Our expert Dr. Justine Guillaume’s Advices for a Good Post-Effort Recovery

Our expert Dr. Justine Guillaume’s Advice for a Good Post-Effort Recovery

Among the training challenges, that of the optimization of recovery after exercise deserves particular attention.

Recovery combines all the processes and strategies set up to allow the horse athlete to regain the integrity of his physical capacities.

The point is to optimize the time required by the organism to regain after a performance a state compatible with the reproduction of an equal performance. Resuming exercise before the recovery of an optimum biological state can lead to a decline in subsequent performances as well as to fatigue accumulation and its associated risks (over training, injuries).

The objectives of the different strategies used in recovery depend on the fatigue level induced by the effort provided by the horse, the discipline practiced and the muscle groups used.

For exhausting efforts: priority to maintaining blood flow

After exhausting efforts, physiological and biochemical modifications induced can prove to be significant and lasting requiring appropriate recovery methods. Priorities in such recovery are given to the elimination of the metabolites produced by muscle contraction as well as the restoration of energy reserves and acid-base balance, essential to prepare the energy systems to future efforts.

Active recovery, which consists in realizing a sub-maximal exercise by using the muscular groups that worked during the effort, will help increase blood flow into the muscles during the recovery phase. This increase in blood flow is accompanied by an increase in oxygen consumption (VO2), notably enabling the reuse of some metabolites in the resynthesis of ATP (main energy source).

« In this case, the blood lactate is not an enemy but rather a potential energy source! »

The right balance!

The intensity of recovery should not be too high in order not to further damage the previously solicited muscles. However, it should not be too low either, in order to ensure a certain blood flow. Indeed, maintaining blood flow is a key factor in performance recovery as it helps eliminate muscles metabolites. The right intensity for recovery should be about 70% of the maximum heart rate (HRmax).

To give a concrete example: during a standardized test, my horse’s maximum heart rate is 220bpm. Therefore, in the active recovery phase, my horse should have a heart rate level of about 150 bpm. Below that, he will still eliminate toxins but it will take longer. Above, my horse will consume additional energy substrates and start to partially degrade them, which will thus create toxins. The ideal intensity is thus around 70% of HRmax.

In terms of speed, if my horse reaches his maximum heart rate at a speed of 36 km/h (10 m/s), then the active recovery’s intensity should be about 14 km/h (4 m/s).

Electrostimulation for horses

Maintaining blow flow in order to eliminate muscles metabolites can also be done locally with low frequency electrostimulation.

This method causes blood flow changes, mainly thanks to local modifications induced by rhythmic muscular contractions, such as improved venous return.

The other advantage of electrostimulation for horses is the solicitation of muscle groups without any additional movement or constraints for their legs.

 

Stretching: beware of popular misconceptions

Although their initial main goal was to increase the range of motion, stretches have progressively been attributed quasi-universal virtues going from their key role of warming-up, to accident prevention, to recovery…

Although it was concluded that stretches done before an effort were most often useless or even harmful to performance, the results regarding their use in recovery differ. Indeed, the important tensions imposed by stretches are the source of additional strain injuries to the internal muscle structure. Stretching the horse after an effort might thus only add more muscle disruptions. Stretches would thus not be recommended for recovery. However, it does also depend on the length and type of stretching (passive, active, stato-dynamic, etc.).

 

Massages: perhaps more of a psychological effect

Although very popular, massage has never actually proven its effectiveness. Indeed, several scientific studies suggest that massage is not very effective with regards to both metabolites elimination and muscle strength restoration. However, massages might have a psychological effect mostly linked to hormonal release. Therefore, do not hesitate to massage your horse; it will have a positive action on his well-being!

 

Nutritional recovery: not to neglect

A second strategy, enabling the optimization of the recovery process, is post-effort nutritional supplementation. Indeed, an effort will induce many physiological modifications such as hydro-electrolytic losses, the degradation of muscles cells with protein losses, a decrease in glycogen reserves, a fall of pH levels, and the mobilization of lipid reserves (following the effort).

The first objective in nutritional recovery is to optimize reserves of water; the organism’s first constituent. It is also advice, in case of high heat and heavy sweating, to compensate the electrolyte losses that go hand in hand with horses’ sweat losses.

Early protein supplementation, given as soon as exercise stops, may also be necessary. The supplements will help compensate for the losses induced by effort and restore the body’s energy substrates reserves, in particular. Indeed, effort induces important disruptions to proteins metabolism, a decrease in protein syntheses and an increase in muscle’s proteins degradation processes. Protein and amino acids supplementation can thus be an efficient solution.

After an exercise, the synthesis of muscle structure’s proteins increases, along with their replenishment. The muscles’ protein synthesis can increase from 100 to 200% in the recovery phase if it is maintained for 3-5 hours for some horses and up to 1-2 days for some others. However, the protein balance tends to stay negative during this period in absence of amino acids supplements.

Therefore, amino acids supplements are all the more efficient when they are given right after the stop of exercise (within 2 hours post-exercise). The supplements’ composition may thus play an important role by influencing the protein balance. It was shown that supplementing essential amino acids could stimulate the protein balance during the recovery phase and thus stimulate the muscle’s protein synthesis.

 

About the Author…

Dr. Justine Guillaume

Ph.D in Equine Nutrition Equine &
Exercise Physiology
Fitness Training

http://www.pommier-nutrition.com/en/our-services

Justine Guillaume has been a horse rider and owners for 20 years. Doctor in nutrition of the athlete horse, she wished to combine the horse’s physiology during efforts, nutrition and performance in order to rationalize and objectify training.

Today, Executive Assistant to the Director and Head of Scientific and Technical Affairs at Pommier Nutrition, producer and distributor of horse supplements, she developed Equine Performance Solutions; a support and coaching aid for the physical preparation of horses.

« Physical preparation is not just massages and care for well-being. It is much more than that! It is above all preparing the body to perform while maintaining the horse’s physical integrity. It is a complementary activity that must help trainers better know their athletes and understand whether their trainings are efficient. »

For her, physical preparation is most importantly evaluating the horse and his physical qualities from effort tests that will enable us to know if the training is indeed efficient, and if the horse is improving or if he is over/under trained…

« The new connected devices now allow us to access a small part of the ‘inside’ of horses; a mine of information! » – Dr. J. Guillaume

3 sessions to solicit and develop your horse’s cardio-respiratory system

3 sessions to solicit and develop your horse’s cardio-respiratory system

– by Dr. Justine Guillaume, whom we thank a lot 🙂 –

After the winter break and before starting specific training, the development of the horse’s cardio-respiratory system is often a key step towards building and obtaining an optimal body condition.

