4 Fitness goal for your horse

4 Fitness goal for your horse

    Equine fitness breaks down into roughly four areas: cardio, strength, balance, and suppleness. With those four areas accounted for, a horse in good health will reach his full performance potential no matter the discipline. This also means he will be easier and more fun to ride! Use the following list to create your individualized workouts to target these four areas. A few exercises show up under more than one category because they are dual-purpose exercises (for example: promoting both strength and suppleness). 

     cardio fitness 

  Include two or three of these exercises per week, either on their own or as part of a longer session. Once your horse has achieved a good base of cardio fitness (generally after 3 months of consistent riding and exercise) you will only need to focus on maintenance. Many of the following exercises can be interspersed into your normally planned riding session by setting aside 15 to 20 minutes to perform a couple of these patterns. Be sure to get your horse’s heart and respiration elevated; otherwise, you are not pushing him enough to maintain his fitness level and he may lose condition


strength training

Work on one or two of these exercises once or twice a week. Ideally, you should ride them on a day that you are not also taxing your horse’s hindquarters in your normal riding. For instance, if you are a dressage rider and you’ve already ridden a lot of shoulder-ins or transitions, don’t do the shoulder-in exercises. Save it for a riding day when you are focusing mostly on looseness or refreshing the basics in your riding. Also, try not to get attached to only a few exercises — work your way through the whole list regularly. Each exercise asks different things of the horse’s body. 

  •  Sprint Lines 
  • Legging Up
  • Waltzing with Your Horse
  •  Rein-Back up a Hill 
  •  Rein-Back on a Curve
  •  Riding a Drop 
  •  Canter to Walk Downhill  
  • Tail Pull 
  •  Counter Canter Loops 
  • Counter Canter Serpentines 
  • Shoulder-In Repetitions 
  • Striding In, Striding Out 
  • Trotting Poles in an Arc
  •  Lifting the Hind Legs 
  •  Stepping Over Slowly
  •  Cantering on Uneven Terrain 
  •  Pelvis Tucks 

  balance and alignment

Perform two or three of these exercises daily, for at least 5 minutes in each direction. You do not need to drill the exercise repeatedly — just sprinkle them into your workouts to keep your horse’s balance fine-tuned. Think about doing a Poll Stretch, for instance, when you’re at the mounting block ready to get on your horse. Or do a modified version of Pick-up Sticks in a woodsy patch of trees on your way to the arena. 

  •  Spiraling In and Out
  •  Strengthening the Front End
  •   Transitioning Downward 
  • Loops and Poles 
  •  Turn on the Forehand in Motion
  •  Exercise on a Slope 
  •  Double Longe 
  • Lateral Cervical Flexion
  •  Shoulder Release Down and Back 
  •  Shoulder Release Down and Forward 
  •  Shoulder-In to Shallow Serpentine
  •  Counter Canter Loops 

  suppleness and flexibility

Incorporate a couple of these exercises daily, either before or after your workout. Or you can use several of them together to serve as an entire workout. Once you get in the habit of blending these stretches into the daily handling of your horse, it will become second nature. For example, I back my mare up to a hill for eight strides when leading her from the paddock to the barn before I saddle her up. Then before I groom her, I do Shoulder Circles. Then, I brush her and put on the saddle, followed by Tail Rotations. Voilà! We’ve just done our calisthenics and now I don’t need to think about them.

  •  Spiraling In and Out 
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Massage 
  • Waltzing with Your Horse (in hand) 1
  • Rein-Back up a Hill
  • Turn on the Forehand in Motion
  • Tail Rotations
  • Loosening the Back
  •  Warm-up 2 — Simple Trot Pattern
  • Canter on the Honor System
  • Shoulder-In Traveling Out 
  • Shoulder Rotation Stretch 
  •  Rear-Leg Circles
  •  Poll Stretch
  • Hip Stretch
  • Shoulder Circles
  •  Bladder Meridian Exercise for Tension Release 

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