Back to Work: Transitioning Horses Into an Exercise Program Safely

Taking a horse from a sedentary state to active working fitness can be a form of rehabilitation. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all program. Learn how to safely transition your horse into an exercise program.
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Back to Work: Transitioning Horses into an Exercise Program Safely
Before throwing tack and rider on an out of shape horse, try ponying him alongside a calm companion. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

How to transition a sedentary horse into an exercise program safely

Let’s say you spend a lot of time at your desk, like many in the U.S. workforce. Would you take off from your busy office schedule without any conditioning and attempt to summit a 14,000-foot mountain?

Can it be done? Yes … but without preparation, the risks are many and chances of success low. The same situation applies with horses. Can you take an idle horse from pasture and enter him in a 50-mile endurance race the next week? Can you take your dressage horse out of retirement and expect him to earn high scores?

Consider an inactive horse that hangs out in the pasture all day or has been on stall rest laying up from an injury

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Written by:

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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