You will find in this article 3 training sessions that will help you to work your horse’s cardio-respiratory system properly, and steady endurance training in particular.

SHORT ‘SCIENCE’ OVERVIEW

This cardio-respiratory solicitation will generate essential physiological adaptations, such as:

– Optimizing the horse’s cardiac function

Muscling the horse’s heart means helping him adapt to efforts by increasing the blood flow he will be able to handle at each beat. The more your horse improves, the more efficient his heart becomes; by gaining in muscle, the heart will not need to beat as fast anymore to deliver the same quantity of fresh blood to the entire body, and the muscles in particular. The muscles will dispose of more fresh oxygen and thus be able to produce more energy thanks to the aerobic mechanism.

– Developing the capillary and mitochondrial networks

The cardio-respiratory solicitation allows the development of more efficient capillary vessels inside the muscles. These vessels thus deliver a larger amount of oxygen to the muscular cells. This also leads to an increase of the number of mitochondria, which is important considering the mitochondrion is considered as the “energy powerhouse” of the cell, because the last steps to transform the energy of the organic molecule from digestion (glucose) into immediately available energy (ATP) happen there.

– Preserving the reserves of immediately available energy

During endurance training, the horse’s aerobic system (which uses oxygen as its main energy source) becomes more efficient. Thus, the intra-muscular energy reserves, in the form of muscle glycogen, are better preserved during moderate training, and will last longer if the effort continues over a longer period of time. With training, the horse will be able to better preserve his stocks of immediately available energy for a final or punctual acceleration.

– Improving his recovery capacity

Cardio-respiratory training also allows the development of the recovery capacity of the horse’s body in order to make it more capable of handling higher workloads.

« It is not because two horses make the same effort at the same heart rate that they are both working as hard » – Dr. J. Guillaume

IN PRACTICE

Dr. Justine Guillaume has offered to share with us her secrets and advices to train your horse’s steady endurance over 3 sessions.

Steady Endurance; a sound basis for further progress

Steady endurance means soliciting the heart-lung system in order to improve the way your horse uses oxygen. Steady endurance training consists in working at specific heart rates: lower than 70% of your horse’s maximal heart rate (HRmax). Working in this range will help the horse optimize his muscles’ oxygen use, and progressively decrease his normal heart rate during exercise and at rest.

To add some fun to this exercise, do not hesitate to go outside and enjoy the perks of the environment, like drop-offs and uneven grounds that can be helpful training tools here. In addition to efficiently soliciting the horse’s cardio-respiratory system, his mind will thank you!

Session #1: « Long and Slow »

Duration: 1h-1h15, up to 1h30 after a few weeks

Start with 10 minutes of walking, followed by phases of slow trot to begin your training session. During this warm-up, it is best to work without any mechanical strains for the horse. Keep in mind that the objective is to warm up “the mechanics”.

If you are riding in an arena, do some figures like voltes and reverse voltes, and then some mobilizing exercises (haunches, shoulders) at the end of your warm-up. The goal is to make your horse available and listening to you. The best being of course to obtain this state in complete relaxation!

Continue with phases of trot at a slow/average speed (about 13-16 km/h) for 5 to 8 minutes each. The heart rate of your horse should not exceed 150-160 bpm (about 60% of his HRmax*).

Think about allocating some time for recovery at the walk with long reins in between each trot phase. The length of these recovery phases at the walk should be of at least 2 minutes.

Then, start your canter work. Prefer slow and calm canters. Plan on having at least 3 canter phases during your session, being careful not to go faster than 23-24 km/h. If you are riding in an arena, think about varying the figures!

Finally, end your session on a recovery period. It is important to finish your trainings on a positive and relaxed note. Recovery should start with a phase of slow trot (about 10 km/h) and end with a period of walking, with long reins if possible! In winter, do not forget to cover back your horse with a quarter sheet at the walk.

Good to know!

* The maximum heat rate of a horse is usually between 195 and 240 beats per minute. The HRmax decreases with age and is specific to each horse. It is thus recommended to measure if with an effort test in order to be more accurate.

Session #2: « Climbing hills »

Duration: 45 minutes

You should do this training session outside! Identify a hill or a path with a slope around you – the climb should ideally be of 1km; it will be your working tool for this session.

After a warm-up phase at the walk and slow trot of 15 to 20 minutes in an arena or in a field for instance, head to that hill. During the warm-up, let your horse walk and trot without constraints. Keep in mind that the goal of this session is not to work on the technique, but rather to work on substance!

Start the hill trotting slowly (at a speed of 12-14 km/h) and try to maintain a constant speed throughout the climb.

If the physical condition of your horse does not allow you to trot the entire hill, you can divide it in three ‘zones’:

go through the first zone with a tonic walk
do the second part at a slow trot
for the last part you can choose to ask your horse either for a tonic walk or a slow trot

To evaluate this, several indicators will help you, such as the horse’s breathing, sweating, and most importantly the heart rate!

Note: even at a slow trot it is normal to observe a high increase of the heart rate during the climb (up to 180-190 bpm).

Finally, end this training as always with a recovery phase, first at the trot and then at the walk, with long reins.

Session #3: « Continuous Training »

Duration: 50 minutes

This last session can be done either in an arena or outside. If you choose to go outside, try to locate an area that will allow you to trot for at least 20 consecutive minutes. If you do not have access to such space, you can of course do this part of the training in an arena.

Warm-up at the walk: start by walking your horse for 5 minutes at a ‘regular’ walk and finish this phase by one minute of active walk. If you are riding in an arena, think about varying figures (circles, exercises to mobilize the haunches and shoulders, etc.)

Then, complete two series of trot at a slow speed (< 13 km/h) for 20 minutes each. In between those two series, allocate 5-6 minutes of walk for recovery, with long reins if possible.

Finally, finish this training with a recovery phase at the walk on long reins.

Tip!

To complicate this training session, never increase the speed at which you are going! You can also do longer series of trot (23-25 minutes), or 3 series of 15 minutes.

Stay posted for another series of exercises from the same author on a different topic! 🙂

About the author…

Dr. Justine Guillaume

Ph.D in Equine Nutrition Equine &
Exercise Physiology
Fitness Training

http://www.pommier-nutrition.com/en/our-services

Justine Guillaume has been a horse rider and owners for 20 years. Doctor in nutrition of the athlete horse, she wished to combine the horse’s physiology during efforts, nutrition and performance in order to rationalize and objectify training.

