Strengthen Your Horse's Back with Belly Lifts

Belly lifts are beneficial for strengthening your horse's back. Here's an alternate way to upward finger pressure at the girth area to help your horse do this exercise.
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Belly lifts are beneficial for strengthening your horse's back. Here's an alternate way to upward finger pressure at the girth area to help your horse do this exercise.
| Photos by Nathan Welton

| Photos by Nathan Welton

Belly lifts tone a horse's abdominal muscles, much as sit-ups and crunches tone ours. And toned "abs" promote a stronger back. I use two different methods that get your horse to contract slightly different muscles and lift his back. The first, more familiar, method is to use upward finger pressure at the girth area to stimulate a lift.

The second method, which I'll demonstrate here, uses finger pressure at the croup. It's riskier, because you'll be at your horse's hindquarters and could get kicked, so be careful to stand beside your horse's hind leg, not in back of it.

1. Standing next to Juteux's left hind leg, I put my right hand on his croup. About a hand's width to the right of the base of his tail, I find a slight groove between his muscles.

2. I find the corresponding groove on the left side. With my index fingers and thumbs pressed together, I push in and...

3. ...starting at the top of the groove...

4. ...run my fingers down his croup to get him to tuck his butt and hunch his back. As soon as he tucks--and this is a very good tuck--I release the pressure. I'll repeat this lift five times.

A native of Argentina, Dr. Greg Ugarte earned his DVM degree at the University of Buenos Aires Veterinary Medical Center in 1980. He served a two-year veterinary residency in Kentucky, followed by a residency at the Chino Valley Equine Hospital in Chino, Calif. In 1989, he received certification as an equine acupuncturist from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, and in 1990 he was certified in chiropractic by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. Today, his Southern California "complementary medical" veterinary practice serves Olympic competitors as well as backyard horses.

Learn how to help your horse stretch and supple himself, before exercise or during layups in "Stretch Your Horse," Dr. Ugarte's article in the February 2006 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.

Thanks to Louise Caccese for allowing Dr. Ugarte to demonstrate his stretches on her 15-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, Juteux, and Niki Eschler for assisting by holding Juteux.