Last Updated on March 4, 2022 by Allison Price
How to get your horse to peak-level fitness…
Horses, just like humans, need to improve their fitness in order to be healthy and athletic.
A proper fitness program is essential to build up your cardiovascular and muscular strength, no matter if you are trying to improve your riding ability, keep an older horse fit, or just want to be able ride your horse longer without the heavy breathing and sweating.
These are easy ways to improve your horse’s health…
If your horse is not in its place,
Start with your ideal shape
With lots of walking breaks
1. Long reining or lunging
It is not advisable to lunge more than five times per week, or for more than 20-30 minutes, depending on the horse’s current fitness level. However, if done correctly, lunging one or two times per week can be very beneficial in building fitness.
You can use Lunge to develop the muscles under the saddle, without having to lift a rider’s weight.
Long reins are better if you can control your horse’s movements.
Lunging can put a strain on horses, especially when they are young or returning to work. Therefore, it is important to build up slowly and do your work in a large circle. It is essential to warm up and cool off correctly.
2. Hacking and Trail Riding
Long hacks are a great way for horses to get fit without the need to drill them in school.
These can be done in walk and trot depending on your level of fitness.
It’s important to gradually build up to fast rides. However, even a half an hour of hacking at a walk can make a big difference to an infirm horse.
Horses will be able to use their legs quickly due to the terrain changes and endurance. It’s just like when you go on a hike and find yourself tired faster than you think.
When your horse can comfortably canter for long periods of time, you can take him to the beach or hire some horses to have a great time.
This is especially important if your horse is an eventer. Cantering won’t work – you must train in the gallop if your horse wants to gallop around the XC phase.
3. Hill Work
Hill work is a great way to get your horses strong and fit. This is true for dressage, showjumpers and eventers alike.
It’s for a reason! You can work all areas of your horse’s body by running up and down hills at different speeds. As you will see, it is much more difficult to run uphill than uphill.
You can improve your cardiovascular fitness by walking up and down hills. You can do this several times, but make sure your horse is listening. If you have to walk or trot up to remind him that he isn’t just going to run whenever he sees the bottom, do that!
If the hill is sufficiently long, eventing horses can be trained to gallop if necessary.
Walk and trot up hills to increase muscle tone and strength. Include transitions. As you climb the hill, keep your balance and stay in your seat.
It is possible to work within your horse’s paces as his strength and fitness develops. This involves working on extending and collecting the trot and canter, rather than letting him keep the same pace.
Although going downhill requires different muscles than uphill, its benefits should not be underestimated. Although the cardiovascular benefits of downhill riding are smaller than those from uphill, it requires horses to have the strength and balance necessary to go downhill correctly.
Begin by walking and slow trotting downhill. Then, increase your cantering ability when you feel that your horse is in balance.
4. Interval Training
Although interval training is an asset for eventers, it can also be useful for riders of other disciplines.
This is a way to replace long, low-intensity sessions with shorter rides that work the horse hard. It involves short bursts of high intensity canter work followed by a period in walk.
As you gain experience, your rest periods become shorter and more intense. This training method is used to prepare event horses for the season.
For horses who are already working but need to improve their fitness for an event, a good guideline is to do five minutes canter followed by three minutes walk. End the session by repeating this twice.
For horses that are less fit, you can start slow canter intervals for three to four minutes. The pace may be broken up with short walk breaks every two to three minutes depending upon how fast your horse recovers.
The goal is not to be super fast with these horses but to maintain a good rhythm, build fitness and keep your body in check.Training in intervals
Is the eventer’s
5. Gymnastics and Poles
Polework and gymnastics are great for improving horse fitness, even if you avoid leaving the ground. To get your horse fit, you don’t need to jump high. It is better to keep your horse comfortable by keeping the jumps small.
Do the polework ridden if you’re nervous. Then let your horse jump over gymnastics once per week.
Pole work and gymnastics are great for improving technique and fitness when jumping horses. They also improve the speed of dressage horses and help to strengthen different muscles. You can also get your horse to think quickly about his feet and react accordingly, which is useful in all disciplines.
Place your normal poles on the ground and begin to canter.
You can raise your horse’s fitness by asking him to use higher poles or change the distance. This will make your horse work harder and increase his muscle mass.
Good exercises for gymnastics include small jumps and one-two stride combinations, and lines of trotting poles that are arranged into a grid of three to four simple jumps.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!