Conditioning for Trail Season

Spring is here and we all have visions of trail riding dancing in our heads, but before you saddle up old paint and head out for that first trail ride of the season you need think about his condition as well as your own condition. Conditioning your horse can prevent injuries and other issues when you hit the trail and the same goes for you too. If your horse is in shape for those trail rides it will make for a long happy riding season for you both. If your horse has been turned out most of the winter with his stablemates he has probably been more active than you would think and conditioning for a long ride might only take a month or so depending on the length of ride and also the terrian you will be riding on. If your horse has been stablds all winter with only a small turn out area, rather than a pasture, it might take a couple of months to get him really fit for those trail rides. Again it depends on your horse’s level of activity during the winter and what the length and terrain of that first ride will be. Consistence helps when it comes to conditioning your horse. You will want to start out doing 3-4 workouts a week - that’s better than one long hard ride a week. Start out with just a 30 minute ride and gradually increase work from there. Your first ride should be 15 minutes of walking and 15 minutes of trotting.You can break the minutes up into any increments you would like. Trotting is the ultimate conditioning gait. Trotting is great exercise for both the horse and you. You can also incorporate hill work into your training schedule once or twice a week if that’s possible. Eventually you can do some canter work with horse as his stamina increases. Distance riders will check their horse’s pulse with a stethoscope or fingers (with some practice) so they can gauge their horse’s fitness. Remember it’s not how high the pulse goes it’s how quickly it goes down. There are other ways to gauge your horse’s fitness - such as he doesn’t become so “ winded” so easily, his body becomes more muscular and he is more eager to go for longer periods of time. Once you've gotten a horse fit, it isn't difficult to keep him that way. Horses retain their condition much better than people do. You don’t have to condition for a 100 mile endurance rider (unless it’s on your bucket list), but if your horse is in good condition and fit for the trail riding season it could make the difference between a long riding season and substaining an injury that will keep him off the trail all season.