Ask The Trainer

There are certain elements that all horses need: Rhythm, acceptance of contact, impulsion, straightness, and collection. It makes no difference what your horses background was or what the future holds, calisthenics will help to improve the over all ride of the horse and the overall balance of the rider.

Like any good athlete would do before a race or game, an equine needs that time to warm up, stretch, and loosen up-- both mentally and physically. The goal of this training is to develop the horse’s three natural gaits so that s/he becomes stronger, more athletic, and elastic in the movement. Calisthenics helps to “activate” the horse’s entire body, but especially the abdominal cavity to help lift the back and shoulders, and stretch the top line while developing body awareness and energy in the strides. This helps the horse learn that s/he can take a bigger step and swing through the back, vice the smaller, shorter, stiffer strides.

This is such an important part of the program. If you don’t have time to do calisthenics that day before your ride, then you may want to consider longing instead and leave riding for another day.

It does not matter if you are riding a western style horse or an English style horse, the calisthenic exercises are the same. However, the level of how you ride that exercise will vary according to the horse’s age, riding experience, as well as the rider’s skill. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the goal, a horse may start out at a level 2. This leaves much room for improvement on that one particular exercise. Keep the same exercise, but changing the intensity of that exercise to increase the level of difficulty is called “building on the exercise.” Just as it takes time to build muscles, it takes time to build these movements to the goal number set for that horse.

You should strive for calisthenic improvement each day, not perfection. It may take months to reach a level 10 on any particular exercise. Stress on the horse, or riders part, will go against the whole theory of this exercise. Stress does not bring on bodily relaxation or mental quietness; stress causes tension in the horse’s mind, which results in bodily stress and stiffness. However, do not be afraid to step up to the plate and ask your horse to “kick it up a notch” and step out of that individual’s circle of comfort. This comfort awareness will keep you and your horse from going stagnate and hitting a lengthy plateau. Keeping a happy medium is the key for successful, winning results!