Determining Conditioning

Among the animals we call livestock, horses are unique because they are the only ones we regard as athletes. Unlike other animals that are bred for better milk production or tastier flesh, horses are bred for athletic performance, each type”P>Among the animals we call livestock, horses are unique because they are the only ones we regard as athletes. Unlike other animals that are bred for better milk production or tastier flesh, horses are bred for at”>Among the animals we call livestock, horses are unique because they are the only ones we regard as athletes. Unlike other animals that are bred for better milk production or tastier f”Among the animals we call livestock, horses are unique because they are the only ones we regard as athletes. Unlike other animals that are bred for better m”mong the animals we call livestock, horses are unique because they are the only ones we regard as athletes. Unlike other animals “ong the animals we call livestock, horses are unique because they are the only ones we regard as athlet”ng the animals we call livestock, horses are unique because they are the only “g the animals we call livestock, horses are unique bec” the animals we call livestock,”the animals

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Among the animals we call “livestock,” horses are unique because they are the only ones we regard as athletes. Unlike other animals that are bred for better milk production or tastier flesh, horses are bred for athletic performance, each type with its own particular talents. Some, like Thoroughbred racehorses, are track and field athletes; others, such as the draft breeds, are weight-lifters; and still others are marathon runners (endurance racers), triathletes (eventers), ball players (polo and polocrosse ponies), or dancers (dressage and reining horses), just to name a few. The demands of the many different sports in which our equine athletes participate might vary, but one thing remains constant–just like human athletes, they need to be fit in order to put in an optimum performance.





Evaluating competition horse
SHAWN HAMILTON

Over time, with increased exercise stresses, the body becomes more and more efficient at the process of post-exercise repair.

Being fit means that a horse can perform his tasks with minimum effort and a low risk of injury. It also means that he has the stamina to continue until we ask him to stop. Depending on the job a horse is doing, his fitness level might need to be relatively low (as, for instance, with a Western pleasure mount or child’s pony) or extremely high (as with racehorses, endurance horses, and upper-level eventers and polo ponies). Different sorts of jobs require different sorts of fitness, as well. Barrel racers and racing Quarter Horses, for example, are sprinters, who need to develop explosive speed in their “fast-twitch” muscles, but don’t have to sustain their performances for long, while for a dressage horse, suppleness and strength are key, and speed is a rare requirement.


Many equine sports require a mix of talents. Polo, eventing, and combined driving are just three examples of activities that demand stamina, speed, and flexibility in equal parts.


Horses aren’t born fit, of course. Just like human athletes, they must train their body systems to endure increasing strains and stresses, and to bounce back from exercise faster and with fewer lasting effects. This is a process called conditioning

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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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