4 Ways to Ensure Your Horse is Getting Enough Exercise
by Janine DeVault - 9/20/19
Just like humans, horses need regular exercise to help them maintain a healthy weight and muscle tone and to improve their overall health. In fact, exercising your horse can even help extend his lifespan. Have you noticed your horse’s weight fluctuating recently? Consider incorporating some of the following exercise techniques into his lifestyle!
Walking around in a paddock can provide sufficient exercise for many horses. But once turned out they may still need a little encouragement to move around. Incentivize your horse to roam the pasture by distributing food and treats throughout the open space. If it’s a possibility, turning your horse out with a companion animal can be an effective way to encourage him to move around.
The idea of taking your horse for a walk may sound strange, but this simple exercise offers enormous health benefits. Since horses live primarily on their feet, fluids begin to pool in their legs if they don’t have the opportunity to move around. Walking your horse will improve his circulation, prevent fluid pooling and also help keep him from becoming bored. Experts suggest a minimum of 20 minutes of daily walking to keep your horse limber. Of course, to keep your horse’s weight under control and his muscles toned, you’ll need to employ a more vigorous exercise routine.
Riding your horse is a fun and interactive way to exercise him. If your horse isn’t accustomed to regular rides, you’ll need to help build his stamina before subjecting him to too much exertion. As you ride, exercise your horse at different gaits. Keep track of how long you maintain each gait so you can note improvements over time.
A great thing about rides is that they can be different every time. Riding your horse through different environments helps stimulate his brain in addition to all the health benefits.
Lunging is a powerful way to strengthen and exercise your horse. And if your horse has never been ridden, or hasn’t been ridden for a long time, lunging is a good way to prepare him for a rider. Lunging will strengthen his muscles and posture naturally without the added weight of a rider. Once your horse has had time to build muscle definition in this manner, you can begin preparing him for a rider. When lunging your horse, you’ll also have an opportunity to closely observe his posture. You’ll be able to note any issues immediately and address them if needed.
As with any exercise, it’s important to build up your horse’s stamina slowly with lunging. Start with short intervals and work up to longer sessions over time.
Extra Tips for Exercising Your Horse
In addition to keeping your horse’s weight down, exercise can aid his emotional health, circulation and digestion. All of these benefits combined are sure to help your horse live a long, happy life. The best way to achieve results when it comes to exercise is to establish a routine and stick to it. Consider your horse’s current state of fitness and outline your goals. Then, create a routine that will help him achieve them. If your horse is out of shape, start out slowly and increase the intensity of his workouts over time. It’s important that every exercise session begins with a warmup and end with cooling off. This will prevent injury and keep your horse feeling limber after his workout.
Remember, exercise is just as important for horses as it is for humans. Make sure you give your horse plenty of opportunities to work out!
Janine DeVault is a pet care writer, animal rescue advocate, and former celebrity dog walker. She lives in Mexico with her three rescue pets, Maia, Fozzy, and Kesi.