Equine physical fitness can make or break success in a horse show, equestrian competition, or pleasure trail ride. Every horse rider is a trainer whether they know it or not. Regardless of which sports or disciplines you enjoy, thinking of yourself as your horse’s personal fitness trainer can either help or hinder your horse’s success.
Designing a physical fitness program for your horse is straightforward. Attention to detail and slight tweaks in your horse training routine now will reap dividends in your horse’s performance in the future. It is easy to interweave fitness-building exercises with confidence-building natural horsemanship drills or skill-building horsemanship patterns. Follow the basic rules of increasing physical fitness in your horse and let your creativity run wild!
Before you create your training regime, establish your horse’s baseline. This is “where you are.” Honestly evaluate your horse’s current condition. A small problem now can rapidly become a disaster as you increase your horse’s workload through his conditioning program.
At the same time, consider your horsemanship goals, or “where you want to be.” Does your horse need to be fit enough to mosey along a trail ride on a sunny Saturday? Or does he need to speed through run after run at gymkhanas and jackpots? This answer will guide you in mapping a successful fitness training program.
Horse training for fitness takes you and your horse from “where you are” to “where you want to be.” I like to think of it as building a house, from foundation to roof… to interior decorating!
* A healthy horse is your solid foundation. Your horse should be up to date on vaccinations, deworming, and hoof trimming or shoeing. He should be in good flesh (resource the Body Condition Scale if you have questions.) Be aware of his current level of physical fitness. This will increase throughout your conditioning program.
* Well-fitting tack and equipment are your support walls. You would never train to run a marathon in poorly-fitting running shoes or high heels! Your saddle, bridle and bit must all fit your horse well and be appropriate to your sport.
* Horse training basics form your roof. Is your horse responsive? Is he obedient? As you create your horse’s fitness training program, think about ways you can clarify communication and strengthen your relationship with your horse. This includes YOUR ability to ride correctly and compassionately. Where can you strengthen your own horse riding skills?
* Specialized equestrian skills make up your interior design. What skill set does your sport demand of you and your horse? If you are a training your horse for competitive dressage, the demands are different than if your goal is to “top ten” at an Endurance race. As you create your conditioning program, leave room for training your horse these sport-specific skills.
Kirsten Lee produces extraordinary results for horses and riders!