EQUUS - - Eq Handson -

Your trail horse may not qual­ify as an “elite ath­lete,” but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need care­ful con­di­tion­ing as he makes the tran­si­tion from a slow win­ter sched­ule to the ac­tive spring sea­son. Keep these four prin­ci­ples of con­di­tion­ing in mind as you ease him back into work:

• You need to stress your horse slightly—but only slightly—to in­crease his fit­ness. Push him too hard and you’ll risk in­jury. A good mea­sure is his res­pi­ra­tory rate: Watch his breath­ing when you stop work; it should re­turn to nor­mal within two min­utes. If it doesn’t, you’ve done too much.

• In­crease ei­ther speed or dis­tance with each ses­sion, but never both in the same ride. And it’s gen­er­ally best to do long, slow work­outs for a few weeks be­fore you start any faster and skill-spe­cific ex­er­cises.

• Re­mem­ber that con­di­tion­ing in­cludes the mus­cu­loskele­tal sys­tem as well as the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem. Just be­cause your horse isn’t huff­ing and puff­ing doesn’t mean his ten­dons and lig­a­ments haven’t been stressed.

• Time off is im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly af­ter tougher-than-usual rides, but stand­ing in a stall can lead to post­work­out stiff­ness. A bet­ter op­tion is to turn your horse out the day af­ter a hard work­out, or if that’s not pos­si­ble, take him for a short, easy ride, lim­ited to walk­ing and per­haps the oc­ca­sional light trot.

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