Conditioning the Trail Horse (Book Excerpt)

Most people wouldn’t think of getting up from a desk job and heading off into the mountains or hill country for long hikes without first getting into condition. The same should be true for your horse.
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Most people wouldn’t think of getting up from a desk job and heading off into the mountains or hill country for long hikes without first getting into condition. The same should be true for your horse. Your trail horse should be conditioned to handle the type of riding you plan to do, whether that involves hour-long walks or rides of many hours through rugged terrain. If not, he could be susceptible to injury.

Basic Health Needs

Consider your horse as an athlete and companion that needs the best of care. You must tend to certain basic health care needs before getting your horse into an aggressive conditioning program. If your horse is to remain strong and sound throughout the season, he must have a balanced ration, regular hoof care, appropriate vaccinations (talk to a veterinarian about these because they vary by region), and regular deworming.

The problem is that some owners try to do all of the above just as the trail-riding season is about to begin. Suddenly, they remember that the hoof trimming has been neglected, that their horse hasn’t been dewormed for months, and that they have lost track of the last immunization date. They also realize their horse has gotten thin during the winter months. They can feel the ribs under that coat of long hair. So, they rush to correct everything at once. They place the horse on a high-grain diet, call the farrier and instruct him to trim and shoe the horse so that it can be ridden immediately, consult the vet about vaccinations, and deworm the horse with several products simultaneously to make certain that all parasites are removed

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Written by:

Les Sellnow was a prolific freelance writer based near Riverton, Wyoming. He specialized in articles on equine research, and operated a ranch where he raised horses and livestock. He authored several fiction and nonfiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse. He died in 2023.

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