Time to think about all the prospects that 2019 brings and what your goals for this coming season are!
We've put together some easy ways to help get your horse in top condition ready for the show season ahead or just to shift a bit of that excess Christmas weight!
Horse Fitness Tips
Set a plan of what you aim to do with your horse each day with your overall goal in mind, remember that rest days are important too for mental and physical wellbeing. If you are leading up to an event, set that date as your end goal, or if you are just doing it to improve your horse overall, maybe set a time frame e.g. 8 weeks is a good starting point.
The key to improving your horse’s fitness is to not make it boring! You need to keep yourself motivated too as your horse simply can’t do it without you.
(Although how fantastic would it be if they could!)
Gentle hacking is a great place to start following a period of rest. Take this as an opportunity to really engage your horse and get them listening to you. If the weather is restricting you, this can also be done in the school. Transitions between walking with smaller steps and then larger steps will really get your horse thinking and being reactive to your leg. This can then be incorporated into trot and canter work by just following the same simple principles. Combine this with hill work further into your plan to really get your horse engaging and working hard!
Lunging and long reining can also add variety into your horse’s work as well as targeting different muscle groups. The added bonus with this is that you can see them working in a way which you cannot from the saddle. Focus on the horse's transitions and the quality of them, try to keep them as fluid as possible especially when varying the size of your circles. Training aids when lunging can also be beneficial if used correctly. Ask a member of our team for advice on which training aids may be the most appropriate for your horse.
Whether you jump or not, pole work is another great activity to help improve your horse’s fitness. This also helps the horse with his bodily awareness as he must navigate through different arrangements of poles in front of him. Experiment with height and distance based on your horse’s ability. This can also be done when lunging or long reining. There’s lots of online help and ideas for pole work as it has become a real buzzword in the equestrian world- for good reason too! It can also be a great mental workout for the rider!
Feeding rate is always dependent on the horse’s energy requirements. Even if you are aiming to remove excess weight from your horse, it’s highly advisable that you seek a nutritionist’s advice if you are making any routine changes to your horse e.g. increasing the work rate. The same goes for if you are aiming to increase muscle mass, a nutritionist will be able to advise you on how you can reach this goal through supporting your horse's diet. Nutritionists can also help you with any supplementation advise which you may need based on the individual requirements of your horse. Even if you are trying to help your horse loose weight, it is important that they are fed a fully fortified feed to make sure that they are still getting everything they need to be able to maintain the level of work you require from them.
Remember that as you increase your horse’s work load, they are likely to suffer with sore muscles due to a lactic acid build up. Try to always stretch your horse following sessions to help with recovery as well as flexibility, we all know how lovely it is to have a nice stretch when we have sore muscles! Limb and carrot stretches don’t take too long to do after you have ridden and can be beneficial to older and stiffer horses.
Take each limb forwards and backwards gently, not pushing it further than it can go, then use a carrot or treat, such as Saracen Munchies, to encourage the head into different positions up and out, left and right and then between the front legs. Further advice can be found online for stretching or ask your physio to show you how if you aren’t sure. Make regular stretches part of your New Year’s Resolutions, your horse will feel the advantages!
Don't forget to add a tablespoon of salt into your horse's feed. Salt is the only mineral which horses have an undisputable appetite for, and since some horses find salt blocks uncomfortable to lick, providing a tablespoon of salt in the feed safe guards the required intake.
We would love to see your before and after images from muddy monster to amazing athlete! Feel free to send us any photos of your horse's winter to spring transformation, we would love to hear what worked for you!