavateyoga.com/poses/virabhadrasana-ii-warrior-ii-pose-2/ << because it will help you to open up your hips and also stretch your hip flexors. This pose will correlate to a longer deeper leg, and a more relaxed, secure seat in the saddle.


As with any workout, be sure you are in the physical condition that allows you to safely complete these exercises. Gradually introduce yourself to any new workout routine, and take breaks as you feel necessary. You want to push yourself to be better, but you don’t want to injure yourself.


Share by: