Spring has officially arrived – for many of us, that means more time in the saddle. Several tools and programs are available to help get your horse back into riding condition. General tips include:
- Plan to spend 4-8 weeks getting your horse back into shape, depending on how much time he had off during the winter. Horses start to lose muscle mass after two weeks of no work.
- Start slowly with lots of walking.
- Warm ups and cool downs are very important; use a combination of straight lines and circles at the walk.
- Build in speed work slowly, with only a few minutes in the beginning then returning to a walk. Gradually add more time as your horse becomes more fit.
- Watch your horse’s reaction to the speed work; add more only when your horse is recovering well. If he’s huffing and puffing, wait to add more time in the faster gaits. If he’s breathing OK and heart rate recovers quickly, then you can start to build in more time at the faster gaits.
- Hill work is helpful, but not required. You can do the fitness programs in a flat arena.
- Add “rating” to your fitness program: start at one speed in any gait, then increase the speed of that gait; examples are extend the walk, trot or canter, then ask your horse to come back to the original rate.
Fitness Keys: don’t over-stress your horse. Watch your horse’s breathing and heart rates and allow him time to recover. Push him further only when he can handle the existing work load. Warm up and cool down are very important -- don’t skip these steps because they help to avoid injuries. And don’t forget about your own return to riding shape too!
Holistic Tips: ensure you horse is physically capable of work. Have him checked out by your vet for a wellness exam. Include a dental exam and chiropractic session to ensure your horse is in proper form. Additional body work of acupuncture, acupressure, massage, and craniosacral can be helpful as well. Don’t forget saddle fit! An ill-fitting saddle will hinder your horse being able to get back into shape.
Good programs to follow are:
- Olympic Riders, like Gina Miles , have good fitness programs
Kim Baker, www.kbnaturalhorsemanship.com , Foundation and Trail Training, Lessons, Energy Healing and more ... Building partnerships from the ground up. Cell: 303-981-2127 | email@example.com
Others who read this article have also inquired about: equine massage, equine health, horse health, equine therapy and holistic horse. Holistic Horse magazine is your guide to natural horse health. www.holistichorse.com