Tips For Getting Your Horse In Shape
Horses that compete in very demanding events such as barrel racing, roping or cutting need to be in tiptop condition. Otherwise, these athletes could develop serious — possibly even permanent — injuries.
For example, a horse in poor physical condition that is asked to perform at a high level could be at risk of bowing a tendon. In an ideal world, of course, riders would always have their horses properly conditioned. But in the real world, that is not always possible.
Bad weather, as well as illnesses or injuries to a horse or rider, can wreak havoc on an equine’s fitness levels. What can you do if competition season is just around the corner and your mount is in less than stellar shape?
The following are some horse fitness tips that will help to get your equine ready to compete for the win.
How to Get Your Horse in Shape After an Illness or Injury
The first rule of thumb when it comes to getting a horse back in shape after it has been out of commission: Take it slowly. Yes, the competition season may be coming sooner than you would like, but rushing a horse back from a layoff is a surefire way to re-injure it. Instead, you should:
• Talk to your veterinarian, if you haven’t already done so. Your vet is the one who will know best how much exercise is appropriate during this period of your horse’s recovery, given its age and overall condition.
• Tailor your horse’s fitness program to its needs. For example, if your horse’s injury prevents it from bearing weight, or it’s not yet sound enough to carry a rider, start by hand walking your equine for the length of time recommended by your vet. If you have access to another well-trained horse, you might also want to try ponying your recovering steed.
• Inspect your tack carefully. Once your horse is well enough to ride, make sure to check that your saddle is fitting properly and that you are protecting and cushioning your mount’s back with a high-quality, well-made saddle pad. An improperly fitted saddle can cause sore muscles and back pain.
• Ease your horse into shape. While you may be tempted to run “just one” barrel racing or reining pattern to see if your horse has “still got it,” it’s important to resist that urge. Instead, stick with the basics — walking and long trots — to build your horse’s conditioning before gradually adding cantering and more strenuous activities back into its routine.
Conditioning a Horse That is Out of Shape
The steps to getting a horse in shape — one that was not injured but may be overweight or unfit — are generally the same as listed above. Again, it’s important not to rush your mount into strenuous activity. Imagine, for instance, walking into your neighborhood gym after months of leisure and being forced to engage in an extreme workout session. You would be extremely sore and might even strain or tear a muscle or a ligament. The same holds true for a horse.
So, again, start with long walks and trots to warm up your horse. If you have access to ride-outs or trails, give your horse a break from the ring and go for a leisurely hack. Trail rides are a good way to condition your equine on varying terrain and will also give your horse’s mind a break.
For more information on getting a horse in shape, take a moment to view this featuring Best Ever Pads team rider Brittany Kelly. Also, check out the fully customizable and handmade saddle pads that are available at Best Ever Pads. We are proud to provide your horse with the protection and comfort it will need during its conditioning program.