Horses are athletes! They need to be fit for their sport. It would be unfair of you to ask your horse to do something that they haven’t been conditioned for. A proper fitness regime would allow them to build up strength, stamina, and flexibility. Ultimately, this will reduce their risk of injury.
It’s important you increase your horse’s fitness level gradually. Start slow and keep your schooling sessions easy in the beginning. As you notice your horse improving, then you can increase the difficulty.
Getting Your Horse Fit
1. Lunging: You don’t even have to get in the saddle for this one! Lunging once or twice a week can be very helpful in developing your horse’s fitness. In the beginning, keep your horse on a large circle and offer plenty of walk breaks. Your sessions should be under 10 minutes on each side.
Alternatively, you can long rein your horse. Long reining is great for young horses or those coming back into work, as it doesn’t require as much circling.
2. Hill work: If you live in an area with hills, then consider yourself lucky. They can be a great way to build stamina and strength. Your horse uses their hind end to push up the hill and their balance to travel down. You can even work up to trotting and cantering up the hill.
3. Ground poles: Pole work isn’t just for English riders! Your western horse can benefit immensely. You can ask your horse to trot through a series of ground poles. Once they master those, you can raise the poles off the ground.
With consistent work, your horse’s fitness level will increase. They will be more happy and content to perform their job.