Making sure a horse gets the exercise it needs is an important part of being an equine owner. These magnificent creatures are basically grazing athletes, meaning they need to be provided with plenty of opportunities for movement.
Making sure that your horse is regularly exercised can maintain a healthy weight, good physical health and their happiness. You, their owner, can benefit too as the training and fitness you do together has mutual benefits.
How much exercise does a horse need?
In the wild, horses will cover so much distance by travelling between water and their feed which means they are almost constantly moving. So, ideally, your horse will need to be exercised every day and the amount will vary depending on their breed, age, discipline, their environment and other considerations.
As a minimum form of exercise, around 15-20 minutes a day will be enough for some horses. Providing around a couple of hours of exercise a day will keep a horse in top condition.
Why do horses need to be exercised every day?
Daily movement and exercise are key for the overall health of your horse, including increasing their endurance and stamina while improving the functioning of many, if not all, of their essential organs.
Providing them with enough exercise also keeps them mentally alert, which helps with quicker reflexes and better coordination. If that wasn’t enough benefits of exercising a horse, it can also prevent any behavioural problems that might be associated with being stabled.
What’s the best way to exercise a horse?
There are a variety of different ways to ensure a horse achieves its daily exercise and movement requirements but again, their fitness levels will also influence this. If your horse is overweight or you haven’t been able to provide the right amount of exercise it should be provided with exercise it’s capable of achieving following a health check from a vet to ensure they’re that your horse is sound and healthy.
Warm-ups and cool-downs are essential, regardless of how you exercise your horse. This helps with their heart and respiration rates, prevents the buildup of lactic acid and can keep them mentally calm.
Giving a horse the opportunity to stretch before and after their exercise can prevent injuries while providing certain exercises can increase a horse’s elasticity.
From here, your routine will depend on whether your horse is stabled or pastured as this will determine their movement during the day before they are exercised. Those horses that are pastured have more movement than a stabled horse, so they might benefit from a shorter amount of focused exercise a day, whereas a stabled horse will benefit more from an hour or more of daily activity.
If you don’t have enough pasture or you want to work up to more strenuous activity, why not spread their hay in the yard to encourage them to move. Another way to encourage movement would be to split their water and hay so that they have to travel from one to the other and vice versa.
Otherwise lunging, riding, leading in hand, leading from another horse, driving, jumping and long reining are all great ways or providing a fit and healthy horse with the amount of exercise it needs.
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