Muscle building through ground work - shape your animal!

But what about building up the horse's muscles? 

After all, it has to be able to carry us on its back, right? Preferably, it should also perform well at tournaments, shine at workshops and training sessions and also have enough stamina for the trail ride.

The fact is, the horse's body is generally not designed for additional weight.

So if you want to keep your hooved friend healthy, special muscle training is indispensable.

But what possibilities do you have to boost muscle development in horses?

In fact, there is so much more than "just" riding. Here are a few suggestions that you can use to effectively train your horse in a healthy way and to encourage more muscle strength.

There are certainly exercises for both of you for ground work


Equikinetic sends the horse into a highly efficient workout across all riding styles. Via time interval the horses are worked in a square volte in permanent position as well as bending with regular hand changes.

For this you need a well-fitting cavesson. It enables precise positioning. You also need a lunge and a timer. You can find these as an app, for example. There are so-called Tabata timers in which the training minutes and the breaks in between can be precisely specified.

Each break is signalled by a bell. During this time, your horse may pause without bending/positioning. The blue and yellow dual lanes (soft) are still necessary. The colours are well perceived and they indicate your square volte. Of course you could also use poles. Disadvantage: the set-up is more strenuous and they could easily roll away (risk of injury!).

This variation of horse training is very intensive. Therefore it is kept relatively short. The result is all the more amazing for it. These groundwork exercises improve rideability, challenge/encourage attention and build muscles exactly where they belong. Ingenious, isn't it? By the way, the pace is walk/trot.

Dual Activation

Like Equikinetic, this form of work is based on the square volte and blue/yellow aids.Again, dual alleys are used as well as pylons and flags. Again the work is done in intervals.

Your horse will soon adjust by itself and show more willingness to perform in a very short time. Dual activation can be worked in hand, e.g. with double lunge straps or under saddle. Walk and trot are the exclusive gaits.

The effect of D.A. is incredible. The animal is optimally gymnasticised, has to take more load on the hindquarters and walks in a constant change of direction. The interaction between you and your horse improves enormously. His body awareness (balance, straightness) is strengthened, both sides of the brain are activated and all types of muscles are addressed during training.

From surface and deep muscles to joint-stabilising muscles and respiratory support, all are involved. An interaction of the horse's body that could not be better. For the Dual Activation Programme and the Equikinetic exercises, Michael Geitner's books (he developed both forms) or an introductory course with his instructors can help you.

Long reins - not only for Lippizaner at the riding school

Long rein work is also a nice alternative for horses that cannot be ridden or have difficulties in the saddle. This gives you the chance to refine lessons and to gymnastise your animal on the ground.

If you are often overwhelmed with your seat in the saddle, this possibility can help you to work on difficult lessons more easily. Your horse can walk more freely without you during this time. Besides, you can see it. Correcting from the ground is much easier.

You will need long reins (approx. 2 horse lengths + approx. 1.50), a cavesson or snaffle and a whip. Very important: Your horse should be well-behaved and reliable! Get him used to the reins gently! An expert trainer is essential for this. Long rein work should be accompanied by a lot of time and patience. Hectic or time pressure are out of place. This form of ground work on the horse is more time-consuming at the beginning, but still very beneficial for you as a team.


Lungeing training is a good way to promote muscle development in horses. However, this does not mean that Mr. Hüh should be lunged all around to satisfy his need for exercise. We are talking about proper lunging here.

And you don't even need auxiliary reins for that. A good introduction is offered by Babette Teschen's lunging course (also available online!). With her biomechanically comprehensible methodology, ground work on the horse gets new momentum. Your horse learns to coordinate his body, to move in a healthy way and to have fun working with his head.

A well-fitting cavesson, a lunge and a good mood - that's all you need. Honestly, this is body building that is fun! Monotonous was yesterday.

Double lunge

This ground work with horse coordinates young and old horses alike. Some compare it to riding with a remote control. Cool, isn't it?

It is important to have a step-by-step programme, which is best shown by an expert. After all, there are several metres of line (about 19 m) hanging on and around the horse. So it is not without danger!

Good technical literature is also helpful. In the beginning the cavesson is sufficient, later the snaffle is used. Preferably with a thigh bit. A lungeing belt with rings to put on the double lunge is also part of the equipment. These rings are important. Depending on the height setting, the horse can e.g. go into a stretching posture or the bending and stance can be improved. This ground work with horses is always profitable. It not only benefits the horse's muscle development, but can also significantly improve the animal's rideability and coordination. The ideal young horse programme!

Off into the great outdoors!

If your darling walks well on the lunge line or on the ground work rope, nothing stands in the way of your zest for action.

There is no better training ground for muscle building than the great outdoors. Whether ridden or gently in hand - cross-country training is the "large-area fitness centre" for horses.

The ground is uneven - they have to balance themselves.

The hill gets steeper - the hindquarters are challenged.

Then downhill - animates the counter-musculature.

A hedge - great, sideways.

All the exercises of ground work work excellently here. This is pure variety!