Strength training can be a valuable addition to your horse’s training and conditioning program. Just like human athletes, horses can benefit from targeted exercises that aim to build muscle strength and improve overall physical condition.
Stronger muscles can help horses perform with greater success in their discipline. For example, a horse with stronger hindquarters may be able to generate more power and speed, whereas a horse with stronger forelimbs may have better maintenance of balance and control.
Strength training is not only related to power, but also endurance and flexibility as well. Targeted muscle training can increase the muscles capacity to produce energy. This is especially beneficial for horses participating in endurance or high-intensity sports. Meanwhile, an increased use and strengthening of muscles can also expand our horse’s range of motion, allowing a greater, freer movement.
The physical benefits of strength training can also reduce the risk of muscle and tendon injuries. Especially for horses in high-intensity or high-impact disciplines, strength training will allow these crucial areas to be well conditioned and prepared to undertake the activities demanded thus minimising over-use injuries.
Beyond the physical benefits strength training can also prove mentally and emotionally beneficial for our horses. Greater conditioning will decrease pressure when faced with increasing activity, whilst the action of strength training itself may provide an outlet for our horses to release pent-up energy.
Some examples of strength training activities include
- Collected work
- Grid work over trot/canter poles, as well as small cavalletti’s
- Hill rides (riding uphill strengthens the front end, whilst riding downhill strengthens their hind end). The steepness of the hill should reflect the horse’s fitness and strength.