Today, Executive Assistant to the Director and Head of Scientific and Technical Affairs at Pommier Nutrition, producer and distributor of horse supplements, she developed Equine Performance Solutions; a support and coaching aid for the physical preparation of horses.

« Physical preparation is not just massages and care for well-being. It is much more than that! It is above all preparing the body to perform while maintaining the horse’s physical integrity. It is a complementary activity that must help trainers better know their athletes and understand whether their trainings are efficient. »

For her, physical preparation is most importantly evaluating the horse and his physical qualities from effort tests that will enable us to know if the training is indeed efficient, and if the horse is improving or if he is over/under trained…

« The new connected devices now allow us to access a small part of the ‘inside’ of horses; a mine of information! » – Dr. J. Guillaume

How to work a horse right in winter

How to work a horse right in winter

After looking at the subject of choosing the right clip and/or blanket for your horse in winter, we are now looking into the right way to work your horse in this cold season. Winter should not be a hibernation period for the horse. Indeed, if you wish to maintain your horse’s physical condition, you must continue to exercise him regularly.

How to train your horse in winter?

If his work level decreases from 5/6 times per week to less than 3 times per week during winter, then there will be consequences on his cardiovascular system, the strength of his musculoskeletal system, and the tonicity of his tendons and ligaments, among others, and it will take a few weeks or even months of training to get him back to shape. However, a few precautions must be taken to properly work a horse in winter.

In winter, it is thus important to keep working your horse for his wellbeing, his mind, and to maintain his fitness and training level. For show riders and horses, winter is the ideal period to fix issues encountered during the previous show season, and to prepare for the coming season.

The right equipment for winter: quarter-sheets, coolers, etc.

Let’s start off by discussing equipment. A non-clipped horse will usually not need a quarter-sheet during training (a waterproof quarter-sheet can be used in case of rain, however) or a cooler after the session. Nevertheless, it is important to make sure the horse does not catch a cold from sweating during work; riders must thus adapt to their horse and the situation.

For clipped horses, it is important to put a quarter-sheet on them when riding. There are polar, thermal, and waterproof quarter-sheets. Be careful that you horse does not get cold, but also make sure he does not get too warm and start sweating either, as he might get sick. The quarter-sheet is thus best recommended for warm-up and cool-down phases, before and after training, but it can be taken off during the work phase.

The warm-up: good exercises to do in winter

Just like us, when it is cold the horse will need more time for his muscles to warm-up, and for his blood to flow well. Generally speaking, in winter, horses spend less time outside in fields, in which case adapting training is all the more important as they will spend most of their time standing in a stall. The horse’s warm-up, crucial step of all training sessions to prevent injuries in particular, is thus even more essential in winter.

15 to 20 minutes of warm-up and stretching at the beginning of a training session are recommended to properly prepare the muscle to the work ahead, get the blood flowing, and relax the joints. This will of course vary with different horses: a horse living in a stall 24/7 will need a longer warm-up than a horse spending all his time outside, who thus has the opportunity to move around in his field/paddock.

Walking the horse and getting him to stretch for about 5 minutes, then trotting for another 5 minutes on large circles still stretching, is a good way to start the warm-up. Then, you can ask smaller circles, some lateral work, and transitions before slowly starting canter work on larger than smaller circles, with lots of transitions.

The importance of the cool-down phase

The cool-down phase, although important in all seasons, is essential in winter to allow the horse ample time to catch his breath, dry so as to not catch a cold, and to prevent soreness and stiffness. 10 to 15 minutes of calm walk are advised, whether in the saddle or in hand. As mentioned above, make sure to cover your horse for this recovery phase if he is clipped so he does not get cold.

After the training session, be careful never to put a blanket on a wet horse who would then likely catch a cold: instead make sure your horse is dried – walk him some more and/or use a cooler if needed – before putting the blanket back on, if he does wear one.

Do hack out, even in the winter season!

For your horse’s shape and moral you should vary your trainings, even in winter. A 20-min lunging session once or twice a week instead of riding will keep the horse in good condition. Some ground or liberty work is also always a good idea to work on your connection in particular, and allow your horse to unwind.

It is also recommended to do some calm hacks outdoors. Trotting for 5 to 10 minutes by intervals during the hack will exercise your horse’s cardio. However, be careful not to canter on too hard, too soft, or snow covered grounds on which your horse could get injured.

Some piece of advice: horse winter care

Horses’ legs and hooves

In winter, because of mud fever risks, be particularly careful to your horse’s legs and pasterns. In fact, it is important to properly clean and dry them (with a towel for instance). If you use water to remove mud and dirt, prefer tepid to hot and cold water in order not to irritate the skin and favor bacteria entry.

It is of course essential to check your horse’s feet before and after work. In winter, special care should be given to the hooves: they should not get too dry or on the contrary too humid and soft. Using a proper hoof ointment once to twice a week on clean and dry hooves is advised. In some cases, if the horse lives in a very muddy field, or has a humid or poorly maintained bedding: he might suffer from thrush (frog infection). Careful; using hoof care with tar in such a case will only make things worse (as it will trap bacteria), it is thus very important that you talk to your farrier who will advise you on the best treatment for your horse.

Horses’ nutrition in winter

In winter, just like any other season, make sure your horse always has fresh water at his disposal.

You might need to change the feed and/or ration of your horse. Indeed, he will spend more calories to get warm in winter, just like us. Thus, you might need to increase his caloric intake in order to offset this higher energy expenditure and to prevent weight loss. It is also important to take your horse’s workload into consideration: if he is exercised less frequently or intensely in winter; think about adjusting his diet accordingly.

In this article, we discussed the warm-up and cool-down phases of a training session in winter. If you are interested in learning more about how to work a horse to prepare for the next show season, check our article with MC Fuss.

See you soon with a new article,

The Seaver Team

8 tips to start the year off right

8 tips to start the year off right

The New Year often rhymes with good resolutions. Now that 2018 is well under way, Seaver gives you a few ‘horse’ advices for a successful year!

1. Devote more time to your horse

Try to organize yourself so that you arrive earlier at the stables and leave later. Staying longer at the barn before and after your session or lesson will allow you to have appropriate time to get your horse ready, and then to untack him without rushing.

Not only will your horse benefit from this as you will have more time to care for him, but your relationship will also improve. Listening to your horse is also very important. Getting to know him better also means being able to quickly detect the slightest problem, physical discomfort, or behavior change.

2. Diversify your activities

As for training, try to diversify your activities in order to break the routine and not bore your horse. Think about doing very simple things such as going for a light cardio workout outside, doing a simple warm-up, or a liberty/groundwork session. You can for instance try riding bitless, or bridle-less just using a cord.

