A balanced exercise program is essential for maintaining our horse’s overall health and well-being. When creating a plan, it is important to consider the specific needs and goals of each individual, as well as factors such as fitness level and experience.
Below are some steps we consider when creating a balanced exercise program for our horses.
Determine your goals: Goals can be a driving motivator and help our plan stay focussed. What do you want to achieve with your horses’ exercise program? Are you looking to improve their fitness, prepare for a specific event, or develop a certain skill? Setting clear goals can help guide your exercise program and provide a roadmap for tracking progress.
Assess your horse’s current fitness level: Exercise programs can start at various stages. Perhaps they may be helping us to bring a horse back into work after a break, or they may be used within a working period to target a specific skill set. Either way, it is important to have a good understanding of your horse’s current fitness level. When identified, it can help you determine what type of exercises and activities are appropriate and lay a foundation for building up toward your goal.
Create a structured schedule: An exercise plan can help ensure that you are making consistent progress and not overloading or overwhelming your horse. This may include a combination of riding and groundwork, as well as other exercises such as lunging or even swimming. It is important that an exercise program also allows for rest and recovery days as well.
Incorporate variety: While it is important to have a structured exercise program, a schedule should also incorporate a variety of different activities. This can help to keep our horses happy and engaged, both mentally and physically, and prevent boredom.
Monitor progress: Monitoring allows us to reflect on our progress toward our goals. In some cases, we may be on track, other times we may be behind where we planned. Monitoring helps to keep us not only accountable for our results but gives us the opportunity to enact any needed changes in our schedule.
Be open to flexibility: As we all know with horses, things may not always go to plan! Little hiccups can arise along the way, so be prepared to be flexible and use your monitoring skills to re-evaluate and reflect on your exercise program regularly. Our horses needs, health and welfare should always be paramount!