Developing a strong core and back in a horse is very important as this will enable them to carry themselves, and you, better and will allow them to engage their hind end more effectively. A strong core will help channel the power from the hind end and allow you to use it more effectively.
These exercises will also work for the dual purpose of helping to create more impulsion, and getting the horse a little more ‘switched on’.
Raised pole work can help strengthen their core muscles and will also help engage the hind end.
I use 6 trotting poles in a straight line that are placed 1.5 of my walk strides apart (about a yard but you can adjust depending on the size of horse).
Start with the poles on the ground to get the horse used to the poles being there and to help them read the distance between them. If riding a green or less experienced horse raise the poles a few at a time, until all are raised. You only need to raise them a couple of inches off the ground.
When working with the raised poles you are looking to pick the horse up a little more in front and I’d recommend using some half halts on the approach. You want to feel more cadence in the trot.
The raised poles will make the horse use their hind end more and will help develop the engagement. They will start to lift themselves through their core, strengthening their muscles and encouraging them to work more across their back.
You want to be feeling that the horse is starting to sit a little more on their hind end, almost like they are tucking their bottom underneath them.
As an advanced addition, add a pole at 90 degrees at either end of the line of poles. Turn in over the 90-degree pole, ensuring that the horse is bent around the inside leg. Curve onto the first few poles, then straight, and then you can curve out over the final 90-degree pole.