For more extreme activities; why not take your horse to the beach, or go on a several days trail ride together. The need for performance should not be systematic, you sometimes have to ask little of your horse, and simply enjoy the moment in order for your horse to be happy and not tired from work.

3. Set objectives to reach

On a similar note, you should set objectives to reach with your horse this year. They can be achieving certain show results, mastering a new dressage, jumping a higher fence height, or simply doing more hacks, and improving your complicity by doing groundwork.

These objectives must of course be realistic (you should discuss them with your coach), and they should be gradual and fixed in time. They will allow you to stay motivated throughout the year, as you will always keep in mind the goals you want to reach, and to measure your performance. A small piece of advice: dividing each objective into sub-objectives is a good way to really see an evolution, which is more important than the result itself in our opinion.

4. Clean your tack regularly

I think it is fair to say that cleaning tack is far from being the favorite task of riding enthusiasts. Unfortunately, if you want to have and maintain quality equipment that will last, it is a necessary step. In addition to cleaning and preserving your tack, it will allow you to check that everything is functioning fine (and thus to avoid having a stirrup break, injuring the horse, etc.).

Storing your equipment in a clean and dry place, daily cleaning it with a sponge and glycerin soap, and thoroughly cleaning it (disassembling it, using soap and then leather grease) once to twice a week is recommended. Taking the time to take care of your riding equipment is a small change to make that will have a big impact on their life span (and incidentally on your bank account as well).

5. Always ride with a helmet

Security is a key aspect of horseback riding. This year’s resolution (although we do hope most of you already do this): always riding with a helmet, since accidents can happen very quickly. Similarly, you should always warn someone when you go on a hack alone. These simple everyday gestures can prove to b very helpful…

6. Eliminate any potential danger

But security does not end there, and as riders we must make sure to eliminate any potential danger in the environment of our horses. Taking a look in the barn to ensure there is no fork or other object lying around, and walking around the field/paddock of your horse to check fences and for any object that might injure the horse (a lost shoe for example) among others, are simple changes to implement that might help you avoid a big vet bill.

7. Take care of yourself

A little health tip: we often hear that horseback riding is not a sport, but as all riders know it obviously is a sport. Therefore, as any sport, it is important to 1) properly stretch before a training session to warm-up your muscles and avoid soreness and stiffness, and 2) drink enough water. Riders also need to think about themselves sometimes.

8. Appreciate each moment

To conclude, here is one of the most important resolutions in our opinion, and probably one of the easiest to have: appreciate each moment spent in the saddle, enjoy your horse and make the most of your relationship with him and time spent together.

See you soon,

The Seaver team

2017 IN REVIEW

2017 in review

2017 was marked with a lot of significant moments, some very exciting and others more unfortunate… Let’s look back on this year filled with beautiful sport, and on the major events that we, at Seaver, found important.

1. Jumping

➢ Tops

We will long remember Kevin Staut’s great victory in the Top Ten Rolex of the CHI of Genève (2nd French winner). Staut is also the best French rider of the year, still steady in the top 10 of the FEI ranking this year, with 6 months in the top 5 including 4 months at the 3rd place.

Still on French riders; we think Julien Epaillard is worth mentioning, with its many big victories, including the World Cup of Bordeaux, the Global Champions Tour of the Paris Eiffel Jumping, the Longines Speed Challenge of Paris, the World Cup of London…

We recall the beautiful win of Peder Fredricson at the European Championships (that occur every 2 years): he became European Champion after being crowned Olympic Vice-Champion at Rio last year. Ireland is the European Team Champion, brilliantly driven by Rodrigo Pessoa.

McClain Ward was impressive at Omaha: completing 4 clear rounds in 4 rounds, wining the speed challenge, the Grand Prix, and the World Cup Final.

For us, this year’s break out riders were the Italians Alberto Zorzi (many podiums and a victory at the Global Champions Tour of Monte Carlo among others) and Lorenzo de Luca who signed his best year with many beautiful victores (Global of Valkenswaard, Paris Eiffel Jumping, Global of Shanghai…).

The big surprise of the year: Pedro Junqueira Muylaert with its win at La Baule in the Grand Prix.

➢ Flops

Nick Skelton, Team Champion at the London Olympics and Olympic Champion at the Rio Olympics, has decided to take a well-deserved retirement at the age of 59, at the same time as his champion Big Star.

The 2017 edition of the Grand Prix of the Saut Hermes left us with a bitter taste, with a course that seemed too hard and almost tricking for horses and their riders.

➢ Others

This year was marked with many other great sport performances, such as the victory of Simon Delestre in the World Cup Grand Prix of Lyon, Bosty in Rome, Daniel Desseur in Oslo, and Bassem Mohamed in Doha, to only name a few. We also have to mention Harrie Smolders, who won with a large margin the Global Champions Tour circuit.

2. Dressage

It is impossible not to mention the queen Isabell Werth, who signed once again a remarkable year, breaking her own record in January during the World Cup of Amsterdam wining almost all big competitions after that, and finishing the year with 3 horses in the top 6 worldwide.

We recall her beautiful victory in the European Championships, after an amazing battle with Sönke Rothenberger who revealed himself. The young German, only 22 at the time, had produced a stunning ride during the Grand Prix Freestyle that got him the 2nd place with 90,614%, a hair’s breadth from Werth (90,982%). This was actually the first time that such a competition saw 2 couples pas the 90% mark.

This year, Hans Peter Minderhoud accomplished what we could even call a sporting feat: he defeated Isabell Werth, a first since the Rio Olympics. In the Freestyle of the FEI World Cup Dressage of ‘S-Hertogenbosch (March), the Dutch got the average of 84.890%, better than Werth’s 83.300%.

This exploit was reiterated during the opening leg of the World Cup Dressage (Herning) where the young Danish Cathrine Dufour enjoyed a home-win, beating the world n1.

As for the French riders, we have to stress the beautiful tests of Ludovic Henry and Arnaud Serre during the World Cup Grand Prix of Lyon. Both riders achieved strong performances beyond the 70% mark during the Grand Prix Freestyle. Ludovic Henry also beat his personal best in Salzburg a few weeks ago, scoring 75.6%.

We also retain the solid performance of our French riders last July that allowed them to win the Dressage Nations Cup at Hickstead.

Finally, José Letartre is the best French riders of the European Para Dressage Championships; he finished 4th with a nice score of 70.243% – only two-hundredth away from the podium. Two of the four French riders were taking part in the Grand Prix Freestyle: Céline Gerny finished 5th and Letartre 6th of their respective categories.

