Which muscles are activated when walking uphill?

Slope track training with the horse: that's what it does

If you want to train the horse's back muscles, you should ride uphill and downhill! One hears a lot. The big ones do that too, Ingrid Klimke, for example, regularly goes galloping on the mountain. And the legendary horse connoisseur Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner, who died in 2016, swore by his dressage training on the slope.


  1. What makes riding on uneven ground so valuable?
  2. This increases the surefootedness of the slope runway training
  3. What does uphill riding do?
  4. What does downhill riding do?
  5. Do not overexert the horse
  6. When is a horse considered trained?
  7. Why the slope track training with the horse promotes serenity and balance

But what exactly is it that makes riding on uneven ground so valuable?

In his educational film on slope railway training, Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner explains the benefits from the riding instructor's point of view: “The horse has to constantly do this work change his focus ", he says. He assumes a terrain with a ten to 15 percent gradient. The fact that the focus is constantly changing “is the point of the matter. And the rider's focus also changes. The two should stay in balance the whole time. "

Exercise while riding

Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner developed the concept of slope railway training himself. He preferred a piece of forest where trees can also be integrated into training in order to ride voltes around them. Riding on the slope track “is the beginning of the meeting! “, He says in the course, in which he explains his approach to slope run training. “The horse wants to be in balance itself. There is no better way to gently and purposefully work on your condition than on a slope! The horse must always go uphill-downhill, uphill-downhill, the muscles stretch and contract again.“

Muscle building for the hindquarters through slope training

Every rider knows: “Riding up mountains makes muscles!” But which ones exactly, and what should such training look like? "By riding uphill and downhill, you constantly switch between pushing and carrying power, which is good training for the hindquarters“, Explains dressage trainer and osteo-concept coach Claudia Butry. “In addition, slope railway training is optimal proprioception training!” Proprioception means the perception of one's own body and its movement. “The proprietary receptors are created by the diverse Foot stimuli optimally addressed. " 

How to increase the surefootedness through the slope run training

What is meant by eventing riders by footing intelligence, explains Claudia Butry: “The horse should learn to balance itself in space in varied situations. This can be worked out well on different surfaces, with going up and down. "The quality of the training on the slope is clear to her: "With slope track training you set stimuli for muscles, tendons and ligaments."

What does uphill riding do?

Her colleague Claudia Weingand, also an osteo-concept coach and osteopath for horses according to Welter-Böller, explains which muscles are involved in riding uphill and downhill in horses:

“Alternating uphill and downhill riding is smart because you train the ventral and dorsal muscle chains together.” The dorsal muscle chain includes all the muscles that stretch the spine. The ventral muscle chain includes all muscles that flex the spine. The ventral muscle chain includes, for example, the abdominal muscles and those muscles that lie below the cervical spine. Addressing muscles individually is almost never possible - muscles always work in groups or muscle chains.

When going uphill, relax your abdominal muscles and push your legs. "When riding uphill, I have an extended rear support leg phase because the horse has to come up the mountain," explains the osteopath for horses. “I have more back extension chain activity. The croup becomes flatter, it goes in the direction of thrust and forward. "Note: Uphill riding is a training for pushing power of the horse.

What does downhill riding do?

"When I ride correctly downhill, the ventral muscle chain is active," explains Claudia Weingand. "The horse tilts the pelvis. This happens because the main abdominal muscles attach to a tendon on the pubic bone. If the horse tenses these muscles, the pelvis is tilted. You train your hindquarters downhill in the direction of carrying capacity, ”she explains.

"Downhill riding is always a training in the direction of a gathering," says Claudia Weingand and from an osteopathic point of view, supports the statement in the educational film by Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner that slope railway training naturally introduces the horse to the gathering. Note: Correct downhill riding is a training of the horse's abdominal muscles, the entire ventral muscle chain as well as a load capacity training for the hindquarters.

Do not overexert the horse

It is very important to note: Slope run training is really exhausting"It is not recommended for untrained horses!" Says Claudia Weingand. Important when riding downhill: If the horse gets tired and goes down the mountain with a sagging spine, then it can no longer upfoot nicely, no longer tilt the pelvis, then it goes into the lumbar spine and the step can also become more smooth.

However, if horses are used to being moved and worked every day, there is nothing wrong with incorporating slope training on a regular basis. “But please don't do 30 minutes of slope runway training every day, that can overload structures. That is really, really exhausting! ”Says Claudia Weingand. Slope train training twice a week integrating it can be very useful, says the osteopathic equine therapist according to Welter-Böller.

When is a horse considered trained on the slope runway?

She would assume that the horse has been trained if the horse has been continuously for several monthsfour times a week regularly in all gaits work is carried out "and afterwards not or easily sweats over the working muscles."Signs of overexertion during slope run training are as follows: "When the horse starts to stumble, pushes its back behind the saddle, runs downhill or becomes extremely slow."

