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Encourage Your Horse To Raise Their Back

Submitted by member: Lauren

Can you give me some exercises on how to ride so that you raise your horse’s back? I have found some about the anatomy but not about what you actually do physically as the rider.

Answer by Julie Winkel

Raising a horse’s back up requires two major structural parts from your horse: the hindquarters and the abdominal muscles. In order for a horse to use his back, his hindquarters need to be engaged, shifting his center of gravity rearward. This comes from educating your horse to leg and hand. Therefore, the first exercise you can do as a rider is lots of transition work, from gait to gait, as well as within the gait (shortening and lengthening).

The best exercise to strengthen a horse’s abdominal muscles (necessary to raise the back) is several sets of rein backs (10-12 steps 3-4x) during the course of daily work. This can be achieved on or off the horse.

As a rider, the lighter you can ride in your seat and the stronger from your leg, and the lighter in your hand, the better. This encourages a horse to understand how to and be allowed to raise his back and use himself in the best possible way. Hope this answers your questions. For more information, check out my article in The Chronicle Of The Horse titled “To Sit or Not To Sit?”  And Bernie’s video topic of the same title: Building Blocks to a Great Position: Part 5 To Sit or Not to Sit.

More Learning

Click on the links below for blog topics on similar issues:

Tips to Help Your Horse Strengthen Their Back by Bernie Traurig

Exercises to Strengthen a Horse’s Hindquarters by Olivia Loiacono

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Julie Winkel

Julie Winkel has been a licensed Hunter, Equitation, Hunter Breeding and Jumper judge since 1984. She has officiated at prestigious events such as Devon, Harrisburg, Washington International, Capital Challenge, The Hampton Classic and Upperville Horse Shows. She has designed the courses and judged the ASPCA Maclay Finals, The USEF Medal Finals and The New England Equitation Finals.

For more information, visit her website:

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