Equine Fitness: 5 Exercises to Improve Your Horse's Health

June 06, 2024 3 min read

Horses need exercise just like people. They need lots of movement to keep their muscles and joints healthy. There are many ways you can play with your horse to keep them occupied and moving. There are also many exercises you can do with your horse to help strengthen their muscles and increase their endurance and coordination. We’ve gathered a list of five exercises you can add into your horse’s fitness routine to help keep them healthy and moving.


1. Hacking

Hacking is when you take your horse out for a fun ride, not in an arena. You can ride on a trail and let your horse enjoy nature while getting some exercise. Riding over varying terrain will let your horse use different muscles as they adjust to the ground. Your horse will get to experience new environments on these trips. Be sure to determine your ride times and speeds based on your horse’s initial fitness level. It’s okay to start off with shorter trips and build up to longer rides. Even a short walk is beneficial to your horse’s fitness. Be sure to add in time for a cool down period at the end of the trip by loosening the reins and giving your horse time to stretch and relax.


2. Hill Work

Hill work, riding your horse up and down hills, can help build strength and endurance in your horse. Going up and down hills can help your horse’s hindquarters and shoulder muscles. They will need to learn how to balance as they travel up and down. Moving vertically will help work different muscles than groundwork or walking on a flat terrain. Utilizing both will give your horse a full workout. Be sure to start off slow on hills to give your horse time to practice finding their balance.


3. Interval training

Interval training involves using short bursts of high intensity work followed by rest walking. It can help strengthen your horse’s muscles and respiratory system. Interval training can even be incorporated into hacking out or other work with your horse. The idea of this type of training is to replace long, low intensity sessions with shorter, high intensity training sessions. You can start with your horse walking for a warm up, then add in a few minutes at a faster speed, followed by a few minutes of walking. You can repeat this process a couple times. You should not work your horse too long when doing interval training. Be sure to create a training session based on your horse’s fitness and ability. This training is not about going fast but keeping a good rhythm.


4. Lunging

Lunging, or long reining, involves moving your horse in a large circle around you. Lunging should not be done more than twice a week and for no longer than 20-30 minutes depending on your horse’s fitness level. Lunging work can help to develop musclesthat go under the saddle without the weight of a rider. Adding poles or transitions can keep the training varied and provide additional fitness benefits. Lunging can be quite a strain on horses so be sure they are at an appropriate fitness level. Build up these trainings slowly and be sure to warm up and cool down.


5. Pole Training

Pole training is a great way to improve your horse’s balance and coordination. Pole work can help your horse work and strengthen their hind end and entire topline. Pole work can help your horse engage their core and lift their shoulders. You can start off small and set poles on the ground to trot and canter over. As you and your horse gain confidence you can increase the height of the poles. Doing pole work at different gaits will help you receive the maximum benefits of the training. Be sure to start out at a level you and your horse are comfortable with given their current fitness level and work your way up from there.

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