5 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR HORSE FIT




Photography: @marylineverstraetenphotography

 

 5 Tips To Improve Your Horse’s Fitness

 

Regardless of the discipline you ride, your horse’s fitness is the essential element for success. Besides improving the under-saddle performance, fitness can provide a healthy and long life for our four-legged friends. If your horse has experienced an injury or hasn’t been exercising enough for some reason, you should start making plans to help him regain his fitness and stamina. 

 

Improving an equine’s fitness is like improving a human’s fitness and requires time, patience, and consistency. Once you are determined to make your horse stronger, you should take a look at the following tips!

 

 

Modeling: @girlwiththebayandthegrey  - Photography: @jbrogdon_equine_photo

 

 

1.) Before you start

Before you start making any detailed fitness plan for your horse, there are several factors you should take into consideration:

  • Age: The age of your horse has a massive impact on his performance. As a horse gets older, the peak of performance he can reach will surely go down. Make sure to make the fitness programs and set your expectations according to your horse’s age.
  • Injury: Horses that have experienced an injury and had to be put back for some time can have a hard time regaining their power, especially in the injured area. When making the fitness program, pay attention to the previous injury your horse had and don’t push him too hard. 
  • Previous condition: If you know the previous condition of your horse before losing his stamina and fitness, you should consider that. Horses with a better shape in the past can improve faster. 

 

If you have hesitations about your horse’s current condition, please take your time to consult a veterinarian and get their opinion. 

 

 

 

 

2.) Feeding

Starting from the moment you take your horse out of his stall to make him workout, his body will need more nutrients for the working muscles. Overfeeding a horse without enough exercise will only cause gaining weight as fat, and you might mistake it with muscle development. A balanced diet prepared according to the fitness program will affect the performance and help the horse build stronger muscles. However, every horse is unique and requires a different food that will provide them the correct balance of nutrients. Make sure to talk with your veterinarian about the feeding and learn if you need to make changes with the changing condition of your horse. 

 

 

Modeling: @horse_glam - Photography: @shannensmythphotography

 

 

3.) Start with small sessions

Any fitness program for a horse should start slowly with small sessions of walk and trot. Then, the distance or the speed of the sessions can be increased gradually, but increasing both at the same time is not recommended. Starting with longer walks and short trots, you can gradually increase the duration every week. After getting more power in the walk and trot, you can begin to canter in a short distance and increase the canter distance and speed at different sessions. Once your horse gets more confidence in the canter, you can move onto adding gallop into your workout. The speed and duration of each exercise should be specified for the horse’s condition.

 

 

Modeling: @lieveberndsen_dressage  - Photography: @susan_elbert_photography

 

 

4.) Track the workouts

We highly recommend making a detailed fitness plan and tracking every detail to stay consistent, to be well-organized, and to see how much progress you make. You can keep a fitness journal and plan each session before you start. You can wear a watch and track the duration of the walk, trot, gallop. After each workout, you can also check your horse’s condition and heart rate by checking his pulse and note everything down in your fitness journal. Keeping notes of the fitness program will make everything easier to track, and you can check your horse’s previous condition when you plan the future.

 

 

Modeling: @amber_steenackers  - Photography: @paardenfotografie_helena_massa

 

 

5.) Learn the structure of riding

With our busy lives, we rush to get into the saddle, and we want to start working our horses immediately. However, a proper session of workout for a horse should include different steps:

 

  • Pre-riding: After grooming the horse, you should consider making him stretch his muscle and gain more flexibility before the workout. This can be viewed as a pre-warmup. Once you are done with the grooming and saddling up, you can take a carrot or an apple and make your horse stretch his neck towards the treat in different directions.

 

 

Modeling: @eliseedeceuninck  - Photography: @marylineverstraetenphotography

 

 

  • Warmup: A good warmup is proven to be beneficial for any sport. After stretching the muscles and mounting, you should warm up your horse in 10-15 minutes. The warmup can be walking and trotting your horse in an open area by starting slowly and increasing the speed. Warming up before the real workout increases the heart rate, and with the changing blood distribution, the muscles can start working in a better condition. 
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    Modeling: @the_little_equestrian

     

     

    • Workout: The warmup will merge with the main exercise after 10-15 minutes, where you will be doing the main fitness exercises to improve the strength and stamina. Depending on your horse’s current fitness level, the discipline you ride, and the lessons you have, the workout can vary from a hill work to a jumping session or a dressage training. If you are planning to improve the fitness of your horse but not sure of which exercise you can try, we recommend taking a look at our blog about Exercises To Make Your Horse Stronger.

     

     

    Modeling: @lieveberndsen_dressage  - Photography: @susan_elbert_photography

     

     

    • Cooldown: During the warmup and the workout, the body heat and the heart rate increases gradually and should be progressively reduced again. When you complete the daily exercise, you can let your horse slowly cool down by decreasing the intensity and the speed of the activity. This way, the heart rate will slowly go to normal, and the body heat will decrease gradually. The cooldown can be regarded as a reverse of the warmup.

     

     

    Modeling: @astrid_rombaut - Photography: @paardenfotografie_helena_massa

     

  • After riding: After all the workout, the horse needs to lose the body heat and relax the muscles before he can return to the stall or the pasture. Practicing cooldown helps to lose the body heat quickly and gradually, but in hot weather, it is harder for the horse to cool down all his muscles. When you dismount, check your horse’s breathe and pulse if possible. If he is panting, you can apply cold water to help him cool down and relax faster. Also, you can consider re-doing the pre-ride stretches.
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    Remember that every horse is unique; they need a different amount of time and effort from their riders to stay fit and progress. If you are willing to make your horse stronger and to spend more years with him on the tracks, you should pay close attention to his health and condition. Losing the condition once will cause you more time and effort to bring him back to shape. Make sure to exercise your horse on a regular basis and enjoy each workout together!

     

     

    Modeling: @girlwiththebayandthegrey  - Photography: @jbrogdon_equine_photo