3. Eventing

Gwendolen Fer achieves the first major win of her career during the CCI 4* of Pau, which allows her to go from the 86th to 24th place worldwide. It is the third consecutive French win in this event, after Astier Nicolas and Maxime Livio.

Michael Jung once again performs amazingly and retains his title of world n1, which he acquired more than 2 years ago. He wins the circuit FEI Classics, among others.

We recognize the amazing performance of Karim Florent Laghouag, king of indoor eventing. The French won for the 3rd time the Cross Indoor at Bordeaux, more recently won that of Paris, and then reiterates at Geneva for his last event of the year.

We remember the sensational performance of the German rider Bettina Hoy during the European Championships. She came close to her personal best in Dressage by riding one of the most beautiful tests (24.6) in the history of a big championship.

Following these European Championships, Germany actually lost its team Silver medal after Samourai du Thot, Julia Krajewski’s horse, tested positive. ( HERE you will find the article we wrote about this affair and doping)

We are proud of our French rider Maxime Livio, who is now at the 3rd place of the world eventing ranking.

We also remember the victories of Andrew Nicholson in Badminton, Karim Laghouag in Pompadour, and Astier Nicolas at the Mondial du Lion.

4. Other important events

Horse Ball: for the first time in 25 years the French team, although great favorite, tilted against Spain and finished 2nd of the Pro Elite European Championships. On the other hand, the French women’s team did win their final (7-4 against Spain), and the young (under 16 yo) also won a new european title in their category (12-5 against Italy).

Volting: Clément Taillez, French Vice-Champion, wins the bronze medal at the European Championships. The German Erik Oese is named European Champion. Lower performance for the French team who unfortunately had to forfeit for the wellbeing of their horse Wizner.

Racing (Gallop): French and European record for Christophe Soumillon who totals 302 victories in 2017.

Reining: 3rd place for the French team at the Junior World Rening Championships, with a beautiful Gold medal for Axel Pesek (17 yo).

Driving: we also recall the beautiful performance of the Swiss Jérôme Voutaz who wins two categories in the European Championships and also becomes World Vice-Champion behing the untouchable Boyd Exell (Australian – 7th title at this level). The World n1 once again wins almost all the major events of the year, only beaten at the World Cup of London by the Dutch Ijsbrand Chardon.

Olympic Games: it is now official, the 2024 Olympic Games will take place in Paris.

5. The bad news

2017 was also marked by much sadder events. First, the end of the TV Channel Equidia Life, who had been sharing the passion for horses and equestrian sports to so many people since 2011.

We want to pay tribute to Espoir de la Mare, who left this world at 25 yo. The Selle Français allowed his rider Jean Teulère to win many international titles, and become World Champion and Olympic Team Champion in particular.

Baloubet du Rouet also ended his journey this year, at 28 yo. This Selle Français Stallion, great father, is the only horse to have won three times in a row the World Cup Jumping Final. He also became Olympic Champion with Rodrigo Pessoa.

Jean Rocherfort, ambassador and advocate for the equine industry, actor and breeder, died at the age of 87. Fernand Leredde also left us at the dawn of his 86 years. Creator of Haras des Rouges (Normandy), he raised Quidam de Revel, great breeding stallion for jumping, and bred many champions such as Papillon Rouge (Olympic Champion – Jumping).

Finally, we were very sorry to learn the death of the promising French eventing rider Maxime Debost, only 29 years old and father of a little boy, following an accident on the cross-country course of the CCI 1* of Châteaubriand.

Now that we have reviewed 2017, enjoy the holidays and we wish you a Happy New Year!

PREVIEW OF 2018

Preview of 2018

After looking back to the important events of 2017, the Seaver team invites you to dive into the New Year.

You will find in this article all the main events of the 2018 season that you will not want to miss, as well as the changes and novelties, which mainly concern the discipline of show jumping.

1. Novelties and changes of the year

➢ Asia Horse Week

First big novelty of the year, the Asia Horse Week will occur from February 8 to 11 in Hong Kong. Organized by EEM, it will take place at the same time as the 6th edition of the Longines Masters of Hong Kong, second leg of the Longines Masters circuit after that of Paris last December. This new meeting is intended to be an annual event that will rally all the international equestrian community in Asia; where all the disciplines, professions and culture of the equine industry will be represented, and participate to the development of equestrian sports in the Asia-Pacific region.

➢ Longines Masters of New York

Other novelty this year: the third and last leg of the Longines Masters will be held this year in the mythical city of New York, at the heart of Manhattan, whereas it was previously organized in Los Angeles. The best riders of the world will meet there from April 26 to 29.

➢ International Jumping of Versailles

A novelty of 2017, the International Jumping 5* of Versailles – prestigious event held in the Royal Stable of the Palace of Versailles (France) – will not be held in 2018. Due to a busy schedule, the event could only occur on two dates, which corresponded to two other shows: the CSI 5* of New York (April 26-29) and the CSIO 5* of Rome (May 24-27). As the organizers of these major events refused to have to compete with the 5* event of Versailles, it was decided it would not take place this season. The event is however not cancelled and will take place in 2019. In fact, the date is already set: April 26 to 28 2019.

➢ Nations Cup of Lummen

In the list of canceled events for 2018, the Nations Cup of Lummen (Belgium) that used to be the first leg of the European Division 1 of the circuit, has been deleted for financial reasons. The 5* event of La Baule (May 17 to 20 2018) will therefore be the new first leg of the renowned circuit freshly renamed “Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping” and modified for the new coming season. Regarding division 1, the only major change is in the schedule of the circuit; the Nations Cups will take place on Sundays and not on Fridays or Saturdays like they used to (and the Grand Prix will thus be moved to an earlier day). The Final of the circuit will still take place in Barcelona, in early October.

➢ Global Champions Tour

The circuit is going to change further for the 2018 season, after the introduction of the Global Champions League last year. Indeed, big novelty this year: a “play off” will be organized in Prague (capital of the Czech Republic) from December 14 to 16. It will be the first indoor show of the Global Champions Tour / League circuit. The 16 best teams of the Global Champions League will be allowed to participate – the 4 best being directly qualified for the semi-final. The winning team will share the incredible sum of 3 million euros. As for the Global Champions Tour, during the play off there will be a Super Grand Prix, where the winners of the Grand Prix of all the legs of the circuit will fight for a high prize money. The global endowment of the circuit (GCT, GCL and the new “play off’’) will be of 35 million euros for 2018, with no less than 10 million for the Prague event alone. This promises a great show!

