Video: Activate Your Horse’s Core

Watch a demonstration of an exercise to help train the horse's core for dressage.

In the March 2009 issue of Dressage Today, Drs. Hilary Clayton and Narelle Stubbs provide a general overview and some specific unmounted exercises to help you address your horse’s dynamic mobility, strength and balance in an excerpt from their book, Activate Your Horse’s Core.

Core training for the horse is like Pilates for the human athlete; it is a cross-training mechanism by which the horse’s body learns how to move, gains strength and finds balance. In the following video excerpt, Dr. Stubbs explains the principles behind core training and demonstrates one exercise with MSU Magic J, while Dr. Clayton holds him.

The video clip covers thoracic, lumbar and lumbosacral lifting combined with lateral bending. This clip shows you how to perform a combined motion exercise, which mobilizes the horse’s back and strengthens the core abdominal and stability muscles. Observe the following as you watch this video excerpt:

  • The exact position that you place your hand(s)/implement to stimulate the desired movement patterns is extremely important.
  • Apply pressure acting toward the midline on one side of the haunches to stimulate lumbar lifting with lateral bending.
  • While holding the lateral displacement of the pelvis, apply pressure to the ventral midline between the pectoral muscles and slide back behind the girth line to lift and flex the sternal, withers and thoracic regions.

Video by Sport Horse Publications

Narelle C. Stubbs, BAppSc (PT), MAnimST (Animal Physiotherapy), PhD, graduated from the University of Sydney in Australia as a human physical therapist and worked in private practice for several years before specializing in equine physical therapy. She earned her Master and Doctoral degrees in animal physical therapy from the University of Queensland. Stubbs has been the Australian equestrian team’s physical therapist since 1998 and has treated horses and riders at three World Equestrian and Olympic Games. Her research interests are in biomechanics, neuroscienes, equine back pain, the horse-rider unit and athletic performance of horse and rider.

Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, graduated as a veterinarian and received her PhD from Glasgow University in Scotland. She is currently the Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University. Her research interests are in equine biomechanics and gait analysis, horse-rider interactions and the science underlying performance in equestrian sports. She has trained and competed in a variety of equestrian sports and is currently competing in dressage at the Grand Prix level. Dr. Clayton is also a frequent contributor to Dressage Today.

To read the excerpt from Activate Your Horse’s Core, see the March 2009 issue of Dressage Today. To order back issues, call 301-977-3900. Find this manual and its accompanying video at






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