How to get a horse fit
In order to mantain basic good health the horse needs regular exercise.
For his welfare and well-being, the horse is not designed to be cooped up in a stable for twenty-three hours day.
His basic functions and systems such as digestion, his respiratory, circulatory and lymphatic systems, all benefit from regular exercise and fresh air and his muscles will only maintain or improve their function if they are used.
One basic think for his health is the way of living: we should give the horse a good quality of life: his life should be natural as much as possible.
However, if the horse lives out he will be less bored than if he is in but he will not mantain much fitness, although a sloping field will help.
The horse is fit when he is able, without undue strain, to perform his normal work. Obviously a horse required for gentle hacking will not require the same level of fitness as a competition horse.
To create and mantain a satisfactory level of fitness, a regular and sustained exercise regime needs to be in place. Alongside the exercise, thought has to be given to the feeding and general welfare. Even the horse who is only engaged in gentle hacking should have his own annual programme of care and management. All horses are equal and need the same treatement. An easy and advisable way to organize all this is to use a wall chart; on it you should fill in all unalterables dates such as vaccination dates, renewing passports. Then, fill in shoeing check dates, worming dates, veterinary check dates. Next, fill in competitions and special events dates.
Last but not least, fill in holidays or times when the horse won’t be worked. Although the horse is not working hard it is preferable for him to have a regular day off, possibly a weekday if his owner works.
When designing a fittening programme the following matters need to be considered:
- Present level of fitness
- Desidered level of fitness
- Whether he has been fit before
- Opportunities for exercises
Before starting with the scheduled work, check well the horse to ensure that he is in good health.
After a complete veterinary check, including blood tests, you should check:
- Teeth: they have to be checked by a veterinary surgeon or horse dentist.
- Feet: they have to be checked by a good ferrier.
- Skin: ensure it is clean and healthy and check deeply the saddle and girth areas.
- Vaccinations programme
- Worming programme
The fitness programme can now be worked out under these headings: exercise, feeding and care.
These three headings are vast an crucial topics and need to be treated separately.