How to Exercise Your Horse

by Sarah Macey

Here at Prime Stables, we know that exercise is an essential aspect of horse care. It helps build and maintain muscles, while allowing you to successfully bond with your horse. When exercise is done properly, it will keep your horse in optimal health, calm and happy. It is common that horses who aren’t exercised regularly can become sick more often and are usually more difficult to manage.

The benefits of exercising your horse are numerous, including improved balance, coordination, engagement, obedience and strength. All these things can be maintained with a suitable exercise routine that is carried out regularly.

How Often Do I Need to Exercise My Horse?

Horse can become easily bored, which is why exercise is important as it breaks up the day and keeps him interested and alert. Understandably, the amount of exercise your horse requires will depend on his age, discipline and breed. However, generally horses should be exercised for about 30 minutes to an hour, three to four times a week – at the very minimum.

If you cannot maintain a regular exercise routine for your horse, due to other commitments, you must hire somebody to do it for you. It is extremely important your horse is exercised regularly and is also allowed one day of complete rest every week. This rest day allows him time to recover and rest his muscles to prevent any damage.

Stretch Their Muscles

Just like humans, it is not healthy for horses to jump straight into an exercise routine, they must stretch their muscles and warm up beforehand, otherwise injuries could occur. To effectively warm up and stretch your horse, take him for a gentle ride and move into a trot to get his blood flowing.

Be sure to thoroughly stretch his neck by making occasional lefts and rights. Once you feel he has trotted long enough, canter him for ten minutes. After your horse has been properly warmed up, he should be ready for his exercise routine.

Riding Out or Trail Exploration

As I mentioned above, horses can become easily bored and they require you to mix up their exercise routines every once in a while to maintain their interest. An effective way to do this is to take your horse for a walk on a nearby trail. Horses enjoy exploring new areas and trail are a fantastic opportunity for your horse to get exercise and fresh air in an environment that is new and interesting to him. Furthermore, trails tend to be uneven requiring your horse to maintain his balance, work on his coordination and increase his engagement.

Schooling Exercises

Schooling can be done anywhere and is an activity that is beneficial for both the rider and the horse. Schooling includes exercises such as riding, lateral work, riding circles and transitions. It is a good opportunity to teach your horse obedience, improve his balance, concentration and control.

Lungeing Your Horse

Lungeing is an exercise that requires the handler to stand in the middle of an imaginary circle and guide the horse around the circumference. Lungeing is an important part of a horse’s exercise routine and can help strengthen him, improve his obedience and coordination, while allowing him to safely warm up or cool down. Lungeing should only be carried out by an experienced handler, otherwise you risk injury to yourself and your horse.

Trot Over Ground Poles

Trotting over ground poles is a great exercise for horses and encourages the rounding of the back and the strengthening of the abdominal muscles. During this exercise, your horse will learn to pick up his feet, improve coordination, stay in rhythm and learn to negotiate obstacles.

Treadmill Workouts

Many stables use treadmills to exercise their horses, particularly if they are bred for racing. Work on a treadmill begins with a gentle warm up on the flat surface of the treadmill, walking the horse for a few minutes. You can then gradually increase the speed and include the treadmill surface to increase the exercise level. At the end of the workout, the speed is reduced to allow for an active cool down.

Treadmills are a successful workout but must only be carried out by professionals and those experienced with horse treadmill work.

Swimming Pool

If you have access to a pool where you horse can swim, you could make swimming a regular part of your horse’s exercise routine. Although most horses swim well, extra care should be taken the first time a horse is put into a pool because occasionally horses can become distressed.

When exercising your horse in a swimming pool, it is recommended that you swim your horse very briefly the first time and gradually build up to 10-20 minutes over time.

Final Words

Whatever form of exercise you choose for your horse’s daily workout, it is important to be consistent in maintaining a regular schedule. If you encounter any unusual behaviour from your horse during exercise, such as bucking or rearing, be sure to investigate all probable causes before attempting to resolve the issue with further training.

If you would like any further information regarding exercising your horse, top tips or routine suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact Prime Stables today. Our staff would be more than happy to advise you.

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