An age old question: How often should I exercise my horse? A question every rider and/or trainer has asked themselves at some point in their riding career. We all want our horses to be healthy and happy, as well as enjoying time with them as often as possible. So how often should we exercise our horses to ensure that we keep them healthy and happy?
To help answer this question, Horse Family turned to experienced rider/coach/trainer Lori LeBlanc, a Certified Level 2 Coach. Lori, who owns Rolling Hills Stables in White Rock, Nova Scotia, Canada, has competed at the highest level of showjumping in both Canada and the US (Grand Prix and World Cup Qualifiers). Rolling Hills operates many programs within their facilities, including a schooling program for riders of all levels, training program for horses, summer camps, as well as individualized private riding programs for those who desire such.
Lori advised that the first questions to look at when planning a training/exercise program for a horse and rider is, what are the rider’s goals? What is it that the rider wants and expects from themselves and their horse? The program will need to be tailored based on these expectations. For example, if you have a quiet horse and want to pleasure ride occasionally, perhaps once or twice a week might suffice. However, this horse might not be fit for a gallop across the field.
At the other end of the spectrum, if the rider’s goal is to have an elite jumper, then the program will need to include an exercise schedule of 5 working rides a week. The horse will need to be fit, trained, and conditioned for the job that the rider is asking. High energy horses may even need to be exercises twiced a day to reach peak condition levels.
There are many things to consider when designing an exercise program for a horse and rider, such as the temperament of the horse (e.g. the horse’s energy level), amount and type of food being used, amount of time that the rider has to dedicate to the program and the horse’s current fitness level, amongst other things. Horses by nature are meant to be on the move. In the wild a horse would roam and graze for the vast majority of the day. To be confined in small places goes against the natural lifestyle of a horse and can lead to poor health and poor mental state. In domesticated life, the majority of our horses are confined in small spaces for long hours.
As the owners of horses, we need to realize that it is our responsibility to ensure that our horses receive exercise on a consistent basis. The level of exercise will vary, depending on the age of the horse, what the horse is training for, the level of fitness of the horse at the moment, horse’s disposition, and the rider’s ability to commit to a regular program.
Exercising your horse consistently has shown to have many benefits for both horse and rider. This time with your horse is an excellent way to strengthen the bond between you and your horse. Regular exercise together helps you understand each other, learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as allow both horse and rider to condition their bodies. Also, this time provides an opportunity to stimulate the horse’s mind through a change of scenery, challenges, and the need to focus on the work at hand.
As we can see, there are many factors to consider when planning your exercise program. Bottom line, if you have doubts ask a professional to ensure that you and your horse are able to enjoy your time together and to meet whatever goals you have set for yourself. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all answer so stay tuned into your horse and enjoy!
Photo credit: Iwan Beijes
Category: Health & Care