The Importance of Exercising Your Horse
Want to lengthen the lifespan of your horse?
Looking to get a better ride?
Need to improve your horse’s health?
Here are a few tips!
I can easily tell a horse is out of shape by looking at its back, neck, and of course its belly (especially if it’s overweight). A horse with a slightly swayed back (this can also be an indicator of age) and an almost bloated looking belly (think hay belly) is usually out of shape.
Keeping a horse in good shape is important for its life-long health and well-being. Chances are the better shape your horse is in, the healthier it will be and the longer it will live, too. There are a few telltale signs in an out of shape horse. For example, if a horse has a “u” neck, it is usually because it is not fully developed (as in a young horse that is still growing), it is under weight and malnourished, or because it is not being exercised properly.
When a horse is not exercised properly, muscle can develop in less than ideal places. For example, when a horse doesn’t learn to round its back and consequently lower its head it can build up more muscle on the underside of the neck, making it more difficult to control body movement. Horses with this problem will also have a tendency to toss their heads up.
A horse that is exercised properly will eventually have a thicker neck, a stronger back, and tighter stomach. Of course, every horse is different and a lot depends on the breed. A Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred are going to build muscle differently because of the way their bodies are built. It may take longer to develop back muscle, a thicker neck, and a tighter stomach with some horses than with others. How long it takes for a horse to get in shape is also dependent on their age.
What I’ve noticed when getting a horse into shape is that the more they round their back and stretch their neck downwards the stronger their back will get because it isn’t hollow all the time, which eventually leads to a smaller, tighter stomach (think no hay belly). When a horse doesn’t use its back end properly (aka letting it drag along instead of pulling the back legs up and under them) it will have a hollow back. A hollow back can also come from the horse throwing its head in the air and straining against the bit. Luckily, these are two problems that can be fixed with proper exercise. If you are trying to fix these two problems and are still having trouble, I would suggest taking a few lessons. Proper exercise is a part of training your horse.
Remember that it takes hard work and time to get your horse into tip top shape and that it won’t happen in just a couple of rides or if you ride infrequently. A well-muscled horse is one that is used often and has had months and years of continuous proper exercise.