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Build Power and Balance with Hill Work
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Build Power and Balance with Hill Work

Hills are great and here's why!







Use uphill work to:

  • Teach your horse to engage his hindquarters.
  • Build muscle in the rump, stifle and gaskin.
  • Increase his cardiovascular fitness.
  • Introduce him to the idea of lengthening his stride.

Tips to work it in:

  • Start slowly!  Begin with five or ten minutes at a walk or trot on gentle hills a few times a week.
  • Lean forward slightly and ask your horse to move forward within the gait you've chosen. Don't let him break into the gait above what you're doing, but rather, hold him and push him into the current gait.  He's learning to extend his stride!
  • Do hill work after you've warmed up sufficiently.


Use downhill work to:

  • Build musle in the hind end.  He's got to work very hard to keep from ploughing down the hill!
  • Teach your horse to get off his forehand.
  • Begin teaching your horse to collect his stride.

Tips for beginning downhill work:

  • Go slowly.  Gradually increase the frequency, speed and steepness of the hill.
  • Lean slightly forward, making sure your heels are down.  This frees up his hindquarters which are the power brakes.
  • Use your leg and half halts to pop him off his forehand and get him to rock his weight into the rear end.  This will cause him to shorten his stride and be lighter in front.


Once your horse is traveling up and down hills in a controlled and safe way, start introducing lateral work.  By traveling across hills, he will have to practice his balance and co-ordination.  Again introduce this gradually.  Begin by:

  • Using gentle slopes.
  • Introducing serpentines on the hill face that neither reach the top or bottom of the hill.  This way your horse is constantly dealing with changing grades.
  • Do large lazy circles on the hill face.
  • Cross the hill diagonally going up and down.
  • Maintain a steady even pace during this excercise.

And when you're really good, audition for "Man from Snowy River Part III."  If haven't seen Man from Snowy River or Return to Snowy River, shame on you!  You've missed the best hill riding sequence ever!


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  1. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Man from snowy river 1 & 2 are 2 of my favorites! Great tips! I don't live near any hills so I won't be getting in any real hefty hill work. I do however have a fairly deep ditch close by that has a decent incline which isn't too steep, plus it's covered in grass. I had begun working Cookie up & down that ditch both forwards & backwards from the ground. It's a great workout for both of us. :) Enjoyed your blog & voted.
    1. Terri AP Widdowson
      Aren't they great movies? I get shivers when they show the horses galloping through the snow in slow motion at the beginning of one of them, actually I almost get a bit choked up!

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