Monday 5th May, 2014
Competition season is here and horse owners up and down the country are embarking on their training routine ahead of their regional and national events for their specific discipline. Whether you are competing in your local riding club show or an affiliated three day event, the fitness of both horse and rider is imperative to securing that all-important first place rosette, so we have some top tips to keep your horse in peak condition this summer.
Fitness should be built up gradually over a period of weeks, with plenty of alternate stable rest and turn out time to enable your horse to relax in between training sessions and adjust to the increased physical demands being placed on its body. Don’t try and do too much too fast as this can result in pulled or torn muscles and tendons which could require complete box rest and take you both out of the coming season.
Your horse’s age – very young horses and veterans alike will require longer periods to increase their fitness in comparison to horse who are in their prime.
Your horse’s current level of fitness – if you have maintained regular exercise and lungeing during the winter months you will have less work to do now when it comes to increasing fitness.
Any existing injuries or ailments – if your horse has been on box rest following an injury you will need to take your regime much slower than if your horse is in reasonable condition.
The best fitness programmes will being with slow work which has lower impact on the bones and tendons and works to increase their strength and density. The second stage will incorporate cardiovascular work such as gentle schooling and lungeing to improve fitness and stamina with the final stage being the faster work such as uphill canters and controlled gallops.
The cool down process is equally as important as the training itself, and the horse must be walked off prior to stabling to prevent stiffness developing in the muscles and joints. A horse that has worked up a sweat will need sponging down and a draught free stable can provide much needed shelter to prevent him from catching a chill while he cools down post training. A large purpose built stable will give your horse the room he needs to move around freely following training, plus it offers the security of fewer joint or tendon injuries that could occur when turned straight out in to the field. Stables can be built from a variety of materials to meet your exact specification, and have many integrated features such as fresh water troughs, electric lighting, solar heating and CCTV cameras so that you can give your horse the very best accommodation plus you can keep tabs on him at all times.
Finally, regular turn out is incredibly important to training equines as it gives them the space to roll, gallop and play with their field mates after the intensity of schooling in the ménage. Horses are much like us in that they need their own space in order for them to be more focussed and responsive during training, so make sure your equine gets plenty of down time too. It is vital that you provide adequate durable field shelters for your horse, particularly in paddocks where there is a lack of natural shelter such as hedges or trees. Good quality shelters should be sturdy, strong and provide ample room to accommodate the number of horses in the field to prevent unwanted injuries due to territorial behaviour if there is not enough space.