|It’s difficult to ride regularly during the busy work week, but it’s important to avoid riding your horse hard only on the weekends. This can lead to a sore, stiff horse. It’s much better to find a conditioning routine that fits your schedule and gets your horse in shape.
Horses, like people, must train to build strength and endurance. Assuming your horse is otherwise sound and healthy, here’s what I recommend:
1. Get Your Horse Trail ‘Hardened’ Re-acclimate him to the rub and feel of the saddle, breast collar and cinch, plus increase periods of time with you in the saddle to help him improve his balance and stamina.
2. Feet First Make sure your horses feet are properly cared for and ready for the terrain you will be in.
3. Practice the Right Terrain If you’ll be riding your horse in the mountains, you’ll also have to condition him to hills, walking on shifting rocks and through other challenging terrain. Look for sandy areas to condition your horse (stay at a walk to avoid tendon injury).
4. Start Slow Don’t wait until a week before your ride! Schedule at least 90 days of conditioning before your first big daylong ride. I suggest riding two weekdays (Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday) and one weekend day.
5. Make a Training Plan Start by riding your horse three days per week for the first 30 days. I suggest two weekdays (say, Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday) and one weekend day.
6. During the Week Start by riding for one hour on each of the two workweek days. Begin riding at a marching walk on even ground. Alternate walking and trotting.
7. On the Weekend Build in some strength conditioning. Ride up and down sloping hills or plan an easy trail ride with friends. If you can, ride on similar trail terrain to what you plan on tackling this summer.
8. Give Your Horse a Break Be sure to plan a day of rest between rides—both you and your horse will need the recovery time.
9. Increase Training Time After 30 days, try adding in a fourth riding day if your schedule allows:
· Day 1: Ride for an hour and long trot.
· Day 2: I’d suggest one hour of hill work (trotting or walking up and down—both directions are beneficial).
· Day 3: Go back to long trotting on the flat.
· Day 4: Gradually increase your time on the trail. Ride on varying terrain for 2-3, then 3-4 hours.
10. Trust Yourself & Your Horse You know your horse best and know when to ask for more.
If you don’t have time to condition your horse this much, think about planning some shorter rides. You and your horse can find a beneficial conditioning plan that will fit your schedules and be enjoyable for you both.
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