Managing your horse for a long athletic career

Managing your horse for a long athletic career I listened intently Tuesday evening to Dr. Lacher and Dr. Bourke discussing athletic horses and their needs. I like to think of myself as an athlete and I want to be around a long time so here are notes from the cat.

A long career starts at the beginning. A solid education as a youngster gives our horses the right skills to fall back on in a pinch. By spending time putting good footwork and consistent response we set our horses up to succeed later in life. Footwork allows a horse to properly use each of its four legs to balance when we ask them to suddenly change direction to cut a cow, or spin, or jump, or pirouette. Just like football players have to practice footwork so its second nature during a crucial play, our horses have to be very good at the basics. Ask any high level rider what they practice most of the time and the answer will be the basics. Ask any high level rider what they don’t practice and it will be the big tricks whether that be spins and slides, big jumps, extreme collection or extension.

Apparently not only should our horses be educated but the riders should be too. You humans can really affect what happens with your horse. Getting the best quality lessons, using all that technology has to offer, and always learning help you influence your horse in a positive way.

Fitness is not a subject I’m particularly fond of. I like to hold down the counter at the office and be sure everyone in the office offers me a bit of their lunch. But I digress. Different types of horses require different levels of fitness. A rail horse, for example, will need stamina to keep consistent gaits both directions of the rings and potentially come back for a final but is unlikely to need extreme cardiovascular fitness. An event horse or a reiner, on the other hand, will need to be cardiovascularly fit to perform at even modest levels. Designing an appropriate fitness program for your horse’s career will keep tendons, ligaments, muscles, and lungs ready to handle anything we throw at them. Spoiler alert: there will be a bit about injury later on. Mental fitness should also be taken in to account. Horses, just like people, like to cross train. Oh and they like a vacation every now and then too. Personally, I like summer to vacation. As a black cat summer gets a bit hot so I stay inside, listen to the latest tunes, and catch up on Facebook.

Fitness is again important for the humans. You are more likely to make all the right moves if you aren’t too tired to make the right decision at the right moment. Assess your own strengths and weaknesses. Most of us favor one side or the other. Do you find all the horses you have ever ridden on a consistent basis are similarly one sided? Do you have a go to move when you get in trouble? A few sessions with a personal trainer every now will help you manage those weaknesses. Oh and don’t forget mental fitness for humans. Ten Minute Toughness by Jason Selk and other similar books are great introductions to sports psychology.

Well that’s a wrap for this blog since I need to go supervise the office. Stay tuned for my next installment about the equine athlete. Until then may your litter box be clean and your food bowl full.

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