Gymnastics for Stronger Haunches

My horse needs some help getting stronger in his back end. Does anyone have any favorite gymnastics (or any exercises) to help gain that strength and engage his backend? Thanks!

Trot poles all day long!


If the footing doesn’t suck, go out and trot hills. You get in two-point the whole way. Quad day for everyone!


Walking up and down hills! Down hill helps activate the muscles used when asking the horse to sit back and collect


Raised walk poles are good too. It encourages them to lift their hocks up. Sometimes horses learn that they can pull themselves through trot poles with their front end, so I like incorporating walk poles because they absolutely have to use their hind end with that.

Hills are also great; walking or trotting them.


Transitions within and between the gait, performed correctly, followed by more transitions and yet more. That is how dressage horses develop strength and the gaits.


Proper low level dressage work (1st level) does a lot as well. Combined with the trot work on hills they should easily get in shape without a lot of pounding (hills once a week with a day off) and dressage 1-2 times a week with a jump lesson added.


In addition to all the good suggestions noted above: Leg yields up and down a hill.

My trainer made me do them on her steep gravel driveway instead of out in the field so I couldn’t hide and cheat. It is murder but a few times a week incredibly effective. In a few months you will have effortless and lively canter departs.


Consistent, correct regular flat work, riding out over terrain if possible combined with time and patience works wonders. There is no magic supplement or exercise or gadget to develop the backend, the horse has to build the muscle and balance gradually over time.

Horse also has to have been born with the conformation to develop these things as well. Some horses just aren’t yet fully matured and others just are never going to develop a back as the skeletal support is not there. Some others have old injuries, are older or have high mileage arthritic changes so please, please. please go slow with this and listen to the horse.


Thank you for bringing that up! This particular horse is a 10 year old OTTB. He’s healthy and hasn’t show signs of any pain. He gets regular chiropractic adjustments too. With this guy I believe he’s just not worked as much with the winter season limiting riding (and myself traveling a good bit as well). But thank you so much for reminding me of that! I think we all forget that a little bit sometimes!

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