Exercise Equipment

Like busy professionals everywhere, horse people often find there just aren’t enough hours in the day. What with stalls to be mucked, arenas to be harrowed, fields to be bush-hogged or mowed, fencing to be repaired, hay to be baled, tack repairs

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Like busy professionals everywhere, horse people often find there just aren’t enough hours in the day. What with stalls to be mucked, arenas to be harrowed, fields to be bush-hogged or mowed, fencing to be repaired, hay to be baled, tack repairs to be picked up at the local saddlery, the farrier arriving at 10:00 a.m., and a ton of shavings being delivered at 3:00 p.m., it’s a wonder any of us find time to exercise our horses! It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve invented a number of different ways of streamlining, improving, or at least taking some of the guesswork out of the exercise process for our equines. Although the designs and methods have little in common, they can all be lumped together under the term “exercise equipment.”


For the purposes of this article, exercise equipment refers not to harnesses, saddles, or bridles, but to machines, constructions, or gadgets that somehow aid the exercise process. It sounds a bit like Nautilus for horses, and in some ways, it’s the same idea: to improve the ease, efficiency, and/or the repeatability of a workout. Some pieces of equipment, like hotwalkers and “free-walkers,” help you find more hours in the day as they exercise several horses at once. Others, such as treadmills, allow for a customized workout with pre-determined speeds, angles, and duration. Equine swimming pools provide a strenuous aerobic challenge for a horse in a few minutes, while eliminating the repeated concussion on limbs that a similarly stressful workout on land would require. And the simplest of exercise equipment, the round pen, merely provides a handy environment in which to persuade a horse to concentrate on his handler. All of these tools can be a useful addition to your farm program, if they’re applied wisely.


The trickiest part of designing exercise equipment for horses is ensuring they’re safe. This goes double if the point of the equipment is that horses can be left to exercise unsupervised. The potential for disaster is considerable whenever horses and inanimate objects tangle, so manufacturers have gone to great lengths to prepare for any contingency. Still, horses are endlessly inventive when it comes to getting themselves in trouble, so all of these devices and methods should be used with caution and common sense. Very often, horses need some initial training before they safely can exercise with the aid of equipment, just as they need to be introduced to saddle or harness patiently

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Written by:

Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She’s written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

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