As for the legs; Shanghai, Paris, London, Miami, Berlin, Rome, Madrid and Monaco will host the circuit once again, and the final will still take place in Doha (Qatar) in November. Finally, the circuit should move to new destinations next season. For now, we know that one new leg has been added: the CSI 5* of Saint-Tropez (Athina Onassis Horse Show, from May 31 to June 5) that will join the circuit in 2018.

2. Events not to miss in 2018

➢ FEI World Cup Finals

Important event of the year, particularly exiting for the French equestrian enthusiasts, the World Cup Finals of show jumping and dressage will take place in Paris this year, from April 10 to 15. France hosted the dressage World Cup Final for the last time 4 years ago, in Lyon.

Last year American rider Mclain Ward rules the jumping competition, with Romain Duguet (SWI) and Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) coming in behind him. In dressage, Isabell Werth (GER) wins the title, Laura Graves (USA) is second and Carl Hester (GBR) third.

➢ FEI European Championships for Children, Juniors and Young Riders

This year, France is also host of the 2018 European Championships for Children, Juniors and Young Riders of jumping, dressage and eventing. Belgium and the Netherlands were also candidates for the jumping championships. It will be the first time that a country organizes at the same time and place such an event with all three Olympic disciplines.

➢ FEI World Equestrian Games

Other major event of the year: the World Equestrian Games that will take place from September 11 to 23 in Tryon, United States (NC). For the first time, world championships will be organized with private funding. Important information to note: this event will be the first of two opportunities for riders to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Eight official disciplines will be represented: jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, reining (only western discipline), vaulting, and para-equestrian dressage.

The last edition of the World Equestrian Games took place in Normandy (France), in 2014. Here is a small recap of the 2014 World Champions, team and individual, for each discipline:

➢ Les Etoiles de Pau

This year again, the CCI 4* of Pau (October 24-28) promises to be a great show. After three consecutive French victories in the three last editions, we are excited to see if France will once again win at home. Michael Jung, world n1, should be present to try to win one of the only titles that he lacks. Of course, we cannot wait to see all the other big eventing shows of the year. Here are the dates of the other 4* events of the season: Badminton (UK) will be held from May 2 to 6, Lexington (USA) – which changes name this year to become the “Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event” – from April 26 to 29, Luhmühlen (GER) will be from June 14 to 17, and finally Burghley (UK) from August 30 to September 2.

➢ Dressage

As for the international dressage events of the year, there is no novelty for 2018. During the first few months of the year, we will watch the CDI-W of Amsterdam (NED) from January 25 to 28, which will be the first major event of the year, that of Neumünster (GER) from February 15 to 18, that of Göteborg (SWE) from February 21 to 25, and finally that of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) from March 8 to 11, where Isabell Werth will be expected as she was defeated in the 2017 edition of the event. These events are the last legs of the FEI World Cup circuit, before the big Final of Paris.

See you soon,

The respiratory system: why is it a major weakness for sport horses?

The respiratory system: why is it a major weakness for sport horses?

In this new article, we will look into the horse’s respiratory system.
The main components of the equine (and human) respiratory system include: the mouth, nostrils, nasal cavity, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, trachea, lungs, bronchi, bronchioles, diaphragm, ribs and intercostal muscles. As horses only breathe through their nose, the nostrils are the main entrance and exit for the respiratory airways in the horse. The primary function of the respiratory system, particularly during exercise, is to assist gas exchange: it delivers oxygen to the blood, removes carbon dioxide from the body, and contributes to thermoregulation and maintaining the acid-base balance.

1. Respiratory rate

It is important to know your horse’s normal vital signs (also called TPR for temperature, pulse and respiration), as it will provide good indication of his general condition. You can measure respiration by feeling the air come out of your horse’s nostrils, or by watching/feeling the chest or flanks move in and out for one minute. Placing a stethoscope at the windpipe to listen to the breathing is even better. One beat comprises inhaling + exhaling. The average normal respiratory rate for an adult horse is between 10 and 20 breaths per minute. The breathing rate of a newborn foal will be higher; from 20 to 40 breaths per minute is considered normal.

Of course, these are general rates that might vary depending on the horse and situation. Environmental factors as well as stress or excitement, for instance, can impact the respiratory rate. If your horse is very relaxed, you might get a rate as low as 4 breaths per minute. Checking these signs often will help you understand what are your horse’s normal value ranges.

In addition to the rate, it might be useful to check the characteristics of the respiration, which are also good indicators: is your horse making abnormal noise while breathing, is the respiration deep or shallow…? Strange sounds might be indicative of allergies, heaves, or a mucous blockage in the windpipe for instance.

2. Response to exercise & recovery

Just like the heart rate, the respiration rate will increase with exercise, almost linearly with increasing intensity. It can increase to 180 breaths per minutes under high intensity training. The respiratory system responds to training by dilating the horse’s airways, which reduces resistance and thus increases airflow. Upper airways’ muscles will allow more oxygen to enter the horse’s system and help better expel carbon dioxide, whose production will also rise with effort. More air transfer will occur as the frequency of lung contraction increases, and the respiratory rate will increase to deal with the build up of carbon dioxide.

The recovery period of the respiration rate can also be used as an indicator of the physical condition of horses, although it is highly variable and should not be used alone. Breath frequency and breath sounds will be helpful to assess recovery. Depending on the exercise, the normal time for recovery (i.e. the time it will take for the respiratory rate to go back to normal) should be about 15 to 20 minutes. As the heart-rate drops post-exercise, the horse’s rapid and heavy breathing and flared nostrils should return to a normal breathing.

The faster your horse’s respiration will drop after exercise, the more fit your horse is. This is particularly important for sport horses preparing for show season. An eventing horse that goes back to a normal respiratory rate after 3-4 minutes after a cross-country training should not need more preparation. [On a side note, if you are interesting in learning more about the horse’s physical preparation for show season, go read our article with Marie-Charlotte Fuss’ advices (double young rider European champion).]

Painting (short shallow breaths) after exercise might indicate overtraining or overheat. If the recovery period is rather long and the horse is still heavily breathing after 5 minutes of cool-down for instance, then intense exercise should be stopped for a few days. Any unusual noise or discharge might indicate an issue and should be taken care of.

3. Limits to the respiratory system

PLimiting factors of this system include lung volume, airway diameter, and horses’ gaits. Indeed, in canter and gallop the respiratory rate will be exactly coupled with the stride rate (locomotor-respiratory coupling). This LRC system is an issue, because the respiration is not based on organs’ oxygen needs – which is the case at the walk and trot – and thus if needs increase, the only way to increase the respiration rate is to increase the pace, which would tire the horse and further increase oxygen needs. For long efforts at high intensity, the horse will therefore lack oxygen and become hypoxaemic (1) and also hypercapnic (2).

