As a trainer, breeder or horse owner in general, you always want the very best for your animals. That means giving them plenty of space, lots of nutritious food and ensuring they always have enough chances to socialize. As an extension of that physical well-being, many owners will keep their horses on a routine of strength training exercises. According to The Equine Chronicle, these exercises have a number of benefits, including improving overall levels of engagement, developing the horses’ gait and reducing the risk of Spinal Crowding Syndrome.
If you want to try and enhance your horse’s overall well-being, here are just a few of the exercises to try out right in the animal’s pen:
The importance of warming up
Regardless of the exercise you have in mind, your horse needs to spend at least a few minutes warming up, Reinhold’s Wellness noted. This way, the horse’s muscles get a chance to stretch a bit, which can help reduce the chance of any tearing and help extend the animal’s overall stamina. The easiest warm-up activity is simply to walk for 10-15 minutes, with the horse alternating patterns between large circles and serpentines. Before starting the proper exercise regimen, though, let the horse cool down by enjoying a brief canter.
Use ground poles
Walking is a great form of exercise for most horses, and spicing it up a bit can build on the overall effect. For this exercise, lay three to five ground poles about five feet apart; the number of actual poles and the distance can vary depending on horse’s experience, and you should always start off small. The goal is to simply have the horse trot back and forth between the poles, working to ensure that the animal picks up its feet with each step and develops a certain rhythm. By engaging in this exercise, the horse is working on building its abdominal muscles, which can result in stronger, more fluid strides. For an added challenge, raise the poles off the ground a few inches as the horse gains more experience. As Equus magazine noted, another exercise involves undulating terrain. Here, trainers can make hills that allow the horse to jump small distances, which can build muscles around the back and reduce fat around the belly.
The Half Split
This exercise finds the horse practicing a quarter to full turn about the forehand. Effectively, you’re helping to make the horse’s movements more fluid and natural, teaching the animal to move away from a light inside leg, as Equine Chronicle noted. This specific movement will serve as the foundation for several other other exercises, including precise cornering, lateral work and straightness control. As far as specific muscles being engaged, the Half Split can strengthen both the multifidus system – muscles around the base of the spine – and the lateral and rotative pelvic control muscle. However, it’s important to start the horse off small – two steps are good for a novice – while making sure the animal always steps under its body with the inside hind leg. Also, be on the look out for any evasive behavior from the horse, including walking on the outside shoulder and those attempts for backwards stepping.
Just as humans might work sit-ups into their personalized regimens, so too can horses benefit from a similar exercise, according to Horse-Canada.com. However, in order to complete these sit-ups, the horse is going to need your assistance. Once the horse is standing square, move to its side and, with your index and middle finger, push up on the pectoral muscles in the animals’ mid-chest. The horse should respond by moving its chest bone and thoracic area upward, with the goal being to flatten the back by forcing these muscles to contract. If done properly, these sit-ups can help strengthen the muscles around the pelvis, spine and in the abdominal area, all of which contribute to proper posture. However, it’s important you don’t push too hard or too long with your fingers. Approximately 10 seconds per sit-up, done with medium strength, should be enough to illicit results.
The strength of supplements
As beneficial as regular exercise is, supplements can further improve a horse’s overall strength. With a mix of vitamins and minerals, JC’s X-Tie Up™ promotes healthy muscle function.