There is a difference between Conditioning and Training your horse. And every horse needs a balanced mixture of both. What is the difference you ask?
Conditioning is the physiological preparation of the body to help it cope with the demands of training. Through conditioning, we improve fitness, strength and flexibility, thus also mental fitness from a sense of wellbeing. Training deals specifically with the technical aspects of your chosen discipline.
Aerobic fitness deals with the cardiovascular system. Improvements with aerobic fitness help with energy levels, recovery and the removal of the by-products of exercising through increased blood flow.
Tip 1 - Long bouts of trotting and cantering help increase fitness. Regardless of discipline, aerobic fitness is imperative for all horses. To improve fitness, gradually increase the time periods of bouts without breaks.
Strength training is a necessity. There are many methods to improve strength, such as active gymnastics exercises, lateral work and working on various surfaces.
Tip 2 - Improve strength by including gymnastics exercises (ridden or on the ground) once a week. Riding on hard surfaces to strengthen bones and ligaments. Riding on soft surfaces strengthens muscles. Take care not to overdo it!
Flexibility exercises prevent muscle stiffness and loosens joints. A stiff horse cannot move well or freely. Gymnastics and stretching help improve flexibility. Stretching exercises are best performed on the ground.
Tip 3 - Gymnastics exercises for flexibility include lots of circle and serpentine work. Passive stretching should only be performed after working when the muscles are warm. I recommend stretching each area once per week alternating between head and neck, back/tail and limbs each session.
The mental fitness of your horse is imperative to prevent souring and improve motivation. Varying your regime by including conditioning exercises keeps workouts interesting! Overdoing intense training has a negative impact.
Tip 4 - Natural based exercises are proven to stimulate your horses mood. Many automatic exercise machines increase stress. Stress has negative affects on the body leading to exhaustion and sourness. Avoiding stress benefits mental health for your horse.
Unlike technical training, natural conditioning can be started early. Conditioning in young horses has many positive benefits. It is easier to influence the body to adapt for future goals as it is already changing and developing. Proper conditioning helps prevent many issues in young or older horses. Lets get started!!
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