As for lung volume, although horses have a lung capacity of 50L of air, 60% of the air they breathe does not participate to gas exchange, meaning this large capacity is not of much use after all. Furthermore, horses breathe through their nostrils, which are one of the narrowest parts of the respiratory system, along with the larynx. Therefore, they are likely to cause resistance to incoming air and thus limit intake during exercise, despite their flaring response, and the dilatation of the larynx.

Conditioning does not have a big impact on the respiratory system, as compared to the musculoskeletal or cardiovascular systems. Indeed, it is conditioning of those two latter systems that will result in increases in oxygen uptake, and decreases in ventilation rate and respiratory fatigue, among others. Training will not be able to increase the lungs’ ventilator capacity or gas (oxygen and carbon dioxide) exchange speed, key factors of exercise capacity.

The only improvement that might happen with conditioning is the strengthening of the upper airways’ (nostrils, pharynx and larynx) muscles. Specific changes in the respiratory system will thus usually not happen. Indeed, research showed that conditioning has little impact on the lower respiratory tract, and concluded that the respiratory system of the horse might not be well suited to meet the demands of an athletic horse.

4. A few tips to ensure good respiratory health

Other factors will affect air intake and gas exchange during exercise, and thus limit horses’ maximal performance: air quality (pollution, humidity…), the head and neck position of the horse, and equipment used, among others. These are easy factors to consider and pay attention to when we ride, to try to limit their impact on the horse’s respiration.

There are several management practices for horse facilities that will help prevent risk factors to equine respiratory health, which are very broad and include the horse’s overall health as much as environmental factors and even nutrition factors.

-> You want to maintain good air quality in the barn, with a proper ventilation system, and give your horse as much access to the outside as possible
-> To reduce dust and pollution it is advised to use wheelbarrows, limit the use of machines in the barns and arenas and minimize human activity such as sweeping and dragging/raking, especially around horses
-> Watering the arenas is usually useful to keep exercise areas well maintained with low dust levels
-> A quality dust-free bedding is always best to ensure the good health of horses’ respiratory systems
-> Watering hay, and not feeding horses on the ground will also reduce their inhalation of dust
-> Finally, to prevent diseases, it is good practice to disinfect horses’ water and feed buckets daily, as well as have a proper vaccination program for all horses

4 good reasons to measure your horse’s heart rate while training

4 good reasons to measure your horse’s heart rate while training
Many human athletes wear heart rate monitors while they work-out, what about your horse? When used properly, heart rate monitors can be very valuable training aids.
1. To measure exercise intensity
The main reason for your horse to wear a heart rate monitor while training is that heart rate is an indicator of exercise intensity. In order to improve your horse’s fitness you should vary the intensity of the training sessions (i.e. one day interval training, the next day slow trotting, etc.) depending on the health of the horse and the objective of the training. A heart rate monitor can help to make sure you’re not under or overtraining your horse. Too intense training, executed close to an individual’s limit may trigger several pathologic conditions, which are associated with either a decrease in performance or consistent under-performance. On the other hand, very low intensity training will not improve your horse’s fitness, but is still important for recovery. A good balance is the key to success.
1.1. High intensity + short duration training = powertraining
During very high intensity activity or anaerobic training, such as fast galloping, the oxygen demands exceed the amount that can be carried by the bloodstream, forcing the horse’s body to use glycogen as a primary fuel source, which then turns into lactic acid. The accumulation of lactic acid (> 4mmol/L) is the cause of sore muscles and should be avoided. To improve removal of lactic acid from the body, push your horse to its limits for a very short period of time (30 sec to 2 min), the heart rate of your horse during these periods can increase up to 200 bpm. Every training session should consist of 2 to 8 intervals and adequate recovery in between intervals is very important and the heart rate should go down to 100 bpm. You should only repeat the interval training once every 4 to 5 days and slowly build up the amount of intervals per training.
1.2. Low intensity + long duration training = endurance training
During low intensity activity such as walking, trotting and slow galloping, the aerobic energy system supplies oxygen to the muscles, giving them the energy needed to sustain the effort. The goal of training the aerobic system is to improve overall cardiovascular fitness, which is very important, especially at the beginning of the competition season. The training consists of long intervals at lower intensity (f.e. 4 intervals of 5 min with a speed of 450m/min). You should aim to have your horse’s heart rate around 140 to 160 bpm, so that the lactic acid levels stays below 2 mmol/L. Adequate recovery (2 to 3 min walking or slow trotting) in between intervals is very important (heart rate ≤ 100 bpm). A good guideline is to schedule the endurance training twice per week.
2. To monitor heart rate recovery
The heart rate recovery of your horse is the speed at which the heart rate returns to normal after exercise. The faster the heart rate recovers, the fitter and healthier your horse’s heart is. A good guideline is that the heart rate of your horse should be 50% lower (or < 100 bpm) within one or two minutes after exercise compared to the maximum heart rate immediately after exercise.
3. To monitor the overall health of your horse
Heart rate is also affected by a number of other factors, including excitement, stress, track conditions, weather conditions, underlying lameness or systemic disease. Tracking your horse’s heart rate during every training session will give you more insight into your horse’s overall health.
4. To adapt training to the needs of your horse
These are some basic guidelines for using heart rate to monitor and control the intensity of your horse’s training. Note that the numbers are averages and that every horse has a slightly different individual heart rate. If you want to know the exact heart rate your horse starts to produce too much lactic acid (> 4mmol/L), then you should do an exercise test with your veterinarian at the beginning of the competition season. Adapt your training to the needs of your horse and to the circumstances. Make sure to always warm up and cool down your horse in an appropriate manner. Take enough time and build up slowly, because the cardiovascular system adapts faster than the musculoskeletal system. Remember that it’s better to prevent than to cure an injury!

How to bring your horse back into work after a summer break?

How to bring your horse back into work after a summer break?

There it is, the holidays are over and it’s time to return to school/work. After tanning with your feet up for long weeks, it is high time to get back into the saddle.
Has your horse also had the right to enjoy some well-deserved holidays? Here are some tips to prepare your resumption and the new season ahead.

Bringing a horse back into work after several weeks of rest must be done in a very gradual way. It’s out of the question to go back to the competition grounds from the first week onwards or to do a series of intensive sessions.

“If the horse was originally in good physical condition and to the extent that the rest period did not exceed 4 or 5 weeks, it can go pretty quickly”, Michel Robert.

