I have a few types of exercises to help bring one’s horse (and hopefully the rider feels the burn too) back into show season fit. While normal people are worrying about being “beach fit,” we riders worry about how muscular our horses are. Here are two ways to make your equine team mate “show fit”:
Interval Training: This one is super helpful when it comes to stamina. As an eventer I love this because it helps Ashira gradually work up to longer periods of canter work. (Hint: Add interval training into your own workout to burn more calories and get your heart rate up for longer).
So, what is interval training? It is designed to gradually strengthen both the horse’s respiratory system and muscles.
Examples of Interval Sets:
- In the beginning it is best to start slow and short: 2 minutes trot, followed by a minute walk. Complete 4 sets.
- As you develop you could do something like: Canter 5 minutes, trot 2, walk 1.
- You can also do: 2 minutes working canter, 1 minute collected.
Interval Training doesn’t just restrict you to different gaits. You can also experiment with speed/impulsion within those gaits. To read a helpful article on interval training, click here.
Hill Work: Utilizing those hills (if available) in the back of your barn’s property will benefit your horse immensely. Walk, trot, canter (if your horse is capable) up them, and you’ll notice a huge difference in your horse’s stamina and muscle tone relatively quickly. This also mixes up your horses mentality as they can do this outside. Remember to allow your horse to use their head and to remove your weight off their back while going uphill. Cantering uphill will also help your horse collect at the canter!
Always remember warming up & cooling down: Remember while doing these exercises to warm up and cool down effectively. It’s just like you exercising. Before and after you exercise you can and should stretch, even if it is just for a few minutes (though some horses may require longer depending on age, fitness level, any health issues, etc.) When working your way up to a long period of canter, keep in the back of your mind, trotting is more effort for a horse than cantering. Walking will also put a lot of muscle on your horse, so go for a nice long hack once a week to mix it up and relax. Hopefully these exercises will get you in shape too. If you engage your abdominal muscles, you’ll feel a change in your horse as well. There have been posts on stretching you and your horse, which is super important to do before and after training. Incorporating stretching into your training routine is extremely beneficial.