Jec A. Ballou

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As an equine fitness specialist, my job is always to ask how we can improve the horse’s body. One of the simplest ways we can do this in daily riding is to think about how we ride the trot: posting vs. sitting. Certain disciplines tend to prioritize one method over another, but regardless of a sport’s traditions or fads, we need to consider our force impact on the horse’s physical structure

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For years, they sat on one end of our indoor arena — five ground poles anchored by concrete blocks. With unwavering consistency, we worked our horses over them once a week, either ground driving or riding.

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Get in the habit of performing a fitness test every six to eight weeks. This will be your check-up and time to assess which cross-training exercises to utilize over the next several weeks.

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As an equine fitness enthusiast, I occasionally end up helping students develop rehabilitation programs for their horses after injury or prolonged layup. This is never a bright time. Faced with wasted muscles or lower legs mottled with inflammation or hooves with sections missing, owners look at their steeds warily. How will they ever perform normally again?

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In the physical training of a dressage horse, the greatest gains to be made are in the areas of strength. Being a low aerobic sport with limited endurance or speed components, dressage relies on the acquisition of strength and flexibility more than other fitness markers to improve performance.

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By Jec A. Ballou

When I rode in Germany, my instructor was almost militant about the fact that I should be able to carry a whip equally well with each hand. By well, he meant that I should not tighten my wrist, yank on the rein, or get disorganized when changing directions and switching the whip over to my other hand. And, maybe most importantly, he meant that I should USE the whip. 

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Cavalletti schooling became popular when the late Dr. Reiner Klimke used them to train his dressage Olympians. His daughter, Ingrid, has continued to use cavalletti to develop her international dressage and eventing horses.

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