Hock Flexibility with Pole Exercises
Pole exercises are important for all types of horses, from jumpers and dressage to eventers and reining. When performed properly, pole exercises can help strengthen your horse’s flexibility and strength. They can also improve the animal’s ability to engage its hindquarters and greatly impact the horse’s overall performance.
What Is the Hock and What Does It Do?
The hock of a horse is one of the animal’s most powerful and vulnerable joints. Horses rely on their hocks to run fast, jump high, stop quicker, and pull harder. However, if a horse’s hocks are stiff or tender, its performance can start to suffer. As the hock is a complex joint, injuries can greatly affect your horse’s ability to perform and even remain mobile.
The anatomy of a horse’s hock involves multiple components. The tibio tarsal joint is responsible for the majority of movement and is the highest joint. Synovial fluid lubricates this joint to help protect the underlying bone. The synovial fluid also helps absorb concussion forces when weight is distributed over the joints.
The durable joint capsule contains joint fluid for optimal protection and efficiency. The three lower joints of the hock account for just five percent of the hock’s total motion but can cause a variety of problems if injured. Finally, the complex joint is surrounded by ligaments, blood vessels, tendons, and nerves. There are no muscles located below or around the hock to allow for the tendon structures to move the distal limb.
Pole Exercises for Hock Flexibility
Pole work is best performed as part of a horse’s training, ideally twice a month. There are several steps involved in pole exercises for hock flexibility:
- Set up four poles in the training field or arena on the center line, approximately 5 feet apart.
- While maintaining forwardness and straightness, go large in working trot around the training field or arena.
- Once you’re ready to ride over the poles, start to prepare for the turn onto the center line before arriving. It’s important to maintain balance and ensure that the horse is in direct line of the poles. Use your outside leg to help the horse balance.
- While still keeping the forwardness, continue riding directly through the line of poles. Aim for the center of each pole.
- Remain straight throughout the duration of the exercise. Try not to drift to one side or the other.
- After making your way through, start thinking about the turn you’ll make at the end of the center line. Plan how you will set up your horse depending on which way you decide to go.
- Ride through the pole again before changing the rein. You can then repeat the exercise.
- Over time, your horse will become more confident with the exercise. When this time arrives, consider raising the poles onto small blocks to make it more challenging. Blocks can be placed on both ends or just one. The aim is to encourage the horse to lift his legs even more.
How Rosehip Can Help with Flexibility
Horse owners are often on the lookout for supplements designed to help with flexibility. Elite Equine is an organic rosehip supplement that has been sourced from wild-harvested rosehips in South Africa. This powerful supplement offers anti-inflammatory and immune system support for equine hoof, joint, and coat health. Rosehip has been found to help with hock flexibility and provides joint support to aid in recovery.
Elite Equine is a natural and competition-safe supplement that contains antioxidants, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, collagen, biotin, and other nutrients for improved performance in horses. Contact Elite Equine today to learn more or try this supplement for your horse.