Core training exercises can be done without a warm-up–for example, in horses that are recovering from injury–because the horse controls the amount of motion, and loading of the joints is less than during locomotion. Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University, says that in athletic horses, however, the optimal time to do core training exercises is after the horse has warmed up or been worked, but prior to cooling out. The horse is untacked except for his halter. You can secure a lead to his halter, if you wish.

Mobilization Exercises
Mobilization exercises round and flex the intervertebral joints. For these exercises you need to position the horse so he’s standing balanced and square. In the learning phase position the horse against a wall, back him into a corner, or use a helper to prevent the horse from swinging his haunches away from you. Using bait (a treat), encourage the horse to move his head and neck in a downward or sideways direction. After reaching the desired position, try to hold it for several seconds; you can place your free hand on the horse’s head or neck to help maintain the desired position. Repeat each exercise three to five times daily on each side for the lateral bending exercises, allowing the muscles to relax for a few seconds after each attempt.

Lateral Bending Exercise
The following exercise is one of Clayton’s favorites for all of her horses. “This lateral stretch exercise recruits many muscles that round and bend the horse’s back,” she says. “Also, as the horse increases his end range of motion, he’ll actually be able to progressively reach further over time as flexibility improves.”

Lateral bending exercise:
1. Stand about three feet from the horse’s side, facing forward.
2. Encourage the horse to follow the bait a