Horse Exercise And Training

If your horse is restricted to a stall, small pen, or corral, exercise is imperative. Exercise should consist of an hour or more of formalized work that includes:

  • riding
  • lunging (longing)driving the horse with all tack in place, without a rider
  • drivingexercising the horse using a long line attached to a halter and directing with a whip or voice commands
  • pasture time.

If your horse is kept outdoors, he will get exercise on his own.

Conditioning Your Horse

Conditioning is a necessity for both horse and rider, whether you and your horse have been taking a break from riding for a while, if the two of you are just beginning to exercise or even if you”re starting training for a specialized event.

Most experts agree that a minimum of two hours a day is necessary to maintain condition. The kind of exercise is dependent upon the work that the horse is conditioned to do.

You can”t allow a horse to stand for months and expect to go riding for three to four hours without problems. Remember, a horse is an athlete who requires conditioning to be fit as well as warming up before any type of stressful activity.

Considerations for Horse Conditioning: Some things to take into consideration when beginning a conditioning program for your horse include:

  • age
  • usual activity level
  • amount of use
  • type of event or work to be done
  • general health.

A Sample Conditioning Program

Walking: Begin with twenty minutes of very active walking for the first two days. Add ten minutes a day until reaching an hour of active walking.

Trotting: Start adding one minute medium trots to the rides, gradually moving up to two minute medium trots.

Rest: Horses need a day off so, until they”re in top condition, work them only six days a week.

More specific and focused conditioning comes when you”re sure of the event or type of work the horse is going to perform.

Following a Lapse in Conditioning

If you”re not sure how to go about putting your horse back to work after an extended break, always opt for slow and steady. It may take longer to get your horse into condition, but a slower pace reduces risk of an injury that may put your horse out of commission for the entire riding season.

Horse Care Before and After Training Sessions

Before and after you exercise your horse, there are warming up and cooling down steps that ensure that your horse stays happy and healthy.

Warming Up: Before starting your ride, walk or trot your horse up and down on a lead for a few minutes to loosen him up. To increase the blood flow to the horse”s muscles, ride at a walk or trot for at least twenty minutes before working. In cold weather, take more time for the warm-up. When your horse gets older, massaging and rubbing down the horse before going out on a ride or training session is a recommended preventive measure.

Cooling Down: Cooling your horse is a practice that requires common sense and time. When you arrive back to the barn after a workout, work on getting the horse”s temperature, pulse rate and respiration rate back to normal. Here are some tips for cooling down:

  • Always walk the last mile home.
  • When you get back, remove the saddle.
  • In cold or windy weather, put the horse in a cooler or put a blanket on him.
  • Give the horse a few swallows of water. Before eating or drinking normally your horse must be completely cooled down.
  • When it”s hot, hose your horse off and rub him down.
  • Walk at a working walk until your horse is completely cooled.