Cross Fit for Horses – Through Variety to Progress
Daily routine is addictive, monotony inhibits development, progress. Cross-training (or cross-fit) of a horse will help you step in the right direction. Not only that, he will not let the horse get bored and will reduce the risk of injury due to constantly repeated exercises. It will contribute to the full development of the horse’s body.
Studies have shown that the emancipation of the horse and the improvement of its physical form are directly related to the variety of its training, changes in types of activity. Cross-training should not be difficult or time-consuming, but should be consistent – only then you can take advantage of it.
Benefits of Cross Training
A variety of movements and activities allows you to fully develop the horse’s muscles, as a result of which they begin to work more efficiently. Mixed exercises make it possible to draw attention to individual muscle groups. They also awaken the nervous system, which affects the “habits” of muscle memory, leading to improved horse movements.
Driving on different surfaces
One of the easiest ways to improve your horse’s physical condition is to work on different types of ground regularly. This not only finely tunes the horse’s proprioception (a sense of body position, movement and balance), but also teaches her to use muscles and supporting soft tissues more efficiently. Studies of horse injuries show that horses successively working on the same ground every day are more susceptible to limb disease and injuries (especially those horses that train on special ground in riding halls daily). The signals coming to the legs and muscles from repetitive movements become “boring.” Since the horse does not have to adapt to react to the changing ground under its feet, its nervous system and the muscles of movement it controls are less involved. In other words, the horse does not get as much beneficial effect from his training as he could.
Riding on different terrain
By alternating work on the well-groomed ground of the arena and working in the field or on “hard” tracks, you help improve the work of the horse’s muscles.
Muscles become stronger in proportion to the amount of stress they receive. The same goes for bones. As a rule, deeper soil makes muscles stronger and harder bones. Having access to various types of surfaces, you can focus on both systems as needed. Most horses that, in addition to riding work, make (at least once a week) walks in the field or forest, can work freely on various types of soil. If you are limited to the arena, take a creative approach. You can:
· Before and after training, walk along a solid path around the stable;
· Ride 20 minutes on the grassy lawn;
· Carry out a warm-up in a barrel or levada with soil types different from the ground one.
Posture corrections and pitch changes that result from riding over rough terrain produce impressive results, including increased abdominal muscles, more straight forward movement, and improved balance, flexibility, and coordination. A well-planned training program includes at least one day a week driving on rough terrain.
Riding on rolling hills
Many riders mistakenly believe that they need access to steep hills (the only way they can make the horse stronger). However, the truth is that one hour of walking and trotting on hilly terrain strengthens all the chains of horse muscles that create movement. The extensor muscles work when moving uphill, the flexor muscle chains from the hill. Thus, descents and ascents to small hills will give you more benefits than working up and down steep slopes.
Use of poles lying on the ground
Riders who do not have access to rough terrain may find a good alternative to working on poles in all gait (do not make preferences only in favor of a lynx or only in favor of a gallop). For basic support of the physical form, exercises with poles should not be difficult. The horse does not need to be overloaded. Your goal is to teach her to maintain straightness and balance. Below I will give some of my favorite pole exercises.
1. Pole Snake
Spread a few poles in a line. Following the trajectory of the snake, move along the line with an energetic step, not forgetting to change bending with each loop. This exercise makes the flexors and stabilizers of the hip joint, chest muscles, and muscles involved in lateral movements stronger.
Lay out the four square-shaped poles (it is best to use 2.45 m poles). If necessary, raise the poles using blocks or stands in the corners of the square.
Box Ground Pole Exercises
Take a step on the “Clover” shape, the center of which will be a point in the middle of the square. Focus on uniform bending, maintaining a constant rhythm when riding over poles and maintaining light contact with the horse’s mouth.