Optimizing Dressage Horses’ Bodies for Peak Performance

From feeding and training to shoeing and warm-up protocols, learn how to keep your dressage horse fit to perform.

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Optimizing Dressage Horses
Plan to give horses ample time between skill sessions that require muscle strength training (i.e., practicing piaffe or pirouette, seen here) for their muscles to recover—at least two days. | Photo: FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst/Pool Pic/Livepic

When your dancing partner has four legs and a mind of his own, it’s not easy to perform at your best every time you enter the dressage arena. But riders can take steps to ensure their mounts’ bodies are ready to perform at their peaks when their turn in the spotlight comes.

At the 2014 British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 10-13 in Birmingham, U.K., Rachel Murray, MA, VetMB, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, MRCVS, reviewed factors that can cause poor performance in dressage horses and how riders can help keep their mounts performing at their peaks. Murray is the senior orthopedic advisor at the Animal Health Trust, in Newmarket, England; has served as a veterinary surgeon for the British dressage and show jumping teams; and is an upper-level dressage rider.

What are we Dealing With?

High-level dressage horses generally range in age from 8 to 16 years and are the result of substantial time and effort on the part of the rider, trainer, owner, and health care teams, Murray said. Thus, it’s no surprise that owners, riders, and trainers want to keep these horses competing as long as possible

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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