Horses are built to move. These powerful grazing herbivores are not adapted to a sedentary lifestyle. While most tolerate periods of time spent in a barn, horses (and people!) are healthier and happier with consistent exercise.
To remedy this, we have to work both his mind and his body: to harness the feedback loop between the two in a positive way. When an animal has physical discomfort, it triggers a mental reaction; but when the mind is tense, the body will follow. To break the cycle, we alternate between exercises that relax and challenge both mind and body. And both have improved greatly in the last several months.
We started a new challenge: poles in a grid.
I started with three wooden rails on the ground spaced four-and-a-half feet apart. Sam followed me through at the walk, the trot, and then without even a rope between us. I raised alternating ends of the three rails about 9 inches of the ground and repeated the process. I returned the first and third rail to the ground and then elevated the center rail on both ends. And finally, I raised the center rail to 15 inches.
I did not have him trot over the rail at this height. Though Sam is becoming more fit by the day, training (or retraining) a horse is a marathon and not a sprint. Continued progress is important. The worst outcome would be to overextend him physically or mentally. Besides, I was exhausted. I may have been picking arena sand out of my teeth if I had attempted a running start.
Consider incorporating in-hand grids into your training. The exercise is good for your horse’s mind and body, and yours too!