Daily exercise is essential for the overall
health of your horse year round and this includes winter. A regular exercise program
will invigorate your horse's appetite, tone his muscles, increases lung and heart
capacity and help develop reflexes and co-ordination.
circulation, and improves the quality and strength of bones, tendons, ligaments,
and hooves. It conditions and stretches muscles and tendons, resulting in less
chance of injury and lameness.
Allowing horses to regularly play in moderately
soft footing will likely minimize problems that could occur when they are turned
out in deep snow.
Horses that are allowed ample exercise are mentally content.They
rarely develop vices such as pawing, stall kicking or wood chewing, which are
often results of boredom.
All horses of all ages need exercise every day
- either a daily ride, training session, or turnout in a large pen or pasture.
Horses which are to go back into active work in the spring should be kept in moderate
condition throughout the winter with a formal light exercise program consisting
of two to three sessions a week.
Especially during the winter, horses must
be more thoroughly warmed up before strenuous exertion and allowed adequate time
to cool down before being put away. This can sometimes prevent you from working
your horse late in the afternoon - there just is not enough time to thoroughly
cool out and dry your horse before night.
When riding is impractical, free
exercise is one of the least labor intensive and most natural ways of providing
exercise for horses. Ponying involves leading one horse while riding another.
Longeing, working a horse from the ground in a circle on a thirty foot
line, is an exercise option for horses over two years of age.
horse walkers are useful for occasional sessions but should not be viewed as the
mainstay of the exercise program.
Treadmills can also be used for an occasional
workout, providing the horse is gradually conditioned to the work and carefully
monitored for signs of stress.
Horses that are to be turned out for the
winter should be let down from their exercise schedule gradually. Decreasing the
intensity of work and number of hours of work per week during the last month of
fall training will allow the horse to adjust to its new routine both physically
Confined horses that are not turned out regularly in the winter
often react with over-exuberant bursts of energy when they finally are let out.
This, coupled with the slippery footing characteristic of winter, results in an
increase in the number of muscle and tendon injuries.
Also, because of
frozen ground, sole bruises and abscesses are common winter problems.
overheating your horse during the winter and be sure to properly cool him out.
in deep snow is very fatiguing and can easily cause a horse to become leg weary
and sweaty. If you are going to keep your horse in active work throughout the
winter, consider a combination of clipping and blanketing to keep his hair coat
easier to maintain and safer for his health.
After any workout, be sure
to cool your horse down gradually and thoroughly. If he is wet, rough up his coat
with towels or burlap, cover him with a wool cooler, and keep him in motion until
his body heat has normalized and his
hair coat has dried.