1. Health check

Before returning to work, it is important to check the health of your horse. Plan a visit to the veterinarian, the farrier, and if necessary the osteopath…

In addition to taking stock of the general condition and drawing your attention to specific issues that need to be looked after or monitored, the veterinarian will be able to advise you on the work schedule, the adjustment of the diet… The farrier will establish a picture of the feet, prescribe appropriate care, and adapt the shoeing to a more intensive work.

2. Begin smoothly

The work pace must be adapted according to your horse and his physical condition when he returns from “vacation”. In all cases, it is advisable to start with short sessions, with progressive difficulties and to alternate with rest sessions.

“The first rule to get your horse back into shape is to split the work. That is to say alternate between efforts and recovery sessions”, Michel Robert.

a. Step 1: Groundwork exercises

Groundwork sessions, such as longing or liberty work, are a good way to initially develop his muscles in good conditions without constraining him with your weight.

Begin with a fairly wide circle at walk and trot. As soon as you feel him responsive and attentive, think about varying the size of the circles and asking for transitions. Do not forget to work at both leads.

The following days, introduce the gallop and prefer large circles to help him keep his balance. Ask for transitions frequently enough to keep his attention. Insist gradually on the enlargements and narrowing of the circles, without putting him in difficulty. You can gradually increase the length of your sessions.

If you have a walker in your riding school, do not hesitate to use it. It is a good exercise to gently erase stiffness and nicely restore the muscle structure.

b. Step 2: Riding exercises

When longing does not seem to tire your mount anymore, it is time to ride.

The first riding sessions will still have to be light. Start with pace and trot as if he were a young horse. Go for a ride two to three times a week so as not to bring him down if you can. Go looking for differences in height to work his breath, ask for more and more sustained gaits. Finish with neck extensions or other softening exercises to stretch his back and avoid stiffness.

Then, the more “serious” work can begin. Ask him for more complex exercises, such as leg yield, shoulder in, half pass… You can also introduce ground poles work to give your horse his elevation back. When you feel ready, add some fences. Start with 2 or 3 jumps and gradually increase the number and height. You will be able to use your Seaver girth to monitor your performance (height and number of jumps, jumping path…) during the sessions. Always think about working gradually and do not forget the rest sessions.

“The body of the horse will harden as and when the jumping sessions. You can jump almost everyday small fences. On the other hand, by cutting corners and jumping too high too quickly, you will face serious issues. Far too many horses hurt themselves when landing and do not want to jump anymore because they have not been physically prepared enough”, Michel Robert.

c. Step 3: Resumption of competitions

Theoretically after 3 to 4 weeks, your horse is ready to resume competitions. Feel free to start with lower level classes compared to what you were doing at the end of the previous season, to gradually get into the swing of things.

The importance of a good back strengthening

The importance of a good back strengthening

The spine of the horse can be seen as a bridge: an assembly of vertebrae spaced a few millimeters apart, supported by two “pillars”, the forehand and the hindquarters. The main back muscle is the latissimus dorsi, running down each side of the vertebrae.

It’s a skeletal and not a load bearing muscle. Since the horse does not have a clavicle, the entire dorsal structure is relatively weak.

Originally, horses were not meant to bear the weight of a rider on their back. The dorsal musculature is a fundamental area, extremely fragile and heavily loaded in sport horse. A good physical condition is therefore essential if we want to preserve their health and be able to take advantage of their potential. Thanks to the proper functioning of the top line and its tonicity, the horse will be able to support the saddle as well as the weight of the rider and to propel itself with force to walk, trot, gallop, turn, jump…

When you get into the saddle, your weight affects the back of your horse and hollows it that can eventually cause him pain. Poor rider position, unsuitable saddle or poorly managed training can also amplify these pains. The rider must quickly take any weakness or contracture in the top line into consideration. By teaching him how to stretch his top line, use his back and contract his abdominals while he carries you, you improve his comfort.

Focus on the consequences of an unsuitable saddle

The saddle allows to distribute the weight of the rider on the back of the horse and to absorb the shocks. Having a saddle designed for the morphology of your horse is crucial to not alter his locomotion and injure his top line. Imagine going for a jog with shoes that are too small or too large. Each stride may be painful. The same saddle cannot suit Tornado, the fat pony with short back and Venus, the frail thoroughbred mare with long and prominent back.

On the physical side, a poorly adapted saddle leads to reiterated pressure spots, thus causing a lack of irrigation in the area concerned and an atrophy of the back muscles. The consequences can also be felt when training your horse: reluctance to bend, to change paces, to bring him on the bit…

It should be noted that the way you saddle your horse can also have consequences on the back muscles despite a suitable saddle. Too many riders place their saddle either on the shoulders or on the withers, thus blocking the movement of the latter. The back muscles being annoyed by the weight of the rider, the locomotion is then hampered by lack of impulse.

How to strengthen his back?

During the training session, your horse’s back flexes continuously and his top line changes according to the degree of collection, the bend and the way he holds his head. The most important condition for a proper functioning of the back is the freedom of the neck.

Here are some exercises to strengthen your mount’s back. It is important to know that trotting is the ideal pace for this. In addition, in order to relieve the back of the latter, it is better to work at rising trot.

➢ Neck extension work

Neck extension work, especially during the warm-up of the horse is often recommended. It is about working the horse with the neck down (not rounded) and the forehead vertically, the muzzle gradually finding itself at 30 cm from the ground.

This exercise stretches the top line from the tip of the nose to the tail and bows the back. In this position, the horse will be able to develop his muscles and to release the tensions accumulated in the area located along his spine. Extension work can be carried out while lunging or riding, always making sure to work symmetrically.

It is worth noting that when you work your horse down, it is not the back that is tightened in the first place but the abdominals. They are the ones helping the back to stand and then strengthen. We speak of antagonistic muscles. As for humans, to have a good back, you must have good abdominals.

➢ Bending work

Bending work is a good way to work the back sideways. From a purely theoretical point of view, bending consist in curving the head-tail axis around the leg. A good bend enables the engagement of the inner hindlimb, thus allowing the horse to bulk up and relax, but on one side only. The important thing is to balance the work at both hands for a harmonious musculature. The ultimate riding figure to work the bend remains the circle. Serpentines, figure eights and half-volts will also be your best allies.

➢ Work over cavaletti

Cavaletti are interesting to work the whole top line while working the engagement when taking off. As with other exercises, the most important is to work at the trot. Galloping is less beneficial but can be useful for some jumping horses. Start with two or three cavaletti and eventually you will increase up to six. The system must be built in such a way as to limit the rider’s actions in order to leave the horse free of his movements as much as possible.