With warmer weather and longer days just around the corner, it’s time to start getting your horse ready for the riding season. Many horse owners ride less frequently during the winter, whether because of weather conditions or the shorter days. Unfortunately this means both you and your horse need to get back into shape before the longer, harder rides of summer. Here are a few horse training tips to get both of you ready for warmer weather.
Before you start your training, assess where your horse is currently in terms of weight and level of fitness. Depending on how much winter hair your horse grew and how much he’s already shed out, it may be difficult to make a visual determination, so get out that weight tape! Knowing the weight you started with will help as you make diet adjustments, too.
Also be sure to take into consideration how much you’ve ridden over the winter. If you rode regularly, even if it was a little lighter than normal, your horse is probably still reasonably fit. If you didn’t ride at all, on the other hand, you should assume your horse will need some time and training to get back into shape.
Especially if your horse is really overweight and out of shape, it’s important to start slow when you start adding back exercise. Just like with beginning horse training, you’ll want to keep your rides short, focus on just a few things, and aim for quality rather than quantity. Ask for your horse to carry himself correctly, but recognize that he may not be able to hold himself in a frame for as long as he would if he were in better shape, and give him regular walk breaks during the ride.
As you ride, concentrate not only on rebuilding endurance and losing weight, but also on rebuilding healthy muscle. In addition to asking your horse to carry himself correctly, you may also want to include exercises that will help him build muscle and relearn important skills. Riding over poles and up and down hills are great exercises are good for both building topline muscle and reducing winter hay bellies.
As spring wears on, you can gradually increase the length and difficulty level of your rides. As you do, keep your goals in mind. For instance, if you want to jump, race barrels, or participate in endurance races, you will be asking for a fair amount of endurance and athleticism from your horse. Add on to your rides gradually so that your horse doesn’t tire quickly or injure himself when summer arrives.
If your horse is badly out of shape at the beginning of spring, he’ll have constantly changing nutritional needs as you increase his workload. If he’s overweight, a chat with your vet will help you determine a diet plan to help him slim down without sacrificing the nutrients he needs. At first, you might need to cut back on his food to allow him to lose weight, but as you exercise him more, you may need to increase or even change his feed to support the workload.
Be sure to consult your vet as you work on getting your horse back into shape. For more information about our complete feeds and how they can provide all the nutrition your horse needs during this critical time, contact Sacate Pellet Mills at 602-237-3809.