Saturday, April 27, 2013

Equine Fitness

I've been doing a lot of research on equine fitness and it's amazing how varied the information is... or missing completely lol.  So I was wondering if you guys want to share your equine fitness programs when coming back from a lay off, injury or a winter without riding. Also for getting a young horse in shape for the first time.

My plan for now is to ride Chrome every other day (four days a week) for about twenty minutes.  My plan was to ride twenty minutes the first week, twenty five the next, then thirty, etc.  increasing by five minutes each week.  However I've read that it should be more like adding five minutes every month because bones and tendons take longer to strengthen than muscles and the respiratory system.... if I add five minutes a month it will be nine months before I'm riding an hour!!  That seems like a loooong time, even for an injured (that has recovered) horse or a young horse with no fitness base.  So what do you guys think?  Or do you have resources I could read that actually give time frames for how long it takes to gain fitness?

I know I'm probably over thinking this.  A lot of people grab a horse out of the field that has never been worked at all and within a month are walking, trotting and cantering an hour a day five days a week!  So how much is too much and how much is too little exercise?  How long to you walk a horse before you add in trotting and cantering?  Do you walk for a week, a month, trot for a month, two months?

Anyway thanks for listening to my rambling.  I'd love to hear what you guys do and why it works.  Thanks!


  1. I bought this neat book:

    It has ridden and in hand exercises as well as massage techniques. I base my horses normal routine based on trial and error and what I do with myself as far as fitness goes. When rehabbing its pretty much as the vet suggests.

  2. I think your routine seems extreme, but I agree with taking it slow. I'm a big fan of hand walking, especially in the beginning. This way both you and your horse get in shape together. Hand walking also can strengthen the bond between horse and person. I also throw in riding. Walking for the first day, then adding trotting, then a slow canter or gallop. In the beginning I try to do it on loose rein, let the horse stretch and move at a natural gait. If you aren't fussing with your horse you can feel if they are not right. I always evaluate my horse after any exercise routine. Is he sweating? Panting? Limping/sore? Hot in the legs? You shouldn't reach this stage, but it can happen quicker than you think. If not, then I proceed the next day or adjust my plans for the next day. I also try not to overload. Friesian's are marvelously smart. If you overload them with information they can have a mental breakdown. If you have a good day where you've taught something and it went well, don't do it again the next day. Try something else. Do something that you haven't done in a while. Take a walk. It gives them time to think. After a few days, when you try it again. They will have "magically" mastered the concept.

    Sorry for the lengthy post! :D


  3. I will do short lunging sessions with lots of tack walking, and then gradually build up the trot and canter under saddle.

  4. I will do short lunging sessions with lots of tack walking, and then gradually build up the trot and canter under saddle.

  5. L.Williams, I have that book too and I love it. That's one of the ones that says to go really slowly because of bones and tendons.

    Texas, I can't really longe him anymore because circles are bad for his stifles...

    Christine, by extreme you mean extremely slow? :) I appreciate your long comment so please don't apologize. I always try to keep in mind how smart he is, because you're right I don't want to overload him. I really need to get my clicker back out. He loves learning new stuff. I think he's totally bored with the riding stuff because all we really do is walk around. I can tell he wants to go faster and go out away from the property lol. That's probably my doing because I've been hand walking him on the roads since he was a weanling hehe. I'll do like you said and evaluate him each day to see if we need to move on to something faster or not. :)

  6. I agree with taking it slow. Taking nine months to get up to an hour isn't too long for a horse at his age. I personally won't ride my horse for an hour until they are five. I know many people think nothing of riding a 4yo (or 2 yo) for an hour but if you look at how they star horses in europe it is way slower than we do in the US.

    If you are worried about him getting bored just get obstacles. I got some of the garden timber at home depot for 4 bucks each. And you can usually find barrels on craigslist for pretty cheap.

  7. Super Ponies, I tend to agree with your opinions so I appreciate your input. :D When you say taking nine months to get up to an hour of work isn't too long are you referring to walk only or walk and trot? I've only been walking him for twenty minutes right now with the occasional very short trot. I know horses are built to walk long distances every day so it should be okay to walk for longer sooner right? I want him to be a trail horse and my shortest loop is four miles which is about an hour at a decent walk. I'll just take it slow and keep an eye on him to see how he's handling it. :) He really needs some butt muscles though.. I need to find a hill hehe.

  8. I limit the amount of time I ride by the horse's age. Age 4: 40 minutes max 4 times a week. Age 5: 50 minutes max 5 times a week, etc. Obviously there are times where you have an hour long lesson, etc. but on average that's my rule of thumb. Also remember that trotting builds fitness (especially working on hills) and cantering builds wind. Also remember that you need to have a nice consistent tempo and rhythm at the trot before you need to worry about the quality of canter. One thing at a time. You are doing great!
    Adventures In Colt Starting

  9. DS, thanks that's a great way to remember it! Kind of like the way you potty train a puppy! One hour for each month, so a two month old puppy can hold their bladder two hours, etc. :D So since he's four (in less than a month) he can do 40 minutes of walk and trot? I haven't been doing much trotting, no cantering, so I probably need to start adding some trotting in lol. :D

    Thank you everyone for your advice/suggestions!

  10. Yep. Obviously you want to work up to 40 minutes if you are only at 25 now. I find wearing a watch with a timer (chrono) or stopwatch setting helps. Each ride, just go until he seems tired (pulling on the bridle...trying to get you to balance him, etc.). If you stop at 30 minutes fine, if you make it to 40 great. I should add that that 40 minute ride time includes 5 min walk warm up and cool down. So really you are looking at a 30 minute "ride" in terms of working on trotting, etc. The young one's also need frequent walk breaks. Whenever he does something right, no matter how small, reward him with a walk break. It doesn't need to be a long walk break unless he's really out of breath. But every walk is a your clicker. He'll associate doing the right thing with the walk reward. The biggest reward is dismounting. If he does something super good, end your ride right then and there with a nice halt, praise, and quick dismount so he associates doing what you asked with getting his reward.

  11. Thank you for the info DS! That's awesome. :D I love having fellow bloggers who have raised babies to share notes with. :)

  12. I like DSs guidelines for length of time. I have also found some horses get tired jsut walking and actually prefer trotting. Bre was like that, she did better with short rides that were equally balanced between trot/walk. I rode her frequently but at four I kept the rides to 40mins or less and usually more like 20mins.


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