Stumbling or pushing the back away can also be due to rider errors, she explains: “It can also happen that stumbling or pushing the back away from the rider's seated error. It is important to accompany the horse downhill as well. Please do not give up the hustle and bustle completely! Gentle, appropriate driving with the thigh helps the horse to activate the abdominal muscles! "

In this course with Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner, you can see how the rider's seat on the slope railway optimally accompanies the horse.

Extra: Why the slope track training with the horse promotes slackness and balance

During our visit and shooting a few weeks ago at Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner's, the grand master of the versatile classical training pulled out two writings on yellow paper at some point. One about the horse's serenity and how the slope promotes it. The other is an examination of the scale of training. The 98-year-old instructor wrote both papers by hand this year.

The first of the two specialist articles called "The slope railway - natural aid to promote slackness and balance of rider and horse" can be read in full. He chooses clear words, and so this writing ends with the striking appeal: "I would like the 'Rollkur' to finally disappear in our rider's language and at best be remembered as 'ZWANGSJACKE'."

In March 2016, Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner:

The slope track - natural aid to promote slackness and balance of rider and horse

Those who are always in balance with their horse - both mentally and physically - enjoy riding. In addition, there is an essential, indispensable basis for success in sport.

In order to achieve this balance and to maintain it in all situations, we proceed according to the "traditional principles" for the training of rider and horse, as they are also in the "Guidelines" of the FN (Part 1) on the basis of H.Dv.12 are given. Every experienced rider knows the various problems that can arise in the course of training. Almost all of these problems (if they are not clinical in nature) are deeply rooted in a lack of relentlessness.

As long as stiffness or tension of any kind is not eliminated, there is nothing, no tact, no support, no permeability, not to mention straightness, swing or gathering.

So the first focus is to focus on the slackness, for which the riding instruction provides us with many possibilities, which we also practice in our daily training work.

In order to make this work more varied and even more effective, we have set up a “slope railway” in Mechtersen, a term that has not yet been mentioned in riding apprenticeship, but an excellent, effective and gentle training aid.

Not to be confused with the "wave track", this is a riding arena on slightly (about 10 degrees) sloping terrain of different formations, where the horse - in order to stay in balance - has to constantly adapt its center of gravity to the terrain. The horse assumes the desired stretching position on its own when going uphill and, when going downhill, steps under the center of gravity with the hindquarters to support it ("accordion effect"). The training principle: "With care - from easy to difficult" is made easier by nature. In the case of steeper slopes, you will predominantly - very beneficially - work in step.

Only when the rider and horse have understood the work in changing pace tempi in all positions, work begins with the trot, and in the same way later with the canter. The unfamiliar work is exhausting, so be moderate!

The constant alternation between these extremes, i.e. between the promotion of the pushing force and the demand for the carrying capacity of the hindquarters is exceptionally beneficial for looseness and balance as well as for building the right muscles. The reciprocal movement on the horizontal of the slope also has a gymnastic effect.

Smaller tree trunks - uphill or downhill - encourage attention and surefootedness. This helps the rider to learn to optimally follow the horse's movements while maintaining an even, soft connection with the horse's mouth.

All known hoof beat figures can be created according to the level of training. The gradient helps with the gathering lessons. The light trees invite the horses to bend and thereby promote their suppleness, half parades are easier to understand and improve permeability.

Of course, the rider must not be a handicap for the horse, but must be encouraged to adjust his "balance seat" in all positions with the horse's constantly changing center of gravity. The lower leg, with an elastic ankle, always remains plumb where it belongs. Hand and horse's mouth are one unit!

Therefore, the slope railway also offers an excellent means of bringing the rider's seat and influence into harmony with the horse.

It is the common focus that leads to performance through the harmony between rider and horse. This applies to all equestrian disciplines, especially for young and correction horses. Rehabilitation measures in the event of severe damage to the movement mechanism also led to complete success.

We have had good, sometimes astonishing, experiences working on the slope for decades. In addition to the development of looseness, contact and permeability as well as the other elements of the scale can easily be improved without affecting the horse's well-being.

This applies to horses of all training levels, primarily to young horses, but also to correction horses, and here especially to those poor dressage horses who are used to the agonizing work in the straitjacket (1) * - officially belittling also called 'roll cure' - and often don't even know how beautiful life can be.

The horses enjoy working in nature and develop muscles in the right place over time, the back becomes elastic again - and tendons and joints experience the necessary stability - indispensable for health, stamina and performance.

* When I started teaching in the USA in the 1980s, the roll cure was widespread as a promising “German way of dressage”. The fact that 'Rollkur' was a medical term for the seriously ill and that in Germany only served as a deterrent to riding the wrong way was soon recognized in the USA and consequently transformed into the appropriate term 'straightjacket'.

I would like the 'Rollkur' to finally disappear in our equestrian language and, at best, to remain in gruesome memories as 'ZWANGSJACKE'.