We all know how necessary your horse’s fitness is, but what is fitness? There are many ways to tell if a horse is fit, how long, how fast or far the horse can go without winding itself, how long they can school for or even how many jumps they can do per training session. The fact is that fitness in horses is relative – just like in human athletes. If you try and judge a marathon runner by their ability to run 100 meters, they will not appear fit. It is the same with our equine athletes; a showjumper will not be able to complete a 30km endurance ride with the same effectiveness as an endurance horse.
When assessing your horse’s fitness, there are many factors to take into account. You want your horse’s fitness to match your goal, be it hacking, competing or just being able to enjoy your horse. Before starting fitness work, it is a good idea to give your horse a health check. Checking vaccination and farrier records and getting the vet out for a check-up would be a good idea – especially with an older horse.
Developing a purpose-built training programme is a perfect idea, building week on week to improve your horse’s fitness. You can tailor an effective plan with your trainer – this is the first step to reaching that final goal. You want to develop an individual plan for your horse depending on age, current fitness level, any previous injuries and previous fitness levels. A horse who has previously been very fit may not take as long to regain that fitness. The main aim of a fitness plan is to minimise the risk of injury and get to the optimal performance for your goal. You want to gradually increase your horse’s fitness to allow your horse’s body to adjust to the increased workload – if you move too quickly, you increase the chance of tissue damage.
But how do you know if your programme is working? Well, there are many different ways to do this. You can keep track of each session by hand, how the horse felt through the session and how easily the horse coped with the session. There are other options available. For example, phone apps can track the horse’s speed and movement during sessions, logging these keeping a record of them for comparison. A fitness tracker worn by riders can also track sessions but give minimal information on the horse’s way of going.
There is now a new breed of fitness tracker – especially for horses, with Estride being the most recent and probably most thorough home Equine biomechanics system currently on the market. Estride is a rider-friendly fitness tracker with a unique method of tracking your riding sessions. It is designed to help you get the most out of each training session with your horse. It can measure Training Time, Stride Count, Gait Pattern, Session Regularity, Horse Stability and Calorie Burn, for starters. You can even use it to help you rehabilitate your horse post-injury, with early indications of stride change. It can give you detailed information on each legs movement and the horse’s balance and stability at each pace on each rein.
An Estride would suit you; we cater to people of all interests, from people who like to hack up to high-level competitors. You can access the data you record anywhere, anytime with their MyEstride app; you can compare sessions between weeks and months and even between different horses. You can even set yourself session goals, such as steps taken and time spent in each gait – with easy to understand charts and pictograms to understand what your data is telling you.
Article as appearing in Equestrian Life Magazine, Horse and Hound, Horse & Country. Recognised as #1 Genius wearable tech, you and your horse will want in your life by Horse & Hound magazine