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Back to basics 1

With us all returning to riding yesterday, there will likely be a lot of work to do and we’ll need to start slowly. Check out this ‘back to basics’ advice over the next few days, detailing ways in which you can sharpen up your schooling, find the problem areas and get back on the same page as your horse. The exercises are of a low intensity, so perfect for keeping energy output levels low after a long break, but you’ll be surprised at how you reap the rewards in other areas of your horse’s schooling. Remember, all good things start with the basics!


We often get so caught up in improving other areas of our horse’s training and schooling that we rarely take the time to assess and evaluate where he’s at. While you’ve got the time , give your horse a good grooming to make sure that all his coat is lying as flat as possible, then walk him onto a hard, flat surface. Get someone to help get him as square as possible and facing forward.

From there, stand directly in front of him and take a good look at his shoulder, neck and back regions – look for the side that has more muscle build-up or ‘bulge’. Be thorough in your assessment, not forgetting to look at finer areas such as the poll and around the withers. Run your hands along the main muscles, feeling for signs of tightness – especially under the neck. When standing calmly, the underside of the neck should be loose and floppy. Tightness under the neck, or development of an ewe neck, is a strong sign of tension.

Sit on your haunches in front of your horse and look at his pectoral muscles, as these muscles are often a good indication of unevenness. Lastly, assess your horse from the back. Stand on a step at a safe distance (still making sure your horse knows you’re behind him) and have a careful look at his back muscles. At ground level, look at the hindquarters and assess for unevenness. Standing at your horse’s side facing the tail, run your hands again along the muscles and feel for any tightness.

Make notes of what you find – it will differ from horse to horse and there will most certainly be issues that you will notice. Bear these areas in mind and work to correct them over this period where your horse’s fitness is lower and you can afford to take your time.